A9, A why?

I tried out the latest new Internet toy, the new search environment, A9 from Amazon. I searched on both my name and my weblog and thought that the results were rather cleanly presented. There were some surprises, too. For instance, someone had fun signing my name to comments on other weblogs in regards to the TypeKey topic. Always good to know when I’ve given another a bit of fun, or a giggle.

The Site Info feature attached to each link is rather interesting. Accessing my site I saw that, first of all, it displays a snapshot of my page from over a year ago. I have no idea why they have such an old snapshot; nor am I particularly overjoyed at seeing my page listed in the context of Amazon’s already overburdened and cluttered selling environment–as if this site were a ‘product’ rather than what it is: a personal writing environment.

Still, no biggie. It wasn’t until I was looking at other sites that I noticed that you can actually review the site, just as you can review any Amazon product. Others may dislike A9 for potential privacy issues, but I thought this was nothing but trouble waiting to happen.

For instance, look at the entry for Scripting News. Already the game is being played out with people either loving Dave Winer or hating him, and do we need to have this permanently recorded within the Amazon marketing venue?

Book authors and editors have long been wary of Amazon’s little star and rating system. The problem with it is that anyone can make a review, without attaching their name, and the quality of the reviews can vary widely–but the stars all add up the same. If you look at the reviews for Practical RDF–not an activity that gives me that much joy, unfortunately–you’ll see some thoughtful, though negative reviews, side by side with a throwaway one from a person who said the entire book is outdated because it covers an older version of one specific tool. (And totally discounting the fact that I published tutorials and new sample code for just that tool at the Practical RDF.)

The process is too easy, too anonymous, and too permanent.

As difficult as it is for an author to go through these types of reviews, we have to expect it as part of doing business, and to be expected when writing professionally. However, I can see great potential for abuse of this rating system when it comes to personal weblogs and other web sites.

You only have to read the reviews attached to Scripting News to realize that people can be personal, hurtful, and petty. In our weblogs or comments, these types of writings pass into archives and fade over time. Not with good old Amazon’s permastar ranking and review system, though. Now, pettiness can live on through the ages.

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