Stoneworks Coffee Auction System

coffee competitions, auctions, best of panama, etc

Stoneworks Coffee Auction System

Postby mstone on Fri May 23, 2008 9:18 pm

(split from viewtopic.php?f=35&t=2140)

I also spoke to Rachel about the participants who fell asleep at their computers. Both Rachel and I went sleepless for days preceding, during and even the day after the auction.

Esmeralda 2008 lasted 9+ hours. And yes it was intense.

I'm interested in what people on this board might recommend with respect to any new features for the auction system, especially measures designed to reduce the duration of the auctions.

New technology offers many opportunities to innovate. At stoneworks we have created quite a few new enhancements to our auction program which have been added in recent years, but several other features which have been developed and are ready to deploy are yet to be introduced due to the status quo of the industry. We have live chat, bidding group meet ups and a host of other cool features but since our market penetration is somewhat limited, we have hesitated to recommend anything different to our customers than what we've been doing since 1999.

We have had proxy bidding available since 2002 and although people have asked for it more recently, in general, the auction organizers have resisted deploying it because it was not well understood. When we did test it in 2002 it created massive confusion. Participants may understand the concept a little better now, but back then it was criticized heavily.

I'm sill not convinced that the proxy function is in the best interest of the sellers or the buyers, but I'm open to changing that position especially since I can enable it with a single click. My policy has always been: Whatever is fair for all concerned, is what we want to provide, however we need to have really compelling reasons to institute any new rule changes.

Seriously, I'm open to suggestions but I have always been a bit conservative in terms of making changes to the software. On the other hand, I'm all about making stoneworks the best coffee auction platform - so I'm prepared to do whatever it takes, please let me know what you think.

We have the ability to provide the software features that the industry wants. We can customize it to meet the requirements of any country or farm, but clearly we would benefit from additional feedback from the coffee professionals and auction participants like yourselves in order to design those functions and to ensure that auction users are comfortable with the application interface and feature set. So please send your comments to mstone at stoneworks.

Now that the ES2008 auction is complete, I have to say, I was really impressed with our recently upgraded servers along with the huge bandwidth and redundant connections we have. The new platform totally kicked ass in its debut and proved to be up to the task of Esmeralda Special which was by far the most demanding auction we've done to date. We handled over 3,000 simultaneous connections between the public and the private applications without even breaking a sweat.

Regards,

Malcolm
Stoneworks Coffee Auction
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Re: 2008 Panama Esmeralda Special Auction

Postby barry on Fri May 23, 2008 10:01 pm

How about closing individual lots due to inactivity instead of keeping them all open when there's only activity on a few within the 3 minute window? That way, folks in the lower-priced lots can be secure in their positions while the crazy folks duke it out in the supra-$100 category.
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Re: 2008 Panama Esmeralda Special Auction

Postby mstone on Fri May 23, 2008 10:10 pm

barry wrote:How about closing individual lots due to inactivity instead of keeping them all open when there's only activity on a few within the 3 minute window? That way, folks in the lower-priced lots can be secure in their positions while the crazy folks duke it out in the supra-$100 category.



Because if the action gets too expensive you need to move down the list and find something more affordable. If all the lots down the list were all closed you would have no where to go and you would walk away with nothing.
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Re: 2008 Panama Esmeralda Special Auction

Postby barry on Fri May 23, 2008 10:15 pm

mstone wrote:If all the lots down the list were all closed you would have no where to go and you would walk away with nothing.


C'est la vie. Youse picks your lots and rolls the dice. ;)
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Re: 2008 Panama Esmeralda Special Auction

Postby mstone on Fri May 23, 2008 10:26 pm

barry wrote:
mstone wrote:If all the lots down the list were all closed you would have no where to go and you would walk away with nothing.


C'est la vie. Youse picks your lots and rolls the dice. ;)


Nice thought but won't fly with the buyers or the sellers
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Re: 2008 Panama Esmeralda Special Auction

Postby John Gozbekian on Mon May 26, 2008 2:08 pm

mstone wrote:
barry wrote:
mstone wrote:If all the lots down the list were all closed you would have no where to go and you would walk away with nothing.


C'est la vie. Youse picks your lots and rolls the dice. ;)


Nice thought but won't fly with the buyers or the sellers


I agree. All lots should be left open "to move down the list."

I would ask that having the incremental bid amount be increased by higher amounts as prices reach certain thresholds. A quarter increase is fine for lesser amounts, but how about $0.50 once $10.00/lb is reached and $1.00/lb when $25.00/lb is reached and so on. Akin to how EBay works.
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Re: 2008 Panama Esmeralda Special Auction

Postby mstone on Mon May 26, 2008 5:46 pm

John Gozbekian wrote:
I agree. All lots should be left open "to move down the list."

I would ask that having the incremental bid amount be increased by higher amounts as prices reach certain thresholds. A quarter increase is fine for lesser amounts, but how about $0.50 once $10.00/lb is reached and $1.00/lb when $25.00/lb is reached and so on. Akin to how EBay works.


Thanks for your suggestion, John.

We do have this exact functionality, but it has never been deployed on a lot by lot basis. Usually it is configured based on time, globally, for all lots. One difference between Ebay and our auction is that with Ebay you are looking at only one item but we have a bunch so some consistency across the list is expected.

