Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Offensive Amazon

Sorry for the lack of posting today, I've been busy as a busy thing at work and this is the first chance I've had to stop and take a moment today. Hate that. I normally love to fill my day with more taking a moment and less work.

Anyhoo. I was consulting The Google a moment ago to see if I could find out some more info about some of the gay actors mentioned in the book I have been reading "The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson". (I posted briefly about reading this book in this entry on Friday.) Specifically I was interested in Tom Hatcher, a young man who was a moderately successful client of Henry Willson, but who then broke the mold of Willson's other closetted gay clients by romancing and then living with another man, Broadway and Hollywood writer/director/producer Arthur Laurents. In fact they celebrated 50 years together, before Hatcher died at the age of 77. There isn't a lot of material on Hatcher to be found easily on Google, but in the process I did find a link to a biography by Arthur Laurents, Original Story: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood on Amazon.

Here's where it gets very strange though, take a look at this snippet from the Amazon page:

So I'm reading it, and then I thought WTF? No, I must be seeing things! when I spotted the 'key phrases' for this book:

Oh. My. God.

So I clicked the 'more' link underneath the keywords and discovered that the two first keyword entries in this case are SIPs - Statistically Improbable Phrases. Amazon explains them thusly:
"Amazon.com Statistically Improbable Phrases

Amazon.com's Statistically Improbable Phrases, or "SIPs", are the most distinctive phrases in the text of books in the Search Inside!™ program. To identify SIPs, our computers scan the text of all books in the Search Inside! program. If they find a phrase that occurs a large number of times in a particular book relative to all Search Inside! books, that phrase is a SIP in that book.

SIPs are not necessarily improbable within a particular book, but they are improbable relative to all books in Search Inside!. For example, most SIPs for a book on taxes are tax related. But because we display SIPs in order of their improbability score, the first SIPs will be on tax topics that this book mentions more often than other tax books. For works of fiction, SIPs tend to be distinctive word combinations that often hint at important plot elements.

Click on a SIP to view a list of books in which the phrase occurs. You can also view a list of references to the phrase in each book. Learn more about the phrase by clicking on the A9.com search link.

Have some ideas for improving this feature? Please send your feedback to sitb-feedback@amazon.com"

Wow, those phrases are distinctive alright.


thombeau said...

OH. MY. GAWD. That is just insane!

A recent "Fag of our Fathers" had an affair with Laurents, I don't remember who at the moment.

You know, we all worry about you when you come on so late! Glad to know your alive and trying not to work. :)

Kirin said...

Wow. That's bad!

John C said...

Those are phrases inside the book selected by an algorithm, I don't think there's any specific intent involved. Mr Laurents must have had a potty mouth.

A recent Amazon email suggested (based on past purchases) that I may want to buy A Gay History of Britain and two DVDs, The History Boys and The Queen (!). I think they're trying to tell me something...

The Other Andrew said...

Thombeau, it was Farley Granger that Laurents dated before Hatcher.

Kirin, I know! I understand that it's just an algorythm (as John mentioned), but even still...

John, our purchases say so much about us, don't they? I picture someone in an office in Amazon looking at DVDs thinking "You know who'll love this? The Gays will!"