A New Snipe Engine - What's Going On?

Cricket has a new Snipe engine. This is the program's third engine in 6 years. This is the second or third time the program has failed in six years over an Ebay change that proved to be Mission Critical. I started working on the new engine in the late summer of 2003 when Ebay quietly broke a program feature in my Safe2Bid program knowing that it would prove to very difficult for a third party program vendor to overcome the change. This change is not implemented site wide so I perceive it as an ongoing test on their part.

A Virtual You

Webster's Dictionary defines virtual as "being such practically or in effect, although not in actual fact or name." So for something to be a virtual you, it should act like you, yet not be you. 


Engine #1 

Cricket was born out of necessity. I was really tired of  scheduling my life around the end of an auction so in mid 1997 I wrote a little JavaScript program that had a timer that counted down to the end of an auction then submitted the bid for me. 

A few friends saw it work and finally one suggested that others might like to have what I had dubbed El Cricket too. I liked the idea and rewrote it so that it could be used by the average computer user. Tech TV got wind of the program in mid 1998 and I made an appearance on their show live and talked about it. I had already put in engine number two at the time but I did publish on the Tech TV website the original JavaScript engine so that any person with some JavaScript experience could see how it was done.

Compare Engine #1 with a few hundred lines of JavaScript code to the current engine with over 2,000 procedures and function or... over 33,000 lines of program code of which about 23% or just over 10,000 lines are comments or notes-to-self for a total of 43,000 lines. 

Engine #2

A few months earlier Time Life Magazine sent out senior staff writer Adam Cohen (Adam later authored  The Perfect Store the only authorized book about Ebay I know of) to interview me for an article in ON magazine. He dubbed me the Sniper King. 

It didn't take long for Ebay to attack Cricket and a few competitors that popped up by March 1998. It also didn't take long for customers to start requesting features that a JavaScript program simply couldn't do. My answer to the problems came up the first month Cricket was released and I bought a lot of Visual Basic books and learned to program in VB while designing and building the new engine. I didn't learn "Hello World" in VB. I first learned how to Snipe! I scanned those how to books on the code that I needed to make the program work. Later I went back and learned how to program.

The VB engine primarily enabled the program to auto dial a modem and do an atomic synch the two things that JavaScript could not do. It was with this engine that we learned just how fragile a Snipe program could be and how it depended on so many things to go right just to get the bid in. It took a good year to get the engine perfected. You see, back then it was not the big software companies with armies of programmers developing the program. It was the little guy learning how to program while writing the program. I had at the time several thousand customers and they were doing a lot of holler about more is better!

It was during this time that Ebay although they denied it publicly, took many actions against the program. For the most part they used safety and security of the Ebay user base as the reason to attack the program. At that time Ebay was a real small town community of people and very vocal about their Ebay experience. Thus was born the Pro Snipe and the Anti Snipe crowd. Ebay although they did not take public sides, sided with the Anti Snipe crowd publicly by showing them things they were doing to bring the Cricket down but behind the scenes if pressed, said they had no problem with Sniping, while beating up the Snipe program developer. I believe it was the classic squeaky wheel gets the grease thing. Sniper's had nothing to be complaining about and those that lost to the Snipe were usually pretty sore about it. It didn't matter who or how many times the sore loser was told even by Ebay at times that this was how the game was played and anybody was free to play it.


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