Sep 26, 2008

I love Craigslist but I abhor their search and categories

Craigslist is a bastion of depravity and deals, home of the creep and the cheap...  I've sold quite a few items on CL, mostly items that would be prohibitive to ship and thus I wouldn't want to put on eBay.  I've sold mostly furniture and gave away a few things like a queen bed frame.  Selling items is easy, especially if the buyer can use keywords properly.   If someone is looking for an IKEA dining table, using "IKEA dining table" as your search terms would bring up perfect results.  The problem hits when you are searching for something without clear-cut keywords.

My example would be my current search for an inexpensive road bike.  Sure, CL has a "Bicycles" section.  Sure, I can set a maximum price of $400.  Sure, I can only pull up results with a picture.  Beyond that, my hands are tied.  What terms do I use to narrow the results?  Right now, that search brings up 855 results.  I'm looking for a road bike, so what happens if I add "road" to the search?  I'm down to a manageable 98 results but I have LOST potential bikes.  The most basic of posts would just say "Cheap bike - $40" and boom, I wouldn't see that bike.  

How would I fix that problem?  Since I'm only looking for bikes that have pictures, an image view for the results would be handy.   I can quickly determine if the result is a BMX, mountain, cruiser or road bike.   CL could also use categories, but most sellers would be too lazy to categorize properly.  Having "bikes" versus "bike parts" would help tremendously though.  Another solution would be the proper use of negative keywords so I could explicitly exclude the bike types I do not want.  CL seems to only support a few of these keywords otherwise a "-mountain -BMX -kid -kids -women -womens -cruiser" search would work just fine.

The second issue is sizing.  Some people use the proper frame sizing in their listing, others give a random dimension or even state the height of the person they believe the bike would fit.  If you search for  "56", results that list "56cm" would not come up.  Again, this is a seller issue, not a CL issue.

Third-parties have provided solutions, but CL blocks almost every single one.  Yahoo Pipes had amazing results for CL searches, but BAM blocked.  CL is not making money off these searches, but come on.  They are basically just taking their ball and going home.  They could easily partner up with a service like Pipes, having those search results also link to their for-fee services.  

I'm just frustrated and want a cheap bike.

Sep 10, 2008

Learn to love your car again

Is your car losing that new-car smell/feel/taste?  Are you simply bored with it?  Have you lost appreciation for the subtle nuances simply because you drive it every day?  I have a great way to learn to love your car again.  Drive something worse for at least a few hundred miles.  That's all it takes!

While in Paris, we decided to rent a car and go bomb around the countryside.  We visited numerous chateaus, putted around quaint towns and circled about 60% of Paris.  Renting through Europcar, we were graced with a fairly-new (~6,000km on the odo) petrol Peugeot 206 5-door.   Some highlights:
  • 75 horsepower!
  • 0-60 in just under 15 seconds!
  • 44 MPG!
Filling up in Europe is deceptively expensive.   "Oh, hey, somewhat over a euro per liter, under four liters per gallon, not terrible!"   This is sort of like the "Roughly how many piano repairmen are in Chicago?" type problem; estimates here and there can compound how far off you are from the true total.   After driving about an hour and a half, the refueling bill was about $70 USD.  This is for a sub-compact!   I looked a less-efficient cars in awe for the rest of the trip.  I saw a GTO a day after my return to the States and thought to myself  "That car gets 16 MPG; my equivalent fuel bill would have been almost $200!"

When I slipped behind the wheel of my car, everything was right with the world.  The clutch wasn't a hilariously-light affair with a three-inch engagement point.  The steering wasn't so light that I felt as if I was steering with a soggy baguette ring.   The engine could accelerate!   Acceleration is banned in France.   I like accelerating.   I really did enjoy the shifter in the 206.  The 6-speed Getrag in my car is getting a bit notchy at only 50,000 miles.  

My car is nowhere close the the optimal configuration for automotive enjoyment.  It's an open-diff, nose-heavy FWD with a funky rear suspension (Ford ControlBlade).  If I was coming home to a mid-engine RWD vehicle, my appreciation would be that much greater.