Tuesday, January 23, 2007

eBay: gone to the dogs?

I'm a big eBay fan. I've bought some large items (cars, trucks) and lots of small stuff on eBay. I've sold things on eBay. I love it.

Yet I think it's going to the dogs. It's dog slow, the interface hasn't changed in years, and the feedback mechanism, which was once innovative and world-changing, is many years old and has been gamed so badly as to be almost counter-useful. You can't rely on it, you can't give anyone negative feedback without retaliation, and the whole thing just seems not to work any more.

The last half dozen or so transactions I've done on eBay have all gone sour in one way or the other. They're all people gaming the system, misrepresenting things, shilling, you name it. It used to feel like an honest marketplace where real people bought and sold things. It feels now like a bazaar with sheisters and "merchants" trying to think of new ways of ripping me off. Some of them successfully. Subtly, but successfully.

I'm sad, because I love perusing the listings and wishing I could buy an old Dodge flatbed or three tractors from a guy in Saskatchewan. I just don't trust it any more. It's not the people on it I don't trust, though that's part of it. It's the site itself that I no longer trust. And that's a shame.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apple's own Paparazzi

I have long been mildly disgusted by the "rumor sites" that feed on Apple's product launch plans. At times I have been on both sides of it—an engineering manager for iPhoto and iMovie, and as a Mac owner and consumer.

The tone that sites like ThinkSecret take is kind of a smug pride in getting illicit information from snitches at the company or its suppliers, and "predicting" the product plans.  Even followup reviews always contain language like, "as predicted", or "as we previously stated in ", blah blah blah.

My first reaction is usually: "so what?" But worse than that, such rumor-mongering actually damages the company and its product launches—the company that these sites purport to love so much. Let Apple launch their products, and leave them alone. Having been inside Apple, I can tell you that the levels of secrecy and the paranoia about these "paparazzi" leaking product plans significantly hinders and slows the processes of producing great products. And just look at how they bait people into divulging secrets. Shameful, I say.

I am prompted to write this in part by reading about recent pleas by the British royalty to the paparazzi to leave alone Kate Middleton, the 25-year-old girlfriend of Prince William. In the aftermath of Princess Diana's fiery death while being chased by the paparazzi on motorcycles, the hyenas are apparently backing off, at least briefly. But they'll be back as soon as you please, driven, according to them, by the public's desire to see such photos. Bollocks, I say. If they're published, sure, people will look at them. But no one has ever written a letter to the editor requesting more such photos.

What is it with people, that need to pry into the private affairs of others, and take pride in it? Shame on you, Nick de Plume or whatever your real name is, and Ryan Katz, and I hope you get additional spam from these mailto links. You're not to be congratulated on predicting the form factor of the iPhone, or whatever you take pride in, any more than SolarPix is to be congratulated on getting a photo of Kate Middleton retrieving her morning paper from the front steps. Grow up and get a real job, all of you.