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Google finally copies Topix 2004

Heh. Google has launched a local news version of Google News. You can put in a zip code and get a geo-spun slice of their stories around a locality. Cool.

But it doesn't seem like Google is going as far as Topix did in finding local references in non-local sources... We had a geoKB with named entities for every town in the US, and would disambiguate the references in the stories. Our geoKB knew the name of every street in the country. As well as every bridge, tunnel, body of water, hospital, school, jail... we even had a database of mayor names in our local KB (got that yet goog? :-) Sometimes helpful to tell the Springfields apart.

I'd routinely see local stories from crazy sources... stuff that I never would have found any other way. My town (san carlos, ca) once was the cover story on a magazine called Government Procurement, because our city hall had put solar cells all over their roof. I never would have seen that story without topix.

This was pretty neat stuff when Topix launched in January, 2004. Now if Google just added 50,000 vetted local blogs to the mix, and a community with 100k posts/day, they'll have something. :-)

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Comments (7)

ade:

You do realise that Google would have to do what Topix is talking about on a global scale to be worthwhile?

Doing what Topix did for one language in one country is impressive. Doing the same thing in enough languages and enough countries to cover the entire planet would be something else entirely.

Based on their blog post, it looks like Google's local product is english-only and US-only... Topix actually did worldwide cities, at a certain level, but we didn't acquire the KB material to power it properly. But there's nothing inherent in either the Topix technology or what I assume Google is doing that couldn't scale to worldwide coverage.

"But it doesn't seem like Google is going as far as Topix did in finding local references in non-local sources..."

I set up a local section about my hometown in Kentucky, and it found a reference in a non-local source. So it looks like that is happening in Google News to some degree already.

"Based on their blog post, it looks like Google's local product is english-only and US-only..."

Sorry to be stopping by so much. :) Philipp at Google Blogoscoped gives an example with Stuttgart, Germany:
http://blogoscoped.com/archive/2008-02-07-n63.html

It looks like you can put any world location into a simple url parameter, e.g.
http://news.google.com/nwshp?geo=tokyo,+japan

Certainly I'm sure that there will be mistakes (all those Springfields are a difficult case, after all), but this still seems like a pretty useful tool.

Sure Matt. I'm mostly pointing out here that 1) in contrast to the Google Blog post which implies that no one has done this particular technical approach before...well yes, we did do it this way before (scanning text not just source-geocoding)...4 years ago, and 2) that topix includes a whole bunch of sources that google news doesn't, like a lot of local blogs and such. A couple of towns I looked at had a broader diversity of sources on topix than google had.

But yeah, I do expect google engineers to do a pretty good job at something, when they put their minds to it. :)

Yeah... using a classifier by extracting features and then attempting to detect these local features in another context can be very powerful.

It's a GOOD hack for information isn't classified correctly...

Seems obvious though.

Strange that more people haven't implemented it.

Kevin

I like the zip code and city features, but one news search feature I'd like to see is the option to combine more than one parameter into a single personalized section, so I can track my hometown, knoxville, as well as my specific zip code, 37919, and also my parents out in Phoenix, and my brother in New Jersey. That way I have a clue what's in the news in their necks of the woods when we talk on the phone :)

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