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Monday, April 13, 2009

Re: Amazon and The Gay (French) Glitch, Mike Daisey Responds

Posted by on Mon, Apr 13, 2009 at 12:35 PM

In the comments to my earlier post about the Amazon Gay Glitch, monologuist Mike Daisey (who knows a thing or two about Amazon), comments:

After hearing from people on the inside at Amazon, I am convinced it was in fact, a "glitch."

Well, more like user error—some idiot editing code for one of the many international versions of Amazon mixed up the difference between "adult" and "erotic" and "sexuality". All the sites are tied together, so editing one affected all for blacklisting, and ta-da, you get this situation.

The CS rep who responded that this was Amazon policy was just confused about what they were talking about, and gave standard boilerplate about porn.

The dumbest part is saying it was a "glitch". A "glitch"? Just say that it was one of your workers making an editing error. Really dumb PR move, that one.

Let me know if you actually want more details on how it went down, but it's pretty boring and technical.

I asked Mike for more details, and according to his inside sources, the story is that a programmer at Amazon France was editing the site to filter porn out of some search results, and he "mixed up 'adult,' which is the term they use for porn, with stuff like 'erotic' and 'sexuality.' The system he was working on is universal, so the change he made propagated across Amazon's sites worldwide.

Amazon's systems are notoriously idiosyncratic so it's not hard to imagine a change like this getting into their worldwide system, though it's certainly interesting that it would be so difficult to correct the problem.

When Mark Probst received his reply from customer service, the rep misunderstood the problem and sent him a boilerplate response on how they deal with "adult" content.

The technical reasons for this glitch (no quotes!) are still hazy at best, and it seems increasingly unlikely that Amazon will issue any sort of real explanation, unfortunately.

Oh, and the LiveJournal post from that guy claiming to have done the whole thing himself just for laughs? It's bullshit.

 

Comments (61) RSS

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1
Then how does a book like Heather Has Two Mommies, that was not tagged adult, get impacted?

Sorry, the explanation doesn't hold water.
Posted by bob on April 13, 2009 at 12:46 PM · Report this
2
It isn't possible for a computer to make an error without somebody making a "dumb" mistake. All bugs are the work of "idiots." If you choose to be uncharitable about it.

The argument that they can't call it a "glitch" is specious; if they had called it a "mistake" you could have asked "What kind of mistake?" "A technical one." "Oh, a technical mistake? Like a glitch?"

And then Dan Savage pops off with the howler that it's a "book burning." Nice.

Words don't mean anything. Just say that whatever words your enemies use are bad and any words you use are good.
Posted by elenchos on April 13, 2009 at 12:52 PM · Report this
3
I don't see sexuality listed for Heather at all..

Books > Gay & Lesbian > Parenting & Families
Books > Teens > Social Issues > Homosexuality > Fiction
Books > Gay & Lesbian > Literature & Fiction > Fiction.

amazonfail (398)
childrens books (13)
families (11)
gay inclusive (11)
lesbian parenting (8)
children (7)
moms (7)
parenting (7)
lesbian (6)
book (2)
amazoncensored (1)
controversial (1)
inclusive (1)
lesbian moms (1)
lesbian parents (1)
mommies (1)
Posted by bob on April 13, 2009 at 12:52 PM · Report this
4
@1: I don't think they're saying that things were erroneously tagged as "adult." They're saying that things tagged as "sexuality" were erroneously treated as though they were tagged "adult."

Frankly, I find this explanation much more believable than that Amazon deliberately decided to consider everything with gay subject matter as pornography.
Posted by Lee on April 13, 2009 at 12:53 PM · Report this
5
Books > Teens > Social Issues > Homosexuality > Fiction


You don't, huh.
Posted by keshmeshi on April 13, 2009 at 12:54 PM · Report this
6
It may have to do with metadata instead of tags:

http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/04/…

Which means that someone would still have to confuse "gay," "lesbian" and "transgender" metadata with "adult" or "erotic."

