Amazon’s Algorithm and Advertising

Aside from I hope everyone’s aware that Amazon is selling the buy now button on books to people other than the publisher, people who may or may not be paying the authors.

It’s not often that I open a web page and immediately notice that the algorithm behind it has changed. Most of the time, those behind the scenes programming changes aren’t that obvious. Yes, I can see them, after someone points them out to me, and in a global way, I can see how this makes a difference somewhere to someone. Sometimes, I even have an opinion about whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

But the Amazon algorithm–the one that controls what products are recommended–well, I can see that change without being told, and without much thought, I can tell you what the end result will be. They’re clearly selling recommendations (among other things) as advertising space.

I have screenshots.

So, here, we have every single 2017 calendar that Moleskine makes. I bought one of those this year (about five months ago, actually) and now these are my book recommendations. And no, I haven’t shopped for calendars since December or January.


Yup. That’s basically a row of 2017 Moleskine calendars. Don’t get me wrong, I like the one I have, but I don’t think I’ll be reading the whole series.

And then, there’s the thing with the robots?

I bought my vacuum cleaner a new battery. The last time I did this, the recommendations immediately went to all of the various vacuum cleaner batteries and filters for my brand of vacuum cleaner. (It’s a Neato Robotics XV-21.) This is my second set of batteries, and if I ever replace the vacuum cleaner… well, the next one will be a Neato, too.


As you can see, the Roomba corporation (who do not make my vacuum cleaner) has clearly paid for the privilege of advertising here, and I have a list of accessories that I can’t use, for a machine that I don’t own.

I hope these companies know what useless advertising they’re paying through the nose for.

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