AutoTempest (aka HanksHelper) Beta Test

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Tempest Nathan
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AutoTempest (aka HanksHelper) Beta Test

Post by Tempest Nathan » Fri May 08, 2009 12:56 am

Hi all!

Just created this new forum to collect feedback on my newly-revamped car search site, HanksHelper.com.

HH now searches craigslist (courtesy of Searchtempest, of course :D), and has a bunch of new options, like the ability to specify body style, transmission type, etc. Sooo I figured it was time to try and get the word out a bit more, and see what you guys think!

So certainly if you find a bug, please let me know - I'll do my best to fix it asap.
But I'm also interested in anything that feels 'wrong', counterintuitive, etc. Stylistic stuff is ok too, although I (obviously ;) ) haven't spent too much time on that yet - I prefer to make it work as well as possible before worrying about making it pretty - so please go easy.. ;)

I think that's it. So if you haven't tried the site yet, go check it out, then let me know what you think!

phrige
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Re: Hank's Helper Beta Test

Post by phrige » Fri May 08, 2009 4:16 pm

WoW, really this is something I've been looking for, for ages!

I really like searching classic cars, and specifically cars I'm interested in buying or selling this is great. Really cuts across all the usual sites i check and then some. Thank you so much for this. You guys are really first rate.






And I thought Search Tempest was a blessing!,
Pete

DA9
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Re: Hank's Helper Beta Test

Post by DA9 » Thu May 28, 2009 4:18 am

On craigslist people often say "92, 91, 90" etc as short hand for "1992, 1991, 1990" etc. Your search engine only includes the parameters (1992|1991|1990) thus excluding many valid results. a more correct way would be (92|91|90|1992|1991|1990) as using just the abbreviated years excludes the unabbreviated.

For now I can change this myself manually, but I'd love it if you changed your code to accommodate as it can get tedious.

Also, perhaps you should exclude Make and only include Model for searches on Craigslist. (or make this an option; again I can do this manually after the search is completed)
An example of an instance where you get more valid results is searching for "Integra" instead of "Acura Integra" wherein there are a few added results (one of which is "Honda Integra $3000" as Honda makes Acura).

NOTE:The first request is more important than the second. The second is probably a bit overkill.

Also, I must say I agree with phrige. I appreciate this great resource.

Edit: btw I don't think color works for letters on here.

'nother edit: would be cool if you made the frame you view the other websites through a bit taller. I'm running 1024x768 res and the window doesn't come close to filling my screen even on firefox with bookmarks toolbar and all.

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Re: Hank's Helper Beta Test

Post by Tempest Nathan » Thu May 28, 2009 10:33 am

DA9 wrote:On craigslist people often say "92, 91, 90" etc as short hand for "1992, 1991, 1990" etc. Your search engine only includes the parameters (1992|1991|1990) thus excluding many valid results. a more correct way would be (92|91|90|1992|1991|1990) as using just the abbreviated years excludes the unabbreviated.

For now I can change this myself manually, but I'd love it if you changed your code to accommodate as it can get tedious.

Also, perhaps you should exclude Make and only include Model for searches on Craigslist. (or make this an option; again I can do this manually after the search is completed)
An example of an instance where you get more valid results is searching for "Integra" instead of "Acura Integra" wherein there are a few added results (one of which is "Honda Integra $3000" as Honda makes Acura).

NOTE:The first request is more important than the second. The second is probably a bit overkill.

Also, I must say I agree with phrige. I appreciate this great resource.

Edit: btw I don't think color works for letters on here.

'nother edit: would be cool if you made the frame you view the other websites through a bit taller. I'm running 1024x768 res and the window doesn't come close to filling my screen even on firefox with bookmarks toolbar and all.
Thanks very much for the feedback. That's a great idea about the years - I'll get that done asap.

I totally see what you mean about not including the make, but that one has pluses and minuses (as you know). What I'm planning to do that should be almost as good is have it remember when you change the keywords for Searchtempest so you don't have to re-do it each time you re-run the search. The modified keywords would only get overridden when you actually change your search parameters in hankshelper. (That's also helpful for power users who need to enter alternate model names, such as four runner 4runner fourrunner etc.)

Here's a question though. Say you do a search on HH, then change your keywords on ST. Each time you re-open HH and rerun the same search, your modded keywords remain on ST. I'm pretty sure this is good. The question is when you change your search on HH. It could either 1) just wipe out your modded keywords and regenerate them - of course allowing you to change them again; or 2) pop up a message that the search has changed - do you want to keep your old keywords/change them yourself OR regenerate them from hankshelper. The second option is obviously more powerful, but also more clutter/confusion.

