May 1, 2012

Trying out Serve

from Amex. The old Revolution money.

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February 15, 2010

Interesting development over at Gilt Groupe

When is a deal not really a deal?  I have been a member of Gilt Groupe for awhile.  Great prices on designer stuff right?  Well at least that is what I thought until I read this article today. Seems like success has bread a big problem: not enough hot fashion at a cheap enough price.  So what is the solution?  Well just commission the designers to make some more stuff specifically for the Gilt Groupe price point. Think Big name designers do Target.  Yea, that is right, this is not the Haute Couture stuff you expected to see on sale, it is off the rack mass produced price point stuff with the designer name on it.  Specific for Gilt. 

These guys are going to get busted.  I for one am leaving as a member.

Posted by Martin at 4:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 9, 2009

Newspaper business continues to erode

Wow, the latest six month trailing stats are devastating for the Newspaper industry.  Weekly circulation down 10.6% and sunday down 7.4%.  Some papers lost more than 25% of circulation in the last six months.  Ouch

Editor and Publisher story

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October 28, 2009

The tale of two auto marketplaces

I always like first hand data.  Here is some first hand data from by brother who just sold his 15 year old Toyota pick-up

“The Craigslist syndrome - too many flakey  people who want everything for nothing.  I just sold my pickup truck.  I listed in on Autotrader, Craigslist and vFlyer.   Every contact I got from Autotrader was a good, solid person who had money and was interested in buying a truck.  Every contact I got from Craigslist was either a kook, a lowballer or a righteous pundit who wanted to tell me all the things that were wrong with my ad, my truck, etc.  Never got a single serious lead from Craigslist.  Sold the old truck for 5k to a nice gal off of Autotrader.   She paid cash and knew that she was getting a good buy.”

My brother’s experience gets to the heart of the issue many sellers have with on-line marketplaces:  They want qualified buyers and as low signal to noise ratio as possible.  While the #1 benefit of any marketplace is scale, enough buyers and sellers, once over that threshold, reducing friction is the #1 benefit.  It seems that AutoTrader in cars is doing a good job reducing friction between buyer and seller delivering quality experience on both ends.  I am going to ask him why he didn’t list on eBay.  Most likely the cost.  If you can get it sold on the free market places, why? 

The take away for me is to provide a low friction, high traffic marketplace for a low cost.  That is what we are doing at for the Free Category.

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May 8, 2009

Craigslist declassified

Seattle Weekly has a well written thought piece on the hubbub around Craig’slist and the many “killers” recently in the news.



While I agree with Craig and the EFF that web services are tools and good services can be used by bad people, there is room for judgment here.  CL has the liaise faire slider WAY over to the left into total anarchy.  That is the kind of marketplace it is.  People know what the are getting.  Buyer be ware.  People looking for a different experience should go to a different marketplace.  The fact that weird stuff happens in the “erotic services” category should surprise no-one.  

There are different marketplaces out there whose creators have set the liaise faire  slider in a different place.  At for example, we do not allow anonymous posting through our site and do not have an erotic services category.  There are many features that drive toward greater transparency in the transaction between individuals.  In a free economic transaction that usually includes an in-person meeting, we believe transparency and user authentication is very important.  We have built features to support members sharing as much or as little about themselves as they are comfortable.  With more options relative to transparency, members of the marketplace have more tools with which to make their commerce decision.  You may still decide to deal with someone who you know nothing about, but at least you have some tools to make a more informed decision if you want to. 

Of course CL could add features that drive transparency in transactions as well.  I am sure their servers already have all the data (in fact CL created over 127 pages of documentation of on-line activity of Michael Andersen for the court trial).  The fact that they have decided to not expose any of that activity to the CL community is reflective off their far left slider on the liaise faire meter.  I understand that decision.  I have made a different decision.  In the end users of the marketplaces will figure out their preference. 

In the meantime I hope the politicians do not go too crazy on this one.  It is tempting for politicians at a time like this to propose sweeping regulation or vast new transfer of liability from users to network service operators.  This would be the WRONG reaction to this.  There is no way to legislate against criminals doing bad things. We already have enough laws preventing people from killing others.  Regulation and shifting liability would crush the development of marketplaces and the related commerce.  If you hear your politicians talking about such programs, tell them you would rather have the great web sites and want the police to enforce existing laws.

Posted by Martin at 9:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 4, 2009

Prosper is back (sorta)

Phone rang half an hour ago with a 212 number. I thought it was some pals from NYC so I answered. Nope, NPR Marketplace producer asking what I thought of the relaunch of Prosper. Hummm. What do I think? Well about the middle of last year I noticed that the site was shut down and I couldn't add any funds or make any new loans or bid on loans. So I started taking any money off the table there and ignored the site. A couple months ago I started to see big losses in my portfolio. As of today, I have had an 8.9% principal charge-off, my notes (new word with relaunch - not loans anymore) are averaging 11.32% I have 20 current notes and one late (better). So by current all in return on prosper (assuming no more principal charge offs) is about 2.42%. Better than t-bills (today), but I expect more principal chargeoffs to put me into the negative return basis. I doubt I will be deploying any new capital on Prosper.

Now this:



looks like i won’t be able to anyway

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April 16, 2009

Trying to cancel my Linked-In account

I upgraded to a “Business” account for recruiting purposes for Kashless.  At the time I didn’t look at the downgrade process. I usually do because it says alot to me about what kind of company it is if the downgrade or account cancel process is easy or hard.  Take 37 Signals products for example. It is super simple to downgrade. Just go to the “compare plans” page. They have your current plan highlighted and the lower plans have a “downgrade to this plan'” button and the higher plans have an “upgrade” button.  Push the right button and it happens immediately, even pro-rata.  That is good customer service.

