10 years old, 45%, algorithm, facebook, fernando, hamster, jimmy and eddie russell, madeline, peta, russel's reserve
My daughter has a hamster. Well, she had a hamster. Fernando was his name.
I’m not at liberty to tell you where he is and why he is there, but what I can say is that rather recently, his more-than-benevolent caretaker approached me with the request that I assist her in taking a picture of all of the tiny rodent’s belongings in order to sell them online.
“Done and done, my dear child. And if you don’t mind, shall I scribe for you a finely tuned advertisement that will, most certainly, rid you of these things while achieving a top dollar goal?”
“Whatever. Sure. I don’t care. I’m just never getting another hamster.”
“Again, done and done.”
Together we staged Fernando’s belongings on the kitchen table. I took a picture with my phone and then uploaded it to the Facebook Marketplace. Once I’d gotten an affirmative nod from the seller beside me regarding the $55 price tag, I tapped away at a short description of the items, and then posted it to the local resale networks. Here’s what I wrote:
“Well cared for hamster supplies. Everything you need to keep a happy and healthy hamster. Unless, of course, he’s an unappreciative jerk. Then you can evict him, being sure to send him to live with a friend so that you can sell all his junk and buy a cactus. Anyway, good stuff here.”
Within a few moments I received a notice from Facebook announcing that my advertisement was in violation of their marketplace policies and asking if I’d like to appeal. At first I thought, Wow, there must be a hypersensitive member of PETA living somewhere in the tri-county area. I just figured I had offended someone by the way I described the situation with Fernando. But that wasn’t it. It turns out that even though I posted the advertisement in the pet supplies section of the market—which I would imagine assumes each seller is going to note the kind of supplies being sold and the particular animal with which the supplies are associated—it was the word “hamster” that triggered the block. It sounded the virtual alarms because it is illegal to sell animals on Facebook.
That’s one bad algorithm right there. And as to whoever formulated it, Facebook should follow my lead and replace him or her with a cactus. I mean, cacti are designed by the Creator to be fairly self-sufficient, needing very little care or concern. The algorithm that tagged my post, however, is making a lot of extra work for the people dealing with the appeals process.
“Ah, here’s another trickster trying to sneak by us,” I imagine a young and idealistic screen jockey whispering. “Hmm, let’s see. Ah, the fraudster used the word ‘hamster.’ Bad idea, pal. This guy is probably a dark web dealer in illegal Mammalia Rodentia. Poor little things. Oh, wait. He’s selling his daughter’s hamster stuff… in the pet supplies section… like a normal person. I hate this stupid algorithm.”
Maybe instead of a cactus, the people at Facebook should consider hiring Jimmy and Eddie Russell, the master distillers who particularized Russell’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. I’ll bet they could provide the expertise for getting the formula right. They certainly succeeded in catching all the right details with this 10-year-old edition.
With a gentle nose of candy corn and something reminiscent of pineapple juice and cake frosting, the Russell’s Reserve puts forth a fanciful advertisement that beckons to give it a try.
But with what is being offered in comparison to its price—which in my particular corner of the whiskey universe was about $45—one might become alarmed, thinking the deal to be trickery. Nevertheless, a sip proves the honesty in the transaction. This is no bottom shelf Bourbon attempting to sell itself incautiously. It is a finely calculated presentation of wood spice, honeyed nougat, a simpler pinch of cinnamon in cola, and a wrapping in mild warmth.
The finish—an easy, medium-length retelling of the spicy cola—is a pitch to revisit the whiskey as often as one might prefer. And now you can, because after a couple of hours, the folks at Facebook acknowledged the uselessness of their algorithm and allowed your pet supplies advertisement to go through. With such a pardon from Facebook prison came a good number of inquiries, one of which led to a final sale. With a crisp $55 in hand, you can easily afford a bottle of the Russell’s Reserve. Although, now you are facing another problem.
“Daddy, did the hamster stuff sell, yet?”
“It sure did, honey,” is my reply. “But I forgot to tell you that I charge a $45 fee for each online advertisement I’m hired to design.”
“Here’s your ten bucks, sweetie.”
The ‘dad tax’ gotta love it!!