I think colors work.. ;)

As for the frame, it's supposed to stretch to fill the window. Ah, but I see what you mean - at 1024x768 the header or footer still takes up a bit of space. I'll look into that. For the moment though, you might find it better to open the results in new tabs. You can find that option under the 'More Options' dialog, 'Hank's Options'. Let me know what you think.

Finally, thank you both for the positive feedback! Good to know people are appreciating my work! :)

Edit: The years thing was a really easy change, so I just went ahead and did it. Thanks again!

DA9
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Re: Hank's Helper Beta Test

Post by DA9 » Thu May 28, 2009 11:58 pm

Search Tempest Nathan wrote:Thanks very much for the feedback. That's a great idea about the years - I'll get that done asap.

I totally see what you mean about not including the make, but that one has pluses and minuses (as you know). What I'm planning to do that should be almost as good is have it remember when you change the keywords for Searchtempest so you don't have to re-do it each time you re-run the search. The modified keywords would only get overridden when you actually change your search parameters in hankshelper. (That's also helpful for power users who need to enter alternate model names, such as four runner 4runner fourrunner etc.)

Here's a question though. Say you do a search on HH, then change your keywords on ST. Each time you re-open HH and rerun the same search, your modded keywords remain on ST. I'm pretty sure this is good. The question is when you change your search on HH. It could either 1) just wipe out your modded keywords and regenerate them - of course allowing you to change them again; or 2) pop up a message that the search has changed - do you want to keep your old keywords/change them yourself OR regenerate them from hankshelper. The second option is obviously more powerful, but also more clutter/confusion.

I think colors work.. ;)

As for the frame, it's supposed to stretch to fill the window. Ah, but I see what you mean - at 1024x768 the header or footer still takes up a bit of space. I'll look into that. For the moment though, you might find it better to open the results in new tabs. You can find that option under the 'More Options' dialog, 'Hank's Options'. Let me know what you think.

Finally, thank you both for the positive feedback! Good to know people are appreciating my work! :)

Edit: The years thing was a really easy change, so I just went ahead and did it. Thanks again!
For modified keywords, it seems best to leave them alone as long as the new search is of the same make/model. Now that you've fixed the year search, the make/model is the only thing I can think of that someone would want to modify keywords for. This way for example, if someone wishes to change the years or prices they're searching for, they won't lose other modifications. Although this would warrant a "clear button," to clear the cookie (or whatever you use to keep past searches filled in) so that a person could start from scratch.

If you decide to go with the pop-up (which may be necessary to notify people), I think you should allow an option to prevent the pop-up from coming again and remember my choice, as you have for when a person searches for cars & trucks on searchtempest, and you include a pop-up on hanks helper, with those options. I also think the pop-up should point out a clear button, that would clear out all modifications to searches so that I (as a user) could start from scratch again without trying to figure out what is and isn't supposed to be there.

Something I just noticed is that you don't include an option to search only postings sold by owner or sold by dealer or both. Since all the websites HH searches through include those options, why not include them yourself in the first page? It would become redundant changing all my search options to Private seller only each time I searched for a new car. Also several of the websites HH searchs through include New/Used/Both filter, so why not include that too?

I know I'm throwing a lot at you at this point, but how hard would it be to do multiple searches for multiple cars at once? Auto Trader allows up to 3 cars at once and Oodle for example allows as many as you wish, using filters.

I just had Firefox crash while using your site. First time Firefox has ever crashed for me like that, and I've used Firefox since Mozilla 1.6. I had just found "More Options" and all I did was click save after checking ALL for all websites. Firefox had me send a report about it. Never seen that before. (Like I said I've never had that happen before.) In the report is said the website was shop.*.*.ebay.com or something.

Speaking of Ebay, when I search for Acura, Integra, 90-92 (no, no other parameters) and look at the ebay tab is says 2 matches but only shows me 1. When I click "See All Results at Ebay.com" or go to Ebay itself and search for it, I get another Integra for $1000 as an option that has no bids. Is it because it doesn't have any bids that it doesn't show up on HH? This appears to need to be fixed. *(to test this yourself you will need to do so in the next 24 hours as the listings may change and the one Integra that IS listed is going off in about 36 hours.) EDIT: I just search for a Honda CRX and on there is 1 result but it isn't listed on HH I again have to go to ebay.com to view it. The common feature of both of these listings (the Integra and CRX) is they are more than 4 days out. Is this why they aren't listed?

