Amazon: How Is That Video Streaming Thing Working Out?

September 7, 2021

What could be easier? Let people sign up and pump content to people interested in live streams of games, wanna-be go-go performers, and individuals sitting in an inflate-a-pool doing whatever. What could go wrong?

In my lectures about Amazon and the Bezos bulldozer, I highlight a few of the more intriguing activities the DarkCyber research team has observed; to wit:

  • A Ukrainian pole dancer live streaming a kids’ pole dancing event
  • A former exotic performer riding an electric Segway bicycle wearing absolutely minimal clothing and a colorful bike helmet, a backpack, and high tops
  • A person explaining how to avoid being cheated when playing card games with others who are into real time streaming
  • First-run motion pictures not on Amazon Prime
  • Individuals who paint their bodies in real time to mimic comic book and anime characters.

Yeah, there’s more, but you get the idea.

Now Amazon faces a hitch in its long pre-rolls, its “finder” interface, and its difficulties figuring out if ibabyrainbow is out of bounds.

I read “Twitch Finally Issues Official Statement to Streamers About the ‘Hate Raids’ Issue.” The main idea is that Twitchies are using comments to post negative comments and other possibly objectionable content objects to a “creator’s” chat.

The key passage in the write up for me was this statement:

To say that Twitch is now in disrepute is a massive understatement. Despite being the world’s arguably largest streaming platform, Twitch is not only losing viewers but also a few big-name creators that made their name there.

Defeating the Redmond outfit for JEDI and challenging NASA are possibly easier tasks.

Streamers who do hate — Streamers who boycott via #ADayOffTwitch — Streamers who coined the tag #TwitchDoBetter. Will Sagemaker come to the rescue?

Stephen E Arnold, September 7, 2021

Amazon Search: Just Outstanding

September 2, 2021

Authors at Paste Magazine are dedicated to assembling lists of the best streaming content from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other services. They know almost as much about these content libraries as their developers. The title in Paste Magazine’s article, “Amazon Prime Video’s Library Is Not Genuinely Impossible To Browse” says it all.

It is notoriously difficult to browse Amazon Prime’s content library and the problem was noted in 2018. Amazon Prime’s library contains a lot of content, much of it is considered unwatchable. The only way to locate anything is searching by its proper name, but users who want to browse films like physicals libraries and video stores of yore are abandoned.

Amazon Prime has also hidden its search function, instead it wants users to work around this road block:

It quickly becomes apparent that there is no obvious way to view that full list of sci-fi movies, suggesting that Amazon doesn’t want consumers to be able to easily find that kind of information—its user experience is built around you choosing one of the small handful of suggested films, or knowing in advance what you want to see and then specifically searching it out. However, it is possible to see the full list—in order for it to display, you just have to click on any specific sci-fi film, look at the movie’s genre tags, and click on the words “science fiction” once again.”

The search function is worse than that available in a medieval scriptorium. When users return to certain genre pages and browse the supposed complete list, the same twenty-one movies continuously reload.

Amazon Prime has thousands of titles and is designed by a high tech company, yet it cannot fix its search function? Why does Amazon, an important company that is shaking the film and television industry, not offering its users the best of the best when it comes to search? Amazon did A9, it sucked in Lucid Imagination “experts,” it intruded on Elastic search territory. And now search doesn’t work the way users expect. Has another high-tech outfit become customer hostile or just given up making search useful?

Whitney Grace,September 1, 2021

Amazon: Can the Bezos Bulldozer Pull Off a JEDI Play in the EU?

August 31, 2021

The Bezos bulldozer is a wonderful construct, and it is uniquely American. For those who do not follow the path of the machine as it grinds forward, Amazon made a case to rip from the grasp of Microsoft the JEDI contract. Now the mom-and-pop seller of books has an opportunity to rework the landscape of an EU fine in the neighborhood of a billion dollars. My goodness, it takes less than a day for the ecommerce store to generate one billion in cash. Painful? For sure.

You can read about this fine in “Europe: Amazon Slapped with Record-Breaking Privacy Fine.” The article characterizes the levy as an “enormous bite.” Yep, one day of revenue is painful indeed. Game changer? Nope.