Of course, I'm still pissed that they would filter out porn without any transparency. It should be something you can opt-out of, like Google's SafeSearch.
Posted by xzarakizraiia on April 13, 2009 at 12:55 PM · Report this
7
I'm with @1. We don't have a full explanation or anything near it yet. There are plenty of non-erotic homosexual books.

Although, as sad as it may seem, the most popular book tagged "homosexual" and not tagged "erotic" may in fact be an anti-homosexuality book, as had been noticed recently -- which is more of a sad reflection of Amazon's U.S. buying habits. I want to refuse to believe this, but it's sadly within the realm of possibility.
Posted by mackro mackro on April 13, 2009 at 12:57 PM · Report this
8
No, sexuality <> homosexuality to a computer unless you explicitly tell it to wildcard. Wildcarding is not a smart way to handle vocabulary trees as it gives you lots of errors.

Sorry, I just don't buy the explanation as it. I don't believe Amazon management purposely did this, but I do believe someone in the organization make the judgement call that as GLBT books were adult in nature.
Posted by bob on April 13, 2009 at 12:58 PM · Report this
9
@1 I think that they're saying that "Heather Has Two Mommies" would have a 'sexuality' tag which would trigger the filter.

The thing I'm wondering about is if content on the Amazon sites in other countries have likewise been impacted.

Also, does the existence of a Kindle edition have anything to do with the 'flagging' or 'reassignment'?

As was noted previously, one of Dan's books is/was not effected by the 'glitch' - "Skipping Towards Gomorrah" whereas the other three were. Of the four books, only "Skipping" does not have a Kindle version.

I bought Dan's books on my Kindle while traveling, then later bought the hardcopy versions - when I went back this weekend to find Dan's books in their hardcopy formats - only "Skipping" came up (for the others only the Kindle editions were shown).

In any case, it is good that people complain to Amazon so that they can address this problem sooner rather than later.
Posted by N Jacobson on April 13, 2009 at 12:58 PM · Report this
10
Filters can be very touchy if you do not take some contexts into consideration. When I worked at Amazon, the email program would flag a warning for the word "Jew," listing it as a "potentially offensive word." Granted, the software had no capability to determine the context or whether the word was used as a verb. Crappy filters like these should make you wonder how touchy our national security sorting algorithms are, not just whether children's books are classified as gay porn.
Posted by Reg on April 13, 2009 at 1:00 PM · Report this
11
Blame the French.

It's like a get out of jail free card.
Posted by Gregus on April 13, 2009 at 1:02 PM · Report this
12
If I got the same bad suggestions I'm now getting searching for lgbt stuff at a brick and mortar store I'd never return, and I wouldn't really care what the explanation is.
But then the job of a brick and mortar store is to provide decent advice about books one way or the other.
The service Amazon provides is more like Wal-mart - really good prices and a large inventory.
While this snafu might irk a number of customers I really doubt that too many lgbt folks who shop at Amazon becuase of it's cheap prices will ultimately move to a brick and mortar shop becuase of it's superior service.
Those who already value that service over lower prices already shop at brick and mortar bookstores rather than at Amazon.
Posted by kinaidos on April 13, 2009 at 1:12 PM · Report this
13
Let's back it up one notch further. The root cause of this entire debacle is the ghettoization of "adult material" in the first place.

The largest seller of media ought to be embracing the very principles which allow their product to flourish rather than placating a mob.
Posted by Paul F on April 13, 2009 at 1:13 PM · Report this
14
Anthony Hecht: "I know a little about computers"

Uh, no, you don't. You would have been looking askance at this entire fiasco from the beginning. The rest of us who know a little more about computers pretty quickly realized that "cock-up before conspiracy" was far more likely, because we have been in the trenches. And what do you know, we're right.

This was a perfect storm of a messy database structure, an idiot coder, a notoriously byzantine and secretive organization that doesn't get social media, an PR office out to lunch, a holiday weekend twice over, easily excitable authors and activists, and the nature of an organization whose data is now so sacrosanct it's become "Too Big To Fail" in Internet terms.

