Author Topic: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS  (Read 2452 times)  

Offline jsbangs

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Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« on: May 16, 2017, 01:55:44 AM »
Hello, KBoards! This is my first post here. I've been a self-published author for about a year now, but never ventured over this way... but this post isn't about that. This post is about something that I made to address my frustrations with the default AMS dashboard, and a tool that I made which should be of great help to anyone who uses it.

Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS

Machete is a Google Chrome plugin which gives you one-click history graphs, keyword analysis, and a complete campaign history, all within the context of your existing AMS dashboard. It's currently only available for Google Chrome -- sorry users of other browsers!

Home page: https://machete-app.com

Install it directly through this link.

Install it, and on your dashboard a little gold icon will appear in several cells of your active campaigns. Click on it to see how that metric does over time.



Click through to the campaign details page, and you'll have two new tabs. One of them is called "Keyword Analytics", and it shows you a visual representation of your keyword performance.



You also get a number of reports showing your best and worst keywords. Keywords can be modified directly in the reports and can be updated in bulk.



You also have a "Campaign History" tab which contains a graph showing all of your metrics, with selectable ranges and a variety of other features.



This tool is free for your first 3 most recent active campaigns, but you can upgrade to get access to more campaigns.

I've been testing this for a while, but if you encounter any difficulty please let me know at jsbangs@gmail.com, or here in this forum. I'm also extremely open to feature requests and suggestions.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2017, 02:10:32 AM by jsbangs »

Offline Jim Johnson

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2017, 06:30:25 AM »
None of my active campaigns show up as gold icons. They're grayed out. How does the free work for active campaigns?

Offline edwardgtalbot

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2017, 06:59:24 AM »
I dropped an email to the support email on the site and it was bounced back. I have two questions to start. The first is housekeeping. We're giving this tool the right to our AMS accounts. When you try to install, it specifically says that. I know for me, I'd like to have a lot better sense of why I should trust it than a single page web site.

Second question is how are you getting and maintaining the daily data? AMS doesn't provide it. I have some theories on how you might be doing it but I'd like to hear the details. Note - I do understand that there may be certain highly technical details you don't want to share, though honestly the challenge in a tool like this is not protecting proprietary methods but developing and supporting it.
Edward G. Talbot thrillers: Sometimes, everyone IS out to get you.

Offline PamelaKelley

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2017, 09:11:51 AM »
I love the idea of it, but not comfortable sharing my Amazon login info, so will have to pass.

Offline LFGabel

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2017, 09:14:13 AM »
I'd imagine it works almost like a scraping tool, refreshing the data at regular intervals (to prevent logout) and collecting it. As far as sharing login information, Book Report does this, although not with a Chrome plugin.
All the best,
Lee


Offline Mike_Kraus

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2017, 09:29:08 AM »
Just wanted to point out that you can always set up a separate Amazon account, add that account as a Manager for your AMS account and then probably use the tool under the manager account. That way the tool can't access/change anything else about your main account except for manipulating the ads.

Offline edwardgtalbot

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2017, 09:36:25 AM »
I'd imagine it works almost like a scraping tool, refreshing the data at regular intervals (to prevent logout) and collecting it. As far as sharing login information, Book Report does this, although not with a Chrome plugin.

Right, but what if I don't login for 2-3 days? Or don't have my browser open? With sales data, Book report can just get itself up to date as long as more than  90 days haven't gone by (though at this point book report works slightly differently). With AMS, there is no daily data so it likely is being calculated based on a differential. I have an Access database and queries with which I am doing exactly this with the files I download once a day. But what I can tell you is that the logic I had to write to get the daily values as accurate as possible if I miss a day or more is complicated AND I have to set up my ads in a certain way to get it to be as accurate as possible.

That's why I want to know what this app is doing, because as someone who designs stuff like this for a living I am pretty sure that it's going to have some limitations in its accuracy and I want to know what those are.

