Monday, September 15, 2008

Google Rules: Just Ask UAL

Another item that flew past -- no pun intended -- last week was the re-emergence of an almost six-year old story about United Airlines' bankruptcy. It went to the top of Google's news crawler and cause the markets to flip out. UAL's stock crashed on the mistaken belief that the major airline was going into bankruptcy again.

Unfortunately, it was just a stick in the Google cache -- mistakenly posted as new news. Even though it came down after 13 minutes, UAL stock went down almost a billion.

How did it happen, and how can it impact you in the college sports world? Consider what the impact would be to your school if old NCAA investigation stories happen to pop up right before the dark period for coaches heading into signing day?

There's a great primer on how it happened and what it means on the Association of College and Research Libraries website today:

Information is Power -- Even When it's Wrong

Amy Fry wrote the entry, and the whole thing is required reading. However, my money quote is this:

If any one of you has been underestimating the role of Google in the information food chain, STOP.

1 comment:

Christopher Byrne said...

It is not so much a stick in the Google cache, but in how the Sun-Sentinel (and other news sites) show story dates as the date they are being read in the browser by a reader (and have poor meta-data as you discussed in the link you posted above).

Imagine this scenario: I read an article on-line that shows a date of today reporting a news story. I e-mail it to someone or blog it, and it gets sent around through a multiplier effect. Even without Google, bad information is being spread. THEN, Google picks up on blog posts about it, and the multiplier grows exponentially. It gets picked up on Technorati, Digg, etc.

This is the type thing I picked on about a couple of days ago (see Just Doesn't Understand Data Presentation):

Why is this a problem? Because the data being reported is not accurate, and to the uneducated visitor to the web site, they would think that Georgia is 3-0 and ranked 2nd, and that despite being thrashed by Southern California, Ohio State is 2-1 and still ranked 5th. Of course we know the rankings have changed with Georgia falling to 3rd, and the Buckeyes have dropped to 13th in the AP Poll (14th in the coaches poll).