The New Mail Order Catalogue: It’s Digital!

The first shopping catalogue in America is widely believed to be a mail order catalogue published by Montgomery Ward. It has been nearly 150 years since then, and the catalogue industry has become a billion times bigger. Today, there are close to twenty billion catalogues published each year thirty million trees are cut down annually to provide paper for these catalogues. That means that catalogues use five percent of paper used in the country!

Catalog Spree is a company that is looking for a way that people can access catalogues without trees being harmed. The company has made an iPad app and a website of the same name.

It curates catalogues from retailers that offer all types of wares. There are now hundreds of companies that have taken advantage of the company. The online catalogues have links that lead to the retailers’ websites.

Both sellers and buyers can feel the advantages of using Catalog Spree. Buyers can go through hundreds of catalogues online and still avoid cluttering their house with tons of paper. They can bookmark items and even select them as favorites, which is a lot like tearing out a page you like from a catalog. They can even share with their friends and ask them to comment on goods for sale.

But how do the sellers benefit? The platform provides sellers with a way to reach a huge number of customers without paying extra money for paper, printing, marketing and postage. There are currently more than a hundred thousand people browsing catalogues using the platform. And in a few years time, how high will that number reach?

The audience on the platform is mainly female and most people on it are less than thirty years old. On average, each user spends twenty minutes in one session on the app.

The most popular category is women’s clothing and shoes. Specialty foods and gift items are also on that list. However, there are some goods that the platform will not publish on their website, like any pornographic material. B2B and weapons are also off-limits on the platform.

Retailers do not need to pay anything to post their catalogues on the website. The website gets paid for views and clicks.

When Catalog Spree was launched, it was only available on the iPad and featured catalogues from only seven retailers. That number has grown by more than a thousand percent.

The company has stated repeatedly that they do not wish to concentrate only on big-name companies’ catalogues. Small retailers are more than welcome to post their catalogues. There is also no minimum size of catalogs required for publishing.

One such small retailer is Hamilton Jewelers. The jeweler company was started a hundred years ago and has belonged to and been operated by the same family for all these years.

The company had a digital catalogue, but hardly anyone read it. It wasn’t successful at all. This was when the company decided to put their catalogue on Catalog Spree. They changed their prices a bit and tweaked the catalogue so it would be more appropriate for the digital format. Right now, their catalogue is just thirty-two pages long.

Since then, there has been a surge in traffic to the company’s catalogue. The number of people visiting the website has increased by nearly a quarter and sales have also increased exponentially.

The payment structure of Catalog Spree has also attracted a number of small retailers, since they only have to pay for something  that will benefit them directly, in opposition to traditional formats where retailers paid upfront to have their advertisements published.




A Look at Penny Auctions

We have come a long way from the days that online poker was all the rage. Tighter regulations have ensured that people are looking for ways to use a similar concept in such a way that it does not fall under gambling. Since people are looking for deals, some unsavory characters have decided to provide them with a way to get deals. This is what has led to the rise of the penny auction. This is a business that is similar to a normal auction, but the bidder pays money and buys bids that he later commits to an auction that he might or might not win. Sounds shady? It is.

Nowadays, a few penny auctions have shut down because of financial and legal problems. However, there are many other such websites operating on the internet. If you check on Google, you’ll find millions of reviews on penny auction sites.


Remember that penny auctions are essentially a type of gambling, which is why there will always be a winner. You can win a penny auction the same way that you can win the lottery. But in a penny auction, even though you might win an iPad for $150, remember that hundreds of people bid on that item. If you do some calculations, you’ll realize that the company will have earned more than a thousand dollars on it. And that’s only on one item; the website sells hundreds of items daily. Just imagine how much money the website must be getting! And almost all of that money is profit to them since they just have to handle the excess cost of the items being auctioned.

The users who give penny auctions rave reviews usually also have tons of advice on what you can do to win auctions. However, it has been proven that even the greatest winners lose more often than they win in penny auction. But even winning once or twice can make someone a hardcore supporter of penny auctions.

To sum it up, you have to be lucky. Trying out a penny auction is not very different from walking up to a slot machine at a casino with $200.


The greatest con of a penny auction is that it is just a repackaged form of gambling. And the worst part is that people don’t realize that, and people who would never even get close to a slot machine or a casino are lured in by the sites.

When you register with the site, you have to buy bids, which go for about half a dollar each. After you buy your bids, you can use them towards winning an auction. Unfortunately, for you if you don’t win the auction, your bids are gone. That’s where the parallel of gambling becomes really visible; you pay money for something that you apply towards something else in which you might or might not win.

