Monday, August 08, 2005


we've noticed that customers who...

I am starting to get too much spam from Amazon. Typically, the email says "we've notice that customers who have bought X have also bought Y." Lovely for them. What the hell does that have to do with me? Very little, it turns out.

Last week I get a herd-mentality recommendation for a new jazz album. Amazon thoughtfully notice I bought a 1962-issue jazz album some three years ago, and assumes I am interested in some contemporary jazz performer I have never heard of who has just issued an album. Problem is, I generally hate contemporary jazz. Out of curiosity I previewed the album but could find no stylistic relationship with my earlier purchase. Frankly, I doubt that a data correspondence even exists. The page for the newly released album listed 18 other "similar" albums, none remotely in the 1960s jazz vintage.

Today, another email from my faithful correspondents at Amazon. They have "noticed" that people who bought a certain book are pre-ordering a new book by the same author. This time the new book's web page does list the previous book as "similar". How similar? They are the same book: the soon-to-be-released simply has a different title and publisher, and will be in paperback instead of hardback. Are scores of people so stupid not to guess they are the same book, or is the data matching so primitive that it assumes people will buy anything from the same author?

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