Monday, April 13, 2009


If you haven't heard about #amazonfail, this article will catch you up quickly.

1. It's a good reminder that giving market dominance to one company in a crucial role in steering our culture is probably unwise. Let's not have a market where a single company can relegate books to obscurity, intentionally or not. Patronize a variety of booksellers.

2. A proper apology would look something like, "Mr. Doofus Middle Manager didn't think through what he was doing, and company management failed to supervise it properly. We feel humiliated and commit to new efforts to keep book culture diverse and uncensored." Amazon's lame, mealy-mouthed "glitch" non-apology suggests that it has fallen prey to Big Corporatosis. Unless, of course, Amazon really has discovered a homophobic computer glitch, in which case this is huge news for artificial intelligence researchers.

3. This is not the only case where the label "adult content" has had a strangling effect. Actions taken under the justification of "adult content" should never be blandly accepted, but should be carefully examined for accuracy, necessity, and bias.

[ EDIT: A final complaint: Labelling a bad policy, sloppily implemented and poorly supervised, as a "glitch", is blaming the company's technologists for a mistake of its management. It says that Amazon's management does not trust, understand, or respect its technologists. In a technology company, this is a strong signal of decline.)

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