$500 in prizes with SearchTempest Scavenger Hunts!

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!

And that’s it! Stay tuned to our Facebook and Scavenger Hunt page for more info.

Tell your friends, and happy searching!

*Note: this is a hunt for eBay ads – which SearchTempest also searches – not craigslist as you might expect.

Now you can save your searches in AutoTempest!

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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Faster to re-calculate than retrieve from database

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! 🙂 )

More AutoTempest Improvements – Making things even easier for Canadian car buyers

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.

Why we’re lovin’ CARE International (and what we did about it)

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!

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What We’re Doing with Your Feedback

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!

New AutoTempest Version and Future Plans

The new version of AutoTempest came out of beta today. It’s got more new features than I can list here, so you’d best just check it out. 🙂 http://www.autotempest.com/

A few of the new thing though, are

  • Super-awesome new styling
  • Automatically pulls up reviews, buying guides, pricing guides, and more, matching your search
  • Now has a ton of useful info an recommendations on everything from vehicle shipping to car insurance

I hope you like it! We’re not done yet though. Coming soon is better support for Canada, more sites in the results, and the ability to search multiple models at the same time!

Dynamic Bookmarks Idea

Have you ever discovered a cool webcomic, blog, youtube channel, etc., and wanted to read it from the beginning? Noticed that there isn’t really a good way to do that?

RSS feeds are great for keeping up to date with something, but (as far as I know), there’s no way to ‘go back to the beginning’, unless the site is specifically designed to allow it. Of course, you can just read a few then bookmark where you left off in your browser (or ‘favorite’ it if you’re using IE), but then every time you read a few more, you have to manually update the bookmark.

I was thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way – a Firefox extension maybe – to create dynamic bookmarks, which automatically updates to the last page you were on?

So you’d open up the bookmark, read a few comics, blog posts, etc., and it would automatically be updated to the last page you viewed before you moved on to another site or closed the browser tab. Next time you open that bookmark, you could just pick up where you left off.

If you know of something like this that already exists, please let me know about it in the comments! And if you have experience with browser extensions and would like to create it, I would be happy to promote it on the links page at SearchTempest.com!

New AutoTempest Nearing Completion!

We’ve been hard at work on the new AutoTempest for a couple months now, and it’s nearing completion. We’re hoping to have a beta out in early September, then launch by the end of the month. (This is an actual iron-out-the-bugs-and-launch type beta, not the Google-style remain-in-beta-for-years beta that AutoTempest has been in so far.. 🙂 )

Anyway, for now, I finally have a teaser screenshot for you! Some aspects will likely change, but this should be reasonably close to what the final version will look like! (Click through for the full-size version.)