We’ve just finished some pretty major changes behind the scenes to improve performance from the new 3taps-powered ‘Separate Cities’ results. If all goes well, you shouldn’t see any difference… except for a much snappier site. If you do run into any new problems, please feel free to let us know, and we’ll take care of them asap!
Craigslist (with whom we have no affiliation) recently made a change that prevents their pages from being loaded in ‘frames’. Frames are basically sub-windows within another page, like our default results mode at SearchTempest used to use. This caused several other search sites to simply shut down, but we made some changes and are still going strong.
If you are having issues, please try the debugging steps in our FAQ. Then read on!
Changes to Separate Cities Mode
First, you will notice there are now three tabs near the top of the results page. The first, ‘Separate Cities’ is basically our default results mode from before, except that we have switched to getting the links to the craigslist results from a service called 3taps. It works essentially the same as before for now, although in the future it will allow us to do some cool new things like filtering by date and consolidating everything into one list rather than windows within windows.
The only issue at the moment is that 3taps didn’t quite have the capacity to handle all our traffic, so things can be a bit sluggish at times, especially between 5-7pm pacific time. They are working hard to ramp up, and this should be dealt with very soon. Also, in order to help with the slowdowns in the short term, currently only results from the past seven days are shown in this mode.
Update: 3taps added some new servers today, so we’re hoping this will be resolved. We may still have to do some tuning, but timeouts should now be seen much less frequently.
New Direct Results Mode
Now, for those of you who liked getting your results straight from craigslist, just more conveniently, we have also rushed to develop a new alternative that will let you keep doing just that! You’ll find it under the ‘Direct Results’ tab on the results page. Since we can no longer use frames, it basically opens a craigslist results window along with a little control window with links to easily flip between cities. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out in such a short time!
And of course, we still have the ‘All Cities Together’ mode, which remains a good option for quick searches across wide areas.
So basically, craigslist made a change, so we reacted to keep the site (hopefully!) as useful as ever. We are still dealing with that performance issue in the ‘Separate Cities’ results mode, but it should be 100% very soon. For now you might want to try searching outside the peak hours of 5-7 pacific if you find things are running slowly.
We also recommend you give all three results modes a try, using those tabs near the top of the results page: ‘Separate Cities’, ‘All Cities Together’, and ‘Direct Results’. We’ve found that different modes are more convenient for different types of searches, so there’s no right answer for everyone. Fortunately, it’s easy to quickly flip between them!
Since we got all this out in such a rush, please do let us know about any difficulties you might be having. We will work to address them ASAP. Even if everything’s working great (and we certainly hope it is!) we want to hear your first impressions, and what you’d like to see in the future!
If you are having problems though, first try out these basic debugging steps. If those don’t work, please do contact us, but please be as specific as possible about what isn’t working. What results mode are you using, what’s the URL of your results page, etc. We need specific info about the problem to try and fix it!
To the web developers: ever get an obscure error in one browser, so run the code in a different browser to see if it’s more helpful? Try it next time you get a head-scratcher. Just now Firefox was giving me “NetworkError 596″. To which I said, “Oh, of course!” So I fired up Chrome, and it gave a much more helpful console message, helping me realize that I was accidentally trying to make a cross-domain JSON request instead of JSONp. Oops.
Anyway, I’ve found this technique handy for a bunch of things. Sometimes Firebug’s message is better. Even IE sometimes gives the most verbose errors. Just depends on what obscure problem you’ve run into!
I know you’re all excited with our Scavenger Hunt coming up in a couple days. Initially the idea was that you guys would search for craigslist ads for the hunt, but after a letter from craigslist’s lawyers, we’ll be switching the hunt to eBay. You can still use SearchTempest to hunt for ads, but you can just go straight to eBay as well.
One of the benefits of doing the hunt on eBay is, since eBay archives ads forever, a screenshot of the ad will no longer be needed, just a link to the ad! That makes things a lot easier for all of us.
Other than those small changes, everything will be going ahead as scheduled. You can check out the revised Scavenger Hunt page and make sure to follow our Facebook for the category being posted at noon, PST, on May 1st!
We’ve all found some weird things using SearchTempest. Over on Facebook, we’ve heard about people finding llamas, universal dentures, a case of rubber nipples… there’s a lot of weird stuff out there. But there’s also a ton of really cool stuff on there too! And that got us thinking…
Could we do a scavenger hunt for cool stuff using SearchTempest? Short answer: Of course we can.
On May 1st, we’re going to post on Facebook the category for our first ever SEARCHTEMPEST SCAVENGER HUNT! And of course there will be prizes, even if you’re just a voter.
Basically, we’ll post a category for the hunt, like “The coolest _____” or “The weirdest _____”. Then when you guys find something on eBay* that fits in that category, you’ll post it to Facebook and everyone votes for their favorites! There will be three different prizes given out:
First Prize of $250 goes to the person who posts the ad that gets the most likes. If you want, we’ll also put your name and link in the sidebar of the SearchTempest results page for a month!
Honorable Mention of $150 goes to the person who posts the best ad, as judged by the impeccable taste of the Tempest staff.
Bonus Prize of $100 goes to a random “liker” on the post we choose for Honorable Mention, since agreeing with us clearly deserves a reward. Just don’t go spamming all the posts in hopes of winning. Picking everything isn’t good taste. Keep it to the ones you actually like, if you want to win this prize.
Check out our Scavenger Hunt page for more on the rules and how to make a submission.
We’ll be hosting these regularly, and the prizes will vary with each draw.
