My reply to Clay Shirky on #amazonfail ... and you're done

Clay’s post The failure of #amazonfail admits that over the weekend, he jumped to conclusions,  “believed things that weren’t true” about Amazon and was “intoxicated” by the hashtag.  He now thinks he was wrong.  Most of the post is written in the first person plural, assuming everybody else reacted as he did.  He concludes that “we” should apologize to Amazon.  Here’s my reply, originally posted as a comment.

Update: aemeliaclare says it far better than me on Barely and Widely, as does Mike Edwards. Many of the commenters in Clay’s thread have good things to say as well.  On Twitter, by contrast, the backlash is out in force, with many positive responses to “the great Shirky”.

Update on April 16: Janet D. Stemwedel’s Morality, outrage, and #amazonfail: a reply to Clay Shirky on Adventures in Ethics and Science, and Andrew Sempere’s Why Shirky Missed the Point on A repository of ten thousand indignities and the harbinger of God knew what are two more examples of “saying it better than me”.  Nadia Cooke’s On the resolution of #amazonfail on The Ink Spectrum and Landon Bryce’s It’s Still On: The real failure of Amazonfail, Dubai, and Internet Outrage on Bookkake aren’t phrased as replies to Shirky, but make some very complementary points.

By contrast, Meg Pickard’s Spreading like wildfire: Twitter, Amazon and the social media mob focuses on what she sees as “ugly, prejudiced, underinformed, sneery, rude, kneejerk activity” on Twitter and sees it as “Destructive. Damaging. Virulent. Unapologetic. Unrelenting.”  Sigh.

My replies to Clay and Meg below the fold.

If it had been a critique of those stupidities that circulated over the weekend, without the intentional mass de-listing, it would have kicked off a long, thoughtful conversation about metadata, system design, and public relations.

Nonsense. These kinds of stupidities are normalized in society and I rarely see them discussed. How often are their posts like Mary’s on TechCrunch?

Intention is what we were reacting to

Speak for yourself. Many of the people I talked to are reacting to yet another example of silencing the voices of LGBTs, feminists, and people with disabilities (who you don’t even bother to mention in your post). Many are reacting to Amazon’s dismissiveness in calling it a “glitch”. Many are reacting to Amazon’s ongoing lack of a real apology or executive involvement. Many are reacting to the revelation that Amazon has been manipulating their best-seller information. Many are reacting to the shocking fact that Amazon doesn’t appear to have any defenses against intentional manipulation (whether or not that happened in this case). Many are reacting to the impact of market dominance in ways that hadn’t quite struck home before. And so on.

Maybe none of those things matter to you. And maybe *you* assumed intentionality. Don’t project your beliefs on others.

I’m proud to have been a small part of #amazonfail, and grateful to those who put far more time and energy in than I did. I’m disappointed that somebody like you who’s championed social networks’ ability to lower the bar for organizing doesn’t see it that way.