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Tag Archive for 'wireddeals'

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?

Hot deals without limits – or – My secret project

Monetize your blog with BuxrI have been somewhat neglecting you guys at PBH lately and I hope you forgive my recent lack of good quality posts. I have a very good excuse though and I am going to tell you about it right now. But before I do, let me make a short walk back in the history to sort of summarize the past 2 years of my bargain hunting life.

  • Fall, 2005 - an idea is born to make my bargain hunting visits to fatwallet forums more efficient. Everything starts with a simple greasemonkey script which parses fatwallet.com RSS feed and highlights forums threads with high rank
  • February, 2006 - the script evolves into a much bigger project. I register wireddeals.com to allocate a web space for the future service.
  • May, 2006 - wireddeals.com launches as a free tool for aggregating and managing deals from fatwallet.com and slickdeals.net forums. Here is the announcement about it on Digg
  • June, 2006 - wireddeals widget for Yahoo! (formerly Konfabulator) is launched to support the service in the desktop environment (read the announcement on MeFi projects)
  • September, 2006 - the work on wireddeals is mostly complete and an idea is born to start a personal blog about what I love: bargain hunting and deal sites. Here is the very first blog post.
  • March, 2006 - I meet Mike from CheapStingyBargains (here is his guest post on PBH) and we discuss where deals & coupons industry is heading and what we can do to make bargain hunting better

The result of our discussions is the project we are about to launch. This exact project has been consuming lately all of my time between this blog and my daytime job. I can’t tell you details right now since we are still in stealth mode but you probably already guessed that it is all about spreading hot deals and making them easily available to everyone.

If you feel intrigued, please go to Buxr home page and sign up for the upcoming announcement. You should also do so if you want to participate in beta testing planned for October. This month is going to be very exciting and I look forward to telling you all about Buxr widget. Let hot deals be free!

Aggregating RSS feeds — Part 2

If you have been reading my blog for a while you must already know that I am crazy about deals aggregators. It has been a while since I have done my last roundup and now seems the right time to follow up on it.

BodditBoddit has made some noise at Lifehacker and Wired Blog last week and rightly so. The web site features somewhat innovative functionality (among aggregators that is) but let's start from the beginning. There are really two faces of Boddit: the deals aggregator and the web search wrapper.

Boddit the deals aggregator parses RSS feed (and possibly scrapes the HTML content as well) from deals/coupons web sites and forums to retrieve anything resembling an item for sale with a price tag (or without it). If one is found it stores it in its database and does some post processing (like figuring out what category it belongs to and fetching appropriate thumbnail image to display by the deal description).

The end result is amazing. The categories (when they work) give a sense of browsing a catalog full of merchandise for sale with prices and pictures -- exactly what you would expect to see when you shop. It still lacks the structure and details of a full blown managed deals site but this is probably as far as you can get with an aggregator provided you don't do any manual intervention in data processing.

Boddit the web search wrapper allows you to search a bunch of price comparison and deals sites from one place. It does it by splitting your web browser into two frames - very similar to how retrevo does it. You use the left frame to formulate your search request and you get the results in the right frame. The difference with retrevo is that Boddit actually knows the search request semantics for each of the web sites it lists which greatly improves the end result.

Now the cons -- and there are a few.

  • I was getting quite a few PHP errors when browsing categories. I understand this is a work in progress yet some more testing wouldn't hurt.
  • There is a lot of duplicate content that points to entries at different web sites for the same product sold at the same place for the same price. These need to be detected and combined into one entry so they don't take up space.
  • What is Popularity Score and why is it always 12?
  • The thumbnail images don't always match the product
  • Negative prices are not processed correctly - this is probably just a bug
  • I noticed Boddit developers are playing with allowing users rank the deals up/down. This will not work -- there are just way too many deals coming in and out and too few people to rank them. Besides some of the source sites already do the ranking, why not build on it?


DealightedDealighted has not had a privilege of a free ride on popular blogs and had to buy its way out with paid reviews and a Plazma TV give away (no hurry, the TV is already gone ;-) ). Here is one of such reviews (and I think the best out there) that gives a normal shopper perspective. Since this is not your normal shopper blog (but rather one for pro-shoppers :-) ) I will try to put my own spin on it.

