Category Archives: Reviews

Early thoughts on bo.lt

bo.lt is a service that let’s you copy, edit and share webpages. TechCrunch labels bo.lt as “bit.ly on steroids”.

The core copy and edit functionality looks really solid and works well. It finds all the images/css/js and other dependencies of the page and replaces them in the page and serves it up from their own S3 account. They have done a good job with the design as well.

As a user, I can think of times when I would want to use this service, but not as much as I use bit.ly. Most of the time when I share links, I don’t need to edit the pages.

As a content publisher, I am not too sure if I want users to use this. I understand that anyone can copy my content, edit it and host on their servers right now even without bo.lt. I believe bo.lt makes it easier for content publishers to lose control over the content. Any future changes to the original content will not be passed onto users with bo.lt.

According to TechCrunch: “…is content provider friendly in that Bo.lt still serves up a given page’s ads and analytics systems.” I haven’t tested the ads, but bo.lt does seem to append their own Google Analytics code to the existing GA code on the page. I am not sure how they work with other third-party or home-brewed analytics systems.

Another issue as a content provider is that bo.lt now competes with the original page for Search Engine rankings. For instance this page competes with  the original page without any reference to the original page. Currently, this whole model is breaking the web as we know it to multiple versions of almost same content with different URLs. Depending on how important getting indexed by Google is in their strategy, it can be easily fixed by either adding ‘noindex’ to bo.lt pages or even better adding a canonical tag to the original page. Perhaps, this is more of a reason for content publishers to have a rel canonical tag on their pages so that they get credited for their content.

It takes a lot of effort to change elements of a webpage on the fly and expect most of them to function as the original one. I think bo.lt is an impressive technology, but I am not too sure that they will be well received by publishers with their current model. I hope that they evolve and make it compelling for publishers to be comfortable with their product. They have raised $5 Million from Benchmark Capital.

Update 1: Brian Rutledge mentions that bo.lt seems to be moving rel=canonical tag into the body section, making it obsolete. However, that’s not what my experience was. Looks like a bug in bo.lt.

Update 2: I wanted to see if there is a way a bo.lt can be blocked to copy a website, same way crawlers can be excluded using robots.txt. I found that bo.lt does not look for robots.txt prior to grabbing a page. I looked through my apache logs and it never requested robots.txt today. Another problem is that they are faking the User Agent to be Firefox 3.6.4 (see image below). Whois on the IP address confirms it is owned by Boltnet, Inc. The only way to stop bo.lt from copying your pages is by banning IP address 199.204.84.2, until they change it.

New Google Analytics

Just got access to latest version of Google Analytics for RightBuy. It looks great, here are things that I like. You may not be able to experience the screenshots as I do, because I have selected the date ranges that don’t have any data on purpose.

Speed

I must say it is blazing fast as compared to current Google Analytics. Looks like they re-did whole infrastructure for it to usa AJAX just like Gmail. Existing Google Analytics took really long for pages to load and reports to generate.

Google Analytics Mysite

Click image to see full size image


New Dashboard

They have widgetized the new Dashboard, more like iGoogle. They have also added ability to add more dashboards.

Google Analytics Dashboard

Click image to see full size image

New Menus

I also like the way Google Analytics changed their top and right sidebar menus. They made the labels non-metrics-geeks friendly and has better categorization. I also like that they took out “Intelligence” out of the menu and made it a separate tab. My guess is we’ll see a lot more of the “Intelligence” like features which will help automating the marketing reports and other alerts.

Google Analytics Menu

Click image to see full size image

Google Analytics Menu

Click image to see full size image

Motion Charts

I love current GA’s motion charts, but they had them hidden in Google Analytics. That has changed, Motion Charts is now a type of graph that you can choose for some reports!

Google Analytics Motion Charts

Click the image to see larger version

Car Buying Experience 2.0

A couple of weeks ago my car was slammed from back. The car was totalled by the insurance company.

I had several options of buying used or new cars. I finally decided to buy a new car. This was 4th new vehicle that I was buying and had experience with various car sales people and their negotiation techniques.

The last new car I bought was in 2007 and a lot has changed since then. Earlier, a long round of negotiations start once you are sure what car you want to buy. The salesperson will try to convince you that there is no way they can down. He will bring in his manager, play good cop – bad cop and make you spend as much time in the dealership as possible because you are less likely to repeat the same process with any other dealership and buy your car from him.

Fast forward 3 years. Now, you do not need to follow these negotiation processes. There are 2 awesome services that I used to buy my car below the invoice price.