This was not about Amazon being anti-gay, and yet The Stranger writers stuck to that way longer than the zeitgeist. No, this wasn't a canard in the end, but a misunderstanding fomented by The Stranger's own brand of yellow journalism.

Honestly, if we really are losing news sources in town, shouldn't it be time for you all to stop with the juvenile yellow journalism?

Grow some freakin' skepticism about what's on the Internet already.
Posted by dw on April 13, 2009 at 1:16 PM · Report this
15
there have not been enough posts about gay-related stuff on slog today, please post at least 10 more items about gay stuff by the end of the day
Posted by preferably with some kind of buttsex element in the story on April 13, 2009 at 1:20 PM · Report this
16
It seems like this is an easy error to make and I'm not surprised it's taking so long to identify and correct. Sounds like it hit them by surprise.

However, Amazon needs to issue a statement that they were not intending to classify all their gay-related material as pornography and that it was indeed a technical error that they are working to correct.
Posted by PR person on April 13, 2009 at 1:26 PM · Report this
17
So it was a technical error?

Good thing, you know, the Stranger didn't go off half-cocked and come across as a bunch of alarmists.
Posted by Ackham on April 13, 2009 at 1:26 PM · Report this
18
it sure is great that yall don't look like a bunch of hysterical sissy fags or anything
Posted by shrieking and flapping limp wrists around on April 13, 2009 at 1:29 PM · Report this
19
Elenchos, a glitch is "a server rack shorted out" or "the database become corrupted" or even generously, "a bad line of code resulted in unexpected results."

Glitch implies "unanticipated machine issue." This is AT BEST a human error.
Posted by Jigae on April 13, 2009 at 1:29 PM · Report this
20
@14

You seem pretty sure about what happened in this case, yet you offer no specific evidence, only generalities about "messy databases."

Why shouldn't anyone be skeptical of what you're saying as well?
Posted by practice what you preach on April 13, 2009 at 1:33 PM · Report this
21
@14 nails it.

Anthony, you're yet another stupid fucking credulous hack, automatically buying the Dan Savage line without an ounce of skepticism.

And holding yourself up as some kind of computer expert (equating working on this lame website with a system as complex as Amazon's) is downright laughable.
Posted by rjh on April 13, 2009 at 1:34 PM · Report this
22
Hateschild will be so disappointed.
Posted by schweighsr on April 13, 2009 at 1:34 PM · Report this
23
The huge irony with all the anonymous anti-Anthony posts here is that they're basically ensuring The Stranger's longevity by providing the site with more comments. More comments = more justification of readership to The Stranger's owners. Keep it up, sock puppets.
Posted by mackro mackro on April 13, 2009 at 1:39 PM · Report this
24
Anthony, your coverage of this has actually been quite good in my opinion.

P.S. to everyone - if you believe Amazon would intentionally remove everything gay from their book lists, you are an ignorant, paranoid hippy.
Posted by seandr on April 13, 2009 at 1:48 PM · Report this
25
I think a more interesting question is why all these gay books were tagged "sexuality" and none of the "how to prevent homosexuality" were. If this wiped out all these other books about gayness, shouldn't they have been taken off as well?

I'm not saying this is a conspiracy. I'm saying there's obviously an issue with their taxonomy/application of their classification system.
THOSE issues might reflect a deeper, less obvious bias on tv part of taggers/classifiers.
Posted by Jigae on April 13, 2009 at 1:49 PM · Report this
26
I'm thinking that whoever set up Amazon's various filtering systems might still see gay people as one-dimensional characters, only defined by their sexuality. It's thinking along this line: "If it's gay, it's about sex. And if it's about sex, it's 'adult'"
Posted by Chris in Vancouver WA on April 13, 2009 at 1:51 PM · Report this
27
Amazon is holding a One Man One Woman mixer this weekend. It should be awesome. All of us Amazon employees are going to book burn too! Also, all the One Man One Woman books err whatever will be on the front page of Amazon from here on out. WE HAVE TO TAKE THE POWER BACK!

