First Look: TWDB World eBay Typewriter Hunting widget

I’ve been at a loss lately how to get the eBay listing widget that is set up on various places on the desktop version of the TWDB to work on the mobile version. Part of the problem was that getting Javascript to run properly in the DOM-lunacy that is the jQuery Mobile framework is at best, a work of chance – and the output is positionally critical for it to work at all, and the other problem is that none of eBay’s pre-built widgets will gracefully resize in a responsive mobile site.

The solution was essentially “make yer own damn widget”, of course, and so this weekend I signed up as an eBay developer and started parsing through the opaque and version-uncontrolled world of eBay’s programming API. The goal was simple; basically replicate the functions of the basic eBay listing widget in a responsive way that would work with the layout of TWDB Mobile – feed the widget a keyphrase relevant to the page the widget is on (say “Royal Quiet De Luxe typewriter -ribbon”) and get back a nice list with thumbnails and current prices of the listings fitting that query. Easy peasy!

Having done that, I pondered what else I could do with the API. I’ve been working on a rebuild of the whole TWDB (dubbed “TWDB Delta”) using Bootstrap, a framework I recently used on the update, and I wondered if I could format the eBay search results into a nice, attractive slideshow.  I also got curious about how I might be able to parley the API functionality into a really useful tool for hunting typewriters (or whatever) on the various eBays around the world.

After a few hours, the result is this:

twdb-ebaysrc-1Not all that complex yet – it’s just a simple “title” search that builds a nifty slideshow of up to 50 results from any of the 21 regional eBays around the world. Listings are current, and prices are not marked with the currency because eBay’s API doesn’t return the currency symbol, but the price is in whatever currency is standard for that region’s eBay, whatever the heck they use for money there. The links are, like the ebay widgets on the rest of the TWDB, encoded with our affiliate ID, so if you click the result link over to the listing and buy something, the TWDB gets a slice of the fee charged by eBay to the seller, so a couple nickles in the kitty!

Simple as it is, it is a pretty neat way to search every regional eBay for a particular thing all in one place. As a Typewriter Hunting app, it could be made useful with more detailed searching options, and maybe a more informative display than a slideshow, plus maybe a simple search history. I have some more ideas, and I’ll be fiddling with it some more.  Give it a try and let me know if it seems useful enough to flesh it out some more..

also, it’s embeddable! :D

Updated: April 11, 2024 — 12:30 pm


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  1. I love those eBay listings at TWDB – especially so since they send nickles to the TWDB kitty.

    Feature request for TWDB Delta: eBay listings on individual typewriter gallery pages. It’s a nice feature on the mobile site but I don’t see them on the desktop site on those pages.

    1. oh, I can do that on the current version. just not real sure where I could wedge it into the layout. I guess there’s always room at the bottom. :D

      1. Yes – you could run it horizontally across the bottom of the gallery pages.

        I like to visit the TWDB gallery pages with weirder specimens and I always think to myself – “I wonder if I could find something like that on eBay?”

        1. done! 4 of em in a row at the bottom. It’s interesting what machines don’t get results, like “Scheidegger (Keller und Knappich) Princess-Matic”. I wonder how soon eBay sellers will catch on to the fact that matching the TWDB’s model designations will mean more buyers looking at their listings. There’s a word to the wise.. :D

          1. That’s so great. It feeds my little habit, but happily feeds TWDB’s kitty as well.

  2. Interesting!

    Olympia Congress font?

    Honestly, the slideshow isn’t the best way for me to survey results. A more traditional simultaneous listing would be more useful.

    One neat feature would be if the widget could automatically fill in the local word for “typewriter.” You select France and get “machine a ecrire,” etc.

    1. heh, yep, the font is a holdover from the Delta design, I should prolly remove it. Makes no sense to force a font download just for the titles.

      Re: Slideshow, yeah. It’s basically a slideshow now because I wanted to make a slideshow from the results (kind of a yeah, you can thing). updates will include a more parseable display, maybe with magnifiable images and description excerpts. Stuff that allows you to find out more than is usual in ebay searches, without having to go to the actual listing.

      Re: different languages: two issues I can think of off-hand are the possibility that people will want to search for other things than typewriters, and also the ISO characterset issue that would render “machine a ecrire” a useless search because it’s actually “machine à écrire”. (or maybe ebay’s engine can handle characterset mismatches, I suppose I could find out).

      1. You don’t need to bother about accents: on you can search for machine a ecrire instead of machine à écrire, on you can use maquina instead of máquina, etc.

        1. ok, I looked up the appropriate words and added a checkbox. it seems to work in most countries, except for certain Hong Kong (Mandarin) and a few other countries give no results for the appropriate word. not sure why.

          anyway, your wish is my command. (:

  3. TheShyTypospherian

    Phenomenal work as always! The only suggestion I will make is be sure to add a disclaimer saying “use of this may cause debt and/or divorce” :)

    1. ooh, maybe I could use the old disclaimer from SSW, and just change the name to eBay:
      “Exposure to Secret Society Wars before the age of 18 may cause irreparable harm to your health,
      well-being, popularity, self-esteem, intelligence, and may also stunt your growth.
      You should not play Secret Society Wars if you are pregnant or nursing.
      Do not play Secret Society Wars while driving or while operating heavy machinery.
      Playing Secret Society Wars for a prolonged period may result in slurred speech, acute acne, and sensitivity to sunlight.
      If unusual dizziness, swelling, or redness occur while playing Secret Society Wars,
      discontinue use immediately and consult a doctor.
      Secret Society Wars contains one or more substances which are known to the State of California to cause cancer.
      Do not taunt Secret Society Wars.”

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