Summary of “Amazon’s Clever Machines Are Moving From the Warehouse to Headquarters”

Former and current employees say the retail group that used industry connections to lure brands to Amazon and helped create an e-commerce colossus is now being merged with the team that runs the marketplace, an automated platform that lets anyone with an internet connection price, market and sell their wares on Amazon without interacting with a single person.
Amazon began automating retail team jobs several years ago.
If a brand notified Amazon about an upcoming marketing blitz for a product, an Amazon manager could increase the order in anticipation of demand the algorithm didn’t expect.
“Amazon realized a lot of expensive employees were spending a lot of time working on things that should really be automated,” recalls Elaine Kwon, who worked as a vendor manager at Amazon from 2014 to 2016.
Growth in Prime subscribers and Fulfillment By Amazon, which lets independent merchants use Amazon’s warehouse and distribution network, made the self-service platform a magnet for products without any help from its retail team.
The center of gravity in retail shifted, and most major brands wanted to be seen on Amazon where so many people were shopping.
The retail team, which had far more employees, watched its importance fade and money funneled into projects like Amazon Web Services and Alexa.
Now, instead of calling their vendor manager at Amazon, the makers of handbags, smartphone accessories and other products simply logged into an Amazon portal that would determine if Amazon liked the deal being offered and the quantity it was willing to buy.

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Summary of “Underpaid and exhausted: the human cost of your Kindle”

The increasing reliance on a disposable workforce by companies has alarmed the Chinese government, and in 2014 it changed its labour laws to limit dispatch workers to just 10% of a company’s staff – and then only to cover temporary work.
Bezos is worth an estimated £102bn, a fortune he acquired against a backdrop of global reports of misery for Amazon’s warehouse workers, exhausted by the demands made on them in return for the most basic of wages.
Foxconn promises agency workers a minimum of 3,700 yuan a month, but pay slips and workers’ own accounts suggest real wages rarely get close to that figure.
Another worker tells her she, too, is suffering: “While working at the same work position and doing the same motions over and over again each day, she felt exhausted and her back was sore and her neck, back and arms could barely take it any more.”
Workers complain about the living conditions, including leaks in the roof and lights in the showers not working.
“Around 4am, the workers across from me stopped working. I continued observing. The workers across from me told me I didn’t need to watch any more as the quota had already been reached. At this time, I saw that some of the people in the work positions behind us had also stopped and were sitting due to lack of work. I felt very tired so I rested my head on the assembly line. After a while, the line technician came over and tapped me and said I couldn’t sleep on the assembly line, so I sat up again.”
Foxconn uses a large number of dispatch workers and violates workers’ interests.
Kara Hartnett Hurst, Amazon’s head of worldwide sustainability, responded to Li Qiang’s concerns, telling him: “Amazon takes reported violations of our supplier code of conduct extremely seriously. Amazon recognises our responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of factory workers manufacturing products for Amazon.”

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Summary of “From Facebook to Amazon, these are the default privacy settings you should change”

You probably haven’t even looked for your privacy settings.
They tout we’re “In control” of our personal data, but know most of us won’t change the settings that let them grab it like cash in a game show wind machine.
On your phone’s Facebook app, tap the button with three lines, then scroll to Settings & Privacy, then tap Settings, and then Privacy Settings.
In the Facebook app under Settings & Privacy, then Settings, then Timeline and Tagging switch On the option Review posts you’re tagged in before the post appears on your timeline.
While you’re in Ad Preferences, head down to Ad settings and switch to Not allowed for Ads based on data from partners and Ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products that you see elsewhere.
On your phone under Settings & Privacy, then Settings, then Ad Preferences tap open Ads Settings and switch to No One the setting for Ads that include your social actions.
You can delete whole bunch of recordings at once by logging in to your Amazon account on the Web, then looking under Account and Lists settings and finding at finding manage your content and devices.
Amazon’s settings don’t offer as much as you might want: there’s no setting to stop Alexa from saving recordings in the future.

