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Mon Dec 8 2008 22:55:08

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

By: Ina Steiner

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The eBay Research Labs houses some brainy researchers, as I discovered during the 2006 eBay Developers Conference. Raghav Gupta worked for the labs for 6 years before leaving to start his own venture recently. Raghav kindly agreed to be interviewed for AuctionBytes' retrospective series on P2P ecommerce to share some of his experiences at eBay. Here's one question and answer to give you a taste of the interview.

AuctionBytes: Does the "Recent Sales" factor in Best Match have anything to do with your vision of Relevance Sort, and in your opinion, should it play a role in Best Match?

Raghav Gupta: No matter what the "factor", I think individual users should be able to *choose* the factors they want to sort/filter their result by, without anything being imposed. In that scenario, you will agree that the more factors available, the better. Imagine being able to combine keywords and factors as you see fit to create your own perfect search. Play with it, save it, advertise it, email it, whatever works.

In another intriguing answer, rather than talk about what eBay should be doing, he shares his thoughts on what the community should be doing. You can read the full interview with Raghav Gupta in Tuesday's AuctionBytes Newsflash newsletter.





Comments (37) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: where is it

Mon Dec 8 23:19:44 2008

Ok this is a very smart guy who basically with the help & direction of the CEO totally messed up the buying experience on eBay…..no wonder he left

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: Gary

Mon Dec 8 23:31:28 2008

This has got to be the best and most interesting AB interview of 2008. I think he was also working on search by color which was very interesting. I'm glad he got a chance to clear some air here regarding search.


Wishing Raghav much luck in his new venture!

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: Juan

Mon Dec 8 23:33:58 2008

Damn, this is one the most enjoyable interviews I've read here. Mr Gupta is one bright and articulate individual! Congrats Ina. I like the way he thinks.
Juan

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: Anon

Mon Dec 8 23:41:17 2008

I think this part is wonderful!

"Let me also repeat something most of you already know. The entire wealth generated by eBay actually has all come from your pockets over the years! The salary of all the customer support people, the engineers, the ad-campaigns, the government lobbyists, the CEO's corporate jet, the server hardware, the cost of running the data centers, it all comes out of your pockets. This is not a bad thing, rather it actually shows that you as a group hold the underlying controlling stakes in this operation.

But if you are paying all the expenses, how come you have no control over what your money does? More importantly, if you have the money, why are you giving it to a third party like eBay at all? Why would you give it to any third party at all?

To me the success of eBay proves that the community as a whole has enough resources to build and operate its own alternative. Instead of paying a 3rd party to use its selling platform, pool your resources into a non-profit organization, elect your leaders democratically and task them with hiring the right people to build and manage your own infrastructure. As the platform matures, large groups of sellers can migrate to it en-masse. Where the sellers go, buyers will come."

Ebay took his idea and basically twisted it into some monster they use AGAINST their sellers.

I recently read that Etsy received 35 Million in Venture Capital. If the money is out there, perhaps WE as a group CAN make his idea above materialize?  I'm game!
Not sure about the non-profit part. I'd rather see a company that shares the profits amongst all their members.
Those types of companies do exist and they are thriving, despite the economy.

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: Donc

Mon Dec 8 23:42:29 2008

Great interview. I suppose everone who reads it takes something different away from the interview.

I think this statement is worthy of note:

''But if you are paying all the expenses, how come you have no control over what your money does? More importantly, if you have the money, why are you giving it to a third party like eBay at all? Why would you give it to any third party at all?

To me the success of eBay proves that the community as a whole has enough resources to build and operate its own alternative. Instead of paying a 3rd party to use its selling platform, pool your resources into a non-profit organization, elect your leaders democratically and task them with hiring the right people to build and manage your own infrastructure. As the platform matures, large groups of sellers can migrate to it en-masse. Where the sellers go, buyers will come.''

As a small cog in another big organization I felt his pain when he said:
''whatever does get out usually suffers through so many Dilbertian compromises that it is missing the core aspect of the original idea''

Don

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: Henrietta

Tue Dec 9 00:08:21 2008

I am a great admirer of Mr Gupta and think this is one of the most interesting pieces you have written this year.

It irritates when the ignorant and uninformed blame the inventor for the implementation of his idea. That makes about as much sense as blaming McDonalds because you eat too much.

The frustration level must have been intense when the PowerPoint People, who could not of course make the thing in the first place, get in there and 'fix it'

I have a feeling things will continue to go downhill in the unfinding department at eBay. I believe the original concept has been so distorted and tweaked that it is perverted beyond salvage.

