Google Labs + News = Living Stories

Google Inc.
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Google Labs always has something interesting for me to explore. This time the guys at Google in conjunction with the Washington Post and The New York Times are tackling online news. I think this tool has allot of value, and if it is adopted widely it could change the way we discover, read and research news topics, using online news outlets. The fact that they are offering a open source API makes it even more compelling. They came up with a very powerful way to explore a news topic. They used their search algorithms that are already searching out all of the online sources on any given topic to add context and pull together a research hub on the desired news topic.

Here’s how it works. After a search is completed, and a story is selected you are presented with a variety of links of varying importance from any site that has covered the topic. There are a wide variety of ways to filter the content from media type to personalities in the story. It also offers a time line from the stories’ development across the web.

The implications for education are immediately apparent. Students now have a way to do one stop research. If they understand how to validate and attribute sources it can save them allot of time. This is an important factor, as classes in media literacy are not currently taught as a requirement in most school district’s curricula. This API is powerful enough to change the way modern news is interacted with and if newspapers are smart they are already implementing it as part of their online offerings.

Since most “old school” news (and publishers in general) organizations are nowhere near as open minded or nimble as they need to be, we may never see wide spread adoptions of this new delivery method. Most news organizations are too busy building subscription based,  “walled gardens” in the futile effort to protect their content and retain advertisers to consider any innovative open source offering that helps a reader understand a topic better. Especially one that pulls together a variety of sources from around the web to build a re-mixed conglomerate version of the story that is more informative that any single story can ever be. All said, judging by how quickly news papers are folding under this mind set, they may not last long enough to benefit from the increased exposure from this new browsing option. Kudos to the New York Times and Washington post  for their insightful work and Google for pulling them together. Here is an overview of the Living Stories feature set:

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