One of our users requested that we send out updates about Wesabe via Twitter, so we’re doing just that. We’ll mention new feature releases, bug fixes, and news tidbits that you might like. (And if you haven’t tried Twitter, definitely check it out!)
Archive for March, 2007
Good reading for March 16th:
- SaveDot.com Compare and Save – Wesabe user Zzzarrro found this site, which pulls out Amazon products with deep discounts off of list price. Useful!
- Wal-Mart dropping bid for a bank – Yahoo! News – This story has been in the news for a while, and I’ve been wondering how it would play out. I didn’t think that Wal-Mart would back down.
- Steven Pearlstein – ‘No Money Down’ Falls Flat – washingtonpost.com – If you’re thinking about getting a new-fangled mortgage, read this first.
- His energy bill is $0.00 | csmonitor.com – Piece in the Christian Science Monitor about Mike Strizki, who has reduced his energy bill to zero with a combination of technologies. Worth a read!
- Freakonomics Blog » If Crack Dealers Took Lessons From Walgreens, They Really Would Be Rich – Interesting article about where to get the best prices on generic drugs, and how wide the differences are in price.
Before Jason and I started Wesabe, I talked for a while about starting a company called GripeJuice, which would be a “call-center tool for the other side of the phone” — that is, a tool you could use as a consumer to keep track of your interactions with customer service centers. Basically, it would be a web site where you could go and create a log of customer service calls you make, and record those calls so that you could play them back later. Whenever I’ve had a big dispute with a utility company like the phone company, I’ve always found that keeping a log makes it much easier to get a resolution. “I’ve called you six times and sat on the line for over two hours trying to get this resolved. Isn’t that costing you money?” When things get really bad, sending a log like this can add a lot of weight to a written complaint. I also thought that aggregating which customer service centers did the best for people would be great — if I could see that Sprint hangs up on its customers more than any other cell phone company, say, that would really matter in my decision to use them. (Yes, Sprint has hung up on me more than once, and refused to do jack about it when I’ve complained.)
I decided not to start GripeJuice because I was very excited about Wesabe, and because I thought there were some potential problems with the GripeJuice idea. (Now, I use that analysis as part of my talks for entrepreneurs, because it’s great to have a real decision to explain evaluating an idea.) Nonetheless, I thought there were a lot of great things about the idea, too, and have wished such a service existed.
Fortunately, three Stanford grads have come up with a very similar idea, and have implemented most of what I wanted to do, and things I never thought of. Their site is called 321-CALL-LOG (found via The Consumerist), and it looks like they’ve done a fantastic job making this a real service. Here’s their report on Sprint, for instance, which doesn’t yet show any data, but does show what they’re tracking: number of calls, length of calls, customer’s rating of the call, and how often Sprint disconnected the call. They also provide you with information about getting through the company’s phone tree (like gethuman.com), and a way to create email logs, too. They’ll notarize your logs, so if you’re in a legal dispute, you can have very authoritative records as evidence.
I’m really happy to see the service appear. They’re currently in beta, but I’d love to hear from anyone who has given it a try. I’ll probably use it the next time I have to deal with a call center. If you do, remember to start off the call by telling the call center employee, “For quality customer service, this call may be recorded.”
Good reading for March 8th through March 15th:
- Getting Out of a 2-Year Cellphone Contract Alive – New York Times – There’s some good advice here, but I don’t recommend cellswapper — they’ve been spamming some of the sites I frequent for weeks now, and I don’t give business to people like that. The Consumerist and GetHuman sections are particularly good.
- Electric Orange Account Information Page – ING Direct’s checking accounts are now available to everyone.
- Paperless checking: new to online banking – Bankrate’s interesting review of ING Direct’s new online checking account. This is definitely worth watching.
- Some banks cancel complex card billing – Yahoo! News – The credit card industry is facing questions from Congress in the U.S. Here’s an article about some of the short-term effects. I wonder what the long-term will look like — is this a real change or just a tactic to fend off building criticism?
