Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Amazon has contributed so much that's useful to human life.
Or, should I say, so much that's convenient and panders to our laziness.
At times, though, the company can have strange ideas that may not have been quite thought-through.
This felt like a troubling example.
I am grateful to journalist Stacy-Marie Ishmael, who happened to spot a discreet Amazon job ad and post it to Twitter.
The ad is for a Managing Editor of News. That sounds like a traditional job title.
But wait, I hear you grunt, why would Amazon want one of those?
Could it be that the company wants to get people so painfully scared that they'll be ever-more committed to worshipping Amazon-owned Ring's video doorbells and other security gizmos?
I judge this from these words in the ad:
The Managing Editor, News will work on an exciting new opportunity within Ring to manage a team of news editors who deliver breaking crime news alerts to our neighbors.
Ishmael expressed her fears -- and her astonishment -- succinctly:
I have no jokes, only MAJOR CONCERNS about surveillance + the worst of NextDoor.
Should you have avoided the joys of NextDoor, it's a site where neighbors can post their thoughts, information, accusations and, quite naturally, their local tittle-tattle.
Should you want to avoid the smaller print of this Amazon listing, I'll offer you a taste. It describes Ring as "neighborhood watch for the digital age."
The digital age hasn't exactly been sprightly in making neighborhood feelings any warmer.
Just fifteen seconds on Twitter can reveal this.
I was concerned about which specific media Amazon might use to peddle its electric shocks of fear.
You see, part of the job description involves identifying "compelling and actionable new alert formats and test markets for pilot programs."
Compelling and actionable new alert formats? Oh, you mean like police sirens, cars backfiring and those gunfire noises video games make every five seconds?
Perhaps those with Alexa in their houses will hear constant screams of terror emitted from their machines, followed by a sonorous voice declaiming: Warning! Warning! A Strange Man Is Walking Down Your Street!
Amazon has already introduced some shiveringly bracing new schemes, such as allowing your delivery person to open your front door and drop your package inside your house.
This Ring crime alert thing appears to increase the shiverage level.
However, a Ring spokeswoman told me that, really, this isn't quite as scary as the ad made it sound:
The job posting being referenced is for an existing position on the Neighbors team. This team works to ensure our users receive the most important crime and safety information -- such as 'fire reported', 'street closure in your neighborhood' -- accompanied with calls-to-action that users can take to stay safe, such as 'please avoid the area'. You'll see these updates from the News Team in the Neighbors app when you download it.
Some might wonder, however, whether reports of fires or street closures are crimes.
They might worry this may lurch toward frightening people into committing to a product. After all, you don't have to buy a Ring product to download the Neighbors app.
And fear-selling is something that has often been entertained by, among others, insurance companies and, indeed, security companies.
The problem with digital implementation -- however it might be executed -- is that it may create a constant level of worried anticipation and unnecessary angst.
As if we needed any more right now.
Look here! Look there! Criminals are lurking everywhere! So get a Ring Doorbell!
A tantalizing sell, isn't it?
Still, Ring positively insists it isn't quite like that, however much the ad might have suggested such a thing. Instead, the spokeswoman told me:
This team posts in real-time based on their guidelines and has a set of standards they must adhere to. The team evaluates crime and safety information that comes from risk reporting agencies, certified social media accounts, public safety systems, and many other sources to identify incidents once again, in real time.
And creates compelling and actionable new alert formats about crimes. And makes you believe that your whole neighborhood is a potential crime locale.
So they you can remain both paranoid and compellingly alerted.
Which does still feel exactly like fearmongering, especially as the crime rate is actually decreasing.
Still, perhaps you thought this was a news-based public service, there to replace the local paper that's fallen on hard times.
Not quite, I fear.
The job ad is listed under: Marketing and PR.