Pros:

  • It is useful to be able to filter out source web sites by unchecking those I don't like (I wish these settings were saved with my login session)
  • Saving deals and leaving comments (are those public?) is also nice
  • Search cloud looks cool but seems rather useless if I came to find something I know

The Pros list stops there. Now goes the long Cons list:

  • The use of real estate is not efficient. People don't really care who posted the deal to the forum or which forum it is for that matter. This info could be hidden from the main list.
  • There is a concept of hot thread but such threads cannot be easily spotted. Why not let sort deals by "hottness" or make the indication more visual? Actually you have attempted to do so in "All: Forums Style" with the "Rating" column...
  • The search functionality plain sucks. My search request for "Sony Camcorder" returned 18 results, some were Sony, some camcorders of brands other than Sony, and only 2 were Sony Camcorders listed close to the end of the list. After I looked closely I realised that the results are really sorted by time and not relevantness. I have got a very similar result with "iPOD Nano" and a few other requests.
  • There is no deal preview of any sort. A few sentences from the deal description is all that is needed. Go to Boddit and check out how they have done it. ;-)

Summary

It turned out to be a long post. I hope you forgive me the technicalities I dived into. Having built an aggregator myself I simply cannot help pouring out my opinions on the work of others.

It sounds like we have a new leader in the market of deals aggregators. Boddit beats the hell out of the rest of the pack. The two other web sites that come close functionality wise are Roosster -- thanks to the huge number of sources they process, and WiredDeals (that is my baby ;-) ) -- thanks to the unique deal ranking calculation and hot deal alerts.

Aggregating RSS feeds — Part 1

RSS is not that new technology yet aggregating it seems to be picking up just recently. Such sites as feedburner.com have millions of subscribers and looking at the site traffic most of the subscriber base came just over the past year or so.

Aggregating bargains seems to be a different story. There just isn’t that many offerings out there and even those rare sites that do RSS aggregation seem to be struggling to attract attention.

In this post I will try to cover the web sites that I know. Being in the market myself I find this area very promising and certainly worth looking at if you are in deal hunting for good.

Roosster One of the oldest sites in RSS aggregation niche - online since June 4, 2004. They recently had a web 2.0 facelift which improved the site look and usability. Roosster collects deals from a huge number of sources including sites that don’t provide RSS feed. If a deal is found in more than one source it gets to the Hot Deals list. Alternatively you can browse all deals in the database. Sorting/filtering is available for advanced bargain hunters.
The functionality I like the most is that I can view the item image as I hover the mouse over a link to the deal. There is also a shortcut to shopzilla price-match which never worked for me. I kept getting “Sorry. No Matches.” for every deal I tried.
To wrap up the deal - Rooster provides a link to Firefox and Google Toolbar search plugin that will bring tons of deals straight to your PC… well, but first you will have to search for it on their front page. ;-)

WiredDeals I am somewhat biased towards this one since I am a co-creator. Thus I will limit myself to just saying that WiredDeals goes far beyond plain RSS aggregation. Sorting deals by the rating and popularity, filtering by age, setting up deal alerts by context and (check this out!) by how hot they are - these are just a few of the features you will find at WiredDeals. Take a look yourself and let me know how else this site can be improved.

Clipfire This site resembles a smart search engine rather than a typical RSS aggregator. Why smart? It allows you to take part in the search process. Here is how it works: You search for a deal, you find one, and you clip it if you like it. Once you clip a deal it will show up at the top of the next search result hence improving the search relevance. The idea sounds great however you really need community to drive it and it is simply not there despite the publicity it received from TechCrunch. I tested it on a few popular keywords and none came back with clipped deals.

Dealyzer This is a fairly simple site that aggregates RSS feed from multiple sources and allows you to search across the feeds. If you have an account you can also save the deals that you have found. Simplicity is what I like about this site.

Looking at these offers one can see that this niche is extremely underdeveloped. I expect to see more sites like this new addition coming up on-line.

Update: To read more on the subject, go to Aggregating RSS feeds — Part 2




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