mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Wal-Mart - unpleasant to shop at? Yes. Racist? No.

Wal-Mart has been getting flack over the fact that African American Themed Movies were showing up as suggestions for "Planet of the Apes" on their website. If you search Technorati, most people seem to figure that it must be because WalMart is a bunch of evil racists.

There are at least a few people that understand that smart technology isn't always that smart - like this guy. The AP article linked earlier says that the African-American themed movies were coming up for a number of unrelated movies, such as surfer movies.

But more importantly is the fact that this is an automated system. Computers pick what movies go together, in theory based on past purchases. But it seems that the fuzzy logic in WalMart's program was more like fuzzy-headed logic.

Now, I suppose it is possible that a rouge computer programer did this, but the fact that the same movies come up on unrelated movies makes that seem unlikely. Do people really think the higher-ups at WalMart got togther and decided to associate the two products, that this is an official corporate stratagy, like the CEO of Wal-Mart decided to put a racist joke on the website and brought it up at a board meeting, and everyone was in favor of it.

It seems to me that this is pretty clearly a case of faulty software. After all, how many Google ads have you gotten on blogs (including this one) that are loosly related or poorly related? It's a phenomena I've blogged about before. But people would rather believe that WalMart is racist than that software fails, even though they are probably used to software causing their PC to crash daily.

EDIT - 1/6 - AP seems to have updated the story I linked, and is now saying that one happened is that Wal-Mart did assign the African-American movies - but assigned it to an overly broad catagory. Which seems like 1) that they were trying to do something to encourage diversity and 2)that they made a kind of silly business movie. It doesn't mean they are evil racists though.


At 11:10 PM, Blogger Muneer said...

Wal-Mart is god. That is all.

At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, it wasn't automated, Wal-Mart's system (now disabled) was manual.


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