My first encounter with one of these services was while I was reading about Angelgate I somehow landed at Felicis Ventures website and then one of their portfolio companies Carwoo. Carwoo is a website that brings in the negotiation process of buying a new car online and helps you remain anonymous so that you don’t get the pestering sales calls. Currently they have a free basic package and another paid package to get quotes from local car dealers.

I wasn’t confident if this will really work, so chose the free package. I speculated that the “deals” I will get will more like sticker price. Since I wasn’t confident of the results from Carwoo, I was already talking with a dealership to buy the car. The salesman told me there was NO WAY they are going below the MSRP (also known as sticker price) for the 2 week old car (2011 Honda). It had only been 2-3 hours since I posted on Carwoo and did not get any response from any dealer. At the same time I was “negotiating” with the salesperson in the dealership.

I was pretty close to buy the car because I believed that maybe the sticker price is the best deal available. Buying the car wasn’t so urgent, so I postponed it for another day and came back home. Carwoo, still hadn’t sent me any deals. They claimed that generally deals start coming in 2-3 hours. I didn’t have much hope. One of my friends, who is an awesome deal finder mentioned about a website Truecar. I wasn’t aware of the service and checked it out. It shows the actual price that people have paid for the car you are looking for in your area.

It not just shows the best possible deal you can get, also helps you locate the dealers who will match or are very close to that price. The downside (as some may see) of the service is that they forward your information the those dealers. The best price I saw on TrueCar was more than $2,000 less than what I was about to pay a few hours ago. It was too good to believe, but I had an email where it clearly listed 3 dealerships in the area with the exact price they are ready to sell the car for.

Next morning (Sunday) Carwoo proved me wrong. I got 3 deals from nearby dealerships, all way below the sticker price and one of them lower than the invoice price and very close to the best price advertised on TrueCar. I had a lot of good deals in my mailbox, but preferred to buy it from the dealership that spent so much time with me the day before if they matched the price. I called the sales guy and he said that they will match the price if I have a printed quote. When I reached there and showed him the deal I had, he was reluctant and said “this is from a website”. I walked out because I did not want to waste my entire day at the dealership, his boss followed me and in a classic car selling way agreed to the price and we had a deal.

I was happy that I saved a couple grand which I can put into after market accessories for the car. A couple of days after I bought my car, one of the dealerships that sent quote via Carwoo sweetened the deal with yet another discount. A couple hundred less than what I paid. It amazed me how both the websites can help thousands of new car buyers with their negotiation.

Will I use these services again? – Yes, certainly. Will I pay for either of these services – Yes, if spending $100 helps save 2K or more it is a no brainer.

More Makemytrip woes

I was looking for a ticket on Yatra.com, but didn’t find S’pore Airlines on it. I then tried Makemytrip. They seriously need to work on their usability. Add the dammn ticket cost and tax for the consumer. I can’t believe that they don’t let you sort results. The default sort order they show you is totally random based on the ticket cost (not including tax), so it is not even the cheapest ticket on the top. I think most of their orders are placed via phone or their online chat ‘thingy’. I know labor is cheap in India, but my advice to them is, spend resources on the product – then you’ll see less of those calls and online chats.

On another note, I like Ixigo, they got funded recently (congratts!). Ixigo is Indian ‘Kayak’. I like their simple, clean design and a ton of sorting/filtering features. That’s what a good product should look like!

Sumitr – Yet Another Social Network

Sumitr, a social network, launched recently. Pranav sums it up nicely.

It is good that they are trying something different. Perhaps a hybrid of Orkut and Geni? I like how they use Shahrukh Khan and Sushmita for default avatars. I don’t see much use of it in my life. However, 30+ Indians might see it as a helpful product. The whole element of a ‘parivaar’ connecting with another ‘parivaar’ over the Internet might be what they are looking for in their busy professional lives. They even provide you someone called ‘chote Mian’. It appears he is the family domestic helper on Sumitr. He addresses you as ‘Sir ‘ in the emails.

I think the product has a lot of scope to improve in usability and design. I’ll summarize things I noticed so far.

I can add or invite (using) my wife to join my Parivaar. However, I can’t invite my kids. What if someone has grownup kids who already have account on Sumitr?

A ‘kid’ can be married and live with spouse and children and is given his father or mother’s email address. He/she can change it though.

If I add a ‘son’ he can change his gender to male or female. On a second thought, this is possible, but highly unlikely. It was good to see that Sumitr figured out that my son was now my daughter.