Book report does use an Amazon login (though it doesn't know my password), but book report doesn't get the right to make changes to my KDP stuff. This app explicitly says it gets the right to make changes on AMS. I'm sure this is because the app offers a feature to update the bids on keywords, but that also opens up to any other changes I can make in AMS. If I were the developer, I'd remove that functionality at first because most authors (I hope) will be wise enough not to open themselves up this way. Or else create two versions of it, that is easy enough to do.

Regarding Mike's suggestion about a manager account, it's not that I'm worried about my main account. The tool has no rights on that. It only has rights to AMS. But that is of major concern. Even if I weren't concerned about the fact that the tool is from someone I've never heard of, with no reviews, I would be concerned about my exposure to hackers. How secure is the tool? Chrome plugins (like web sites, etc) can be vulnerable to a number of different forms of attack if they are not designed properly. A hacker could start new campaigns and put in high bids. Just to screw with people - many hackers love to prove a point that things aren't secure.
Edward G. Talbot thrillers: Sometimes, everyone IS out to get you.

Offline Mike_Kraus

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2017, 09:43:29 AM »
Oh absolutely. I wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole until we hear more from the developer than "hey this awesome tool that solves all your problems exists" but for those who are on the fence that might be a way to make them feel marginally more comfortable.

That bulk bid update thing is just... man. I want that. But yeesh. Not feeling comfortable with the developer dropping in once and not replying to any questions.

Offline edwardgtalbot

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2017, 09:59:18 AM »
Oh absolutely. I wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole until we hear more from the developer than "hey this awesome tool that solves all your problems exists" but for those who are on the fence that might be a way to make them feel marginally more comfortable.

That bulk bid update thing is just... man. I want that. But yeesh. Not feeling comfortable with the developer dropping in once and not replying to any questions.

He may have a day job, so I'm not worried about lack of response yet. Certainly I'm more than happy to give him a day or two to give us good answers!

As for the keywords, I'm not so concerned with bid update myself. I'd just create a new ad. What appeals to me most is the keyword analysis. Downloading daily numbers and loading them into my database takes very little time. But the keywords have to be done for each campaign, and that takes a lot of time.
Edward G. Talbot thrillers: Sometimes, everyone IS out to get you.

Offline LFGabel

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2017, 11:28:32 AM »
That's why I want to know what this app is doing...Even if I weren't concerned about the fact that the tool is from someone I've never heard of, with no reviews, I would be concerned about my exposure to hackers. How secure is the tool? Chrome plugins (like web sites, etc) can be vulnerable to a number of different forms of attack if they are not designed properly. A hacker could start new campaigns and put in high bids. Just to screw with people - many hackers love to prove a point that things aren't secure.

Excellent points. I wasn't going to install this (gut feeling), but the issues you raise sealed the deal.
All the best,
Lee


Offline TripEllington

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2017, 11:30:01 AM »
Just took a cursory look at the source code and everything looks legit (and nicely commented code for a new project!). It uses the AMS API to retrieve much of the data for analysis and runs as a background instance to ping AMS at regular intervals to collect data - this means you don't manually have to visit AMS but you would need to keep your computer awake with the Chrome process running for this to continue to collect that sort of data from what I can tell. In this instance, it is at least coded to do what it says it should do and I didn't see anything nefarious, but I didn't go through each line with a fine comb, so take my word as you will.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2017, 11:33:07 AM by TripEllington »

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Offline jsbangs

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2017, 11:33:21 AM »
I'm here :). Among other things, I'm in Eastern Europe, so my responses won't happen during the middle of my night, which is the afternoon for most of you in US timezones. This evening I happened to be in a meeting for several hours and couldn't respond.

So let me clarify two things:

Login with Amazon

Machete does not see your Amazon password, and has no direct access to any part of your Amazon account. Login with Amazon works the same way as Book Report, mentioned above, or any number of other sites that allow you to log in with your Google or Facebook account. Your actual login happens on an amazon.com URL, and Amazon passes Machete a secure token that lets me get your email address and name for bookkeeping, but nothing else.

