Amazon Algorithm Makes Decision about WOLF STREET, Hilarity Ensues

If the broader ramifications weren’t so serious!

This just happened to me this morning. It would be purely and immensely hilarious, if its broader ramifications that impact our lives every day weren’t so serious.

It has to do with algorithms – software programs designed to replace human brains everywhere human brains used to make decisions. It has to do with how they can go haywire, how they don’t see the obvious, don’t even look at the obvious, and make totally stupid decisions.

In this instance, the algo made the entire company look idiotic. It’s so funny, I’m still grinning – at Amazon’s expense.

But if this sort of corporate algo fuckup happens in your medical situation or a credit application or while looking for a job, you could be in deep trouble. And it’s likely happening there too.

Some background: I have two books on Amazon and link to them on WOLF STREET. I sell a few of them a week. It’s not even pocket money. But it’s fun knowing that someone is interested in my books. They’re entertainment, and hopefully they’ll make someone laugh.

Back in the day while I still used the predecessor site, I had an associate account with Amazon. When I switched to WOLF STREET in July 2014, I let that account go and forgot about it. The other day, I remembered it and decided to log in and check it out. Turns out, Amazon had closed it. No big deal. It told me to open a new one. So I jumped through the necessary hoops, supplying all the tax and banking info, and opened a new one, tying it to my site,

Everything was hunky-dory and worked, until this morning, when I got an email from Amazon, from no particular person but from some nameless algo that doesn’t even know how to spell (though that would be the least you’d expect an algo to get right). Here it is, typos and all:


Thank you for applying for the Associate program. Upon review, we are unable to accept your application. A part of our criteria is that your site has to be established with enough unique content. We rejected your application due to one or more of the following reasons.

– Lack of content which is original to your site and beneficial to your visitors

– Pages that are mainly empty when advertisement content is removed

Unfortunately, we arent able to review an application once its been rejected. If your website has been further developed and now contains appropriate content, youre welcome to submit another application by using the following URL:

So this algo said that the very WOLF STREET  you’re looking at doesn’t have “enough unique content,” that pages “are mainly empty when advertisement content is removed.”

There are thousands of unique articles written by me and other authors on this site, plus over 31,000 unique and often excellent comments written by readers. And that silly Amazon algo failed to see them – and made a decision based on this failure.

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Wolf Richter

In his cynical, tongue-in-cheek manner, he muses on WOLF STREET about economic, business, and financial issues, Wall Street shenanigans, complex entanglements, and other things, debacles, and opportunities that catch his eye in the US, Europe, Japan, and occasionally China. WOLF STREET is the successor to his first platform… TP-Title-7-small-200px …whose ghastly name he finally abandoned in July 2014. Here’s the story on that. Wolf lives in San Francisco. He has over twenty years of C-level operations experience, including turnarounds and a VC-funded startup. He earned his BA and MBA in Texas and his MA in Oklahoma, worked in both states for years, including a decade as General Manager and COO of a large Ford dealership and its subsidiaries. But one day, he quit and went to France for seven weeks to open himself up to new possibilities, which degenerated into a life-altering three-year journey across 100 countries on all continents, much of it overland. And it almost swallowed him up.