Archive for May, 2007

Hey buddy, I got a hot tip for you…

May 22, 2007

One day back when I was in school, I was walking to the library and saw a couple of students sitting behind a portable desk. They smiled and asked nicely if I would like a cookie.  I said no without even thinking.  I’m not accustomed to eating food given to me by strangers, so I didn’t even consider the offer.  They looked a bit disappointed for a second and then asked someone behind me if he wanted a cookie and that person said yes.  Walked up to them and got a free homemade cookie and walked on.

A moment later something happened – my brain processed that the sign in front of their folding desk said “Random Acts of Kindness Club.”  “Damn!” I thought. “I could have had a free cookie.”  I like to think now, looking back on it, I didn’t go back for the cookie because I was late for an important meeting (although I can’t remember any meetings that were all that important back then) or I had to an urgent need to study (also highly unlikely).  One thing I do know is that event has stuck with me for years and I’ve thought a lot about free cookies and the people who give them away.

Here’s the thing – I bet the best cookies you ever had you were given for free, and I’m not talking about the ones that someone bought and gave to you – I mean the ones your friend baked and shared with you.  I can’t think of one store-bought cookie that calls to me, but I remember ginger cookies that were baked by a neighbor when I was young that I still wish I could taste again.  My co-founder, Marc, by the way makes great cookies.

I mention this because a couple of days ago a woman called into “Talk to Jason” to find out some information about Wesabe.  And then she did something unusual – she conferenced in her husband.  Couples sharing the responsibility of personal finance is in my experience (five months of phone calls) a very rare, and in my estimation, a very good thing.  We talked about the benefits of the service, and our security and privacy model (things were going well) and then I mentioned that you could get tips from other users…and they very quickly lost interest – they clearly didn’t want to get tips from other people.  They didn’t know or trust the source of the tips and were afraid they might be misled.  While I respect their caution and desire to make good financial decisions, I also felt a bit like the person with a box full of free cookies…and someone walks past without even looking.  “Hey,” I wanted to yell into the phone, “Our cookies are good…you should try them!”

Tips on Wesabe are peer-reviewed.  Our top 10 tips have an average of 10 comments each.  Much like a cookie, I can just look at a tip and tell whether it is good or not…or at least good for me.  And thanks to our members, there are a whole lot of good, free cookies on our site.

New feature: Export Excel, QIF, OFX, OFX2, CSV, or XML from any account page

May 21, 2007

We’ve added a new feature for making use of your Wesabe data. You can now export your data in Excel, CSV, OFX, OFX2, QIF, or XML format, from any one of your account pages.

Export menuA lot of people have told us that they like being able to get their data from their banks and credit cards automatically with Wesabe, and they like having their data cleaned up by other Wesabe users, but they prefer to run reports or keep their budget in Excel. Using Excel export, you can get all the benefits of Wesabe with the added benefit of all the reports and formulas that Excel supports.

Other people have told us they like using personal finance applications for printing checks, managing investments, or other reasons. QIF, OFX, and OFX2 export allow you to take advantage of the benefits of Wesabe while still using any application that supports import of these formats (which is almost all of them). Rather than having to clean up all of your data yourself, upload it to Wesabe and take advantage of our community editing features, and then keep your records in whatever application you choose.

Also, for developers, XML and CSV export allow you to get access to Wesabe data in formats that are easy to use in developing your own scripts and applications. Note, you can download all of these formats by adding the format name as a file extension to any account URL. For instance, if you are looking at:

https://www.wesabe.com/accounts/show/93939

and you want to download an XML version of that data, just send a GET request for:

https://www.wesabe.com/accounts/show/93939.xml

(Yes, this is beginning to look a lot like an API, and we’re going to make it look a lot more like an API soon.) If any data is missing from any format that you need for development, let us know and we’ll add it as soon as possible.

There’s one side-effect of this feature: you can now use Wesabe to convert any data from QIF, OFC, OFX, OFX2, or QFX format, to any of Excel, QIF, OFX, OFX2, CSV, or XML format, all for free. To do so, just upload your source file to Wesabe, browse to the created account and choose a month to export, and then export in your desired format. Along the way, Wesabe will automatically clean up your merchant names, add tags if you’ve set them, and make the file format much more consistent.

Hope you like these! You can find the export options at the bottom of any account page.

