Market Tree

Welcome to the blog for Market Tree, the new web site for buying and selling goods and services in the UK

Tag: E-commerce

Oh no, we don’t have a blue background

What a crisis: the pages of our web site do not have a pale blue background! Of course, many web sites have such a background nowadays.

Is it bad news that we don’t? Do we not ooze a sense of warm trust even if we are not blue? We do not happen to think that this is a disaster, but who knows. Perhaps we are dead wrong. (What’s wrong with good old black text on a white background anyway? Is this now passé?)

What do you think? If anyone has any views on the matter, please comment.

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Daily and weekly E-mail subscription service restored?

Automattic WordPress’s daily and weekly E-mail subscription service seems to have been restored. This means that this and future posts to our blog should result in subscribers receiving a new post notification via E-mail.

WordPress Support have not yet given the promised update to this issue, so either they are still working on it, or else they have fixed it and just not informed us as promised (or worse, they they have stopped working on it without having fixed it).

It’s a small Christmas gift, but we are not complaining!

We are awarded G-Cloud 4 framework supplier status

Our fixed-price and auction marketplace service has now been awarded supplier status in the government’s new G-Cloud 4 CloudStore. This will allow all public sector organisations – both national and local – to follow a much-simplified EU-compliant procedure to select Market Tree for their E-commerce needs (for example: to dispose of surplus assets via fixed-price sale or auction).

The founder of Market Tree, Ian Marshall, says:

The award of supplier status to the government’s cloud computing store called ‘CloudStore’ will allow us to supply public sector organisations with an easy way to dispose of surplus stocks and assets, and so release public money for more effective use elsewhere.

The use of cloud computing allows customers to focus on what they need to do, and removes completely the need to install and maintain computer software on individual computers – be they desktop PCs, laptop PCs, tablets or smartphones.

BACKROUND INFORMATION

What is G-Cloud?
The government’s G-Cloud programme aims to deliver fundamental changes in the way the public sector procures and operates Information Technology (IT). Suppliers can apply to offer their services using cloud computing (or otherwise for certain specialist services), and public sector bodies can then search these services using G-Cloud’s CloudStore.

The G-Cloud programme allows suppliers to pre-qualify their services under European Union (EU) public procurement rules and thus enables public sector customers to buy services more easily – without having to follow a full EU tender procedure.

These services require approval before being published in the CloudStore. (“Approval” here does not imply that the service fits a customer’s performance, quality, price and other criteria, but it does mean that it matches various general pre-qualification requirements.)

Why G-Cloud 4?
Each supplier’s service offering is governed by a contractual framework agreement. There is a maximum time that any given framework agreement contract can be valid. Therefore, suppliers’ offerings can be extended beyond this maximum time by the process of having separate contracts: one for each G-Cloud version. The latest version opening now is version N°4 – hence “G-Cloud 4”.

Public cloud first
The government has introduced a Public Cloud First policy mandate for central government departments. They are now required to consider public cloud first in any IT procurement, and the wider public sector is strongly recommended to take the same approach.

In practice this means that when considering procurement of new or existing services, central government departments must have considered and fully evaluated potential cloud solutions before they consider any other option. In addition to this, central government departments are also required to:

  • develop plans detailing how and when they will shift each aspect of their IT portfolio to cloud computing services
  • review and revise their IT portfolios to fully take advantage of cloud computing services
  • consider and discount potential cloud solutions first before they consider any other option
  • share the above openly with the public sector to help build a reference library of good practice.


What does all this have to do with Market Tree?

Market Tree’s fixed-price and auction marketplace service has been admitted to the new G-Cloud 4 CloudStore. We can now supply our E-commerce service to the public sector the easy way: by using our service, which is a cloud computing service and which is pre-qualified under EU public procurement rules.

Sticking to what you do best

We have heard the news of the death of the economist Ronald Coase. Who? Well, one of his key works was an essay in 1937 entitled The Nature of the Firm.

In the words of an editorial  in a recent issue of The Economist:

And he set a test that every boss still has to answer: what does their firm do that cannot be done more efficiently elsewhere?

We try to adhere to the spirit of this thought. For example: we decided that it would be far better to use Automattic’s expertise to run our blog using their WordPress service rather than write a computer program/application to do it. This freed us to concentrate on what we can do better than others: offer a refreshingly new approach to an electronic exchange or market place.

Daily and weekly E-mail subscription service twitching into life

We have noticed intermittent E-mail notifications for our blog and other blogs hosted by Automattic WordPress.

We cannot yet declare this issue fixed – not least because WordPress have yet to do so!

We’ll keep you posted….

Daily and weekly E-mail subscription service is down

We have discovered that Automattic WordPress’s daily and weekly E-mail subscription service is down. This means that this and future posts to our blog may not result in subscribers receiving a new post notification via E-mail.

We shall let you know on this blog when service is restored.

Brain puzzle

A challenge
We saw the following brain puzzle in the June 2013 issue of Engineering & Technology. Can you work the answer out? As a bonus, can you work it out using the statements from less than all four people?

 

The puzzle: who stole the coins?
When your back was turned, someone stole all the coins.

Apart from yourself, there were four people in the room, any one of whom could have taken the coins.

They agree to let you find out who did it by logic. Each of them must make three simple statements, two of which must be true and one of which must be false.

John says “I didn’t take the coins. I have enough cash. Mary stole them.”

Kevin says “I didn’t take the coins. I have never stolen anything in my life. Mary stole them.”

Liz says “I didn’t take the coins. I know who did take them. John has plenty of cash.”

Mary says “I didn’t take the coins. Kevin took them. John is innocent.”

Assuming it is true that each made two true statements and one false statement, who took the coins?

Big bad wolf

I recently saw the Schumpeter article entitled “Too much of a good thing” in The Economist magazine of 8th June 2013 (http://www.economist.com/news/business/21578990-leaders-need-learn-beware-their-strengths-too-much-good-thing). The extract I particularly like is:

Richard Branson has turned Virgin into a global brand by relentlessly exploiting his two biggest strengths: his ability to take on “big bad wolves” – firms that are overcharging and underserving the public – and his talent for infusing Virgin with a counter-cultural personality.

I like to think that we too are taking a “big bad wolf” on (we all know that I am talking about EBay), which is overcharging their customers – both individuals and businesses. Whether this wolf is bad or not, I’ll leave for others to say. But they are big, and they do overcharge their customers.

But hope is not lost; there are alternatives to EBay.

Here endeth today’s lesson.

46 000 lines of code

Our buying and selling service is handled by just over 46 000 lines of computer code. This number will get larger as we add more features to our service.

“So what?” you might ask, or “Who cares?”, or even “What is code anyway?”. If you want to know what computer “code” is, then read on….

Computer code is just another name for computer commands or instructions in a computer program or application that tell a computer to do something. Below is an example of a simple computer method (a certain lump of code), written in the Java programming language, which adds up all the whole numbers from 1 to whatever number is specified.

Before you dive in, I just want to give you a very quick introduction to Java code.

  • The “//” characters are comment markers. Anything from these characters to the (right-hand) end of the line are ignored by the computer. These comments are for software developers to remind them what is going on – and here as a guide for you too.
  • The “{” and “}” brace characters group related lines of code together.
  • Most commands end with a “;” character.
  • A command like “int nSum = 0;” does two things; it declares a variable called “nSum” which stores an integer number, and then it sets this variable to store the value 0.

Okay, here’s the code:

// If n is more than zero then sum all the integers between one and n inclusive
// and return this sum.
// If n is less than or equal to zero then return zero.

public int sumWholeNumbersUpTo(int n)
{
  int nSum = 0;         // Declare and initialise our sum to zero

  int i = 1;            // Start counting from one
  while (i <= n)        // Do the next four lines if we have not finished yet
  {
    nSum = nSum + i;    // We add the value of the counter to the sum
    i = i + 1;          // We increase the counter by one
  }                     // We go back to the "while" line

  return nSum;          // Tell the outside world the result
}

If we use this code by executing the following line (of code):

  int m = sumWholeNumbersUpTo(3);

we will find that the variable m is set to 6, which is 1 + 2 + 3.

Well, how was that for you?

How many lines of code are there for the “sumWholeNumbersUpTo(…)” method? Ignoring the 3 blank lines (put in to improve readability) and the 3 lines that are just comments without any computer instructions, we have 11 lines of code. More code will be needed (at least 1 line, as we have done above to get the result of 6) to use the method to actually work values out or do other useful stuff like talk to our database or interact with service users.

The number of 46 000 lines of Market Tree code excludes over 8 000 blank lines and more than 14 000 lines of nothing but comments.

Well, we hope that you have learned something interesting today!

Business ethics

As the founder of Market Tree, why do I want to talk about the ethics of business?

Well, I would not be happy to promote a product or service which I did not consider to be beneficial to potential consumers. I am satisfied that our on-line trading service is a good one. It can and will be made even better but, as a former efficiency engineer, I know that anything can be improved and made better (or made cheaper instead – but that’s a value-for-money debate which we could have another time).

Just as the London Stock Exchange is ceding trade to nimbler stock exchange platforms in London that are faster and cheaper, so we offer the Market Tree on-line trading service as a simpler and cheaper service than that of the current dominant provider.

Our effective trading platform is here. I am happy to offer it and still sleep soundly at night.