Annual eBay Bashing – or Mini How-To for Large Software Base

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eBay LogoI fondly call my wife lately Commodity Investor, as she loves to scout out best deals on eBay. In fact, I would easily bet that we are in their top 10% of customers list, and let’s just leave it at that. So why is it that they allow themselves to continuously upset us?

Granted, some of the occurrences are not their fault – try as they might, bad sellers are still abound there. I understand that it is really hard to figure out who is lying, the buyer with years of track records of purchases, or seller who joined few weeks ago and got no solid feedbacks yet.

But this post is not about that, it is instead all about things that are Completely within eBay Inc’s control, or at least they ought to be. Here are just two of more Fun bugs for this week, that are live on their Production site:

  • My eBay – Whoever asked them to do Ajax on the items list, the developers must have looked back and said Huh, is that like “Food” item? They are completely clueless how to implement it properly, paging is just awful, printing completely broken, going to see item and coming back is broken.
  • eBay Search – This is funny, because clearly this is a different team and implemented “list” technology completely differently. They have complete reverse of the above bug – if you do navigate to second page, but then switch category, your new category list starts with Second page!!!

Seriously, we aren’t even trying to discuss how far the website look & feel is from anything resembling modern web. Instead, we are talking basic functionality here, leading to people being unable to view properly the Items people paying Money to display and sell. The sad part? I am sure they employ a small army of developers and testers.

In fact, I am here to say that the bigger the team gets – the harder it is to maintain consistency or quality. So what can we learn here? Here are some constructive tips for our brethren at eBay IT :

  • Hire a Small group of HIGH Quality developers (yea, expensive ones) to develop and design core Infrastructure for the site, Including UI Components and their “glue platform”.
  • Once that core platform is ready, unleash the rest of your developers to customize, reuse, enhance and repurpose it across all eBay Inc properties. Yes, that does mean that My eBay and eBay Stores and other eBay Lists will share the same components – that’s a Good Thing!
  • Create a LOT of automated tests, including ones that Render page and look at it to reflect that it functions as expected. There are plenty of frameworks for this. Still, after these automated tests, there is No Substitute for High Quality live testers, the ones who notice things with usability also, beyond plain “ugly” bugs (like my wife, who finds these things weekly).

Okay, end of annual eBay Rant – you can return to your regularly scheduled mediocrity. Oh yea, and feel free to shop on Amazon more, their site is still behind times, but still light-years ahead of eBay, and they also offer slightly used items on their marketplace Smile

The Minecraft effect on our computing power

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Minecraft-PicI spent last two days working hard on setting my youngest son up with his own dedicated desktop PC. What is interesting, is that his prime gripe about his earlier system was that it couldn’t run Minecraft properly, especially with some add-ons!

I really like to encourage less violent and more creative games and this one is definitely it.

Game graphics is nothing fancy in this one, and the whole thing is written in Java – not exactly known for it’s lightening speed nor optimized memory management. So, a good XP system with 1 gb memory was really struggling, and after just few minutes of play was grinding to a halt. Interesting, putting Ubuntu on there didn’t help any, and resulted in slowdown seemingly even faster!

World of Warcraft Free 1-20So off I went to find a new system for my son with virtually no budget, but with goal to have him run latest games. So I started with refurbished open-box system from local Microcenter. It already had 6 gb DDR3 memory with Intel i3 and 1Tb drive! To this I added nVidia 440 GT graphics and 20” LED backlit display, and still stayed at around $500 mark!!!

The PC is screaming fast with Windows 7 64Bit and has no troubles with Minecraft at all. In fact, it also runs World of Warcraft at max settings with no problems either, especially after we discovered DirectX 11 support hidden in Advanced options in WoW!

So to all those analysts who project every few years that we would never need a more powerful computers, except if Voice Recognition or HD Video Editing takes off. While those scenarios never materialized – good old Gaming is keeping our demand for ever faster computers with prettier graphics Alive And Well!

So be sure your computer is powerful enough and dive in!

Bad US Regulations or Google Incompetence?


First, this is a response to a blog post here (via Techmeme). If you are too lazy to read it, here’s an executive summary: Google is saying they will delete 2 years worth of email and all other Google Account data for 10 years old Alex (Who is naturally crying now). All because he is under 13, which they just now learned about.

Lego Universe Preview SnippetThis one really hit home for me – as most of you probably know, we are completely Internet family here. Really – my 7 year old has his own laptop on his play table. It’s there for many years now and he feels extremely at home with it. My other kids are not under 13, but definitely were using Google and Microsoft and other services, for many years as well.

I must be missing something – but I definitely know that Yahoo has Family accounts Specifically for children under 13. In fact, that is how our 7 year old Elijah is able to safely enjoy email! Furthermore, there are now myriad of Online Social Games Designed for Children – such as Lego Universe he enjoys immensely this summer.

