Last week, our friends over at Amazon.com came up with yet another e-commerce innovation, one that got them in a bit of hot water with privacy advocates. The source of the trouble: a new feature on the Amazon Web site called "Purchase Circles," in which Amazon publishes a list of the books, CDs, and videos that are being purchased the most by people at dozens of institutions and private companies, such as the Harvard Business School, Oracle Corporation, and the Baltimore County Library.
The new feature allows you to learn, for instance, that Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur S. Golden is the second most ordered book by employees of the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, and that The Path of Daggers, book eight of Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" fantasy series, is currently the third most purchased book by members of the United States Marine Corps.
Naturally, privacy advocates reacted to "Purchase Circles" with some alarm. After all, most people ordering a book, CD, or video from Amazon are not expecting their purchase to be tallied up and then broadcast to the world alongside the name of their employer. By week's end, Amazon had instituted a new policy, allowing individuals to "opt out" of the aggregation if they wish.
Amazon officials insist the whole thing is meant to be "fun." And frankly we couldn't agree more. In fact, we at www.seattleweekly.com decided to present our own aggregated data, just to show how fun this can be.
We use a software package called WebTrends, which allows us to know what company our visitors are arriving from, to track where they go on the site, what pages they view, how long they spend there, and so forth. And we thought it would be really fun to run a WebTrends analysis of the visitors from Amazon to see how they use the Seattle Weekly Web site and then print the results! Are you ready? Here's what we found:
Our year-old cover story called "How I escaped from Amazon.cult" continues to exert a powerful pull on Amazon employees (despite all their whining about how unfair and inaccurate it was). Each week, the piece is consistently one of the top three "Most Requested Pages" by Amazonians. Amazon employees also show a marked fondness for our "Help Wanted" section. It turns up regularly among their "Top Paths Through the Site," perhaps providing further confirmation of the accuracy of our story.
Attention investors! Amazon staffers are blowing your hard-earned capital on a lot of midday Internet surfing and weekend planning! Peak Amazon use of the Seattle Weekly Web site occurs in the early afternoon, when Amazon staffers can be found trolling the restaurant reviews, real estate classifieds, horoscope, and Endfest guide. The high-tech world-changers also seem strangely compelled by the staff of Seattle Weekly, frequently calling up the "About Us" page.
Finally, we don't want to go into any more detail than necessary about their use of our Personals and Alternatives section. But let's just say these are some lonely, and twisted, individuals. It's a good thing seattleweekly.com doesn't provide stock quotes, or these people would be gumming up our server all day.