'Google News' shares mission with Paly students


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Due to the impact of a presentation made by a representative of Google news on Friday May 23, Paly technology students have a new insight on the latest and most innovative technology for future design projects.

A founder of Google, Marissa Mayer, spoke about "Google News" to Paly’s web journalism class as well as several members of Paly’s robotics team and beginning journalism students.

"The `Google’ goal is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible," said Mayer, director of product management at the widely used, machine-run, Google search engine.

Google strives, above all, to remain unbiased in choosing the stories that are displayed on the ‘Google News’ home page. According to Mayer, to avoid giving an unfair advantage to some of the more popular news organizations, computer programmers and engineers at Google are actively designing better systems that automate the task of picking sources, Mayer said.

"Sometimes you’ll have a news organization like the New York Times on the front page and other times it will be a small localized newspaper," Mayer said, adding that Google tries to give as many sources as possible regarding one story, in turn, exposing the reader to many credible sources.

The technology behind the concept of unbiased news is called ‘Page Rank,’ Mayer said. The Google News ‘robot’ looks at various sources and looks at the number of hits, keywords, and pictures. Then it gathers all this information into clusters that are stored on the server.

Google News is a recent idea, prototyped originally as a page full of text, however it has now evolved into a full-on news site layout with pictures, columns, and colorful section pages.

Like any other beta version of a product, Google News still has many bugs to work out.

"Google News is still very new to the public," Mayer commented. "We were waiting for almost half an hour the night the war broke out, for the story to be ranked high enough to be visible on the front page"

"Out robots are stupid, one time there was a story about tax cuts and a large picture of Moby [Music artist] was displayed on the site. Apparently Moby did something endorsing tax cuts once. It was very embarrassing."

Despite being fairly new, Google News has the potential to redefine online news sites with its innovative story selection process. Given the success of the original Google, which according to a survey, available on the Google Web site, consistently satisfies 96 percent of its users, Google News may soon serve as a model for news sites worldwide.