Amazon Failed Us, But Twitter Didn’t

I love Twitter.

I’ve long bugged and bugged Todd to get on Twitter. He’s normally an early adopter to tech-things but resisted Twitter, seeing it as an inferior Facebook. I bugged, I noodled, I pointed out the sheer fun of reading tweets by Christopher Walken, thinking that would surely lure him. He finally gave in.

I used to just like Twitter. I was a little bummed that more people I knew in real life didn’t use Twitter and I’m too shy to really @reply to people, but I liked it’s clean, app-free interface. Then I came across Twitter Search and really saw how useful it was during the whole educational and entertaining #queryfail escapade. With Tweetie, an iPhone app, I can both read the updates from people I follow, reply and message, access Nearby tweets (based on my location), do searches for topics and check out what’s trending.

And lo, as I tap-tap-taped on my iPhone, idly seeing what’s trending after getting a head’s up yesterday about the new Doctor Who airing in the UK, and I see the top two trends – Easter and #amazonfail.

The story so far: starting around two days ago, the sales ranks for books containing gay and lesbian content were being removed bit by bit until today where so many were missing that a shit storm hit Twitter with a force rivaling the celebration of chocolate bunnies and zombie Jesus. When authors first started questioning the missing ranks, they received responses to the effect of we’re excluding certain books for the consideration of their buyers (delicate souls that they are). As I followed the #amazonfail, a petition was organized, and there was talk that it was an automatic filter based on the tags so a plan was hatched to tag-spam all sorts of books (aren’t we allowed to suggest what we found objectionable?) for which I cannot find the link. Sorry.

As the evening wore on and #amazonfail hit number one on Twitter trends, there came news that it was a glitch, a terribly odd and coincidental glitch that they are working on correcting. Which, frankly, is horseshit. Right now, if you type in ‘homosexuality’ in Amazon.com’s search engine, the top book that shows up is “A Parent’s Guide To Preventing Homosexuality”. This ‘glitch’ focused entirely on GLBT fiction and non-fiction, claiming that it was due to adult content, even though sexually explicit heterosexual fiction and even run-of-the-mill pornography is still available.

It wasn’t a glitch. Amazon got caught. And now they have to back-peddle. I would rather hear that they temporarily bowed to insane, right-wing pressure and have since come to regret their actions than to come up with a really weak excuse. The fact that they were already telling authors who had lost their ranks that it was on purpose. So which is it, bigotry or competence?

And this is why I now love, wholly and deeply, Twitter. As other folks have noticed, for something that has crushed Twitter all day, #amazonfail is receiving no attention elseweb from traditional media (so far). Where else would I have heard this? Or would these books have just quietly gone missing?

More here on the unlikelihood of this whole, sad ‘glitch’ business.

If this isn’t resolved, I’ll be nuking my Amazon.ca account (accounts indicate that it’s also been affected by the ‘glitch’). I honestly didn’t think that anything would make me switch back to Indigo/Chapters. But you know what? I think this did it.

Thanks Twitter. In the spirit of the infamous #failwhale, can we call this a #whalewin?

Edited to add:  This here is a very interesting counter-point on how it could be an accident.  That would be the only gimme I’d give them.

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