Now Linked in:

A request to cancel your premium subscription switches your account to a free personal account. Cancellation will end billing and remove access to the premium features designed for premium subscriptions.

A request to downgrade your premium subscription changes your account to a lower level premium subscription while still offering features like InMails and expanded people search. Changes will be made effective with the billing expiration date of your current subscription. To downgrade to a lower premium subscription level or to cancel your premium account and switch to a free personal account, follow the steps below:

  1. Click on 'Account & Settings' found in the upper right hand side of the home page.
  2. Click on 'Compare Account Types' and identify the account type that best fits your needs.
  3. Click on 'Customer Service' link found at the bottom of the page.
  4. Click on 'Ask Customer Service' tab on the 'Customer Service Center' page.
  5. Enter your account's primary email address in 'Contact Information'.
  6. In the 'Subject' type 'Downgrade My Subscription' (if you want a lower level premium subscription) or 'Cancel My Subscription' (if you want to just keep the free personal account).
  7. In the 'Question' text box, identify what type of account you want to end up with through this request. For example, "I would like to change to Business Plus account" or "I only want a free personal account" .
  8. Click on 'Continue'.
  9. Click on 'Finish Submitting Request'.

Basically Linked-In has adopted the “Roach Motel” model of accounts.  Easy to get into hard to get out of.  Like the old AOL.  This tells me alot.  Linked-in is desperate for revenue and using contracts to swindle their customers along.  Time to short Linked-In.  (if you could).

Posted by Martin at 2:01 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 24, 2009

Trying an experiment this morning

I picked up a couple cool trade show freebies at the Tour of California this weekend.  A sidebag from Amgen/Breakaway from Cancer.  I am posting them in three places and going to post the results.

amgen tour of cali bag 2 amgen tour of cali bag

1.  For Free through

2.  For Sale for $10 each through Craig’s list

3. For Sale for $15 each through E-bay.

i will report progress here. 

Posted by Martin at 8:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2009

My first charge offs at Prosper

Took money out of Prosper today.  I hadn’t been there in a couple months when all loans were current.    In the last three months I have had three loans go into default and charged off $436.49 of principal.  That is against all time interest of $570.25.  So my average 11.90% interest rate, risk/charge off, adjusted is down around 2-3%.  One more charge off and I am negative on principal. 

And Prosper is shut down for new lenders and new loans due to some SEC litigation.  Bummer, that market place had such promise. 

Posted by Martin at 2:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 4, 2009

friendfeed weirdness

So I am publishing lots of stuff on lots of platforms.  My blog posts have actually gone down in Frequency and my microblog posts across Twitter, FF, Facebook, Flickr and so on have gone up.  So I like FriendFeed because it aggregates everything in one place.  But i am not sure I want everyone to see all my friendfeed everywhere.  It would be nice to have some management like Twitter does, or even some stats on who is following etc.  But FF gives me nothing.  I am happy having my FF javascript include on my blog, but maybe I don’t want the public seeing my profile through the FF home page. So I go to FF and uncheck “make my profile public”.  and my javascript include on the blog goes dead.  That is not what I expected.  I expected it to turn off the public landing page \\martintobias, but leave on the java script.  Weird.  And I get no stats on who is following, watching etc.  I may be forced to ditch it if they don’t upgrade.

Posted by Martin at 6:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 2, 2008

The slowdown hits my Prosper portfolio

I had been feeling pretty good that my Prosper portfolio was paying 11.73% and had no late payments six months ago.  Unfortunately today out of 27 loans there are three late and in collections.  The balances are small, but it is a sign of the times.  I wonder when Prosper writes off the loans and adjusts you average return figures.  Prosper is still in lock-down due to the Cease and Desist order and i hope they get out of it.

Posted by Martin at 9:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 15, 2008

An over the top sucess: KIVA

I have a $234.56 credit over at KIVA. There are not enough loans to fund. Over 10,000 people last week made loans to over 1,500 entrepreneurs around the world. I have had 100% of my loans paid back. There is more money to lend than qualified entrepreneurs to borrow. A good problem to have if you are KIVA. Their challenge is to find more microlending partners to generate more loan requests. Not a bad problem to have. This is one marketplace that seems to be working VERY WELL. Lots of participation, very efficient, just need more product. There are lessons here for economic development on many levels. What if the government distributed economic development aid through a highly efficient organization like KIVA instead of loosing 30-40% to overhead and only funding large projects? The world would be a different place from the bottom up. That is the only way, in my experience, things work. From the bottom up. Teach the people to fish.

Posted by Martin at 5:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 2, 2008

Trying Widgetbucks but underwhelmed for now

changed from Google adsense to my friend Matt's widgetbucks on wend. I don't like the quality of ads they display, it is a noticable downgrade from Google. And too many image ads. Maybe I just need to reconfigure. After two days I earned $.01. On Adsense I was earning a couple of dollars a day. This is not a good start. Well matt just got there, so maybe he needs some time to get their network on track.

Posted by Martin at 8:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 26, 2008

just set up a meeid

Very simple user home page, possibly portable reputation later.

Posted by Martin at 5:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 30, 2008

Peerflix bites the dust

Unfortunate. I helped the boys in BC get going. But after they raised venture, their traffic plummeted and they lost that lov'n community feeling. Traffic went from tens of million of page views to single digits. now it is a "fan site". Bummer. I still love the idea of person to person recycleing.

Posted by Martin at 6:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 8, 2008

Alan GreenSpan has his head on straight

I usually don't crib whole posts, nor do I usually look to RedState for economic news, but this one is just too right-on. And mostly Alan Greenspan's words anyway. Basically, back off Political goons, your knee jerk kind of regulation won't help and probably will hurt more. Let the banks do what they are paid to do: manage risk.