The question is, “Why not?” With each “punishment” it becomes more and more clear that there is little incentive for certain large technology companies to change their business strategy or practices. After decades of business as usual, change becomes more and more difficult for both regulators and the business constructs. Who’s running the show? Obviously not the regulators.

Stephen E Arnold, August 31, 2021

Amazon AWS: Personalization? What Is That? Who Cares?

August 23, 2021

I read the impassioned “AWS Doesn’t Know Who I Am. Here’s Why That’s A Problem.” The individual appears to perceive himself as an Amazon-savvy professional.  I learned:

My name is Ben Kehoe. I’m an AWS Serverless Hero. I’ve spoken at re:Invent. I meet regularly with teams across AWS. I’m followed by @awscloud on Twitter. But AWS doesn’t know who I am.

There are examples of services which pay attention to the “identity” or “alleged identity” of a user. These are helpful examples, and I liked the inclusion of Microsoft GitHub as an outfit who appears to care about an individual’s or a persona’s identity.

The write up includes the many tokens used to keep track of an AWS user or account. There is, it seems, no meta-token basket. Thus, instead of being a single entity, there are many separate AWS entities.

Several thoughts occurred to me:

  1. Fragmenting makes it easier to assess fees on hard-to-track services one part of an entity incurs. Why make it easy to manage AWS fees?
  2. Like security, Amazon AWS shifts the burden from the utility to the person, entity, or software process. My hunch is that the approach allows AWS to say, “Not our problem.”
  3. Amazon and AWS require that users and entities recognize that the company is, in effect, a person. Most people forget that a commercial enterprise may have more rights than a humanoid.

Net net: Amazon has no incentive to care about anyone, including Ben Kehoe unless the corporate person benefits in my opinion. Humans want to be perceived as unique. AWS is not mom. Thus, the problem is not Amazon’s.

Stephen E Arnold, August 23, 2021

Truth and Justice the Amazon Apple Way

August 3, 2021

At the request of its good friend Amazon, Apple has come down on the side of preserving flawed and biased guidance. Mashable tells us that “Apple Boots App that Called BS on Fake Amazon Reviews from App Store.” Reporter Jack Morse writes:

“Publicly calling out frauds has always been a risky proposition. That reality came crashing down hard Friday for an app designed to spot fake Amazon reviews, after Apple kicked it out of its App Store. Apple confirmed in a statement that it removed the app after Amazon reached out. The news of Fakespot’s outing was first reported by The Verge. We reached out to Apple, Amazon, and Fakespot to confirm the Verge’s reporting. An Apple spokesperson provided a statement, attributed to the company, which says Amazon kicked off the inter-company beef early in June. It also insists that Apple attempted to give both parties time to work things out.”

Apple frames the issue as a matter of intellectual property rights, and insists it tried to work with Fakespot before removing the app. Saoud Khalifah, Fakespot’s founder and CEO, disagrees. He stated in a phone interview:

“Apple are claiming that they gave us a notice that they are going to take us down, but these are all template emails that seem to be from a robot. Anyone would be disappointed with this whole process, especially when your livelihood depends on it.”

Amazon claims Fakespot spreads misleading information, harms its sellers’ businesses, and even makes for security risks. Sure. The app attracted attention in 2019 when it reported a surge in fake reviews around the much-hyped Amazon Prime Day. The existence of fake reviews is a known problem, one the FTC has taken action against. We are also reminded of all the counterfeit products that plague the commerce site and the fake reviews that keep them moving. Nevertheless, Apple has decided it is Fakespot who is in the wrong here. Ah, capitalism at its finest.

Cynthia Murrell, August 2, 2021

Can Big Clouds Squeeze Tiny Clouds?

