PacMan Eats Up Amazon’s Home Page

Earlier this year, I noted a new design of Wired.com that supports “takeover” ads. These are not pop-over or pop-up ads that you can click an “x” to remove. These are ads that are actually a part of the background or are, in some graphical and often animated way, an actual element of the page.

Today, I thought I saw Amazon come as close as I’ve seen it come to promoting a product using a takeover approach (that wasn’t a letter from Jeff Bezzos). However, upon looking at it more closely, I realized it was a standard size Amazon uses — a “slider” approach to promoting various products that someone viewing the site on a desktop screen will see. (I use lots of smaller screens, so seeing something on a big screen jumps out.)

2010 Google Doodle
2010 Google Doodle

Later: No wait. More than a takeover ad, this now reminds me of a Google Doodle from five years ago (left).

 

Amazon Dash: Reinventing the Cuecat, 2014

CueCat2Starting over ten years ago, a long-running joke on this blog has been my fascination with (and mockery of) the recurring need inventors (including those who work for huge technology companies) have to re-invent the Cuecat. For those who don’t recognize the term Cuecat as the punchline of a joke, I suggest a rapid glance at its Wikipedia entry and the wonderful one-liner by the late Debbie Barham, the comic and humor writer who said the Cuecat “fails to solve a problem which never existed.”

A couple of years ago, I referred to the repetitive reinvention of the Cuecat as the
Cuecat Conjecture, based on what must be a shared hypothesis among a small group of inventors that human beings have a primeval desire to own a personal barcode scanner they can hold up to anything in order to buy it from Amazon.com.

cuecat-flowThe most recent Re-Cuecats have been from Amazon.com, itself. My November, 2011 post described the Amazon iPhone app released in 2011 called Flow (that’s still around) as an attempted Re-Cuecat. The app was met with a yawn, however, three years later, in November, 2013, Amazon ported Flow’s Cuecat feature over to an app people actually download, The Amazon App.”

With Amazon’s introduction of Cuecat-like features into apps during the past few years, the term “showrooming” has been used to describe what Amazon is actually encouraging shoppers to do with such technology: Research while shopping in a physical store, and then order from Amazon. (See, also: webrooming as a buzzword to describe the opposite of showrooming.) While showrooming sounds like something that could be done with a simple barcode or QR code scanner, the technology that started with “Flow” can also recognize photos, logos or other patterns that make up the graphics of a book cover or product packaging. Amazon is seeking to circumvent QR/bar codes as big box retailers have demanded their largest suppliers to provide unique QR/bar codes or sizes that do not match precisely Amazon SKUs. By using packaging labeling rather than standard codes, Amazon can update its databases to recognize any packaging unique to chains like Target or Walmart.

Amazon Dash

Cursor_and_Amazon_DashLast Friday, Amazon introduced the Amazon Dash, the most recent update (refresh?) of the Cuecat. At first, I was convinced that it was a belated April 1 joke, but no, the new Amazon Dash is for-real. Presently, it is an extremely niche device and is not available for purchase, it’s free (which was also the Cuecat business model). It is a device currently tied to Amazon Fresh, a grocery delivery service available now in Seattle, San Francisco and Southern California. (I’ll skip the history lesson on Web Van.)

slide2-image._V340762974_The Amazon Dash is a hand-held wand you can use to scan all of the items you need to add to a shopping list (because using an app to do that would be so, well, 2013).

The Amazon Dash clearly fits within the context of Amazon technologists’ belief in the existence of the Cuecat Conjecture (human beings have a primeval desire to own a personal barcode scanner they can hold up to anything in order to buy it from Amazon.com).

It will also be next in line of Re-Cuecats that fail to solve a problem which never existed.

Confession: I’m beginning to cheer for the inventors.

(Thanks to my friend, Jay Graves, who convinced me the Amazon Dash wasn’t related to April Fool’s Day.)

 

No Virginia, Amazon and UPS aren’t real

Untitled(Context.)

I remember it was back on Christmas Eve of 2013.

My son and I were outside at 7:59 P.M. looking anxiously for the UPS truck to arrive with a Red Ryder BB gun we’d ordered on Amazon.com.

We were there at 7:59 P.M. because Amazon had told us we’d have “guaranteed delivery” by Christmas Eve.

We’d been a little alarmed earlier in the evening when the Red Ryder BB Gun didn’t show up with the UPS delivery of a case of Claxton Fruit Cake. But checking Amazon.com, we were reassured when they sent us over to the UPS tracking feature that assured us to expect the package by 8 P.M.

Sure enough, at the appointed time, what to our wandering eyes did appear?

A UPS truck.

Unfortunately, at that exact same moment a tragic accident occurred when the truck and its driver got run over by a reindeer, ruining our chances of getting the Red Ryder BB Gun until the day after Christmas.

And that’s how December 26 became known in the U.S. as “Blaming Day.”

The end.

Maybe if we were Zappos, this story would have a more inspiring ending

hammock-brokenWhen it comes to customer service mythology, no one beats Zappos.* For example, a Zappo’s customer service person once stayed on the phone with a customer for ten hours, even though the caller was more interested in what it’s like to live in Las Vegas than in purchasing shoes.

There will be no such luck for the person who took dozens of photos of what I assume is his defective hammock and sent them today to an address that ended with: “@hammock.com.” Over the years, we’ve received lots of email from people wanting to order or return hammocks. We always let them know they must have to wrong number.

While the very nice person who manages such wayward emails sent the disgruntled hammock buyer a friendly message, we didn’t respond like Zappo’s would have; perhaps with me jumping on a plane to fly  out and help the guy put the hammock together before firing up the grill for a hamburger cookout.

*Although, once I blogged about witnessing an amazing return at L.L. Bean (see fifth paragraph).

My predictions for the future of print magazines

Published in 1741, Ben Franklin's General magazine shut-down after six issues, making it the first example in the U.S. of why there is no future in print magazines.
Published in 1741, Ben Franklin’s General magazine shut-down after six issues, making it the first example in the U.S. of why there is no future in print magazines.

On the Hammock blog, a post I wrote was added this morning that outlines 14 predictions I have for print magazines. It’s rather long, but I felt the need to collect several threads into one post.

Several of the themes will sound familiar to the 12 readers of RexBlog.

Quote:

“I’ve found that doubts about the future of print magazines typically occur when the people who say, “I love reading the newspaper in print” realize they spend more time keeping up with news via a screen than they ever have with print. Or, more noticeably, when they discover the practicality of reading books on a screen. One day they start thinking about how their personal reading habits have changed, and they begin to wonder what’s going to happen to the daily newspaper or print magazines they never look at anymore.

“The personal experience these people are having with digital and print media is a good indication of what the “beginning” of the future of media is.”

I will re-post it here later, but we’re tweaking (and by “we’re tweaking,” I mean “not me” but the person who is capable of doing it) some CSS code so that the “tooltips” (the pop-up messages that appear when you hover over a link) that are in the Hammock.com version will work here.

Until then, you can read it here.

[Graphic: Published in 1741, Ben Franklin’s General Magazine.]