- Best Airlines For Actually Booking And Using Reward Points – Consumerist – This is a helpful review of which airlines’ frequent flier programs actually create usable flight bonuses for you. Bummer that Southwest and JetBlue aren’t included.
A quick reminder about SXSW — I’ll be speaking on Monday morning, March 12th, at 10:00am, as part of the “Barenaked App – the figures behind the web’s top applications” panel. Please come by and introduce yourself if you’re attending.
Also, Brad and I will both be going to ETech in San Diego to present “Super Ninja Privacy Techniques for Web App Developers,” a talk on all the tools and approaches we use at Wesabe to protect users’ privacy. (Brad wrote up one of those techniques, the “Privacy Wall” technique, earlier.) Also, I’ll be presenting my “Coder to Co-Founder: Entrepreneuring for Geeks” tutorial. ETech is always my favorite conference of the year — if you have a chance, you should register and join us, and again, please come say hi if you’re there.
It’s getting towards tax time (here in the U.S.). Great news, huh? Not so much.
Getting organized for tax time can be a huge pain, so we’ve done what we can to make it easier. If you use an accountant, you can already export your Wesabe data in Excel format (using our CSV export under “Manage your Account”). Every accountant I’ve met supports Excel import. 🙂 But what if you use a tax preparation program, like Intuit’s TurboTax or H & R Block’s TaxCut?
Both of those programs support an import format called TXF, or Tax Exchange Format. We’ve added a TXF export tool to Wesabe, so that you can export your tax-related tags into either program (or any other tax program that supports TXF). We’ve done this by allowing you to assign each tag you want to export to the IRS Form and Schedule where you want it to appear. In either program, you’ll be prompted to import your data as you go through the interview process. You can find the tax export feature by going to the Accounts tab and clicking on “Tax Export” in the left-hand column.
Please let us know how this works for you — after launching it, we came up with a bunch of ideas for improving it in tax years to come, but we want to hear from you. Each year, we’ll make taxes as easy as possible — and if we could get rid of them altogether for you, we’d do that, too.
Good reading for March 5th through March 7th:
- Using the Web to Get the Boss to Pay More – New York Times – Another excellent one from the Times. Transparency leads to efficiency!
- Payday loans under fire, despite changes – Yahoo! News – More on payday loans – I’m glad to see this story getting so much play.
- Without Health Benefits, a Good Life Turns Fragile – New York Times – Another one from the New York Times, talking about how a health problem can cause severe financial distress.
- A Mortgage Crisis Begins to Spiral, and the Casualties Mount – New York Times – The news about mortgage troubles continues to build.
- In debt up to our eyeballs – Upcoming documentary about debt and its effect on consumers.
Last week was a big one for Wesabe. We closed a $700,000 round of funding from O’Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures, (OATV) Mark Fletcher, Freeman Murray and some very supportive angels. One of the things that made this funding so cool is that everyone involved in the deal knows each other quite well (Marc was an entrepreneur-in-residence at OATV and they were the first firm we spoke to when we formed Wesabe). They have watched Wesabe grow from the seed of an idea to a company of nine people, and the team has appreciated their support along the way.
We’re also excited to announce that Tim O’Reilly (of O’Reilly Media) has joined our Board. Anyone who knows Tim can tell you – he’s the real deal. We greatly look forward to his input as Wesabe evolves and see his deep understanding of the social and collective aspects of the web as a real asset.
The money we’ve raised is going to be spent on product development, so please keep sending your suggestions for how we can make Wesabe better.
The Wesabe help system isn’t very good right now. Sometimes I see people coming to our blog looking for answers to questions about Wesabe, and I think some of that information isn’t easy to find. I thought it would help to provide answers to common questions we see in searches.
- wesabe uploader
- We provide a tool to automatically sync your bank data with Wesabe, called the Wesabe Uploader. This is a desktop program (it currently runs on Windows and Mac, and will support Ubuntu shortly) which keeps your bank credentials on your own computer, so that you don’t have to put them into our web site. It will periodically (currently every 12 hours while your computer is on) contact your bank and get an update, and upload your new data to our site. Not all banks support automatic upload, and for ones that don’t, you’ll have to manually upload data periodically (most people find once a week suffices). We’re going through and automating banks based on how popular they are with our users, and we currently have about 75% of the accounts on Wesabe automated. If you have any trouble with the uploader, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you out.
