Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy

Journal: Is Amazon scraping Kindle Fire HD user's email?

Journal by gishzida

I had a rather untoward Amazon experience today. I was browsing the Kindle store on my Kindle Fire HD 7 this afternoon. I had done a search in the Kindle store for "Guitar Design" and as I was skimming through the results I was surprised to see "How to write a Eulogy" as a recommendation. Now to you that might not seem strange but for me it was outrageous. Why? My father passed away a little over two weeks ago.

Now we all know that Amazon and other large on-line firms do everything they can to get a sales edge. Amazon is proud of its recommendation system which allegedly only scans your purchases and your searches in their quest to eek out every dollar they can. There is just one thing wrong here. I made no purchase nor did any searches regarding "death" on Amazon. The only way Amazon might have discovered their was a death in the family was by scraping one of my Gmail email accounts.

So I went looking at the Amazon privacy policy. There is nothing in the policy that allows them to scrape email. So I sent kindle support the following note:

****
You know your "recommendation system" is broken when you recommend a book on how to write a eulogy to a customer who has just lost his father. How could you?

But what I find really upsetting is that the only way you could discover this is that you are scraping my Google email with out specific permission to do so and without there being any indication in your "privacy policy" that you are permitted do such a thing...

While you might think it might sell products all it does for me is mean I will use some other application for email on this device... I have also turned off all of your product advertising... You have shown me how truly low you will go to make a buck....

that's sad.

****

So after a short while , not satisfied with rubbing salt in a fresh wound, they replied:

***
I'm really sorry for any frustration this may have caused. This is definitely not what we want our customers to experience.

We display recommendations in several areas throughout our store. To make these suggestions, we determine your interests by examining the items you've purchased, items you've told us you own, items you've liked, items you've rated and items you've browsed recently on Amazon.com. We then compare your activity on our website with that of other customers to recommend items that may interest you.

Since our system is highly automated, it saves all these details and provide these recommendations.

Your recommendations will change regularly based on a number of factors, including new orders or ratings that you submit and changes in the interests of other customers like you.

To turn off these recommendations :

Simply move your cursor to the Your Account drop-down menu at the top of the homepage and select "Sign Out" from the list of options. Then, leave the e-mail and password spaces blank and click the "Amazon.com" icon in the upper-left corner of the page that appears. This will remove our recommendations for you until you sign in again.

To clear your recent history, visit Your Browsing History and click the "Delete this item" link located next to each item. To remove all items, click the "Delete All" button in the left column.

To learn more about rating items you own, excluding purchases or gifts from affecting your recommendations, and improving your personalized recommendations, please our Help pages:

http://www.amazon.com/help/recommendations

Please know that this situation was the result of technical calculations, and that in no way did we intend for this to happen. I hope you'll consider this an isolated incident and give us another chance in the future.

I appreciate the admirable restraint you exercised in your message. My sincere apologies for the time you have spent dealing with this issue.

We value your business and hope to serve you better in the future.

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Thanks for using Kindle and have a pleasant day ahead.

***
"We hope to do better in the future"???? Ya gotta be kiding!

Yes I realize that I am tilting at a Corporate windmill here but I needed to reply:

***
Unfortunately you did not address the fact the only way your system could know about a death in my family was by your system scraping my private email -- without permission -- since the only place that information was available was in my google email. I see nothing in your privacy policy that allows you to scrape my email and I do not recall their being a notification by the kindle email app notifying me that it was reading my email for marketing purposes-- unlike Google and Google Play where they are very above board. Funny thing that-- I have not had one "targeted ad" from Google that reminded me about the passing of a loved one. Why would Amazon care so little about it customers? What were your programmers thinking other than the marketing department thought it was a good idea?

I find the "recommendaation system" intrusive and I should not have to 'sign out" to "opt out" especially when I paid for the privileged of not having advertising on my kindle. If I wanted a recommendation I'd ask for it... What can I expect next from your system? An offering of a subscription of Yarhzeit Candles?

Why don't you ask Mr. Bezos if he'd like his email scraped so you can sell him items related to *his* personal life? Somehow I don't think he'd like it. Do you?

