First, I deeply appreciate that so many on Hacker News have come out for this. Enough to awaken me from a sound sleep on a Tuesday evening!
I don't really care that much about selling Klein bottles over Amazon - it's mainly to reach parents over the holidays. But I do wish that Amazon would do something about this kind of thing.
Finally, I"m very low on stocks of glass Klein bottles. It's weird for me to ask my friends not to buy the things I've worked so hard to make, but I guess I'd better. I hope to have more manifolds in mid to late summer.
Warm wishes all around,
-Cliff (way late on a cloudy Tuesday evening in Oakland)
I deeply appreciate the kindness and support of the hacker community - sends me back thirty five years to when I was fooling with a Unix workstation and stumbled on a small accounting error. Back then, I was surprised by the outpouring of help, suggestions, and collaboration from other computer folk.
At this moment, I again thank this community -- across decades and across the globe, I'm heartened and happy to be one of the gang.
Do you still use the RC mini forklift for storage? I've always thought that seemed like a lot of fun.
I immediately went to my school librarian and said I wanted to try to connect computers together, or try to dial-up to library information services, etc. We started learning together.
You were a huge inspiration, thanks.
Here is a bootlegged youtube link--it's the best I've got. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGv5BqNL164
Next time I am in Hannover will have to take a photo in front of the flat. It got a repaint though...
"The Cuckoo's Egg" - Pag 35 (on my edition)
Hmmm - I seem to be agreeing with myself. I tend to do that, occasionally.
Googled him there and he's listed as an astronomer. But the astronomers consider him a computer guy ;)
Strangely, I had that very page open on my three dimensional computing device last night and it was still open just now.
This Must Mean Something.
Your Amazon problems would be solved with a regular USPTO trademark. They don't recognize common-law trademarks because they are heavily arguable in litigation.
USPTO is a database of trademarks already scrutinized by trademark attorneys and government. It's not perfect, but it is a collection that Amazon recognizes.
You can do this for $2000-ish and never think about it again.
then GS1.org for barcodes
Now you can sell your bottles in museum gift-shops!
Until about 5-6 years ago the changes Amazon made almost universally made their service better and more pro-user convenience/efficiency. Since then it's really become a nightmare. I realize they are being abused by scammers who are scheming every way to subvert the system but as a technologist familiar with web tech and distribution, it's clear there are some anti-consumer experience issues which Amazon could fix but is choosing not to.
For example, allowing vendors to list alternate "versions" which aren't really the same product at all. It makes it harder to tell what the star rating averages are for the version I actually want (and I have to sort reviews by version which is only accessible on a subpage. Frankly, I'd rather they just go back to one listing per product. Yes it's less useful for a hundred different sized machine screws but it seems like a major source of these issues.
Then there's the nightmare of letting different sellers sell on the "same" product listing. Crap clone products flit in and out contaminating the integrity of reviews because a shoddy version slips in but only from one seller out of six or seven.
As someone who deals with them everyday, do you think they are NOT doing some of the things they could to stop these issues due to strong incentives (Amazon makes more $$$ allowing users to be frustrated), or do you think they are sincerely doing what they can (within reasonable costs) to solve these chronic issues? They used to understand that accuracy and transparency ultimately yield more sales (even if lower for an individual product). I'd like to believe Amazon didn't change their ethos from the early days, but...
- 2 pack scammers that sell someone else's product as a bundle, but it costs more to buy the 2 pack than it does to buy the real item twice.
- Listing swaps, where someone will take a commodity listing with lots of reviews and change the listing to sell overpriced broken garbage
- Counterfeiting or extreme product cheapening after a listing receives recommended status
- A mountain of fake review schemes now including this.
These bad actors don't contribute to the Amazon market. There's little reason not to ban them for ToS violations.
These bad actors are optimizing for sales, and Amazon benefits from each sale on their marketplace. Their actions result in more money for the bad actors and for Amazon alike.
It's a similar situation to VC-funded social media platforms turning a blind eye to bots and automation early on because bot activity increases growth and engagement metrics, both of which in turn can increase the platform's valuation in future funding rounds or an IPO.
It'd be daft for them to not be curbing this!
My older relatives generally assume that Amazon will have the best prices online for everything despite that not being the case for 5+ years now.
