The New Scientist has an interesting article today about TrustRank, the technology that Google is filing a patent for, which aims to sort Google news results by quality rather than simply by “date” and “relevance” to search terms.

(UPDATE: Though this piece suggests the filing may not be too significant.)

We’re not clear on what Google’s real intentions are with this. But one problem with the apparent scheme is that a Jayson Blair type reporter would achieve one of the highest number of points on Google’s trust ranking, while a much more accurate reporter from a lesser known publication could be dismissed with fewer points. Not good. It raises the question: What really IS trust? Too bad users can’t decide from themselves, by having an option to customize their own trust ranking of sources at Google News. It would be a lot of work.

According to the New Scientist: The database will be built by continually monitoring the number of stories from all news sources, along with average story length, number with bylines, and number of the bureaux cited, along with how long they have been in business….

Google’s database will also keep track of the number of staff a news source employs, the volume of internet traffic to its website and the number of countries accessing the site.

…Google will take all these parameters, weight them according to formulae it is constructing, and distil them down to create a single value. This number will then be used to rank the results of any news search.

The patent also reveals that the same system could be roped in to rank other search results, not simply news. So sales and services could in the future be listed on the basis of price and the reputation of the company involved.

We’ll be interested in what others think. So far, here’s Jarvis. The comments there are worth reading.