Yes I realize there is nothing you can do since you are only a cog in the "Soothe the Stupid / Ignorant Customer" group -- your job is to make customers forget the error of their / your ways... but a "cut-and-paste" from the Kindle FAQ does not resolve an issue created by Amazon's unauthorized use of my email... nor does it make Amazon appear that it is even understanding that this kind of thing is hurtful to its relationship with its customers. Even if there was some kind of "click through" authorization your reminding someone about a death which only occurred two weeks ago is tasteless and crude.

How can customers trust your products and services if you are so untrustworthy with a customer's feelings just to make a buck?

Yes I do realize I am jousting at a windmill here as I don't believe Amazon is actually willing to change its behavior... and that is sad too...

But after all large corporations such as Amazon are only made of "automated systems" and tiny, underpaid cogs such as yourself... with no control and/or no soul.. I'm sure your boss will enjoy hearing about the idiot that whined that your wonderful recommendation system reminded him is father is dead and that Amazon thinks death is just another marketing opportunity. *That* is so very sad.

I hope your day is better than Amazon has made mine.

*****

Of course there was a cookie cutter reply:

***
Hello,

I'm sorry for the problem that you had with the recommendation that we had for you.

I'd like to inform you that we don't have any power or whatsoever to browse on your email account.

We display recommendations in several areas throughout our store. To make these suggestions, we determine your interests by examining the items you've purchased, items you've told us you own, items you've liked, items you've rated and items you've browsed recently on Amazon.com. We then compare your activity on our website with that of other customers to recommend items that may interest you.

Your recommendations will change regularly based on a number of factors, including new orders or ratings that you submit and changes in the interests of other customers like you. Because your recommendations will change, we suggest you add items that interest you to your Wish List or Shopping Cart.

I really sorry if the recommendation somewhat offended you. We didn't intend to cause you this.

We always try our best to meet your expectations but unfortunately, despite all our efforts, unforeseen circumstances sometimes occur that would prevent us in providing a satisfactory experience.

I apologize for any trouble or frustration you experienced in this case. We did not intend, in any way, to cause you disappointment. Furthermore, in order to rectify this situation, I'm reporting this concern regarding the incident to the Technical department in our company--I know they'll want to hear more about your experience. We will make sure that we'll take note of this so in the future, we may prevent problems like this from happening and we will take this into account as we plan for further developments within our services.

Please remember that it is always important for us to hear how you react to all aspects of our service. Strong customer feedback like yours helps us make important decisions about how our service can be improved over the course of time, and we appreciate the time you took to write to us so we can better address this concern.

I hope you'll understand that we do our best to ensure that all of our customer needs will be met perfectly. Clearly, we have not met those standards in this case. I understand that this hasn't been as positive as you'd hoped, but I hope you'll consider this and give us another chance to serve you better in the future.

**********

So there you have it Amazon claims it does not scrape user e-mail which still does not explain how they could offer that "recommendation". I made no searches related to death or writing a eulogy so there was no way Amazon could offer that result unless their Customer Support is unaware [plausable denial] that Amazon's crafty big data scraping system is sniffing email traffic.

But let's say that someone else in my family were to have made such a query without my knowledge, how tacky is it that Amazon thinks there's money to be made by making recommendations to a mourner...

It seems to me that there has to be a line drawn somewhere when it comes to how up close and personal we should allow our online vendors and social media become.

Regardless what the actual reason for the recommendation I received, the fact that I received such a recommendation in the first place it indicates that Amazon has hit another low in the race to the bottom for market share.