Their ‘Tazaa Khabar’ or News feed is not really transaction based. I added my son, then he converted to my daughter. Sumitr says that I added a son, but shows that I added a daughter.

You can share the uploaded songs with your ‘mitr’ – Copyright violations?

When you create a baazi, if you change the winnings from Karma Koins (you get 100 by default) to Prizes – javascript switch didn’t happen.

They have tag cloud on the right nav. These are collective tags from the whole sumitr network. If you click these tags, they don’t show you anything most likely because the content that is tagged is inside privacy walls. It will be better if they display tag cloud from content where I have permission to view it. At least I can access those pages.

‘Yaadein’ or pictures is good. I uploaded a 12 MB directory and it went pretty well. They do need to work on some of the usability on it.

The whole design gives me a 1.0 feel. Not sure what is it, may be that background.

I don’t see myself using this product at least for now. I’d certainly visit it after a few months.

sumitr-error sumitr-baazi

QuarkRank and QuarkShop

pluggd.in describes QuarkRank and QuarkShop. Here is my take on the startup.

UI: Finally…. I see an Indian site with good usability. A bit AJAX heavy, but UI is nicely done. The site (QuarkShop) is not just yet another collection of scripts tied around some data, but an actual product. The site has a lot of information on certain pages. This can be overwhelming initially, but one gets used to it after playing a bit with the site.

Branding: ‘Quark’ reminds me of Quark Express. I think ‘QuarkShop’ is a nerdy name. Is it intended to be? Not sure. Quark is about 6 elementary particles. Do they have 6 values that they use to get the QuarkRank?

SEO: They know what they are doing!

Content: Content for each product is pretty good for the limited (4) categories they have. They don’t have prices for old models. I guess no one is selling them.

API: They have an elaborate API. If I understand it correctly, QuarkShop is built using the API provided QuarkRank. It seems like they are syndicating everything they know about a product. A lot of good apps can be built using the API. They have suggested a few ideas. Their widgets are nice as well.

Revenue Model: Revenue model for QuarkShop seems to be affiliate earnings from Amazon, Shopping.com etc. However, the links to the price comparison sites are not working at this time. I don’t know what are their plans to monetize the actual API. Perhaps pay as you use?

Product Suggestions:

    AJAX is good, but I think it will be good to have URLs for Reviews, Specifications and Price Comparison something like http://www.quarkshop.com/camera/toshiba-pdr-m81#reviews
    They have a nice feature of comparing 2 products. I tried iPod Touch 8GB and 16GB. I wasn’t expecting the results to vary this much (Though it is good to see the links for comparison).

From my past experience with the product data aggregation, I think it is easier to get and aggregate consumer electronics data. They are focused on only 4 categories at this time, which is good, but it will be interesting to see how they perform as they expand their taxonomy.

LinkedIn Profile Photos could have waited

I am a LinkedIn user for a long time now. I like it, but feel that they can improve a lot with the feature set. LinkedIn hass added profile pictures. The last feature addition that I heard/observed was adding a Facebook Like “How you know this contact” with a few other things. I don’t mind professionals adding their pictures to their LinkedIn profiles, but I think there are lot of other features that should have been prioritized. Here is my short feature wishlist for LinkedIn (not in any order).

1) Right now I can choose to share/hide my contacts from other contacts globally only. I would like to see this feature per user specific. I like to share my entire network with others, but some of my contacts do not share their network. I would like to ‘unshare’ my network with them.

2) This has been said many times, but I’ll still say it again – API, API and API. Open up!

3) Ability to create/manage groups.

Reliance India Call

I started using them soon after they launched. They had really cheap deals at that time (less than 10 cents per minute for india). I never had any major issues with them so far. But I still don’t like them.

First of all, they chose a long confusing domain name. I don’t have them bookmarked, so I generally end up at another similar domain name (hint swap last wo words of the actual domain name).

I could never thougth that such a big company like Reliance would indulge in Black Hat SEO practices. Click Here to find it yourself. It is disgusting that they are following such practices.

There were a couple of another things I found about them through Google. They are very easily hackable. I remmember that they used to charge ‘tax’ on the pre-paid service, but they do not anymore. I saw a complaint by Adaniki Narasimha (why would someone leave his sap.com email address to be abused by spammers?) that the tax Reliance charges is undue and is probably not paid to the Government. This seems to be correct as Reliance stopped charging tax, but what about the money they already charged customers? I know people like me would just talk about it and do nothing because it isn’t a huge sum (may be $20 atmost). If there is any attorney pursuing this issue or intend to do so, feel free to contact me and I can try to help you with providing information and perhaps proof that they charged tax.