Nothing but good times ahead Mr Gupta!

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: wizard85

Tue Dec 9 00:24:19 2008

I think that this is the best & most important interview I have seen to date on auctionbytes, I believe that the subject is still under certain restraints from his employment contract with eBay even though he his gone from there but still gives an idea of things gone askew at the site as well he could .. BRAVO Ina for a job well done!!!

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: eBays search lacks GPS transparency

Tue Dec 9 00:26:57 2008

Read inbetween the lines.  He says "Minds harbor malice, not machines."  The execs have been making short term decisions...Raghav is wiser long-term.

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: Another Wronged Seller

Tue Dec 9 00:39:40 2008

Ina,
One of the best interviews I've read!

Kudos! Keep them coming. Who's next?

Mr Gupta impresses the hell out of me with his thoughts in this interview. Through his answers you can see why he left Ebay. While keeping his answers positive, it was as much about what he didn't say as what he did say.

''whatever does get out usually suffers through so many Dilbertian compromises that it is missing the core aspect of the original idea''

In other words, the good ideas get corrupted by going through too many committees, layers of management, people adding the wrong thing to the concept or subtracting the wrong thing. It's a fundamental problem with companies. The larger they get, the important decision making is made at a level so far removed from the level of the real nuts and bolts of the business and they are out of touch with how the ground level business works. Everyone up and down the chain wants to put their own stamp on it or push their own agenda that they can take credit for.

His comments on relevancy in search is a breath of fresh air. The person searching should have maximum control over the search process. Who knows better than the person searching WHAT they are looking for? A far cry from the horrible '' best match'' which seems to think it knows what I want to see (as long as it's a fixed price listing from a diamond level powerseller with free shipping) Who cares if I'm looking for a blue shirt and instead get red pants?

Ebay are you listening?

Mr gupta strikes me as smart and savvy with some good insight. No wonder he doesn't work at Ebay anymore!

Is it too late to get him to start a new auction platform for us?




eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: john

Tue Dec 9 04:32:47 2008

How do you guys view him as a bright mind? Was he not one of the morons who came up with the Best Match? Is he not one of the people who is responsible for the overall poor search experience on Ebay which directly contributes to lower views and less money for sellers?

No, basically I read between the lines as him telling sellers to quit crying because we are the ones who gave Meg and the Hoe their private jet, etc. and thus we have no room to cry about anything they do.

My guess is they booted him unofficially for being a main reason for the poor search experience.

The fact he is a former Ebay employee yet won't focus on what EBAY NEEDS TO DO tells me everything I need to know. It's called take some hush money and move on and don't criticize what Ebay has been doing this.

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: james

Tue Dec 9 04:36:13 2008

Everyone seems to have their own "philosophy" when in comes to Ebay....like Hoe's disruptive innovation or Gupta's BS.

That is the problem. They don't realize their problems come down to some very obvious things that have ZERO to do with philosophy. It is called ditch best match, keep advertising heavy in Google, quit f ucking with sellers and the policies, etc.

There is nothing philosphical about this or about Ebay's GINORMOUS drop since May 2008 when they changed all these policies.

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Tue Dec 9 09:13:04 2008

Corporate America! Gotta love it.

I found out that the Execs don't really want innovation too - about 30 years ago..... Great software, small minds.

That's why Dilbert was invented.

Hi - I have a Harvard MBA, I'm better than you and I can fuck up a business quicker than you can spell AIG.

Good luck in your new company and just make sure that the business end of your personnel have a conscience and compassion for the ramifications of their decisions.

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: o.c.d.collectibles

Tue Dec 9 09:49:37 2008

Very Fine article from another very fine man.
I think he is saying what we have all known for so long, but, like lazy sheep we just went along with ebay's imposing their will on us sellers while we paid them for it. We all could have left a long time ago. But we allowed it all to go on and stuck our heads in the sand while the top CEO's ran off with our money and did what they felt like doing with it.
Mr. Gupta and his programming will be an asset to any new community. He was lucky to get away from ebay, and we should all watch to see where he is going, since it might be a better place for all of us too!I wonder if Mr Gupta is developing a new auction site?

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: myshabbichic

Tue Dec 9 09:58:00 2008

Excellent interview!  I too believe this is the best from 2008. Mr. Gupta presents his thoughts about his former employer without mudslinging AND gives the selling community acknowledgement for our part in their success.

I want more positive articles and interviews like this one with a subtle pat on the back AND a subtle kick in the part that went over the fence last.  As one of the ''mom and pop'' sellers who specialize in ''unique items'',  I'm tired of beating ebay to death.  Unless they start a classic ebay for the unique item sellers, I don't care what they do.

