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Mon Nov 23 2009 14:17:06

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

By: David Steiner

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"The unanticipated technical issue resulted from a surge in live listings as sellers ramp up for the holiday season. EBay currently has more than 200 million live listings, 33 percent more than at this time a year ago. The company said the technical issue, once identified, was easily fixed."
-eBay

Have you ever watched a football game and thought to yourself, "Noooo! They're really not going to go with that play, are they?" That was my reaction when I saw the email eBay sent regarding the cause of Saturday's major search outage.

Why would eBay go with this response, which is so quantifiable? It's the type of stuff that makes sports talk shows so popular on Mondays - because 20/20 hindsight is always the clearest.

Never mind that on Medved and PowerSellersUnite auction counts, there is barely a blip in the number of listings that came in over the past few days. But, 2 weeks before the supposed surge to 200 million listings, eBay was already stating it had close to 200 million live product listings. (See this eBay press release.)

Evidently, much of the mainstream press was willing to accept eBay's answer at face value, instead of asking some relevant questions like:
  • "How many listings came in on the weekend that caused the outage?"
  • "Isn't eBay's platform robust enough to handle a surge in traffic and/or listings?"
  • "It's November 21 - why are sellers still "ramping up" for the holiday season?"
  • "You claimed 200 million listings in early November, it's still at 200 million - where's the surge?"
Just to name a few...

There's evidently a valuable lesson to be learned here. Don't let negativity shroud what could be a great opportunity to self-promote. It's not exactly Confucious - but on the other hand, he wasn't a public company. Apply this lesson to your own life:

If you get stopped for a ticket, simply say, "Officer, I had an unanticipated surge in speed. Once I identified the issue, it was easily fixed by applying the brakes."

If you ever forget your wedding anniversary, how about, "I'm ramping up for that."

Bounced a check? Try telling the bank, "I had 33% more money than last year in my account before an unanticipated surge in spending."

For the record, I think that eBay is handling the aftermath of this issue pretty well, by refunding fees, giving some assurance that feedback won't be affected, and sending coupons to buyers affected by the outage. (We'll see how the actual implementation goes.)

But to get back to eBay's excuse for its search outage - THIS is really the story that you went with? It opens up far more questions than it answers.

And mainstream media? Shame on you. Find some sources who can give you an independent perspective, and ask the questions that need to be asked.




Comments (44) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: On Lies and Secrets

Mon Nov 23 14:25:20 2009

The London Financial Times (online version) has labeled this event as a system ''crash'' and is speculating at how much this will cost the ebay corporation. (Investors may want to make note of this.) They appear to have bought into the ''surge'' theory, however, they are not presenting this event as a cause for which the ebay corporation should be proud.  The Financial Times blames decisions made by the ebay corporation for the surge by stating: ''this year's rise [in listings] has been particularly steep because Ebay has encouraged large retailers to sell through the site''

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b9fe8dae-d7d0-11de-b578-00144f
eabdc0.html

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: Dan

Mon Nov 23 14:38:14 2009

Perhaps they meant to say that the crash was due to a surge in AMAZON listings...in a big-picture/roundabout way, I suppose that is true!

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: ex silver powerseller

Mon Nov 23 14:43:35 2009

I was away all weekend and had auctions close on Sunday night for far below historic prices on these items too. Ebay sucks & should have extended auctions 24 hours at a minimum. I would have closed the auctions even for Sunday. Ebay is done. We kept hoping but it's time to shut off the life support.

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: fruity

Mon Nov 23 14:50:37 2009

David, I just sent you and Ina an email before I saw your article.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the variable listings. That they are swapping out listing counts to inventory counts.

OR maybe, they have DUMPED SOME SELLERS that we dont know about and they are bring in the big retailers to place that inventory. Remember that lady who wrote to you about how the paypal risk person said more reserves were coming? Maybe they hit those small businesses up at the same time?

I think ebay has a real need to reduce the small business sellers and manage from a small pool of sellers. I think there's something very scary going on and it could have an impact on the small businesses here

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: fruity

Mon Nov 23 14:53:25 2009

unanticipated glitch sounds like unintended consequences (ie Bill Cobb). I think we need to start picking up rocks see what they may have done we are not detecting yet. DETECTIVES grab your magnifying lens, there's something here they probably dont want us to find out! LOL.

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: On Lies and Secrets

Mon Nov 23 15:10:14 2009

I think this article asks several important questions and I also am quite skeptical about this ''surge'' theory as an excuse and explanation of ebay's system failure.  I think responsible journalists should be questioning things like the security of the site and security of data storage and the overall robustness of the platform.  I can understand a two hour outage - things happen.  A two day outage is a serious issue for an experienced ecommerce site - the ''easy fix'' statement doesn't seem like a truthful statement to me.

This whole situation seems very, very fishy.

