Sunday, December 30, 2012

S.M.A.R.T model

It is time to make a new year's resolution. Assigning goals should be done by S.M.A.R.T model. The first known uses of the term occur in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran. According to the acronym aims must be:
  • Specific: they must tell exactly what is expected and how it will be achieved.
  • Measurables: concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal
  • Ambitious: the aim must be a challenge for you, but at the same time realistic, what leads us to next term.
  • Realistic: is it viable?
  • Time-oriented: to accomplish aim within specific time-frame.

    So put behind us such obvious and dull new year's resolutions like giving up smoking or loosing on weight and let's focus on our day-to-day activity - botting. Assume, that you are making 10 event tickets profit every day and in 2013 you would like to generate 15 event tickets. So, it is 50% raise of profits. It is definately ambitious goal, but viable. However, when you normally have 100 event tickets profit daily and you would like to have 50% raise it would be much more complicated and requiring more effort. How could it be accomplished? For instance, by adding foil cards to your bot offer or by increasing your bot number. Of course, bot doesn't produce every day the same number of event tickets. Every taken action requires some time. If you add one bot to your chain you won't see significant raise in profits on the very next day. One day you may have 2 event tickets profit, another day it may be 20. Personally, I have an Microsoft Excel file where everyday I write down my profits. Then, I can count how many tickets I earn on average and I observe if I'm making any progress. When, the year is about to end I see if I fullfilled my goal or not. Your homework for today is to think about your botting goal for the incoming new year and stick to it!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

MTGO Library Bot 5.50 is out

ML Bot 5.50 has just been released, fixing a problem with the update of the Messages in the Online Control Panel.

The bot (version 5.48 and 5.49) was not able to update the Control Panel with his messages, and was unable to download the messages from the Panel.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Future Proofing: Selling (Part 2 of 2)

Today is Boxing Day.  For those who are not acquainted with this holiday, it is not a day of celebration of the sport of boxing, but rather a day where everyone takes the presents they received on Christmas and returns them to the store and tries to exchange them for something more desirable to the recipient. 

In our continuing series on Future-Proofing, I asked an important question last time: When are YOU getting out of the bot business?  First, let’s go over why this is an important question:

Last time I said that successful people answer questions long before other people consider asking them.  Successful people know when they are going to leave a job before they accept the position.  Successful people know when they are going to sell a car, stock, etc before it is purchased.  When bidding for auctions, successful people know how much they ultimately will bid.   Impulse buyers get caught in the hype and bid emotionally.  The same principle applies to businesses.  Successful people know when they are going to leave the business before they decide to start one.

But when most of us got into this, we were not thinking that way.  When I started, YATbot was the bot I used.  I got into the bot business as a way to get cards so that I would not have to purchase them from bots or WotC.  In this manner, I could continue to play the game without spending any currency.  If I made a profit, well, that was a nice bonus.

Turns out that bonus from YATbot was enough to expand to have multiple copies running and grew enough to make a nice little part time business out of it.

When MTGO v3 came out and it became apparent that YATbot would not be upgraded, instead of simply trying to sell off my inventory for pennies on the ticket, like so many others were doing, I decided to find another bot program, MTGO Library is what I settled on and I am glad found it.

That’s all well and good, but what does this tell us about when to quit the bot business?

This incident told me that I was willing to fight to stay in this business.  Which means that I am not going to want to give this up any time soon.

But I have since drawn up a succession plan.  My wife can run this business.  If my kids get interested, I could pass off this business to them.  If I wanted to sell, I know a few people who could be interested in learning about this business and I could unload that way.  In a sense, this business could go on, even if I am not around to do anything about it.  But that hinges on one final thing, and on that, we will conclude this series on Future-Proofing, next time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Managing your bots from distance Part 1

Managing your bots from distance
Hello everyone, I did not manage to post in the last few weeks as I've been working 80 hours a week and my PC isn't at my living home at the moment. With as little interaction as 15 minutes every 2 days on my bots to tune pricing, settings and so on this gave me the ideal topic to talk about with every bot owner.