Even if you win an item, when you factor in the cost of the bids you used, you might realize that you have paid more for it than you would have if you bought it from a retailer like Amazon. In fact, an independent analyst recently did some calculations and discovered that the winner of a certain auction had paid more than a thousand dollars for a $250 item.

In an auction, there are usually three parties: the bidder, the seller, and the auctioneer. The auctioneer’s job is to ensure that the seller does not inflate the bid price artificially. But in the case of penny auctions, the overseer and the seller are one and the same, which means that there is an enormous conflict of interest. How can someone oversee himself or herself? Any illegal practices will be obscured immediately!

And worst of all is the fact that penny auctions are like the Pit of Doom for gambling addicts. They are basically gambling operations, but they give no warnings to gambling addicts. An addict who falls into the trap of penny auctions may not even realize that he has been trapped.

However, something else you need to note is that these websites are not actually scams. At least not all of them. Websites like DealDash usually have all the details of their business model in their Terms of Service. So, if you lose money in a penny auction, it is partly your fault since you failed to read the terms before agreeing to them.

If you still want to try out a penny auction, you are welcome to do so. Who knows, you might even just get a good deal!


The Internet of Things: A New Frontier

How would you feel if your coffee maker texted you, telling you to replenish its supply of coffee beans? Yes, this might very well become commonplace in the near future.

Although most people are using manual coffee makers, the Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew Coffeemaker with WeMo is a household appliance that is being made as part of the Internet of Things. This Internet has many devices rooted into it currently – smoke alarms, thermostats, washing machines, refrigerators and even toilets!

One of the leading companies in this field is Nest, a subsidiary of Google. It turns everyday products into smart products. And the chief of Nest is predicting that everything will be data-oriented in a decade’s time.

Some years ago, this would seem an impossible dream. Today, however, computers are tiny and cheap. Wireless Internet isn’t something rare, which is why technology experts are trying to integrate nearly everything into the Internet.


Such technology may seem frivolous at first, but most new technology seems that way at first. You don’t really need a coffee maker to text you when it needs more water or beans, but by the same logic you don’t really need a TV.

Silly or not, these devices are going to change the way the world works. Much as we can hardly comprehend how our forefathers survived without modern amenities, our great-grandchildren will probably wonder how we survived without intelligent devices.

Cars have already become ‘smart’. They can tell you when they have a flat tire or when you’ve left a car door open. Our homes will soon follow. When the thermostat will get a problem, it’ll tell you that something’s wrong. But let’s hope that there will be some good technology for all these devices. If they keep crashing every week, this dream will turn into a nightmare pretty quickly.

Another advantage is that your devices will adapt themselves according to your routine. If you order a cab every day at eight in the morning and you don’t do so one day, you’ll get a message asking you if you’ve forgotten to order the cab. There are already a few devices that do this, albeit in a much simpler way.

The ultimate dream is to have a smart home that can run itself. If you’re out of milk, the fridge will order milk through a shopping app, which will have the milk delivered to your doorstep. The house knows when the delivery is coming through and will automatically allow him to enter. You’ll reach home and receive a reminder telling you to put the milk in the fridge.

Unfortunately, implementing these devices into current houses won’t be easy. Most existing houses don’t have modern wiring systems, so adding any ‘smart’ device will require the services of an electrician and a hefty sum of cash.

If any of these devices crash, you’ll need to make a maximum of two visits to have it diagnosed: one for software and one for hardware. More components in the gadgets mean more ways that they can go wrong.

Moreover, devices like the coffee maker are a long way from being even semi-automated. You still have to clean the machine and supply everything needed. The only part that is automatic is the easiest part: making the coffee.

And then there’s the problem of hacking. Connecting every device in your house to the Internet might make your life easier, but it will also add hundreds of entry points that a hacker will be able to use. Scary thoughts come to mind. Will robbers be able to lock you in your own house while they steal from you? Will hackers be able to record your conversations from your thermostat?

The real draw of connected devices is that they make your smartphone more useful. Sure, you already use it as a phone, calculator, research aid, fitness aid, and many other uses. But with connected devices, your phone will be much more useful. You’ll be able to wake up and brew coffee, increase the room temperature, turn on your music system, and call a car, all from your bed.

You may not believe it yet, but wait and watch; this is the future.


YouTube Conversion Website Fighting Google Blockade

Some time ago, YouTube-mp3 was threatened by Google. YouTube-mp3 is a Germany-based service and is one of the most popular websites that offer services called ‘streamripping’ by some. According to Google’s statistics, there was a point that the website received nearly 1.5 million visitors daily. But Google didn’t take the existence of the website lying down; they threatened the website with consequences if they didn’t stop operating against Google’s Terms of Service.

