Back from sunny FLA (with a picture you probably wouldn’t expect to see here)

Yesterday, I got back from an 8 day trip to Florida. It was a nice winter break. I was in the Orlando area. Over a week ago when I left it was around 0 degrees here. The temperature gauge in my fathers car showed -5 at one point on the way to the airport. The weather there wasn’t perfect but it was still pretty good.

The trip was not without its hiccups. Our furnace here quit mid way through the week. I had the controller replaced just before we left due to some problems we were having. It turns out that the replacement was defective. Luckily, we had informed my father of the problem we thought was fixed and he was checking the house daily and discovered that the furnace was not running. He saved the day and was able to get it repaired before we got back and, more importantly, before any pipes froze.

Also, I had hoped my latest automation to ebay auction tracking would have kept it in low maintenance mode but things did not go so well with it. The automation did not pick up many of the feature car-related auctions as I had hoped it would. There were some oddities in the data coming back from ebay that I didn’t anticipate. I hope to write more details on it later. I was back on it tonight and have done more fine tuning.

While in Orlando, I went to EPCOT (as well as many other of the theme parks). At EPCOT, after I rode Test Track I was surprised to find a 2010 Camaro in the post-ride display area. I had no idea it was there although I can’t say I follow that car as closely as the Mustang. I only had my camera phone so the quality of the pictures I took was pretty poor.

2010 Camaro at EPCOT's Test Track

Overall, I liked the car in person even more than what I have seen in photos. This model seemed to be a base model with black steel wheels and plastic inserts where the fog lights would go on a higher trim model. After seeing this, I can’t wait to see the real thing when they come out later this year. Competition is good.

ebay Auction Tracking: The Next Step

It’s been a while since I last wrote about ebay Auction Tracking. Probably, that’s because nothing has happened in that space. It just works.

My goal has always been adding value to what you can do yourself with searches on ebay. That value would be that my list directly cuts through the millions of things on ebay to the 10 or 15 that are relevant to our feature cars.

I have achieved that through much manual effort over the almost 15 months since I started the tracking. Most every day (sometimes twice) I log onto ebay and search for relevant auctions. I have done it on holidays and while away on vacation. I have done it while out of town on business.

When I was at Carlisle 2008, I talked about ebay auction tracking with some of the folks. Ken (Cobra2top) was among them and when I mentioned that I did most of the searching manually he said he was surprised to hear that. He thought I had it automated. After I thought about it, I was surprised at that myself. I am a huge advocate of automation.

Looking ahead to my next business trip I started wishing for more automation. It can be tricky to integrate maintaining a personal web site into a schedule which involves focusing on trip-related activities morning, afternoon and night.

So, over the holidays I set to work on automating what is inherently a process that involves human intelligence – taking a keyword search as allowed on ebay and sorting through the results to parse out only those that are really correct.

Today I have implemented my first cut at that. Each hour a program on this site will search ebay for auctions that are relevant. I don’t expect it to be perfect. It will miss some that should be posted and post some that should not be posted. It might take some time to tune it so it gets better and I fully expect that it will always still take some level of manual effort on most days.

Now you know that if you start seeing entries that don’t quite fit that I haven’t lost my mind. The algorithm is a precise computer program working against a set of listings where words have been misspelled and data has been sometimes incorrectly and/or incompletely entered.

At least now I can step away from it for a period of 5 days or so and it won’t look like I totally gave up on it.