24 April 2009

History, Day by Day by Day (by Google)

Reaction to the beta version of the Google News Timeline, recently unveiled by Google Labs, has been generally positive, though critics say it still feels very much like a work in progress (which of course it is).

The new feature enables users to see news, scanned newspapers and magazines, blog posts, sports scores, and other information on a zoomable, graphical timeline. It looks to be especially useful for journalists seeking background on a story.

Among the feedback this week:

* "It really shows how news goes from being the first draft of history to become history." -- The Guardian

* "Got a deadline anytime in the next 24 hours? Then don't, for your own good, check out Google News Timeline. ... (It)looks to be the biggest, funnest time waster since we all spent hours exploring the globe with Google Earth." -- PC World

* "It offers interesting possibilities for exploring stories, especially older ones, that are largely hidden in newspaper and magazine archives. It is also a powerful way to view trends in culture and society or the careers of famous people." -- The New York Times

* "One question kept nagging at me as I was looking at this latest Google effort at delivering the news, and that was: Why couldn’t a news organization have done this? ... Isn’t delivering the news in creative and interesting ways that appeal to readers what we are supposed to be doing? Apparently not." -- Matthew Ingram of the Toronto Globe and Mail, writing on the Nieman Journalism Lab site.

Google Labs also has released a beta version of an application called Similar Images, which allows users to search for images using pictures rather than words.

How good is it? BBC News Magazine put it to the test by requesting, among other things, a match for a photo of John Prescott. The application promptly responded with photos of ... Renee Zellweger. Go figure.

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