In a period when we are beset with calls for increased regulation as a supposedly surefire way to stop any further financial rough patches like the one we are going through in the wake of the subprime mortgage mess, it is useful and encouraging to note that at least one person has kept his head about him:

Bank loan officers, in my experience, know far more about the risks and workings of their counterparties than do bank regulators. Regulators, to be effective, have to be forward-looking to anticipate the next financial malfunction. This has not proved feasible. Regulators confronting real-time uncertainty have rarely, if ever, been able to achieve the level of future clarity required to act pre-emptively. Most regulatory activity focuses on activities that precipitated previous crises.

Aside from far greater efforts to ferret out fraud (a long-time concern of mine), would a material tightening of regulation improve financial performance? I doubt it. The problem is not the lack of regulation but unrealistic expectations about what regulators are able to prevent. How can we otherwise explain how the UK's Financial Services Authority, whose effectiveness is held in such high regard, fumbled Northern Rock? Or in the US, our best examiners have repeatedly failed over the years. These are not aberrations.

[. . .]

I do have an ideology. So does each member of the forum. I trust our views are subject to the same standards of evidence that apply to all rational discourse. My view of how the efficiency of global capitalism has evolved over the decades as new evidence has appeared contradicts some earlier judgments and confirms others. I have been surprised by the fierceness of investors in retrenching from risk since August. My view of the range of dispersion of outcomes has been shaken but not my judgment that free competitive markets are the unrivalled way to organise economies. We have tried regulation ranging from heavy to central planning. None meaningfully worked. Do we wish to retest the evidence?

Well, evidently some people do. But they forget that regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley haven't exactly had a tremendously impressive track record of success. And they are forgetting the reasons why the subprime crisis reared its aesthetically displeasing head in the first place. Greenspan reminds them:

The core of the subprime problem lies with the misjudgments of the investment community. Subprime securitisation exploded because subprime mortgage-backed securities were seemingly underpriced (high-yielding) at original issuance. Subprime delinquencies and foreclosures were modest at the time, creating the illusion of great profit opportunities. Investors of all stripes pressed securitisers for more MBSs. Securitisers, in turn, pressed lenders for mortgage paper with little concern about its quality. Even with full authority to intervene, it is not credible that regulators would have been able to prevent the subprime debacle.

Read the whole thing. And as always in these circumstances, pray and hope that policymakers do so as well. It could mean the difference between a good decision and a bad one.

Posted by Martin at 9:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 17, 2008

even better than socializer

Pingg. got an invite to a product launch through there today. Talk about sparse and good UI. Just the basics man. and ZERO ads. Wow, love it. Who would uh thunk invites on the web could be gotten right 8 years after the start. Wow.

Posted by Martin at 9:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 19, 2008

thinking about transcription services

I am looking for a simple to use, cheap voice to e-mail transcription service.
Have tried CastingWords and Jott.
Casting Words has a web only interface. Upload a digital file and ask for a fast turn around or a slow turn around. (expensive and slower). This doesn't work. I want a phone interface. This is only really for digital recordings from an ipod or tape. People do the transcriptions (probably india). Too expensive.

Jott has a phone interface (good), but limited to 30 seconds (bad).
Too slow. Not very accurate.

still looking

Posted by Martin at 5:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 25, 2008

checking out

Thinking about microlending again. Just made a loan on Kiva to five women in pakistan starting an embroidery business. Very cool that Paypal gives transaction free funds processing. I don't know the interest rate (probably zero) but will see how the repayment goes. Not as robust a user interface and portfolio management as the's of the world, but it looks to get the job done. They could do with a little more focus on loans and less on marketing their idea of Kiva and how pious they are for doing good. Stay tuned here to see how it goes.

Posted by Martin at 12:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2008

Been thinking about P2P lending

Found this very good intro article over at Salon. As you can see on my site, I like Prosper. This is a category that needs alot of innovation though. There is alot of money on the table. Take just the $4.6B in fees the payday loan industry makes averaging 400% interest. Now there is a good business. Could you do it on-line for $3B? Maybe I will review the different sites over the next week.

Posted by Martin at 4:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 24, 2007

All Consuming oops

I have been posting all my book review to this site through for the last two years mainly because they automagically put in the Amazon link and so on. I like the write once, post many. Unfortunately I just figured out that does not post a category with the blog entry. Therefore all reviews from AllConsuming are not under my BookReview category. I am going to go into mass change in Movable Type and fix that now, but it is a pain. I am going to have to find another way to post book reviews.

Posted by Martin at 8:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 7, 2007

Help me loan my brother money to start a construction business!

I have lent family and friends money many times. Usually I do it as a gift because dealing with the overhead and potential negative relationship implications of a loan gone bad is not worth it. But when you are talking real money, having a way to simply manage the loan has been a big thing I have been looking for. The other missing piece is what if I want to syndicate part of that loan? Along comes Prosper. I signed up a couple months ago as a lender and have some money to work a very attactive rates now.

Last week my brother asked for a $25,000 loan to start a construction business. Of course I said yes, but then I got to thinking, could I syndicate this and potentially get my brother a better rate and make administration easier? Yup: Help me start my brother's construction business (Loan listing #148143) - Prosper. I am basically putting my credit on the loan to underwrite it. If i get a better rate than I would loan directly to him, I will pass that along to him. He gets a better rate, I get syndication and loan administration. Pretty cool concept eh?

Posted by Martin at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 13, 2006

Trying VOX

Andrew invited me to try his new product VOX. He described it (over beers) as Myspace for adults. Sounded like that one could go many ways. Still in beta. Here are some first impressions:

1. Like the clean design, lots of templates.
2. Dislike that I can't import my Moveable Type account into it.
3. Dislike that I can't cross-post from my movable type account (you can from Vox to Typepad, but not the other way and not from your own server install).
4. It is not clear from the get-go what to do on the site. Post a bunch of stuff? How do you link with others, why upload a whole new thing? I don't get it.
5. It is nice to have audio, video and book uploads and links, but I already have all that on Do a deal with them to data share Andrew.