BTW, any new Kindle orders will be pre-loaded with the Book of Mormon. How sweet is that?
Posted by ShitCameTalking on April 13, 2009 at 1:51 PM · Report this
28
@ 25 - I suspect because the "how to prevent homosexualitry" books were tagged with "Christian" instead of "sexuality." And of course, everything Christian is 100% wholesome, right?
Posted by Chris in Vancouver WA on April 13, 2009 at 1:53 PM · Report this
29
There's no way, none, that a programmer could ever knowingly make a "mistake" that would cause a disproportionate amount of GLBT lit to be shuffled to the back of the deck. Nope, couldn't happen.

Those hacks at The Stranger know nothing about the highly principled and socially liberal world of computer programming. They're in their GLBT victim bubble, taking an honest mistake and turning it into a PR stunt. All advances in social justice have been due to computer programmers, and it's idiotic to assume a hack writer could ever be in a position to cast doubt or aspersions upon such principled people.

How dare you blame programmers, The Stranger. And you call yourselves a legitimate newspaper? I'm going to have to take all your articles with a grain of salt now that I realize you inject humor and opinion into almost everything you write. Your so-called serious newspaper will never be regarded in the same light again.

Please cancel my subscription and refund me a prorated amount plus bonus for my troubles.

Good day.
Posted by Outraged programmer on April 13, 2009 at 1:56 PM · Report this
30
Why shouldn't anyone be skeptical of what you're saying as well?

You should be. But if you've ever worked with Amazon's ecommerce API, you've seen inside the dark heart of their database. And it's a total mess.

But then, it's basically a 14 year old database with 14 years of data strata lying on top.

I've seen far more dumb coding errors in my lifetime than I've seen organizations that offer benefits to same-sex partners and has a long history of Seattle-style liberalism suddenly decide to dump LGBT books behind an adult filter without rhyme or reason.

As the old saw goes, "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."
Posted by dw on April 13, 2009 at 1:58 PM · Report this
31
No, it wasn't a programing snafu-
IT WAS THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT!!
It is a CONSPIRACY!!!
To deny gays their GAY PORNOGRAPHY!!!!
Don't sit there and take this-
DO SOMETHING!!!!!!

The world is laughing at you.
Posted by Slog is the biggest joke on the world wide web on April 13, 2009 at 2:01 PM · Report this
32
I think a more interesting question is why all these gay books were tagged "sexuality" and none of the "how to prevent homosexuality" were. If this wiped out all these other books about gayness, shouldn't they have been taken off as well?

Would you consider "how to prevent homosexuality" books to be appropriate to a GLBT book category? I wouldn't.

And that may be the key to understanding this. It's not that books with "homosexuality" in the title were delisted, it's books with metadata identifying it as GLBT that were.

The "How To Prevent Homosexuality" book lacked such metadata. Thus, with all the GLBT books delisted, it rises straight to the top of the search -- which is pulling off the book's name.
Posted by dw on April 13, 2009 at 2:03 PM · Report this
33
@28. It's circular logic because if a search on "homosexuality" did in fact turn up a book *against* homosexuality as a premier result, the book must have been tagged with the term "homosexuality" by proxy, right?

I mean, I JUST went to amazon's site, typed in "homosexuality" and guess what, there it is. A Parent's Guide Against Homosexuality, first fucking result. The word "homosexuality" is RIGHT THERE in the title, and is not being filtered out, according to the latest explanation involving spacegoating some French dude.

Posted by mackro mackro on April 13, 2009 at 2:03 PM · Report this
34
33
the nice man explained it already.
don't be a dumbass.
Posted by thank you in advance for not playing slog on April 13, 2009 at 2:12 PM · Report this
35
Granted, a lot of this is cultural use of "gay" vs. "homosexuality". This could be a media distortion, but anti-gay bigots tend to use the word "homosexuality" far more than use the word "gay -- whereas people who are gay and/or support gay civil rights don't use the word "homosexuality" as much as "gay" or "lesbian".

The tagging of assets at Amazon may reflect the words their respective customers will use. Bigots will use "homosexuality" more than "gay, apparently, assuming Amazon has "fixed" this issue.

