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August 8, 2007

Comments In Google News? Oh, No!

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Google News has quite possibly opened up the largest can of worms ever announcing that individuals or organizations mentioned in stories appearing in Google News will now be allowed to comment on the story. I want to know whose idea this was. We need to find this person and throw rocks at them, ASAP.

The way this whole crazy thing works is that any person mentioned in a story picked up by Google News can email their comment to news-comments@google.com. The wannabe commenter must use their real name and be able to verify they are, in fact, the person represented in the story (this should be SO fun for Google to figure out!). Once approved, the comment with be attached to the story on an individual story page (!). It’s probably also worth noting that there’s no link involved. There’s not even a nofollowed link, the link just isn’t present at all. If Google thinks this is going to deter comment spam, it’s not. Anybody even remotely mentioned in the story is going to start leaving "valuable" comments just to get themselves a little more search engine love for vanity searches. This is bad, bad, bad.

I suppose we should all cheer and clap for Google trying to present all sides of a story or letting the actual news participants have a voice (isn’t that what the news article was for?) but there is so much potential for this to go horribly wrong that all the positives are getting lost on me.

I mean we have a blog, we allow comments, and we get a lot of spam. If our blog of 5 readers gets a lot of spam, can you imagine how much spam Google is going to get? Maybe that’s the positive – spammers will be so busy spamming Google they won’t have time for the rest of us?

And what kind of editorial standards will Google be using here? They said they’ll publish the whole text of the comment without edits but what about harsh language? What about personal attacks? Are they going to allow that in or does Google get to decide what qualifies as an appropriate comment?

What’s the cut off point? How long are commenters going to be allowed to respond to a story? Under this system, it’s going to be very easy for today’s news to run into tomorrow.

What’s also interesting about the decision is that with it Google is no longer just an aggregator of news. Now they’re participating in it. Over at Deep Jive Interests they seem to think that this is a good thing, that those mentioned in the news will be able to tell "their side" of the story and that news will become "personalized". Call me old fashioned but I don’t want my news personalized.

Remember when the news followed journalistic standards? When the news was written without editorial opinion and the story was presented as unbiased and "just the facts"? That’s the way news should be. If you want personalized news, or if you want read opinions on the news, go read a blog. Or watch TV. Traditional media is supposed to be objective and unbiased. Adding comments allows people to inject a slant into the story that doesn’t need to be there. What if Person A is a big Google News reader and Person B is somewhat technology retarded? Then we hear more of Person A’s "side" than Person B’s, right? That’s not journalism, nor accurate.

And why would we even need this? Any respectable journalist, and you would hope the journalists being mentioned in Google News are respectable, will include every possible angle to a story. This means the viewpoint of the people represented should already be mentioned. Why do we have to hear it again? If you’re going to open up comments on news pieces (which I really do think is a horrible idea), at least give us new viewpoints, not viewpoints already being expressed.

I’m sure I’m coming off sounds all sorts of grumpy over here, but I just don’t like this at all and I’m not sure what Google’s thinking. Are they trying to create individual story pages so they can sell ads on them? What’s the deal? Why are we even opening this can of worms?





3 responses to “Comments In Google News? Oh, No!”

  1. John King writes:

    Are you sure there aren’t any links?

    Heres a quote from the article at search engine land (http://searchengineland.com/070808-191446.php). “How about link backs for those giving comments? Easily done, I was told. Those sending in comments should simply include a link to a site or bio information about them. You can also include links as part of the comments you email. Josh added that those comments aren’t being edited at all. So if you misspell, on your head be it!”

  2. bclay@bruceclay.com writes:

    I absolutely agree with Lisa… but even more important, what if an article says something negative about someone (Person A), and a competitor (Person B) somehow pretending to be Person A (sneaking past the Google verification system) admits to some wrongdoing in the name of Person A, hence hurting the reputation of Person A forever. Is Google going to want that lawsuit?

  3. Lisa writes:

    John — It was being reported yesterday morning that commenters wouldn’t get a link back. Then Danny was able to sit down with a Googler late in the afternoon and got them to reveal otherwise. It’s funny how the news changes in a matter of hours. :)



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