Although the increments are configurable on a lot by lot basis it might become confusing for the users to figure out why bidding on one lot required a larger increment than another. I have people call me up asking why I am allowing 1 cent increments when in fact I am not. If a user decides to bid an unusual amount of lets say 26 cents more than the previous bid, the resulting price might look something like $6.01. Just the appearance of the .01 throws some people off and they think the auction is broken.

Point being that when you add complexity it has the net effect of confusing people, especially novice users. You would be amazed at the weird questions I get from users.

We do have a new feature which I would like to enable if an auction organizer wants to try it. The feature is "Buy it now" similar to Ebay but instead of a fixed list price, the user makes an offer and if high enough the lot is closed and that user is the winner.

This feature could allow bidders with deep pockets to tie up all the lots and end the auction very quickly. I'm not sure if that would be a good thing for bargain hunters, but it would at least be fair for both the buyer and seller.
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Re: 2008 Panama Esmeralda Special Auction

Postby mstone on Tue May 27, 2008 7:41 am

Actually having given this a lot of thought over the weekend I think I will implement portions of both Barry's suggestion and John's. If we add the following new features I think we can cut the length of the auction in half or even better.

1. Lots will close independently. Instead of the annoying countdown timer the rule will be 6 minutes instead of 3. If no activity for 3 minutes a yellow indicator shows up. If no activity for 2 more minutes a red indicator shows up. And if no activity for 1 more minute, the lot closes. This should give users plenty of time to make up their mind.

2. Bid increments will vary depending on how many bids have been placed on a particular item. For example: The starting increment will be .25. after 20 bids have been placed it increases to .50, and after 50 bids to .75 and after 100 bids, $1.00. These can vary depending on the sellers wishes.

3. 'Buy it now' will enable the out right purchase of an item at a negotiated price agreed to by the buyer and the seller, but must be higher than any existing proxy bid on that item.

4. Proxy bidding will be the standard.

Sample of new format. (click image for larger view)

Image

Anyway these are just my ideas on how to solve the length problem, not necessarily Esmeralda of SCAP or anyone else's. Interested in your feedback

m
Last edited by mstone on Tue May 27, 2008 7:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2008 Panama Esmeralda Special Auction

Postby phaelon56 on Tue May 27, 2008 7:55 am

mstone wrote:I
I'm sill not convinced that the proxy function is in the best interest of the sellers or the buyers, but I'm open to changing that position especially since I can enable it with a single click. My policy has always been: Whatever is fair for all concerned, is what we want to provide, however we need to have really compelling reasons to institute any new rule changes.


I'm a big fan of proxy bidding as it does two things for me:

1) Enables me to keep up with the activities of life and business that I simply can't set aside to stay in front of a computer hours on end for an auction - any kind of auction.

2) Helps me stick to my predetermined budget. Emotion based bidding can be very beneficial for sellers (of any item - not just coffee). I sometimes set a fairly high budget for myself based on my emotional attachment to or interest in an item based on what it represents to me. But for coffee purchases or anything else related to the actual profit and loss of my own coffee business - I know in advance what my top bid will be - regardless of what other people are willing top bid.

I lose my share of proxy bid eBay auctions by a few pennies or a few dollars and know when I see the bid spread that some other proxy bidder set their max bid limit higher than mine. And that's okay - because for all the times I've been outbid in that manner there are at least as many where I've scored goods at a terrific price due to proxy bidding.
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Re: 2008 Panama Esmeralda Special Auction

Postby mstone on Tue May 27, 2008 8:01 am

phaelon56 wrote:I lose my share of proxy bid eBay auctions by a few pennies or a few dollars and know when I see the bid spread that some other proxy bidder set their max bid limit higher than mine.


I agree with you. I am going to recommend proxy from now on. It has just been a nightmare where people thought they were bidding as proxy but forgot to click the proxy checkbox because it was an option. Now I think we just take away the option. Every bid is a proxy.

It will take away the capability to bump the price by a significant amount which we have seen quite a bit of but at least I won't have to go in and edit the bids to fix them
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Re: 2008 Panama Esmeralda Special Auction

Postby phaelon56 on Tue May 27, 2008 8:45 am

And it's worth noting that people do go in to check current prices and bump up their proxy maximum. I often make my max bid relatively low until I've had an opportunity mull over the purchase for a bit and then go back in to see where the trends in the non-proxy bidding. Sometimes I bump up my bid by a bit and in other cases by a significant margin. Either way - I think it's a good system. I suppose you could offer the sellers the right to specify whether they will or won't allow proxy bidding but I suspect most of them will opt to allow it.
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Re: 2008 Panama Esmeralda Special Auction

Postby Marshall on Tue May 27, 2008 10:28 am

mstone wrote:
phaelon56 wrote:I lose my share of proxy bid eBay auctions by a few pennies or a few dollars and know when I see the bid spread that some other proxy bidder set their max bid limit higher than mine.


I agree with you. I am going to recommend proxy from now on. It has just been a nightmare where people thought they were bidding as proxy but forgot to click the proxy checkbox because it was an option. Now I think we just take away the option. Every bid is a proxy.

It will take away the capability to bump the price by a significant amount which we have seen quite a bit of but at least I won't have to go in and edit the bids to fix them

I think "proxy" bid, eBay-style auctions are not live auctions at all. They are more like sealed-bid auctions. Each format has its pros and cons, but I think you need to be clear with your sellers what those pros and cons are. [Edit] What I am getting at is that this is as much a business issue as a software issue.
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