Bill Weye

Tag: google

How to use Craigslist and Google Reader for power searches (and getting free stuff)

Have you found discovering good deals on Craigslist more trouble than is worth the effort? If you know exactly what you’re looking for, the search works great. But returning day after day is a pain. What if you’re looking for good deals on stuff, but aren’t sure what you’ll buy?  Let me show you how I scan hundreds of ads and laser in on what interests me using one tool and a couple of keywords. Plus, I’ll show you how to find piles of free stuff (could be junk).

I use Craigslist 3 different ways, every day. I look for free things, scan everything being sold in my town, and I’m usually looking for a couple of specific things. I do all of this without going to the Craigslist site; the information just comes to me.

Keywords and free stuff

curb alert - click to enlarge

Savvy users of Craigslist with things they want out of the garage or basement put their crap (in the eyes of some) curb side with the sign “free stuff”. I’m sure you’ve seen these piles. Here’s where Craigslist comes in: you then post an ad with the keywords “curb alert” in the title. Give a basic list of things people can find, your address, and the time you left the things curb side. Believe me, no matter the backwoods road you may live on, people will come and pick through your pile.

Do you want to find these piles of free things? Go to your local Craigslist and search for “curb alert”. The ads will come flooding at you.

Want to keep an eye on what’s being sold in your city or town? Search for your town name — mine’s “Sunderland.”

Are you looking for something specific on Craigslist? Search for “dumbbells” (one of my recent searches).

I probably haven’t told you anything you didn’t know already, so let’s start cooking with gas and push all this information to you automatically.

Using RSS feeds to track searches on Craigslist

Google Reader - click to enlarge

Enlarge the above photo to the left and you’ll see that I circled the orange “RSS” link. You’ve probably seen these before on sites all over the Web; if you didn’t know, that stands for Really Simple Syndication (Wikipedia). This is the tool we’re going to use to get the custom Craigslist searches delivered to you. After doing your custom search, at the bottom of every page, you’ll find that RSS link. The data inside that link will update in real-time; whenever a new ad is posted that falls into your custom search, your RSS link will also update. Simple!

But before copying that RSS link, you need a tool that can process it and output the data into a format your eyes can read. I use the free Google Reader software, but there are many other tools. You can Google “rss reader mac” or “rss reader windows” or “rss reader web” (for Web based software like Google Reader). Find your RSS reader, set it up, copy your Craigslist RSS link, then “add subscription”.

The image to the right is of my “curb alert” RSS feed inside Google Reader. Notice the second ad? They forgot to include their address so people could pick up the free stuff. That’s a common mistake.

Are you overwhelmed? I hope not, because in the long run you’ll save a lot of time and money.

If you have any other Craigslist/RSS tips, please leave them in the comments below.

Photo (CC) by Kevin Dean and republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Step by step how to use Google Insights to brainstorm writing ideas

I’ve been working on an editorial calendar for a blog that I’ve neglected for a while now, My Weight Loss Struggle. To help brainstorm writing ideas, I took a look at Google Insights, the tool that gives insights into keywords, news stories that correlate to spikes in keyword interest, and geographically where these keyword searches are popular.

Google Insights is a tool most useful to advertisers looking for information about trending interests, but just as easily it can help you discover new writing topics or niches of topics you’re already writing about.

Here’s a step-by-step example of how I discovered some great topics for my weight loss blog.

  • First, I did a simple search for “weight loss” to see what came up. This was just some preliminary exploration.
  • I found too much information. I needed more focus. Insights can give you focus using a few different variables; the ones I chose were date (last 12 months), geography (US only), and category (health)
  • Now we’re cooking with gas! Straight away the regional interest section catches my eye. Here are the top 10 states looking for weight loss information using Google search: Alabama, Utah, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Idaho, Montana, Louisiana, Wyoming, and Mississippi. There’s something about that group of states that looks familiar.
  • I look up the median household income by state statistic, which gives us a rough idea of how poor or rich people are in different states. Bingo! Using 2008 numbers, here are the 10 poorest states: Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Tennessee, Montana, and Louisiana. Get this! 6 of the poorest states in the U.S. are also the ones most looking for weight loss information.

You can’t beat having information like that. In this example it was my curiosity that caused the find. Looking at that Google list regional interest states, it seemed like they were poor. My hunch paid off.

google insightsWhat you can do with this information

Write posts! This gives me some great ideas about post topics because I can now picture my audience. There seems to be a group of states down south …

  • what about weight loss tips for people that like southern food? Is that possible?
  • these are poor states, so many posts about eating healthy on a budget
  • recipes that use ingredients often found in southern food
  • what about finding a guest blogger from one of these poorer states?

I’m just getting started. Do you have any ideas to share?

Give Google Insights a try and let me know your results in the comments below.

Top Photo (CC) andymangold

Great, another social media fire hose — Google Buzz

Hard to believe that there’s a niche to be filled, but Google’s cutting the tiniest sliver with Google Buzz, its social media tool.

Google’s Eric Schmidt imitation of Ed Grimley [pic]

I saw this photo of Eric Schmidt (next to Steve Jobs), and with his pants jacked up near his arm pits, he reminded me the character Martin Short created, Ed Grimley. With his arms doing a Ed Grimley turn, Jobs looks a little shocked.

