Chad Perrin: SOB

30 August 2010

Video Link Cable = Model Anatomy

Filed under: Humor — apotheon @ 10:24

I’m just slightly confused by a recent recommendation I got from Amazon. You know how Amazon will say “You viewed . . .” and show some product you recently viewed at Amazon, then say “Customers who viewed this also viewed . . .” and show other products, hoping to entice you to buy one? Well, I very recently saw this:

Amazon Recommendations

One of these things is not like the others. Maybe you can explain why it showed up.


  1. Maybe you can explain why it showed up?

    Obviously a balls-up ;-)

    Comment by Ole Phat Stu — 30 August 2010 @ 10:29

  2. Maybe home theater enthusiasts have an increased risk of cancer down there? But it does give me a funny idea… “Amazon Bombing”. Find a product and look at it a lot (using cookie-less browsers to make ’em count multiple times) then look at a totally different product, to create stuff like this.

    Along the same lines, a few months ago I tried doing as much of my food shopping from Amazon as possible. I did a search for “Peanut Butter”. It turns out that there is a series of quite explicit graphic novels of the same name (or by a publisher called “Peanut Butter”) and the pictures on their covers are quite graphic. Remind me to turn on Amazon’s adult content filter when my kid is old enough to start using it…


    Comment by Justin James — 30 August 2010 @ 10:39

  3. “Amazon Bombing” was the first thing to occur to the SigO and me, too. I’m not so sure anyone took the time to do that, though, unless this was the result of a very odd (but likely not unusual for the venue) conversation at 4chan. It’s not quite as easy or straightforward to “bomb” Amazon as it is to “bomb” Google, I’d think.

    Maybe this is Amazon’s way of saying I should get off the computer for a while and go outside:

    “Nuts to you! Get a life!”

    Comment by apotheon — 30 August 2010 @ 11:01

  4. A while back, when I started lifting weights, Amazon made an amazing leap of logic… I had bought a bodybuilding book from them, and they suggested that I purchase an electric body hair shaver. :)

    Likewise, when I was buying a lot of Fritz Leiber or Robert E. Howard stuff, it made the leap of logic to recommend one of the “Parker” novels by Donald Westlake (the first was the basis of the movie “Payback”). It made sense, even though the genres (swords ‘n sorcery vs. detective fiction) are totally different, the styles were actually startling similar; Conan as originally written is very much like the Parker character. So I picked up the first Parker book, and now I’ve read around 10 of them and I plan on finishing the series. To make it worse, when doing a search for “Parker” to get one of the books, it showed me a “Parker” brand razor, an old-fashioned “safety razor”. I had been meaning to check those out anyways, since shaving is such a problem for me and I heard good things about the older razors, so I got it… and I could not be happier.

    Amazon’s system is an amazing money generating machine. It is smarter than a dozen “wisdom of the crowds” in my experience. And it’s a two way street… they get my money, and I almost always get pointed to something really cool or nice that I would have been totally unaware of otherwise. Kudos to Amazon.


    Comment by Justin James — 30 August 2010 @ 11:11

  5. Bizarre. I’m picturing a Medical Education class, in which the instructor says “OK class, to set up for a video demonstration of the proper technique, you will need…”

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 30 August 2010 @ 11:21

  6. I’ll guess that the matching algorithm simply had a very small data set to work with this time around.

    Let’s say that the first product (The Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable) was only added to Amazon’s catalog very recently (today). Let’s say that since it was added, you are only the second person to view it. The first viewed it, also viewed the other cables, and viewed the testicular exam model. So the only other person who viewed the same cable as you viewed that model, giving it (until there’s more data to go on) a 100% match.

    Even a 20% match or 10% match could be important depending on how the formula works, so it wouldn’t have to be the first view of the Denon cable.

    Still pretty funny though.

    Comment by pyromosh — 30 August 2010 @ 12:40

  7. J.Ja:

    Actually, the “wisdom of the crowds” stuff used by social news, networking, and bookmarking sites is exactly what makes Amazon’s recommendations work (or, in the case of the Model Anatomy recommendation, fail). After all, it was almost certainly showing you the Parker novels because other readers who liked Robert E. Howard’s Conan series also liked the Parker series.

    As for showing you a Parker razor . . . that was probably just a fluke.

    Comment by apotheon — 30 August 2010 @ 12:44

  8. Yes and no re: “wisdom of the crowds”. What makes Amazon successful with its recommendation (other than the weird edge cases like yours here) is that it relies on “what people do” as observed from the clickstream as opposed to “what people say”, which is what I would get if I blasted out a “I need a recommendation” on Twitter, Facebook, forum post, etc.

    I would not be surprised if Amazon’s search results were ordered partially by the recommendation engine at all, on that note. I suspect that Amazon’s desire to sell me a razor is why the Parker razor (BTW: a “wisdom of the crowds” moment, I highly recommend that you try one) appear right underneath the “Parker” novels (which were first in the list, which makes sense given both the relative sales numbers and my order history).