In Summary, good start, but not enough to make me use it. Andrew, make Vox a really WEB 2.0 site. Take it to the next level. Make adoption seamless by having every kind of import/export functionality on the planet. Make it EASY for me to migrate from whatever I am using now to VOX. Enough people have invested enough in other platforms that the switching costs are high enough. Give me a reason to change.

Posted by Martin at 6:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2006

Amazon Fishbowl the future of "entertainment"

Watching the latest episode of Amazon Fishbowl with Bill Maher. I let my cable subscription lapse and have gone to the web for all my news and entertainment. Amazon snagged my favorite humorist Bill Maher and he is doing his weekly stand-up followed by four interviews with people who make things you can buy on Amazon. DVDs, books, music, etc. It is GREAT. The only problem is that I can't get it as a podcast or an RSS. Amazon of course wants you to go to their web page and watch the video embedded. Under the interview you have a quick link to buy the DVD or book they are talking about. It worked for me as I bought the DVD for 30 Days first season. This is the future of infotainment.

Posted by Martin at 8:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 4, 2006

Bradley Belt resigns from Pension Gaurantee Corporation and leaves BIG hole like I predicted

A major threat to the US economy and major burden to US taxpayers that is today NOT factored into government budgets in any way or it's drag effects on the economy is the underfunding of US pensions. The ability of large businesses to dump their liabilities on the US taxpayer is criminal but continues. I wrote previously about this. This week, mark Andersen over at SNS noted that the new director just gave up and left. You will be hearing more about this next year. There is a MAJOR opportunity for entrepreneurs to start companies that will compete in traditional industries which are weighed down by pensions.

"This past two years has been a particularly tumultuous period for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which has had to confront unprecedented operational, financial and policy challenges." - Bradley Belt, executive director, at his resignation after only two years on the job. The PBGC is now technically bankrupt, $500B in the hole.

"Under-funded U.S. pension programs will become the new black hole in the U.S. economy. Although some of this has already surfaced, its extent will be discovered to be far beyond current estimates. With U.S. healthcare costs completely out of control - and often a key part of pension programs - there will be no way to avoid a crisis. Responses will include cutting health and other benefits, bankrupting pension funds, bankrupting companies, and ultimately requiring a massive bailout by the Pension Guaranty Fund (although this bailout will probably happen a bit further in the future)." -- ***SNS*** "Ten Predictions for 2005," 1.13.2005.

Posted by Martin at 7:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 8, 2005

Microsoft enters maps and aerial picture biz

Launched recently: Windows Live Local. I still am in love with Google Earth. Microsoft has a long way to go.

Posted by Martin at 8:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 30, 2005

I need this site

The Speed Trap Exchange

Posted by Martin at 10:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 6, 2005

Here is some simple software I would like

So I have been using Ebay quite a bit lately. I like how they have a link directly to all my listings by user name. That is cool, but very 1990. In the new blog/web 2.0 world, that should be a java script include command that auto generates a link list like I have for In my blog template I would like to have the javascript and it just loads whatever I have to sell there in the list at page load time. If I don't have anything it is blank. As it is now I have to consciously post an entry when something is for sale. Wouldn't be that hard to write as a web service. Anyone?

Posted by Martin at 12:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 17, 2005

Walmart beats Amazon

Driving home tonight from a long flight I was listening to the radio and heard the author of Cinema Nirvana. I decided to buy it for my wife. Usually I just go to AMazon, but this time I decided to check Walmart (since I have an affiliate with them as well). Walmart: Cinema NIRVana: Enlightenment Lessons from the Movies - Wal-Mart had the book for $10.53, $2.47 shipping, $1.15 tax, total of $14.15. Amazon
had the book for $11.20, $3.99 shipping and $1.34 tax for a total of $16.53. Walmart wins by a mile!!! more than 15%.

But Amazon has a trick up it's sleeve. If you qualify for super saver shipping (buy more) then shipping goes away and they are cheaper. Or even better if you have subscriptions to shipping (like I do) you win again. What did i do? well i bought from Walmart because I just wanted the one book and didn't want to take the time to shop for more. If you are just buying one thing, try Walmart. REmember you really DON't save money by spending more.

Posted by Martin at 12:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2005

Judy's book in the news

On of our investments, Judy's Book in the local search category has a nice article in the NYT today. An IPod for Your Thoughts: A Web Site Offers Incentives to Reviewers - New York Times. The category is a very rich one if you can crack it. Here in Seattle there are at least four others trying. I see one every morning as I get coffee (they have their cards there). But my bet is on Andy and the people at Judy's book. They are professional software developers who have built a large community before. This iPod promotion is just one tool to attract reviewers and I expect more.

Posted by Martin at 12:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2005

Found the new all consuming javascript

It is under "edit your account" on Along with the import function for your old all consuming account. This is not where I would put it. Why not put a link to it on the page where you are editing your "consuming now" list?

Ok, got it working now. But of course I have some comments:

1. I like the ability to specify all or only some tags. But it would be nice to have even more control. Like for example if I could rate things on a 1-5 scale and only display my 1's or my 5's. That would be cool to have on my blog different buttons. What I love (the 1's), what I hate (the 5's), etc.
2. Nice that you can change the number of items in your list, but not nice that you cant use "all". I put "all" instead of a number of items in the list and the list rendered empty. Now my list will vary in length as I add things and as I delete things. If I want my complete list I shouldn't have to limit it before hand. So I put in a large number (15) and it only showed the number in list (8). I half expected to see 7 blank lines, but you guys are better programmers than that. So good in fact, that I bet you can figure out how to implement a more elegant solution for "all" entries.

Posted by Martin at 7:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bravo new All Consuming!