User Journal

Journal: Why I pirate

Journal by SmallFurryCreature
On 9 October 2012, the game XCOM: Enemy launched... launched in the US. Unknown to me, the EU launch date was to several days layer, 12 October 2012. Maybe. Yet, 9 October 2012, I received an SMS from Gamemania.nl a dutch gaming retailer chain, that my copy was ready to be picked up. So I left work early that day to arrive 17:54 in front of the store. Doors pulled almost shut, store had already closed and refused to serve me. Very well, I thought there are other stores in the world, so I bought it the next day at Free Record Shop in Amsterdam. Then when I came home, I tried to install. First I had to install steam, which crashed, crashed and crashed some more but finally I got it working and had to create an account. Then activate my email. Then I installed the game and was told it was not released. What? If the game was not released, what was I holding in my hand? Note the error message mentioned nothing about a region or what would be the release date. Just not released. By google came to my aid and I found that throughout Europe, the game was available for sale but not yet ready for install. I read this from angry users posts. Not a single forum had an official answer yet. Not yet and counting. Even the official release date was less then clear. But I know my Internet, if Steam, Dutch retailing, 2kgames/firaxis couldn't/wouldn't help me, maybe some pirates would? thepiratebay itself is of course famously blocked in holland but there plenty of mirrors around. So I checked and yes, full downloads were available in various flavours for a total cost of ZERO bucks! And if you had issues, then the supplies answered your question in minutes. Not like the hours, days and counting before getting a reply from people I had payed money too. Many a reply to a piracy story has had comments similar to my story, so what is so special about it? Nothing. Just that after years of downloading, I have with MMO's gotten used again to paying and I didn't have any issue with paying for this game, if it had worked. But I do have an issue with paying 50 euro's for a game that can't be played and that now that I have read the forums I have seen is filled with bugs. Bugs the official forums have no answers for but that are fixed on piracy forums. To repeat myself, for this game the people that wanted me to pay did:
  • Act as if my giving them money is a favor they are doing me and only when they feel like it, opening hours be damned.
  • Not reply in a timely manner (or at all) to complaints
  • Treat Europeans as second rate customers for no reason (what are they afraid of, that a world-wide release will overload the servers)
  • Break consumer laws by selling a product not fit for its purpose (a game that can't even be installed is obviously not a fit product)

Meanwhile, the pirates offer:

  • Early access
  • No charge
  • Free, fast useful support by computer experts.
  • Service available any day of the week at any hour.

Sometimes the anti-piracy people complain the content industry can't compete with free. But come ON! I had PAYED already and the companies just said "no". Meanwhile the group that doesn't want money, said "yes". This is like paying a hooker to have an headache while your wife is stuffing your wallet full of money and begging for sex. Something ain't right!

And this is why I pirate. Because how else can I send the signal that I am not a sheep who will just keep turning the other cheek? Sure, there are sheep who advocate just that, just wait 3 days, it is not the developers fault etc etc. FUCK THAT! Nothing is every anybodies fault and I as a consumer should just take it all and keep quiet.

NO! And that is my reason why I post about being a pirate. Because just downloading alone isn't enough. Consumer boycotts don't work, there are to many sheep drowning out the silent protest of people like me who just see no other option but to not pay to make it clear I expect more service for my cash.

Because I see no other option. Mails go unanwered, forum posts get ignored, I can get my money back from the store and the sales clerk don't care, not his problem. How can I HURT that manager who thought it was a good idea to do a staggered release, hurt that Steam admin who didn't just flip a switch to prevent customers getting angry. How can I even get the companies involved to acknowledge my existence?

I can't. But I can keep my money in my pocket. That doesn't solve anything but it is a lot more fun having impotent nerd rage with cash then without.

Anyone want a beer over the backs of game developers who haven't learned that if they want an income, they need to tell their managers to not upset their customers?

User Journal

Journal: Mod bombing 1

Journal by Hazel Bergeron

Today I picked a random angry Libertarian who seems to post a lot on Slashdot and decided to test my hypothesis that Libertarians are dishonest.

So I decided to reply three or four times to his posts criticising his opinion in a reasoned but insulting manner.

Over a period of a few seconds, about 15 of my posts sweeping through two articles were modded down.

Excellent.

User Journal

Journal: Capitalist Morals versus Human Values 2

Journal by gishzida

Reading through the comments on the report that the SCOTUS ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act I found one commenter who asked "Don't you believe in Capitalism?"

I started to reply to that remark but decided to instead note it down here.

Capitalism is one of many ways to make a society work. Unfortunately here in the United States we have not learned to "soften" our desire for a profit when it impinges on moral behavior. Hard core capitalists believe in "Profits before morals" -- That is a "dog-eat-dog" Darwinian view of society-- There are certain political groups that love this idea because they believe that the object in life is whoever has the most toys wins. Regardless of what they might say about their "moral code" or "ethical views" or even [for some] their alleged religious beliefs all of it gets checked at the door when it comes to profits.

