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September 24th, 2000

Surge Protectors & Fargo

As I’m wont to do, I have an amazon order on deck. It involves a book and nothing else – yet. I realized that I wanted to get a surge protector with coax cable protection and, since the order wasn’t yet completed, I figured I’d check amazon first.

So, I did the usual search for "surge protector" and found quite a few items… plus an icon in the corner prompting me to "View this item in our Search Explorer". I was game, so I clicked. The Search Explorer somehow does "products by association" and gets a list of products deemed similar to the one you’re looking at. Here are the items from a particular Monster Cable Surge Protector:

  • other surge protectors
  • Netgear PCI Network Card
  • Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer
  • Case Logic Camcorder Bag
  • The Woody Allen Collection DVD
  • Fargo VHS
  • Sting’s Brand New Day
  • Hickory Wind by Ben Fong-Torres

I’ve heard of fuzzy logic before, but this is ridiculous. -pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

FROM: Terry Murphy
DATE: Sunday September 24, 2000 -- 1:10:16AM
Amazon's "association" feature is messed up. If you search for Julie Miller's "Broken Things", the list of "customers who bought this also bought..." comes up with three Buddy Miller (her husband) CD's, and one different Julie Miller CD. Well, I find it VERY difficult to believe that this is raw data. Many other searches do just the same thing - the "related items" are always VERY closely related such that it makes the fans of that book or CD look very close-minded, when in actuality nobody can possibly be as pigeon-holed as that. Statistics are not that neat; obviously the data is fudged.

However, SOMETIMES the "related items" are completely unrelated, as you found. I remember a few days ago I was looking at some book about the war between Ethipia and Eritrea and Harry Potter came up in the related items. Now this I can believe: somebody who bought that book also bought Harry Potter as a gift or whatever. That actually makes sense as raw data. Statistics for that sort of thing are messy, and for small sample sizes, sure, I believe that maybe people who bought Fargo bought surge protectors also.

Amazon's preference of my taste is also outdated. About 9-12 months ago, I did a bunch of searches for artists. But I have done no searches since. But the front page for me ALWAYS comes up trying to hawk me a Richard Buckner or Joe Ely CD. (It actually took me a while to figure out that the page was customized for me; for several months I thought that that music had become mega-popular). It would be nice if their algorithm would adapt to changing tastes, though.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Sunday September 24, 2000 -- 9:24:19AM
I have a similar thing happening, Terry. My mom used to work at a library and needed to get a slew of kids' books - so we decided to do it through Amazon, about a year or so ago. I still get recommendations for all the new kiddie books, as a result.

I can envision Amazon saying, "Oh, well, to correct that you'll need to buy more things!"

FROM: Robert
DATE: Sunday September 24, 2000 -- 10:40:32PM
This is more evidence of the fact that computers can be as stupid as the people who use or program them. But without that, what would make us laugh?

What is this then?

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