When I got back from the holiday weekend I had a very much anticipated e-mail from Erik in my in-box! He has integrated All Consuming with 43things.

Now while I would have rather Erik sold it to me (i DID make an offer), being integrated with 43Things and expanded beyond books to movies, albums and more is the right thing to do. I am VERY glad to see this happen and look forward to using the new All consuming that much more.

But before you get the idea this is a love fest, here is the part my faithful readers always expect: The Gotchas:

1. The importation process of your old account into your account is not easy ot find. It should be on EVERY page of the new site. Takes too much hunting.

2. The import process is not seemless. It got my read books fine. But the new site only has "consumed" or "being consumed". so the ones I marked "not completed" were tranfered as "being consumed". What I want is a "I tasted it and it was shit so I spat it out" option.

3. The dates are not easy to find on imported entries. When I was going through the ones that were imported incorrectly and trying to mark them as "consumed" I couldn't find the dates of my last entry. That was the date that I abandoned it. Would be nice if this were the default or something.

4. I know you guys are tied in with Amazon, how bout importing my book reviews from there? I know I asked Erik about this before, maybe now you have the resources.

5. It is non-obvious how to set up a java script include from the new site. This is one of my favorite tricks of allconsuming and I hope to continue to use it. come on guys, you can afford the bandwidth now!

Posted by Martin at 7:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2005

GotLogos, a great resource

Thanks Kevin Kelly for the pointer to: Logo Design by Got Logos - Custom Logo Design at Incredible Prices. It fits in very well with my ongoing theme of how do you start a professional company DIRT CHEAPLY. I remember when I had the logo designed, a local design firm did it for about $5,000. Then I found out that it was not work for hire and later had to pay $12,000 to own the design free and clear in all it's form. The old design firm trick is to retain ownership of the design and you have to go back to them every time you want to use it anywhere for anything. For the Loudeye logo we paid over $50,000. I like $25 much better.

Posted by Martin at 8:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 29, 2005

Seattle local search

Was getting my latte at Uptown Espresso this morning, and on the counter was a cute little sandwich board flyer for: | Your Neighborhood Connection. Hummm. Someone in Seattle attacking local search. From the ground up. The flyer had "example" stamped all over it and the web site is noticably thin (read no listings yet). They claim to have two primary consumer services (coming). First a "fresh daily" e-mail on what is new or happening in your neighborhood. Cool, I am into that. Second is a WiFi map of free wifi spots. Also interesting, but already available at scale at other sites.

Ah, but a little hunting shows the real face behind It is Mike Apgar, CEO and founder of Speakeasy.
from Whois:

Mike Apgar
2222 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
Phone: 206-971-5177
Fax: 612-338-7332

Now it all makes sense... Speakeasy is providing local business DSL services. Now they can have their own directory listing to drive traffic, etc. Good job Mike.

Posted by Martin at 6:58 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 21, 2005

musing about mini travel aggregators

Been in Hawaii (Diamond Head on Oahu) since Sunday (therefor the low post rates). Doing alot of surfing and not much else. But while reading the local tourist rags, something interesting struck me. There are a bunch of local micro travel aggregators that specialize right here in Waikiki. Like: go When planning my trip I went to all the big aggregators (Expedia, Tavelocity, NorthWest Airlines,, Priceline, etc.) and was a bit depressed at how uniform the rates were across the large aggregators. And how bad the terms are. With the big ones if you book through Expedia for example, you pre-pay them. If you have to change any of your dates or times, you have to go back through Expedia and deal with Expedia's cancelation policies. Therefore I booked my hotel direct with no pre-pay and a 72 hour change policy.

But back to the local aggregators. Once you get here there are tons of specials and lots of resources (not the least of which is the local yellow pages) which are all way more robust than what I found on-line. has rates about half what the big aggregators had. They don't represent all the hotels, but enough to be useful. There are also local publishers like Spotlight Hawaii (turn off the cheesy music) that do a far superior job of getting all the local resources in one place, usually in the form of flyers and the brochures you find in your hotel. Now, maybe a little more googling would have lead me to the smaller sites, but I bet 90% of your average travelor will never find them. The disparity is a result of breadth versus depth. Large aggregators go for breadth, small ones go for depth. It is always harder to find depth. Typically depth also sacrafices some breadth (gowaikiki's small hotel selection for example).

Humm a conundrum. Or an opportunity?

Posted by Martin at 11:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 11, 2005

Trying YASNS

Trying imeem connects people, Yet Another Social Networking Site. My friend vipul invited me. Some interesting twists. They have client software that looks much like AIM. You can chat, share photos, files, etc. But there is also a site. Looks like there are only a handfull of people there so it is not that rich yet. I am looking for an easier way to share large files. Grouper is good, but won't let me share music files (unless I zip them). while I applaud the founders of Imeem for trying to make a different approach, I still have to wonder why I need to join yet another site? I don't see any compelling feature here I can't get with any existing community tool (even AIM).

Posted by Martin at 11:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2005

A good idea finally gets traction

I love e-mail. It is still my primary interface to everything (even more than the browser). There are some very important newsgroups and blogs that I keep track of in Outlook. I have always thought more should be done to deliver high value content in e-mail, especially that can drive transactions. Amazon is doing a good job of that with their targeted sale e-mails. But most web sites still consider their browser interface their primary interface. What about making e-mail the primary interface with occasional browser? That is the idea behind Google Watchlists. A friend of mine started in his spare time (since sold it to hunger fighters) with the idea of delivering daily inspirational thoughts in e-mail. The value of the e-mails would be enough to get people to subscribe, then occassionaly they would go back to the web site to do something.

