Monday, January 16, 2012

Quibids Goes Blogging!

That's right, Quibids is getting serious about blogging. I saw this trend about a month ago, but now it is promoting its blog already in the email newsletters that it sends out to all the members. This of course is a good idea - businesses need a blog to be open about their business. This is especially the case with penny auctions because the industry tends to be very closed. Quibids, as the largest penny auction in the US, almost has a moral responsibility to ensure that the industry doesn't go fall into the ditch.

There are a few penny auctions that blog seriously. PennyGrab blog is updated frequently with inside information about the site is a great resource for bidders at their site. There at not too many penny auctions that blog actively though.

So here is the Official Quibids Blog. What do you think?
One advice to Quibids - have the blog in a more prominent position on the homepage than at the very bottom. This way, bidders will be able to find it easily.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rise of Timerless Penny Auctions

Timerless penny auctions are a sub-class of penny auctions which are quite different from traditional penny auctions. There are several formats, the best being of the category of 'hidden price auctions'. This means, the final auction price can be anything between two limits that are predefined for every given auction. Every 'bid' in this case increases the price by a penny and if you are the one to stumble upon the 'hidden' price, then you win the item.

This of course doesn't need a timer. The auction length in-fact depends on the number of active members at a given time. So there could be auctions that end in a few seconds or a few days, you never know.

From the point of view of the owners, timerless penny auctions are less risky a business model because they already know their exact profit for every single auction. There is less uncertainty based on cash flows. However, at the same time, this reduces the thrill of a penny auction and bidders might prefer to buy the product at its retail instead.

One site that has mastered timerless penny auctions is PennyGrab. It is a relatively new site but has really done well for itself and the bidders. It has unusual features, like a chat feature that is absent from perhaps all other penny auctions. They also have good deals on buy now, which attract bidders. They also give away free bids often.

RockDawg is another timerless penny auction which is much older, but has less bidders. It has a smaller community of bidders and many penny auction bidders like it this way.

The other category of timerless penny auctions is what sites like BidWhammy work on. They tell you which bid number will win the product. So it says something like "Bid 54", so the 54th bid will win. The good thing is, in certain promotions, the cost of these bids will be less than the items sold, so you are guaranteed to come out on top if you win the auction, no matter how many bids you place.

Do you like timerless penny auctions? What are your thoughts?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Almost Guaranteed Wins at HappyBidDay

Like many penny auctions, HappyBidDay has what are called as beginner auctions. These auctions are not open to everyone. Rather, they are only open to the people who are new to the site. This means you cannot participate in these auctions if you have been winning items here. However, if you just joined the site, this is great!

One of the reasons HappyBidDay beginner auctions are really good for you a a bidder is that they are extremely low in competition. This is not surprising - they have quite a few of these and there are not as many active beginners. In addition, HappyBidDay is a new penny auction unlike Quibids which is well established and more popular. Therefore, you can win these with ease.

I looked at the three latest beginner auctions, and all three ended within 1 or 2 bids! That's an incredible saving for any penny auction. You can get the gift card, and what is even better, get some free bids along with it as well! These free bids can then be used for everything else on the site.

After you win some beginner auctions, I would suggest bidding on gift cards only because these are less competitive than electronic items. Also remember that when you buy your first bid pack, use coupon code HAPPY to get 20% off for the first bid pack (you'll need this to get started). If you want to be active, go for the bid packs that come with 'insurance' i.e. if you don't win, your bids will be refunded. All these nice aspects make HappyBidDay a great site for all penny auction bidders.
(Remember that unlike traditional auctions, at HappyBidDay, the bidding starts at $1.00 and not $0.00)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bid Latency at Penny Auctions

This post about bid latency at penny auctions like Quibids is a guest post by one of my readers. Thanks a lot Jay for sharing this with my readers. I am sure they will find value in this.

Latency creates conditions from which penny auction sites like Quibids benefit, and players lose. The site benefits because players are making bids later than they think they are, so either 1) their bid could get to the server too late or, more likely, 2) Multiple players bid with a very low number of seconds left because they don't see the updates reflecting other bidders bids that were made a couple of seconds earlier. From the reading I have done online, people are blaming Quibids (for example), and while the site's servers can certainly be a part of the puzzle, there are other sources of this issue which are beyond their (and possibly the players') control.

