Friday, November 4, 2011

Freshness Algorithm

The electrification of information has had one obvious consequence. My morning paper always brings old news. Not surprisingly print-circulation is heading down and newspapers are folding. What keeps some papers alive is the habit some of us still have: get up, make coffee, get the paper. Television coverage brings the fastest news. When crises erupt—domestic or global—the 24-hour news channels will have the instant coverage, albeit bent all out of shape. Time and time again, attempting to get more comprehensive but still instant news, I’ve found that the Internet is hours behind—as is radio. Not that, mind you, speed will help me in any practical, real-life sense. Crises are always distant. When they are not just now but here, we run out of the house to see with our own eyes—which happened a year ago when the power lines behind our house suddenly caught fire.

Today comes news that Google is too slow—and in consequence of that its minions have labored and introduced a “freshness algorithm.” Evidently the fastest news is not on TV any more. It’s on Twitter and on Facebook. Instant now means second to second, and a seg of the pop feels deprived because the Google searches do not bring them Twitter feed results whereas Bing “includes more Twitter and Facebook posts than Google does in search results” (NYT this morning). That “seg of the pop” is my try to learn to write in Twitterese.

What supports all this ultimately silly hysteria for second-to-second currency is the built-in biological imperative of our sensory apparatus. Of course we want to know, and right away. But what our sensory structures haven’t internalized as yet is that the electrified environment artificially enlarges the world and makes events very far away appear to be nearer and more relevant than they really are. As if it mattered diddly whether or not Papandreou will or will not hold a referendum. Yes it might have consequences to us personally, but there is nothing we can do right now (indeed ever) to counter them—even if a 140-word Twit could actually spell them out.

1 comment:

  1. There seems to be a very small window in which News is both freshness and accurate.

    Concerning Greece, anything older than 36 hours is out of date, and it is very misleading to see out of date headlines on News sites.

    The very new material is not fleshed out and can also be very misleading.

    It seems that News used to come along and pass into History; now the News is more like a mortar attack at night, and in the morning we survey the craters and police up the area.
    Nothing endures... which we will find to actually be a blessing anymore.


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