Christine Churchill has an article at Search Engine Watch on Understanding Search Engine Patents that’s worth a look.
In it, she describes some of the potential pitfalls of placing too much credibility in a patent application released by one of the search engines. It’s a warning worth heeding.
In addition, she describes four presentations on search engine patent applications at a recent Search Engine Strategies conference. I wish I could have seen these presentations. It’s a good thing that Christine has shared them with us.
I spend some time every week digging through the new patents and patent applications from Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and others. As a result, some interesting stuff shows up from time to time.
For instance, would you consider comparing blogging to an infectious disease? A paper on how infectious diseases spread has inspired a couple of patent applications from IBM on Blogging and how information spreads through blogs.
So, how can this analogy prove useful?
The second patent application describes the difficulties that news services have in filtering large amounts of online news items to identify the most important ones involving a particular topic.
Many of these news services provide alerts to people, yet those alert systems resemble noise rather than useful information if there are too many stories. Many blog posts and corporate press releases don’t help, especially the many that are mostly marketing propaganda.
This approach looks to “spikes” in blog coverage of news events to help identify important stories in the news. As they note:
The present system offers great potential through this view of the blogging community as a giant collaborative filtering mechanism built around an implicit web of trust, as manifested in propagation patterns between individuals.
Will this become a concept that someone will find useful and somehow implement into their own news alerts? It’s really uncertain.
Are these two documents possible “Red Herrings” as Christine notes some patent applications may be to get competitors to spend time and energy researching similar channels? Or, will a comparison of infectious disease to the spread of information through the blogosphere hold a key towards helping to identify important and impactful stories on the web?
Keep an eye on the news alert services that the search engines offer over the next year or two, and see if you can figure out how they determine which stories are the most important. It just may be that they will get cues from blogs.
Somehow that seems like a thumb in the eye to traditional media, to have the importance of what they report determined by amateur bloggers. On the other hand, I sort of like the idea.