So, the other day, I discovered I had to purchase another textbook for my “Computers and Society” class I’m taking at the U. I jumped on Amazon.com, because I:
- Hate buying books from the overpriced university bookstore
- Wanted to get the new version of the CSS Pocket Reference
- Thought that this time, maybe, they might include hot, amazon women in my order
Okay, perhaps not that last one. Anyway, about $70 lighter in the wallet, I (electronically) stumbled toward the door. Before I closed Safari, though, I saw the dancing treasure chest in the upper right hand corner of the site. “Greg’s Gold Box.” Well, might as well check it, I reasoned, because I’m an idiot like that. Two minutes and ten choices later, I started to wonder if all of Amazon’s supposed data-mining was really yielding any results.
In my class, we’ve been talking about the collection of personal and consumer information by companies and the government. We mentioned that Amazon creates pages of suggestions based on things you’ve purchased and looked at. Well, that’s fine, I guess, and sometimes it is really handy (like finding a cool book or CD or whatever). I just wish it were a tad bit smarter.
In my “Gold Box,” I found six offers for discounted kitchenwares, three offers for pearl jewelry, and one keyboard. And this was pretty much the norm. I don’t think I’ve ever had a “Gold Box” offer that even gave me pause for consideration. No, wait… I considered those kick ass Nissan brushed metal water bottles for about 30 seconds… until I realized they cost 30 bucks a pop.
The “Page You Made” feature is quite a bit better, offering comedy CDs, indie rock, and design books, because that’s basically what I order from Amazon. Here, though, the difference between “similar item” and “similar tastes” becomes a stumbling block for the web app. While I enjoy comedy CDs, I usually buy ones from comics like Lewis Black, Mitch Hedberg and David Cross. So, for some reason, I started getting shown CDs from people like Doug Standhope (who is partly to blame for the downfall of the once great “Man Show”) and Dave Attell. I know, that’s kind of nit picky, but it got worse. You can click options like “Already own it” or “Not interested.” One day, Dave Chappelle’s HBO Special, Killing Em Softly, appeared on the list. Well, I own a copy of that, so I clicked on the Own It option. For the next several times, every item I was offered was either a rap CD or a comedy DVD from one of the Kings of Comedy. Now, I enjoy some rap (but more along the lines of Blackalicous, rather than Fiddy) and Bernie Mac cracks me up, but how did clicking that I own a Dave Chappelle DVD instantly infer that I am overtly interested in rap and “black” comedy? I’ve never really looked up any of said items, let alone bought, at Amazon. Yet all the things I normally look for or buy took a back seat to one item I said I owned.
Perhaps the software is overtly sensitive. I tend to buy similar things, so something just that much different threw it for a loop. It got excited, danced around, and started throwing items at me that I really wasn’t interested in. I don’t want the latest Lloyd Banks album, even if it is the Collectors Edition. Dear Amazon… can I like Dave Chappelle and still listen to the Shins?