Google Goggles View the Eclipse

On 22 July 2009 there was the longest solar eclipse of the century, mostly viewable in Asia. Guess who gave out glasses in Beijing to help view the eclipse? I want some of those Google Goggles!

Google goggles in China!

Google goggles in China!

Cuil is not cool

cuil screen grab of a search for bill weye

cuil screen grab of a search for bill weye

I didn’t find Cuil cool at all. After reading about this new search engine from alumni from Google, I thought I would take Cuil for a spin by searching for my name, Bill Weye. Well, you can see a screen grab of the search results to the right.

The first thing you’ll notice in these search results are the images. How do they get there? Who knows . . . you would think that Cuil has some cool technology to find an image of me, which it places along side the result for my website, which you’re reading, but that image isn’t me! It doesn’t even look like me. And as for those other images, I don’t know anything about them. They don’t make any sense to me.

Besides the images, the search results are pretty much shit. They’ve got some spam blog that steals my content as one of their top results. In no way do their results come close to searching Google, or Yahoo! for me. Which one is better, Google or Yahoo!? I’d say they’re about the same; the resutls are a little different, but either one works pretty well.

Yahoo + Microsoft = Trouble For Flickr?

flickr/microsoftA couple of weeks ago, on my Photo Share Podcast, we talked about the possibility of Microsoft gobbling up Yahoo. It wasn’t hard to see the writing on the wall, if you paid attention to the business news. There was some speculation by analysts that Microsoft would make the offer soon. Little did we know that Microsoft had been courting Yahoo since late 2006, making occasional offers during the past year.

Microsoft needs Yahoo. Despite its dominant position in both the operating system and desktop application realms, the computing world is changing, and if you look closely you too can see it. The web browser is becoming more powerful, designers and programmers using their skills to greater affect to get the most from the browser technology. With this shift to a browser based computer experience, more applications are being ported from the desktop to the web; see Google Docs,, Flickr, Basecamp, and many more. This shift isn’t unlike the same one that took place when computing world moved from mainframe to personal, desktop based computing.

When Microsoft gets Yahoo, which may take a year or more after regulators in the U.S and Europe finish digging their teeth into the deal, they’ll have to “integrate” Flickr into Microsoft. If they don’t, Microsoft will be wasting their money. When Yahoo bought Flickr they could afford to leave Flickr to its own devices because the two companies operate on a primarily web based business model. Microsoft’s business model is not web based, and when they’ve tried to make the shift the results have been a failure, for the most part. See the latest, Windows Live. That’s why Microsoft needs Yahoo; it’s an admission of failure.

What might the integration of Flickr into the Microsoft world look like? From jump street there are going to be problems: what ID system will you use to login to Flickr? Well, given that Microsoft is buying the Yahoo users, I predict you’ll be moving over to the Microsoft system.

Expect new features to roll out at a much slower pace. More advertising. More integration with Microsoft proprietary technology (fewer implementations of open standards). A new Office program that will integrate the desktop and Flickr (of course, it will be clumsy and crash a lot). A change in the Flickr terms of use that will allow Microsoft to use your photos across its various sites.

Stay tuned. Things will get interesting. We’ll be having a new podcast up by Sunday night or Monday morning, covering all the latest news in the Microsoft/Yahoo mess.

New Gmail Features Make Me Happy

gmail screen shotEvery time I login to Gmail and see that new features have been added, most of the time it makes me happy. This time, with the addition of color labels, I’m really happy. I use Gmail to keep track of over 15 different email accounts, and using labels is the best way to keep track of where this email is coming from. At a glance I can recognize what account is getting an email and whether it needs my immediate attention. For those of us who now use Gmail exclusively for our email client, each new feature makes our decision to ditch a traditional desktop client seem more sensible.

There’s a bunch more new features, including a few in the chat category; check out all the latest Gmail features here.

Renewable Energy Makes Money For Smart Businesses

How stupid can one market analyist be? Well, I think you would have ask Jordan Rohan of RBC Capital Markets for that answer. Mr. Rohan, in a NY Times article about Google‘s attempt to push the football forward in the world of renewable energy, says that
“My first reaction when I read about this was, ‘Is this a joke?’” Rohan expands:

“The only positive byproduct of this project that would be anything other than environmental,” he said, “is that it might make Google managers and executives even prouder of the fact that they work there, and it may help retain key employees who think their goal is to do good in the world. But I’m really stretching.”

Mr. Rohan (and others), Google isn’t just an advertising company, it’s a computing company. And to compute, you need computers, and computers need energy, and that energy is an expense that keeps increasing. What if, I don’t know, Google could decrease its energy costs by 30%? Or even 10%? Would that put Google at an even greater competitive advantage, decreasing its fixed costs? What if Google then either sold its excess energy capacity or licensed its renewable energy technology? That might bring in a few bucks!

Hasn’t everyone read this article about the Google data center in The Dalle, Oregon? They sited the data center on the Columbia River, next a hydroelectric power plant, so they could get the cheapest power available. Imagine if Google wasn’t restricted by such considerations and could site data centers wherever they wanted, bringing their own renewable energy creation with them?

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