State bid-call contests should use electronic tabulation, foreign judges

I recently took part in the Kansas Auctioneers Association bid-call contest at the Kansas State Fair. This was my third time competing, having also done so in 2002 and 2006. I’ve also seen other contests, such as the National Auctioneers Association International Auctioneer Championship and the Oklahoma State Auctioneers Association competition.

The NAA IAC this year used a computerized scoring system, with a computer for each judge and a large display that showed the leaderboard. As a contestant finished and left the stage, the display would update before the next contestant began, showing the score as well as the new ranking. A boo or cheer from the crowd would usually accompany both the addition of new leaders as well as the departure of previous leaders from the rankings who were liked by the crowd.

The challenges faced by the local auction contests are many. Kansas, for example, uses paper score sheets from each of its – this year – five judges. These sheets must be tabulated by hand for each contestant, so after each round of the competition, there is a delay between the last contestant and the announcement of the rankings as someone uses a calculator at a breakneck pace. This manual tabulation begs – nay, demands – errors to be made at some point. I know that last year a friend of mine added the scores on his sheets and came up with a number 65 points greater than the sum total written and circled on the top sheet of his stack that was used when ranking the finalists.

Another challenge is always one of politics. With many associations choosing judges from within their ranks, losing contestants seem always to be found grumbling after the awards have been distributed about how political or preferential the judging was that particular year.

How can these challenges be overcome? Unfortunately, I don’t expect that they will be any time soon. The old guard in charge of many of the associations may see a different way as a more difficult or arduous way, even if a different way may actually be easier, faster and fairer.

I’m sure that not every local contest has the budget for change. In fact, I’d wager that the local contests have little if any budget at all, relying on donations for the items sold or mandating that the contestants themselves bring three items. This latter procedure makes the contest even more unfair, affording some more affluent auctioneers the luxury of bringing more expensive items to sell and sounding better for achieving a higher price. I know that I’ve been in contests when I didn’t have much disposable income and was forced to sell things I already owned as I watched others go buy new items to sell.

I’m sure that the software system used by the NAA is expensive. I’m not advocating its use, nor am I advocating the distribution of computers to each judge. I believe a system can be devised that would require only Internet access. This access is already available for those auction contests held at conventions in hotels. For contests held at the outdoor events and fairs, it would merely be something to require from the event staff.

The software part is the easy part. Something as simple as Google Spreadsheets could be used, with each judge sharing the spreadsheet with the scorekeeper so that each judge didn’t have access to the scores of others, but that the scorekeeper or person in charge of tabulation could see the scores from all the judges. As simple as the requirements are, it would be feasible to have a system custom made using that was tailor-made to the association’s requirements and judging criteria. Such a web-based solution could be built in four or five hours. Either Google Spreadsheets or the custom solution would allow for rapid tabulation. From a contestant’s point of view, being able to take a print-out of the performance scores would be an invaluable resource to reflect on how to be better in the future while the performance is still in recent memory.

One added benefit to such a system would be that it would require the rules and procedures to be thought-out and dictated ahead of the competition. It would not allow for late-in-the-game rule changes made after the contest had started as happened in Kansas this year.

Requiring the judges to bring their own laptops would solve the computer problem. The Internet access, should it be deemed too expensive or not possible by the event staff at an outdoor event, could easily be provided through the use of a wireless cell router. Many models are now being sold directly by the wireless carriers.

Finally, using foreign judges, judges who are not a member of the local association holding the contest, would reduce the propensity for contestants to hold questions about the political nature of the scores. The only thing bigger than an auctioneer’s voice is his ego, and being asked to judge a competition in another state would be seen my most as a compliment. The use of one or two non-auctioneer judges would also be something worth consideration, as I often wonder if judges reward the contestants who sound like them or their ideal auctioneer sound and discount those contestants who many not sound ideal but may perhaps annunciate better or have a clearer or faster chant.

I had a great time at the contest this year and I intend to compete in many more, both in Kansas and perhaps at the IAC. I think that by using electronic tabulation and foreign judges, as well as a predetermined and published set of rules that aren’t changed or determined after the competition starts, the local contests can be faster, smoother, easier and fairer.

Do you agree with me? Do I have it all wrong? Let me know in the comments.

