Searching Google News for popular people and topics can be annoying. You’re likely to get a lot of noise in your search results, and even when you don’t, results tend to deal with recent events. That’s great if you want to just get an idea of what’s happening right now, but it can confound attempts to do deeper background news searches on a famous person. Of course if you have information about specific topics and events you can add those to your query and eliminate some of the junk in your results, but what if you don’t?
Last year I made a Search Gizmo called Gossip Machine. It uses a Wikipedia article’s page view activity to single out dates which might be especially newsworthy for that article’s topic and then creates a Google News search for that topic on that date. For example, you might want to refresh yourself on what Mark Zuckerberg was up to in 2018. You run that query in Gossip Machine, which will resolve to a list of newsy day candidates:
Pick a date and a new tab will open with a date-specific Google News search.
Making the searches this date-specific seems to dodge a lot of the crud that devils Google News searches, though some of it creeps in from time to time. And as you see Gossip Machine can provide some seriously focused news searches.
But what if you’re not interested in just one topic, but in how two topics intersect? Maybe you don’t want to find news about Mark Zuckerberg, but rather Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. I found myself wanting the feature of two topics more and more as I used Gossip Machine, so I tore it apart and put it together again into Double Stuff Gossip Machine ( https://searchgizmos.com/double-stuff-gossip-machine/ ).
Using Double Stuff Gossip Machine
Double Stuff Gossip Machine analyzes the page views of two Wikipedia articles and finds the unusually busy days they have in common. Like Gossip Machine, it then organizes those dates into Google News searches. If you run a search for Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg in 2018 you’ll get a grand total of ONE result:
But that result is packed with meaningful results:
When you’re using Double Stuff Gossip Machine, you don’t have to limit yourself to just searching people. You can search people/place or people/topic as well. For example, you could try searching for Rudy Giuliani and Ukraine in 2019. You’ll get a good number of results.
The search result pages are right on target.
You may have noticed that there’s an option to change the “Newsworthiness” of your match. That lets you change how much busier than usual the Wikipedia pageviews are before they’re picked up by Gossip Machine. It will give you more results but in my experience generally not LOTS more; Setting the Zuckerberg / Sandberg search to the “I’m a Gossip Fiend” setting (which provides the most matches) provides three dates instead of one, though results from those dates are still focused.
I love tinkering with Wikipedia – this centralized, constantly-growing repository has a free API and page view data available? I feel like I’ve barely gotten started digging around in this gold mine. Stay tuned.
Categories: RB Search Gizmos
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