Thursday, April 19, 2018

Where Yahoo Fails at Whatever It Is It Thinks It Does

I don't exactly know anymore what Yahoo, one of the older Silicon Valley "technology" companies, does anymore.  Back in the day, we remember it being a search engine and that was pretty much it.  If you wanted to know something from the Internet, you had a choice of search engines to use, like Lycos or Yahoo or a couple others I can't recall, or Ask Jeeves, before it became mostly Google.

And we got to the Internet using Netscape or Mosaic or something.   Ah, the good old days.

But Yahoo is still around, as are the others, I suppose.  And like Facebook, Twitter and other indefinable technology services from the same part of leftist America, it has what we would call a "news feed."

Now, news feeds, which are simply links to headlines that are from news services, mainly online mainstream or lesser media, are plentiful.  So, of course, are those links, which is why there is some type of thought that needs to go into deciding what link will sit at the top of the list.

That thought is necessary, because the top of the list is the most likely to be linked to, which means someone has to use some kind of choosing method (an algorithm, since everything moves too fast for a human) to decide what goes on top and immediately thereafter, and what you particularly would want to see.

Now, in a better world, all of those links would be to impartially-reported stories of broad interest, not tilted much to one side or another.  That would be a better world, all right, and actually possible to do if, indeed, there ever were such articles, or ever were such reporters capable of, you know, reporting.

Nope, none of those and apparently no unbiased presentation algorithms either.

Certainly that is not the case at Yahoo, which as I mentioned is located in Silicon Valley, where there are 10,000 safe-space snowflake types for every actual conservative.  Apparently.  Certainly that ratio must be fairly close as regards Yahoo employees.

I say that because at 1pm Eastern Time yesterday, I happened to click on the Yahoo news feed, only to find it led by a headline -- so help me God -- that positioned as the most important story on the planet, one with the following headline:

"Twitter Users Shred Donald Trump over Barbara Bush Tribute Typo"

You may think I am making this up, but no, that story was at the tippy-top of the links, meaning that we were supposed to regard it is the most significant thing that had happened for which there was a linkable article.

Well, I had to read it, of course.  As it turns out, the White House Communications Office (not the president himself) had put out a message expressing respect for the former First Lady on her passing at 92 this week.  It had a date on it of April 2017, as opposed to 2018.  When President Trump tweeted a link to it, or copied the content into his tweet, the typo on the date was till there.

The article was in the "Huffington Post", a far-left, online-only medium which Yahoo points to a lot, so we can readily infer that it pays Yahoo a lot for that privilege, even though there isn't any real "reporting" to be found there.

But even if you can reasonably scratch your head as to why this "story" should be linked to at all by Yahoo's news feed, let alone positioned as the most important story, let me really make you scratch your head.

The article was not actually about the typo, which it sort of explained was not the president's doing but was that of the White House.  It was -- follow this -- about what people with no more qualification to comment than their possession of a Twitter account, had said about President Trump.  Got it?  The article was not about the typo, but about what Internet trolls of the living-in-mother's-basement variety were writing.

This was apparently important to Yahoo, based on where the link was positioned.  But who exactly was supposed to care what the Mom's basement types barfed up on Twitter?  How did reporting on that represent actual news, or even a diversion from news?  Remember (and I looked) -- these Twitter users were pretty much all writing from the presumption that the president himself had made the typo, which meant that all that "shredding" they were doing was fundamentally in error to start with.

I wrote sometime, not that long ago, how we seemed to have lost the news media as a remotely reliable source of what was actually happening.  I think the "seemed" is no longer apt; that the news media are no longer serving any possible role that can be called the service of the nation.  As they waltz through life with Constitutional protection -- and I would never change that -- I have to scratch my own head and ask if the First Amendment has allowed a monstrous perversion of what the Founders envisioned.

Because if the most important story on the planet is about a bunch of misinformed people tweeting, perhaps it's a happy place after all.

Except, I suppose, for their mothers.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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