Monday, November 29, 2010...9:00 am

World’s most boring news day – True Knowledge search engine fail

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Daily Mail 12 April 1954It’s actually obvious from the reporting, but somehow last week’s coverage of “The world’s most boring news day” misses the point.

As part of the publicity campaign for search engine True Knowledge, “experts” used a computer search of world events to pinpoint 11 April 1954 as the most boring day of the 20th century.

Yet clearly this is rubbish. Even the Daily Mail featured its front page from the day after to show what was going on – and it included military intervention in Indo-China and news of the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya.

So what’s going on?

As noted here before, the internet tends to destroy history. Because when all you do is look at online, digital sources for information, rather than discovering the gaps in history when nothing much happened, you discover the gaps in those databases, when nothing much was recorded.

Clearly, 11 April 1954 was a busy day in the world. Not the busiest, for sure, but busy enough.

The problem is that search engines, by their nature, cannot uncover information that is not on a computer (and that is not in a form that can be interrogated by that particular search engine). And so much of what happened in the world before 1995 is simply not in that format.

There’s a warning here – we must try to put less reliance on online research and archives, at least until they become much more comprehensive.

But there’s also an opportunity. There is so much information outside the internet that aspiring journalists have a treasure trove of potential material to mine for exclusive, newsworthy material – if they only get away from their computer screens and get back into the mouldering bookshelves and newspaper stacks.

True Knowledge? Only as far as it goes. An amusing gimmick, yes. A valid piece of scientific research, no.

Should have gone to the British Newspaper Library in Colindale

[HT: FleetStreetBlues]

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