Wishlist import issues

Hi Team,

Some alert readers have pointed out a recent bug preventing customers from finding and importing full wishlists from Amazon. We are (thanks to you) aware of the issue and are working hard to resolve it.

In the meantime you can still import items on an individual, item-by-item bases. Not ideal, we know, but something.

Thanks for your continued patience with this.

Name Your Own Price for Paste Magazine

In the immortal words of USA Today (I can't believe I just typed that), the tremendously awesome Paste Magazine "pulled a Radiohead" and decided to offer 1-year subscriptions and renewals to their magazine for whatever their readership thinks is fair. Unlike the new Radiohead album, you can't get the magazine for free, but you can get it for as little as one dollar. I paid somewhere between the minimum and the $19.95 list price. If you are a patron of the arts, you can pay more than the suggested subscription price, and you will get your name published in an upcoming issue. I'm desperately curious to know whether Paste (who arguably does not enjoy the same relative market share in the magazine industry as Radiohead does in the music industry) will take a bath on this or will end up (as I hope and suspect) walking away with triple the readers and money they would have seen otherwise.

The magazine comes with a kick-ass music sampler that usually maps one-to-one with my WishRadar items and emusic album downloads for the month. I love this magazine (note: I'm gushing from pure fanaticism- WishRadar doesn't have any gig with the good people at Paste).

I haven't be shy about saying this: People value the same things differently. That's why second-hand markets and auction sites are so vibrant. A lot of traditional businesses are leaving loyal subscribers/customers on the table because they are fighting this natural tendency, and a lot of maverick (by traditional business standards) players will grow (Paste) or continue to be leaders (Radiohead) for running in the opposite direction. I hope it works out for them.

Even at Harvard, Some People Don't Understand Business

I was dumbfounded at this article at the Harvard Crimson, describing how a student was asked to leave the Harvard Coop Bookstore when he was seen scribbling down notes to compare prices for some textbooks online. The book store asked this customer to leave under the policy that prices were their intellectual policy and should not be used for any other purpose than, frankly, to pay them. More likely, it is the book store feebly trying to prevent competitors from giving students the opportunity to not pay through the nose for textbooks.

The Harvard Business School currently has almost a thousand students matriculating through its rigorous courses of economics and business. Surely they could spare one or two of these go-getters to wander over to the Coop with a whiteboard and explain to these people the basic economic principle that a monopoly is no longer a monopoly if said monopoly has competitors (thus rendering the whole "mono" thing moot- maybe we should find a Classics major to run over to the Coop as well). Then we should let a few undergrads in need of a group project topic come up with a business plan that is more sustainable than "kicking customers out the door for daring to be educated consumers". They certainly couldn't do any worse. While we're at it, perhaps one of the budding ivy-league lawyers can spare six minutes (non-billable) to explain to the Coop that ISBN and prices are not intellectual property.   

There are dozens of places to find cheaper new and used textbooks online, and that's in addition to Crimsonreading.org, which is (obviously) dedicated to Harvardlings. WishRadar has it's hooks into Amazon and Half.com, both of which have entire sections to cover the used textbook market.

What did the Harvard Coop accomplish by kicking out one of their customers? Do they expect to stem the tide of students shopping online? Or do they honestly believe that they have a right to overcharge their customers just because they get the list of books directly from the professors?

There is no way to avoid the fact that the market will determine what prices should be. If the Coop hopes to turn a profit by selling textbooks to Harvard students that haven't figured that out yet, then I wish them luck.

Seattle Speaking Engagement

Hi All,

Yours truly has been invited to speak at a Seattle User Experience event at my current place of employment. I will be speaking along with three other folks about topics as diverse as ethnography, online community, inventrepreneurship, and kittens (mine is the last one. It's about other things besides kittens, but I thought I'd lead with the strongest foot, as it were.).

August 14th. 5:30-8:30. 414 Olive Way (5th Floor). The event is free, and there will be beer.

More details (as well as RSVP information) are available here.

Please come by and introduce yourselves.

Got an iPhone?

The Heart and Soul behind WishRadar, our own Jonathan Nolen wrote this piece about how you can now access your WishRadars easily from the iPhone thingy everyone's been blathering on about. I imagine one or two of you out there braved the lines and got an iPhone the day they came out, and then many more of you followed suit when it didn't require taking off work and/or camping out on a sidewalk.

Do give it a whirl and then comment here to tell Jonathan what you think about his new code.

Sadly, Amazon is not giving away free stuff....

Some of you may have received email blips from WishRadar this morning with the fantastic news that ALL of your things you've wished for are available for ZERO dollars on the Amazon marketplace.

While this does admittedly sound like fantastic news, I'm afraid it's a bit of an exaggeration (read: patently not the case). Our email system, in an effort to find the best deals for us all, got overly excited at something the Amazon marketplace told it and jumped the gun a wee bit. Think "Chicken Little," but replace the chicken with an overenthusiastic email system and "The Sky is Falling" with "BUY! QUICK!!! BUUUYYYY!!!! WHY AREN'T YOU BUYING?!?!!! BUYBUYBUY!"

