Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Google News has flaws

Google News, viewed with Google Chrome on my Apple iPhone 4S, has five flaws. When I view Google News, I am signed on to my Google account. This customizes the news for me.

First, look at these screen shots, taken today, one at 8:30 a.m. EDT (United States) and one at 8:32 p.m. Do you see any difference with the news? Nope, neither do I. The thing that bothers me the most is the age of the stories. In the a.m. version, the China story is supposedly one hour old. Shouldn't it be 13 hours ago 12 hours later? How do I get new stories? Eventually (overnight), they will be updated but during the day I have to manually refresh the display. Even after I manually refresh, it still tends to revert to the early-morning version.

Second, as you know. Major League Baseball games are played in a series of two or more games (up to five when the Chicago Cubs played the Cincinnati Reds recently). Google News has no concept of separate games, completely mixing up the stories about the games in the series. I would prefer that each game in the series be listed separately with the pregame and postgame stories shown together.

Third, Google News does not evaluate the quality of the news sources but figures that the last news source is the best. This results in the main story being from a dodgy source (like a site that scrapes stories from other sites) or an Associated Press story instead of the breaking story from the local news media. Take the first story above. The main source is a newspaper in Nigeria. Nigeria? Clicking on "More sources" gives you stories from Sydney Morning Herald (yes, Sydney as in Australia) and Daily News & Analysis. If I click on "all 397 news articles," I get a list of articles about sending advisers to Iraq and not a peep about China (this normally doesn't happen; it's just a glitch). Normally, I get the better stories only if I click through.

I recently wanted to read about an incident in Miami, Florida. The first story was an AP story in the Seattle (Washington) Post-Intelligencer. I had to dig to get an actual story from a television station in Miami. I miss the days when there was only one copy of Associated Press stories. Now there are dozens of them, all repeated ad nauseam as if they were unique.

Fourth, I have local news sections for two cities (Norwood, Ohio, where I live and Brookville, Ohio, where I work some of the time). These sections were rarely updated, although that may be fixed once I complained. Here is an example from April 1 (no fooling):

So which is it? A delay or an approval? If you look closely, the first story is dated March 18 and the second April 1. In those days, a story could stick for a month or more even though there's always new news to replace it. I had a disgusting Brookville child molestation story stuck on there for so long (over a month) that I finally flamed Google and it was fixed within hours. (There is an option to provide feedback about News separately from feedback about Chrome.)

Finally, on my iPhone the page takes at least 15 seconds to load (Aug. 13: 29 seconds). To load Google News on my MacBook Pro, using the same wireless Internet connection, takes three seconds. I suspect the problem is with either DNS lookup or SSL negotiation. Update Aug. 24: The problem is a Chrome problem that affects other sites as well. I have filed a report with Google but no fix yet.

I will still use Google News but I am still frustrated with its limitations. Thanks, Google, for letting me vent about this on Blogger, operated by Google. I will update this post as the situation improves.

Updated Aug. 13: Added/changed load times.

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