Yes, there are selling sites out there with ebay sellers behind them and they appear to be working for some people.  My problem with those sites is that when I look in the categories I'ld be selling in, they are already over run by dollar store junk, when doing a search for items using specific keywords I have to weed thru pages of unrelated items to find the few items I'm really looking for, and sadly, I see a number of items being sold as something that they are not.  

We know we need to spread ourselves out.  We know we need our own web sites and we need to sell on other sites.  I'ld like to hear from some ''mom and pops'' who are doing so successfully and how they got there.   As a nontechie old broad who is still trying to translate the intro pages, faq's, and plan options of sites that claim ''anyone can set up their own website here'', I'ld like to hear from others like me who have who have found affordable ways to set up their own web sites - in laymen's terms!  And since niche selling has proven itself profitable on the web, why aren't some of the unique item sellers who have tech knowledge not trying to gather us up as a group to form a site?


This interview has given me the first burst of energy I've had in awhile.  I want to read more like it.  eBay has taken a new direction and that's fine, I don't own the corporation and the ones who do can take it where they like.  That's the bottom line.  However, I was a small part in helping to make them the business they are and I'm willing to be a small part in making someone else's.  Surely someone out there selling antiques, vintage and collectible items has the know how to create a site for us.  A site where new items are not allowed but grilled cheese sandwiches with religous images are accepted?

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: Monster

Tue Dec 9 10:02:20 2008

I hate to see that people have decided to start using the F-word when making comments here.

It shouldn't be long now before we start seeing some genius posting "FIRST!"...?

America the illiterate...

Good interview Ina...

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: Et tu, Brute!

Tue Dec 9 10:47:11 2008


Monster;

Agreed concerning the comment of the f-word use.

However, don't you find it suspect that the claim is to have a Harvard MBA?  

Don't think so!  Individuals who post with such crudity usually have a deep core of insecurity and this is a means to build themselves up.

The content was too close to the illiterate.  And I DON'T have a Harvard MBA!

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: o.c.d.collectibles

Tue Dec 9 11:23:52 2008

GoAntiques is developing an auction platform that should be ready in the 2nd or 3rd quarter of 2009. They have a fixed price listing site as of now, which has been around for years and is now growing, although the technology in the platform is very simple and plain, you can only put 4 photos up. It is not a free site, you basically have a "store" with items that stay listed indefinitely and then when the auction site comes along, you can move your items into auctions just like on ebay (like it used to be). I would do some research of this company and it's owners, do the homework and research. To me, it looks like it will be our best alternative, since it will be run by an ebay power seller who has business experience, and totally understands how ebay has screwed the individual sellers.

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: Austinmodern

Tue Dec 9 12:05:40 2008

Awesome interview, BEST I've read on AuctionBytes to date! I wish Mr Gupta the best in his new venture, he sounds like a realist and without the constraints of MBA execs who don't ''get it'' he'll be sure to bring some fantastic new ideas to the www!

I'm with ShabbiChic and OCD, so I will look into GoAntiques as well. Really liked the non mudslinging aspect of the article, we all know Ebay isn't working for us, happy to read something that has real Ebay Alternative suggestions.

Yeah yeah, death to Ebay Corp etc etc, but that is already a given. In the meantime Constructive ideas is what we all need to hear and embrace.
Cheers!!

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Tue Dec 9 13:03:33 2008

Raghav Gupta is the Robert Oppenheimer of coding.

For those of you who think it's time to metaphorically leave ebay in its death dust, I think you're wrong. Ebay has to be brought to its knees through lawsuits and government intervention and regulation so that the next ebay won't be able to do what ebay has done to sellers.

Those sellers who stubbornly refuse to learn the lessons of the past will see them played put again in the future.

Unless ebay is held accountable, what's to prevent any of the startups from doing the same things to sellers once they achieve critical mass?

eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers   eBay's Former Search Guru Has Advice for Sellers

by: Say What?

Tue Dec 9 14:25:33 2008

What am I missing?  This guy is so skillful at not answering any of the questions he should run for policital office.

Having worked in the Middle East and Far East, I learned about the cultural difference of duplicity in language - when people "talk around" an issue and never really address it head on.

This guy used clumps of words to disguise the fact that he did not want to say anything that would hurt him today or in his future efforts.

Can't blame him for that, but I don't understand the praise y'all are heaping on him. He maybe brilliant, but this interview was pretty murky.

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