It's another bug, confirms Google

Creature Comforts


It's a bug! And what a big butterfly net we must have, for we've only been paying attention to Google for a week, and we've already found three critters. Or is it four?

By telephone, we guided Google's Head of Corporate Communications David Krane through the procedure we used to unearth the "sun storage" feature we discovered last week.

We noticed that a search for Sun storage on Google News becomes +Sun storage, and the user pointed to lots of storage stories coming from source "Sun". Why does that plus appear?

"That's a bug! Thanks," said David.

Krane explained that the "search for more stories from source Sun" wasn't what you might think.

It was a pointer to a news source with the word "Sun" in the title, like the Baltimore daily, or Britain's Murdoch tabloid, The Sun.

"There is a publication called "Sun" - for example The Baltimore Sun - it is a news source, This is not information from a commercial identity such as IBM," he explained.

And lo, hours after he told us, the phenomenon could be seen with "Express" (leading to a link to a list of relevant stories from a news source, the UK mid-market tabloid The Daily Express and "Independent", ditto The Independent newspaper.

These organs are winners of the "Express" and "Independent" lottery.

It remains a highly selective feature. Organs entitled "Times", "Tribune", "Chronicle", or "Examiner" are not so favored.

And on Friday, "Sun" lost its most favored status. A search for Sun storage now does not give you the plus-link, or the link to a cluster of stories from any Sun newspaper.

Managing Relationships

Krane strongly denied that the vacancy for a Business Manager at Google involved developing commercial relationships with "news sources". Which Google News has redefined, as we discovered here, to include lobby groups and corporations.

(When we first asked Google about this on Friday, 4 April, the first reaction from a spokesman was "It's a bug" - meaning, we can't possibly be including press releases as news. That was clarified a couple of hours, and several phone calls later).

Krane explained:

"We don't have relationships with commercial organizations such as IBM, HP, EMC and IBM. We are hiring for a position which indeed appears to indicates we will.

"Let's clarify; it has nothing to do with editorial judgement; that position is to manage relationships with publications."

How?

"Take for example, New York Times.com. That requires registration. So there's a relationship that had to be structured between the New York Times and Google.

We see the necessity for this. The Times has been registration-only for as long as we can remember. And Google has managed to cope. However it remains a mystery why this is classified as a Business role, rather than a Technical or Editorial function.

Thanks to David for the explanation.

Google won its popular reputation for a couple of reasons. One, it didn't whore itself for payola. Two, its search rankings were simply much more relevant at finding credible source material than its established rivals.

Now we discover that PageRank is broken: it no longer links to the most-linked to item, but leads the users through a thicket of weblogs. This is but one example, Register readers are sending many more.

And the company needs to explain its Google News policy clearly and unambiguously: a written Policy statement remains elusive. ®

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Google turns news 'bug' into payola feature
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