Dreaming in Code has sold particularly well on Amazon.com, which does not surprise me. Given the subject matter, the book was bound to appeal to buyers who shop online, and Amazon is the dominant player in the online bookstore market.
I’ve also been pleased to see the profusion of customer reviews on Amazon. As of about three weeks ago, we had 33 reviews posted. Most were positive, a handful were negative; either way, each one meant that some reader cared enough to take the time to post their reactions, and that meant a lot to me.
Then something weird happened about ten days ago. Suddenly, Amazon showed only 10 reviews. Two dozen reviews posted between mid-February and the end of June had simply disappeared. In the time since then, a couple of new reviews have joined the total, but the missing reviews have not reappeared.
I’ve been building Web sites long enough, and worked with software long enough, to imagine a variety of different scenarios for what might be causing this. Whatever happened, this is something that Amazon ought to be concerned about — these glitches are rarely limited to a single page; there’s likely sporadic data loss in multiple places. Amazon runs a gigantic Web service that a lot of people depend on. It has even recently gotten into the business of offering back-end data storage services (Amazon S3) to other Web companies and individuals. So I trust they’ll be pursuing this issue. They ought to have this data somewhere from which it can be restored.
I’ve asked my publisher to look into the matter. I also contacted Amazon through their bottom-of-the-page feedback mechanism. The good news is, I actually got a response; the bad news is, it was feeble — I think the customer-service rep. simply looked up the page, saw there were a dozen reviews, and reported such back to me. I could do that from the comfort of my home, thank you!
Amazon was one of the very first businesses to understand the value of what the Net industry now calls “user-generated content.” Customer reviews are the heart of its operation. The most basic compact between a Web service and its users is, “If you contribute something of value, we promise not to lose it.”
UPDATE Mid-afternoon Wednesday: The reviews appear to be back. Thanks, Amazon.
[tags]amazon.com, amazon, amazon reviews, data loss[/tags]
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