We will be giving the email system a very stern talking-to over the next day, during which time you may receive fewer email blips than you are used to. We dreadfully apologize for the inconvenience.

You never know until you ask....

I just added the coolest thing ever to my WishRadar from Amazon. I am not likely to get it as a gift.

I know that a $200 wish price tag is lowballing a bit, but maybe a few of these bad boys will end up used on Half.

Either way, click through to the Amazon page and read the comments. Good stuff.

Faster, Faster

I apologize for the dearth in posting, but we've been busy. For one thing, I left one job, joined another and moved roughly 1,100 miles North. As such, I am proud to announce the opening of the Seattle WishRadar office. It's a bit sad that none of the founders remains in our original Santa Barbara location, but I have to look at it as a growth opportunity.

If any of you WishRadar fans in the Puget Sound area want to welcome me to the region by purchasing for me one or more of your fine, locally brewed, frosty, malted beverages, please do contact me (jason at wishradar dot com) and I will oblige if at all possible.

Regarding WishRadar progress, we've made some good strides at performance issues. Jonathan has done something clever to reduce page load times, and that's good news. I don't know the full details (perhaps he can blog here to explain), although as a power user, I should be frank when I say it's the results that count. He could be standing over the servers screaming "MOVE IT, YOU SLOBS!!" and that would be fine by me.

David and Brian, meanwhile, have been trying to improve our calls to Half and Amazon, since the smoother we are with them, the more often you get blipped with sweet deals. I've noticed an uptick in the blips I've received, personally, so I'm inclined to believe them when they say they're fighting the good fight.

In the next few months, we'll stick a fork in the performance thing and add a few sparkling new features that hopefully correspond to what you all have been requesting (new sources, perhaps?). Stay tuned.

WishRadar in the Wall Street Journal

That's right. If you checked page D2 in your copy of today's Wall Street Journal, you would have seen a nice little article about online gift listings, including WishRadar. I don't want to sound disappointed with the press given by the WSJ (I'm not), but I was hoping for a little bit more color. I figured we'd be a feature worth at least 12 or 15 column inches. Something personal to connect us with the teeming masses of financial wizards who comprise the paper's readership. Maybe a mention about David's obsession with Romantic Comedies. Or Jonathan's near mutant ability to mix a martini that makes Isaac from the Love Boat look like a Girl Scout selling lemonade. Or even a desperate plea on behalf of Brian's many lady WishRadar fans out there to bring back the blue faux-hawk.

We're grateful for the mention, and are available any time for the follow-up. :)

Happy New Year

Thanks to everyone who has helped get WishRadar off the ground this year, either by participating in building it, by writing about it or otherwise telling gobs of people, or simply by signing up for the thing and giving it a whirl. 2006 was a great year, and we have even better things planned for 2007, including creating, and then immediately winning the Nobel Prize for Technology,  a multi-billion dollar IPO, the obligatory stock scandal investigation that all the cool kids are doing, and, of course, the eventual sale to Google for around 12 dollars (just after they buy a controlling interest in Viacom, Amazon, 12 of the 15 former Soviet Republics, and "nature").

Throughout the highjinks above, we'll probably get around to a bunch more features. Check back often.

On behalf of the whole WishRadar gang, we wish you the happiest and healthiest of 2007s.

WishRadar Geeks to Live at Lifehacker

We'd like to thank our new best friends at Lifehacker for their kind review of WishRadar yesterday. Seeing WishRadar on a site that we read every day was certainly fun, not to mention the fact that it introduced us to many of you. So yes, if the good people at Lifehacker need a reference to get onto Santa's "nice" list this year, give me a call.

One of the great things about a new influx of customers is a new influx of ideas and suggestions (and the odd bug report, but let's not bring everybody down). Here are probably the most common requests/comments:

  • More sources for wishes - Apparently, Amazon and Half aren't enough for you people. And we dig that. We're looking at new sources, and ask your patience with it. Not all sources play as nicely with affiliates services as Amazon. Others of you want to at least be able to add items to your WishRadars from other sites, even if we only check prices at Amazon and Half. Got it.
  • Some sort of browser extension or widget to add items - That's kind of what we hoped the bookmarklet would do, but we're reading that you want more. Always more. You people exhaust me.
  • Amazon.co.uk - I don't know how many people actually live in Great Britain, but I speculate that every single one of them has emailed us with a request to support the UK version of Amazon. This is more complicated than it sounds, but we hear you loud and clear on this.
  • The "Share" link is broken - Hey, I thought we decided we weren't going to discuss bugs? We had an agreement. (It's fixed, but don't let it happen again)
  • My wishlist didn't import from Amazon - Yeah, we had a little slowness yesterday with our interface with Amazon. Imagine, if you will, that whenever you ask WishRadar to import a wishlist from Amazon, the two sites engage in a metaphorical "handshake". Yesterday, for whatever reason, instead of offering a hand in friendship, we inadvertently flipped Amazon the metaphorical "bird," which resulted in Amazon giving us a metaphorical "kick to the throat." We have since bought Amazon metaphorical "flowers" and now everything is going smashingly. If you experienced problems yesterday, your wishlist should be imported already. If you are still running into any problems, please contact us.

