Posts Tagged ‘New Scientist’


Can Google be more than just a reference site?

A sign for Google during its Developer Day in 2007. Researchers have created a search engine ranking sites on factual accuracy. (Image courtesy of meneame comunicacions, sl/Flickr under CC)

A sign for Google during its Developer Day in 2007. Researchers have created a search engine ranking sites on factual accuracy. (Image courtesy of meneame comunicacions, sl/Flickr under CC)

The search engine Google is synonymous with the search for information – the word itself signifies the search for the truth. Google is used by everyone in every profession, including this one. But could Google, at some stage, lead the way in becoming an encyclopedia of fact, in addition to the reference we all have come to know and love?

A paper by a research team working for the search engine has shed some light on that very question. Instead of ranking web sites by links, rank them by the quality of facts. The paper, published last month and reported on last week by the New Scientist magazine, includes details of a system that would count the number of incorrect facts on a page, instead of incoming links.

It hasn’t been announced by Google if something like this would actually become available for usage by the public, but should this be public, as Caitlin Dewey wrote in the Washington Post, the implications could be huge.

“A switch could, theoretically, put better and more reliable information in the path of the millions of people who use Google every day,” Dewey wrote. “And in that regard, it could have implications not only for SEO — but for civil society and media literacy.”

Should Google come out with such an engine, it will be significant for journalism, particularly in terms of verification between all of that user generated content. It may also change how we approach writing for the web, but while it remains to be seen, the next fact can soon be made available by uttering the phrase, I’ll Google that.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is chairman and blogger at large of SPJ Digital, and community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also serves as Deputy Editor, Media Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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