The effect can be observed, by watching a number of bids -- just watch, and observe how many go down to 1 second and just sit there, and then all of a sudden things start up again, with one or more bids received - perhaps even with the clock starting below the current interval. I have seen latency approaching 10 seconds or more this way on rare occasions, usually at nite. Also, if the site has an indicator of the quality of your network connection on it, watch that and see if and how it varies.

In at least one case where I was bidding under a "waiting game" strategy I lost because while the time on my screen said 1 second, it had received its timer update late due to Quibids/Internet/ISP network latency. My bid arrived at the server too late to count because I had, from the perspective of the server, made the bid *after* the auction had already closed.

Also, because the "bid history" list from Quibids is updated independently of the auction status, it can cause the kind of discrepancy between the two that I noted when I read one of your blog articles.

There are several places where this latency can originate -- and at least two of them I know are occurring (numbers 3 and 4).

1. In the javascript that the browser runs to display bid activity - by intentionally delaying requests for updates. I have not seen any evidence of this, and in fact one can observe multiple updates to different bids on the same page, and updates that occur within a second or two, which lead me to believe this is not occurring.

2. In one's own PC or network. On one's own PC, one should run the leanest fastest browser possible - being sure that this speed includes the javascript implementation (at least for Quibids, because their bid pages rely on it). If one is using an HTTP proxy, perhaps bypass the proxy for the penny auction site to reduce latency.

3. In the ISP (e.g. Charter, AT&T, TDS, Comcast et. al.). This is almost certainly a biggy. It will increase in the evenings as people watch streaming content, during major sporting events, etc. It includes not only network speeds, but the time it takes to resolve a DNS name (like to its Internet IP address.

4. In the Internet between you and the penny auction site. (Used to be one could use traceroute to get an idea of what the network topology might be, but traceroute is pretty universally blocked these days).

5. On the penny auction site's server and network infrastructure.


a. Understand that if you are employing the waiting game strategy, then waiting until literally 1 second can be really risky. (I have seen blogs that implore bidders to absolutely wait until 1 second. Not advice I would give). As an alternative, you can afford to wait 1 second more than your largest network latency.

b. Consider using the site's bid automation (bid-o-matic, for example). This clock is on the server, independent of your machine, and is thus unaffected by network latency.

c. Run the fastest browser you can on the fastest machine you can.

d. Stay away from times when ISPs, the Internet and Quibids are more busy, at least until you have a firm grip on what your latency situation looks like.

e. Find a way to measure the latency of the response from the penny auction site so that you know what it is for your environment at a given time of day. (The Quibids site actually tries to help with a little indicator at the bottom of their page. It would be an interesting experiment to see how much delay affects it. In fact, I just noticed a period as I wrote this where it thought the connection was completely unavailable).

f. Consider that when Quibids shows you only some of the auctions that are actually going on, this may actually be a GOOD thing, because one thing they may be trying to do is keep their bid server farm response time even and fair (at least, I would if I were in their shoes). In fact, were I them, I would regionalize it / arrange it by Internet topology so that bidders that had connections which took fewer hops to get to the server didn't have an unfair advantage over bidders that had more complicated routes to the servers. In so doing, I'd also keep my network charges down.

g. Beware of using a wireless connection.

h. Do not put your browser window in the background, even for a second, unless you have the site's bid automation (e.g. bid-o-matic) running.

Author: Jay Jaeger

Friday, January 6, 2012

Better Quibids Data: A Welcome Relief

There is better Quibids data right at Quibids now! I think it is part of the effort by Quibids to move its business more mainstream, as it advertises on TV and wants to attract not just the few people who are already a part of the penny auction industry but a wider range of general audience.

Now, Quibids has better ways to look at past prices. I have previously complained about the misleading price information on Quibids. Previously, when an auction was underway, Quibids would say "Recently sold for $0.01" and the $0.01 was almost always the case because some obscure auction somewhere might have ended that way. This practice seems even more misleading because of the Quibids trap page. What is to prevent them from artificially dropping an auction price to a cent, just to use it for publicity?

However, now Quibids has a better practice of showing the least prices and a "..." where you can click to get all the recently ended auctions for that item you are watching. This is good because previously you had to copy-paste the item name and even then the search results weren't accurate. Plus it was too much effort. Now the pricing system is much more transparent.

I have always argued that Quibids, as an industry leader, should take the lead in making penny auctions more open and transparent. An important step towards this is making price information public and available for analysis. What do you think?