The Shrubbery
July 1999
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Shrubbery Games: The Amazon.com Game

by Jason Morrison

If you've ever bought anything from Amazon.com, you can go right now, log in and take a look at some book, movie and music recommendations. I was pretty skeptical about the whole thing (figured they'd just recommend Backstreet Boys to everyone or something) until I bought some books for a humanities class and took a look at their recommendations-- more than a few books that I wouldn't mind reading at all.

And not only did they have books for me, but they somehow cross-referenced things so that I got music and movies as well-- some really good stuff, to boot. Later I found their funky-fresh Refine Recommendations feature whereby I can tell them I already own this item or wouldn't buy it in a million years.

Soon I was refining, refusing, cross-referencing, etc., trying to get a perfect match to my personal taste. It was then I realized that this was no normal e-commerce going on. This was a brand new Game!

The Rules:

Got to Amazon.com (follow this link, trust me). If it says "Welcome back!" and your name, go ahead on to their Recommendation Center. If it's got someone else's name there, click where is says "If you're not *name*, click here." Otherwise go to your account and log in or create an account, then go on over to the recommendation center.

If you've bought something on Amazon before, you can get right into it. Hit the buttons to Refine your Recommendations and hop around from books to music to movies as you please. If you're new to Amazon, they might start you out with some oddball stuff-- you can go to the Book Matcher to get started.

The main rule is: no lying. Only put that you already have this CD, book, etc. if you actually have it-- though we've debated, and have decided that alternate editions of the same work can all count as the same thing. The goal is to get to a point where you've entered half your library and CD collection and are getting really, really good recommendations.

Scoring:

There's no real way to score this, though I guess if you cheat you deserve a spanking.

Special Note:

The algorithm Amazon uses seems fairly useful. It seems to base everything on what their customers who have bought this CD, book, or movie have also bought and give you recommendations thus. Unfortunately, people have a horrible tendency to buy a bunch of the same author/artist in a row or something, so if you say "own it" on four KMFDM albums, get ready to see KMFDM recommended to you A LOT.

Another Note:

Some of you might be thinking, "What a load of crap! Jason just wants us to go to Amazon so the Shrub gets a commission. Bastard." Okay, I give, that's true. But I've also become quite addicted to this game, so has Ryan, and I'm sure we're not alone. Also, as far as I've heard, CDnow's algorithm sucks big time, and though we could get a commission there as well, I won't recommend going there for this game.

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