Trust is not a calculation

Trust is not a calculation

: 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.

But trust is not a calculation, it is a judgment — a human judgment. If it were a calculation, news organizations — and politicians and marketers and clergy, for that matter — surely would have figured this out years ago: Forget the Q rating, here’s the T rating. But trust is based on experience and intuition and perspective.

Still, Google trusts machines. Says New Scientist:

Now Google, whose name has become synonymous with internet searching, plans to build a database that will compare the track record and credibility of all news sources around the world, and adjust the ranking of any search results accordingly.

The database will be built by continually monitoring the number of stories from all news sources, along with average story length, number with bylines, and number of the bureaux cited, along with how long they have been in business. Google’s database will also keep track of the number of staff a news source employs, the volume of internet traffic to its website and the number of countries accessing the site.

Google will take all these parameters, weight them according to formulae it is constructing, and distil them down to create a single value. This number will then be used to rank the results of any news search.

I do believe there are ways to capture trust but it is not through such metrics as number of stories, bylines, bureaus (rather than bureaux, he said, Americanesquely), and so on. That’s old journalism’s scale for trust: bigger = better. This eliminates experts and specialists in this age of niches. It also includes sources that many consider untrustworthy (those who can’t stand the BBC on one side or FoxNews on the other).

: I can’t find the Google patent (WO 2005/029368) but I find with interest that Google has 462 of them. Are they going to contribute any of them to the world?

: Earlier fretting about Google.

Is Google the trojan horse of the internet? Did it sneak in the gates over the night looking like a toy and turned out to be an army of conquest?

Just asking.

: I’ll be eager to see what Battelle has to say about this.

: Much discussion on SlashDot.

: Technorati cosmos on TrustRank (TM).