Machete Plugin

The plugin starts up when you visit ams.amazon.com, and it queries the  same datasources that Amazon itself uses in order to get a snapshot of all of your campaigns. It then starts up a background process that repeats this query once an hour. The data is stored at machete-app.com, so that when you click on one of the history icons it queries machete-app.com and gets a complete time-series.

However, Machete is tied to your Amazon session, so we can't gather data under any of the following conditions:

  • Your computer is turned off
  • You have logged out of Amazon
  • You have closed the browser and have not allowed Google Chrome to run in the background
  • You don't have an internet connection

You can close the browser tab with the AMS dashboard, and Machete will continue to update in the background until your Amazon session expires. I find that if I leave my computer on, it'll go about 24 hours before I need to refresh. Machete will put up a notification when the session times out to remind you to log in to AMS again.

And if you want to check on me, you can always look at the source: https://gitlab.com/jaspax/ams-unlocked

Offline jsbangs

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2017, 11:53:34 AM »
None of my active campaigns show up as gold icons. They're grayed out. How does the free work for active campaigns?

Jim, do you have closed campaigns which are more recent than your active campaigns? The quota currently applies to your campaigns sorted by order of start date. I would like to change this so that completed campaigns are never counted against the quote, but that will require a little bit of work due to the screwy way that Amazon reports on campaign status.

Offline Mike_Kraus

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2017, 11:56:03 AM »
Thanks for the info! Couple of comments/questions.

I'm getting errors on the page you linked whenever I click on any of the milestones. I'm not a gitlab user, though, so am I just doing something wrong?

What data is stored on the server, and how is it protected? I think it's pretty obvious that keywords and campaign data are extremely valuable. Having that information stored on your server would make anyone with successful campaigns nervous. I understand that for that amount of data you have to store it externally, but that doesn't sit well with me and I'm sure with a lot of other people. How can you make us feel better about that?

Offline edwardgtalbot

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2017, 12:00:36 PM »
Thanks for the response!

Machete does not see your Amazon password, and has no direct access to any part of your Amazon account. Login with Amazon works the same way as Book Report, mentioned above, or any number of other sites that allow you to log in with your Google or Facebook account. Your actual login happens on an amazon.com URL, and Amazon passes Machete a secure token that lets me get your email address and name for bookkeeping, but nothing else.

But it does give you the right to make changes in AMS, correct? When I clicked on the link, it said I was agreeing to that. I do understand that this is necessary for you to offer the features you offer, I just wanted to confirm and find out more.
Machete Plugin
However, Machete is tied to your Amazon session, so we can't gather data under any of the following conditions:
  • Your computer is turned off
  • You have logged out of Amazon
  • You have closed the browser and have not allowed Google Chrome to run in the background
  • You don't have an internet connection

So if I am away for several days and I don't leave my computer on, when I get back how does it figure out the daily data? Does it simply calculate an hourly or daily rate based on the difference in the timestamps between the queries of the data? I know what I've written for myself takes into account the start date and end date as well, though that has its own accuracy issues.

Overall it seems very useful, I just wish there were an option where you only had read access to my AMS even if I had to give up the keyword bid update feature.
Edward G. Talbot thrillers: Sometimes, everyone IS out to get you.

Offline jsbangs

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2017, 12:23:49 PM »
But it does give you the right to make changes in AMS, correct? When I clicked on the link, it said I was agreeing to that. I do understand that this is necessary for you to offer the features you offer, I just wanted to confirm and find out more.

I actually can't turn that off, because it's a feature of Google Chrome and is separate from Login with Amazon. The plugin operates as a "content script", meaning that some extra JS is injected into the pages that you give it permission to run on, which has to include ams.amazon.com. Injecting any JS at all requires read/write access to that domain. So Chrome doesn't actually let me specify "read-only" access to ams.amazon.com.

(Note that BookReport has this same characteristic, though it works on a slightly different mechanism. There is nothing in principle that keeps BookReport from unpublishing all of your books.)