They're counting on customers like my relatives and yourself not changing their assumptions or habits.
It's a little outrageous that a 3rd party can come take over your storefront without any avenue to challenge.
The problem is in Amazon's storefront, and there millions of sellers are operating in the same space, so doing some due diligence is required. If Cliff could just seize ownership of his storefront from a thief, why couldn't a thief seize it from Cliff? The solution is to register a proper trademark.
Like it or not, the world is messy, and it costs to keep it clean. Registering a trademark is like buying locks for your home and vehicle, and buying soap to wash your clothes, and changing the oils in your machines.
This leaves small hobby stores like Cliff's with no practical defense against scams like this if they've only made a few thousand in profits through amazon sales, especially if they don't have that cash on hand (and suddenly lose their amazon revenue stream!)
Like it's easy to say "well you should have trademarked your product" after the fact, but very few people have even heard of this scam when it happens to them.
There really are no polite words to describe business practices.
Stop buying from Amazon. Quite easy actually.
There a software company running a software market, all the power is in there hands, and they choose to do nothing.
The alternative is anarchy, and much more expensive then filing for a trademark if you want to sell in the marketplace. Like insurance, everyone that wants to be in the market pays a little, so that it makes it easier to avoid something like this.
Because Amazon's system is insane unless you realize it's designed only for the benefit of the corporation, not for any kind of fairness or quality.
Seems likely they are now the #1 seller of counterfeit goods globally, by a decent margin.
Why would Amazon merge the reviews of that product with the reviews of the authentic, high-quality, reputable Chinese vendor's actual product?
Why does Amazon allow a "color" to point to a product from a completely different seller? Why does Amazon allow product aliases at all?
A wealthy corporation (person) should pay more than the poor, or little enterprise.
I looked into a patent a few years ago, and couldn't justify even the fee at the time. When I had disposable income I was ready to patent, but I was too late. A corporation with over 60 patents beat me to it.
If someone is squatting one's trademark you can still sue them with an unregistered mark, and perhaps crucially if they're using Amazon then Amazon should be up for contributory infringement.
This is not legal advice and represents my personal views only.
In either case, or even in the case the was a seller legitimately infringing on a valid trademark, Amazon should not be reassigning reviews from one sellers product to another seller under these types of matters. How in the hell would that be beneficial to Amazon shoppers?
This post is my own view, not legal advice, and unrelated to my employment.
It also creates bigger questions about Amazon’s brand/trademark practices vis-a-vis forum selection where registration fees and criteria are minimal and rights are liberal.
Assuming it was successfully filed, actually returning the marketplace/reviews to OP would actually be more troubling…in other words Amazon would be willing to take the marketplace/reviews from a legitimate Trademark holder with an earlier filing date and give it to a legitimate Trademark holder with a later in time filing date from another jurisdiction.
Disclosure: I’m a lawyer and have actually represented a client that registered trademark A, sole the product on Amazon, then Amazon began selling a competing product with a similar (not identical spelling but pronounced the same) name they successfully trademarked B, ironically the USPTO rejected our clients trademark for C on the basis it was “to similar to B” whereas the USPTO never found B was similar to A. The difference between A and C being addition of a logo to the word mark.
Trademarks are published for opposition for this reason, right? Client could have filed an opposition against the confusingly similar mark during the opposition period and it never would have ended up in that situation with trademark C. Monitoring trademarks posted to the Official Gazette is an extra burden but important if your brand is valuable.
No the United States Patent and Trademark Office is not a database of trademarks.
It has one, though.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08YWM31V4 by "Brand: Cradle & Dew"
"Kleinverse Exquisite Glass Klein Bottle, Handmade Math & Science Education Vase, Mobius Strip Glass Display for Gifts, Geometry Decoration & Theorem Glass - Collab with Mr Cliff Stoll" $74.90 + shipping
How linked to you is this ? Are these just reselling your products or are they independently made ?
Edit : In the description it states "These Klein bottles are proudly designed in Singapore, The Garden City".
Anything that can be done to get these people off of amazon?
Until someone showed up on amazon and sold it too, they just copied it and printed it themselves.
The copied book is identical, cover and all, images in the Amazon listing too ... Amazon chose to do nothing.