Now my old friend Scott Blum has taking the idea one step further with DailyOM - Nurturing Mind Body & Spirit. Delivering thoughts on peaceful living daily. Then occasionaly you go to the web site to buy a book you like or click through to an advertiser you like. I believe this form of integrated cross-media e-commerce will become pervasive in niches. People very interested in one category of products/lifestyle will want to go deep on that and get lots of media about it with an occasional transaction. Versus the current e-commerce model centered around transactions. Peace out...

Posted by Martin at 10:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 22, 2005

playing around with Paypal

Playing around with Paypal tonight. Set up a merchant account for Seattle Biodiesel. They are going to start selling some swag like jackets, shirts and caps. It was a snap to set up a button:

to buy the jacket. With a couple digital pictures and some simple HTML you can have a shopping cart on your site. Now Paypal has high fees, but the simplest integration and quickest creation of any of the shopping cart systems I have tried to date. I hope in the near future E-bay does some integration to make it easy to have auction posts and linked to your site as well. Why can't I have items for fixed price and my auctions on my shopping page? It should be easier and I bet it will be soon.

Posted by Martin at 9:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005

musing about community and search

I joined JetEye BETA :: Ask What You Want. Share What You Know. tonight. Invited by a friend. It is the first beta that I have seen that requires an NDA to join. That is a bit onerous. The NDA also doesn't really clearly spell out what is confidential. Is their whole concept confidential? For example, if I told you that this is a new type of social network meets search that is driven by members asking and answering questions, would I be in violation of the NDA? I hope not.

Anyway, I seem to be getting alot of plans around the idea of scaling up question/answer communities these days. I have checked out Wondir , metafilter and a couple others (i can't talk about). My money is on Metafilter. It is not a community paradigm. You don't have to set up an elaborate profile and invite all your friends to get value. You do have to pay a nominal fee, but that just is to make sure you are serious. You get a highly qualified and motivate community. When google ends, metafilter begins. Now back to community. Why would I want to join another one? I don't get it.

Posted by Martin at 11:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 7, 2005

A great vertical site

Is Amazon the answer to on-line commerce? I don't think so, especially for deep and complex categories. My latest favorite in this category: The Tire Rack - Your performance experts for tires and wheels. A very good user interface to walk you though what tire to buy. Clean interface. Shipment to local installers that are pre-qualified. This is where I am getting my new Avalanche tires (burning out quick from the Supercharger).

Posted by Martin at 2:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 4, 2005

Been clicking your own Google adsense ads?

You better watch out, Google is watching and they will sue you if you do it too much. Or you will go blind. I forget which.

Posted by Martin at 12:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 3, 2005 a second look.

Most businesses today are designed to separate you from your money. What if there were a marketplace without money? Without money you say? Isn't that unAmerican? Isn't is some kind of mortal sin for a VC to talk about a market without any $$? Well maybe, but watching the edges helps you navigate the center channel and see bends in the river early.

I have posted before about TimeBucks. They are trying to create local barter networks. When I first looked they were at about 1000 people and 273 in Seattle. The site has had major upgrades since then and the UI is much better. I can no longer tell the numbers of people where, but by the significant increase in postings i would guess the community is a couple of times larger. There were five new services available posted in just today. Initially it was all massages and no-one else. He has done a smart thing which is to add categories for services. Looks like "life coach" is a big one now. Everyone looking to make some kind of a change.

So there seems to be traction. I am glad. I added a business plan review service. Let's see if anyone takes me up on it and what the quality of the people involved are. I would guess pretty raw. But again, these are the edges. Interesting stuff could happen out here. Or I could just be wasting my time. I will let you know.

Posted by Martin at 11:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 2, 2005

Thinking about ad networks

Banner ad networks have been around for quite awhile. But click through rates went through the floor. So along came Google Adsense. Then affiliate programs aggregated by Commission Junction. Found this good thread musing about what is wrong with today's ad networks: SitePoint Forums - The future of ad networks. I wonder what the next genaration ad networks will be like? Will it be about coverage? (getting ads on sites without them) Will it be about clickthroughs? Branding? Will the advertisers be the same or different?

I read recentlythat Google made something around $1B on its advertising and paid affiliates $378M of that (I probably got the numbers somewhat wrong) If that is so, Google is taking more than 60% margin. With their high overhead I understand. does it really cost 60% - $600M to run the network?

Posted by Martin at 12:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 1, 2005

Look for

I have written before about PeerFlix. The online DVD trading community has gotten significant traffic growth over the last couple of months and is really starting to take off. I registered the domain awhile ago thinking about an on-line trading community of many various media types. Well today I gave the URL to Danny up in Vancouver. They will run with it and expand their business. Look for it live soon. All the best Danny!

Posted by Martin at 5:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 27, 2005

PeerFlix has a new promotion

My favorite DVD trading site has a new promotion! Peerflix: No DVD Rentals! Trade Your DVDs. Get 2DVD 2 trades when you join now. They also rewrote their site and it is much faster and better. I trade about a DVD a week on there. WAY better than Netflix. Netflix is toast..

Posted by Martin at 10:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2005

Amazon wins the electronics resale race

So I have this Toshiba portable DVD player I bought two years ago and never used. Thought I would, but just never did. When it was new it was about $500. Now it is around $230. Mine is lightly used so I listed it here: Used and New: Toshiba SD-P1200 7" Portable DVD Player (Red)

The great thing about Amazon is that they already had ALL the metadata about the player including pictures and technical specs. I didn't have to enter anything. I counted five clicks and my item was up there with a "buy it now" price of $100 less than anyone else. Way more than I would get on Ebay and FAR fewer clicks.

Posted by Martin at 11:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 13, 2005

E-Bay drops a bombshell!