    Comment by Justin James — 30 August 2010 @ 01:47

  9. I wasn’t referring to what people say when you ask a question on Twitter as “wisdom of the crowds”. Rather, I was referring to the kind of back-end algorithm that produces link ranking on social bookmark sites such as delicious and reddit. This is the whole “Web 2.0” thing, but having grown up.

    When you actually ask the “crowd” for conscious advice, what you get isn’t “wisdom of the crowds”, but rather “bias of the mobs”.

    Comment by apotheon — 30 August 2010 @ 03:37

  10. I find your last sentence highly quotable.

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 30 August 2010 @ 03:46

  11. Thanks, Sterling! I didn’t realize that until I looked back at it, prompted by your comment. It really does look pretty good to me.

    Feel free to quote it all you like.

    Comment by apotheon — 30 August 2010 @ 04:03

  12. I second that. I think Wikipedia is the only “bias of the mob” system that seems to work well for whatever reason. Even then, I try to use it as a starting point for research, not as an endpoint or actual source material.


    Comment by Justin James — 30 August 2010 @ 06:42

  13. Wikipedia works because of a culture that surrounds it — a culture that actively discourages editors from expressing opinions of their own.

    By contrast, other encyclopedic resources do nothing to discourage opinionated edits, as long as the editor has a suitably important-looking string of letters attached to his or her name. This is why any encyclopedia should be used only as a starting point for research, and not as an endpoint or actual source material.

    Comment by apotheon — 30 August 2010 @ 07:20

  14. Just look at those prices! They can’t be serious!

    Looks like some of the ‘billing’ spam I’ve been getting recently (q.v) where the bills don’t even add up, let alone ridiculous random prices….

    Comment by Ole Phat Stu — 30 August 2010 @ 08:50

  15. Yeah, I have no interest in spending about $7K on speaker wires at this point in my life — nor $150 or so on testicular exam model anatomy, for that matter.

    Comment by apotheon — 31 August 2010 @ 09:32

  16. That explains the connection! They’re all about squeezing you by the gonads.

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 31 August 2010 @ 10:36

  17. I do believe Sterling has something, there.

    Comment by apotheon — 31 August 2010 @ 10:57

  18. I don’t think this is normal case of ridiculously over-priced cables. Amazon does something weird with it’s pricing sometimes, and I’ve never been able to figure out exactly why.

    Sometimes, I’ll be pricing something and I’ll check it on froogle, amazon, newegg, maybe a few other places, and for some inexplicable reason, this thing that has an MSRP of $199.99 that sells for $180 most places will be $800 on Amazon, or a book that goes for $20 will be $200 on Amazon.

    I would say it’s how they mark something as discontinued (mark up the price to discourage people from buying it), but some things on Amazon are just marked as discontinued, and you can’t buy them.

    It’s not always the case, but sometimes a dead giveaway will be that Amazon is selling it at a stupid-high price, but Amazon’s third party merchants will be selling the same product, (new) at a normal price. Unfortunately, now, I can’t find a real world example to link to.

    Comment by pyromosh — 31 August 2010 @ 02:39

  19. Maybe this one:

    The whole thing can be downloaded for free here:

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 31 August 2010 @ 02:43

  20. No, that’s not what I’m talking about. In the ones I’ve seen, it’s Amazon itself that’s selling for silly prices. In this case, Amazon isn’t selling that book at all, two third parties are selling it new, and several more are selling it used.

    The example you cited is silly too, but what I’m talking about is a very specific thing I’ve seen several times, and now can’t find an example of.

    Comment by pyromosh — 31 August 2010 @ 02:48

  21. Sterling:

    I edited your Amazon link to the minimum needed to get to the appropriate book so the link won’t break. I hope you don’t mind.


    I don’t think that’s the case, this time. Those AudioQuest cables for thousands of dollars appear to cost thousands of dollars everywhere.

    Comment by apotheon — 31 August 2010 @ 04:11

  22. Thanks, apotheon. I don’t mind at all — I wish Amazon and other sites always provided the shortest possible permalink.

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 31 August 2010 @ 04:39

  23. Hey Chad…maybe this happened:

    Just sayin’

    Comment by Deege — 1 September 2010 @ 07:09

  24. Normally, I’d say “good call”, but . . . I doubt the SigO would have set me up for that (not her style of humor), and nobody else has that kind of access to it.

    Now you — you might have done something like that, if you had that kind of access to my Amazon account.

    Comment by apotheon — 2 September 2010 @ 08:30

  25. Too many people mixing work and pleasure? (Up to you which is which?)

    Comment by Chronofied — 6 October 2010 @ 11:41

  26. Maybe not mixing, so much. I suppose those cables might have purposes I had not previously considered.

    Comment by apotheon — 7 October 2010 @ 08:19

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