[FoRK] What Would Google Do (for me)? - Wal-Mart videos

mattj at newsblip.com mattj
Sun Jan 8 14:54:24 PST 2006

By the way, someone suggested I might be giving Wal-Mart a "pass" on 
this story.  To be clear, I think it's very likely that this was an 
accident (last January), rather than an intentional prank. However, the 
important question still remains of when Wal-Mart learned about the 
bug.  If they knew these four biographies, and no other related links, 
would show up on some percentage of movie pages, they should have 
anticipated possible problems with this (e.g., PotA), and corrected it 
at once.  To have known and done nothing would have been very 


Quoting mattj at newsblip.com:

> I forgot a cardinal rule of digital life.  When you need answers, 
> always ask yourself first: How could Google answer this for me?
> Yesterday a story broke about walmart.com's video section linking 
> "Planet of the Apes" (PotA) to a set of biographies about African 
> Americans.  No other related links, just those biographies.  
> Suspicious?
> So I started exploring, to see whether it was a fluke.  I followed 
> the related links. I looked at other PotA videos.  Was this data new? 
>  I spent a long time at archive.org trying to get old walmart.com 
> pages to load.  Simultaneously, Wal-Mart was dismantling the related 
> links system; all links were disappearing.
> Not including a dinner break, I wasted four hours in this before 
> finally asking "What Would Google Do for me?"  Clearly, the four 
> black bios were a well-defined category. How many other videos were 
> linked just to that category, like PotA was?
> The proper Google query was to include the black bio titles, and 
> site:walmart.com.  One of the bios was too recent, but after dropping 
> it, I got 100+ random titles that all had those black bios as their 
> "related links".  It was a bug, not a racist prank.  I noticed they 
> all seemed to be box sets. That seemed to be the only connection.  
> With different queries, on MSN I was able to show that the problem 
> has existed at least since last summer, and at least up until last 
> week (the freshest cached pages).
> Now I see that about an hour ago, Wal-Mart announced the technical 
> results: there was a problem in categorizing many unrelated box sets 
> and twin packs with a tag created last January for a Martin Luther 
> King special collection.
> Anyway, I had to post my frustration with myself for not thinking of 
> the better search idea right away.
> -Matt Jensen
> http://mattjensen.com
> Seattle
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