2018 New Year’s Resolutions

I think Harvard did a highly cited study that found people are more likely to achieve goals if they write them down. It didn’t say anything about blogging but lots of people are doing it so it must work, right? No? Well I’m blogging them anyway. Continue reading “2018 New Year’s Resolutions”


Social Media Black Out

When I ran around with a bunch of musicians, I noticed the most responsible ones would take intermittent dry spells, giving up drinking alcoholic beverages a few times each year to make sure they didn’t accidentally turn into alcoholics while they played in college bars four nights a week.

Like any fast, the forced evolution of perspective may just be the most valuable result. Well, that and not succumbing to addiction or illness.

I think the idea translates well to social media, so I decided to try it in January while I’m struggling to implement a few more healthy habits into my lifestyle. It is working, but that doesn’t mean I’m not feeling it.  Continue reading “Social Media Black Out”

Amazon Changed Something and People Are Freaking Out.

This week, I heard a lot of chatter about Amazon’s new-ish weighted review system. By Thursday, screenshots capturing Amazon’s official review rejection form letter surfaced in various venues, and by Friday there was a change.org petition. Across the social-media-verses, literati pearls are being clutched, authors and book fanatics are in hysterics about book reviews.

You’d think the sky is falling.


I’m about to have an opinion here, so you might want to look away….

Most of what passed my radar was a chorus of


“Why would they do this? Why would they do this to me?”  

“The algorithm hurts indy authors!”

“It offends customers!”

“Amazon is a creepy corporate stalker. Ads are one thing, but this is beyond the pale, I want a restraining order!”

“It isn’t fair!”

All of those things might be true, but this could also be a good thing.

I’m not buying the ‘Amazon is creeping all over my internet presence’ argument. The “you know this author personally” phenomenon is wholly unsurprising to me. If the algorithm is accessing the public record… my reaction is: duh. If Amazon gleans information from accounts the reviewer linked to their Amazon account: righteous indignation is almost laughable. My crazy ex can add 1+1 and get 2… and I can cry that he’s a creeper who is stalking me, but I can’t make him stop because it is totally legal to do that. It also is legal for Amazon, and less creepy because they are motivated by the bottom line, whereas my ex is motivated by a dark psychosis.

“Amazon should tell us how they determine we know the author personally so we can figure out how to game the system again so we have guidelines.”

Don’t hold your breath on that one. The algorithm is a product. If Amazon tells reviewers how it works, it won’t be worth anything, and Amazon won’t be able to sell it.

There’s a lot of pollution in the book-o-sphere. I think Amazon wants to filter just a little bit of that smog before it kills more customers. The average book reader is likely put off by the thick bubbling monster soup of five-star reviews from an author collective or street team passing off thinly veiled marketing blurbs as organic reviews from your average Amazon customer.

I’ve even heard rumors that some people are paid to write book reviews, even though we all know that is unethical, and in some cases, illegal. Bringing ethics into a discussion about book reviews is like opening a giant can of worms or falling on a double-edged sword. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not going to go too far into that here. I will say that I do think ethics is a driving force behind Amazon’s motivation for this new algorithm.

The average reader is not a stupid person, her bullshit detectors go off when she sees… bullshit. Then, she is alienated, and she forgets about buying that book, and instead searches for a new pair or shoes, or a 55-gallon drum of lube, or whatever normal people shop for on Amazon.

I understand that inherently, most people don’t like change and that authoring is hard work. But authoring is always going to be hard work and things on the Internets are always going to change.

The cream? It always rises to the top.

Further Reading

Murphy, David. “Amazon Cracks Down on Bogus Reviews.” PCMag, 22 June 2015. Web. 03 July 2015.

Rubin, Ben Fox. “Amazon Looks to Improve Customer-reviews System with Machine Learning – CNET.” CNET. N.p., 19 June 2015. Web. 03 July 2015.

Ward, Jas. “Amazon.com, Amazon: Change the “You Know This Author” Policy.” Change.org. N.p., 2 July 2015. Web. 03 July 2015.

Santiago, Imy. “Amazon… A Virtual Marketplace, or Big Brother?” Imy Santiago. N.p., 01 July 2015. Web. 03 July 2015.