Whatever your reasons are, such as holidays, extra work, stress, lack of free time, being away from your MTGO Bots can bring some undesirable effects. This week I will show you the problems we all face when we're away from the PC and possible solutions on how to deal with it.

I will give more details about this in part2, till then enjoy your Christmas day and have a great new year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Chrismas!

Merry Christmas to everyone!
Do you have presents for your relatives? If not, it is high time to got one. Wizards of the Coast has already made special holiday-themed cards as a gift for employees and associates. To see cards from previous years click here.

 And you, were you naughty or nice?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wizards gives 4-pack sealed the axe

If you were with us before, we were talking about how 4-pack sealed has the best return on investment of all limited MTGO and is a great way to build your bot's inventory while also having fun playing.  Wizards is putting a stop to all that on Dec 26, when it cancels 4 pack Sealed queues.  This is just another move that makes it harder for us botters to build inventory while playing.

Think about it.  Thursday Night Magic Online less than a year ago had 3-booster drafts with 0 ticket entry + promo, and sealed queues with bigger than normal prize pools.  Huge return on investment.  Now TNMO uses phantom boosters where no one takes home any product.  And Cube drafts are taking place where no one takes home cards either.  All these modes use tickets only for entry which basically means more money going into Wizards' pockets and less cool cards going in your collection.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Future Proofing: Selling (Part 1 of 2)

With all this talk of the world ending on Friday, at least to those who believe the Mayan Calendar.  One of the unintended consequences of this quirk of time keeping is that many people are taking long views of their lives and asking questions that they had never really considered before.

Some of them are the obvious, the meaning of life, what am I doing with my life, why am I in this relationship, why am I living in this situation, etc.

Couple this with the traditional New Year’s Resolutions that people will inevitably make, stop smoking, lose weight, start a diet, write a book, read more books, etc, there are a lot of questions that are being asked and answers few and far between.

One of the strategies that some do is read what successful people do, and then emulate their thoughts and conduct and hope by osmosis or formulaic behaviors will bring them success.  (I do find it funny that many of these people will not even define success but that’s another story.)

One of the patterns that  separate successful people from those who are not is successful people ask questions:  When buying a stock, successful people answer the question “when am I going to sell this stock”?  This implies a strategy for buying and selling where unsuccessful people will simply open an account and buy stocks not thinking of when they should be sold.

Many people start businesses and never answer the obvious question, “when should I get out of this business which I am starting up?”  Usually the answers are death, forced retirement, or when some random person comes around and makes an offer to buy the business.  As you can imagine, this leads to unsuccessful results.
So, in our series on future-proofing, let’s go over this question: When are you going to leave the bot business?  I will expound on this topic next time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

MTGO Library Bot 5.49 is out

ML Bot 5.49 has just been released, containing a couple of minor improvements over 5.48

Sunday, December 16, 2012

MTGO Library Bot 5.48 is out

The newest version of ML Bot, 5.48, has just been released. It contains a couple of minor fixes.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Starting a Bot From Scratch: Part 1

I'm sure if you are visiting this website you either currently have a bot, or are at least considering starting a bot.   It can be a seemingly daunting task at first, but the rewards will far outweigh the initial work.  I have finally decided to start botting myself, and plan on documenting my experiences for all of you to read!

Starting any project without a plan is usually a bad idea, especially something you are investing your hard earned money on.  Here I want to go over a few things you will have to decide when starting your bot empire

How Much to Invest.

Whatever you decide to invest will affect what you will be able to do with your bot, and how profitable it will be.  The more product you have, the more money you will be able to make.  Essentially if you are buying product at buy prices, it won't be hard to unload them at said prices.  Even if you never sold a single card you would only be out a small percentage of your investment, if any at all.