July 27, 2021

I think that big clouds absorb or push smaller clouds out of the way. More accurately, the forces allowing clouds to grow are money, customers, and a desire to be the biggest, most capable cloud in the sky. Agree or not, the decimation of Rackspace suggests that being a mid tier cloud providers is a difficult slot to make work. To get the details on the outfit which once hired the surprising Robert Scoble as an evangelist, navigate to “Rackspace Cuts 10% Of Workforce In One Of Largest Employee Shake-Ups.” The write up states:

The company announced one of the largest layoff rounds in company history today, as it will terminate about 10% of its workforce over the next 12 months, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday (July 22, 2021). The company says it will “backfill” or absorb about 85% of the roles to its offshore service centers, likely a cost-cutting measure. It doesn’t list where those roles will go specifically. The company did partner with Tech Mahindra — an India-based firm — in 2019.

From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, this appears to be an IBM-type play. The expensive US workforce can go away after some of the soon-to-be-RIFfed train their lower cost replacement. Yep, MBA and bean counter infused efficiency.

What the story does not address is why. There may be a very small clue in Cloudflare’s blog post “AWS’s Egregious Egress.” The idea is that Amazon AWS makes it easy to enter the nifty AWS Hotel and its walled garden. In fact, getting a room doesn’t cost much at all. However, once in the walled garden, one finds small bladderworts, pitcher plants, sundews, and the venus flytrap. There are some critters basking in the warmth of the AWS servers too. I thought I spotted the technical equivalent of the inland taipan, a couple of king cobras (you know, the ones with the cool cowls), and a family of banded kraits. To get out of the walled garden, there is a modest fee charged. This is similar to the exit visa sold to some departing travelers to the wonderful and exotic Zimbabwe.

This pay-to-leave is described in the Egregious Egress write up. I continue to believe everything I read on the Internet, so let’s assume that the information is spot on. I learned:

image

To sum up, it costs a lot to leave AWS. The write up points out:

During the last ten years, industry wholesale transit prices have fallen an average of 23% annually. Compounded over that time, wholesale bandwidth is 93% less expensive than 10 years ago. However, AWS’s egress fees over that same period have fallen by only 25%. And, since 2018, the egress fees AWS charges in North America and Europe have not dropped a penny even as wholesale prices in those markets over the same time period have fallen by more than half.

The article suggests that the approach is like a Hotel California. (I was disappointed that the author did not seize upon what is called a roach trap.) The insect cannot get out at least easily and may leave a leg behind as a memento:

image

The article ends with an appeal to Amazon AWS:

We remain hopeful that AWS will do the right thing, lower their egress fees, join the Bandwidth Alliance — following the lead of the majority of the rest of the hosting industry — and pass along savings from peering with Cloudflare and other networks to all their customers.

To sum up, Amazon’s market presence and its pricing power may be sparking the Rackspace terminations. Will other cloud providers, like those in the Bandwidth Alliance, be thinking about similar actions or hoping that the US government will view Amazon as a 2021 manifestation of the pre Judge Green AT&T? My suggestion is to ask a retired Bell head about those similarities.

Stephen E Arnold, July 28, 2021

Three Here and Now Amazon Management Milestones

July 21, 2021

July 21, 2021, is a day of Amazon management milestones. In my newsfeeds this morning, I noted three items. Obviously none or some or all of these “real news” stories could be falsification from the fecund multi-verse. Who knows? Perhaps the error corrected Google quantum computer’s “supremacy” or IBM Watson can answer the “know” question. What do you think?

ITEM 1: More Competitive Zing

Build a SQL-Based ETL pipeline with Apache Spark on Amazon EKS” states:

The Arc processing framework strives to enable data personas to build reusable and performant ETL pipelines, without having to delve into the complexities of writing verbose Spark code. Writing your ETL pipeline in native Spark may not scale very well for organizations not familiar with maintaining code, especially when business requirements change frequently. The SQL-first approach provides a declarative harness towards building idempotent data pipelines that can be easily scaled and embedded within your continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) process. Arc simplifies ETL implementation in Spark and enables a wider audience of users ranging from business analysts to developers, who already have existing skills in SQL. It further accelerates users’ ability to develop efficient ETL pipelines to deliver higher business value.

Remember Elastic, the open source search champion? What about Lucidworks? Oracle, anyone? Amazon wants to get the ingest, normalize, and analyze market in the AWS environment. Will these just named outfits be invited to the celebration of open source life? I don’t need a super smart DeepMind Alpha gizmo or the outstanding IBM Watson to answer this question.

