Social Media

Commenting on aggregated items

Philipp Lenssen posted on the new Google News commenting feature, where people can submit comments for news items that show up at

The folks of Google describe this procedure, as soliciting commentary from those people ‘involved’:

We’ll be trying out a mechanism for publishing comments from a special subset of readers: those people or organizations who were actual participants in the story in question. Our long-term vision is that any participant will be able to send in their comments, and we’ll show them next to the articles about the story. Comments will be published in full, without any edits, but marked as “comments” so readers know it’s the individual’s perspective, rather than part of a journalist’s report.

This makes little sense, because Google News is an aggregator of news, not an originator of news. The appropriate place for comments would be at the origination of the material, not within an aggregation of such. Will we begin to see comments attached to items on Google search in the future? Perhaps at Google Reader?

This move follows through on the Google “vision” of Web 3.0 I mentioned, briefly, yesterday, where Google is beginning to see itself as a cloud–the intermediary between those who read and those who produce. Except rather than passing people on through, it now wants to trap people at its sites in a move that could alter how people perceive the original news once–if–they do click through.

Anything that makes Steve Rubel happy is bound to dissatisfy me, and this is no exception. He writes:

This is certainly a boon for PR professionals who have longed for a way to respond to what is largely an automated system. Wikipedia needs a similar mechanism. Google is also fairly liberal in the sources it aggregates. It includes lots of homegrown sites and blogs. This approach, while managed manually, certainly gives companies and subjects a voice on a critical site that is increasingly a big gateway for lots of news/blog content.

(Incidental to this story, my response to his comment on Wikipedia is, huh? Largely automated system? What?)

Rubel’s only discontent is that the site doesn’t allow comments from everyone, everyone in this case, we presume to be the aforementioned PR people.

Philipp writes that the process of providing comments on news items at Google news will allow missing perspectives to be attached to a story, but it doesn’t, really. If the person arrives at the story outside of Google News they won’t see the writing. If they come in from Yahoo they won’t see the commentary. If they come in from link from one of us, they won’t see the commentary.

Any commentary should either be added as comment to the original story, or via a separate web site and linked in, which means that anyone can access this information at a later time regardless of how they found the story, and which search engine or news aggregator they use.

More importantly, to repeat what I wrote earlier, attaching a comment to the link to the story could influence perception of the story and that gives Google a dangerous level of power. We may attach commentary to links ourselves, but none of us bill ourselves as the source of information on the web.


Citizen Media wrote on this:

The fact that Google is trying this is, in one sense, testament to an abject failure on the part of traditional news operations. With the Net, they could have given people the chance to comment in this way — above and beyond the standard comment published as part of a story or a letter to the editor. They didn’t, and left this opening.

Actually, this isn’t necessarily all that true nowadays. All but some of the larger publications now allows comments, or some form of feedback. The St. Louis Today site provides both a forum and Talkback.

This isn’t the little guy triumphing over the Big Media Companies–this is one very large, rather controlling, and not necessarily always ethical business working to keep you in their pages that much longer.

Google is larger and has more control over the flow of information than many of the so-called Big Media companies. Do not treat this company like it is one of us.

Another danger in all this? I found the Citizen Media link in Techmeme, a site that filters based on some form of ‘worth’, a type of worth that almost invariably eliminates most of the more unique viewpoints (including those of women). We do not need another gatekeeper applying its own Silicon Valley, white, affluent male view on who is or is not a ‘credible’ commenter.

Right now, anyone can get a space online and link to a story and comment on the story and all search bots can find such and include in their search archives. Searching for links to a story returns all the commentary, and the comments persist as long as you want. You don’t have to ask anyone’s permission, and it does not require a gatekeeper. This way to comment certainly doesn’t require Google. This is the ‘little guy’ (or in most cases, little woman) having their say.

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