I remain an admirer of Google, but like many other people I'm worried that the company is getting too big for its virtual britches. As Jeff Jarvis and others have noted lately, there's a worrisome bent toward "trust us" in the operation of Google News, a site I like but find frequently frustrating.
Google News embarrassed itself by including a disgusting Nazi-ish site (I will not link to it myself) in its source-crawl. The company has removed the site, thankfully, but not before enduring well-deserved ridicule for having included the garbage in the first place.
The problem is, among other things, a lack of transparency. Why doesn't Google just post a list of the news sites it uses as sources? I can't see the harm in doing this, and can see a lot of value.
Update: A Google spokesperson says: "I believe we did not list all the sites for competitive reasons. But, I do hear what you're saying and can pass your feedback (which we take very seriously) to the News team."
So the answer is No, for now. Too bad.
Until Google does the right thing, we'll have to use a list being compiled via a programming script at the Private Radio blog. Some of the sites surprise me, and will probably surprise you, too. (How long do you expect it will take for Google to demand that the blogger stop?)
On a separate matter, the excellent Philly Future -- a combination blog, citizens news and photo sharing site about Philadelphia -- is appropriately miffed that Google has absolutely no listing for the site. (UPDATE: This is being fixed; see Matt Cutts' comment below. Thanks, Matt!)
Karl Martino, who runs the site (and is former colleague of mine), wrote me:
I think Google has banned Philly Future from indexing.If anyone from Google is reading this, how about fixing what is obviously a bad setting?
Over a year ago a porn redirector owned the phillyfuture.org domain. I think that is what caused Googlebot to stop visiting the domain.
I've been posting in various message boards trying to get help. I've used their online forms to submit the site and ask for help a few times - but I can't seem to get a real response from Google itself except to: "be assured that these changes are automated. It is certainly our intent to represent the content of the internet fairly and accurately." from an automated reply. Basically - I keep being told to sit tight.
There is a nice Google employee blogger who is attempting to help - but he can't seem to figure out what's wrong. I've done all the right things according to him.
It's been a year now that I've had the Phillyfuture.org domain up. Googlebot has not visited. Philly Future is visitors traffic from MSN an Yahoo! - but not Google.
For me, this is one more reason to use the other search engines for at least some of my searches.
Update: Google has responded to Karl, and it looks like all will be well. I'm glad to hear it.