The Internet

More on #amazonfail

Okay, so as of today the prevailing winds of opinion on the Net appear to be hitting three major points:

  1. It’s nice that Amazon did acknowledge their error, although from scattered reports I’m picking up, not everybody has had their previous sales rankings restored. I have not yet been able to confirm any specific de-ranked books that haven’t been restored, myself.
  2. It’s not nice that Amazon hasn’t actually come right out and said “we’re really, really sorry about this, yes, this was a screwup of the highest order”. I’ve seen at least one author outright demanding an apology since her writing is her only source of income, and Amazon screwing this up therefore adversely affected her.
  3. It’s also not nice that the mechanism for hiding items globally is there to begin with. Charles Stross ably expressed concerns about this over here.

I’m of two minds about it in general, myself. One, having worked for places with large web-facing databases that can blow up in spectacular fashions if you look at them funny, I have every sympathy for the thought that some hapless employee somewhere might simply have blown something up. Also, based on my own workplace experience, it makes sense to me that even if Amazon’s quickly re-ranked all the de-ranked books, it’ll take a bit for all the fixes to re-populate out into the system. They are dealing with massive numbers of parallel servers, and massive amounts of data that all needs to get sent out to the server clusters. This takes time.

On the other hand, like Mr. Stross, I’m bothered by the fact that the capability to unilaterally hide anything tagged “adult” is there to begin with, as well as the fact that this got unilaterally applied to so many thousands of books that should never had been thusly tagged.

Long and short of it for me is, I’m not looking for the heads of Amazon execs on pikes at this point, but I do remain in a state of concern. The initial cranky mail I’d thought of sending, and which I held back until such time as we got a statement out of them, shall I think turn into an expression of deep concern. I’ll have to think about what to say.

Tonight’s further reading on the topic:

And of especial note, pulled out of the comments on the Scalzi post, is this one:

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