I'm now curious if a search on "homosexuality" last week would have turned out the same awful first result...
Posted by mackro mackro on April 13, 2009 at 2:12 PM · Report this
36
@33: Hey hey, slow down there-- you can't blame us for blaming the french, even if it is scapegoating. There's no reason for them to persist in punishing us with their frenchness, Jerry Lewis' hold on their culture has long since vanished.

Even if he's to be exonerated, please don't ever suggest that blaming the french is out of line.
Posted by Baconcat on April 13, 2009 at 2:15 PM · Report this
37
A free Kindle to every queer in America! (Oh, and pot in every pot.)
Posted by AndyNiable on April 13, 2009 at 2:17 PM · Report this
38
I was way more open to an explanation until they gave us one. This just sounds bogus. Just some little mix up that took place in France....
Posted by mirror on April 13, 2009 at 2:17 PM · Report this
39
@33: I'd just like to take this moment to salute you for a new term: I am SO going to spacegoat the French. Then I'm going to spacegoat Loveschild. Finally I will Spacegoat Gintner!

SPACEGOAT!!!!

PS -- Seriously, I am not making fun of you. I love your typo.
Posted by Cracker Jack on April 13, 2009 at 2:37 PM · Report this
40
@39: Sounds like a metal band.
Posted by Baconcat on April 13, 2009 at 2:40 PM · Report this
41
@19

Right, Jigae. Words mean whatever you say they mean. No wait, that would suck. Words mean whatever I say they mean. That's better. But I think we can both agree that Amazon's PR problem is that they think words mean what they think they mean.
Posted by elenchos on April 13, 2009 at 3:02 PM · Report this
42
Elenchos: Words SHOULD mean what the dictionary and common usage say they should mean... I understand their PR flack's desire to redefine glitch for their purposes, but it's like a child saying "the glass broke" or "the picture fell off the wall." It's a way of denying agency and responsibility -- someone presumably made a cognitive decision to include LGBT metatags in this exclusion or someone else made a choice to put LGBT within a "sexuality" hierarchy. It's not like some AI made this decision or some act of god caused this -- a human being did this either based on ignorance or a conscious choice based on their beliefs.
Posted by Jigae on April 13, 2009 at 4:25 PM · Report this
43
Jigae, it's clear that there is nothing that can be said to prevent you from seeing this in black and white. It really wouldn't have mattered to you what word they used.
Posted by elenchos on April 13, 2009 at 4:29 PM · Report this
44
Elenchos: What the fuck has happened to you? You've been a dick on almost every thread lately. Not everything is shades of gray... they made a bad/misleading word choice. Why are you defending that?

Glitch

In several usages in information technology, a glitch (pronounced GLIHTCH ) is a sudden break in function or continuity, sometimes of a transient nature, with a varying degree of seriousness. According to Eric Raymond, author of The New Hacker's Dictionary , glitch is from the German 'glitschen,' meaning 'to slip,' via Yiddish 'glitshen,' meaning 'to slide or skid.' In different contexts, the term has different meanings.

1) In electrical service, a glitch, sometimes called a power glitch , is a momentary power failure.

2) In network service, a glitch can be any temporary loss of service in the network.

3) In a computer program, a glitch can be a bug that isn't encountered very often, resulting in a problem that sometimes goes away because next time the combination of events is different. Glitches like this are often encountered with Web browsers . (Browser glitches are often fixed by closing the browser program and then reopening it, or by restarting the operating system.) A glitch can also be an intentionally planned trap or other program device that results in exposing a user's password or in some other security breach.

4) In computer audio , a glitch is a quick temporary noise in a file that sounds like a "snap."
Posted by Jigae on April 13, 2009 at 4:51 PM · Report this
45
@39: Holy Shit! O THE LOLZ. Thank you. I'm not taking it the wrong way, either. I think(?) I'm proud to have come up with "spacegoating".