Talk about monopolist behavior! When the entire market is yours you have pricing power. And E-Bay is using it. They are raising fees between 28 and 50 percent! Here is my short-hand summary then their announcement they sent by mail today. I wonder if this will draw the attention of the Justice Department. Probably not since it is just a bunch of individual consumers and the prices get passed along anyway in higher prices to consumers. But I wouldn't doubt if the states attorney Generals get involved here. E-Bay is setting itself up for regulation! This is a sad thing to see.
E-Bay price raises

E-Bay price raises
oldnew% increase
Gallery 0.25 0.35 28.57%
Buy it nowflattiered
10 day listing 0.2 0.4 50.00%
e-bay store basic 9.95 5.95 37.62%
store inventory listing fee basic % 5.25 8 34.38%
store inventory listing fee remaining closing value % 2.75 5 45.00%

We are writing to let you know that effective midnight PST, February 18, 2005 and eBay Motors will be making changes to the fee structure.

The fee changes are as follows:

Gallery fees will be raised from $0.25 to $0.35 per listing. We will also be increasing the size of the Gallery image on search and listings pages by 56%. This will make it easier for buyers to see details of the item before clicking into the listing.

Buy It Now
Buy It Now fees will no longer be charged at a flat rate, and will instead be determined based on the Buy It Now price. Fees will be charged as follows:

Buy It Now Price Fee
$0.01 - 9.99 $0.05
$10 - 24.99 $0.10
$25 - 49.99 $0.20
$50+ $0.25

10-Day Duration
The fee for 10-day duration listings will be raised from $0.20 to $0.40 per listing.

eBay Stores
The fee for the Basic eBay Store subscription will be raised from $9.95 to $15.95 per month. The subscription fee for Featured and Anchor Stores will be unchanged.

eBay Store Inventory format listing insertion fees will remain unchanged. The Final Value Fee for Store Inventory items will change as follows:

Closing Price Old Price New Price
$0.01 - $25 5.25% of the closing value 8% of the closing price
$25.01 - $1,000 5.25% of the initial $25, plus 2.75% of the remaining closing value balance. 8% of the initial $25, plus 5% of the remaining closing value balance ($25.01 - $1000)
Over $1,000 5.25% of the initial $25, plus 2.75% of the next $25.01-$1000, plus 1.50% of the remaining closing value balance ($1,000.01 - closing value). 8% of the initial $25, plus 5% of the next $25.01 - $1000, plus 3% of the remaining closing value balance ($1,000.01 - closing value).

Store sellers will continue to be eligible to receive 50% off of the Store Inventory listing final value fees for Store Referral credit. Please click here for details.

Insertion and Final Value Fees
The insertion and Final Value Fees will be changing for items listed in certain Business & Industrial categories. More details about the changes for these categories are provided below. The insertion and Final Value Fees in other categories will not be changing.

Business & Industrial Listings in Certain Categories
The Reserve, insertion and Final Value Fees will be changing for select high item price capital equipment categories in Business & Industrial. Please click here to view the capital equipment categories affected by the pricing change.

The fee changes for these capital equipment categories are as follows:

Additional listing upgrade fees will remain the same as for Pricing for all other Business & Industrial listings outside the specified capital equipment categories will remain the same as for

eBay will also introduce Buyer Protection covering up to $20,000 per item in these capital equipment categories this spring. eBay will offer this Buyer Protection at no cost to the buyer or seller.

The following fee changes will apply to vehicle listings on eBay Motors.

Fee Changes for eBay Motors Vehicles Listings

Reserve will be charged a $5 flat fee for all eBay Motors vehicles categories except Pocket Bikes. This fee will still be refundable if your item sells.

10-Day Listings
The fee for 10-day listings will be changed to $8 for all eBay Motors vehicles categories except Pocket Bikes.

Pocket Bikes Category
The insertion fee and Transaction Services Fee will be lowered from $30 to $3 each.
The following fees will remain the same: Reserve ($2 flat fee, refundable if item sells), Gallery (free), Listing Designer ($5) and Highlight ($5). Motors HomePage Featured fee will be lowered to $24.95 and Vehicle Picture Pack fee will be lowered to $1.50. All other fees will be lowered to become the same as those for eBay Motors Parts & Accessories categories.

For more information about these fee changes, please see our Frequently Asked Questions.

Some international eBay sites have also changed their fee structures. To learn more, please check Announcements for the eBay site of interest.

We understand that fees directly impact our members, and take care to ensure that any decisions to change fees are made only after careful consideration of this impact. These changes will help us continue to sustain and develop a thriving global marketplace, while balancing the needs of our buyers and sellers around the world.



Posted by Martin at 9:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 30, 2004

Ouch, a blow to Passport and .NET from eBay

Looks like eBay is getting smarter about their platform strategy. They dropped support for PassPort and .NET alerts. eBay to Drop Passport, .Net Support Let me ask you this. If eBay asked you to install some software so you could keep real-time track of your auctions, would you? I thought so. e-bay auction event notifications are some of the most valuable event messages traveling the internet. Sometimes more valuable than my e-mail. Does eBay have the chops to drive a messaging standard? Well they obviousy want more branding in their messaging since they are keeping their own phone alerts and their eBay Toolbar. I think this is just the beginning of eBay the platform company.

Posted by Martin at 2:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 5, 2004

Amazon beats E-Bay on price!

In my recent comparative price shopping, EBay has always come out on top. But today I was shown up! I am shopping for the book Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics for my wife for christmas. I checked e-bay, Amazon and a couple retailers (thansk PriceGrabber) just for jollies. The funny result is that a third party seller on Amazon is in fact cheaper than all other sellers! (with the notable exception of which is not in every market). I was surprised that a third party beat Amazon and was expecting to find the cheapest reseller on eBay. I wonder if this is only true for books. The other interesting stat is the % of total price that is taxes and shipping! On an item around $10 bucks it can be as much as 50%!
Keep an eye on those fees!

