New color theme has been launched!

Hi Folks!

As you can probably tell, last night I launched a semi-redesign to match our branding.  Only minimal structural/layout changes were made to some of the pages, so you should still have the same experience you are accustomed to – only now with awesome colors!

If you see some oddities that you would like me to have a look at, shoot an email. Please mention your browser name and version.

Thanks!

Andy Bird

$20K worth of servers on their way!

With 4% growth per day, it is hard to stay ahead of demand, but hopefully the new servers I just ordered today will keep us going for a while.

What we currently have:

  • An entry level server that is running our mail server, web server, and sql server.

What we are adding:

  • A dedicated web server with a quad core processor and the fastest SAS hard drives.
  • A dedicated SQL Server with two of the fastest quad core processors and 16 GB of RAM.
  • A 15 disk array to allow for maximum hard drive performance and redundancy in case of drive failure.

The servers are scheduled to arrive around August 16th. Hopefully we will have them up and running the week of August 20th.

Picked up by SportsCollectorsDaily.com

Wow, the folks over at SportsCollectorsDaily.com really stay on top of the industry. Within 48 hours of our article in the seattlest.com, they had pinged us and posted a nice summary of the article.

Start-Up Sports Card Site Op Knows Tech Side

Why Ads?

Our goal has always been to create the premier buying and selling experience for sports cards. So we have tried to keep the site as clean and simple as possible. Ultimately we have attracted a lot of people, and we are one of the fastest growing sports card web sites (maybe the fastest).

  • Last month we more than tripled our traffic.
  • We have been averaging 4% growth per day.
  • In the first 3 days of July we had more traffic than the entire month of April.

This is great, but it also has a cost. We will likely need to buy more servers soon, and we will have to pay for more bandwidth. In order to offer the best buying and selling experience, we need to keep our costs down so that the overhead for using the system is kept as low as possible.

So, we are experimenting to see how effective ads might be towards offsetting some of our expenses, but we are very concerned with keeping our customers happy. Please let us know what you think about the ads. You can either leave a comment on the blog or send mail to staff@comc.com.

Currently we only list ads on our search page, but we will likely also put ads on the card details pages and on the home page.

My Day Job

You may have gleaned from my first blog post that my day job is at Microsoft. Well, today two of my babies finally shipped. I am the program manager for the Access Developer Extensions and the Access Runtime. This project surprised us with several unexpected challenges, but we are happy to finally be able to point people at the official downloads.

In order to build the COMC.com website, we use many different technologies, but the heart of the site is driven by a Microsoft Access application on top of a couple SQL Server 2005 databases. Andy (or web developer) and I use the Visual Studio Team System to manage all of our source code for the web site, SQL Servers, the Access application, and some managed code DLLs used by the Access application.

For the last 4 months, we have been “dogfooding” the Access Developer Extensions’ source code control integration with Access 2007. This allows us to check out, undo check out, and check out individual queries, forms, reports, macros, or modules. My favorite feature is the “Show Differences” right-click command. A lot of times you forget the changes you made to a file, and it is extremely handy to be able to see exactly what changed in a module before checking it in.
Tim’s Sports Card App

If you clicked on the screenshot, you may have noticed that we are actually using Team Foundation for our source code control provider. Access actually allows you to use any source code control provider that implements the MSSCCI interface. Typically, small development shops use Microsoft Visual SourceSafe, but if your enterprise has standardized on the Visual Studio Team System, you can install the Team Foundation Server MSSCCI Provider so that your Access databases can be under source code control.

 

99 problems but a working shopping cart ain’t one

This afternoon a very kind customer informed us that his order of 113 cards didn’t show up correctly in PayPal’s website. It turns out that PayPal shopping carts only support 99 items.

Within one hour the site was updated so that orders of 100 or more items would appear in PayPal as one consolidated item (see screenshot below). We can now handle large orders through PayPal, but this brings up a good point about how a large order gets filled.

