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14 April 2009 @ 05:41 pm
 
Do you know what bothers me?

That everyone jumps on the boycott-Amazon bandwagon, but when an explanation is proffered, it is viewed with disbelief and scorned, even if it might actually be true.

And especially now that there is an explanation, no one is saying anything else about it.

Is it embarrassment, hypocrisy, or is everyone just bored with it?

Why is it so hard to believe that it might just have been a stupid but honest mistake?


And, by the by, I'm not saying this to make trouble, you know. I just feel that if you're going to criticize something, you need to look at all sides of the situation. And maybe, sometimes, give the benefit of a second chance and a moment of consideration. Consider this me being the devil's advocate for awhile.

Because damn, no one else seems willing to take on the role.
 
 
 
babsbybend: sunshinebabsbybend on April 14th, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC)
I missed the whole thing. I saw something about it at "The New Adventures of Queen Victoria", and then a brief news report on a news web page (can't remember if it was Yahoo or msnbc).

Mistakes happen. In a book by Sarah Boyton (The Compleat Book of Turkeys), she pointed out that all it takes is one turkey to really mess stuff up. And there seems to be a flock of them living in my monitor.
It's better to fly and it's better to diegelsey on April 14th, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)
I wish I'd missed the whole thing. Bah humbug.

Mistakes happen--but NO ONE seems to be admitting it right now. Amazon has always been rather trustworthy in the past--I don't see why they can't be given a second chance.

Lol. One turkey! *pets your monitor*
babsbybendbabsbybend on April 14th, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC)
The creator of NAQueenVictoria threw a pretty good fit, demanding that his books be removed from their sales, and posting his letter on his web page and at gocomics.

That's the trouble with pitching fits - you look like an idiot when you get up off the floor and "calmly" try to dust yourself off and act like nothing had happened.
It's better to fly and it's better to diegelsey on April 14th, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that is the trouble with it. I guess that's why everyone is suddenly so quiet about it all...

I learned that lesson really well once. Trying not to let it happen to me again.
Geek Mama: Jack - Do Not Go Gentle - By Abayuungeekmama on April 14th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
everyone jumps on the boycott-Amazon bandwagon, but when an explanation is proffered, it is viewed with disbelief and scorned

I find I have to agree with you. It's rather disturbing, but that seems to be par for the course, and the internet, for all it's wonders (and they are many) facilitates that kind of response.

On a related note, I've been reading Salon this morning, and specifically the comments posted to each article, and they seem almost invariably to degenerate into nasty personal attacks. That "post comment" key is awfully easy to push, whether the content is a thoughtful argument or the spewing of trolls.

I just feel that if you're going to criticize something, you need to look at all sides of the situation.

Very true, although some issues produce a quicker, more visceral sense of outrage than others. And who knows? Maybe this glitch would have gone unchecked far longer if it hadn't been for the outcry.
It's better to fly and it's better to diegelsey on April 14th, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC)
I just hate the unfairness that shows when people aren't willing to wait and find if there is an explanation. I've done it before--and had egg on my face, so to speak. I've learned to wait.

Ugh. I hate how it always becomes a personal dirt war. It's why I'm on so few message groups.

I didn't like what happened at all, and I would have taken up the flag if a reasonable explanation hadn't been proffered. Taking note is one thing, becoming a mob with torches and pitchforks is another thing entirely.
Shivshiv5468 on April 14th, 2009 11:40 pm (UTC)
Well I think the idea is that we already live in a world of straight privilege where being straight means you get the benefit of the doubt all the time. And the gay/queer/transgendered communities don't and have a very hard time finding acceptance. It it was just a tag about porn, then I'd be happy that they backed down / found the glitch. The fact that it was disproportionately aimed at a community that already suffers, is more than Unfortunatem and takes a bit more than oops, sorry, to sort it out.

