Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Mimsy Were the Technocrats: As long as we keep talking about it, it’s technology.

Climategate crashes Google?

Jerry Stratton, December 3, 2009

What’s going on up in Mountain View? Climategate seems to be crashing their algorithms. Recap: Christopher Booker wrote an article for the Telegraph about climategate tag-lined Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with the Climategate whitewash. You can guess the line it takes.

His colleague at the Telegraph, James Delingpole, noticed that the extremely popular article had disappeared from Google News:

What is going on at Google? I only ask because last night when I typed “Global Warming” into Google News the top item was Christopher Booker’s superb analysis of the Climategate scandal.

It’s still the most-read article of the Telegraph’s entire online operation—430 comments and counting—yet mysteriously when you try the same search now it doesn’t even feature. Instead, the top-featured item is a blogger pushing Al Gore’s AGW agenda. Perhaps there’s nothing sinister in this. Perhaps some Google-savvy reader can enlighten me…

If that’s all that I’d read about the topic, it would have struck me as a bit paranoid. News items appear and disappear from Google News all the time. It’s not like they have the space to list every current article in every paper. But then Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land wrote about it and got a comment from Google. Nothing to worry about, says Google:

The article attracted so many comments that it exceeded a threshold for the page being too large (it’s more than 1.3 MB of HTML at this point). We’re looking at whether it makes sense to allow larger pages in the future. As with Google Search, our goal for Google News is to give users the most relevant, objective results, which is why we generate them automatically and without human intervention.

Think about that reasoning for a moment. Go back to Delingpole’s quote of one measure of an article’s popularity. According to Google, the Google News algorithm is specifically designed to remove extremely popular stories. If an article is popular, and people are talking about it a lot, sending traffic to it, and leaving comments on it, Google News decides it’s no longer newsworthy.

And they are looking at whether maybe that doesn’t make sense? Maybe? I’m beginning to hope that they really are deliberately spiking climategate. It would be more comforting than knowing that not only are their algorithms inane, they can’t even recognize the obviousness of it.

  1. <- Google loses climategate
  2. iMac Core i7 ->