ITEM 2: Big Rocket, Big Boat, Big or Small Body Dysmorphic Disorder

I missed the launch of the brilliantly named Blue Origin. I know. The story was everywhere. I live in rural Kentucky and the power was out. I did read “Jeff Bezos Says His Launch to Space Gave Him Greater Appreciation of Earth’s Fragility.” If true, maybe Green Origin would have been a more poetic name. Have those Bezos delivery trucks, servers, and automated warehouses gone green? Once again, no smart software like Sagemaker is needed. The answer is, “Maybe in one’s imagination” like an expensive amusement part ride powered by solar energy.

ITEM 3: Sensitive Human Resource Management

I spotted “Amazon Denied a Worker Pregnancy Accommodations. Then She Miscarried.” I did some quick checks, and this “real news” item is not too popular in the technology feeds I monitor. The write up states:

Patty Hernandez, a 23-year-old Amazon warehouse worker in Tracy, California, miscarried after pleading with her manager and human resources for lighter duty… Amazon’s human resources denied Hernandez’s doctor’s note, according to Hernandez who said the denial was communicated verbally by a human resources rep. “[HR] just told me there was no specific area for light work that wouldn’t require over 15 pounds of lifting, or for me to be off my feet,” she said.

To sum up: Brilliant competitor tactics management, outstanding management messaging about the environment, and the human resources management approach. Should I mention that some of NSO Group’s processes were allegedly running on AWS servers? Nah, probably just a rumor like Amazon being in the policeware and intelware business itself.

Stephen E Arnold, July 21, 2021

Amazon: Its True Classiness Shines Bright

July 16, 2021

Richard Branson, the UK winner from the land of those who cannot kick straight, flew to the edge of space. If Mr. Branson could get into real space, I assume he could have swapped the Hubble telescope’s computer and made the darned thing work. He did not get into “real” space, and ever classy Amazon apparently suggested that Mr. Branson’s well-publicized ride “didn’t go high enough to make it to what most people consider space.” Hey, this is not my quote. I pulled it from the Metro UK online information service, a super high quality source of “real” news. For the original diss, click here.

The classy Amazon-linked observation points out:

[Amazon] claims that its own spacecraft, New Shepard, makes it above a well-defined boundary between Earth and outer space known as the Kármán Line.

I prefer the Hubble fix idea myself.

As helpful as this space flight observation is the information in “Amazon Gets Waiver from FCC to Monitor Sleep with a Radar Sensor.” First, I like the idea of a waiver because it makes clear that rules are made to be Elastic, just like Amazon’s cloud in India. (Bummer that it went down for a couple of hours on or about US July 12, 2021.) Second, the new sleep tracking device may allow some sysadmins to monitor Mr. Bezos’ sleep (maybe snapping some pix, capturing vids, and recording some spoken words) in the post-Branson era. Third, this is a classy idea: More home surveillance but for a really good reason. On the other hand, maybe Amazon just wants to fatten up the data gathered by its different surveillance devices helpfully connected to Sidewalk. Who doesn’t love Sidewalks?

My take away from these two news items is that rich people and big companies are like medieval kings. Different rules apply. But the outcome is the same. True classiness and the ability to do pretty much what the billionaires want. As I said, classy.

Stephen E Arnold, July 16, 2021

Microgoof: JEDI Knight Defeated by Unknown Death Ray

July 14, 2021

I read “Losing the $10 Billion JEDI Contract Is Bad for Microsoft Not Just Because of the Money. It’s about Credibility.”

Here’s an interesting passage:

More important than the money was that it gave the company a level of third-party validation, that its cloud-computing platform is  on par with Amazon, the market leader. The Pentagon, arguably the world’s most sophisticated cyber customer, had chosen Microsoft over Amazon to fully revamp and modernize its tech ecosystem. That gave Microsoft credibility. Now, however, the Department of Defense says Microsoft’s offering wasn’t going to “meet its needs.”

