The Evolution of Google Ratings (Experts Delegating Authority)?

Imagine Google offering a rating system where you can ask experts, or authorities, to provide ratings for pages on the Web such as scientific articles, tutorials, news stories, or editorials, or products and current movies. It’s something that we might see from Google in the future, if they follow through on a process described in a patent granted to them earlier this week.

How might it work?

You log into this evaluation system and present what you want rated, and you’re provided with a list of primary authorities that you can choose amongst to rate your page or product or movie.

For example, you’re interested in learning about Diabetes, and you run across an article that tells you about how a version of vitamin B1, Benfotiamine, may potentially be useful in fighting off some of the damages that high blood sugar might do to your body. You’d like to know what some experts in the field might think about the article, and you’re shown authorities in the field listed as authorities on the subject, such as the American Medical Association, the Harvard Medical School, and the American Diabetes Association. You select those three organizations to provide ratings.

Those authorities, and people whom they’ve delegated some of their authority to, provide ratings for the article in a manner like you might see in or Slashdot.

The important part of the patent is that this rating system involves experts on specific topics, who might delegate some of their authority to others when providing ratings.

The ability for expert raters to delegate some or all of their authority to provide ratings creates a way for the evaluation system to scale to greater amounts of content.

The American Medical Association might delegate some of their authority to provide ratings to a team of doctors who have applied or have been appointed to the position. The Harvard School of Medicine might include a professor and a clinical team of students to be evaluators. The American Diabetes Association might choose volunteers specializing in Diabetes research to rate medical articles.

If the evaluators research the article I mention above, they might note that one of the authors is the chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Association, is the head of a research team involving Diabetes at Einstein College of Medicine in New York, has won a number of awards for his research, and that the article has been heavily cited in a positive manner in a number of medical journals since its publication.

The patent is:

Delegated authority evaluation system
Invented by W. Daniel Hillis and Bran Ferren
Assigned to Google
US Patent 7,844,610
Granted November 30, 2010
Filed: May 25, 2004


The invention provides an evaluation system for reliably evaluating large amounts of content. The evaluation system is managed by a primary authority that designates one or more contributing authorities by delegating to each a specific quantity of authority.

Each contributing authority may in turn designate and delegate authority to one or more additional contributing authorities, subject to the restriction that the total quantity of authority delegated does not exceed the quantity of authority the contributing authority was itself delegated.

Each contributing authority, and optionally the primary authority itself, may evaluate one or more portions of content by associating a rating with each evaluated portion of content. A composite rating for a particular portion of content may then be determined based upon the ratings associated with the portion of content. Preferably, the ratings are combined in a manner that affords a higher priority to the ratings provided by contributing authorities to which a greater quantity of authority was delegated.

The ratings provided by authorities and their delegates may then be available to others through annotations left with the pages. The patent doesn’t detail how those might appear, but they might make those available in search results or possibly on something like Google’s sidewiki

The ratings may be presented to reflect a number of different senses about the pages or products being evaluated, such as credibility, trustworthiness, accuracy and impartiality.

Primary authorities might be public entities, such as the American Medical Association, or private entities, such as individuals with trusted web presences or peers of the people searching for evaluations.

The identities of the people providing ratings would be known rather than anonymous.

When a primary authority, such as the American Medical Assocation delegates some of its authority, it might start out with a certain amount of authority points, like 200. It might designate 100 of those authority points to a specific doctor, and 10 points each to 10 medical students working in a clinic with that doctor. The doctor could then delegate 50 of those authority points to a co-researcher. If some, or all of those delegates provide ratings for a particular article, the final amount of authority involved in the rating wouldn’t exceed the original amount of authority provided to the American Medical Association. The total amount of authority used in providing the rating would figure into a final rating when multiple sources are selected to provide an overall rating for a page or product or movie.


Will we see a system like this emerge from Google sometime in the future?

I thought it was interesting that the patent notes that experts or “primary authorities” could be private individuals, including peers of the people asking for ratings.

I was reminded a little of Aardvark, the social network search engine that Google purchased this past February, when I read this patent. Maybe elements of this rating system might be incorporated into the social network that Google is said to be launching sometime next year.


Author: Bill Slawski

Share This Post On