EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 1299 - June 12, 2006     4 of 10

A Rat Pack/Poker Mash-Up: Impressions of the eBay DevCon

By Julia Wilkinson

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The croonings of an ersatz Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and a guy who bore an uncanny resemblance to Dean Martin punctuated the first day of the eBay Developers' conference. From the opening Vegas Cirque de Soleil-style acrobatic show to the Rat Pack-lookalikes, the whole conference had a Vegas flair. Even eBay's own Jason Steinhorn (mild-mannered eBay development employee by day, poker stud by night) gave poker lessons.

Called "the Power of Three" (eBay, Skype and PayPal) in the Keynote address, the emphasis throughout the day seemed to be about the latter two parts of the equation. I spoke to several Skype employees during the conference, including two who came all the way from Estonia, Peeter Motskula and Tiit Pannanen. eBay even included Skype earbuds in the swag bag they gave to attendees.

Skype is adding 200,000 new customers a day, and currently has around 100 million-plus users, said eBay Chief Strategy Officer Michael Van Swaaj in the Saturday morning keynote session. It now has about 3,500 third-party developers making all sorts of applications for the technology.

One such developer came all the way from Israel, Alex Rosenbaum of KishKish. KishKish's main product is an answering machine and call recorder, and he said they'd released a beta stress analyzer. Rosenbaum said he was only attending Skype-related events. The proliferation of Skype developers, sessions and demos was noteworthy.

Jeff Marek and Kasia Hanson of Intel welcome people to the party.

Skype products and applications were also on display at the Solutions Center, where vendors are showcasing their software. Kasia Hanson and Jeff Marek of Intel said they'd had a steady flow of people through their booth and answered many questions. This was a first eBay conference for them; here they are demonstrating Intel's Skype-based tool, vPro.

Another first-time DevCon attendee was David Frey of Terapeak, who is here promoting its DataUnison product. He reported he was enjoying the conference, including the Rat Pack singers, as was Pablo Bertorello, CEO of Verosee (you can read his "on Innovation" blog at

One of the most buzzed-about sessions here was "The Long Tail," a presentation by Wired editor Chris Anderson, whose book by the same name is coming out this July. The basic concept is that the world is becoming more niche-oriented, according to the information Chris and his team of top university researchers studied. The phrase "the long tail" refers to the line on the horizontal part of a graph..a "tail," as it were.

"The audience is now fragmenting," said Anderson, using things like books and cd's as an example. "Hit albums have fallen off a cliff...the hit-driven era is coming to a close." Hit tv shows are becoming less "hitty"; whereas 70% of households watched "I Love Lucy" in the day, now, the top shows such as CSI and American Idol wouldn't have made the top 10 50 years ago.

The strange thing was how eBay data did not fit the "Long Tail" data. "The project went pear-shaped," said Anderson.

"eBay doesn't have the concept of a SKU," he said - you're unable to get product information from eBay because eBay doesn't know in many cases what's selling. One eBay stat they found that was interesting was that the top 5 sellers, or powersellers most likely, had 60% of the sales, or 70-80% of the listings.

So what does any of that mean for eBay buyers and sellers? In a nutshell, for sellers and developers, if you can find a product that serves a niche, or an aggregator of niches, you may be able to capitalize on that.

Many people who attended the session thought it was one of the best sessions they'd seen. Others seemed to have a hard time wrapping their brain around how the long tail applied to eBay, or why it didn't seem to perfectly apply, or even, why it applied, but we couldn't see that reflected in the data.

Wayne Yeager, CEO of, has been reading Wired Magazine since the very first issue, and enjoyed hearing Anderson's talk. As to the conference as a whole, he said, "In general, the thing I noticed about the conference is it's embracing the Web 2.0 movement - but what does that mean for eBay?"

Web 2.0 gives control to the community, he noted.

More will no doubt become apparent as eBay talks more about some of its new initiatives, such as blogging and wikis, at the eBay Live! Conference, which kicks off on Tuesday.

There were a lot of PayPal presentations including a very good one dealing with online fraud.

The big buzzwords at the conference have been, in addition to "Web 2.0," things like "wiki" and "mash-up." At a session on 2.0 and community, which included Kevin Rose, founder of, many folks said they had blogs, and others ran or owned social networking sites and blog hosting companies.

There will no doubt be some actual offline social networking by many after the conference is over.

--- Julia Wilkinson is author of "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2006) and "The eBay Price Guide," (No Starch Press, 2006). You can find Julia's blog, "bidbits," at

About the author:

Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.

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