The write up then indirectly links the death ray to none other than the mom and pop online bookstore:

Amazon challenged and eventually sued the federal government complaining that Microsoft was awarded the contract because of President Trump’s animosity towards the Washington Post, owned by Amazon’s founder and former CEO, Jeff Bezos.

Politics! Not technology! The write up points out:

Amazon controls roughly a third of the market and a host of government contracts, including with the Central Intelligence Agency. By comparison, analysts estimate Microsoft has cornered only around 20% of the market.

How could the defenses of the JEDI be breached? Was it the same weakness that causes printers to fail, supply chain attacks to thrive, and fuzzed communications about the minimum requirements for Windows 11?

No, no, no.

The Microgoof will take months, maybe years, to figure out. Where was Windows Defender when the Redmond giant needed its support? Maybe the service could not access Teams? Maybe the call did not go through because the parties were using a Windows Phone? Maybe the Windows update interrupted the system? What if the unknown death ray was crafted by the Bezos bulldozer now guided by Max Peterson who replaced the former Microsoftie Teresa Carlson, who is now a Splunker?

One thing is clear: First SolarWinds, the printer thing, then Windows 11, and now the JEDI zapper. I smell the exhaust from the Bezos bulldozer. Who else will?

Stephen E Arnold, July 14, 2021

Amazon Management Principles: Conceal and Coerce?

July 12, 2021

I read “Amazon Tells Bosses to Conceal When Employees Are on a Performance Management Plan.” Let’s assume the report is accurate and not the outputs from disgruntled individuals familiar with the online bookstore which sells a few other things to a couple of people on the Kitsap Peninsula.

The write up states:

Amazon instructs managers not to tell office employees that they are on a formal performance-management plan that puts their job in jeopardy unless the employee explicitly asks, according to guidance from an Amazon intranet page for managers.

I assume the intranet page is company confidential. If it is, what does access to the page by a “real news” professional say about Amazon security? The question is important because Amazon has floated above the cyber breach storms which are burning some organizations.

Next, the write up explains:

The policy, a copy of which was viewed by The Seattle Times, helps explain why some Amazon employees have described the experience of being on the performance-management plan, called Focus, as baffling and demoralizing. Some managers, too, question why they are asked to conceal that their employees are on a pathway that often leads out of the company. The secrecy surrounding performance management is one more reason why some Amazon office employees say the company is not living up to its April pledge to become “Earth’s Best Employer.”

What this passage suggests is that there is a disconnect between the marketing spin of a technopoly and the reality of the business processes in use at the organization.

This is a surprise? The Bezos bulldozer is a delicate machine. Unlike other largely unregulated, corporate entities, the bulldozer does not run over flowers, small creatures, and competitors. It’s a sensitive beast.

The most interesting factoid in the allegedly accurate write up may be this passage:

Some managers flout the rules and reveal to their subordinates that they are on Focus, according to two managers and documentation of one employee’s Focus plan seen by The Seattle Times. “I always broke the rule,” said one senior Amazon manager. “If I cannot share that an employee is on a coaching plan, how can I give him a fair evaluation?”

A similar management policy appears to apply at Google, the mom and pop online ad agency. “Senior Google Executive Who Opposed Work-from-Home to Move to New Zealand to Work Remotely” asserts:

CNET reported that Urs Holzle, Senior Vice President for technical infrastructure is moving to New Zealand to work remotely. Holzle told staff on June 29 that he will be moving to New Zealand. As per the report in CNET, Holzle had initially opposed WFH for staff who did not have a certain level of seniority in the organization.

Does this mean that those with seniority and maybe an elected office in the high school science club have a different rule book? Sure seems like it to me. But maybe Mr. Holzle is moving to Detroit or another Rust Belt location and New Zealand was a red herring.

If accurate, these two reports suggest that Amazon and Google may operate with three levels of high school management magic.

First, official procedures are not disclosed. Anyone remember the cockroach guy Kafka?

Second, employees are uncertain. Keeping people on edge is a clever way to exert control. There’s nothing like control, just ask a prison guard.

Third, the rules are differential; that is, those with power have a different set of guidelines.

Stephen E Arnold, July 12, 2021

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