Archive for June 18, 2019

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What Does “Amazon’s Choice” Mean?

Louise Matsakis (via Hacker News):

The company says the award is given to “highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately.” But for many categories, dozens of options fit that description. How does Amazon choose its choices? Do humans have a hand in the decisions, or are they governed by an algorithm?


Amazon’s Choice was first introduced for Amazon Echo in 2015. The idea was to create a seamless shopping experience for voice, where consumers can’t see all the options laid out in front of them. If someone told their smartspeaker to “buy new towels,” Amazon could use their order history to figure out what brand they might have in mind. But if it was their first time purchasing the product on Amazon, the speaker needed a default option to suggest.


Amazon’s Choice is also particularly sensitive to the specific words consumers use when searching the site. Adding a word can result in entirely different recommendations.

Nicole Nguyen:

It’s a label automatically awarded to listings by an algorithm based on customer reviews, price, and whether the product is in stock. And those choices Amazon’s software makes aren’t always reliable — in fact, sometimes they’re Amazon-recommended crap.


One of the phrases Amazon highlights from the infant thermometer reviews is “waste your money.” Customers cite inaccurate and “terribly erratic” readings. One reviewer said the thermometer is advertised on Amazon as “good for adding to your baby registry,” despite the product’s instructions to “not use on newborns.”


Perhaps it’s why, for some categories, Amazon has started including “Editorial Recommendations,” based on actual testing by sites like Wirecutter, OutdoorGearLab, and Reviewed, to compensate for “Amazon’s Choice” screwups.

Nick Heer:

If we set aside the galling ethical faults with labelling trash as a “choice” product, this recommendations system cannot be good for Amazon’s reputation. They’re giving the impression that the company stands behind terrible products.

Business Model and Pricing for Unread 2

John Brayton:

I am not ready to announce new capabilities of Unread 2 yet, but I do want to prepare customers for the change in pricing and business model. Like the current shipping version, Unread 2 will be free to download and to try with some functional limits. After trying the app customers will be able to unlock the full version by purchasing a $19.99/year (USD) subscription.


I believe this business model change is necessary in order to provide a solid foundation for Unread’s future development. In addition this will allow me to release new functionality as soon as it is ready. Unread 2 includes capabilities that I wanted to ship over a year ago. I could have done so if I had a good way to be paid for that work. This business model change will provide that flexibility.


EasyGit 1.4

Georgios Verigakis:

EasyGit is your personal Git server on iCloud. Use your favorite git client to pull and push as usual and everything will be stored safely on iCloud, available on all your computers.


All your repositories are private by default and only accessible by you. Need to collaborate with others? Send them an invitation to give them access.


EasyGit is sandboxed and never touches your repository directly. It also never makes an outgoing network connection.

This is a neat idea. It runs a local server that translates the Git protocol commands to CloudKit. Thus, you can get private online hosting without needing an additional account, plus easy sharing with anyone else who has an Apple ID. A potential downside, though, is that mapping the storage in this way is less efficient than accessing a regular Git server over SSH or HTTP.

I’m not crazy about the idea of running a local server that can access repositories without a password. It breaks the normal assumptions about sandbox protections because any app that can make a network connection could access a repo (if it can guess its name) even if it doesn’t have access to the filesystem. But this is more a theoretical vulnerability that someone could exploit if they were trying to target you, not something most users should worry about.