Wheaties bookmarks for May 21st

May 21, 2007

Good reading for May 21st:

"When Banks Turn Evil" on MSN Money

May 19, 2007

There’s an article on MSN Money today called, “When Banks Turn Evil,” written by Liz Pulliam Weston. It’s a great compilation of pitfalls in banking fees. Wesabe user haberschmidt and his complaint about Wachovia is mentioned, as is Wesabe user BillM’s recent issue with Electric Orange checking accounts. Definitely worth reading — there’s lots of great advice in the article.

Wesabe on XM Radio today

May 19, 2007

XMAt noon Pacific time today, I’ll be a guest on Mario Armstrong’s Digital Spin, an XM Radio show on Channel 169 – The Power. Earlier this week, Mario also had me on his WEAA 88.9fm Baltimore-area NPR affiliate show, and I had a great time talking with him. If you’re an XM listener, check it out!

Wheaties bookmarks for May 16th

May 16, 2007

Good reading for May 16th:

ING Direct mass-"firing" customers based on credit reports?

May 16, 2007

Is ING Direct running credit checks on all of the customers for its innovative new “Electric Orange” online checking accounts — and booting the people who don’t meet its criteria? In the Smart Banking group, Wesabe user BillM reports that he was signed up for and got an ING Direct Electric Orange checking account, but then was told ING was closing his account based on his credit score:

I received an e-mail from ING yesterday at 4pm informing me that they had obtained my credit score from a consumer reporting agency and had decided to close my Electric Orange account and reduced my overdraft line of credit to $0. […] They had made a decision and had no intention of reversing it, despite the fact that their major pitch in advertising the Electric Orange account was that they would not, in their own words, “Ding your credit with an inquiry”. […]

I got another representative who explained that the institution had recently decided to exercise its right under the disclosure agreement and run credit checks across the board. I assume they decided that they had openened themselves up to a great deal of financial risk by giving everyone who opened an account an open ended $165 line of credit. […]

I have closed my ING accounts and transferred my money to an institution that treats its customers with a little more respect and courtesy than what they afforded me in this situation. I doubt that my little piece of business will make much of a dent in their profitable operation, but I feel an obligation to let everyone know about what I consider to be a dirty, underhanded trick.

The whole thread is well worth a read if you’re considering an Electric Orange account.

ING Direct has long boasted about its policy of “firing” customers in order to keep their costs low. They argue that this allows them to provide better value for the customers that fit its model, while cycling out those that don’t. I’m perfectly fine with any company saying that they do or do not offer a product or service, and it certainly makes sense for a business to focus on their specific products or offerings rather than trying to be all things to all people. But, I think it’s downright dumb to talk about how you’re “firing” your customers (see also here and here for more examples of their anti-marketing), and in BillM’s report, it seems positively underhanded to accept a customer, run a credit check on them after claiming you won’t, and then to boot them unilaterally. That’s a recipe for making people unhappy.

Has anyone else been affected by this?

Wesabe hackers

May 15, 2007

We love it when people build tools for themselves using Wesabe. Excel, for instance, is a great tool for analyzing numbers, and for the people who like and use Excel, it’s great to be able to clean up your data in Wesabe (taking advantage of our community editing features) and then run more sophisticated analyses in Excel.

The world of Wesabe hackers (in the “playful inventors” meaning of the word, of course!) is growing. Here are some recent projects you might find useful:

We love all of these project ideas and we’re happy to help if you have a similar project you want to do.

"Super Ninja Privacy Techniques" in (IN)SECURE Magazine

May 14, 2007

InsecureBrad and I wrote up our “Super Ninja Privacy Techniques for Web App Developers” talk as an article for this month’s (IN)SECURE Magazine, a well-known security publication.

We decided from the outset that, as a startup without the name recognition of a Google or Yahoo, and simply as people interested in providing privacy and security to our users, that we should come up with as many approaches as possible that would help us protect Wesabe users’ privacy.

Many of these techniques are generally applicable. While there is a fair amount of information online for individuals who want to protect their own privacy, we found little for web application developers interested in protecting their users’ privacy; so, we want to document what we’ve learned in hope of making these techniques more common, and developing better critiques and improvements of the approaches we’ve taken so far.

You can download the PDF magazine here. For those of you who missed the talk at ETech or Web 2.0 Expo, check it out.

Wheaties bookmarks for May 11th

May 12, 2007

Good reading for May 11th: