Direct communication involves users speaking to each other in their own words. Amazon's direct community features include:
Reviews are the most direct way to let others know how you feel about any item in Amazon's catalog?in your own words. The review includes a 1-5 star rating that summarizes your opinion at a glance. Each review can also be rated "helpful" or not by anyone reading it. Reviews (positive or negative) that have been rated helpful by other Amazon visitors then bubble up to the top of the list. [Hack #27].
You can use lists to rewrite the way items are categorized using your own unique perspective. A bookstore wouldn't normally put a book of Antarctic photography right next to a biography of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton?and they definitely wouldn't have a GPS navigation system on the same shelf as well. Lists provide a chance to show how seemingly disconnected items actually share a common thread. [Hack #41].
Lists allow you to attach a few comments to each item. Guides, on the other hand, allow you to attach a few items to your much longer writing. They're free-form tutorials about any topic. If you're an expert wilderness trekker, for example, you could write a guide about picking out and using the perfect GPS navigation system and survival gear?listing those items that helped you along the way. [Hack #37].
This feature allows you to find specific Amazon users (including people you know in real life), add them to a list, and keep up with their reviews, lists, guides, and Wish Lists. You can even selectively share your purchase history (and potentially view their history) with some or all of them. [Hack #42].
You can recommend another product instead of (or in addition to) any given product by entering its ASIN. The recommendations are collected and displayed on product detail pages. [Hack #39].
This feature allows you to send additional product discounts on items that you purchase to anyone you know. If someone you sent the discount to purchases one of those items within seven days, you'll receive a credit toward your next purchase. While not specifically available in Amazon's community area, it involves connecting with other Amazon customers. [Hack #36].
Aggregated data differs from direct communication in that it's not just individuals giving advice and information?it's looking at how whole groups of people interact with the site. Looking at the big picture like this can show trends, and give you some insight into how your interests fit in (or not) with others at Amazon. This information answers some common questions people have about how other people are using Amazon:
What else are people who bought a particular item buying? When you're looking at a single item, Amazon shows similar items that customers have purchased along with that item.
What are people near me?my neighbors, those in my town, at my university?buying? Narrowing down customer purchase patterns to specific geographic areas or organizations, you can see product purchases unique to specific groups of people.
What are all Amazon customers buying? Each item that has been sold at Amazon has a number that reflects its sales in comparison with other items at Amazon.
How did the group of people who reviewed this item rate it? By collecting and averaging all of the star ratings from reviews of a product, this feature provides a quick summary of the thoughts of all reviewers.
These features do more than let you know what others on Amazon are up to. All of this data is a gold mine for product vendors, book readers, music fans, authors, and anyone interested in trends across different industries. Everyone from businesses to hobbyist developers are starting to see the value in having the ability to manipulate, integrate, or customize Amazon community data in ways that are unique to their perspectives.