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Archive for the 'Business Mashup' Category

Ask.com moves into shopping deals niche

The forth largest online search company in the US, Ask.com, has just stretched its reach into the deals niche by launching a deals section that branches off of the main search website. Ask.com/deals aggregates deals from several deal and coupon sites and allows filtering by category and store using sidebar links.

The design and feature set is very rudimentary. It is much less sophisticated than a similar offering from Yahoo or other competitors. The deal of the day takes up too much space and is annoying. For what it worth, the filtering is working just fine and is fairly quick but the deals themselves can be fairly old which in the bargain hunting business can mean a difference between the success and the failure of a new website. Check it out and let me know what you think.

ask deals

Shopzilla WordPress Plugin (version 1.3)

If you are a Shopzilla publisher then you probably received at least a dozen of emails by now reminding you about the migration to the new API. From what I see Shopzilla has significantly changed the platform which means you will have to spend a few hours tweaking your code to comply with the new standard.

Not so if you use the Shopzilla Wordpress Plugin that I originally coded and released back in 2008. I am happy to announce that I finally spared a few hours today and are releasing a new version of the plugin which will be compatible with the new API platform.

To upgrade your plugin - download this archive and copy its content on top of your previous installation in the “plugins” folder. Next, go to the plugin configuration screen in the Wordpress Admin panel and update the Shopzilla API Server value to “http://catalog.bizrate.com/” as shown in the screen shot below.

shopzilla settings

None of your tags need to change. Once you upgrade all existing price comparission tables should update automatically with the products pulled from the new API server. Beware that the old API platform will be retired on September 14, 2009 so make sure you do the update before this deadline.

For new installation please refer to the Readme file that comes with the ZIP file. For more information on how to become a Shopzilla publisher please go to the Shopzilla Publisher Program home page. To find why I wrote this plugin, please read my original blog post about it.

Shopzilla WordPress Plugin (version 1.2)

This is another update to the Shopzilla WordPress Plugin I released back in February. You can use this plugin to monetize a WordPress blog by featuring embedded product comparison results inside each blog post or on a sidebar.

Before you setup the plugin on your blog, you first need to apply to Shopzilla Publisher Program which is a “pay per click” affiliate program meaning each click on the product results below results in an affiliate commission to the publisher (a blogger in this case). This is very similar to how Google Adsense works except Shopzilla program is designed specifically for shopping oriented websites.

What is included with this update?

This particular plugin update makes it possible for you to configure the maximum number of products for each product comparison results table individually. This can be done with another (third) argument that you supply to the “shopzilla_offers” tag inside your blog post. If you leave the argument at 0 then the global value from the plugin options will be used.

For example the line of code below will product the price comparison table you see at the end of this blog post.

<!—shopzilla_offers=880356122,8,3—>

In addition to this change, I added a configuration parameter for the domain to be used to talk to the API server. Shopzilla has changed this domain in the past and this parameter will allow you to change it on the fly for your blog in case Shopzilla does it again in the future.

How do I get it on my blog?

To upgrade - just download this archive and copy its content on top of your previous installation in the “plugins” folder. For new installations please refer to the Readme file that comes with this plugin.

For more information on how to become a Shopzilla publisher please go to the Shopzilla Publisher Program home page. To find why I wrote this plugin, please read my original blog post about it.

ReviewGist – we read reviews so you don’t have to

Not too long ago I wrote about SmartRatings, a product review site that aggregates expert reviews for a wide range of consumer products. To calculate the aggregated product rank SmartRatings uses the fact that many expert reviewers themselves give the product they review a numerical rank, which SmartRatings then brings to a common denominator and uniformly lists in a nice filterable way.

This approach conquers by its simplicity but has a very significant drawback. It doesn’t allow you to differentiate products by qualities since overall rank is often the only number SmartRatings can obtain from the expert reviews and hence the only number it uses for aggregation. The things become even more complicated if you take into account that each reviewer gives its own weight to different product qualities and the resulting overall rank may mean little to you if your priorities are different from those of the reviewer. For example for some long battery life is the single important quality in choosing a laptop while others give the CPU speed higher priority.

One product - one rank?