If they'd done the same thing to authors of colour, I don't see that we'd be sitting round the day afterwards saying that they deserved a second chance. We'd be keeping an eye on them to make sure there were no other glitches. This is waht's going on - we're watching, waiting, seeing that the glitch is mended, and then and only then will they see the colour of my money again. Because I think the issue of discrimination and access to information is so important I'm not prepared to give second chances to organisations lightly.
It's better to fly and it's better to diegelsey on April 14th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
I know that, yes. I live in one of the more restrictive places in the USA--right in the middle of the Bible belt where I can't even ask the library to order any of these books because of their content, despite it being my right.

I'm not saying to make the second chance easy, but to give it consideration once the mistake has been corrected--there are genuine mistakes, and even if it wasn't, keep an eye on things and continue onward to police it for the future.

According to many of the articles I read today, it wasn't just those books that were affected, though there were a lot of them that were--there were also other innocent things that were part of this glitch.

So, I'm keeping an eye on it, and we'll all see how it goes in the future.
Shivshiv5468 on April 14th, 2009 11:52 pm (UTC)
INcluding the feminism books, I gather!

Nothing that could threaten the delicate monds of sensitive people who migh then start thinking. Some people have gone a bit over the top, I'm just keeping an eye on them at the moment. The worrying thing it seems to me is if the opposition start flexing their money muscles too. Even if it's a glitch, someone really might get ideas from this.
It's better to fly and it's better to die: Dresden - paranoidgelsey on April 15th, 2009 12:18 am (UTC)
I've not tried those, but anything new-age is definitely off-limits, and I quiver to think of what would happen if I ordered through them some of the sexuality-themed books I've read this year.

You know, I actually suspected that if it were a hacker who had done it, it was one of the crowd that was outcrying it? Nothing like making the problem yourself to get attention on it... *makes paranoid look stylish*
Goddess of Potholes and Puddles: Buggersmeddley on April 15th, 2009 12:06 am (UTC)
Hrm, I wish I could remember the quote I read one place, but it basically says: don't attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity.

...because I can guarantee it's the later that's more prevalent.
It's better to fly and it's better to diegelsey on April 15th, 2009 12:19 am (UTC)
Amen to that.

Stupidity is so much more effective.

God save us from malicious stupidity...
Goddess of Potholes and Puddles: Sciencesmeddley on April 15th, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
Malicious and stupid is the most dangerous combination in the world. I think white supremacists illustrate that point quite well.

Too serious, need humor:

You know what the two most common elements in the universe are?

Hydrogen and Stupidity!
It's better to fly and it's better to diegelsey on April 15th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
I completely agree.

LMAO. Yes, I agree <3

And that icon is love, complete love!
writersblock76 on April 15th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
Yeah, stuff like this is exactly why I almost never jump onto any sort of boycott. There are always more sides to a story than we'll probably ever hear, and there's no way of being sure what actually is true or not. *shrug* I just go about my business. If I want a book, I buy a book. I usually just buy the used ones anyway.... ;-)
It's better to fly and it's better to diegelsey on April 15th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
Yeah. I'm once-burned, twice-shy, so to speak. Safest to watch for awhile and figure otu what's really going on to the best of our ability.

Yes, books. Books books books... and other things. Trying to find the next book in a series now...

I should be writing. See me, not writing.
Lin Thornhilllinthornhill on April 15th, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
I haven't actually commented about the Amazon explanation because, until now, I didn't know there was one.

Now I have to think about it, because I'm not sure I believe them ... but maybe I do. Programming glitches can do many strange things.

It's better to fly and it's better to diegelsey on April 15th, 2009 01:09 am (UTC)
Well, we can't be sure... but really, they have a past history of being reliable and not demonstrably prejudiced that I've seen--I've never had any more than normal trouble finding anything I wanted, and I've read some things that might qualify a bit the last year or so.