Here are the results:

Book: The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics              
Date 12/5/2004           tax+ship
    Feedback price taxes shipping total % of price Overstock 0 9.83 0 1.4 11.23 14.24%
Any Book Amazon 86329 10.76 0 3.49 14.25 32.43%
All Direct Amazon 171315 11.19 0 3.49 14.68 31.19%
A1 Books ebay 18405 11.17 0 3.99 15.16 35.72% Best prices 0 11.8 0 3.49 15.29 29.58%
BigRockMedia ebay 7163 14.42 0 1 15.42 6.93%
eCampus ebay 23882 12.01 0 3.49 15.5 29.06%
Total Campus Books ebay 103450 12.15 0 3.49 15.64 28.72%
Amazon new ship Amazon 0 11.53 1.03 3.49 16.05 39.17%
Mega Media Depot ebay 6521 11.18 0 4.99 16.17 44.63%
MediaCrazy ebay 1698 16.31 0 0 16.31 0.00%
Amazon instore Amazon 0 15.26 1.36 0 16.62 8.90%
Page 1 books Page 1 0 11.52 0 5.75 17.27 49.91%
OddBananna Books ebay 1195 13.32 0 4.5 17.82 33.78%

Posted by Martin at 9:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Marketplace poll results

Well the results are in

Everyone loves Ebay and Amazon equally. To be expected. My favorite is Ebay for price, AMazon for service and convenience.

Posted by Martin at 2:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 7, 2004

Initial thoughts on Web 2.0

Have been at Web 2.0 for the last couple of days. Lots of very interesting people here and great ideas being thrown around. I won't try to summarize all the announcements and significant events as they are all around the net and blogsphere (check out the MyStack results below).

Here is what I think are the most important ideas coming out of this so far:

1. The web as a platform. This is the basic contention of web 2.0. If web 1.0 was about making the web safe for people, web 2.0 is about making it safe for computers. The next generation of web applications will leverage the shared infrastructure of the web 1.0 companies like EBay, Paypal, Google, Amazon, and Yahoo, not just the "bare bones transit" infrastructure that was there when we started all those companies in the late 90s (UUNet, Exodus, doubleclick,, etc.). This fact is fundamental to the next generation of entrepreneurs thinking about companies today.

2. Search is going to see major innovation over the next 12 months. Just when you thought Google had it all tied up, here comes the next generation. Some are calling it personalization, some local search, whatever you call it, you can think about it like this: The mass of web links was tamed and organized into a card catalog by Yahoo but it was still too hard to find relevant stuff, so Google reduced the process to one box with superior results. Having simplified the massively complex web to one box, we are not aching for more control, more customization, etc. Next generation search will go away from simplification into personalization and user control of the search results. Check out the relaunched and the "official" A9.

3. China is the most important country in the internet's future. Mary Meeker summarized what is going on in china in 12 minutes. Very impressive feat. Basically if you are not paying attention to the China internet market you are not watching the future of the internet.

4. There are many people ready and willing to run up the hill again. After the meltdown of 2000-2003, I had some serious concerns about who would be stupid enough to run up the innovation hill again after such a bloodbath. Luckilly, the spirit of entrepreneurship is very resilient and the successful are coming back (as well as a new crop). There is no lack of entrepreneurs in the halls wanting to pitch me on their idea to capitalize on web 2.0. Very good sign.

Posted by Martin at 8:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 10, 2004

Borland to distribute Paypal/Ebay SDK

Borland to distribute tool kits for eBay, PayPal | CNET Old post, but I am just going back to this when thinking about next generation market places.

I haven't seen any truly innovative uses of the eBay or PayPal apis. I would like to see some. I can imagine a whole list of easy to use services I would like as a Blogger. Maybe I should start that company.

Posted by Martin at 11:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 27, 2004

On-line rental market heats up

In the battle for on-line rentals looks to be heating up. One iteration of Google Adsense this morning on this very blog had the usual Netflix and Walmart links, but three new ones focusing on games. Gamefly, and gplay. All seem to be taking the price and selection metrics as competitive messages. There it truly nothing new here. In that game, margins go to zero and no-one makes money. What the market needs for to be a real game changer (pun intended) is something that fundamentally changes the economics of the business.

Posted by Martin at 7:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 22, 2004

Blockbuster calls out NetFlix switched it's tune at the annual meeting and turned Netflix from a "minor threat" into the next area for strategic growth of the company. Blockbuster is promising to beat Netflix at it's own game. In part, they are hoping that bundling store rentals with subscriptions will be a winner. I wonder if these two guys are competing for the wrong market though. How many people are 3 or more rental movie a month people? How many people have $240 a year to burn on movies? I doubt the mass market. That is why Walmart is underwhelmed by the performance of their Netflix competitor (so insiders tell me). Walmart's demographic doesn't have $240 a year to spare.

I am still looking for alternatives.

Posted by Martin at 7:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 20, 2004

You know you are a success when you have a dedicated hacking site

Hacking NetFlix
is like the Tivo hacking sites that show all the tricks to get the better of Netflix. When users are passionate enough to publish whole sites about you and how to use your service you are a success! We can all hope.

Posted by Martin at 10:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BlockBuster's hidden beta of on-line rentals

Here is the new Blockbuster Home Page with the NEtflix like rental integration. I believe the service will be successful, especially because they are combining 2 free in store rentals with your monthly subscription. But it is still very expensive for the average user and those who don't use all the movies in the monty will feel cheated. I still like more flexible services like PeerFlix.

Posted by Martin at 10:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Super review of NetFlix as a platform etc.

Netflix, Open up or die!- Features - Engadget - Phillip Torrone give us a particularly insightful critique of the current NetFlix service and some timely suggestions on what they should do next. Netflix is a victim of their own success. They are raising prices because they can, but pissing off the base. They need to open up the API like Amazon/Ebay. I doubt NetFlix gets it.

Posted by Martin at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack