Amazon’s bad week: Now Amazon Wish Lists are not working

Earlier this week, Amazon suffered a many hours long global system outage that prevented people from placing orders.

Tonight, Amazon is unable to add items to the Wish List and is unable to display existing wish lists.

Trying to add an item:

wl2

Trying to display your wish list:

wl1Based on recent personal experience, Amazon is suffering some problems. Ordered a notebook computer in August – urgently needed to replace a dead motherboard system. Said it shipped from Amazon and would ship within 1 day and with 2 day guaranteed delivery. After several days, it had not shipped. Then Amazon started bumping the shipment date ahead every few days. Finally tried to cancel the order. Amazon said it could not be canceled but then it did not ship for a week.

Contacted Amazon customer support about this – they notified the shipping company to mark it return to sender and not to deliver. The UPS tracking showed it went all the way to the destination city where it was then said to have been re-routed. Two weeks later, UPS notified us that it had lost the notebook computer shipment.

Four weeks after this all began, we finally received a refund on the computer and a separately purchased warranty. Amazon also extended our Prime membership by a month and issued a small credit to our account due to the mess up. Amazon never offered an explanation as to what went wrong – all we know is that an item they claimed to have in inventory took about two weeks before it shipped. During this time, Amazon showed it had the items in stock – yet the price changed frequently and rather dramatically as well.

During all this, I drove to Best Buy, bought a computer off the shelf and shipped it via FedEx overnight to the recipient that needed it ASAP. (My experience with FedEx has been true to their old motto “When you absolutely, positively need it there overnight, choose FedEx”.)

There were other problems in recent shipments too.

Something is up at Amazon – hope they get it under control. Something’s not right.

 

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MIT Study finds that online learning works

Some have been saying online courses do not work but an MIT study finds otherwise:

Massive open online courses are not only effective, researchers have discovered, they are as effective as what’s being traditionally taught in the classroom — regardless of how prepared or in the know students are.

via MIT Study: How Do Online Courses Compare to Traditional Learning? | BostInno.

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HealthCare.gov’s web site implementation estimated to have cost $2.1 Billion

This is from a Bloomberg Government analysis of money spent on the software project:

The BGOV analysis concluded that Washington has already spent or committed to spend some $2.14 billion to build and then rebuild healthcare.gov after it almost collapsed during ACA’s initial open enrollment season last fall and this winter.

via Health Reform’s Cost: $73 Billion and Counting – Bloomberg Government.

That works out to about $300 for each of the people who signed up and remained sign up until now. While signups may increase – eventually – costs are still going up as not all the features, especially on the back end, have been completed. From a software project and business standpoint, those per person costs seem excessive and result in increases in total costs of health related spending.

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Youtube morphing into commercial cable television?

First, AT&T buys a majority stake in Fullscreen YouTube network and:

DreamWorks Animation purchased YouTube teen network AwesomenessTV for $33 million last year. This year, Walt Disney Co. acquired YouTube network Maker Studios in a deal worth up to $950 million.

via Chernin Group, AT&T take majority stake in Fullscreen YouTube network – LA Times.

Youtube demographics skews heavily towards youth and young adults.  The “channels” that get watched primarily target this audience (FYI Cable TV news skews heavily towards the elderly – the average age of people who watch CNN, FOX, MSNBC tends to about around 60 plus or minus).

As viewership coalesces around these Youtube “channels” and affiliated “channel networks”, fewer people are watching the other content on Youtube. Which means if your online Youtube content is not targeted at the big demographics, and you are not affiliated with a channel marketing group, the likelihood of lots of viewers is diminished.

When AT&T, Disney and DreamWorks buy up Youtube networks, Youtube is gradually turning into a younger, hipper cable TV service with zillions of channels on which to sell young eyeballs to advertisers. Can this format retain the independence that created Youtube’s initial success?

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New USB interface supports 4K video displays, plus data

DisplayPort Arrives On USB Type-C.

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The top 25 best colleges in the U.S., according to industry professionals

Best Colleges In The US Infographic – Business Insider.

Survey done of 1500 professionals involved in hiring, at least occasionally, to seek their opinion of the best colleges.  See the link for the top 25 list.

These are the schools the people doing the hiring prefer – if your resume says Randomcity State University, your resume might not make the initial automated screening cut.

The survey included the question “What college major will help you be the most successful after graduation?

Based on the tech oligarch’s hype, you may be thought computer science, but in fact, engineering, business and liberal arts all outrank computer science as the best major.

For students, the best bet is to attend a high reputation university and study in one of the top areas. This increasingly winner-take-all market means students attending any of the hundreds of other universities are less likely to see the same career opportunities.

 

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Federal Court: U.S. Navy spied on the content of civilian computers in Washington State

The court called the violations “extraordinary” and said evidence presented in Dreyer’s prosecution appears to show that “it has become a routine practice for the Navy to conduct surveillance of all the civilian computers in an entire state to see whether any child pornography can be found on them, and then to turn over that information to civilian law enforcement when no military connection exists.”

via 9th Circuit tosses child-porn evidence, cites Navy snooping | Local News | The Seattle Times.

Specifically, the Judge wrote:

Yet, Agent Logan’s search did not meet the required limitation. He surveyed the entire state of Washington for computers sharing child pornography 11. Because Agent Logan’s investigation itself violated the PCA-like restrictions, it is irrelevant whether it was permissible for him to transfer to civilian authorities “information collected during the normal course of military training or operations that may be relevant to a violation of any Federal or State law within the jurisdiction of such officials.” 10 U.S.C. § 371(a); see also DoD Directive 5525.5, Enclosure 2, E.2.1, Enclosure 4, E4.1.7.1; SECNAVINST 5820.7C(5); Hitchcock, 286 F.3d at 1069.UNITED STATES V. DREYER 17 .

His initial search was not limited to United States military or government computers, and, as the government acknowledged, Agent Logan had no idea whether the computers searched belonged to someone with any “affiliation with the military at all.” Instead, it was his “standard practice to monitor all computers in a geographic area,” here, every computer in the state of Washington.

and

The government’s position that the military may monitor and search all computers in a state even though it has no reason to believe that the computer’s owner has a military
affiliation would render the PCA’s restrictions entirely meaningless

Effectively we now live in a totalitarian surveillance police state, as argued by the U.S. government itself. Buried in the ruling is that if US Army or Air Force personnel did this, they would go prison, but the US Navy for some reason is exempt – hence, the US government can use the US Navy to spy on its own citizens to conduct fishing expeditions looking for evidence of crimes. (This is true – see http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1385 – why?)

Hard to tell from the news report. It seems that the USN used a file sharing network to search for content on all computers of those using the file sharing network (e.g. Gnutella). Through the file sharing software, users made files on their own computers publicly accessible. The problem here is that the US Navy thought it was appropriate to snoop on civilians’ personal computer content.

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Government report concludes HealthCare.gov failure due to management incompetence

Based on our knowledge of software engineering, management and organizational design concepts, this blog repeatedly pointed to management failure as the cause of the HealthCare.gov software disaster:

Wishful thinking is not a management principle that leads to project success.

Both reports document extensive incompetence, but almost none of the incompetent management have been fired.  Which implies we should not have high expectations come November 15th, 2014, when the signup process begins.They estimate 13 million people will have to use the system over just six weeks.

Here in Oregon, Cover Oregon officially failed and is being turned over to HealthCare.gov. There is no “Plan B” for signing up Oregon residents if the conversion cannot be completed in time (and they are missing milestones).  The Board was asked to shut itself down but has so far resisted; the Legislature is now taking steps to shut down and abolish Cover Oregon for good. As a total failure, its brand name is hopelessly damaged.

Update: Remember how these failures were declared as mere “glitches”?

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The 21st Century Company Town

Google Employees Used Perks to Live House-Free – Dice News. Facebook employees have done the same and FB is now building its own community next door.

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