By the way, the "More Options" button isn't very obvious. I just discovered what other options I had because when I would scan the page for (for example) Sold by Dealer/Seller/Both I wasn't looking for a "More Options" button. Why not include that on the home page of HH under a "More Options" subtitle with a small disclaimer about "Only on supported sites" instead of having to click on the button?

Alas, under the "Model Info" tab for the frame to the right on the homepage, if I click on one of the website buttons is just goes to the ebay tab and seems to reload all of the websites. Perhaps you should link each button to their respective tab?

Okay okay, I think this is the last thing. The star on the end is google.com, did you get the code for the tabs from google or something? (after all why would I want to search HH.com? it isn't a lot of content, just a search engine after all) Anyways, when I search again using HH, the tabs I have open on HH that I've searched reload, but if I have other tabs open (example websites I've decided not to search on again or the google tab) they all stay. that can get cluttered pretty fast so why not clear the unused ones out with a new search (with a warning about that?). Just a thought.

P.S. Something I meant to mention in my first post is how LARGE the HH Title is. (And ST's homepage title for that matter) It is a bit too large and a bit of an eyesore to boot (no offense).

edit: forgot to thank you for changing the years thing. Thanks!

edit: just searched for a Del Sol using HH. The name is "Civic Del Sol" (this car is technically a Honda Civic CR-X Del Sol, but most people just say Del Sol) I guess via oodle. Only searches ebay, craigslist, and oodle. Craigslist and ebay results include regular civics and preludes. There is an option later in list for just a Del Sol. All Del Sols are Civics so why the redundancy? Just have Del Sol as the only option. Also list includes "accord cpe, accord sdn, civic cpe, civic sdn" meaning coupe and sedan, but why not only include those terms if coupe or sedan are checked as options? (to declutter the list of models)

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Re: Hank's Helper Beta Test

Post by Tempest Nathan » Fri May 29, 2009 12:19 pm

I appreciate you throwing a lot at me. That's what the beta test is for! I'll try and address your questions and comments below:
DA9 wrote:For modified keywords, it seems best to leave them alone as long as the new search is of the same make/model. Now that you've fixed the year search, the make/model is the only thing I can think of that someone would want to modify keywords for. This way for example, if someone wishes to change the years or prices they're searching for, they won't lose other modifications. Although this would warrant a "clear button," to clear the cookie (or whatever you use to keep past searches filled in) so that a person could start from scratch.
Agreed. Only difficulty is it's non-trivial to tell what part of the keywords have been changed, since they're just stored as a big string once they're in Searchtempest. Probably the ideal way would be to make a Searchtempest mod for HH to just have two keywords boxes, and put the make/model in one and all the other stuff in the other. Then it would just remember the make/model box until one of those was changed.
DA9 wrote:If you decide to go with the pop-up (which may be necessary to notify people), I think you should allow an option to prevent the pop-up from coming again and remember my choice, as you have for when a person searches for cars & trucks on searchtempest, and you include a pop-up on hanks helper, with those options. I also think the pop-up should point out a clear button, that would clear out all modifications to searches so that I (as a user) could start from scratch again without trying to figure out what is and isn't supposed to be there.
Yep, good call. As an aside, do you think it should be a pop-up like the one that tells people about HH, or a news dropdown like what's there now telling about how you can tweak the keywords?
DA9 wrote:Something I just noticed is that you don't include an option to search only postings sold by owner or sold by dealer or both. Since all the websites HH searches through include those options, why not include them yourself in the first page? It would become redundant changing all my search options to Private seller only each time I searched for a new car. Also several of the websites HH searchs through include New/Used/Both filter, so why not include that too?
I do have that option. It's under the More Options button. Don't include New/Used because HH is for searching for used cars. :) Most of the sites have totally different sections for new cars that I don't deal with. (Again, yes, it's a possibility for future, like the bikes thing.. but not right now ;) )
DA9 wrote:I know I'm throwing a lot at you at this point, but how hard would it be to do multiple searches for multiple cars at once? Auto Trader allows up to 3 cars at once and Oodle for example allows as many as you wish, using filters.
This ties into what you say about make and model names below. Since only a few of the sites support multiple searches together, it would just add too much confusion to try and include it in the HH interface. It's easy enough to change the model and run a couple of searches. However, I do plan to use that functionality to support alternate models. Right now, all the makes and models are pulled directly from the sites. That's why it doesn't know that a 'Civic Del Sol' at one site is the same thing as a 'Del Sol' at another site. The only good way to do that is to go through every single one, research the models I'm not familiar with, and set up manual links and exceptions and stuff. Obviously that will take time, but it is on the list.

