falls in love with Google
Is it possible to be in love with a web site?
OK, I'm not that far gone. But when you think about
it, Google has
many of the qualities of the ideal mate.
It's charming and attractive, the speed and
responsiveness give the feeling of vitality, it's
reliable, it seems to anticipate your needs and
meet them perfectly, and it never complains. Plus,
it has that wonderful quality that can be present
in an ideal mate: it sometime surprises you by
revealing new and pleasing facets of itself.
Such as recently, when Google started doing
like everything else Google does, this new feature
is extraordinary. Google News indexes some 4,000
news sources and lets you search them. Google even
indexes my hometown paper, the Fairfield
Like Google's regular search engine, the news
search is blazingly fast. Google continuously
updates its database throughout the day, such that
a search will find articles that were posted to the
web just minutes earlier.
Let's say you're interested in Bill Clinton. OK,
you're not interested in Bill Clinton. But let's
use it as an example anyway. Maybe you want to know
what he's been up to lately. Twelve minutes ago a
newspaper in Massachusetts, the North Adams
Transcript, mentioned him in a news story about the
governor's race. And 21 minutes ago, he was
mentioned in an article that appeared in the San
Diego Union Tribune.
I just wanted you to see how up-to-date this is.
But in this case, it wasn't all that practical to
sort the results by date, because you get a lot of
trivial mentions. The default is to sort by
relevance. In this case, you really do find out
what he's been doing lately. An article in a
Russian newspaper indicated that Clinton had just
been invited to Russia. And articles in various
British newspapers indicated that he'd recently
given a major speech there.
One reason I like this search feature is that I
work part of the time as a publicist for my
university, and I'm always eager to know if we've
been in the news lately. So I did a search on a
keyword related to the university, then sorted by
date, and then saved that as a favorite. Now to see
the latest publicity each day, I don't even have to
repeat the steps of the search--I just access my
favorite and it does the search in an instant and
gives me fresh results.
This is just so cool. It's what I've been
wanting. And it's so perfectly satisfying that I've
given up the other news sites I had been using in
an imperfect attempt to accomplish the same thing.
Do you get the analogy? Hint: exclusive, long-term
commitment. No more playing the field for me. This
is exactly the relationship I have with Google's
original search engine. I'm sorry, AltaVista,
you're not the one anymore.
So far I've been focusing on the search feature,
since that is, in my mind, what really makes this
stand out. But the site also does a great job of
presenting a newsy "front page" in the same fashion
as CNN and other major news sites.
But Google, as always, is different. Other news
sites use human editors to decide what the top
stories should be. Google uses a computer program.
In the same wonderfully useful way it ranks the
results when you do a web search, Google uses a
secret computer program to rank the news stories
according to importance on the front page. My guess
is that they determine the top stories in part
according to how many news outlets are running that
particular story at the moment.
On the front page you'll find the hottest
stories at the top of the page and below that the
breaking news stories in the categories of World,
U.S., Business, Sci/Tech, Sports, Entertainment,
In addition to the front-page summary, you can
click on any one of these categories to go to a
section of the site that features that content.
Each headline typically also includes the lead
sentence and the source of the news.
I think this relationship will last. And just
one last quality of Google that makes it ideal:
it's funny. In the "About Google News" link, the Q
& A has a lighthearted tone, such as this
question: "I just did a search and wasn't happy
with the results. Who should feel my wrath?" and
"How could you leave out Lemur News Digest? How do
I get it added?"
Did I mention that Google is also a good cook?
© 2002 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.