How about a $1 bill priced at $2 w/free shipping? From every angle, it would be an interesting experiment. From the consumer's standpoint, it challenges the notion of free shipping. From a seller's standpoint, it challenges the notion of easy money (would you really want to stuff a thousand envelopes if the item sold well?). From the middleman's standpoint, it might help to identify bots (or possibly even money laundering).
A bunch of engineers at idealab did this back during the bubble. The idea was the saturate Pasadena, CA with $2 bills, particularly as retailers, lacking anywhere to put $2 bills in registers, tended to quickly re-release them.
We tried buying them a thousand at a time from banks. One time a manager came out to talk to us about it and asked what we wanted them for. We explained and his response was, "So we're going to get them all back."
They do try to discourage the airmiles-purchasing behaviour:
"The immediate bank deposit of $1 coins ordered through this Program does not result in their introduction into circulation and, therefore, does not comply with the intended purpose of the program."
"There is a 4-box $1 coin limit for every 10-day period on any and all $1 coin orders. Beyond that your credit card will not be authorized. If you need quantities greater than this, please send an e-mail before placing your order to email@example.com explaining why your order should be exempted from the limit."
To do this right, you have to be able to change the terms of the auction. Allow bidding for the $1 to start at a penny so it seems like a good deal. Then allow that the highest bidder gets the dollar, but doesn't have to pay... and the second-highest bidder must pay his bid amount, but receives nothing.
You should see dollar bills purchased for hundreds of dollars at least.
"The only way to win is not to play the game." </wargames>
Yeah, the busy part of me has too many other things to do as well, but if you need someone to feed you dozens of other ways to use game theory to abuse people, it'd be worth it just for all the headdesk in seeing them implemented.
selling $1 bills would likely be difficult using the bot in the article because the site (trademe.co.nz) is only in New Zealand where the smallest bill is the $5 one. Although there are probably other equally effective sales you could run using $1 and $2 coins.
That would be a pretty bad idea since checks include all the information someone needs to make hard to reverse withdrawals from your account. Knuth used to send checks but no longer does. See http://sunburn.stanford.edu/~knuth/news08.html.
A neat bot would be one which automatically buys and then resells things with a markup. It would figure out the usual price an item goes for on a website like Ebay, and purchase it if the price is set far enough below.
The items are worth whatever people are willing to purchase them for in WoW and IRL. All you have to do is keep track of how various items are selling. You could implement a browser plugin to capture your hover and give you a floating window with stats from your database. About the point where I had this realization, I stopped caring about WoW auctioning and decided I would rather spend that time making real money.
A classic case of arbitrage. But it seems to me that it would be quite hard to achieve on ebay. You need to have very little overhead, mailing stuff isn't usually that cheap.
Drop shipping --send things directly from seller to buyer-- is allowed on ebay but has many restrictions.
It would be very interesting to see if you could get some heuristics that choose products that are at least moderately useful instead of screen protectors and (exploding) batteries for various mobile phones.
I have always wanted to try something like this with stocks or commodities. Make a bot watch the market, and buy and sell. I even got far enough to imagine some sort of genetic filtering, aka give the master bot 10k, then it distributes it to 10 bots, all which are slightly different, they spend it, the master takes any profit above 1k and invests it in another bot that is a combination of the best 2. Etc. That way your max loss would be 10k, and you might make some money.
Yeah, this is interesting, but there are some annoying realities:
1) If you make something like 3 intra-day trades (buy and sell on the same day) in some defined period (a week?) the SEC will classify you as a "pattern day trader". To be allowed to do that, you need an account with something like $25k USD min.
2) There are a few items that people often forget in simplified models that will completely eat any theoretical profits: brokerage fees, taxes, and currency-exchange effects (e.g. if you're a Canadian trading US stocks).
3) After all that, you're competing with the big guys who have a deep knowledge of how trading works, and fast access to more information than you do. It's an insider's game.
I should add that (market-price) trades aren't completed in an all-or-nothing fashion, unless you specify this (which brings another set of costs and risks). E.g. if you want to buy 1000 shares, it might happen in several chunks (say 200, 200, 600), with the price going up each time.
So, the process of buying or selling moves the price, which is another reason why trading with real money against competitors is different from training against historical data.
I have no experience, and little intrest in stock trading. I was however interested in the AI and automation aspects of this challenge, with the stock market being a good source of data with a definite but "unknown" solution. However due to the obstructions you brought to my attention, it seems although the stock market would not be an ideal application for this.
Instead of running it once per day, you could run it hourly. Rank the items with the same algorithm, but take into account time left on the auction. An item expiring soon that scores really high could be purchased early so it doesn't get away. Items expiring later could be watched and dumped if the price goes too high, or determined to be worth the extra expense, if the amount is available in savings, so the more expensive good items don't get away either.
This reminds me of the artwork by Caleb Larsen, A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter. It's a box that sells itself on eBay for a higher price. As a condition of buying it, you accept it can sell itself again, and so on.
trademe is pretty much just the New Zealand version of ebay (albeit with a better reputation and more engaged community). They are also impressive because they cloned ebays business model early enough to prevent ebay from dominating the New Zealand online auction sector (as ebay did in Australia with ebay.com.au) and sold in 2006 for $700 million (NZD) ($550m in USD).
Needs to be quite intelligent to filter out a lot of product noise.
A lot of this is due to pricing manipulation whereby a price is low but the shipping is high. Also a lot of the products with the biggest savings aren't that useful :)
We've managed to improve the value of the list but are constantly tweaking it to get a good balance of savings and useful products listed.
Its especially important as we use a bot to auto-tweet the best saving of the day through twitter & facebook. Trying to get a bot to do this sometimes produces unintended (and often interesting) results.
Just a small announce on HN, and the site is down.
Why does most blog software fail at simple tasks like delivering static content? Apart from comments and quick corrections, blog articles _are_ nothing more than static content. And I'd be happy to not see any comments due to high server load, as long as I can read the article.
The Wordpress default install is horribly slow out of the box. The sad reality is that most blog software is not tuned to serve any reasonable number of pageviews by default.
It's one reason why letting someone manage all that for you makes sense. (Shameless plug) At Weebly we spent a lot of time making sure that our blogging engine is very optimized. We have free users -- they don't pay us any money, we don't place any ads on their site, and they even use their own domain -- hit the front page of Digg/Reddit/HN all the time, and we can easily handle it in stride.
It's working again now. Although I had to lower the number of maxworkers to get it stable, so it may be slow.
And yeah, I'll be investigating why it's so slow tomorrow after the heat dies down. I think this is the first time that wordpress instance has served more than a few hits per day, so I'm kinda not surprised it's gone horribly wrong.
If the Apple App Store had an API, I would be tempted to write a bot to buy me a highly rated app every ~3 days.
Didn't try very hard, but I was unable to determine whether the Android Market has an API for purchasing paid apps. In that case, the Android phone could be the bot! "Bzzzzztt. I bought this app for you. Hope you like it."
Considering the environmental impact of door to door shipping and the low chance the items will get any significant use, it's almost like the program is optimized to promote global warming over any other goals.