The topic of our first Scavenger Hunt will be released at noon, PST, May 1st, and submissions will be accepted until midnight, May 21st. Even though you have three weeks to get your submission in, remember: all listings must be posted to eBay BEFORE the start of the competition, so it’s best to start searching early. Also, the longer your submission is up there, the longer it has to get votes!
Tell your friends, and happy searching!
*Note: this is a hunt for eBay ads – which SearchTempest also searches – not craigslist as you might expect.
If you’ve been using SearchTempest for a while, you’re probably familiar with its My Searches feature. It automatically saves your recent searches so you can access them later without having to fill out the entire search form again. It also lets you tag your searches as favorites, so those searches will be saved forever (or at least until you don’t want them anymore). It’s handy if you run the same search pretty frequently, or if you are jumping back and forth between searches.
If this is the first you’re hearing about this feature, then you should totally try it out. You can access it by clicking that little yellow star just above the search button on the SearchTempest home page.
Why am I bringing this up? Because we just brought that same feature over to AutoTempest, that’s why. You can find it in the navigation bar at the far right. So now your favorite used car search just got that much more awesome.
Eventually, we’d like to add to both SearchTempest and AutoTempest the ability to login to those sites and save your searches so you can access them from a different computer too. Keep an eye out for that in the not so distant future!
If you’re new to AutoTempest and would like to know about it, keep reading after the jump.
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As you know, SearchTempest allows you to search craigslist by distance from your zip code. To do this, we keep database tables (MySQL) of zip codes and craigslist cities, each with latitude and longitude.
In the past, we also had one large table containing the distance between every single zip code and every craigslist city. Although this table takes a long time to put together, the logic is it only needs to be done once. When you actually do your search, all the distances for your zip code have already been calculated, so the server just has to grab them from the database.
I’ve had a suspicion for a while and just decided to test it. Long story short, it turns out it’s actually faster to recalculate these 500-odd distances on the fly, than it is to simply pull them out of a database table on the hard drive. Basically, processors are so fast compared to hard drives that minimizing hard drive access is practically the only thing that matters. Pretty cool!
(Yes, if the database were on an SSD the result might be different, but at the moment it takes approximately 0.01s to pull up all the distances, so that’s probably an unnecessary investment at this point! )
As you know, we’re on a mission to make used car buying the easiest, fastest most efficient process possible with our used car search engine AutoTempest.
With that said, constant improvements are the name of the game!
As someone who lives in Canada, ever feel like our friends south of the border have it WAY easier when it comes to finding a used car? We certainly thought so, and we’re pleased to say, no more!
Canadian car buyers – AutoTempest is here for you. Here are the 2 major improvements we’ve just made…
A new car classifieds addition
AutoTempest already searched Craigslist and eBay north of the 49th, but we’ve now added the #1 used car classifieds site in Canada, AutoTrader.ca to the AutoTempest car search platform as well.
When you search used cars online with AutoTempest, you’ll now get an even greater volume of listings in Canada.
Improved search results for Canadian postal codes
But what if you’re planning to look across the border too? As we all know, there are some great deals to be had by buying a used car in the States. Well, AutoTempest now supports Canadian postal codes, even for sites like Cars.com and CarsDirect that only operate on the US side of the border.
No more wasting time figuring out and looking up nearby zip codes in the US… perhaps while cursing the fact that the only ZIP code you can seem to remember is 90210! AutoTempest will now automatically find the zip code of the border crossing nearest to you and use that for any sites that require a zip. So if you’re like many, curious about the incredible car deals you hear about down in the States, AutoTempest will give you the straight goods, as always, all in one place.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Canadian improvements… let us know in the comments.
On behalf of AutoTempest, our used car search engine, I recently decided to make a charitable donation. We had $10,000 to donate and just needed to find the right cause to put it towards.
As you know, here at Tempest, we’re kind of obsessed with quality. We’re on a mission to bring you the best search results, for Craigslist through SearchTempest, for used cars through AutoTempest, and for movie listings through MovieTempest. So when it came to choosing a charity, it was very important to me to take the time and effort to ensure that we chose a top-notch organization with a similar commitment to quality.
I started by doing some internet research, and I also read The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier while I was considering this stuff. (Great book by the way; I definitely recommend it.) From all that I came up with a list of questions to pose to various charities. In the end, I decided on CARE International. They’re doing some fantastic work in developing countries worldwide, and I particularly appreciate their focus on building skills for the long term, rather than providing ‘band-aid’ solutions.
If you’re interested in finding out more about CARE and the work that they’ve been doing for the past 65 years (the organization started by sending care packages to Europe post WWII) check out their websites: International; United States; Canada. If you’re looking for an excellent charity to support, you should definitely check them out.
And of course, if you’d like to help out AutoTempest, it’s as easy as spreading the word!
You can also read the official announcement about our donation here.
And finally if you’re interested, you can read the full set of questions I sent to CARE and their answers below!
Thanks everyone for the feedback on the new AutoTempest design! You have no idea how helpful it’s been for us. Seriously, you guys rock.
From listening to what you guys have been saying, we’ve garnered that you don’t much care for being sent to the landing tab after you make a search. So we’re getting rid of it, easy as that. Now when you make a search, you’ll be given listings instantly, not having to worry about clicking through to another tab to get what you came for. To make up for some of the functionality lost with the landing tab, we’ll be adding a toolbar to the bottom of the page that will allow you flip through the tabs, adjust your search settings, and access a tips page that will give you pointers for using AutoTempest more efficiently. Lastly, we’ll be adding a Getting Started guide to assist those who need a bit of a helping hand using our application.
So, thanks again for your feedback, and keep it coming!