Anyway, there are also cases like the BMW 3-series. Cars.com lists one model: 3-series. Autotrader lists 318i, 325i, 330i, etc. Ideally if you pick one of the latter, you'll get that at Autotrader and you'll get 3-series at cars.com. (Right now, as I said, you'd only get autotrader. Likewise if you pick 3-series, autotrader should give you all those models. That's what I'll use the multiple-search feature of autotrader and others for.
DA9 wrote:I just had Firefox crash while using your site. First time Firefox has ever crashed for me like that, and I've used Firefox since Mozilla 1.6. I had just found "More Options" and all I did was click save after checking ALL for all websites. Firefox had me send a report about it. Never seen that before. (Like I said I've never had that happen before.) In the report is said the website was shop.*.*.ebay.com or something.
That's just weird.. haven't experienced anything like that, but it sounds like it's ebay that's crashing your browser. Does it always happen, or just once? [edit: fixed now]
DA9 wrote:Speaking of Ebay, when I search for Acura, Integra, 90-92 (no, no other parameters) and look at the ebay tab is says 2 matches but only shows me 1. When I click "See All Results at Ebay.com" or go to Ebay itself and search for it, I get another Integra for $1000 as an option that has no bids. Is it because it doesn't have any bids that it doesn't show up on HH? This appears to need to be fixed. *(to test this yourself you will need to do so in the next 24 hours as the listings may change and the one Integra that IS listed is going off in about 36 hours.) EDIT: I just search for a Honda CRX and on there is 1 result but it isn't listed on HH I again have to go to ebay.com to view it. The common feature of both of these listings (the Integra and CRX) is they are more than 4 days out. Is this why they aren't listed?
Also weird.. it seems the number of models it says are returned doesn't ever exactly match the actual number. I never actually counted the 20 or so models from my test searches to notice that! I'll check it out.. [edit: also fixed]
DA9 wrote:By the way, the "More Options" button isn't very obvious. I just discovered what other options I had because when I would scan the page for (for example) Sold by Dealer/Seller/Both I wasn't looking for a "More Options" button. Why not include that on the home page of HH under a "More Options" subtitle with a small disclaimer about "Only on supported sites" instead of having to click on the button?
There's a whole lot of stuff under more options. It can't alll be on the main page, so the separator was anything that's only partially supported goes under more options. I figure people who are looking for something that isn't on the main page will scan it and see the button as you did. Hmm.. maybe instead of a more options button I could have a bunch of small links: private/dealer, body style, transmission, etc that open up the more options dialog. I kind of like that idea.. [edit: and so I did it - Done.]
DA9 wrote:Alas, under the "Model Info" tab for the frame to the right on the homepage, if I click on one of the website buttons is just goes to the ebay tab and seems to reload all of the websites. Perhaps you should link each button to their respective tab?
What those buttons do is run a search on that particular site. Since you already have the sites open, they just refresh the one that you click. (If you hadn't done a search, they'd do one on just that site.) The problem is, every time you run a search, it automatically opens the first tab. What it should do is open the first tab that was actually searched. I'll add that to the list! :| [edit: aaand fixed]
DA9 wrote:Okay okay, I think this is the last thing. The star on the end is google.com, did you get the code for the tabs from google or something? (after all why would I want to search HH.com? it isn't a lot of content, just a search engine after all) Anyways, when I search again using HH, the tabs I have open on HH that I've searched reload, but if I have other tabs open (example websites I've decided not to search on again or the google tab) they all stay. that can get cluttered pretty fast so why not clear the unused ones out with a new search (with a warning about that?). Just a thought.

P.S. Something I meant to mention in my first post is how LARGE the HH Title is. (And ST's homepage title for that matter) It is a bit too large and a bit of an eyesore to boot (no offense).
The google thing is left over from when most people were using IE6 and didn't have tabs. It was handy to be able to look up info on the cars or whatever in the same window. It's a bit redundant now, but I didn't see any real reason to get rid of it. I wouldn't want to wipe out people's tabs for no reason though.. If they want to declutter, they can click the 'close all' button before running the next search, right? Plus, as you say, it's doubtful people will use it anyway. Do you think I should get rid of it?

As for the title, ya, I suppose I agree for HH. The whole page is going to be restyled anyway, so I'm sure that'll be fixed. Searchtempest, I'll have to get some more feedback. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback about the new title/logo (and obviously I like it). :) Definitely a personal taste thing.. (Don't know if you noticed, but I got rid of the banners at the top of the page and shrunk the title on the results page significantly to save space.) I will consider that though.

Thanks again for all your feedback! It's definitely been helpful. And I'll try and take a look into those bugs soon. I'm moving on Monday though, so it'll probably be at least next week. (Unless you find something really show-stopping - then please let me know and I'll find a way to deal with it.)