I don't know who can fall for this in my case but I'm sure if they can they have probably done this at scale. When I search in Amazon I see a lot of results with wide range of prices so I'm sure some people are just counting on showing up on results, users being "lazy" and arbitraging the difference between their listing and the cheapest vendor.
Amazon will still get paid whether they sell the real book or a knock off, either way. It's not like a small time author has the resources to actually do something about it in court.
I refuse to give money to a business that behaves the way Amazon does.
I remember when people used to (heck still do) get worked up about Walmart but those same people not only order from Amazon all the time, they even join B mans private club (Prime).
Honestly, all the stories in this thread make me very glad I canceled my Prime subscription. I still use Amazon occasionally, but now most of my purchases go direct. With the exception of books; there I order from my local bookstore.
Does that matter to the police? Surely police reports don't have to include the name of who you think caused you some injury.
The police are never going to bother trying to seriously curtail online fraud. There's a reason why so many scam calls try to trick vulnerable people into paying them with iTunes gift cards and Google Play gift codes. Even with the added friction and blatantly farcical nature of the scam they find it more profitable to try and get the funds that way. They undoubtedly lose plenty of victims who might have been tricked into sending it through Western Union, mailing cash, or a cashier's check. They're paying a steep price to funnel it through the app store between the platform fees and whatever they pay the merchant that's laundering the funds for them.
They do that because they know that Apple is never going to try to claw back funds and the police are never going to force Apple to return the money that's still sitting in their accounts. You can call Apple 30 minutes after giving the scammers the code and without fail "oh sorry, the funds are gone!" https://i.imgur.com/oijXbLD.jpeg
That's the status quo, the courts are your only remedy here and you're going to lose trying to sue Amazon over a fraudulent seller. Best case scenario you manage to get Amazon to identify the seller and find out they're in a foreign jurisdiction and for all practical reasons untouchable as far as legal recourse is concerned.
My opinion, not legal advice.
Lower level courts seem to agree with them, although one such case has been fought all the way to the Supreme Court.
How did you go about designing it? Was it fairly organic? Or did you have the full plan from the beginning?
And, about twenty minutes ago, I ran out of large Klein bottles. It'll be September before I can get more, what with shortages of borosilicate glass.
A friend recommended it to me as a “beach book” and I bought it not knowing anything about it. Best beach book ever.
I want to buy your books, but suddenly I don't want to buy them through Amazon, is there a better website for me to buy them from?
Also, if anyone is unaware, this is this Clifford Stoll: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifford_Stoll - who wrote this brilliant (and true) book: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cuckoo%27s_Egg_(book) - which is a really good read and perfect for HN.
I'd prepared a 1 hour talk. When I was about to go on stage, they told me that I had only 15 minutes. So, well, I remembered one of the few things I learned in grad school: talk fast and don't give 'em a standing target.
Covered my points and finished in, yep, 18 minutes.
I still have the hat. I no longer have the bottle as I moved to the other side of the world a number of years ago, and after inquiring with some mathematician friends it turned out that four-dimensional glass bottles are not compatible with three-dimensional backpacks :-/
When I got the package it was covered in hand-written notes; gosh, I don't remember what it said exactly, but it was hilarious; somehow you even managed to put some joke in Dutch on it. I wanted to email something back but I was shy and didn't know what to say. So, about a decade too late, thanks! Not only was I very happy with the bottle, the packaging absolutely made my day all those years ago.
Thank you for what you do.
I still don't understand how it works. Why can somebody owning something called "Amvoom" claim something called "Acme Klein Bottle"?
An even if they legally own the brand, how keeping the reviews when moving the brand to the new owner is the proper thing to do for the customers? By definition, the reviews are for another provider. I don't get it.
I really hope I'm wrong though because this sounds like a very lazy and flawed system.
That's how you make $100B, not by "doing things that don't scale" like handwriting thankyou notes to every customer.
Sounds like most of his predictions in it (eg e-commerce will fail, digital books will not be viable, etc) were wildly off the mark - but were any prescient?
For example, he complains that nobody will want to look up information from computerized databases because CD-ROMs are too slow; consumers won't shop online because they can't pay securely; retailers won't rely on e-commerce because too few customers have Internet access; nobody will want e-books because you can't read them on the subway; there's no way to effectively search for content online; digital art will never surpass clip art and crude photoshops; it's impossible for networks to be secure because data and credentials are unencrypted; and so on.
