Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Too Much Is Not Enough

This past Thursday, I went online to buy replacement color cartridges (C, M, Y) for my Brother color laser printer (HL-3040CN). Didn’t think this would be a big deal, timewise, because I’d bought the black cartridge (BK) online two months ago. My plan was simple: Try Amazon first and compare to Walmart (where I’d bought the black).

On Amazon, I quickly found my way to Brother color laser cartridges. Scrolled past a bunch of stuff (that did not have my requested “TN-210” in their descriptions), and found the first cartridge. But why did I have to scroll past items that didn’t match my search?

When you know exactly what you want, and specify it exactly in the search, Amazon (among many others) shows you unrelated items. Why? Do they think I don’t know what I want? Do they think I’m just browsing? If their answer to any of these questions is Yes, then they should offer more help with the search, e.g., do you mean, etc.

But they (all of them) don’t. As a result I—and most likely you and everyone else—have to wade through extraneous crap. (If it isn’t what I’m looking for, it’s crap to me.) I found the other two cartridges a few rows down. Why? If these are similar items from the same source, why aren’t they all together?

Anyway. When I checked at Walmart they didn’t have any color cartridges, just the black. Huh? Well, never mind. Went back to Amazon for options. Mistake. I found a few compatible cartridges (especially a full set of four for the price of one factory cartridge). Sadly, all of them had too many iffy reviews.

Another option: In all this searching, I’d seen what appeared to be a set of four (apparently factory) cartridges for the price of three individual cartridges. Pretty Good Deal? Not yet. First, I confirmed my three factory cartridges were from the same source (one had a different picture). Then I went looking for the four-for-three deal. Mistake. COULD NOT FIND IT AGAIN!

How was this possible? Easy. There’s just too much information—most of it irrelevant—and if it’s not irrelevant then it’s poorly organized. Given the way they control how we search this information, it’s too hard to find what you want easily—even if it’s known and fully-described. All this information, presented as it is, is just not enough to get the job done without far too much wasted time.

Information is like ice cream: Too much of a good thing just isn’t.


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