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Auction Podcast Episode 2 – A Primer for Advertising Internet Only Auctions

You’re listening to the AuctioneerTech Auction Podcast for the week of 8 September 2008.
AuctioneerTech – Technology, auctions and auctioneers – auction tech for the auction industry

Hello and welcome to the second episode of the AuctioneerTech Auction Podcast, a primer for advertising Internet only auctions. My name is Aaron Traffas.

I received a question a couple of weeks ago from a friend and fellow auctioneer who was looking at the possibility of conducting some Internet only auctions. He asked me about places where he might advertise such an event. I realized that many auctioneers who have no experience with Internet only auctions may not feel comfortable building an advertising campaign. Many times, the advertising strategy for an Internet only auction should be the same as a campaign for an auction with pre-auction Internet bidding or simply a live auction with no Internet participation.

The biggest misconception about Internet only auctions is that an item will sell to someone other than the person to whom it would have sold had you used a live auction. It very well may, but if you move completely from a local advertising campaign to a completely Internet-based advertising campaign, you’re bound to see a big drop in participation. Using the Internet to take bids doesn’t mean that the item will sell to Guam or to Kansas. The Internet is simply an easier way for customers to participate in the auction process than the act of driving and spending time at a live auction, time that customers many times no longer have.

If the assets you’re selling are of general use, then they’re more likely to sell to someone across the street than across the state because of the lower cost in transportation or shipping. If a car is worth $1000 and someone from another state has to spend $200 in time and fuel to come get it, he’ll only spend $800 at the auction. Someone across the street can bid the true $1000 because there’s not really any cost associated with item acquisition. Because it’s logical for the local buyers to spend more, it makes more sense to spend more effort reaching them. Unless you’re selling niche items, make sure you have your local and existing possible buyer base covered before you expand your reach to include farther away customers.

The key is to supplement your existing, local campaign with additional advertising. If your current customers find out about your auctions through paper – brochures and newspaper ads – then you shouldn’t quit using those mediums all together. While it may be an arguably good idea to migrate away from paper ads and postcards in general, doing so only because of an Internet auction will only mean that your existing customers won’t participate.

The first place to advertise your auction and the items in it is on your website. Whatever Internet bidding platform you select, be sure that the auction and all relative information is posted on your website first. This strategy ensures that you simply have to place lead-generation ads in newspapers and other old-media venues with a link to your website rather than an item-level listing which takes up more space and costs more money. In a future episode, we’ll look at the different kinds of Internet bidding providers and the difference between a branded solution that keeps the bidding catalog within your site and a portal solution where you direct the customers to another website that allows the bidding on your items.

Once the users come to your website, do your best to capture their information before pushing them off to your Internet bidding provider. Get their email address. The bigger your email list, the less important other means of advertising become and the less you’ll have to spend on traditional media.

Internet auction calendars are probably the best initial place to post your items. The new NAA auction calendar supports item-level listings, so when you’ve cataloged your auction for Internet bidding you can upload that inventory to the NAA calendar at the same time you upload it to your Internet bidding provider. Other calendars worth mentioning are the calendar for your state association,,, and They don’t support item-level listings yet, but they will syndicate your content to other listings. There are many other auction calendars, some of which scrape content from the calendars I’ve already mentioned. If you know of an auction calendar worth mentioning, let me know in the comments for this episode.

Other possible places to post your listings are and Google AdWords. The latter costs money, but if what you have is fairly specialized it can return much more than you invest. Forums related to the product you’re selling can also be a good place for niche items. If you’re selling an antique tractor, for example, there are several websites with forum sections that specialize in antique tractors. It’s also worth mentioning that if you have specialty merchandise, contact an auctioneer who specializes in that type of asset. I don’t know of an NAA member who wouldn’t help another. The NAA forum, mentioned in episode one, is a great place to post general questions to the NAA membership regarding the marketing of specialty items.

The take-home message is that you should advertise every auction you have, regardless of bidding method, to customers with whom you have a preexisting relationship. They’re much more likely to pay attention to your ads and to purchase from you again. The next most important place to advertise is in venues where someone is looking for items in auctions – namely the Internet auction calendars and the auctions section of the newspapers in the area of the assets. After that, if you still need more, look at places where customers may be looking for items in general – like Adwords and – and try to convince them that an auction is a better place to buy.