From what my bro has told me about what little programming he's done, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

And, to be honest... out here in the boonies, there's not too many other places to buy random and specific things. If they hadn't corrected it, I'd find somewhere else to go, but as it is, they're coming off the long weekend and making a big effort ot be sorry and fix it.
firefly_124firefly124 on April 15th, 2009 02:37 am (UTC)
I didn't jump on the bandwagon until I ran a few searches for myself to see that what everybody and their third cousin said was happening, was, in fact, happening. I also made it clear in my open email to them that I had a problem with the practice of de-ranking books by content, period, though it was definitely the bizarre implementation and the effect it had on not-remotely-"adult" GLBT books that was my last straw.

So even if they are returning the rankings to those books, and even if it was all some colossal stupidity, they've still shaken my trust in what they tell me about their own merchandise. Because what they haven't said is anything about ditching the de-ranking thing itself. Just that some books were inappropriately tagged. And that is still a concern. If they're telling me, "These are the top sellers in this category," I want to be able to believe that doesn't mean, "except the ones we decided to exclude." So, yeah. Trust not all that regained yet.

And I think that's the bottom line in the reactions you're seeing and not seeing: it is very, very easy to lose someone's trust. It's a lot harder to get it back.
It's better to fly and it's better to diegelsey on April 15th, 2009 02:42 am (UTC)
I'm not saying everyone just jumped on it--you, for one, did research. I've seen a lot of other people making a big deal on pure hearsay, and that bothers me.

I agree it should be taken with caution--but giving them a chance to earn back the trust is something I guess I endorse. Perhaps it's my life experiences being on the "wrong" side of things, I don't know.

I do agree that it is harder to get back, though.
firefly_124firefly124 on April 15th, 2009 11:42 am (UTC)
I'm not saying everyone just jumped on it--you, for one, did research. I've seen a lot of other people making a big deal on pure hearsay, and that bothers me.

I know you didn't. I'm sorry for the way I worded the start of my comment, and for taking your post on first read as though that was what you'd said. And you're absolutely right that flipping out on pure hearsay is problematic.

I agree it should be taken with caution--but giving them a chance to earn back the trust is something I guess I endorse.

I agree, and that's pretty much where I am at this point. I'm not buying anything from them right this second, but then I wouldn't be. My next big round of book purchasing is a ways off, and that's still mostly what I have gone to them for. Meanwhile, they have their chance to show me that a) this actually was a technical error and b) they're not excluding the sales data on certain types of content (any content, whether I happen to like that content or not) to make it look like certain things aren't selling well when they are.
Goddess of Potholes and Puddles: Bunnysmeddley on April 15th, 2009 03:26 am (UTC)
I'm not trying to be argumentative here, so please don't take it the wrong way, but I really don't understand the issue of 'trust' when it comes to Amazon. I mean, there's the degree of trust in that when I give them my money I'll get what I order, but beyond that... people are reacting as if their spouse of 20 years just cheated on them. Repeatedly. Right in front of them. And not in a fun, 'you-can-join-in' sort of way.

I mean, 'trust', in the sense most people are using it, implies a relationship. It's a commitment, a bond. My 'relationship' with Amazon is that of a john and a hooker - I pay, they put out.

Do I break Amazon's 'trust' with me when I shop (as I often do) at Barnes and Noble and Best Buy? I, as I suspect most people do, go where there are the lowest prices. I use them to get what I want at the lowest possible price, and they use me for my money.

Yes, there are extreme cases - if a place was truly racist or sexist I wouldn't shop there, but I really don't think that's the case here. If it was, they wouldn't be fixing it, however ineptly or slowly.

If they're telling me, "These are the top sellers in this category,"

Remember, there's still a disclaimer on that - from our site. It's still not a guarantee that it's truly a bestseller...
babsbybend: sunshinebabsbybend on April 15th, 2009 03:59 am (UTC)
Icon love!
firefly_124firefly124 on April 15th, 2009 11:25 am (UTC)
When I've been frequenting a vendor for years, yes, there's a level of trust there. I wouldn't keep giving them my money if I believed they were going to screw me over, and that includes lying to me about which things are selling best, and yes I realize that means on their site.

Do I expect any vendor to try to convince me to favor certain merchandise over other merchandise? Of course. But if I've been frequenting them for years and find they've been doing so by lying to me, either recently or all along, yes, I'm going to get annoyed and decide I don't want to give them any more money.