What to Buy/Sell.

It makes sense to invest the most you can, but I plan on starting small and growing as I become more comfortable with the program.  The best way to start out with a small investment is to only deal in boosters, which according to my calculations could still be very profitable.  The next logical step could just be only dealing in new formats such as Standard, or even Modern.  Buying and selling anything you can make money off of should be the end goal, but starting small and building your collection is the safest way to handle your investment. 

Choosing a Name

The name of your bot could be very important and I considered several things when naming my bot.  Do you want the word "Bot" in its name?  I think that makes it very clear what you are doing, and helps avoid any confusion with the customers.  Adding words like "Buyer" or "Seller" could work as well, just as long as you get the point across.  You also want something short, easy to memorize, and catchy.  Anything to keep your customers coming back and giving you money!  I ended up going with CoolBoosterBot as my name because it meets all of the criteria I considered and more.

In my next post I will talk more about actually setting up the bot, and even some ways to get your bot's name out.

Thanks for reading!
MTGO - AndyBurden, CoolBoosterBot.

Friday, December 14, 2012

MTGO Library Bot version 5.47 is out

ML Bot version.5.47 is out, fixing a number of minor bugs. V 5.47 slightly changes the welcome messages too

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Future-Proofing: Surviving the Apocalypse

If you are reading this today, then we have survived the 12/12/12 apocalypse that was scheduled for today.  (Did anyone have any doubts about it?)  But in our continuing series of future-proofing, let me talk about an apocalypse of a different kind…  instead of a catastrophic event affecting the world, how about an event which affects just you?

Let’s look at how traditional business owners generally operate: The owner spends the first three (3) to five (5) years doing virtually every aspect of their budding business.  Oh, they may hire some help to ease the load but the owner does everything of consequence.  They rarely take a day off, much less do anything like take a real vacation.  All this work ensues a greater possibility of survival for a fledgling business.

After five years or so, the owner is burned out by all the sleepless nights, the stress of growing a business and all the unexpected that occurs, the owner is convinced to hire someone to assist in managing the business.  This gives the owner a chance to take a much needed mental break and a vacation is taken.  Another added benefit is that the owner starts to take a day off here and there. 

When the business owner hires a manager who can run the business in the owner’s absence, this gives a level of stability to the business.  No longer can the business be disputed by an unexpected event because the owner is nowhere to be found.  The manager can handle minor situations.  This is a good thing.

We bot owners need to look at what we do as running a business.  Most of us have contingency plans on how to run our bots should a hard drive crash or a motherboard burns out.  If we use virtual machines, we have backups of their configuration so we can get a bot back up and running quickly.  Some of us even have backup computers just in case.

But what about YOU?  What if you were unable to manage your bots for an extended period of time?  What would happen?  The bots are designed to run 24/7 with minimal interaction so the bots can run fine for the short term.  But once you get past a week, little quirks start to appear.  As much as Windows was designed to be a stable operating system, in my experience, Windows likes to be restarted once a week.

What about changing the settings?  The bot is not able to select cards from a new set automatically.  (Nor should it as we all run our bots differently)  What about changing advertising messages?  (Would you do business with a bot where the classified message reads “Now selling Zendikar!”?)

So what do I do?  My wife checks on the bots status and can restart the bots when Windows has a hiccup.  She knows how to start and stop the VM’s that the bots are on.  But doing this post made me realize that she should know how to change the messages, how to have the bots select cards based the business model I use so when a new set comes out, she can do it if I am unable to.

In the business world, this kind of planning is called long term contingency or a survival plan.  My wife is part of my survival plan.  What is yours?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

MTGO Library Bot 5.46 is out

ML Bot 5.46 disables Aero (the layer of graphical effects for Windows) for Windows Vista and Windows 7.

In fact we found that Aero slows down the performances of ML Bot of a factor 4x. By simply disabling it, the bot runs faster and is more reactive.

