Amazon Twitches with Never Complain, Never Explain

August 18, 2022

In 2019, I included a short case example in a lecture for the National Cyber Crime Conference attendees about a Twitch luminary to be. The creator’s name was and is “iBabyRainbow.” The individual wears a bathing suit, purports to be a teen, and cavorts in San Diego. The creator also has some interesting videos findable via Web queries with the name “BabyRainbow.” I pointed out that Amazon Twitch seemed A-Okay with this creator. I checked to see if this creator was still online after I read “Twitch’s Zero-Explanation Bans Continue to Baffle Streamers, This Time a Popular VTuber.” I was and remain puzzled how the “iBabyRainbow” persona fits into the Amazon Twitch rules of the information highway.

The answer, if the information in the cited article is accurate, Amazon Twitch adopts the British upper class maxim “Never complain, never explain..”

The write up describes the plight of a creator who is a cartoon or in young person speak a “VR chat model.” Viewers watch a cartoon and interact in real time. I think this means that the VR chat model talks to the viewers. Interesting but not exactly comprehensible to this dinobaby. I get the willing suspension of disbelief argument, but, actually, no, I don’t get it. At all.

The write tip states:

Shylily and the many other streamers who make a living on the platform are frustrated with Twitch’s lack of communication when it comes to abrupt suspensions. In May(opens in new tab), the streaming site said it was looking into providing more context with the bans it sends out, but hasn’t made any further announcements about implementing this policy. At the time, Twitch said it stood by the accuracy of 99% of its suspension decision.

I interpret this as “never complain, never explain.” Very upper crust, old chap and chapatti. My perception is that Amazon Twitch wants to avoid being tangled in its own rules. Without spelling out the rules on the Amazon Twitch information highway, the company retains some flexibility. The Amazon Twitch executives can do the “Senator, thank you for the question” and the stone walling of which some legal eagles have considerable expertise.

And iBabyRainbow? A bit of a mystery that. A cartoon is problematic but a “teen” on a motorized skateboard holding a mobile phone with a rainbow colored swim suit? Perfectly okay for the teen agers who seek inspiration from Amazon Twitch stars. This dinobaby does not understand.

Stephen E Arnold, August 18, 2022

Google YouTube: Trying to Put Sand in Amazon and TikTok Product Search? Yep. Yep. Yep.

July 29, 2022

Most people don’t think too much about the impact of Amazon’s ecommerce search. It mostly works and the savvy shopper knows how to spot a third party reseller scam brand. (You do, don’t you?) Here’s a bit of anecdotal context. Amazon product search has chewed into Google search. In the post-Froogle years, Amazon sold online books. Then Amazon started adding products. With the products came reviews. Some reviews were Fiverr-type service generated but a few — the exact percentage like the number of bogus Twitter accounts — is not known.

People around the world use Amazon ecommerce search to find products, get basic information, and some useful, some misinformation about a particular product.

The impact on the Google has been significant. The number kicked around among my slightly dull research team is a decrease of 30 percent in product search in 2021. How does one know that Amazon has done more to cause pain at the Google than many know? Easy. Google took a former Verity wizard (you remember Verity, right?) and used high school reunion type pressure to get that person to indicate that Google product search was going to get a couple of steroid injections, a tummy tuck, and a butt lift. These are digital enhancements, of course. Google is not a humanoid, despite Google management’s insistence on its sentience.

YouTube and Shopify Just Started Livestream Selling and You Should Too” explains:

YouTube just announced a partnership with Shopify.

Yep, the company that media luminary and business wizard Scott Gallagher touted for several months on a popular podcast featuring insights and school yard humor. (Was Google won over by Guru Gallagher’s blend of insight and George Carlin thinking?)

The article points out:

Social selling is the shopping experience of the future.

The write up adds a bit of color to what seems like a “next big thing.” Spoiler: It’s not.

My reaction to the write up? The most important point should be that Google is racing (possibly out of control) to find a way to stop the loss of product search clicks. Hence, TikTok me too videos with product endorsements. Hence, a deal with a modern version of Yahoo stores. Hence, a tie up to use Shopify as a war horse.

My view: Too late. Amazon, TikTok, and a handful of other product centric ecommerce services are sitting behind their revenue ramparts. Google doesn’t have the weaponry it did before the erosion became noticeable in 2006. Froogle? Froogle? Long gone. But the spirit of Verity is here to claw back the product search traffic. Exciting.

