April 29, 2005


"TrustRank" is criticized by Jeff Jarvis:

Michael Zimmer points us to what I think is a fairly hair-brained scheme from Google that reveals its fetishistic prejudice in favor of machines and also its prejudice in favor of big, old media.

The search engine wants to come up with an algorithm to judge trust in news. They already have a trademarked name for it: TrustRank.

"Fetishistic prejudice"? No, no, no. Such algorithms are the missing piece of building a journalism data-mining business. That's what's needed to really turn the results into other than a list of items by keywords. Moreover, something useful would be the best thing ever to happen to "citizen journalism"!

Every once in a while, when I talk to Andrew Orlowski, about Google and society, I say there are deep, hard, computational problems in the world, and nobody has solved them. But in these efforts, sometimes someone comes up with just a little nibble at the solution, and the outcome can be extraordinary (of course, a lot else has to go right too, many businesses have had good technology and failed, that's another topic).

One big problem with "citizen journalism" is finding effective ways to sort through the piles of ranting and propaganda and echo-chambering, etc., in order to get something useful, at the limits an ordinary person can stand. Lists of articles where keywords appear, don't scale (a workable solution there, for web pages, was the original advantage of Google).

Of course any such algorithm will have certain values and prejudices. A whole book could be written on the problems of Google's algorithms. To be fetishistic about something being an algorithm is indeed a common sociological failing. And as noted, the algorithm itself could favor old vs new, big vs small etc (similar criticisms have been made of Google's web page ranking, and in fact there appear to be certain tweaks to deal with those issues).

But it seems likely that someone who develops a "trust" algorithm which is halfway functional - even if it's ponderous, flawed, prejudiced, biased (sound like something? e.g. criticism of journalism?) - will have an immense advantage in the race to exploit that commodification and de-professionalizing of journalism.

Maybe the best thing to do is to fund Google alternatives, to insure Google doesn't turn into the next Microsoft-like monopoly

[That wasn't a pitch, though it reminds me again I really should get back to analyzing Google. The relevant keepers of the gates are better for me, and there's money in it, in contrast to the horrible effects of fighting for net-freedom]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on April 29, 2005 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Sure its goal is to placed added weight on trusted sources, but every algorithm must be anchored by something right?

Every new algorithm change that presents roadblocks also presents opportunities if you are creative enough with it.

New sites, pages, and posts are also given a temporary relevancy boost in some algorithms.

Posted by: aaron wall at May 4, 2005 04:46 AM

This is exactly what The New Gatekeepers series is tracking towards: a system for rating content based on more useful metrics than the number of inbound links. No wonder Jarvis is off his kilter.

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel at May 5, 2005 01:25 AM