Monday, 23 February 2009

Google must walk the "Don't be evil" talk

There's a storm brewing at Google and genealogists are involved.

It was started when Google, having acquired the Paper of Record content of Ottawa company Cold North Wind Inc, chose to take down that site before fully integrating the files into Google's newspaper archive. Papers from several locations are no longer available and "The Google Results are in no way comparable to what Paper of Record presented."

Here are some comments from Google News Suggestions since discussion started at the end of January:

"I was soooo disappointed to find that I could not access the archives for The Temiskaming Speaker. It included a wealth of information for my family tree research."

"I too am very disappointed that this service has been discontinued. I used it quite often when I was doing geaealigical (sic) research."

"None of this content is available (newspapers from Mexico) as of today."

"I was making very precise and detailed use of the two Yukon (Canada) newspapers in the database, which were providing me with information not available otherwise to me here in Australia. ... I turned my attention elsewhere for a couple of weeks and when I returned I find the present mess."

"I was in the middle of a doctoral dissertation using obscure Canadian newspapers, when suddenly the whole system got pulled out from under my feet. It's outrageous -- it is certainly making me a dedicated enemy of Google -- until now I thought they were kind of a good thing, but this is sheer cultural rapine piracy!"

"Google, what you have done to Paper of Record is pure evil" Don't be evil is one of Google's credos.

"Google has shown that the academic community cannot rely on them when they pull content at a whim. It is scary to think that Google can manipulate and control content this way."

Google's official response is:

"Google acquired content from We're currently working on the most effective way to search and browse this valuable content. We're doing our best to find a solution to include as much of the acquired content as possible.

While a lot of this content has been made available through Archive search, we're still refining processes to include incompatible newspaper images in our index. We're also working with certain publishers to acquire the rights to display their content. All of this takes time, and we appreciate your patience. We're constantly making improvements to ensure the best user experience."

The response fails to address why the the Paper of Record interface can't be restored until Google can replace it with one at least as good. Even with its limitations, and there were plenty, Paper of Record was the half a loaf that was better than none.

If you miss the Paper of Record material let Google know by posting here.

Thanks to Willis Burwell for the storm alert.

1 comment:

WJM said...

We're also working with certain publishers to acquire the rights to display their content.

In respect of the vast majority of PoR content, this is pure nonsense.

There are no publishers to work with for most long-defunct 19th century newspapers (or even many early 20th century ones if they have long since folded.)

There, in fact, aren't even any rights to acquire; such papers are public domain.