How do you enhance and give better structure to your product reviews? If you had direct access to the people writing reviews you would try to target each product quality separately, exactly what Buzzillions is trying to do. But what if the thousands of completed reviews was all you had? This is where semantic analysis comes in play. ReviewGist is a small New Delhi, India based startup that aims at building a product discovery and research tool for consumer electronics that will overcome these limitations. In fact they already have a live site that I have found pretty usable.

How does ReviewGist work?

In the heart of ReviewGist is a web scraping algorithm that goes to review sites and parses the pages with product reviews.

ReviewGist gathers review information for different products from almost all trusted online review sites. Our patent pending deep semantic analysis engine then takes over and extracts out the subjective opinion from these collected reviews. Essentially, we figure out the specific opinions expressed by the reviewer about the product in question.

The opinions are then pieced together to give you a concise and quantitative description of strong and weak sides of each product in the ReviewGist database. Here is for example how the Apple iPhone review looks:

iPhone semantic review

The algorithm is not perfect

On some occasions I have noticed facts were misinterpreted and assigned to wrong categories (e.g. “weak flash” was assigned to battery performance in a camera review). Nishant Soni, the CEO, has confessed in an email to me that “a small amount of human intelligence” is involved in decision making to overcome the current limitations of NLP algorithms. In addition the system is learning from human tagging and the precision should improve over time.

Conclusion

ReviewGist uses semantic algorithms in its bottom-up approach to aggregating product reviews. As a developer I personally prefer it over top-down approach used by most other sites since it gives you better flexibility with how you can present the information to the visitor. It may however suffer from a slow adoption rate since it heavily relies on the quality of analysis these these algorithms can produce, something that still has a long way to perfection.

Aggregating deals with Combyo

Combyo LogoThis is a long overdue review of a new kid on the block of deal aggregators, Combyo. I have briefly mentioned it in one of my news roundups in the past but until today I really had no time to give it the attention it deserves.

By style and look Combyo resembles another deal aggregator, Boddit. The top menu and the highlighted price in the deal title clearly give away the similarity. In fact Pinaki, the creator of this site, has confessed in an email to me that Combyo was born after he came across Boddit. So why another deal agreggator? Here are a few things that make Combyo a better bargain hunting tool compared to Boddit

Integrated price comparison

The biggest feature Pinaki added to Combyo is the price comparison integrated right into the deal preview. This is far from anything new, many deal sites I know have been doing it for a while. However it is the first time I see it is done with a deal aggregator. In fact I liked the feature so much that I decided to add it to my WiredDeals as well.

The part I don’t like is that before I get to see the prices offered by other merchants I have to pick a product from a few alternatives offered by Shopzilla. I understand why this works like that (Combyo has no way of knowing exactly the product thus it displays all the matches it finds) but I really hate the extra click I have to make to get to the prices.

Combyo Screenshot

Deal alerts

Deal alerts is actually one of the things that prompted me to create WiredDeals since neither of the deal forums I frequented at that time had them. Of course both FatWallet and SlickDeals promptly added the functionality shortly after, and the funny thing is that I even got to beta-test it, picking up brains however is how all big guys seem to do business these days, even the ones who claim to be no evil. ;-)

I am still not sure I completely understand how alerts work with Comyo though. They seem to be bound to products, e.g. if you like a certain deal and want to be notified when the price on it goes down, you can fill out a small form with your email address and Combyo will send you an email when the price on that specific product goes down. What happens however if a similar product is found for a lower price? I hope Pinaki chimes in with a clarification.

Related Deals

Whenever you see a link labeled “Related Deals” under the deal title it means Combyo has found a similar deal (or deals) from multiple sources and has rolled them up into one entry. From my short experience playing with the site, this often doesn’t work (unrelated products get bundled) but when it does it is a good way to watch a chronology of a deal - where it originates and who picks it up.

There is one more site that does a great job rolling up deals. It is one of the oldest deal agreggators out there, Roosster. What I like is that with Roosster you can see the sources right away and can click through to each of them from the top-level window. With Combyo you first have to click though to a secondary page, which by itself is a nuisance.

Conclusion

With so many sites to choose from (see my previous coverage here and here) aggregating deals becomes a saturated market and you really have to offer something unique to stand out. I like the idea of mashing up the price comparison results with deals, however this by itself is really not enough to make Combyo stand out and hence I doubt it will generate much buzz.

What do you think, does Combyo have a life, or will it die without seeing much light?




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