Stephen E Arnold, July 29, 2022

Amazon: Other Trivial Changes Post Bezos

July 18, 2022

I read “Amazon CEO Andy Jassy Breaks from the Bezos Way.” I suppose the sentence “He was very inquisitive” sums up a key difference. Did Mr. Bezos know? Does Mr. Jassy not know? The thrust of the write up is that Amazon is changing. Like many “real” news discussions of the Bezos bulldozer with a new person at the controls, some small — and probably irrelevant to many. From my point of view, a few small changes suggest rather interesting adjustments for the giant online bookstore.

Let’s look quickly at four small changes and conclude with a question.

First, if you want to manage books on a Kindle reader, the process is now cumbersome, unintuitive, and ill advised. Why? People who read want to know what books are on the Kindle, ready to read. Also, when one finishes a book, some people — including me — want to remove the book from the device. No more. Now once has to be quite careful when trying to navigate the device; otherwise, one buys books. How does one connect from a WiFi network? That process is also convoluted, and I use a simple trick: A Faraday set up. Doesn’t everyone have one? The software is not a Dark Pattern; it’s an indication of Amazon’s desire to make what once worked unworkable for some.

Second, order certain products and then try to cancel them. Sorry. The cancel order policy has changed and results in messages like this:

image

I like the hope to see you again. My hunch is that you will be seeing some people less and less.

Third, news is circulating in the “real” news stream about Amazon releasing certain Ring data without the warrant process being followed. “Today I Learned Amazon Has a Form So Police Can Get My Data without Permission or a Warrant” allegedly presents this Amazon policy and discusses it. If the write up is accurate, my thought is that following legal procedures is a helpful policy. Defense attorneys love to discover this type of work around. The result is that expensive investigations can get thrown out and alleged bad actors can resume their activities. That’s a change worth monitoring.

Finally, have you tried to reach Amazon customer support? Give it a whirl. Our test efforts to contact Amazon and AWS went nowhere literally. The chatbots and logic are set up to lead one back to forms which are like merry-go-rounds. Fun for the young at heart. For a customer with a problem, the process is not too amusing.

To sum up, there are changes at Amazon post Bezos. Lobbying is one facet of the brave new world for the online bookstore. The other shifts may be as or more important. Is Amazon a monopoly? That’s a good question.

Context is important in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, July 18, 2022

Amazon Statistical Factoid: House Brands

July 18, 2022

I read “Amazon Slashing Private-Label Selection amid Weak Sales: Report.” The source is the estimable Fox News, which like the Wall Street Journal, is affiliated with the fantastic Murdoch information potentate. Within the Fox-ish story is a factoid, which I am not able to absorb without some of that faux salt stuff sold to some with cardiac issues.

Here is the factoid. Believe it or not.

As of 2020, Amazon’s private-label business offered 45 house brands accounting for 243,000 products.

As I understand it, the idea for slapping a private label on a product is to capture sales that would otherwise go to a merchant. That merchant may make more money than some outfits I know. One of those unnamed outfits simply approaches the manufacturer, places a big order with a special label, and offer the product at a price that delivers the cash to the “me too” merchant.

I assume that successful outfits like Mother Teresa’s original fund raising organization and Amazon-like companies would never attempt to get more money and discriminate against the poor and down trodden. Nope, never. Ever.

Let’s assume that Amazon is changing its house brand policy. Okay, why? What are some possible reasons?

  1. Amazon wants to reduce its costs and rethink how it interacts with the rock-solid third party sells apparatus. (I love plurals which I can spell apparati, albeit incorrectly.)
  2. Amazon wants to amass some fungible evidence that it is a really equitable outfit, eager to operate in a fair, transparent manner.
  3. Amazon’s forecast team senses trouble ahead.

I think Amazon may be facing some headwinds: Prime Day doldrums, assorted legal hassles about certain products, and backlash potential from regulators.

Yeah, and some less Fox-y news is here.

Stephen E Arnold, July 18, 2022

Amazon and Counterfeit Products: Are They Really Are Here to Stay?

June 9, 2022

Counterfeit products once took some effort to locate. A quick trip to Orchard Street in lower Manhattan might yield some interesting finds. How about a $10 Rolex. A jaunt through a side street in Wuhan? A visit to a certain store in a shopping center in Bangkok? A journey to a jeweler located in a suburb of San Antonio?

But the Disneyland of counterfeits is the wonderful, clickable world of ecommerce. And who is the ageing Big Daddy of ecommerce?

Yep, Amazon, it seems to me, adopts the policy of Big Daddy Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: “I don’t want to talk about that.”

However, “Amazon Sees Dip in Sellers Signing Up to Sell Counterfeits” makes it clear that Amazon is talking or possibly PR’ing.