While writing the post, I found something funny and interesting, which also suggests that they used to charge tax. Read this and this post. Second post is really funny. I would have probably added – Tina Bhabhiji ko Namaskar aur Mukesh Bhaiya ko pyar :) (Reliance wasn’t split back in 2004)

I hope this post helps people know more about Reliance. I feel really happy when my Ajmeri Baba and Peer Syed Sahib posts get comments that enlighten people with personal experiences, like-

Hey, see when ur become emotional and see ur loved one going away from u, that tiem u do anything to hold them back, i also this ad and called and gave every money he asked for… i gave $30,000 (usa) to pundit maharaj…. but nothing happend…. i dont if i dont get my money back but i dont want someone else to do the same thing as i did…. and now i cant see thsi guy( pundit maharaj) haveing fun wiht my money…. NEED HELP CAN SOMEONE HELP ME…. PLEASE………

Yahoo Ads Beta – Review

What happens when you try to implement something real quick inorder to compete with a competitor? You end up with Yahoo Ads Beta.

I applied for them a cpl. of weeks ago (thanks 2 Puneet for letting me know about it) and I got approved yesterday (or may be day before). So, I thought I’d give them a shot. I read the TOS and found some lame stuff:

9g from here

you are a US-based business and you are operating Your Site solely for viewing and use by users within the US; and

How the hell do you operate a site “solely” for viewing and use by users within the US on the Internet? Should I ban all the darnnn non-US IP addresses? Thank god they didn’t ask me to check if each of my viewer is a valid US citizen or Permanent Resident.

11 l (as in ‘L’)

Abuse of Services. You agree not to:
…..
display all or part of the Ad Unit to any user located outside the US

Well……can non-US bots view the Ad…?…….please please let them…….ok may be just one glimpse……

To Yahoo – Please implement your Ads like this

check if user = US-located
if yes
display Ad
else
Get lost you looser, don’t waste the bloody bandwidth, you aren’t worth a penny.

And it will be great if publishers can customize the last message.

I haven’t read Adsense’s TOS lately, but I don’t think they have TOS like this (or may be they do 😐 )

Anyways, I somehow manage to make myself understand about that TOS, I agreed to it, that I won’t ask any non-US to view the Ads, if they do, then its Yahoo’s lack of implementation. I agreed to remove Adsense from my site and created a Yahoo Ad. I didn’t miss my Adsense, cos the Yahoo Ad is a clone of Adsense.

Yahoo Ad Preview

They use javascript for to display Ad preview and it is neat. They also have a “Select Your Ad Code” button for those, I guess, who do not know how to select text in a textarea.

They have a Ad Targeting section, where you can choose a category and a sub-category and can even display those Targeted Ads to a certain page or whole site or a subdomain. I think its good. Its more like an addition to the contextual Ads. Here is what the tag line says: “You can display ads that are based on your users’ interests to complement your site’s contextually matched ads.

And then there is Ad Blocking, where you can block certain domains, usual competitors n stuff.

They also have a Content Setup section, where you can:

Embed Y!Q into your site. What is Y!Q?

Y!Q lets you search from any web page you’re on so you don’t have to interrupt your workflow to find more information. Traditional web searches force you to go to a specific search page and type in a query.

It’s the thing that Y! has introduced in its latest YIM. where you highlight some text and can see the results in a small pop-up-like-a-thing.

They also have Add Your RSS Feed to My Yahoo!, which is nothing but just adding your XML feed to viewer’s my.yahoo.com. Right now they don’t have RSS advertising, but it seems like they are working on it.

Link to a Yahoo! Map from Your Web Site is another lame thing that they have in there, which is simply creating a link to Y! maps from your site.

Y!Q, RSS to My Yahoo and Links to Y! Maps don’t pay u anything.

Payment options are more or less same, but they also allow you to transfer funds to your overture a/c. I do have Adsense and Adwords a/cs but not sure if they allow that or not.

Reports are more or less similar to Adsense. There is one feature called URL Tracking.

What it does is: Track the performance of the ads on your site by domain, directory, or page. which is similar to pages in Adsense. They also have “categories” which are similar to Channels in Adsense.

My problems aren’t over yet……

I backed up my Adsense code and clicked the “Select Your Ad Code” button on Yahoo publisher to replace my Adsense.

I put the code like:

Original Code

and what I see on the site is:

On IE

IE

On FF

FF

did I miss something?