One of the simplest moral codes ever put forward [by multiple religious and philosophic systems] is the Golden Rule -- "Do to others what you would have them do to you." From what I have seen and experienced, the Capitalist view of this is inverted in the US to mean "Charge the highest possible going rate but cut your losses --- we don't care what the other guy would do to us."

Most people that have adopted this view of life have never had a tragedy strike... have never been out of work with no money for health care... have never had to watch a loved one suffer because there was no way to pay for a doctor... This kind of "moral-less" Capitalism is unacceptable. .I don't believe in Capitalism at the price of giving up moral behavior. There are other democratic countries in the world that do care for their citizens... more than we do... We don't -- Why? If the US is, as some conservative pundits have proposed, "a Christian nation" What part of taking care of you fellow man is not Christian? [Not that I am Christian, but most of the big time Capitalists / Conservatives allegedly ascribe to the Golden Rule in one form or another] What part of putting a price on some one's pain is moral?

Then we come to the brass tacks of: How much is your life worth to you? Do you really trust a "Capitalist" system that is all about profit and has no moral will except to maximize profits? You trust a system that sees you as a profit or a loss rather than a human being? How will you feel when they decide you are one of the losses to be cut?

I don't expect that this law will stand as the forces opposed to it have a lot of money to throw at repealing it... which of course they will take their expenses out of your pocket after they have repealed it.

Why won't they take it out of my pocket? I've got nothing to give. I'm one of those older tech workers that got the boot in favor of a 'younger, cheaper' replacement. So I've been unemployed for 15 months without health care. Prognosis for a new job is not good-- after all who needs a network admin who pushing 59 -- IT is a "young person's field" So I'm a year short of early retirement age so I cannot touch my 401K... So I'm screwed by the system and screwed by the fellows that love their H1B employees.... Do I believe in this kind of capitalism? not by a long shot.

Frankly I come to the believe that American Capitalists are no different that the old Soviet Commissars in their firm belief that lying, cheating, stealing, and otherwise screwing their employees is moral behavior... for a Slave master and Conservative / Libertarian Capitalists are nothing more than slave masters by another name. Of course after the 14th amendment you aren't supposed to call them slaves any more-- you're supposed to call 'em employees.

A foot note:

The ACA is a congressional act that was signed into law by the President. Calling it "Obamacare" is deriding the President [They could not get away with calling it what they'd like to call it as it would reveal what kind of people they really are!] at the expense of who and what debated and put the law on the president's desk. That's right it was Congress not the President that passed the law.

America was once a great country... and who knows maybe it will be again when the cry-baby capitalists grow up and realize that in a truly mature society we all need to move forward not just some of us... Elites can only rob the poor or send them off to fight pointless wars for so long before the poor rise up to smite them. It is sad that libertarians are such children who are lead around by the nose and have no true moral will of their own. .

Of course this is all just my opinion and we know what opinions are worth on \.

User Journal

Journal: Another good use for the Checkpoint Flyer and Super Ego

Journal by timothy

Earlier this month, I was at CES, looking at cool gadgets and shooting some video for Slashdot, and last week I did the same in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show. Since shooting video is something I'm (let's be kind) inexperienced at, esp. with camera-attached doodads (mixer, shotgun mic, lav mic, tripod), this got a bit awkward at times.

I tried a few different bag configurations on the CES show floor. What I finally settled on was this: In my conventional-looking (but Li-Ion battery-equipped!) PowerBag backpack, I carried very little -- basically, my laptop, some food, and whatever paper goods I picked up in the course of the show, like brochures, etc. For almost everything else, I had my Checkpoint Flyer, sans removable laptop case.*

- Mic packs (one receiver, one transmitter), mics (lavalier, handheld, shotgun) and mixer (and a few associated cords) went into the larger outer pocket
- flexible tripod (a Gorillapod knockoff from Vivitar) stuck, with one leg out, in the flexible side pocket
- camera, well padded, in the central portion; I kept its hotshoe mic-mount attached.
- headphone case fit in the smaller of the outer pockets (one of my favorite uses for that pocket!)
- spare batteries, SD card in the flat inner pockets
- notepaper and such in the large (magazine) pocket; gum and pens in the smaller (boarding pass) one.
(This list is not exhaustive; I was carrying wallet and other small things not here accounted for.)

