Amazon Hits the Wiki Bandwagon

Amazon has been adding community-type features to its Web site for a long time, as one can see from its product pages — users can add tags to products, start discussions, and even add information to a product wiki. Now however Amazon is offering a catalog-wide wiki called Amapedia. It’s not called a wiki, but it’s sure what it looks like to me. Amapedia’s in beta at . Upon further inspection it looks like an aggregation of all the wiki’d products from the main Amazon Web site.

The front page doesn’t mention “wiki”, it mentions community. And it has an example article and a tag cloud for you to browse through as well as a simple keyword search. Active big tags at the moment include things like camera, fictional character, and strategy game. I did a simple keyword search for licorice, which gave me a list of products from Amazon’s site. None of them had articles. From each item in the search results you could create an article yourself or “watch” for the article. You’ll have to be logged in to be able to watch for the article.

You used to be able to get keyword alerts from Amazon when products matching those keywords became available. It was a lovely idea and then it was pulled. So lemme get this straight. You can get alerts for an article about a product but no longer for a product itself, right? Grrrr…Unfortunately you can’t just do a search for a keyword and then watch that keyword; searches that don’t match a product or article give you only the option to create an article. (My search for tapdancing butterball gave me only the option to create an article. Amusingly, the first real product result for that search was the DVD of Gone With the Wind.)

Back to regular search. A search for Harry Potter brought several results of items that did have articles, both books, video games, and one parody. Though the pages had Amazon product shots and what I’ve come to think of as “Amazon tabs”, every page has both a link to its history and a link to edit. Looks like a wiki to me. Unfortunately most of the articles I looked at just had a tab of product information and a product shot. (The parody article was extensive.)

In addition to the tag cloud searching and the simple keyword search, there’s an advanced search that allows you to do a general search (like DVD or game) and get a series of filters you can apply. For example if you did a search for dvd you might get filters allowing you to narrow down your search to cartoons or TV shows. The Amapedia also has a “random article” function, which I found was the best way to get populated article pages and examples of what people were using Amapedia for (product descriptions and reviews, manuals, and occasionally scholarly discussion of an author/subject.)

Like the watch feature. Like the idea of a wiki for Amazon’s products, but it needs populating!

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