The article states:

Amazon said it ramped up investments in 2021 to keep counterfeit products off its retail site and saw signs its efforts are working, according to an annual brand protection report it released Wednesday [June 8, 2022].  The company spent more than $900 million on its anti-counterfeit programs and employed over 12,000 people focused on the problem in 2021. That’s up from $700 million and 10,000 people in the prior year.

But the important point in my opinion appears in this statement:

The increasing investment of money and manpower from Amazon is necessary, said Mary Beth Westmoreland, vice president of technology at Amazon.  “That unfortunately speaks to the fact the problem of counterfeit isn’t going away,” Westmoreland said, adding, “it’s an industry-wide problem.”

The PR-ish write up explains that Amazon is using smart software and lines of communication so bad actors can be … what? … Well, Amazon sues and it relies on Chinese authorities to raid a warehouse with fraudulent good.

Does Amazon’s posture indicate that persistent crime is now part of the Amazon experience. I recall the fascinating process of explaining to Amazon that one of its “merchants” shipped me a pair of big red panties instead of an AMD 5900x cpu. Yep, lines of communication. Fraud.

Perhaps Amazon should step away from its third party merchants with made up words, vendors identified by customers as shipping interesting but mostly faux products, and deals with aggregating merchants working from apartments in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and other exotic locations?

Just a thought because the PR’ing seems to be similar to certain big tech companies’ thanking senators for a question.

Stephen E Arnold, June 9, 2022

Amazon Artifice: Can Clever Become Cunning and Then Crime?

June 7, 2022

I spotted about 250 comments on Hacker News in response to this question: Anyone else quickly losing confidence in Amazon?

The answer is, “Yep.”

What’s interesting is that a number of comments address governance issues; that is, Amazon appears to some people to be allowing third party sellers to market products which create perceived and real problems. Examples range from pet supplies that cause owners and beasties problems to products which are unlikely to receive the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval (huh, what’s that?)

The comments contain some interesting assertions or accusations. I noted these:

  • lt1970: It’s against Amazon policy to let others know that sellers are buying reviews.
  • taurath: The resellers are more important customers than the buyers are.
  • dcchambers: The [Amazon] number crunchers have determined actually dealing with the fraud isn’t yet worth it financially.
  • KVFinn: The [Amazon ecommerce] search feels actively hostile.

Another write up dated June 3, 2022) was “Amazon Urges Consultant to Push Message from Minority Groups.”

The subject? The narrative that regulation would harm “communities of color.”

Okay, is this weaponized information?

The point of view I am taking in my forthcoming book for law enforcement, analysts, and intelligence professionals would identify this “shaped info payload” is designed to benefit corporate interests, not those individuals who fit into the euphemistic phrase “communities of color.”

Stephen E Arnold, June 7, 2022

One Click Fires: An Amazon Drone Delivers

June 3, 2022

I read another one of those “aren’t big tech outfits more important than the government” stories. “When Amazon Drones Crashed, the Company Told the FAA to Go Fly a Kite” reports:

Amazon’s Prime Air autonomous drone delivery program has tried to put off federal investigations into some of its drone crashes by claiming that the company has the authority to investigate its own crashes, according to federal documents obtained through a public records request. The company has also been slow to turn over data related to crashes, the documents show.

The FAA does has an interesting track record. Boeing 737 Max, anyone?

The write up states:

At least eight Amazon drones crashed during testing in the past year, Insider previously reported, including one that sparked a 20-acre brush fire in eastern Oregon last June after the drone’s motors failed.

Fire?

I found this statement fascinating, the Boeing DNA, I suppose:

Prime Air VP David Carbon, a former Boeing executive, has spent the past two years pushing the division to complete testing needed to obtain regulatory approval for its autonomous drones. But changing goals, frequent delays, and a shifting culture has led to low morale, employee burnout, and an attrition rate as high as 70% on the company’s test team, Insider previously reported. Some employees have left amid concerns about Prime Air’s safety culture…

Governments just don’t get it. Certain big tech companies operate on a higher plane or is it plain?

Stephen E Arnold, June 3, 2022

New York Takes Amazon to Task for Treatment of Pregnant, Disabled Employees

May 31, 2022

New York state is proving to be a challenging environment for Amazon’s middle management overlords. Yahoo Finance shares, “Amazon Discriminates Against Pregnant and Disabled Workers, New York Alleges.” Ah Amazon, always striving to be a kind and gentle company that puts its employees first. Reuters reporter Jonathan Stempel writes:

“A New York state agency has accused Amazon.com Inc in a complaint of discriminating against pregnant and disabled workers at its worksites, Governor Kathy Hochul said on Wednesday. Amazon was also accused of having policies requiring workers to take unpaid leaves of absence, even if they are capable of working, instead of providing reasonable accommodations. The New York State Division of Human Rights faulted Amazon for giving worksite managers the power to ignore the company’s in-house ‘accommodation consultants’ who recommended that workers receive modified schedules or job responsibilities. State law requires employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant and disabled workers who ask. It also treats pregnancy-related medical conditions as disabilities. ‘My administration will hold any employer accountable, regardless of how big or small, if they do not treat their workers with the dignity and respect they deserve,’ Hochul said in a statement.”