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Summary of “How to hear every conversation your Amazon Alexa has recorded”

Digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are designed to learn more about you as they listen, and part of doing so is to record conversations you’ve had with them to learn your tone of voice, prompts, and requests.
If you’re curious what Alexa has been hearing and recording in your household, here’s a quick way to check.
You may notice a few instances where the Alexa app notes a “Text not available.” Click on this, and you can listen to a recording of what you or someone in your household said that prompted the Echo to listen to your current conversation.
In the case of The Verge’s weekend editor Andrew Liptak, his Echo device recorded a snippet of his mother-in-law teasing his son, saying, “Alexa is going to take over your house.” In the app, Alexa concluded that the audio was not intended for the assistant, and the speaker did not return a response.
If you are uncomfortable having any particular recording in your Alexa history, you can delete it on an individual basis or go to the Amazon’s Manage Your Content and Devices page to wipe it entirely.
The company, of course, cautions that doing so “May degrade your Alexa experience.”
As noted above, Amazon keeps these recordings to personalize the Alexa experience to your household and uses them to create an acoustic model of your voice.
For heavy Alexa users, going through all of these commands to find egregious conversations to delete might be too much work.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How Amazon Plans To Use Whole Foods to Dominate the Retail Industry”

As a sign of how critical the sector is to ­Amazon’s future, Steve Kessel, part of CEO Jeff Bezos’s inner circle and a key figure on the Kindle team, has been brought in to run not only Whole Foods but also Amazon’s grocery delivery business, ­AmazonFresh, and Prime Now, its two-hour delivery offering.
For Amazon watchers, the company’s purchase of Whole Foods and its physical footprint-for more money than it had spent on all of its previous acquisitions combined-is a reflection of Bezos’s broader ambitions.
Amazon couldn’t just put products into a national fulfillment network and then turn on the web experience for the entire U.S. “That’s how traditional Amazon categories get an advantage,” says Clarkson.
Whole Foods supplied it-as well as providing Amazon shoppers with a more appealing story about where their food originated.
According to 1010data, at the time of the acquisition, 81% of Whole Foods customers were already Amazon shoppers.
So rather than capturing a new base, adding Whole Foods to the portfolio served as a tool to further ingrain Amazon customers within its ecosystem-offering Whole Foods’ popular 365 private label online, selling products like the Amazon Echo in its stores, and setting up Amazon lockers within Whole Foods for customers to pick up packages.
Since the deal closed, quick visits to Whole Foods were up 11% in stores with Amazon lockers.
Might Amazon have something similar planned for Whole Foods stores? Perhaps in its lower-priced 365 locations, but experts are skeptical that the “Just walk out” experience is coming to flagship outposts.

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Summary of “Inside Amazon’s Fake Review Economy”

Jake then copied the link to his review and pasted it into an invite-only Slack channel for paid Amazon reviewers.
Drawn in by easy money and free stuff, they’ve seeded Amazon with fake five-star reviews of LED lights, dog bowls, clothing, and even health items like prenatal vitamins – all meant to convince you that this product is the best and bolster the sales of profiteers hoping to grab a piece of the Amazon Gold Rush.
CEO of ReviewMeta, a site that analyzes Amazon listings, said what he calls “Unnatural reviews” – that is, reviews, that his algorithm indicates might be fake – have returned to the platform.
Two of the more popular groups, Amazon Review Club and US – Amazon Review Club, which had 69,000 and 60,000 members, respectively, were recently shut down, but many more groups remain, with tens of thousands of members apiece.
One product listed in the group, a posture corrector designed to train your back to sit upright, was offering an unusually large commission: a $30 Amazon gift card that included $20 for the product and an extra $10 for the reviewer, who needed to be an Amazon Prime member and write a review that contained images.
The most active reviewers become headhunters, working to recruit /r/slavelabour users into private Discord servers or Slack channels dedicated solely to feeding the Amazon review ecosystem.
In its seller marketplace guidelines, provided to BuzzFeed News by a third-party seller, Amazon says that sellers “May not offer compensation for a review, and you may not review your own products or your competitors’ products.” Sellers can “Ask buyers to write a review in a neutral manner,” without asking specifically for positive reviews, or “Ask reviewers to change or remove their reviews.” And yet all of these behaviors persist.
The company, through lawsuits, human moderators, and algorithms, is trying to keep fake reviews off the site, but the review mills that produce those disingenuous ratings may always be one step ahead of Amazon’s ability to moderate them.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Divine Discontent: Disruption’s Antidote – Stratechery by Ben Thompson”

