To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

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Hong Kong

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Middleburgh Polyglots

I came across a frightening site (Newstrove) the other day. It is a specialist search engine on which you can search for a topic and filter the results using "out of the box" viewpoints. These include different political and religious 'perspectives'. In principle a user could then re-filter the results using an alternative "perspective" to see results from the "other side", although this does not appear to be the rationale of the site. To quote from their about page:

"Our mission is to enable you to source information more efficiently based on your cultural views, religious affiliations, political viewpoints or personal objectives.

People increasingly trust news that originates from sources that share their social values.NewsTrove makes it easy for people to get aggregated news content filtered so that they receive information from sources that agree with their world view and opinions. NewsTrove filters out the rest."

In contrast, results from standard search engines are essentially unfiltered. The obvious exception being China where results are filtered through the Great Firewall (although this is now being eroded). Search engines may also block explicit content although the user can change the default settings and SE ranking algorithms may also prioritise content from local (to searcher) sources effectively deemphasising some "foreign"(non local) and potentially differing content but they doesn't actually hide it.

I find the Newstrove site worrisome in two respects. Whilst I understand why some people might want to pre filter results based on preferences, I am not sure that it should be encouraged in this way. I don't think it is healthy to encourage or enable sections of society to compartmentalise and exclude contrary "world views and opinions". That road fosters racial and religious intolerance ; bigotry etc. I am sure Newstrove will argue that in just same way that people can misuse guns, their service is just a tool and they can't be held responsible for its use which brings me to my second point; Who determines what source content is used and how it is classified? Nowhere on their site does it explain how this is managed or what their sources are for different "views". It's bad enough that shadowy government agencies lurk in the background for normal searches. Who knows who is manipulating the results in Newstrove and what their agenda is.

In my view it is clearly desirable that content, even contrary views and opinions, is accessible and presented to the widest audience possible and one of the barriers to access is perhaps language. Although this blog is targeted at my sons I get drop in traffic from non English speaking countries and occasionally the site logs show that someone has used a translation tool to read a post. I have therefore decided to add a translation tab to enhance acessibility.

Although there are a 6.0Klangauges in the world only 10 including English are used by 80% of Internet users.Since I am not sure which is the best tool for which language, I have enabled all using the most commonly used web page translation tools and a placed link to a survey form for comments.

I recognise that the effectiveness of the tools is also dependent on :

I have also noticed during testing that the tools do not always render the pages correctly. I am looking at this but I don't expect to resolve all formatting issues quickly

Credit: Image shown comes from http://b3ta.hnldesign.nl and is subject to Creative Commons Licence.

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