Cheers,
Nathan

Erik in YVR
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Canadian Postal Codes

Post by Erik in YVR » Sat Aug 08, 2009 6:54 pm

Hello,

Searchtempest works with Canadian Postal Codes - it would be great if Hank's Helper did this as well. As it stands, I am unable to use Hank's Helper (unless I figure out a nearby US city zip code) as it requires a Zip Code to work at all...

Thanks,

Erik

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Re: Canadian Postal Codes

Post by Tempest Nathan » Sat Aug 08, 2009 8:04 pm

Erik in YVR wrote:Hello,

Searchtempest works with Canadian Postal Codes - it would be great if Hank's Helper did this as well. As it stands, I am unable to use Hank's Helper (unless I figure out a nearby US city zip code) as it requires a Zip Code to work at all...

Thanks,

Erik
Hi Erik,

I agree, and would like to expand Hank's for use in Canada. (I'm Canadian enough to recognize the Vancouver airport code - living in Victoria now. :) )
Problem is, it's not a simple matter of recognizing the postal codes. Except for craigslist and ebay, all the sites searched by Hankshelper are US-only. (Some have Canadian counterparts.) So to expand to Canada, I'll have to actually add different sites.

I guess I could add postal code support just for ebay and craigslist for now.. would that be helpful?

Erik in YVR
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Re: Canadian Postal Codes

Post by Erik in YVR » Sat Aug 08, 2009 10:48 pm

Searchtempest Nathan wrote:
Erik in YVR wrote:Hello,

Searchtempest works with Canadian Postal Codes - it would be great if Hank's Helper did this as well. As it stands, I am unable to use Hank's Helper (unless I figure out a nearby US city zip code) as it requires a Zip Code to work at all...

Thanks,

Erik
Hi Erik,

I agree, and would like to expand Hank's for use in Canada. (I'm Canadian enough to recognize the Vancouver airport code - living in Victoria now. :) )
Problem is, it's not a simple matter of recognizing the postal codes. Except for craigslist and ebay, all the sites searched by Hankshelper are US-only. (Some have Canadian counterparts.) So to expand to Canada, I'll have to actually add different sites.

I guess I could add postal code support just for ebay and craigslist for now.. would that be helpful?
Hi Nathan,

Rather than necessarily adding Canadian sites, although that would also be great, I see three possible approaches, in order of increasing difficulty to implement:

a) Make entering a zip code optional; while relative distance is certainly valuable, allow a search to proceed without geographic limitations. I'd suggest limiting the search to cross-regional sites (e.g. Ebay and maybe one or two others) as hitting every possible site is probably not practical. If, instead of the current "fatal error" message when no zip code is entered, this message gives someone the option of continuing (telling them that limited sites will be queried) or returning to the input form to enter a zip code, then the user can make a choice and results are still feasible even without a zip code.

b) Allow Canadian postal codes to be entered. In this case, limit the searches to sites that understand the codes (e.g. Ebay and Craigslist) and, possibly, include cross-regional sites that are included in option a) above.

c) Translate Canadian postal codes to nearby US zip codes and search on that basis on sites that do not understand postal codes - e.g. for Vancouver/Victoria use the zip code for Bellingham or Seattle. This is obviously more complicated to implement as it requires some sort of mapping of Canadian postal codes to applicable US zip codes. My suggestion is to start simple - e.g. just look at the first letter of the Canadian postal code and map that to a relevant US location. If you have the time in the future that could get expanded to progressively handle the second digit of the postal code - it is probably not worthwhile to look at the third or subsequent characters...

Just some ideas for your consideration. I appreciate you even being open to them.

Cheers,

Erik

PS While the three options above are in order of increasing difficulty, my selfish desire at this moment would be to go with Option b) - to use your very good search capability for cars in particular for Craigslist...

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Re: Hank's Helper Beta Test

Post by Tempest Nathan » Sat Aug 08, 2009 11:10 pm

Thanks Erik, those are really good thoughts.. And even option c may not be too bad. I already have the geographic locations of all the zips and postals from Searchtempest.. shouldn't be too hard to write a mapping function. I'll look into that soon. (I've got a long to-do list, but things tend to move up based on both their awesomeness and their easiness to implement.. :D)

For now though, I'd advise using 98226 - Bellingham is so close to Vancouver that you should get basically the same results. Except it isn't set up to return Canadian craigslist cities. You can copy the keywords it generates though and paste them back into a separate copy of Searchtempest.

If I haven't updated this in.. say a month, feel free to write again and give me a nudge! :)

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