I realized toward the end that the extra attachment points (sorry, custom work -- thanks, Tom! You really should put them on every Flyer ... ) I have on the Checkpoint Flyer mean I could have attached some other things on the outside, in pouches, if I'd thought to bring pouches of the right size.

In Detroit, I did not carry around the backpack, and I switched from the Checkpoint Flyer to my Super Ego. The Super Ego is bigger, but I'm not sure it was actually any better as a video bag, because it lacks the nice top-zipping outer pockets on the Checkpoint Flyer, and it's not quite as easy to swing easily through a crowd. It still worked well for my purpose, though; I could put the camera away quickly in the central storage space when I wanted to have both hands free, and I stashed most cables and mics in the two outer pockets. (No room for the shotgun mic this way, though, so that went in with the camera itself.)

Upshot: Though neither is a specialized video bag (and I felt it at moments), both the Flyer and the Super Ego did a great job as impromptu production assistants ;)

* Why not carry the laptop there? Because I was carrying a laptop too big for the inner case I have. That's why. Why carry the laptop at all? Because I needed it as a middleman to transfer files from my camera to the guy who put them into a watchable form, from the show's press room.

United States

Journal: Open letter to Maryland governor Martin O'Malley

Journal by timothy

Governor Martin O'Malley
100 State Circle
Annapolis, Maryland
21401-1925

Dear Sir:

Now that both Arizona and Utah have named official state firearms (Colt Single Action, and John Browning's immortal 1911, respectively), I think it's time that the great state of Maryland upstage these upstart also-ran states -- more like territories, really -- by officializing an official firearm as well. After all, Maryland has what is truly the most martial of all state songs. Citizens of what other state are enjoined to "remember Howards warlike thrust," or "avenge the patriotic gore that flecked the streets of Baltimore"?

Further, as a born Marylander, I have a gun in mind that reflects well the government of Maryland's view of citizens' right to carry arms for their own self defense and in the defense of liberty. Please consider any of the options from this entire line of products.

Of course, in light of modern circumstances in the Old Line State, the actual gun chosen should be locked up and behind glass, rather than out endangering the children.

Cordially,

Timothy Lord

User Journal

Journal: Hallowe'en: Gripes and plans 1

Journal by timothy

Gripes:
- Some municipalities set arbitrary trick-or-treating times that differ from dusk-and-later-evening of the 31st of October. That's stupid.
- Some kids don't even say "trick or treat!"

Plans (as candy giver, short of a full-fledged haunted attraction):
- Sound effects
- Kids should be (mildly) scared in exchange for the dispensing of candy
- The stench of sulfur (or at least smokebombs)
- Candy should be a surprise -- in a black fabric bag or something, maybe something that feels gross (but quite hygenic, etc)
- Strobe lights
- rocking chair with no one in it
- hissing air
- bubbling cauldron
- maniacal laughter in the background

One day I'd like to find my detailed notes from many years ago on this topic ...

Bug

Journal: Slashdot link weirdness solved: rogue link tracker 5

Journal by nacturation

In the last week or two links to external sites on Slashdot generally don't seem to work unless I click several times. This only appears to happen on Firefox... Chrome is unaffected. I haven't tried IE, Safari, or any other browser. Finally fed up with it, I decided to look through the javascript to see if there was anything funky going on. Looks like there's a script being included from leads.demandbase.com that defines some kind of click tracker. Here's a snippet:

  • else if(a[i].className.match(/clicky_log_outbound/i)){clicky.add_event(a[i],"mousedown",clicky.outbound);}else{clicky.add_event(a[i],"mousedown",clicky.click);

So if you find you've oddly had to click a few times to RTFA, it's not your mouse button dying. Open up adblock and disable everything from leads.demandbase.com and it will be fixed. Links clicked once in Firefox will properly load as they used to. Thanks Slashdot for using an external company for tracking my click behavior. Though perhaps implementing this poorly is Taco's way of giving us a heads-up. Much like the "Idle" section, his overlords may have mandated the addition of this awesomeness to the site and by making it break it alerts us to what we need to block. In which case, a non-sarcastic thanks is due.