Quote
So if I am away for several days and I don't leave my computer on, when I get back how does it figure out the daily data? Does it simply calculate an hourly or daily rate based on the difference in the timestamps between the queries of the data? I know what I've written for myself takes into account the start date and end date as well, though that has its own accuracy issues.

Right now it just does an average over the gap between points in the time series. If you're gone for 3 days, and when you come back AMS reports 30 new sales, it'll just assume 10 sales/day.

Offline Jim Johnson

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #16 on: May 16, 2017, 12:47:02 PM »
Jim, do you have closed campaigns which are more recent than your active campaigns? The quota currently applies to your campaigns sorted by order of start date. I would like to change this so that completed campaigns are never counted against the quote, but that will require a little bit of work due to the screwy way that Amazon reports on campaign status.

Nah, just two current ones. I removed Machete and then replugged it and it seems to be working now.

Offline edwardgtalbot

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #17 on: May 16, 2017, 12:53:26 PM »
I actually can't turn that off, because it's a feature of Google Chrome and is separate from Login with Amazon. The plugin operates as a "content script", meaning that some extra JS is injected into the pages that you give it permission to run on, which has to include ams.amazon.com. Injecting any JS at all requires read/write access to that domain. So Chrome doesn't actually let me specify "read-only" access to ams.amazon.com.

(Note that BookReport has this same characteristic, though it works on a slightly different mechanism. There is nothing in principle that keeps BookReport from unpublishing all of your books.)


Thank you very much for the answers. Having never programmed a chrome extension before I was afraid there might be something like that. Logically I actually am not sure how chrome could really work differently since the difference between read and write is effectively on the server side. Chrome wouldn't know whether an action/event triggered a change on the back end. I appreciate you being specific about this.

This tool seems valuable, I'll just have to decide on the risk level for myself. Certainly you have given us reason to feel more comfortable about it. I checked out your author site - it's not my normal genre but I love your covers. Also read some of your blog articles on Romania :)

Thanks again.
Edward G. Talbot thrillers: Sometimes, everyone IS out to get you.

Offline Mike_Kraus

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #18 on: May 16, 2017, 12:59:03 PM »
JSBangs, thanks for the additional info.

Could you let me know about the couple of questions I had pertaining to your source code and the protection of our data on your servers?

Thanks!

Offline novelist11

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #19 on: May 16, 2017, 01:06:38 PM »
How do I update the reports in bulk? I don't see that anywhere under my Keyword Analytics.

Offline C.F.

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #20 on: May 16, 2017, 02:25:33 PM »
This looks like it could be awesome! Thanks for responding to everyone's questions so courteously. I'm excited to give this a try.

Offline jsbangs

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #21 on: May 17, 2017, 01:20:00 AM »
Mike:

I fixed the issue with the Milestones, I think. I had set the project to public, but I needed to also set the issue tracker to public visibility.

Regarding security:

* All traffic to machete-app.com goes over HTTPS
* machete-app is hosted on Heroku, so it uses their industry-standard security and encryption on the backend
* The privacy policy is here: https://machete-app.com/privacy.html
* One thing mentioned in the privacy policy is "anonymous aggregate reports". This hasn't actually been implemented yet, but a planned future feature would be something like a keyword suggester which draws from all of the keyword data we've collected.

Offline BlueGen

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #22 on: May 17, 2017, 05:36:19 AM »
I'm keen to try this out. But I'm getting this message when I even attempt to look at upgrading. Chrome won't let me anywhere near your site.

Your connection is not private

Attackers might be trying to steal your information from machete-app.com (for example, passwords, messages or credit cards). NET::ERR_CERT_COMMON_NAME_INVALID

Offline jsbangs

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #23 on: May 17, 2017, 05:52:45 AM »
Yikes! That shouldn't be happening. I'll take a look at it as soon as I get home.

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Offline jsbangs

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Re: Machete - Your tool for cutting through AMS
« Reply #24 on: May 17, 2017, 05:56:02 AM »
Ok, I see that my domain provider screwed something up so the site isn't working now. I'll be chopping heads and get it back up ASAP.

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