Must have been that Bands With "Goat" In It thread.
Posted by mackro mackro on April 13, 2009 at 4:57 PM · Report this
46
A much better phrased excuse/explanation from Patty Smith posted on Gawker:
This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Thanks for checking in. Best regards -
Patty
Posted by Jigae on April 13, 2009 at 5:17 PM · Report this
47
In the late '90s, many adult Xena fans were also fans of hot lesbian fiction. Add in a recommendation system, and what happens?

"If you like Xena, you might like {some hot lesbian fiction}."

Imagine the phone calls that came in from irate parents of 8-year-old girls who loved Xena.

And so began the bedeviling task of keeping young eyes safer from troublesome titles, while maintaining access to those who find those titles informative, titillating, or whatever. Invisibly.

The amazing thing isn't there was a glitch, the amazing thing is there haven't been more missteps.

Please lighten the hell up, y'all.
Posted by Scott on April 13, 2009 at 5:28 PM · Report this
48
Or maybe the real glitch was that Amazon didn't realize what a huge shit-storm of negative PR this would bring down on their heads when people found out. Maybe Amazon didn't realize a large chunk of their outraged customer base would start canceling sales and protesting en masse. Maybe Amazon realized their marketing decision to "protect" the innocent 9-year-old Xena-loving fundie child (Won't you think of the children!?) was a colossal FUBAR and did some heavy shit shoveling to cover for it. Maybe that was the glitch.

p.s. Powell's is still better and I'll always be their loyal customer. So suck it, Amazon!
Posted by Y.F. on April 13, 2009 at 7:10 PM · Report this
49
I'm tempted to believe the hacker story more than anything else (I'm a CS major with focus on security, for whatever its worth). I doubt 'some employee' in Amazon France had access control privilege to make the mistake Daisey claims he made, and since they claim that > 50,000 items were affected, I doubt they have such a batch process irrevocably executable in the hands of a single employee.

The link you provide that 'disproves' the hacker story is just someone with fewer tech skills than me trying to run the script and saying it doesn't work. I think the hacker was just lazy and going for the lulz, saying it could be done in 10 lines (and not testing them) when he probably did it with a more sophisticated 50-liner. The disproof is implementation, but the concept works rather simply if you care to write 50 lines instead of 10.

Besides, Amazon took down the feature he said he exploited, which doesn't prove his claim but supports it.

Still, he might have been going for the lulz when writing the LiveJournal post, and got me ^_^

Anyway, my two cents.
Posted by paul on April 13, 2009 at 7:11 PM · Report this
50
I agree with paul. I in fact know a good amount about IT security, and have engaged in similar UNIX hackery, and everything the hacker described was perfectly plausible.

What amazes me are all the RIDICULOUS conspiracy theories flying around in the various social networks. People mouthing off about shadowy corporate abuse straight into the unregulated ether; as if there are two internets: The fetid sewer of misinformation and buggy code we wallow in, and the opaque, flawless, tightly coordinated datacenters of the corporate elite. Sorry wingnuts and tinfoil-hatters, but there's only one internet, and it's ALL A SEWER.

A clever anarchist can light a match in the right place and cause an explosion. And when the shockwave reaches you, it's just a wall of sewage. If you can even figure out where the explosion came from, consider yourself well informed. Consider applying for an IT position. If you try to learn more, chances are you won't be consuming verified information, you're chewing on some blogger's freshly laid corn fritter.
Posted by garote on April 13, 2009 at 8:08 PM · Report this
51
OH SO NOW SAVAGE IS PISSED OFF WELL WELCOME TO THE CLUB I GUESS WHEN YOU CANT GET YOUR PORN DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR HOSE AT VASHON OR YOUR STOOL AT RPLACE THEN ITS REALLY OPPRESSION HUH NOT LIKE WHAT SELF-ACTUALIZED QUEERS AND DYKES OF SIZE FACE EVERY DAY WERE ALL UNDER THE OBAMA BUS NOW SAVAGE HOW DOES IT FEEL NOT GOOD HUH
Posted by PISSED-OFF QUEER on April 13, 2009 at 8:27 PM · Report this
52
You know, Jigae, other people are allowed to have opinions different than yours, and expressing different opinions does not make them a dick. For years I've had people all of a sudden ask what has happened to me just because for the first time my opinion differs from theirs. I haven't changed, I assure you.
Posted by elenchos on April 13, 2009 at 8:43 PM · Report this
53
The sales rank issue is not the only anti-gay part of Amazon. Did you know that their "search suggestions" feature is completely disabled for searches using "gay" or "lesbian" as their first word?