If other big companies, including Disney, Nickelodeon and many others, figured out how to let Children onto their site – is Google just incompetent or lazy?

And what about Facebook? There are TONS of children on Facebook under 13, we know for sure. They aren’t safe, because Facebook has no good parental controls or mechanisms! Either way – we keep telling our son that he needs to wait until he is 13, as lying is not something we do. There are countless times he gets upset about this, if only to be able to play those fun Facebook games (by Zynga and others) he keeps seeing others enjoy. Ridiculous – even Facebook has no excuse not to have some viable Parental controls and let kids onto their site! Does Facebook and Google think they are still young “dorm” startups, with no time or budget to ‘figure it out’?

Dealing with important Real World issues like parental-controls is what being big business is all about!!! Do they want the next generation to grow up holding a grudge against these companies, for not letting them onto their sites sooner?

OMG! Why did you buy a Drunken Hobo?


Kobo eReader Local Library Free BooksThat is what my daughter exclaimed, after learning that we purchased Kobo eReader from Borders and mishearing the name. She came to this natural conclusion after seeing that our new device prefers ePUB books to feed it’s appetite for content!

If you have a Borders store closing near you (sadly, they are struggling with bankruptcy – which seems inevitable, in retrospect) you should be able to pick one up for just $60 as well. I wasn’t even sure about this price, with company going bust. But, it reads EPUB and PDF format, even if Borders were to decide to discontinue their online store as well. Though, I think it is more likely that they will keep that business or sell that unit to someone. And why not, it’s virtually free money, as almost no overhead for operations there – just online servers to sell digital downloads and manage DRM. Seems no brainer – a business with no complex warehousing or shipping, and no chance of “overstocking” or “under-stocking” a title.

We only had it for one day, but so far works as advertised! Like Kindle, it is eInk (so black and white and no videos, naturally) and should last for almost a month on a single charge. Ours came preloaded with about 100 classic titles, and I didn’t even realize at first that it also lets you read Free eBooks From Your Local Library!!! Plus, it should let you read various languages through loading up your own specially formatted PDF or EPUB files, though I haven’t tried that yet. Here is full features recap from Kobo eReader site.


UPDATE: Looks like timely news on shaky state of Barnes and Noble today. I like their stores, but I also must admit that in the last year hardly been there, or bought anything.

USA Today Supports Scam Ads? Is This What’s Next In Online Advertising!?


Yesterday, while reading an article on USA Today, my eyes gazed over to prominently displayed “News Stories” on the right side of the page. Clicking through seems to reach respectable site, apparently presenting TV affiliated news site, complete with anchor photos, videos and long authentic looking article.

Channel News 4 Scam - Completely Fake News SiteExcept all of that is just an elaborate scheme to try and get gullible consumers to trust this fabricated article. Fancy backend algorithm generates random people names (sometimes for same photos, as I confirmed clicking on similar Ads from another page) and even articles themselves change depending on the area your IP is coming from, to try and get you to think that local reporter is bringing you this important news “information”. Of course the content of the article itself is also mostly fake, and so are all the other links on the page, purporting to be other categories of this “news site”. In reality, these links are just a cheap-trick, redirecting people to unsuspecting sites which are probably paying for “click through”, hoping for quality leads but instead getting ripped.

Live News WSVI TV ScamIn one of the links I landed on a site claiming to be New-York’s WSVI television station. Of course in reality it is just another site scammers generated, and I wonder what real ABC affiliated WSVI station, which actually broadcasts in Virgin Islands, would say about this?

The wares they are peddling are suspicious or worse. The Work-At-Home scam is especially nefarious and I found earlier reference to similar tactics, even infringing on CNN’s trademark logo.

I am pretty sure the $5 cream they are peddling is either unsafe for your skin, or completely inert. And the $9 a week miraculous Insurance they are promising – I calculated that I pay less with respectable Travelers insurance, instead of their “unidentified” company.

How can (supposedly) respectable USA Today newspaper and online site stoop to such low quality advertisement sham? I literally felt that I need to run and tell my children about yet another evil on this planet that they need to protect themselves from.

But I also tried to take a step back and consider if I am overreacting. Perhaps this is the future of online Advertising? Should we just adjust our expectations that anything and everything we click on the web may end up directing us to Insurance site (regardless if we have a car) or maybe Viagra-like cheap pills offer (regardless of….). After all, how else are quality sites like USA Today can support their staff of professional journalists? We always knew that everything we find on the Internet cannot be trusted, right? Why would we ever use Wikipedia at all?

You have to draw your own conclusion, and talk to your own kids. Meanwhile I am uninstalling USA Today app from my iPhone and will think twice before clicking on any link leading to USA Today site – I hope the advertising revenue they got from AdBlade was worth losing all those readers over.

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