That’s it for episode two. The next episode will be a tech roundup, covering many of the smaller stories – including current events and product reviews – from

You’ve been listening to the Auction Podcast from AuctioneerTech. If you have suggestions, questions or comments, or are interested in being a guest, please let me know by going to and leaving a message. You can also post public comments about this or any other episode, as well as find show transcrip s, on the auction podcast page of

Thank you for listening. Now go sell something.

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Auction Podcast Episode 1 – AuctioneerTech

You’re listening to the AuctioneerTech Auction Podcast for the week of 8 September 2008.

AuctioneerTech – Technology, auctions and auctioneers – auction tech for the auction industry

Hello and welcome to the first episode of what I hope will be many podcasts covering technology, auctions, auctioneers and the auction industry. My name is Aaron Traffas and in this first episode I’ll talk a little about the plans for this podcast, it’s purpose, some of the challenges and how I’ll handle them, and end with a little about me. Since this first episode is really about setting the ground rules, I won’t be offended if you want to skip ahead to the meat of episode two, a primer on advertising for Internet only auctions.

It is my goal to spend five or ten minutes each week covering the top stories on I’m going to do my best to try to relate what’s happening today in the worlds of gadgets and software to the worlds of gavels and box lots. I’ll review new services and software, tell you how to use some of the newest gadgets, provide tips on how to build more accessible and usable websites, and discuss marketing theory with regard to all the new venues that the Internet provides us as auctioneers. I have many friends and acquaintances in the auction industry and I eventually would like to ask many of them to join me to discuss some of the things that they do and the products and services that they use, since I don’t have the opportunity to use all of the offerings and products available in a real auction situation.

There are many challenges relating auctioneers to technology. The auction profession is a grand, time-honored profession with many of the greatest auctioneers having never used a computer until very recently. Even those auctioneers who recently began using the Internet may have difficulties relating the new benefits it provides to the profession that has continued to serve them well for decades.

On the other end of the spectrum, many of the new members of the profession have grown up using computers and already have a solid understanding of technology but may be looking simply for better ways to use that technology to help them be better auctioneers.

I’ll try to accommodate all auctioneers on this podcast. The wide range of experiences gives me license to cover just about anything, and indeed I’ll be covering some fairly low-hanging fruit at times because I don’t feel solid about talking about using a product that I haven’t explained in full. However, there will also be episodes where we’ll get into some higher level theory and techniques. As on, when I introduce a new term, I’ll try to throw out a quick definition or explanation and perhaps include a reference for more information in the show notes or at the end of the podcast.

I’m not actively soliciting advertising or sponsors for this podcast. While it seems initially that it will be a significant undertaking in both time and effort, unless it becomes wildly popular I don’t anticipate any out-of-pocket expenses for hardware or bandwidth. I will say that any sponsors I may accept will not be auction vendors. I want there to be no question of impropriety regarding the genuineness of my opinions regarding the topics that we’ll cover here.

I’m a strong believer in the National Auctioneers Association. While this podcast will cover current events and include some how-to episodes, it is not a replacement for the Auction Technology Specialist designation. If you want a solid understanding of how to generate leads, market assets, conduct auctions and build your customer community using modern techniques, from coursework written by many of today’s leading auctioneers in the field of auction technology, I strongly encourage you to enroll in the Auction Technology Specialist course offered by the NAA. You can find out more about this designation, as well as upcoming class dates and enrollment forms, at the NAA website at

Another great resource for information on auctions from auctioneers is the discussion forum offered by the NAA. It’s probably the greatest member benefit and it’s used by hundreds of auctioneers on a regular basis.

About me

Finally, I’d like to provide a little of my background. I’m a proud member of the National Auctioneers Association and the Kansas Auctioneers Association. I have recei ved the Certified Auctioneers Institute, Auction Technology Specialist and Certified Estate Specialist designations from the National Auctioneers Association Educational Institute and I’ve been asked to teach for both ATS and CAI. I’m currently serving on the Technology Committee for the NAA.

I’m a first-generation auctioneer from Sharon, Kan. I began my career in the auction industry while I was in college at Kansas State University in 2001, when I started working at Purple Wave Auction Co. in Manhattan, Kan., developing systems t o better handle the auction merchandise and our ever-changing inventory.