I checked the source of me site and what I see is:

ctxt_ad_partner = \’1214287163\’;
ctxt_ad_section = \’6620\’;
ctxt_ad_bg = \’FFFFFF\’;
ctxt_ad_width = 468;
ctxt_ad_height = 60;
ctxt_ad_bc = \’D40000\’;
ctxt_ad_cc = \’FFD800\’;
ctxt_ad_lc = \’D40000\’;
ctxt_ad_tc = \’000000\’;
ctxt_ad_uc = \’7C0000\’;

Where did these \ come from (Is it Apache?)? On further investigation, found that Adsense uses ” instead of ‘ …..but I can’t change their code, so dunno if I am thinking in right direction or not.

Acc. to their FAQ:

When will ads begin appearing on my site?

Your Yahoo! Publisher Network ads will usually begin appearing within seconds of pasting the ad code into your web pages. If no ads are available, public service announcements will be displayed. If you prefer, you may select a Substitute Color that matches your web page background so that a solid color block appears in the meantime instead.

Note: My Substitute color field has nothing in it.

It has been more than an hour and the Ads still don’t work. May be they think I am a bloody non-US located? I don’t think that is the case, but who knows. I suspect its just the lack of testing (oh well its in Beta, y am I cribbing) and may be some of the javascript used on my site is killing the Ads? But Adsense works fine. Also why the hell it shows 2 different things on IE n FF?

I am gonna switch back to Adsense and report the matter to Y! guys.

Bunty Aur Babli

I had very high expectations from the movie, but they were destroyed by the reviews pouring in from everywhere. I adjusted my expectations to a lower level and went to watch the movie. I’d have to say that the movie was fun!! It was different from the routine B’wood movies. BaB is not one of the most logical Bollywood movies, but is an entertainer. Aaina and I laughed throughout the movie along with the _almost_ housefull hall. Housefull is something not so common in theatres in USA. I was surprised to hear a seeti (whistle) in the theatre, when both the B’s started dancing together in Kajra Re. You can read the detailed review here (not written by me.)

B’s and Rani were great!! I really liked how they _tried_ to recreate 70’s style. The background songs from 70’s movies (mostly Big B’s) was a good idea. I also loved the way, they caught the _real_ India. Cinematography and the sets/locations were excelent as they portrayed the India I know. Narrow streets, a bunch of wires on the poles, the houses they lived in, the dust, the stray dogs, dhabbas, railway stations, buses…etc. Dialogues were well written and the actor’s timed them very well. It is really great that the movie was left open ended (chance for a sequel). I’d certainly love to watch Bunty, Babli aur Pappu.

The things which could have been avoided or added were: Dhadak Dhadak, Nach Baliye, Chup Chup Ke songs. They slowed down the movie’s pace, Chup Chup Ke in particular. Aishwarya could have been incorporated in the movie in a better way (say she was a victim or a crook?). The love story Big B talked about, didn’t make much sense (with the song.)

On the whole, it is not as great as DDLJ, but you would still like to watch it atleast 2-3 times.

Acc. to Taran Adarsh

On the whole, BUNTY AUR BABLI just doesn’t have the meat to enthrall the moviegoers. At the box-office, the film has taken an excellent start due to two reasons — the Yash Raj brand and the fact that the two Bachchans have been teamed for the first time. While the first weekend will witness ‘House Full’ boards outside the single screens as well as the multiplexes, the film doesn’t have the power to sustain after the initial curiosity subsides. Monday onwards, the collections should come crashing down. Disappointing!

I don’t agree with it. I think the collections for the movie would go steady. There might be a slight drop (due to negative reviews) but it would be nullified by the comments from people who have watched the movie. Moreover, Bunty Aur Babli’s music will gain more popularity.

I think Yash Raj Films have saved a hukum ka ikka so far and it is the promo for the song Kajra Re. A lot of people were surprised to see Aish in the movie. It is because, they never released Kajra Re’s promo (although they released Big B’s BnB music video). Only the people who took keen interest in the movie or in B’wood in general were aware of Aish’s presence in the movie. It seems like that the promo for the song has been saved for a time when the movie’s ratings/collections will go down. Once the trailer is repeatedly shown on the TV, Aish and both Bs dancing together in the promo would make ppl flock around the theatres once again.

Taran Adarsh has rated the movie 1.5/5 which is very low. He rated V-Z 4/5. I would definetly rate BaB above V-Z as an entertainer (not sure about the stats.) I’d give it 7.5/10.

Continue reading