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Problems with MTAmazon

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2004

Some of you may have noticed that the Wisdom of Crowds post disappeared from the front page. I’ve been having lots of trouble with the MTAmazon plug-in that helps power the books section of the site. The basic problem is that the cache is somehow getting corrupted and/or the Amazon API is down and the site won’t publish if there’s a book post on the front page, which pretty much renders the whole site useless from an updating perspective. It worked well for months and now, poof, it doesn’t…without any changes having been made in how it works. Several others on the MTAmazon-users mailing list are having the same problem, and up until today, deleting the cache fixed the problem (as suggested), but even that doesn’t work now. With the caching mechanism, you’d think it would fail more gracefully than that.

Anyway, has anyone run into this problem and discovered a solution?

Reader comments

DanJul 13, 2004 at 11:14AM

I’ve noticed the same thing, but deleteing the chache did seem to work. Sadly, I didn’t think to look at the corrupt cache to see what the problem was, if it was just a AWS error, or on the MTAmazon side, or even just a connectivity issue.

Rich ManalangJul 13, 2004 at 11:23AM

I’ve written a simpler Amazon plugin for WordPress (WP-Amazon) and have been meaning to port it over to MT. It takes a much simpler approach to getting content from Amazon — without all of the caching and tags to add to your templates. Someday, I’ll port it over… or if anyone’s got time and interest, go ahead and do it.

LacyJul 13, 2004 at 2:33PM

I’ve had similar problems. Deleting the cache works … but only temporarily. I posted about this on the MT Forums - and they said Amazon had made some changes to the API that was causing problems.

Grrrrr. As a temporary solution - I just removed the MTAmazon tags (because MT hangs on those tags and won’t rebuild the rest of the page) - and for images I’m using -

img src=”http://images.amazon.com/images/P/[$MTEntryExcerpt$].01._PE30_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpg” /

for links I’m using -

I realize this doesn’t solve the MTAmazon problem — but it at least allows me to continue posting with my ASIN numbers, my templates all rebuild, and everything looks ok. This works for me until MTAmazon is fixed — or Amazon fixes their API to work correctly again.

kwcJul 13, 2004 at 4:25PM

Another option is to change the Amazon user id, but all that really does is change the names of the cache files. If there was something wrong with the filenames the cache was trying to use, this might fix it.

Matt KelleyJul 13, 2004 at 6:40PM

MTAmazon has never worked for me… people seem to get it “working” but not for very long. Personally I think it’s very poorly coded, and the support for it isn’t very in-depth. Most plug-ins for Movable Type are pretty supportless.

Kabir SehgalJul 13, 2004 at 8:36PM

The post “Wisdom of Crowds” is no longer working. Here were my comments for that post:

This sounds like a revealing read. A step away from the tomes on “independent leadership,” leadership by group is the direct democracy that some yearn for. Yet others detest.

I’ve wondered for some time now on the deterioration of groups. In other words, we know what brings people together…a common goal or interest. There is a shared interest. And in leading a business, there is shared capital, stakes, and so forth.

But what when the group breaks down and ceases to exist? Are there any trends that indicate why things don’t continue. On the surface, we could point to the opposite of formation…disagreement. But I haven’t found any research that delves into why groups breakdown and cease to operate. U.S. Steel and Standard Oil faced trustbusters in the early 20th century, thus law compelled these companies to cease and desist. The Beatles, however, and an internal squabble followed by tragic death. But is there a common thread here? Is there any commonality in demise?

Perhaps Surowiecki will look at this topic in a future book: not leadership by committee, but, dare I say it, “Death by committee?”

gloryJul 13, 2004 at 8:49PM

fwiw, mefi had a nice post on the wisdom of crowds awhile back :D


William HenryJul 17, 2004 at 5:00AM

What is research, but a blind date with knowledge.

MandaJul 18, 2004 at 3:17PM

The error I’ve been getting most often is “503 Service Temporarily Unavail” which seems to suggest that the problem is on Amazon’s side. Clearing the cache doesn’t help that one.

Adam KalseyJul 21, 2004 at 11:25AM

Normally I don’t do tech support by reading people’s comments, but I happened to notice this.

Find the lines that say…

return $ctx->error(“Error reading XML content: $@.”)
if ($@);

And change them to…

return “”
if ($@);

The complete explanation is at http://sourceforge.net/mailarchive/forum.php?thread_id=3463112&forum_id=10675

I’m working on some changes to the plugin that will solve this problem and make it a bit more robust.

Adam KalseyJul 21, 2004 at 11:26AM

Sorry, those lines are in MTAmazon.pm. Forgot to include that…

Adam KalseyJul 21, 2004 at 11:53AM

Matt Kelley said:
MTAmazon has never worked for me… people seem to get it “working” but not for very long. Personally I think it’s very poorly coded, and the support for it isn’t very in-depth. Most plug-ins for Movable Type are pretty supportless.

I’m sorry you feel that way. You’re welcome to ask for your money back for all those plugins.

The problems with MTAmazon are all related to changes made to the way the AWS API works. They changed a significant number of things in the way the back end works.

MTAmazon offers a supoort mailing list for people to use in requesting help. Did you try asking for support on this or any other plugin before charging that it is “supportless”?

Supporting all the plugins and other free tools I’ve written over the years takes 10-15 hours each week. And oddly enough I have other things to do outside of providing free support for free stuff.

If you think that MTAmazon is poorly coded, then fix it. That’s the beauty of open source. You can make any changes you want. I’d disagree that it’s poorly coded, but only because there’s over a hundred hours of programming time invested in its creation. I’d also imagine that by making this charge, you must be a Perl coder. But looking over your site, I see that’s not the case, so your charge is baseless.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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