I’ve been involved with every aspect of the auction business, from setting up on-site estate auctions, to floor manager at our consignment operation, to Vice President of the company until the summer of 2007. I’m now VP Technology for Purple Wave, Inc., and I spend my time building the systems that we’re using to scale to multiple locations across the country.

Finally, I would like to mention that the views and opinions expressed on this podcast, like those at, are mine and mine alone or those of my guests, and not necessarily those of Purple Wave, the NAA, or the associated firms of guests I may entertain on this show.

That’s it for episode one. When I sat down to write it I expected to have trouble coming up with enough content, but it seems that wasn’t a problem. Hopefully future episodes will be as verbose.

You’ve been listening to the Auction Podcast from AuctioneerTech. If you have suggestions, questions or comments, or are interested in being a guest, please let me know by going to and leaving a message. You can also post public comments about this or any other episode, as well as find show transcriptions, on the auction podcast page of

Thank you for listening. Now go sell something.

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Proxibid on Chrome

Image representing Proxibid as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

My friend and fellow auctioneer Don Hamit pointed out to me at the KAA auctioneer contest yesterday that the recently-released Chrome doesn’t work with the recently-funded real-time Internet bidding platform Proxibid. I was able to get the Proxibid Bidder App to run in Chrome on XP and Vista. Here’s how to get it, and other Java applications, to run on Chrome.

Java is a browser add-on that functions as a virtual machine. It’s a way for programmers to write code for an interpreted environment which in tern can be installed on multiple devices, operating systems and browsers. Rather than writing specific code for IE on Windows and then starting from scratch to write code on Safari on Mac, a programmer can choose to write an application in Java and have it run in the Java environment on multiple platforms.

Chrome doesn’t work with any current version of Java. In order to get Java applications to run on Chrome, you have to download a pre-release, or beta, version of Java called Java SE 6 update 10 RC.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, the only other difference between Chrome and other browsers I’ve used is that Chrome treats the Java .jnlp file as a download rather than something that can be automatically executed. That only means that you have to open the file once it’s downloaded. I was able to simply click on the file at the bottom of the screen to get it to run in XP. In Vista I had to click the arrow to bring up the menu and then select ‘run’.

If you have other difficulties with Proxibid or find other applications that don’t work in Chrome other than the previously-mentioned Secunia web scan, let me know in the comments.

Posted in services, software | Tagged , , , , , , |

Twitter keeps friends and followers up to date

Twitter logo

Twitter logo

Twitter is a popular social network that can be called micro-blogging.

Think of it as a way to post updates about what you’re doing. These updates can be sent by text message to update your status on Through the use of various plugins, you can incorporate these status updates into Facebook, MySpace, WordPress, Friendfeed and many other websites and website-management systems. I have Twitter integrated with Facebook and my website so that every time I tweet it updates my Facebook status and my website.

You can also use Twitter as a messenger service of sorts, using its ability to send direct messages to other users.

Twitter is simple to use. Simply create an account, enter your mobile number, and Twitter will send a text message to you. When you reply, you’ve authorized your phone so that every time you send a message to that number it will update your Twitter page – this process is called “tweeting” or posting a “tweet”.

You can use Twitter effectively without the text messaging part, but it’s not nearly as fun. They do have applications for all operating systems as well as a Firefox plugin, but nothing seems to be as cool as the phone integration.

As a Twitter user, the two numbers that you grow are “followers” and “following”. “Following” describes those other users to whose updates you subscribe and “followers” describes those users who subscribe to your updates. As of today, the leader on Twitter is Barack Obama who has 76,691 people following him, followed by Digg founder Kevin Rose who has 62,679 followers. I think I have 25. :-[

The take away is that Twitter can be used as a bulk text messaging service. If your followers have device-updates enabled, each time you tweet they will get a text message with the contents of that tweet. Since they can follow you without turning on the phone updates, you don’t know how many people actually get a text message, but if your followers go to they can see your status.

It took me a while to find the value in Twitter. Since the people I initially followed didn’t know me, it kind of felt like I wasn’t involved with the community. Over the last six months that I’ve been using it, I’ve convinced some of my friends to join and so now the updates I receive and send become much more relevant. It’s quite fun and makes quick updates to websites very easy.

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