On the bright side, he thinks that at least nobody will need to worry about online privacy, because it will be too cumbersome for anyone to effectively maintain databases of personal information.
But on the other hand, with some of his observations, it's at least arguable that they still hold true 25 years later:
> Anyone can post messages to the net. Practically everyone does. The resulting cacophony drowns out serious discussion. Online debates of tough issues are often polarized by messages taking extreme positions.
> An original IBM PC, now over ten years old, is fully obsolete. Likely, it will still work perfectly and do everything it was build for; after all, the silicon and copper haven't deteriorated. But you can't get software for it any longer.
> A word processor may last two years before the next version. These upgrades likely add as many new bugs as are patched, and result in a bigger, more complex program. One that's less and less compatible with old files. [...] Curiously, as computer hardware gets faster, programs run slower.
> Photo retouching isn't new. Digital image processing, however, can be so extensive yet undetectable that it undermines the foundation of photojournalism -- that seeing is believing.
But he was right about tech will enable and amplify the worst in social behaviors.
Here's a video of him describing how the Curta performs arithmetic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OynMJB-2J1o — as well as the SciAm article he wrote on them: http://www.mycurta.com/Calculator.pdf
Do you have a caching service in front maybe?
Yep. Cloudflare is out front, so the actual load on the rasp-pi is mitigated by their content-delivery network.
Then, too, my website is almost entirely simple html with compressed images, so there's not a lot of bytes to shovel.
Here in Berkeley/Oakland, Sonic.net has strung quality fiber-optic, so there's 1Gbit to my house. That lets me keep up with things. However, they only give a dynamic ip address;, so my pi must keep track of its address and tell Cloudflare whenever it changes.
Works surprisingly well - from /top/ I see about several dozen simultaneous users (thank you!), and the cpu temp is about 2 degrees above its normal of 50C
The raspberry pi itself is in the crawlspace under my home, fed through a Ubiquity edge router. Much fun, playing with Unix (oops, I mean Linux) -- sends me back to days of yore when everything happened from your command lines.
1. I met you in Kepler's when Silicon Snake Oil came out and we talked about something and you wrote in the inside "I hear you, John". I don't know what we discussed!
2. I am now Cloudflare's CTO and if you want to avoid the dynamic IP address problem you can use Cloudflare Tunnel to connect to us (rather than us to you). https://www.cloudflare.com/products/tunnel/
And that Kepler's talk? Happy memories, indeed. They "paid" me for my talk by saying that I could have a copy of any book in the store. I chose the Times World Atlas (a way-big book of maps). The manager's face suddenly dropped -- and then I told 'em that I'd pay full list price if all of their employees sound sign the book. Result: I now have a terrific atlas of maps, with a dozen signatures of book people. (two of them visited me last year and I showed them their signatures from decades ago -- very sweet!)
Meanwhile, I gotta send out some of the tsunami of Klein bottle orders. But Cloudflare tunnel? Here I come!
My needs are very similar to Cliff's. I have (or going to have) a home server on a residential ISP which can't accept incomming connections. I need a public-facing server that will return from the cache if I'm ever on the HN front page or my home server is down, TLS handling, and routing to my home server's port 80 when needed.
I mostly serve personal websites but I have aspirations of building a small business. Is there anything in Cloudflare's range that would work for my kind of needs?
Hoping you follow-up on nine-day-old threads, Bill.
2. We literally announced free tunnels for all customer here: https://blog.cloudflare.com/tunnel-for-everyone/
The blogs that go down here typically back every request by MySQL (ahem, WordPress) which is totally unnecessary and often actively harmful since MySQL has very low default total connections allowed.
The point being: don't serve requests backed by a database unless the results are likely to change very dynamically!
WordPress is not my favorite thing and some of the available plug-ins do terrible things with MySQL, but the problem is not too low default connections; it's too many PHP workers. WordPress is generally focused enough that most of the wall time is spent in waiting for the database, so you want to optimize for throughput; one or two workers per cpu thread is plenty for that. More concurrency than execution available reduces throughput, so it's better to queue requests in your http layer than to process multiple at once.
