July 14, 2013

Now Google Alerts affect sex offender advocacy

7-14-2013 National:

This story is a followup to What does the death of Google Reader mean to sex offender advocacy? so folks know we are still searching for a replacement for the Google Reader system. But,we have learned something else which is quite bad.

If you have read my prior account you know that the "Words and Phrase Search" input to Google Reader came from another of Google's products, Google Alerts. We have used that for some time and will continue to do so in spite of what we have learned.

For unknown reasons the e-mail output from Google Alerts (GA) seem to have slowed to a trickle, and less, and we wondered why? So we contacted Google and received no response (not surprised). Then we contacted them again a few days later. They said they would look into it, but they also listed three possible reasons why we were not getting responses from GA. The first one took our breath away:

1. There are no new results for your search. Google Alerts only sends you email if new articles, webpages or blog posts make it into the top ten Google News results, the top twenty Google Web Search results or the top ten Google Blog Search results for your query. If the top results remain the same for a while, you won't receive email on your topic.
Well that certainly explains "trickle to none" that we have seen. And no where in any of the Product description or Help sections is this explained. In fact, it appears this began when Google Reader was killed off.

Why are so many topics falling in Google Ranking: Consider the way Google Reader worked: It did the searching of news, blogs and the web, based on input parameters from Google Alert. So as long as Google Reader was doing those searches daily for topics, those topics stayed HIGH in Google Rankings. Kill off Google Reader, and the number of daily searches drops dramatically, resulting in LOW rankings.
Where does this leave us? Well, if you look at your Alerts, you can click on them and see what is available at that moment, but doing this for the hundreds we had in the past is not a viable way to find topic articles, or possible new laws or ordinances, or all sorts of other topics we have been covering for years. So we will prioritize topics to provide the most relevant and if time is available, some others.

The BIGGER Picture:
Most advocates do not get into reading tech stuff, but there are hundreds and maybe thousands of journalists and bloggers who follow specific topics and are complaining. This is affecting topics nationally, Google Reader and Google Alerts was used extensively by these folks to find topics to write about.

Importance to Sex offender advocacy: If we are experiencing the effects of a lack of information, and we are, then advocates will not be able to address issue with lawmakers and other officials who are proposing new laws, ordinances and the like. Thus folks we advocate for, are affected without a chance to TIMELY voice their opinions and present evidence to the contrary. Courts would be the only way after something is made law, and that is expensive, time consuming, and generally yields poor results.

We are already seeing fewer stories being written by national journalists and bloggers, these are folks who rely on products like Google Alerts and Google Reader. Sure the super large News agencies have products they can rely on, similar to GA GR, but those products look for the smaller local stories which are now being cut off due to a lack of topic information.

We can only hope someone will come along with a similar combination of products which yield the same results as did Google Alerts and Google Reader, but in the meantime we will suffer. Timely Topic Information is needed for movement of topics nationally. The way we stand today, only local issues will be addressed, that is, if there are local advocates following them; but how many local advocates are there?

For now, have a great day and a better tomorrow.

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