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Selling Safely With Oodle

One of the biggest problems associated with traditional online classifieds sites is anonymity.  In recent focus groups we conducted, issues relating to anonymous conversations really stood out.  Most complained of flakey behavior (e.g., the buyer who seems interested but then doesn’t show up for appointments).  But almost everyone cited a close call where they felt scared.

We see evidence of this problem in the media where burglaries, assaults, and even murders are attributed to meetings facilitated on Craigslist.  To get a feel for how big this problem really is, Oodle asked the AIM Group, an analyst organization covering the classifieds industry, to compile the number of crimes published in the press that originated with interactions on Craigslist. The results were pretty scary — 330 crimes committed in the past year, more than 43 of which were violent. (AIM Report on Craigslist Crime)

The information AIM compiled is all public — anyone could compile the same data by searching for reported-upon crimes committed as a result of Craigslist contacts. While the proportion of crimes to day-to-day Craigslist interactions may be small, the data we compiled only shows reported crimes, there could have been many more. Also, we think even one murder is too many — buying and selling online should just be safer.

At Oodle safety is a top priority. We’re all about building a social marketplace — a marketplace where who you’re buying from is as important as what you’re buying.  A key part of this mission is identity.  When people post or respond to a listing on Marketplace, they use their real identity on Facebook – enabling you to not only see who the other party is but to see if you’re connected (share a mutual friend, went to the same college, etc.).  By putting real identity back into conversation, Oodle is re-introducing appropriate social norms back into the local community marketplace.  We also do a lot to monitor communication between buyers and sellers — looking for suspicious activity — as well as provide tips on how to buy and sell safely online in our safety center.

In the age of social media when almost everyone has a Facebook profile, why continue to meet up with anonymous buyers and sellers when there’s a better way?

Oodle’s Real-time Stream of Classifieds Listings

From a platform perspective, Oodle has a lot in common with Twitter…

1. We index a real-time a stream of perishable, unique “tweets” (800-900k new messages a day) in the form of classifieds listings. Actually, we do more than just index these listings.  Our real-time infrastructure tags, enhances and prunes the messages flowing through our system.  For example, if someone posts a listing a for “2006 Prius,” we determine that it’s a car listing (hybrid subcompact), year=2006, manufacturer=Toyota, make=Prius and enhance the listing with all the standard features, including a stock photo if one was not submitted.  (In other words, we auto-apply hash tags.)  Moreover, if someone posts a listing that is fraudulent or inappropriate, we have a range of proprietary technologies that automatically detect, flag and remove the message.

2. Users search and browse our stream. Due to the volume and structured nature of our stream, we enable users to quickly slice and dice the stream both through keyword search and by selecting attributes (or tags).   Moreover, we’ve applied our parsing technology to search, so if someone searches for a 2006 Mercedes, we convert the query into year=2006, manufacturer=Mercedes Benz to deliver the most relevant results.

3. Users post “tweets” (classified listings) into our stream.  And the post is a quick and simple process. Recently, as part of the work we did with Facebook Marketplace, we streamlined our post process to make it as lightweight as possible.  It’s not quite 140 characters but we’re getting close. More importantly, we bring the user’s identity into the listing.  So rather than a stream of anonymous content, listings are tied to the identity of the poster (on Oodle, Facebook, MySpace, etc.).  Someone can also see the previous listings posted by that user.

4. Users follow relevant topics in the stream. When you’re looking for a car, you want to see all the listings that are currently posted, as well as new listings as soon as they get introduced into the stream.   With a single click on Oodle, users can easily follow any search (e.g., Acura TLs for under $10k within 60 miles of Burlingame, CA).

5. Users share and discuss “tweets.” It’s easy to share an Oodle listing with your friends on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.  You may see a listing you think a friend would be interested in — or want feedback from a friend (should I buy this car?).   Having said that, we’re really only just getting started in this area.  There are a lot of interesting features coming soon…

It’s exciting to see users become more comfortable with metaphors around streaming, subscribing and sharing.  It not only enables us to better represent the cool stuff we’ve built over the last few years, it serves as a wonderful launch pad for where we’re going with “social classifieds.”

Celebrities Sell for a Cause on the New Facebook Marketplace

We’ve been pleased with the reception of our Sell for a Cause feature on Facebook Marketplace. We all have things we’re not using, why not sell them to raise money for a charity we care about?