Google’s lawyers gave the website an allowance of seven days to change their mode of operations and make it more acceptable to Google. However, in those seven days, the search engine giant did not stand back idly. It added a blockade to YouTube-mp3 which made it impossible for the website to access YouTube’s servers.

But the owner of the downloading site has decided to step forward and fight for the website. Philip Matesanz, who studies applied computer science, has decided to fight Google on this matter. At the least, he wants the case to go to court so that he can get a fair hearing, which Google didn’t give him.

He met with several lawyers and asked them how a fight against Google would go. Philip will be working together with two lawyers to help him better understand the circumstances and where his website stands in relation to the Terms of Service of YouTube.

He pointed out the fact that his website uses neither the Google nor the YouTube API, and so his website is considered exempt from any contracts that have been created which relate to those two APIs. In fact, there is no segment in YouTube’s Terms of Service that disallows the activities that his site makes possible, which means that Google has no legal grounds to threaten his website.

This is a bit of a legal gray area, but in reality, it isn’t considered illegal to download streamed content that hasn’t been encrypted.

It is unfortunate that Google has not responded to any of Philip’s accusations and has kept completely silent on the matter. As most people will notice, this is a huge David-and-Goliath situation, but in this case David is highly unlikely to win.


Philip has realized that Google will not listen to him when only his voice can be heard, so has started a petition to further his cause. The petition has garnered massive momentum and has nearly a quarter of a million signatures already.

Google will now have to decide whether to continue attacking YouTube-mp3 or find a middle road that will make all the parties happy.

Interestingly, Google appears to have relaxed its grip on downloading YouTube videos. It has now created an app for Android that allows users to download videos for offline viewing. After this new development, it hardly seems fair to continue attacking sites that provide the same service. We hope that Philip isn’t left hanging on a few slim threads of hope for much longer and that a solution to his problem is found as soon as possible. Let’s continue praying that YouTube to MP3 conversions become legal sometime in the future!


Buying land? Please, do your research

Usually, a person who buys a block of land is fulfilling one of their lifelong dreams. You have to try as hard as you can to make sure that you aren’t hurt by some common land block pitfalls.

The location of the estate where you’ll buy your house is pretty important, but the position of the land in the estate is important too.

You do not want to be staying too far away from amenities like parks, shops, transport facilities and schools. However, you also want to stay a bit far from infrastructure like freeways. If the amenities are not present, try to find out when they will be set up. Keep in mind that what is planned and what happens is not always the same.

The orientation and size of the block is also important.

If you want to build a house that is around 200 square meters, you’ll probably need for a plot that’s about 450 or 500 square meters with frontage being a minimum of 10.5 meters if you want a garage that can hold two cars. Boundary setbacks must also be accounted for in your calculations.

Blocks that are aligned north to south and have a north-facing background are more popular. If a block is aligned north-south, you’ll need to find a different design to position your home perfectly.

It’s also best to avoid blocks that are very near the entrance of the estate. Buying a block there will mean that you’ll have a lot of traffic.

Courts and cul-de-sacs are usually very popular because they create a sense of oneness in the residents. However, houses built on such blocks will probably suffer from highlighting, as headlights from cars coming in will shine directly through their windows.

Blocks located close to parks usually cost more. Blocks that have a view, and sometimes blocks located on higher sides of streets that are sloping also cost more. In the second case, you’ll also need to take care, since it can cost you more to build on a slope.

The most popular blocks are usually corner blocks because people perceive them to cost more, be less secure and less private, and experience high traffic. However, if you’re looking for an investment, a corner block might be good for you since such blocks can be subdivided easily.

After you select your block, check the adjoining blocks for anything that seems odd. If you have a vacant lot next to yours, find out what is going to be built there. A very large block might indicate concentrated development on that block.

It’s also advisable to look for a professional to advice you before you buy the block. That way, you’ll be able to ensure that you’ll not find any nasty surprises waiting for you. Don’t rely on what the developer or agent tell you, since it’s in their interest to sell.

Before you buy, also make sure you conduct a soil test on the block. A soil test will help you know whether anything can be built and how much it will cost. Sandy and loose soils, for example, will cost more to build on because extra-strong foundations will need to be built.

Make sure you also check that all utilities can be made available in the area. This may not be a major issue for those buying in urban centers, but it is important for anyone buying in rural areas or outlying suburbs to check with utility companies.

Only buy the block after you’ve done a lot of research and are completely satisfied with the block. You could also check online for land deals. There are many wholesale land dealers that you can find on the Internet.

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