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Posts Tagged ‘mashlogic

Maximizing rewards

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Arson Reward
Image by extremeezine via Flickr

Last night I spent a couple of hours going over our personal finances which included me spending some time on the American Express customer portal.  Amex does a good job of letting you on their portal where you could be buying to maximize your membership rewards points.  They will often tell you things like “Buy at FTD.com and earn double points” (I don’t know if FTD.com is actually a partner, I’m just using this as an example).  The airlines do this as well, letting you earn points if you purchase online from certain vendors.

I think its great that Amex, the airlines, and whomever else,  is giving me the chance to earn additional rewards points, but when I am going to purchase something online, I never check americanexpress.com and AA.com before buying whatever it is I am planning on buying.  So I have no idea where I should be buying to get these extra points.  My guess is that most other people don’t check for these promotions, either.

It would be great if somehow my purchase intent or purchase history could be used to identify opportunities to generate rewards points for these purchases.   I’d happily give my purchase history to someone who could identify my regular purchasing patterns and tell me where I should be buying in order to maximize my points and minimize my cost.  I don’t think it would be that hard to watch the major airlines and card companies and maintain a database of the latest offers, and let me know about the most relevant mileage earning opportunities.This was something I had hoped Mint would do for me, given  that it has a slew of purchase data, although as of yet it hasn’t helped in that department (BTW, someone tell me if Mint actually does this and I’m just not using it the right way!)  Incidentally, it looked like one of my credit card portals was doing some recommendations based on my purchase history, but it appeared to be a strict if/then proposition (e.g. If John bought a book on Amazon, then we’ll recommend he try Borders next time and we’ll give him a discount as incentive).

Purchase intent is a different story and probably a tougher nut to crack.  Perhaps you could have a shopping search engine where users would input their relevant hotel, frequent flier, and credit card rewards programs, allowing the search engine to look for items where you’d get bonus points for purchasing.  When they searched for an item, the search engine could consider price but also potential rewards points as a way to prioritize and categorize results.

Of course, that supposes that someone will want to use a specific portal to do their initial searches.  I’m not sure that’s a reasonable assumption.  Maybe there is a plugin approach that semantically analyzes the page on which you’re shopping (e.g. amazon.com, buy.com, etc) and visually flag items that will be bonused on purchase.  For example, let’s say American Airlines has a promotion running where you’ll receive bonus miles for staying in a specific hotel, if you are on aa.com, Orbitz, Kayak, etc, the plugin could alert you of this when booking a hotel.   Or, if you are on Amazon.com and you’re clearly looking to buy a toaster, the plugin could let you know that Amex will give you 2x rewards points if you buy at crateandbarrel.com, who also carries the toaster.  The plugin might even do a price comparison for you so you can see if there is a price differential which might make the earning of rewards less appealing.

I think a plugin would be pretty slick, but the challenge there is to get people to actually install it in their browser.  Most users don’t knowingly use plugins, so you’d need to overcome that hurdle in order to get serious adoption of the service.  I don’t know – maybe you start with an asynchronous model (i.e. upload your credit card bill, and we’ll tell you where to buy next time) and use it to generate leads for the plugin.

So what’s the business model?  I imagine the card companies, airlines, etc would like to make more people aware of the promotions they’re running (advertising), and the vendors would like to sell product to those same customers (lead generation).

I haven’t run the numbers to see if this could be a big business, but I know it’s something I would definitely use.  Bits and pieces of this solution are out there (think Mint and Billshrink on the bill analysis side and maybe Mashlogic or AdaptiveBlue on the plugin side) but as far as I know there is nothing that connects the dots.

I’d love to hear what kinds of services or sites you use to maximize your earning of rewards points, as well as your thoughts on this business idea.

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Written by John Gannon

May 11, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Firefox add-on overload

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Mozilla Firefox
Image via Wikipedia

Firefox generally runs pretty well for me, but a week ago, I started having problems.  Google Reader was behaving weirdly and was basically unusable, and any use of GMail would make my Mac become slow (CPU would get pegged).

My suspicion (which was confirmed) was that one of the many Firefox add-ons I had installed was causing the problem.  At the time, I had installed:

It turns out that Zemanta had a bug that was affecting GMail users and Mashlogic had a bug that caused the problem with Google Reader.  Both companies were very responsive to my bug report (and in both cases had already started looking at the issue due to other user complaints) but during the process, I ended up doing quite a bit of debugging: installing this plugin, uninstalling this one, disabling, re-enabling, etc.

I didn’t mind all of this work that much because I do get a good deal of value out of both of the add-ons that were causing the problem.  But, I was thinking about how I would react if I were a non-technical user.  My guess is that I would just give up on Firefox and use IE again (or Safari on the Mac) instead.

Another topic that came to mind was the idea of add-on interoperability.  Thankfully Zemanta and Mashlogic were not conflicting with one another, but originally I thought they might have been.  Given that many  add-ons these days are altering how pages are rendered, it would seem there is certainly an opportunity for weird interoperability issues to crop up.  One thing that was quite interesting related to Zemanta was that the bug fix was on the server side.  I did have to clear my cache and restart Firefox to fix the problem once Zemanta fixed it on their end, but I didn’t need to download a new version of the plugin (thanks Andraz!)

Are there any standards coming from the Firefox add-on community that will help to address some of the issues I outlined above?

I think the add-on ecosystem is awesome but feel like some of this stuff is what could prevent more mainstream adoption and acceptance, which is what I imagine most of the companies in the add-on space would want.

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Written by John Gannon

March 11, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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Congrats to Mashlogic on launch of their semantic web plugin

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Mashlogic takes back the web

Mashlogic "takes back the web"

I was happy to see a TechCrunch article last night that indicated Mashlogic had publicly launched.  I have been using their alpha and beta versions of the Firefox plugin over the last few months and have been really happy with its ability to enrich the web-browsing experience.

In short, Mashlogic identifies text within web pages that match various data sources (LinkedIn profiles, Yelp restaurant listings, Amazon for book titles, etc) and then creates links in the page that weren’t already there.  This enables users to get a richer web experience and broader array of content, beyond what the publisher has provided.

Congrats to Ranjit and team for launching a great product!  It was well worth the wait and I can’t wait to see what other interesting and useful features they’ll build over time.

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Written by John Gannon

October 12, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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