It took Jake 3 days to fill his cart with 114 items. Yes, that is not a typo. 6 hours after Jake put the 1999 Topps #100 Ken Griffey Jr. into his shopping cart, Keith purchased that card, which is why Jake now only has 113 items in his cart.
1999 Topps #100 - Ken Griffey Jr. - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com

It may seem unfair that a card in Jake’s shopping cart got purchased out from under him, and well, it kind of is. That is why we are building the concept of “instant purchases” into our next major site update. In the next few weeks, people like Jake will be able to create an account, add funds to their account, and then click “Instant Purchase” instead of “Add to Cart”.

Instant purchases will immediately transfer ownership of the card to that user. The card will no longer be available for others to purchase. For the next 24 hours the user will have the option to “instantly return” if they change their mind. The user can spend days, weeks, or even months instantly purchasing cards before choosing to have the cards sent to them. Whenever the user is ready, they can add the cards to one big shipment, and they only have to pay for shipping once. This can really help out now that the USPS just doubled the cost of shipping small packages.

If you want to be one of the first customers to try out this functionality, you can create an account today, and we will inform you as soon as this functionality goes live.

Screenshot of the updated shopping cart. Fancy image affect was made possible by one click in the Picture Tools ribbon of Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007.
Order

Hard work pays off

Andy Bird and I have been working really hard these last few months in an effort to make the best sports card shopping experience on the internet. After a very long week, it was extremely refreshing to get the following feedback just 15 minutes ago.

From: TIM CALLAHAN
Sent: Saturday, May 26, 2007 2:11 AM
To: staff@checkoutmycards.com
Subject: Comment On Your Site

I have searched a lot of sports card sites but this one beats every one I have ever seen hands down. I filled up my shopping cart with absolutely no doubts on what I would be receiving – another words, no surprises. The fact that I can view each card front and back is awesome. The discounted prices are great also but with such a fantastic experience shopping on your site, I found myself much more impressed with the quality of the site. Kudos to everyone involved and I hope to be filling my order very soon.

Tim Callahan

We are working hard to open up the site so that others can list their cards on COMC.com. Shortly we hope to not only have the best shopping experience but also the best inventory selection on the internet. Stay Tuned…

300% Performance Improvement

Over the last several weeks we implemented several performance improvements to the COMC.com site. If you have used the site recently, you may have noticed sporadic glitches. I apologize for that. The site should be back to being fully functional, and we will do our best to keep it that way as we continue to implement many more improvements to the site.

It used to take ~6-10 seconds to perform a search, and sometimes the searches would time out at 30 seconds. Now we can consistently search in about 2-3 seconds.

It used to take ~10-15 seconds to browse all the cards of a given sport, and sometimes it would timeout as well. Now we can consistently browse in about 3-4 seconds.

We recently enhanced the list on the left side of the search page to let you filter by year, product, and set very easily. Once you start filtering down to a specific year, set, or player, the searches get even faster, typically 1-2 seconds.

Eventually we would like to get every page to take less than 1 second, but the current speed is fast enough that it is not too annoying. So we will spend the next round of efforts on adding new functionality to the site.

The next big effort is around allowing you to list your cards on this site. Stay tuned for more.

Active Web Development

This last week has been a busy one for COMC.com. In addition to adding more cards to the site, we added the following features and bug fixes.

  • Improved preview popups for thumbnails
  • Shopping cart support even when javascript is disabled
  • New “Recently Added” RSS link to the search results page
  • Significantly improved page load performance
  • User friendly URLs for card details pages
  • Added backwards compatibility for old card details links
  • 2x zoomed image appear more smoothly
  • Improved search engine indexing for Yahoo and Google
  • Better error page notification so that we can track down bugs more easily
  • Search settings are remembered when using the browser forward/back
  • The View as List/View as Grid option no longer gets out of sync with the search page
  • Improved IE 6.0 compatibility (PNG graphics, search functionality)
  • Search results paging is no longer limited to only 10 pages

We are under active development, and you can expect to see changes and fixes pretty regularly. I hope you enjoy the updates!