Based on the way their site has worked, or said it worked, for years, my expectation as a customer is that if I do a category search on something, whether it be homosexuality or poetry or dog washing, the top few things that turn up are going to be the top few things that sell on their site. I also expect that when I click on the reviews for that book or product that they are going to be the actual reviews left by customers. That's part of how I make my decision what to buy when I'm not looking for a specific product. Deliberately removing the sales data by de-ranking certain types of content, particularly without letting customers know that's what they are doing, is not what I or most customers expect.

And let's not forget, this actually broke the ability to do a search by exact title name. One of the test books I searched on is one they actually sell, that has since had its ranking restored, that did not come up on an exact title search even though the title (and author) came up in the predictive text, but did still not turn up on the entire first page of search results. This is where the financial stupid really burns, because if I'm typing a direct title search, then obviously I know what I want to buy, and if they "hide" it low on the list by de-ranking it, I'm just going to go elsewhere. In fact,that's exactly what happened when I couldn't find my pharmacology book there a couple of months ago, come to think of it, with similar wtf-ery of "why did it come up in the predictive text but not the search results?" Again, if they're that stupid, I'm not sure I want to keep entrusting them with my business.

I'm willing to watch and wait to see whether their actions from here on support the claim that this was all just a technical error. But they're still manipulating data in a way I'm not comfortable with, even if this specific glitch was really a glitch, so whether I'll go back to them or leave them off my next round of comparison shopping remains to be seen.
Goddess of Potholes and Puddles: Mousesmeddley on April 15th, 2009 12:07 pm (UTC)
I also expect that when I click on the reviews for that book or product that they are going to be the actual reviews left by customers.

In that case, Amazon should have lost your trust a long time ago. There's a lot of seedy stuff going on as far as 'reviews' go. Look up Harriet Klausner.

And let's not forget, this actually broke the ability to do a search by exact title name.

What? Maybe you did more research than I did, but what I read said the exact opposite - the only way you could get to the books was by searching for them by name. That's... that's how people found them to post them as 'de-listed'. Perhaps there was something wrong with the one you searched for, but most people had no problem finding 'Heather Has Two Mommies' when they searched by title or author, they just couldn't find it by subject.

I understand shopping elsewhere if you don't like a business's practices. Really, it's your only way to show your displeasure. But, to me, it's the same as when a company gets sold and you don't like the new owners. My reaction would be 'Oh, that sucks. I'm shopping elsewhere from now on.' Not this overwhelming 'I've been betrayed and you've broken my trust and I can't believe you did this to me!' personal reaction from people. That's the part I don't understand, this odd emotional involvement in a huge company. *shrug*

Do I expect any vendor to try to convince me to favor certain merchandise over other merchandise?

How... how is this any different? Because it annoyed you as to which merchandise they chose to not highlight? If it'd been, say, high-fat foods (because they were trying to get people to be healthy) would you be just as pissed off that Twinkies didn't show up in the bestseller list?

And, as many people have said, why on earth would Amazon have deliberately done this? They had to know something like this would hurt their sales, so they're either the stupidest company out there (in which case, I'm shopping there more since making money obviously isn't their goal, maybe I can get some good deals!) or it was a mistake. Now, stupidity is rampant, but they wouldn't have gotten to be such a large company being that dumb.

But they're still manipulating data in a way I'm not comfortable with

Everyone is, and if you don't believe that, well... I don't know what to tell you. Everyone lies, and just about everyone abuses the fact that few people understand statistics well enough to call them on it.
firefly_124firefly124 on April 15th, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
What? Maybe you did more research than I did, but what I read said the exact opposite - the only way you could get to the books was by searching for them by name. That's... that's how people found them to post them as 'de-listed'.

If you did a simple search on those titles, you found nothing. Nada. Zilch. Not unless you were willing to wade through pages of other non-de-ranked "related" titles or do other more complex searching than I had the time or patience to do.