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: Lies, Damnable Lies

Mon Nov 23 15:37:01 2009

This was no listing "surge" this was eBay's shaky infrastructure giving way. But, don't feel sorry short-term for eBay - they probably made good money during this outage. Their sponsored links were still visible everytime a search was made. So they made their CPC or CPA revenue. But the long-term effect is that they sent eBay shoppers off the site, to shop elsewhere. That's not going to show up on a ledger for a while, but it gradually erodes eBay's place in the market.

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: Mitzi

Mon Nov 23 15:39:00 2009

If my DH ever forgot our anniversary because he was "ramping up" I'd "ramp" him out the door! LOL!!

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: BL

Mon Nov 23 16:04:55 2009

Hey Dave, eBay's ex-PR flak seems to be whining about you guys again. Everytime I ran into him in New Orleans all he could do was bitch about you. You guys may have a stalker.

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: Esteban

Mon Nov 23 16:09:37 2009

Ebay made the same promise of a DSR adjustment last year when a glitch caused the stars to be obscured by pop-up reminders. (Anyone remember this?)  My stars got bombed during that week, but naturally I never saw any adjustment or even an acknowledgment by eBay.  When I contacted them about this, I was told that such an adjustment was not possible, and they had made that promise in error.  

I predict that this will go down in very similar fashion.

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

This user has validated their user name. by: Bill

Mon Nov 23 16:17:19 2009

All of you who think that this is something more than what is on the surface you are correct and I am still working on the theory that the site was hacked over the weekend.
That is why it took so long to fix the problem since the code monkeys that they finally were able to bring in (they are all off duty on the weekend) took that long to get all of the malicious code off of the web site. Of course we will never hear anything about it until some time in the future when some one finally talks. eBay does not want anyone to know that the site has security issues.

This is far from over and I still have not received the email from eBay on what to do because of the outage and I had 40 auctions that closed on Saturday and another 20 that closed on Sunday. The deadline is the tomorrow and we have not been notified yet.

Bill

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: fruity

Mon Nov 23 16:27:34 2009

How come you people hate the radio so much, we could have ourselves a party comparing theories. bawk bawk! bawk bawk!

btw, ebay's "surge" that's a line straight out of their 1999 playbook. Cept this time they can't say its about buyers, they have to say its about the sellers. And that could of been controlled with umm.. thinking?

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: Fiona

Mon Nov 23 16:54:34 2009

At least those of you elsewhere got your very own eBay announcements as to what was going on. In Australia everyone was in the dark until other members checked the US site, discovered it wasn't just a local problem, and provided links to the announcements there.  

Information on the outage went up on eBay.au yesterday afternoon according to the datestamp - except that the announcements didn't go live until sometime on 24/11. (Based on multiple comments from board users looking for information.)

All conspiracy theories aside, communication was severely lacking.

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: Just Thinking

Mon Nov 23 18:11:27 2009

Where are the Tee-Shirts? Certainly if this is of such monumental proportion that we need to investigate this tradgedy---Where are the Tee-shirts to commerate the great eBay crash of 2009--??? theres none listed on eBay--So how can it be such a BIG DEAL if theres no tee-shirts for it?

Not one tee-shirt seller on eBay has ONE tee shirt listed to remember the tragic day of such importance, that  will live on the auctiobytes blogs for infamy

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: RicRoe

Mon Nov 23 21:33:49 2009

Theories abound as to the cause of the outage.

Was it a listing surge as eBay's a$$ covering executives want everyone to believe?

Was it a calculated take down designed to conceal the fact that eBay 2009 4th quarter revenue is already in a serious hole?

Did the insertion of Most Watch code to advertise on seller pages bring the systems down with only normal seasonal listing activity?

Did management forget the holiday selling season starts in November and failed to dedicate sufficient capacity?

Did disgruntled former employees hack the site causing the outage?

Bottom line is eBay's management lacks sufficient credibility to have any explanation offered accepted as truth.

John Donahoe and his deficient management team have spun so many tall tales that nothing they say anymore is accepted at face value.

It appears that the eBay board of directors, media and stock analysts are the only ones that buy into the tall tales spun by John Donahoe & his management team.

eBay's sales are not down due to the recession as John Donahoe claims. If sales were impacted by the recession, Amazon and a plethora of sites would not be reporting double digit sales increases.

Buyers still do not believe that checks and money orders are insecure methods of payment, and instead have taken their buying activity to other sites.

Buyers have not bought into Donahoe & Co's declaration that the destructive innovations imposed across eBay have resulted in improvements.

Time after time, new hoops are erected for sellers to jump through which are described as being necessary to improve buyer confidence in eBay.

