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Ontario Technoblog

Ontario Emperor technology blog.

This blog has been superseded by the mrontemp blog
Location: Ontario, California, United States

Sometime audio artist. Email comments on this blog to the gmail account mrontemp.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Tangentialism Run Amok


Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is shutting down the system that creates movie recommendations on its shopping Web site....

The world's largest retailer said the software that generates links for shoppers from one movie to others of similar interest would be shut down. All cross references would be removed as soon as technically possible until the system can be fixed, Wal-Mart said.

Bill Wertz, a spokesman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based company, said it wasn't yet clear how or when the technical problem arose. "We're still looking into it," he said....

Walmart.com's item mapping process does not work correctly and at this point is mapping seemingly random combinations of titles. We were horrified to discover that some hurtful and offensive combinations are being mapped together," she said, adding that the company was "deeply sorry that this happened."

So what were the links?

"[T]he site is...mapping movies such as `Home Alone' and `Power Puff Girls' to African-American-themed DVDs," Williams said.

A documentary about surfers, "Riding Giants," links to the same list of seemingly unrelated fantasy films as the King biopic, including "Polar Express" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

But that isn't what shut the system down:

[I]t linked a "Planet of the Apes" DVD to films about famous black Americans, including Martin Luther King Jr.

Wal-Mart said Thursday it had removed what it called the "offensive combinations" from a walmart.com page advertising a boxed DVD set, "Planet of the Apes: The Complete TV Series."

Under a "similar items" section, the DVD set's page linked shoppers to four films about the lives of King, actress Dorothy Dandridge, boxer Jack Johnson and singer Tina Turner. Wal-Mart later altered the page to link with television show DVDs....

Wal-Mart moved swiftly after a link to the page for "Planet of the Apes" began circulating on the Internet.

Here's an October 20, 2005 post by San Diego Johnny:

Is Somebody at Walmart.com a Racist?

As a science fiction fan and owner of a satellite dish with a DVR, I often look at the upcoming shows for something to record. I found out that the Sci-Fi Channel usually plays episodes of the same science fiction series from 8 am to 4 pm Eastern time a few months ago. I've recorded episodes of...the little remembered 1974 television series adaptation of Planet of the Apes. I decided to try to see if one of my favorite sites for its great prices and service, Walmart.com, had the series available on DVD. When I searched for "Planet of the Apes" in the search area of the site, I was presented with three choices. The DVD set I was hoping for, a compilation of the Planet of the Apes movies and the unfortunate Tim Burton 2001 Re-make (known by some as "Aperaham Lincoln" for its ending). When I clicked on the television series DVD I was given choices of similar items to choose at the right of the screen....

At first I thought, "oh, 'Introducing Dorothy Dandridge', maybe Roddy McDowell or one of the other actors was in this HBO Movie. That turned out not to be the case.
As I looked farther down the list, also "similar" supposedly is a documentary on the life and death of Martin Luther King, the arrow and hot link say that there are more items below....

Unforgiveable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson," a documentary on the first African-American heavyweight champion and "What's Love Got to Do With It?", a Tina Turner biopic, which are both apparently also similar to "Planet of the Apes."

In our nation's history and even to this day"yard apes" along with the equally offensive "porch monkey" are derogatory terms for black Americans and racists since the slavery days have attempted to sub-humanize slaves by comparing them to apes and monkeys. I am not the first one who will yell "racism!" when being given a set of circumstances to examine. As a matter of fact, I think at times that "the race card" is used too much in our society by such people as Jesse Jackson to perform shakedowns on individuals and corporations. In this case however given how different these items are, with their only link being that they are about black Americans and I have to wonder if a malicious coder or someone working at Walmart.com somehow linked these items together with the "Planet of the Apes." Given the history of racism and the civil rights struggle in our nation and especially in the South, where Walmart is headquartered, one would think that a multi-national concern like Walmart would be more cognizant about it's website and its content.


Blogger Ontario Emperor said...

How about this one - a Martin Luther King web page linking to an "anything but white" sale. Details at the end of this Ontario Empoblog post.

Blogger Ontario Emperor said...

Regarding the original story, check this. Back in October, San Diego Johnny submitted the original item to digg.com, receiving the following responses:

"This is stupid."


"spam. he wrote it and then submitted it."

(Which I guess means you can't nominate yourself.)

A couple of months later, when the story made the national media, San Diego Johnny couldn't resist this reply to the people who originally panned his story:

"Not so stupid after all. Check the national media today, chuckleheads."

I love it.


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