We’re excited to announce that a number of celebrities are jumping in to help raise money for their favorite charities. Please visit the new Facebook Marketplace to check out the following cool items:

  • A signed original Princess Bride script from Robin Wright Penn to benefit the EcoMom Congo Project
  • A new laptop computer from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to benefit Project Homeless Connect
  • An autographed shirt “Obama Girl” Amber Ettinger and life-size Barack Obama poster to benefit
  • Paulette’s custom-made dress worn by Jennifer Coolidge in Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde to benefit the National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • A signed yellow jersey (given only to the winner of the Desert Grand Slam) from Dean Karnazes to benefit Blue Planet Run Foundation
  • An autographed copy of Seal’s latest album, SOUL to benefit the Sierra Club
  • A recorded voicemail message by Fran Drescher to benefit Cancer Schmancer
  • Ecoist bag made from misprinted candy labels by Zem Joaquin to benefit Healthy Child, Healthy World
  • Two mouse pads depicting the original invention of the mouse by inventor Dr. Doug Engelbart to benefit Shaping Youth

If every Facebook user sold one item for $10, more than $1 billion dollars would be raised for needy causes, which is the fundraising goal Marketplace has set for 2009. I encourage all Facebook users to place an item for sale to benefit a cause that they care about. Items could range from that great sweater or pair of shoes that never fit to a digital camera or power washer.

We’re very excited about the huge fundraising potential Marketplace has as a tool to raise awareness – and funds – for important causes around the world.

The New Facebook Marketplace Powered by Oodle

Today, we’re launching Facebook Marketplace powered by Oodle. Facebook first introduced the Marketplace application in May 2007 as a way for people to post classified listings on the site — helping them buy and sell furniture and household items in a trusted environment. Late last year, Facebook turned to Oodle for our expertise with online classifieds, and we’ve built an entirely new version of Marketplace focused on giving people a trusted place to buy, sell or give things away to other Facebook users.

We’re also introducing a new feature in Marketplace — Sell For a Cause which allows you to donate the proceeds from items you sell to over a million participating charities including UNICEF, the Sierra Club and local organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco. Right now, I’m selling some things my kids have outgrown (train table, bicycle) to support the Samaritan House — a local charity in Oodle’s hometown of San Mateo, California that supports programs for families in need. If even 10% of the users on Facebook sold something for $10, we would be able to collectively raise over $175 million for causes around the world.

In the coming months, we’ll be rolling out even more functionality and categories. Please share your feedback on what we’re doing.

In the meantime, I urge you to buy or sell for a cause you believe in!

Facebook selects Oodle to power its Marketplace

We are thrilled to share the news that Facebook has chosen us to power Marketplace, their application for online classifieds.

Everyone has things they no longer use that they should give away or sell. Posting to a traditional classifieds site involves meeting strangers, which can be uncomfortable. Emailing all your friends is inefficient and potentially annoying.

This agreement gives us a great opportunity to extend our vision for a community marketplace – a new generation of online classifieds where you can buy, sell and pass along items with people you know or people you at least know something about.

In many cases, you simply want to find a good home for items you are no longer using. In these instances, who you are giving to or selling to is more important than selling to them at the highest price. For example, when a person has extra tickets to a concert, they might prefer to give them to a friend or sell them at a discount to a co-worker. Parents often prefer to give toys their children have outgrown to other parents from their school or neighborhood.

We plan to launch Facebook’s Marketplace in Q1 of 2009. They will be great addition to the Oodle Network. This partnership expands our network of online communities, which includes MySpace and

First the Facebook app, now the real thing

As you may have noticed, we have launched a Facebook version of BandTracker on Facebook Platform, but now it’s time to officially introduce the beta launch of Oodle’s newest service: BandTracker.

What it is

In short, BandTracker is a free service that allows music fans across the US (and expanding to the UK and Canada soon) to track their favorite bands, and for bands to connect with their fans. With over 210,000 bands and nearly 500,000 concerts (and growing!), BandTracker is endlessly useful if you’re looking for something to do this weekend or even tonight, or if you just want to see your favorite band when they’re coming to town. Have you ever kicked yourself for missing out on seeing your favorite bands because they came and went without your knowledge, or tickets sold out before you even knew?

All of this means that you no longer need to search for concerts when you’re looking to go out – BandTracker does the work for you. All that’s needed is for you to input your favorite bands, your area or postal code, and your email address, and BandTracker send you emails whenever your bands are playing in your area. It also provides a link to easily purchase tickets. And, if you don’t see one of your favorite bands coming to town, BandTracker provides a weekend concert calendar so that you’re never wondering what to do on a Friday night.

BandTracker Widgets

Oodle BandTracker also allows users to create widgets for their blog, MySpace or personal web page to express their style and showcase their favorite bands. For fans, the MY BandTracker widget dynamically displays fans’ favorite bands and their upcoming local shows. For bands, the BandPromoter widget showcases their popularity as well as generates emails that notify their registered fans about upcoming shows.

BandTracker on Facebook

As we’ve talked about before, similar to “widgets” for MySpace, blogs and other web pages, BandTracker is also available as an application for Facebook users, allowing users in the US and UK to track and share bands within their social networks, and for their friends to see what bands they are tracking.

So check it out now! Just head over to and try it for yourself.

Also, for those of you in San Francisco, come check us out at Sugar and Gold’s record release party this Friday night (6/15) at 12 Galaxies! Tickets are only $8 and doors open at 8 PM (show starts at 9:30). See you there?