Every time I saw someone saying that you could find de-ranked items on a title search had me ripping my hair out, because clearly they hadn't tried it.

most people had no problem finding 'Heather Has Two Mommies' when they searched by title or author, they just couldn't find it by subject.

I suggest checking again on that, because that was one of the key titles I searched on. It was nowhere to be seen on a simple search. It turns up just fine now.

How... how is this any different? Because it annoyed you as to which merchandise they chose to not highlight? If it'd been, say, high-fat foods (because they were trying to get people to be healthy) would you be just as pissed off that Twinkies didn't show up in the bestseller list?

No, because I've come to trust the way their search supposedly works and the way their recommendations supposedly work. Mind, I've already been burned by their recommendations nonsense when they pissed me off last year by sending me a promotional email about how evil my religion is based on the fact I've bought books about my religion. Their response to that was rather lackluster as well, though at least they did stop sending me that crap. So they've done a rather good job of priming me to believe they don't particularly care if they piss of non-mainstream people and potentially lose them as customers.

Also, the sort of "no, seriously, buy this" nonsense I *expect* from vendors all comes down to money. "Buy this because it has a bazillion related products you can buy to go with it!" "Buy this because even though it costs more it's sooooo much better." Flagging or de-ranking certain categories of things so that they won't show up on "our top ten selling novels/whatever" lists because of the content is a different kettle of fish in my book.
Goddess of Potholes and Puddles: Bunnysmeddley on April 15th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)
I don't know what to try it on anymore, since so many of the de-listed books are re-ranked now. All I can say is out of all the posts I've read, your comment is the only one that said this (and several others did, as you said, specifically point out that title/author search was the only way to find them).

And the weird thing about it is that, in some cases, only one edition of the book was de-listed. So if it was deliberate, they failed pretty badly at that, as well. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) this really does support Amazon's metadata glitch, since occasionally different editions are classified in different places (perhaps to make them easier to find, if they span multiple genres.

I'm not saying it wasn't crappy or stupid, but I still can't wrap my head around the level of emotional involvement. No, wait, scratch that. I totally understand the anger. That's a reaction I can see. I still don't understand the 'betrayal' part of it. Perhaps I'm just too cynical (I prefer to think of it as realistic), but I expect a company that is trying to part me from my money to bullshit me. And, being forewarned and forearmed, it's not possible for them to lose my trust - only my business.

And, like you said, their recommendation system is laughable (I've had them recommend books based on books I reviewed and gave one star to - thanks, I don't think that's what I want to read more of!) and I rarely do anything but search for something specific (mostly DVDs on Amazon, the majority of my books come from BN), so I suppose I'm not as dependent on their search/ranking system.

I do hope you look up old HK, though, and read the comments on her reviews. There is a lot of info on other reviewer frauds/shills there (plus the whole DebMac author review covr-up scandal!) and it can be pretty funny. And that's a known issue Amazon refuses to do anything about, despite it being widely known.
lilian_cholilian_cho on April 16th, 2009 08:55 am (UTC)
If they're telling me, "These are the top sellers in this category," I want to be able to believe that doesn't mean, "except the ones we decided to exclude."

This.

Am also a bit uncomfortable with their less than transparent business practices.
lyonzalyonza on April 15th, 2009 07:01 am (UTC)
I missed the wank about Amazon... I was too busy on the weekend to read my flist and it was over by the time I got around to reading about this whole thing.

I've never had trouble with Amazon - its one of the international places I CAN order from. Some refuse to ship over here because of postal theft. (yes, it happens and its not treated as a Federal crime)
It's better to fly and it's better to diegelsey on April 15th, 2009 04:41 pm (UTC)
Be thankful because I got really tired of it really fast.

I've never had trouble either. They were even exceptionally nice when I had issues with a gift certificate.
dickgloucesterdickgloucester on April 15th, 2009 01:02 pm (UTC)
I'm with you.

And so is akemi42.
It's better to fly and it's better to diegelsey on April 15th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
:D