Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Amazon.com recommends Lutz Maicher and american football

I got a recommendation from Amazon.com today, that first got me a bit puzzled. I think it's a good example of the homonym problem and some of the challenges Topic Maps and semantic search try to solve.

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

We've noticed that customers who have purchased or rated books by Lutz Maicher have also purchased Ohio State University Football Vault by Jack Park. For this reason, you might like to know that Ohio State University Football Vault will be released on May 20, 2008. You can pre-order yours by following the link below.

  Ohio State University Football Vault
  Jack Park


   Release Date: May 20, 2008

Product Description
In the Ohio State University® Football VaultTM: The History of the Buckeyes®, Ohio State Football Radio Network commentator and football speaker Jack Park takes you on a memorable journey through more than 100 years of Buckeye football. The detailed scrapbook narrative contains neverbefore- published vintage photographs, artwork and memorabilia drawn from OSU s extensive campus archives. Tucked into dozens of sleeves and pockets, fans will find reproductions of old game programs, historic tickets, bumper stickers and more. These fascinating replicas include a formation diagram for the band s famous Script Ohio, a letter from President Gerald Ford to Woody Hayes and those classic Buckeye helmet stickers. No Ohio State fan should be without this home archive of OSU s long and illustrious history. Illustrated; Hardcover; 144 Pages.

It's correct that I like to read books by Lutz Maicher. I would also be interested if Jack Park published a book. I am however not interested in mixing in what the other Jack Parks have written.

I have always had very high thoughts about Amazons system, and sometimes their recommendations work incredibly well. How could they be so wrong this time?

It seems like a deeper problem. Amazon doesn't appear to have any concept of the author apart from a text string. There doesn't seem to be any unique id. And it gets worse...

Clicking the author-link on a book-page (or the corresponding links on a record- or DVD-page) must be one of the most used navigational aids in Amazon:


These were the top ranked hits when clicking Jack Park on a book page:

  1. XML Topic Maps: Creating and Using Topic Maps for the Web by Jack Park and Sam Hunting (Paperback - Jul 26, 2002)

  2. Watchmen on the Wall by Miriam Rodyn Park, Jack W. Hayford, and Robert Stearns (Spiral-bound - Aug 1, 2007)

  3. The Official Ohio State Football Encyclopedia by Jack Park (Hardcover - April 20, 2003)

  4. Home Wind Power by Jack Park (Paperback - Jun 1981)

  5. Sport and Exercise Science: ESSAYS IN THE HISTORY OF SPORTS MEDICINE (Sport and Society) by Jack W Berryman and Roberta J Park (Hardcover - Jul 1, 1992)

  6. Wind Power Book by Jack Park (Hardcover - Jun 1982)

  7. The Ohio State Football Encyclopedia by Jack L Park (Hardcover - Oct 8, 2001)

  8. 52 Fishing Hotspots: A Guide to Angling Every Week of the Year: Compiled By the Editors of Western Outdoors by Kevin Dawson, Terry Rudnick, Dave Hughes, and Mike Sawyers (Paperback - 1985)

  9. Hunter by George Dickerson, Tony Epper, Sonny Gibson, and Harriet Medin (Video Download - Feb 5, 2008)

  10. The Beats : An Anthology of 'Beat' Writing by Park Honan, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Paperback - 1987)

  11. Charting the Topic Maps Research and Applications Landscape: First International Workshop on Topic Map Research and Applications, TMRA 2005, Leipzig, Germany, ... Papers (Lecture Notes in Computer Science) by Lutz Maicher and Jack Park (Paperback - April 11, 2006)

Hit number 2 doesn't even match the string "Jack Park", but Amazon is returning this book as the second most relevant hit because of the authors Miriam Rodyn Park and Jack W. Hayford.

I didn't understand why a search for the author "Jack Park" would return book 8, until I had a closer look, and saw that the book had around 40 authors and other contributors, a couple named Jack and one named Park.

As for why Amazon returned the video download of season 1 of Hunter, I'm still clueless...

After this I'm not surprised that The Beats : An Anthology of 'Beat' Writing is on the list. Park Honan is the editor, and Jack Kerouac is one of the authors.

Now lets go back to the beginning. Amazon recommended Ohio State University Football Vault because I have given Lutz Maichers book a high rating.

Amazon claims to have "noticed that customers who have purchased or rated books by Lutz Maicher have also purchased Ohio State University Football Vault by Jack Park". 

- Is this bullshit, or have actually one of you Topic Mappers out there got both the TMRA 2005 proceedings and the Ohio State University Football Vault?

The source of my Amazon recommendation is book number 11, and the recommended book doesn't even appear on the list. I wonder when I will get recommendations for all of the other more relevant books on the list.

1 comment:

trond said...

Haha! That's hilarious, and a great example of the need for a more semantic structure ... as well as unambiguous identifiers, obviously.

Kinda strange that they don't seem to be making too strict a distinction between editors and book authors, though ... sales-wise.