- wesabe csv
- Wesabe allows you to export all of your data in CSV format, which Microsoft Excel and similar programs can easily import. To export your data, sign into Wesabe, click on your username at the top of any page (just below the row of photos), then click “Manage your Account.” You can also export your data in an XML format, which is primarily useful for programmers.
- We don’t currently import CSV data, but we know that many banks, particularly outside of the U.S., only provide CSV export, and I’m working on the ability to import CSV data right after posting this. We’ll launch it as soon as possible, and will announce that feature on this blog.
- personal data bill of rights
- Glad you asked. We have a “Data Bill of Rights” we proposed at last year’s Web 2.0 Summit, and we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback about it. While we wrote it for the needs of Wesabe in particular (background information here), we believe it can and should be adopted by any web site that holds personal data for its users.
- health insurance high deductable
- I wrote about this topic last year, and many people have said that the Google Spreadsheet I posted comparing my health insurance options was a big help. If you are coming to our blog looking for answers on this topic, check out that post and make your own copy of the spreadsheet. We are planning to add features like this to Wesabe, too.
- wesabe split tags
- We do support ‘splits’, which allow you to put one transaction into several categories, with each category getting a part of the total amount. We have a screencast (video tutorial) on this topic if you’d like to learn more. You can divide one transaction into multiple tags like this:
Whole Foods $150.00 Tags: groceries:130 food:130 cashback:20 berkeley
When you look at your ‘groceries’ or ‘food’ tag pages, this transaction will be represented as $130.00. When you look at your ‘cashback’ tag page, it will be shown as $20.00. On the ‘berkeley’ tag page it will show up as $150.00. The number after the colon shows the amount you want applied to that tag. The numbers don’t have to add up to the value of the transaction — you can allocate them however you want. You can also use percentages (food:75%) or fractions (food:3/4) if you’d like.
- wesabe API
- Wesabe does have an API, but we have not yet released or documented it. Currently, the only client for it is the Wesabe Uploader. We are planning to release and document the API soon, and it will be REST-based.
- wesabe delete account
- I’m glad this search is so infrequent! (Only three hits so far.) But, if you want to delete your account, here’s how: sign into Wesabe, click on your username at the top of any page (just below the row of photos), then click “Manage your Account.” On that page is a button to delete your account. Please feel free to drop us a line at email@example.com if you have any feedback about your decision to delete your account.
- wesabe uk
- We definitely support UK users, as well as people from any country who want to join. We currently have banks and credit cards from 23 countries on our site. We support all international currency formats and are happy to add any bank or credit card on request. Our site is currently English-only, but that’s the only restriction we’re aware of, as long as the bank provides data export in OFX (sometimes labeled “Quicken” or “Microsoft Money”), QFX, OFC, or QIF format (CSV coming soon). Just let us know if you want another bank added.
- wesabe bulk tagging
- We support bulk editing or deleting of your tags — just click the “Edit” link at the top of your tag list (next to the “Your tags” header in the right column) in the “Accounts” tab. You’ll be taken to <https://www.wesabe.com/tags/list>. From there, you can change any tag you use, or delete a tag from all of your transactions. We don’t yet have a way to add a new tag to a bunch of transactions, but we’re adding that to the search results page shortly. You can add a tag to a set of transactions if they all already have some other tag — just go to the tag edit page and edit the existing tag (say ‘taxpreparation’) to add your new tag (‘taxpreparation writeoff’).
I hope these answers are of help, and we’ll work on improving the help system by a lot, too.
As we announced on the site earlier, we’re currently down for upgrades. This week brought us a very large number of new users, and we’re expanding the site cluster as a result. We’ll post here as soon as we’re back up. Thanks for your patience!
Update: Maintenance is complete. We’ve sped up the site by a fair amount and expect to have a lot smoother performance. Thanks again.