Large numbers of MySQL connections are more appropriate when the web pages do a mix of things, but more/mostly idle DB wise; in that case, you might still want persistent connections to reduce round trips before a query, but are less likely to have a query backlog large enough where task switching overhead becomes significant.
The only difference between this and adding a cache is that the cache is another piece of software in your production stack.
Vanilla SSGs are so simple I ended up writing a basic one out of a markdown and jinja parser in Python every time (for example: https://github.com/eatonphil/notes.eatonphil.com/blob/master...).
If I were not lazy I might learn one of the major ones like Hugo.
It doesn't matter what SSG you pick, they all produce the exact same kind of thing.
But the point was to make a comparison to a Raspberry Pi and emphasize that you do not special compute to withstand thousands of page views. Even S3 and GH Pages are overkill in terms of the compute behind both of them vs. what you need minimally.
And I will double up and say it is a great episode of a great podcast.
Out of interest, is it publishing companies that make digital versions of books, or is it up to the author themselves to do that?
(And if it's the latter this is a small request to Clifford to consider it if it's not too much of an arduous task. And provided their relationship with amazon isn't too soured by the current situation, which I could understand if it is).
I wonder what would happen if someone at Amazon pulled on this thread and not only solved Cliff's problem but also the root cause that enables this kind of product hijacking.
The root cause here is organizational failure from disempowered employees. At one point Amazon had great customer service with empowered represenatives. That's not Amazon today.
It can be if that's the side effect of a system designed to make selling as frictionless (and therefore lucrative) as possible. Thence, greed could be the root cause, if not the proximate cause.
Depends entirely on how much the sellers are selling. It’s entirely possible they like the idea of making a ton of sales for a bit. It’s not their reputation that gets destroyed.
Anyone expecting any other behavior from utility maximizing entities is naive?
The problem is even once reliable sites like newegg.com are now playing these games. If I wanted the Ebay/alibaba experience I can get that! Why large retailer sites dilute their brand and frustrate customers in the fruitless chase of "being like Amazon" in catering to 3rd party sellers amazes and annoys me.
At least most other sites let you weed out the 3rd party sellers fairly easily. What's really annoying is with Amazon, even if you are buying from "Amazon" it could be ultimately supplied to Amazon by some hackney 3rd party and not a trusted wholesaler or the original manufacturer. And as Cliff Stoll found out, Amazon doesn't care either.
Talk about coasting on your reputation. It will be interesting to see how much trust they have to piss away before it affects them enough for them to finally pay attention to stuff like this :/
Last year I bought a new mouse. NewEgg redirected my sale to a reseller, who sent me a busted, used mouse in a plastic baggie, with cigarette burns on the buttons. After raising a little hell, I got a refund. Basic on customer reviews, I'm not the only person this seller (betechparts, if you care) is scamming. Despite multiple emails to customer support and the NewEgg CEO, this seller remains active on NewEgg.
I no longer trust Amazon or NewEgg to supply non-counterfeit and unused merchandise.
I maintain that Newegg has diluted its brand (and presumably grossed higher) by adding so many third-party sellers. At least, for me, they've held up their product support thus far.
I don't remember. It probably did not have "sold by NewEgg" checked. That my order was going to a third party seller was not obvious to me, the first time it happened.
I've made reluctant orders through NewEgg since then. Much prefer to buy locally, even at a higher price.
Amazon seems both willfully and unintentionally incompetent. They have so many strikes against them.
Their prime dark patterns are hostile enough, and I avoided it for years. But I needed a cheap plastic item quickly so I did a free prime trial with the intention to cancel. So I canceled and got billed anyway because according to their rep, on the back end the check box for “auto renewal” was enabled which wasn’t an option my settings screens. Why would it have been? I’d already cancelled and had a cancel confirmation email so why would an auto renewal option still be activated and bill me? It’s willful incompetence.
And their hire to fire practices and practice of churning through warehouse workers is terrible.
This Klein bottle incident just shows again how little they care about legit users or how easy it is to abuse the system.
They made whole foods a bad experience by treating non-prime members as second class customers. I’ve cut back there and now only occasionally buy coffee beans there, and will be cutting back even more.
And now Amazon recruiters started reaching out to me for data science positions. No I am not interested in working for a hot mess that only cares about money.