I also found this wonderful gem:

  • function pageload_done( $, console, maybe ){
            pageload.after_readycode = (new Date).getTime();
            pageload.content_ready_time = pageload.content_ready - pageload.before_content;
            pageload.script_ready_time = pageload.after_readycode - pageload.content_ready;
            pageload.ready_time = pageload.after_readycode - pageload.before_content; // Only report 1% of cases.
            maybe || (Math.random()>0.01) || $.ajax({ data: {
                    op: 'page_profile',
                    pagemark: pageload.pagemark,
                    dom: pageload.content_ready_time,
                    js: pageload.script_ready_time
            } });
    }

Unless my javascript is really rusty, won't this report 99% of cases?

Anyway, pass this information on so everyone can RTFA without the hassle.

User Journal

Journal: "I could care less"

Journal by nacturation

It's amazing how people try to rationalize away the phrase "I could care less", much in the same way that Star Wars apologists try to rationalize the use of parsecs when talking about the Kessel Run. Maybe there are black holes to navigate around, and minimizing the distance is the sign of a good pilot, or maybe this, or maybe that... or maybe George Lucas just made a mistake, you know?

So when it comes to people rationalizing away "I could care less" as being some nonchalant way of saying "yeah, I could but I'm not going to bother" I just don't buy it. It's a misquote of the perfectly unambiguous phrase "I couldn't care less". So when I stumbled across a rationalization of that, my mind wandered upon what I think is a pretty damned good analogy of why it doesn't make sense: I could eat more.

User Journal

Journal: Dreams: Lucid one of 20100802

Journal by timothy

Dreamed I was in law school again, but it was more like business school (and not necessarily Temple, or Philadelphia), in that for one of my classes, there was a giant project made in cooperation with 3 or 4 others. One of them was Ryan L., a high-school classmate. In my dream, which took place near the end of a semester, but before the start of finals, I got an anxious call from Ryan, who had just put some finishing touches on our group's project. He was unsure whether it was truly ready, but the time to submit was upon us. I assured him that it was fine -- he and I had done most of the work on it, and his work in particular was very good.

Then, I went to class; I arrived later than I usually do, and so took a seat at the back. I hadn't brought my computer, but did have blank paper on which to take notes. The professor (who I think was just made up for the dream) announced that he wanted to use the class that day as a debate exercise, on the topic of so-called "smart guns." I remember thinking something like: "This is like having a detailed discussion about the number of angels on the head of a pin -- skipping over the more important question of whether there's any such thing to start with."

I immediately started writing down a few thoughts on my note paper, a list that read like:
- Doesn't exist
- Doesn't work
- Laws bind the law abiding
- hundreds of millions of plain old guns already
- 2d amdt

I noticed that in the back of the classroom (basically, right next to me), there was a giant plastic beachball, some sort of advertising tchotscke; I noticed that it was printed with the name of a local Volvo dealership, in particular. It was blue and white patterned, and 4 or 5 feet in diameter. I wanted to have a sharpie, in order to write down some arguments, and then just start tossing the ball forward.

User Journal

Journal: Dreams: Two (1.5?) lucid ones from 20100709

Journal by timothy

20100709-crazy-dreams

1) Dreamed that I posted an innocuous message of good cheer / hello to the facebook profile of A. Promptly received cease and desist / stay-away order from her lawyers, which arrived in the form of two email messages. Boggled me.

2) Seemingly separate dream, with that one above as backstory:

a) Broke out, "V for Vendetta" style, from an alleged mental hospital that was actually a prison for political prisoners, in which the prisoners (me among them) were kept sedate through drugs and intimidation. An elaborate plan of distraction, revenge, and escape gained me my freedom.

b) I was lying low in or near NYC, and by chance met up w/ A, and actually had a pleasant and nice conversation over coffee, did some up-catching for a while, was pleased to hear of her life's successes. I hoped to be on her good list, or at least off the bad list, definitely a higher priority (at least for that time) than my ongoing evasion of the human authority figures.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. -- John Muir

Working...