Thoughts on testing “Bantown”

After reading a theory about how #amazonfail might have happened it is a bit tempting to try and test the theory directly. If the theory is valid and Amazon has not changed their alleged feedback/delisting mechanism then it should be a fairly simple test to run.

I think it would be pretty tempting to initially target something that was similar on the other side of the political spectrum. In the #amazonfail debacle GLBT oriented works seemed to be the primary focus and the obvious knee jerk response would be to target something like ex-gay manuals or other strongly christian or right-leaning publications. I think this would be exactly the wrong target however for some pretty simple reasons.

The first and most obvious is that we don’t know if the theory is actually valid or not. It certainly sounds reasonable but there is no actual proof that I’ve seen yet and several people who seem to think there is evidence against it.

The second and best reason though is that there is no way to currently know who to go after. Flailing about at random targets is only really likely to reinforce any existing persecution complexes that seem to be so common on the other side of the fence. Any authors that might be randomly targeted because they wrote a book you don’t like may be in the exact same position as several of the people impacted by the alleged Bantown that happened with #amazonfail and would really just be censorship on a different group.

I think instead the ideal test target would be for volunteers to publish something via Amazon’s print-on-demand division CreateSpace. One of the options on that service is that for a 40% share of the list price Amazon will list the item in the main directory. Having a volunteer submit a target is really the only way to ensure that someone is not a victim of virtual mob violence. Next step is to get a small number of people to purchase the item thus ensuring that the item gets into the sales ranking system. I don’t know how many would be needed but one would guess that somewhere between 10-100 would be a good starting number. Since this would involve actual purchases I would think that donating the remaining %60 of the price to a charitable organization (The ACLU, EFF, EPIC, or CBLDF would be ideal recipients) would be a reasonable action.

Once the test item has established itself in the ranking system the next step would be to then have a staged attempt to remove the item through the feedback system. While it would be simple to just have everyone hit it at the same time, it might be more interesting to set up a simple ticketing system like a website where people enter an email address and when the test is ready a randomly selected set of the participants would be notified to go submit feedback and then notify the ticketing system that they have done so. Once some amount of time has passed the item’s status could be checked to see if the total number of feedback attempts has delisted it yet or not. If not, run the next batch. Heck, you could even use Mechanical Turk to source the feedback attempts. )For some reason I find it perversely funny to use Amazon’s own systems to test other parts of their infrastructure.)

The obvious downside would be that Amazon would still be making money from the initial purchases of the test item. Good research costs money though and the result might be worth the attempt.

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An epic Micropolis module idea

I scored big at a garage sale yesterday. Matt, a fellow TwinLUG member, had mentioned there was a huge number of sets available at a garage sale in New Brighton and that there had still been many left when he went back on Sunday. Since it was pretty close to J’s house I figured I’d take a few minutes and take a look. I came away with a large tub full of mostly LEGO monorail parts for not nearly as much money as it should have cost.

I was thinking of things I could do with my newly acquired monorail parts and ran some interesting calculations. At Micropolis scale the Vehicle Assembly Building is 58 bricks and 1 plate tall, 99.5 studs long, and 69 studs wide. The Crawler is 2 bricks to 3 bricks high (can raise and lower a bit), 17.5 studs long, and 15.2 studs wide. The tracks are 1 stud wide, and there are four pairs of tracks at the four corners of the vehicle with the motor for that corner between the pair. The Mobile Launch Platform which sits on top of the crawler is 2 bricks and 2 plates high, 21 studs long and 18 studs wide.

I’m wondering about the feasibility of putting together an oversized module with the VAB and a length of monorail track that runs a Crawler vehicle out to a launch gantry. I think if I took some liberties with the crawler design I could disguise the monorail motor as a rocket on top of the Crawler.

I think I am going to have to work on this virtually initially just to get an idea of how many parts I’m going to need for the VAB, since while I have a lot of parts these days I don’t have that many actual bricks and those will be needed most for that building. That and an awful lot of plates for the rest of the module.

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Before I forget…

Had been intending to post this for awhile, but I’ll just clip down a bit and get this chunk out there at least.

In the last big snowstorm I ended up with a pretty hefty ding and honestly had a great experience with Progressive getting it repaired. The whole thing was fast, easy, and relatively cheap. Bonus: due to the nature of the ding it didn’t even mess with my insurance rates.

The only downside of the insurance thing was that I had a 2008 Pontiac G6 GT for 6 days while my car was in the shop. I think the most positive thing that I can say about that thing was that it sure did go fast in a straight line. Otherwise the controls were just all around bad, especially seat adjustment. Badly placed, bad quality (felt like I was going to break the seat height adjustment just touching it), and just over all irritating. I also just couldn’t get comfortable in the thing. The seating felt like it was designed to have me lying on my back the whole time and resisted any effort to sit otherwise. Don’t even get me started on the enormous blindspot caused by the front right pillar.

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