To be honest, there's not much difference between Prime and non-Prime at Whole Foods. The Prime specials are very few and far between, and usually not worth very much. There are more signs about discounts in the store than actual discounts in the store.
I think the only thing I ever get a Prime discount on is my wife's favorite cheese and occasionally steak. But pre-Amazon, the cheese was $4.99 a package. Post-Amazon, I need a Prime discount to get it down to $6.99 a package.
And for what its worth, the store experience was totally fine. I'll give them my money again next time I need something tech related.
I would call it an anomaly but the exact same thing happened when my sister tried to buy a Switch from them a few months prior.
My wife knows the person who is responsible for this, and tells me that the person who implemented these changes knows exactly what you're talking about because that person had the same horrible experiences with Best Buy decades ago. That's the reason things have changed.
Every time you hear, "<Crazy thing X> sold on Walmart website!" it's always a reseller, not directly from them.
Because "monkey see, monkey do" is pretty much the go-to leadership strategy for a lot of big companies these days.
Bad managers manage badly. Senior "leadership" rarely knows the meaning of the world.
While amazon is super handy, even food items like can goods are cheaper on walmart, but you have to wait a few days for shipping. Its can goods, theres no hurry, save money and shop around.
Just read the thread on the previous occasion where listings got hijacked on their own fora  - its sad to see the sellers so powerless, helpless and just left to themselves.
You really have to wonder why they even bother...
Edit: also, reading that thread you can also get a feel why big brands have completely left AMZN as a platform (like Adidas, Birkenstock are a few i'm aware of).
Possible co-mingling of inventory, hijacked listings... no, just don't bother - of course not each and everyone is a heavyweight as my 2 examples - but do we really need 100s of dropshippers FBA'ing the same crap? I'd rather buy direct at the source than at Amazon these days.
They seem to want it both ways. They have simultaneously tried to argue that they are not responsible for third-party sellers and blame them when fake and/or unsafe goods are sold, but then they work hard to make it appear that everything is coming from one place. It gets particularly annoying when it's a product with lots of variations (colours/sizes etc) where each variant will be a different seller with different shipping.
As near as I can work out, their business model is now based on your being able to send back completely wrong or broken things they've sent you, so I stick to stuff where I've got the luxury of going through a cumbersome return process if things go terribly wrong.
My address has also been used as a target for a scam where, by sending unwanted goods to a real customer, a seller can fabricate a fake review that counts in their system as real. In one case it was a garbage light (shipped directly in its retail packaging so I could see what the thing was) that by a strange coincidence was the top-rated light on Amazon. Clearly an exploit that pays off.
I stopped (I think) that behavior by returning some unsolicited packages to sender, at the post office.
I'm pretty much down to a few books, video games, and obscure fasteners/hardware/tools (which annoyingly they're just about the only good source for).
Kind of a good metaphor for how toxic Amazon as a whole is, actually.
Recently I needed some vinyl siding hooks, a really oddball size drawer slide, and replacement window springs. I ended up getting all of them on Amazon - even tracking back the manufacturers they seemed to exclusively sell on Amazon.
At least that way they could trace the people who were seriously poisoning the co-mingled well, in circumstances where they wanted to.
> Note: Amazon ensures that the initial source of the commingled units can be traced throughout the fulfilment process.
The linked FAQ goes into slightly more detail.
If I order 2 of something and they come from different sellers, and one is fake, how would they know which was which? Or that I selected the correct one to return?
Or if someone orders only 1, but recieve it and return a different one they bought from aliexpress.
Knowing that returned items get sold as new, it seems like the problem could compound, especially if the same item gets returned and resold multiple times. If it's a bad fake, that seems more probable then not.
Small is beautiful! Stay small!
- from the guy who in September 2000 bought 16 klein bottles since you only charged for prime numbered bottles, and sent you his credit card number as the sum of two 16-digit numbers sent to different email addresses! I still have a beer mug and question mark; all the rest are with friends! <3
How sad - they didn't have to get better, everyone else just got a lot worse by comparison.
As I understand it, the actually e-commerce was still OK. It was more a problem with discoverability.
They are too big to fail and they can bribe their way out of anything.
As long as majority of people don't care, why would they ever want to fix it?
Also for one legit Western company, you can get 1000 Chinese knock-off cheaper ones that don't complain and people buy what's cheaper.