Facebook’s f8 & Oodle – An Engineering Update

As Craig mentioned in his last post, Oodle participated in the May 24 launch of Facebook’s new social application platform, f8. As an Oodle engineer who was part of it all, I thought I’d provide some fun behind-the-scenes on our efforts, as well as a quick update on where things stand now.

Before The Event

Oodle was one of 65 developer partners that had preview access to the f8 platform. We were a late entry to that group, however, and got rolling with f8 development just a few days before the event.

After receiving the invite, a small team of folks here at the company immediately went into brainstorm mode and our thoughts eventually coalesced around two ideas — “BandTracker” and “WantList”.

The use cases behind each were actually quite simple:

  • BandTracker – A way to track your favorite musical artists and bands, be notified of upcoming shows, and get an easy link over to Oodle to purchase tickets for those shows. Oodle is able to do this better than anyone else on the net, thanks to the massive crawling and indexing infrastructure we’ve built for We know about a lot of bands and a lot of shows — quite possibly more than any other service on the net. (Our database currently contains 210,000+ bands performing in 460,000+ shows!)

    We already offer BandTracker functionality in non-f8 form over at Creating an f8 version made obvious sense since so much of the fun of music comes from sharing new bands with friends and seeing what they’re interested in.

  • WantList – Take the notion of the online wishlist and mash that into the Facebook status message experience. The result is a quick text box that lets you enter whatever you want right now — for example, “Steve wants a Vespa.” Your new “want” would then be displayed on your profile and also get pushed out to your friends’ News Feeds. “Ben wants a skybox at AT&T Park.” “Craig wants some heavy Class V action on the river this weekend.” “Mark wants everyone to stop blaming Canada.”

The Development Experience

We launched each app after just a few days of work. Three things helped:

  1. Clean API Client Libraries – The REST API client libraries provided by Facebook were in PHP5 and we’re a PHP5 shop, too. We were able to drop those in and get rolling quickly. The code was clean and easy to integrate. Very nicely done.
  2. Domain Knowledge – We had just completed a bit of Facebook API work for our Oodle Classifieds group on Facebook, so we were familiar with the core Facebook API.
  3. Quick Bootstrapping – F8 application setup was similar to the previous Facebook web app setup: get an API key, define a callback URL on your side, and give your app a pretty title and a path. We had Hello Worlds going in a matter of minutes.

At The Event

The core Oodle f8 development team members were: Caroline Clabaugh, Chris Estreich, Mark Kwan, Lu Wang, and myself, Steve Baker. The five of us rolled up there on May 24 along with a half dozen or so other Oodlers.

I personally enjoyed the moments before the keynote, around the booth, when folks were dropping by and just checking out Got some nice feedback about Oodle and what folks liked about it. Even got some feature requests from a Facebook employee that had checked out BandTracker a day or two before the event. All good stuff.

The hackathon setup was solid. They definitely did it right for us nerds. The classic software engineer cliches are, unfortunately, true: give us lots of Red Bull, power strips, a whiteboard, a table to gather around … and then get out of the way. Oh, and some super-fast network connectivity. Unfortunately, the wireless was pretty poor during the start of the hackathon that followed the keynote, but with 100s of hackers with laptops, I’m not sure I should have expected much else. Real hackers go wired, anyway, right?

That night, we launched the two new Oodle f8 applications: BandTracker and WantList. (Note: You may be prompted for your Facebook login and password after clicking these links.)

In addition to those two apps, a few of us started hacking in different directions. Aren Sandersen, chief software architect here at Oodle, created FaceOff, a fun app that lets you look across all of your networks and see who has the most friends in each one. FaceOff is doing well with over 8,000 “adds” so far.

Since The Event – Stats & Updates

Oodle engineers Chris E. and Mark K. really kicked it into overdrive during the weekend following the launch and took BandTracker to a whole new level. At the time of launch, you could track bands and then see when they were coming. Straightforward, but barebones. In the days after that, they worked hard to add the sweet social sugar as well:

  • Recently Tracked – See what other people just started tracking
  • Most Tracked – See the hottest bands overall (Answer: Red Hot Chili Peppers)
  • Who Likes What You Like? – Probably the coolest feature of all. See who is tracking the same bands/artists you’re tracking

There’s lots of really great stuff on the way for that, too. But even just so far, the hard work has really paid off. As of this post, BandTracker is approaching 20,000 “adds” by Facebook users. It’s currently in the top 40 of all Facebook apps, just ahead of other f8 apps from Digg and Twitter.

In Summary…

Craig D. has said for a long time now that classifieds are a social experience; after all, the vast majority of the time, the end result of a classifieds transaction is a face-to-face meeting between buyer and seller. So we’re fired up to see all of the innovation that’s happening in the social space online because we really feel like it fits nicely with where we’re headed. I’d love nothing more to see other social networks roll out similar APIs so that we can hop on board and integrate with them, too. It’s going to be a fun summer. Bring the Red Bull.

Event Photos

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