An Amazon spokesperson projected virtuous bewilderment at the accusations, insisting the company had been working closely with New York regulators. She also claimed workers’ comfort and safety were paramount to Amazon, but with over 1.6 million employees how can it be expected to get it right every time? Perhaps it could seek suggestions from the six US senators who asked the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate Amazon’s treatment of pregnant warehouse workers.

These developments arise just as the company has batted aside New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit charging it failed to protect workers from exposure to Covid and retaliated against those who protested early pandemic conditions. Details of the Division of Human Rights’ complaint are confidential, but the article states it seeks certain fines and penalties as well as improved training and reasonable accommodation policies. We also learn penalties can run up to $100,000. That sounds like a lot to most of us, but for Amazon it would make nary a dent in its profits, which were $33.4 billion in 2021 alone.

Cynthia Murrell, May 31, 2022

Google Responds to Amazon Product Search Growth

April 20, 2022

Here is a new feature from Google, dubbed Lens, we suspect was designed to win back product-search share from Amazon. TechCrunch reveals, “Google’s New ‘Multisearch’ Feature Lets You Search Using Text and Images at the Same Time.” The mobile-app feature, now running as a beta in the US, is available on Android and iOS. As one would expect, it allows one to ask questions or refine search results for a photo or other image. Writer Aisha Malik reports:

“Google told TechCrunch that the new feature currently has the best results for shopping searches, with more use cases to come in the future. With this initial beta launch, you can also do things beyond shopping, but it won’t be perfect for every search. In practice, this is how the new feature could work. Say you found a dress that you like but aren’t a fan of the color it’s available in. You could pull up a photo of the dress and then add the text ‘green’ in your search query to find it in your desired color. In another example, you’re looking for new furniture, but want to make sure it complements your current furniture. You can take a photo of your dining set and add the text ‘coffee table’ in your search query to find a matching table. Or, say you got a new plant and aren’t sure how to properly take care of it. You could take a picture of the plant and add the text ‘care instructions’ in your search to learn more about it.”

Malik notes this feature is great for times when neither an image nor words by themselves produce great Google results—a problem the platform has wrestled with. Lens employs the company’s latest ready-for-prime-time AI tech, but the developers hope to go further and incorporate their budding Multitask Unified Model (MUM). See the write up for more information, including a few screenshots of Lens at work.

Cynthia Murrell, April 20, 2022

Amazon: Is the Company Losing Control of Essentials?

April 11, 2022

Here’s a test question? Which is the computer product in the image below?

[a]

[b]

panty on table cpu

If you picked [a], you qualify for work at TopCharm, an Amazon service located in lovely Brooklyn at 3912 New Utrecht Avenue, zip 11219. Item [b] is the Ryzen cpu I ordered, paid for, and expected to arrive. TopCharm delivered: Panties, not the CPU. Is it easy to confuse a Ryzen 5900X with these really big, lacy, red “unmentionables”? One of my team asked me, “Do you want me to connect the red lace cpu to the ASUS motherboard?”

Ho ho ho.

What does Clustrmaps.com say about this location””?

This address has been used for business registration by Express Repair & Towing Inc. The property belongs to Lelah Inc. [Maybe these are Lelah’s underwear? And Express Repair & Towing? Yep, that sounds like a vendor of digital panties, red and see-through at that.]

One of my team suggested I wear the garment for my lecture in April 2021 at the National Cyber Crime Conference? My wife wanted to know if Don (one of my technical team) likes red panties? A neighbor’s college-attending son asked, “Who is the babe who wears that? Can I have her contact info?”

My sense of humor about this matter is officially exhausted.

Several observations about this Amazon transaction:

  1. Does the phrase “too big to manage” apply in this situation to Amazon’s ecommerce business?
  2. What type of stocking clerk confuses a high end CPU with cheap red underwear?
  3. What quality assurance methods are in place to protect a consumer from cheap jokes and embarrassment when this type of misstep occurs?

Has Amazon lost control of the basics of online commerce? If one confuses CPUs with panties, how is Amazon going to ensure that its Government Cloud services for the public sector stay online? Quite a misstep in my opinion. Is this cyber fraud, an example of management lapses, a screwed up inventory system, or a perverse sense of humor?

Stephen E Arnold, April 11, 2022

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