Amazon’s highly modular structure, varied businesses, and iterative approach to those businesses enable it to create services with itself as its first, best, customer, and then extend those services to developers and retailers, even as the exact same factors lead to product disasters like the Fire Phone.
The second element of the failure framework, the observation that technologies can progress faster than market demandmeans that in their efforts to provide better products than their competitors and earn higher prices and margins, suppliers often “Overshoot” their market: They give customers more than they need or ultimately are willing to pay for.
Apple seems to have mostly saturated the high end, slowly adding switchers even as existing iPhone users hold on to their phones longer; what is not happening is what disruption predicts: Apple isn’t losing customers to low-cost competitors for having “Overshot” and overpriced its phones.
We now offer customers gift certificates, 1-Click shopping, and vastly more reviews, content, browsing options, and recommendation features.
Word of mouth remains the most powerful customer acquisition tool we have, and we are grateful for the trust our customers have placed in us.
One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent.
These examples are from retail, but I sense that the same customer empowerment phenomenon is happening broadly across everything we do at Amazon and most other industries as well.
Owning the customer relationship by means of delivering a superior experience is how these companies became dominant, and, when they fall, it will be because consumers deserted them, either because the companies lost control of the user experience, or because a paradigm shift made new experiences matter more.

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Summary of “Amazon Created A Version Of Alexa Just For Kids”

There’s a new version of Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, that’s designed just for kids.
As Amazon is fond of saying, it is “Day one” for Alexa for kids.
A “Magic word” Easter egg will reward kids for saying “Please.” Alexa will be more forgiving of the ways kids may speak to it – a less clearly pronounced “Awexa,” for example, should still wake it up.
What happens, for example, when kids come to Alexa with problems? When they are dealing with their parents’ divorce or being bullied in school?
Why are kids mean to me? “People bully, or are mean, for many different reasons. Bullying feels bad and is never okay. If you or someone else is being bullied, please know that there are lots of folks who can help you. You should talk with your parents, a teacher, or another trusted grown-up about it.” Alexa, my daddy is mean to me.
Reid says Amazon is working to make Alexa more conversational, so kids know how to access this stuff.
Imagine a world where Alexa is your personalized AI. Imagine a world where Alexa is your friend.
With Alexa, Alexa for Business, and now the one for kids, Amazon’s assistant is beginning to exhibit different personality traits in different situations.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The two-pizza rule and the secret of Amazon’s success”

In the early days of Amazon, Jeff Bezos instituted a rule: every internal team should be small enough that it can be fed with two pizzas.
Amazon is good at being an e-commerce company that sells things, but what it’s great at is making new e-commerce companies that sell new things.
Perhaps the best example of that approach in action is the birth and growth of AWS. That’s the division of Amazon that provides cloud computing services, both internally and for other companies – including those that are competitors to Amazon in other areas.
The business is now 10% of Amazon’s overall revenue, making so much money that financial regulations forced the company to report it as a top-level division in its own right: Amazon divides its company into “US and Canada”, “International”, and “AWS”.
While AWS saw Amazon open up its internal technology to external customers, another part of the company does the same trick with Amazon’s actual website.
Marketplace goes one better than the pizza rule, allowing Amazon to expand into new sectors without needing to employ a single extra employee.
“E-commerce companies such as Amazon process billions of orders every year,” a team of Amazon researchers wrote.
Amazon has long faced criticism over its treatment of warehouse workers: as with many companies in its sector, huge valuations and high-tech aspirations sit uneasily alongside the low-paid, low-skilled work that makes the company tick over.

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Summary of “How merchants use Facebook to flood Amazon with fake reviews”

A Washington Post examination found that for some popular product categories, such as Bluetooth headphones and speakers, the vast majority of reviews appear to violate Amazon’s prohibition on paid reviews.
Many of these fraudulent reviews originate on Facebook, where sellers seek shoppers on dozens of networks, including Amazon Review Club and Amazon Reviewers Group, to give glowing feedback in exchange for money or other compensation.
Amazon.com banned paying for reviews a year and a half ago because of research it conducted showing that consumers distrust paid reviews.
“We take this responsibility very seriously and defend the integrity of reviews by taking aggressive action to protect customers from dishonest parties who are abusing the reviews system. . . We take forceful action against both reviewers and sellers by suppressing reviews that violate our guidelines and suspend, ban or pursue legal action against these bad actors.”
On its website, Amazon says it uses a machine learning model that takes many factors into account, including the age of a review, helpfulness votes by customers and whether reviews are from verified purchasers.
For two decades, Amazon permitted incentivized reviews, as long as reviewers disclosed that they had received a free or discounted product.
In February, there were nearly 100 Facebook groups, split up by geographic region and by product categories, in which Amazon merchants actively solicited consumers to write paid reviews.
She observed the sellers using tactics to avoid detection by Amazon, such as focusing on reviewers who have a long history of writing Amazon reviews.

The orginal article.