Normally Amazon shows you suggestions as you type characters in the search box. For example if you type "Christian m" you will see a list of suggestions including "Christian marriage". You don't have to type the full search, just select from the suggestions.

If you try this same search by typing "gay m" you get nothing. Unlike the term "Christian", the word "gay" just shuts off the search suggestions feature completely. Same for "lesbian."

This sucks.

I wonder what kind of "glitch" this can be attributed to.
Posted by CCSea on April 13, 2009 at 9:09 PM · Report this
54
@52: No really, you've been more of a dick lately to everyone. This is the first time we've disagreed in recent memory. It's seemed so out of character that I've wondered if you'd been sock-puppeted, but you're overall debate style is about the same so I have to assume you're just going through a rough patch.

Another reason we need registration -- there'd presumably be some way of sending personal messages.
Posted by Jigae on April 13, 2009 at 9:21 PM · Report this
55
elenchos, Jigae is right. You have been wearing your cranky pants more lately.
Posted by TVDinner on April 13, 2009 at 9:46 PM · Report this
56
@ paul & garote:

You may know shit-loads about CS security but you obviously know sweet fa about Amazon's systems. Think of the IT equivalent of toilet rolls held together with duct tape & string and you're on the right lines.

I worked at Amazon for way longer than Mike Daisey and I can tell you that it's not only entirely plausible that one employee could screw up the listings for 58K items on the site, it's the only plausible explanation - far more likely than a hacker - and has happened on other occasions with other things (there were a number of very public pricing errors years ago until we managed to shore up those systems & put safeguards in place so you couldn't en masse mis-price items).

As for keeping the kiddies safe - that's one of the reasons Amazon has those types of flags in the database, and it's a perfectly reasonable reason. Even the illustrious Dan Savage would want to keep his little boy away from porn before puberty, wouldn't he?
Posted by shiraz on April 13, 2009 at 10:02 PM · Report this
Posted by Jigae on April 13, 2009 at 10:09 PM · Report this
58
What about Craig Seymour's book? http://craigspoplife.blogspot.com/2009/0…

I'm also with the above posters - why purge the rankings of porn? Make it like Google safe search.
Posted by karlthepagan on April 14, 2009 at 6:53 AM · Report this
59
Wow hold up... I'm buying the hacker angle: http://tehdely.livejournal.com/88823.htm…

That does explain the early de-listing of Craig Seymour's book, and its subsequent re-listing, and the "policy letter" - probably an automated form letter for when your content gets delisted. 100% consistent with early testing of the attack before mainstream deployment.

Of course someone is going to take credit for it. Since Amazon has a public cover story we have almost no way of knowing if he is the real attacker, or if it was an attack or not (unless Amazon changes their story).
Posted by karlthepagan on April 14, 2009 at 7:51 AM · Report this
60
@shiraz, #56

Maybe Amazon is like toilet paper rolls and string, and maybe one employee did just fuck it up. I don't pretend to know anything about Amazon's internals.

Still, the weak architecture might also strengthen my case, no? Sorry if I don't believe you when you say the flimsy-ness of its construction makes employee error "far more likely than a hacker," since said construction makes it far easier for a hacker to exploit.

Even the smallest hole in construction can lead to a hacker breaking it (Twitter fell for a dictionary attack a few months ago, after all), so bad construction is not a strong defense when claiming a hacker couldn't have done it.

But again, this is all what I think, not what I know.
Posted by paul on April 14, 2009 at 8:33 AM · Report this
61
Just tag all the books by Talibangelists and neocons as gay ... and watch what happens ...
Posted by Mr. Obvious on April 14, 2009 at 1:45 PM · Report this

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