Google News “Comment by” Feature

August 9th, 2007  |  Published in etc

I don’t know when it was implemented, but the Google News “Comments” feature is sorta cool. Google offers some comment space for people who were mentioned in a news story after they undergo some sort of identity verification.

Here’s one in the wild, in which the author of a widely reported study on the effects of baby “genius” videos signs off on the bulk of the reporting done about his study and hastens to make sure people understand he’s not anti-television.

Since last night

Oh … I guess they blogged about it on Tuesday.

Anyhow, Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand noticed this yesterday and offered:

Comments also give Google its own news content. Some news stories will now be “anchors” for user generated content, somewhat similar to how a site like Digg operates. Of course, by trying to only get the ‘newsmakers’ involved, Google may be hoping to eliminate much of the noise you can get in a place like Digg.

I think the current implementation is appropriately modest in reach. If I want to know what some random dude on Digg thinks of a story, I’ll go search for that story on Digg. Everyone likes to talk about how much the ‘net has commodified content when it comes to toppling the mean old MSM. Well … it has also commodified some random dude’s opinion. I used to read “man on the street” items … I even did a few when I worked for a newspaper. Now I can get what the man on the street thinks ad nauseam.

That’s why when that he says it’s “too bad” that “Google News will only offer comments about a story that are written by a person who plays a key role in the subject,” I think “No … it’s great.”

It’s great for me, anyhow, because I look at my attentional resources as something I need to conserve. I appreciate silos. Google News sticking to links to stories from sites in its database and comments from people who have something to do with a specific story makes for a nice, tidy silo. If I want to find out what other people think, I’ll go to the silos that provide a better means of sifting through that. Once a silo begins to clutter up with links from other silos, it becomes harder to navigate.

Anyhow, someone in the comments on that item points to a McDonald’s VP making sure his boilerplate is attached to a story about how effectively his company has suborned the perception of young children.

“It’s all about fun, too, and customers enjoy our restaurants as a unique and friendly place to go with their families.”


Update: MicroPersuasion just comes out and says it:

Google gets points for opening up their platform to comments from sources but I would had rather have seen them make it more democratic and have this open to everyone. In being selective, the move is more fraught with risk as Google begins to make editorial decisions that might not be popular. A better way to manage this might be to have a system that lets everyone comment, yet also delineates those from official sources that are mentioned in a particular story.

If you’re into places that let everyone comment, they’re great. But we all know what happens to those places: They start out as little sites with democratic impulses. Then people start getting angry because they have to read the trolls. So they start asking for kill files, moderation systems, up-and-down votes, etc. etc. etc. On a bad day, half of any discussion will center on how bad the moderation system, or its lack, is.

Metafilter got it right by just charging $5 and leaving the flat comment system in place without all the goop (though I haven’t looked lately and may well be out of date on that score). I don’t care if that’s “less democratic,” because not everything needs to be more democratic.

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