The end result is that changes to eBay have been so poorly crafted, miscalculated and ineptly implemented that buyers and sellers stopped coming to eBay entirely out of disgust for what eBay has become.

eBay's explanation for the outage is nothing more than another poorly crafted, self serving, a$$ covering cover story designed to deflect attention away from the staggeringly incompetent management team.

The unprecedented seller protection, promises of discount coupons, alleged fee refunds for impacted listings etc... is evidence that eBay knows this outage amounts to being the straw that broke the camels back for buyers and sellers alike and they are desperately trying to minimize the damage.

Let's see if eBay management will fully compensate buyers and sellers as stated, or if once again, buyers and sellers will have to beg and sit pretty to get the compensation that they rightly deserve.

I am betting that there will be widespread problems where eBay attempts to deny feedback withdrawal, listing refunds and buyer coupons to those effected as eBay management seeks to minimize the out of pocket expenses related to making this right.

Any failure by eBay to fully honor the promises of compensation will further illustrate the lack of management credibility and integrity.

Hopefully, when the smoke clears, current management will be swept out the door.

After this incident, this holiday season will likely be the last memory many have of eBay unless new management is brought in to clean up the many issues the current team have created.

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

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

Mon Nov 23 21:51:36 2009

I believe the outage began well before Saturday morning when, on the same day ebay began integrating competitor's listings inot live listings, the three Featured First items disappeared from the search within my items. That was last Tursday, November 19.

Search functionality continued to lose one category at a time until the whole thing went down when someone hiccupped in San Hosed.

When I checked my item search list very at approximately 12:30 am Pacific Time Saturday, it showed 0 items. When I ran a search for a particular product where are normally 6,000 listings, that search came up 0 items.

So clearly is again LYING about when this outage began, and I suggest it's because they're deliberately trying to conceal not only the duration of the outage but the real reasons for the outage.

Ebay is also LYING about what caused it.

I'd bet the ranch that ebay spent more money in overtime this week having emergency PR spin meetings than they spent on overtime for IT people in India.

They were compelled to develop a cover story that covered all the bases, but someone forgot to look at Medved and PSU, LOL.

This press release likely contains false and misleading information which, if true, is designed to deceive investors and analysts and should be reported to the SEC.

SEC Complaint Center
100 F Street NE
Washington, D.C. 20549-0213

   http://www.sec.gov/divisions/enforce.shtml

Online complaint forms:

http://www.sec.gov/complaint/selectconduct.shtml

Furthe
r,
analysts have a LEGAL obligation to look beyond corporate press releases, spin, and funny accounting practices to determine whether a company is a good investment.

Analysts who persist in assessing ebay as a buy could well have breached their legal obligations to their investors.

Report them as well to the SEC and to your US Senator if he and she is a Democrat.

DEATH to ebay corp. on 2009. Now closer than ever.

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

This user has validated their user name. by: Mercy the Mingless

Mon Nov 23 22:25:29 2009

Hey, I know!   Let's play ''Find the Surge''!

Go to the link below, click on ''Monthly'' in the upper left hand corner then click on ''November''.  See who can find the surge!

http://www.medved.net/cgi-bin/cal.exe?EIND

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: Peggy

Mon Nov 23 22:39:39 2009

I sold three items, buyers paid immediately Sunday afternoon. I tried doing some searches later Sunday early evening, got no results. I packed, printed labels and delivered to the post office Monday morning. Returned to an email I hadn't read telling me I had sales affected, and could abort.  TOO LATE EBAY. I would have seen it in MY MESSAGES which I glanced at (to see that they reniged on their half off listing deal). I thought my items sold for less than expected and hoped. I got screwed again by eBay!

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: On Lies and Secrets

Mon Nov 23 22:58:31 2009

Go Ina and Auctionbytes!

Ina quoted by London Financial Times

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7e471cea-d861-11de-b63a-00144fe
abdc0.html

Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage   Monday Morning Quarterback: eBay's Spin on Search Outage

by: On Lies and Secrets

Mon Nov 23 23:12:58 2009

The London Financial Time's perspective on the outage is interesting; they have labeled the outage a ''public failure'' and have criticized ebay management's strategy to lure large retailers on the the site: ''It appears to show the group’s new strategy of attracting large retailers and wholesalers to its online marketplace has backfired.''  This article points out that the ebay corporation has been losing market share to amazon and craigslist.  This article also speculates that the ebay corporation will suffer losses because of this event: ''The outage is likely to cost Ebay significant revenues.''  Finally, this article also notes that the problem has *not* been fully resolved as of Monday morning (despite what was in the announcement by Lorrie Norrington).

Ina Steiner is quoted extensively.  Even Sandeep Aggarwal even makes an appearance and suggests that there will be 'defections' from ebay as a result of this system failure (let's see if this admission will cause him to change his rating of the stock).



same article as posted above (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7e471cea-d861-11de-b63a-00144feabdc0.html)

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