We'll be working hard to get you as many WishRadar wishes as quickly as possible. Thanks again for your comments, and please keep them coming (contact @ wishradar dot com).

Amazon import was slow and cranky this morning. Given coffee. Now fixed.

Hi everyone,

Just a quick note to let you know that we experienced some delays importing wishlists from Amazon this morning from about 6 am (Pacific) to 8:45 am (Pacific).

Import may take a little longer than normal while we catch up on all of the lists in the queue, but all should be well with the world now. If you continue to experience any issues, please don't hesitate to contact us at contact @ wishradar dot com.

WishRadar 1.4: Shiny new features in time for the holidays

Happy December 5, everybody. We at WishRadar celebrated the respective birthdays of Margaret Cho and Pope Julius II by releasing version 1.4 of WishRadar, with these juicy new features:

  • Search for items on WishRadar - You can now search for items at Amazon using the WishRadar magic search box, now located at the top of every page. Enter URLs or ASIN numbers, or even general search terms, like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Richard Nixon" or "Gummy Worms."
  • Use UPC codes to search - Some of our alert customers noticed for us that Half.com only provides UPC codes, whereas we were expecting ASIN or ISBN codes. We now accept random, meaningless product identification numbers on an equal opportunity basis. Go crazy with your UPCs.
  • Print View - In addition to the List and Table views, you can now see your WishRadar in a "print view," which basically amounts to....text. But still, that can be useful for copying/pasting, viewing on smaller devices (e.g., mobile phones), and the aforementioned "printing."
  • Gift Certificates - You can now buy Amazon gift certificates through WishRadar. I know the purpose of having a WishRadar is so that people will know exactly what to buy you. That being said, some people just cannot bring themselves to purchase stuff on your list, regardless of how hip or relevant you think you are. Dig this scenario: A card carrying Democrat sends his WishRadar to his Republican sister for assistance with holiday shopping. The WishRadar contains The Fog of War, An Inconvenient Truth, and a biography of Che Guevara. The sister wants to get her brother something because she really does love him, but physically can't force herself to click the "buy" button on any of those particular items. Gift certificates to the rescue - saving family members from buying things they detest or can't comprehend for generations.
  • Tags - On the list view, you now have the opportunity to add tags. Click on the tags after you add them and we'll show you a filter of only the items with that tag. Tags are the basic building blocks for filing items however you want them. Pretty soon, you'll see a lot more action with tags at WishRadar.

Thanks to everybody who has emailed with their questions and feedback. It's nice to hear from you. Keep 'em coming (contact @ wishradar dot com).

Sheepish Expectations

When you launch a service like WishRadar, even when you have absolutely no expectations of becoming an Internet thousandaire and the primary driver is to fix a problem that you yourself have, you are still secretly hoping that the world bashes down the doors to your servers in an effort to sign up and validate your efforts. Feel free to apply any psychological paradigms to us that you want (Love me. LOOOVEE MEEE!), but I'd venture to guess that most people would feel the same way.

When the uptake is anything less than hotmail-circa-1997, two things happen:

1. You begin to notice web phenomenon that appear to have cracked the code for achieving the elusive "critical mass" - My newest example of this, borrowed from O'Reilly, is a guy who collected drawings of sheep over a 40-day period and is now selling them for $20 a pop. He collected 10,000 sheep drawings at a rate of about 11 sheep per hour. That's pretty phenomenal, when you think about it. Imagine if every person at the Durham Bulls stadium drew a picture of a sheep. Baaa, indeed.

2. You start to engage in a little self doubt - Not to tip our collective hand or anything, but in case any of you were wondering, WishRadar did NOT, in fact, sign up 10,000 people over the course of our first 40 days.  This leads to an inevitable series of tough, introspective questions. Did we build this thing right?  Are we actually solving a problem in a new/helpful way. Is WishRadar less useful, on the whole, than a site that accepts sheep pictures?

I don't let the comparatively vast adoption rates of sheep-drawing sites trouble me that much, though. I will come no closer to the secret of Internet marketing by comparing The Sheep Market to WishRadar than I would understand the secret of internal combustion by comparing a 1997 Honda Accord to an ear of corn. We're pretty happy with the progress we're making and are especially jazzed at the feature development we're planning for this weekend (hint: it doesn't involve sheep).

We'll post with more updates soon!


We just launched a new feature, originally suggested by one of our subscribers. If you log into your WishRadar, you should be able to append notes to your target items. Possible uses for this feature:

  • If you use WishRadar to gift shop for other people, this is a great way to remember that the Barry Manilow box set is for your Mom, and not your personal trainer.
  • I use it to remember which songs I really liked on a particular CD.
  • Add star (well, asterisk) ratings on stuff so that people can see how much you REALLY want something.


And don't forget to update your WishRadar's as we enter the busiest shopping season of the year.