What can I say. I am an idiot. A total fool sometimes. I haven’t talked too much about Best Buys Zone or Best Buys Zone UK lately but they were the sites that gave me the initial idea for Early Miser – compare everywhere at once. Best Buys Zone was a project a built a few years ago with the help of a top notch Russian programmer. It pioneered or rather completely invented the category of shopping by RSS.
No one was doing it 3 years ago. When I say shopping by RSS it wasn’t quite the same. It would just update the feed when a new vendor would come in with a new price. You couldn’t do much of anything else like setting a pricing trigger etc. but it was useful if you really wanted to watch an item and catch an item with a good price. It is built on top of Amazon and shopping.com so it’s got a pretty good coverage. Here’s what a product looks like at Weblogalot
So naturally when it came to marketing the site, the asshole in me took over. First we created a script so we could find the products with the most merchant matches. These by definition are the products that we cover best and offer the most utility for consumers. I then joined Jeff Barr’s project Syndic8 and began syndicating the feeds.(Jeff Barr is the developer evangelist for Amazon web services – which I use ALL THE TIME. He’s a great guy and Jeff believe it or not we have met back when I worked at Xao Inc. Xao used to be one of Amazon’s larger affiliate partners.) At first I had problems because of the nature of the URLs in comparison shopping – they weren’t validating. After working with the results I was getting from shopping.com, the feeds began validating again. Here’s where things go horribly wrong in this story.
I kept syndicating feeds to Syndic8. In fact I added 5,000 or so feeds to Syndic8. But unbeknownst to me, the feeds apparently stopped validating 6 months (thanx for the heads up shopping.com). The errors aren’t serious but they aren’t valid which was largely the goal of Syndic8. Eventually my stealth submission of feeds was noticed (I did a big batch last week) and Jeff threw every single feed out the site. It was the right thing to do. What I was doing was not entirely wrong – merely 98% wrong. Creating an account at Syndic8 means you can then approve feeds. The dark side took over in me and I made a huge mistake.
Of course the funny thing was is that the reviewer in question noticed that the feeds weren’t validating and they weren’t validating in the all the same way. I didn’t think to re-check to see if the feeds were validating since we had spent time wrestling with it three years ago. Furthermore we never set up a unit test for validation! That’s basic extreme programming 101 there for you – especially since it was so troublesome to begin with.
So Jeff – here’s my apology. I am very sorry for spamming your index. In the end it turned out to be more trouble for the both of us. After removing the sites from the index – my traffic actually increased. It turns out that having that many feeds at Syndic8 was actually stressing my server (it’s got it’s own box) and I couldn’t serve up real customers results. Additionally with all of the RSS crawlers these days, people seem to have no problem finding my feeds. I would leave an apology on Jeff’s blogbut it’s on the same machine and he has naturally banned my IP address. Once again Jeff I apologize.
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