MTGO Library Bot 5.45 is out

ML Bot 5.45 fixes a minor crash of the previous version, 5.44

Monday, December 10, 2012

MTGO Library Bot 5.44 is out

Version 5.44 overcomes a severe bug of Magic Online.

If someone opens a trade with your bot (but in general with your account) when you are logging in, Magic Online displays the usual "trade request window" but immediately logs you into the game, in fact hiding the window. At this point your account is no more able to receive trades - it will appear as constantly "in trading", even if it is not. In a nutshell, your account will be locked and unable to trade, until Magic Online restarts and you pass the login screen without bizarre trade requests.

ML Bot addresses the bug in two ways:

  • it closes the "trade request window" when appearing during the login. This has been proven to avoid the lock.
  • if no trade occurs in 45 minutes, the bot restarts Magic Online, assuming it is locked and it was unable to prevent it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Magic Online PTQ - Dragon's Maze

Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze will take place May 17-19, 2013 in San Diego, USA. Qualifiers for Pro Tour Dragon's Maze in MtGO start on December 23, 2012 and run until March 17, 2013. In total it is going to be 16 events in Sealed Deck (4) or Modern Constructed (12) format. Every event has a limit of 1024 players. The top8 is draft, 3 rounds, single elimination. The winner takes Pro Tour Dragon's Maze Invitation, Pro Tour Dragon's Maze Challenge Invitation, 1 complete premium foil set, and 54 Booster Packs.

Modern is a quite healthy format. Meta is diversified. However, you will see more often a Jund deck around. Last unbanning of Valakut showed that the ban list was created too rashly. There are several cards which wouldn't affect much on current meta. Remember how good Hypergenesis decks were in old Extended? Me neither. Golgari Grave-Troll? Seriously? Is its dredging power that much better than Stinkweed Imp. Glimpse of Nature is banned and it probably doesn’t need to be. Wirewood Symbiote and Priest of Titania aren’t even in the format! What is more Green Sun's Zenith is banned so Glimpse is not a broken at all. There are more examples. I think WotC noticed it too and in near future will be slowly and gradually unbanning cards.

There is a very clear trend here: WotC is promoting Modern Constructed. These days only Standard, Block Constructed, Pauper and Modern events are firing in MtGO. No love for Classic or Legacy. But it is going to change when it will be a little bit closer to Legacy GPT.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

MTGO Library Bot 5.43 is out

The new version of the ML Bot, 5.43, has just been released. It fixes a minor bug of the "wishlist" Buying mode (when the wishlist is used to select the cards). The bug consisted in the inability for the bot to remove unneeded cards from the "You Get" column, resulting in overbought items.

Future-Proofing: Intellectual Property (Part 4 of 3)

From the comment section:

Milagre:  Hi. I follow your blog and i was wondering could the legal action against WOTC be connected to the ebay ban on MTGO card sales?

The short answer is no.  But I suspect you’d like a detailed explanation.

[1] Wildcat’s lawsuit is based on a patent for online card games.  The Ebay ban is on digital objects.  The Ebay ban is not just limited to tickets or online cards.  If you look on Ebay, you will not find items for World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Guild Wars 2, or any other online game.  (You’ll find the games themselves, but not any of the items found inside the game.)

[2] I did a series on Ebay auctions a couple of months ago, where I postulated that Ebay was taking down these auctions as protection against copyright and patent lawsuits.
[3] I suspect there is more to Ebay banning digital items than simply copyright violation protection.  What could that be?  Sales tax.  Let me explain.

Here in the United States, there is talk of the fiscal cliff and how the US will fall into it if some deal is not made.  As we all know, there are two (2) ways to balance a budget: reduce spending (Not likely with the re-election of President Obama) or increase revenue.  This means raising taxes, seeking out revenue enhancements, increased fees, or whatever politicians wish to call them.  It means more money into the Treasury.

One of the ways that has been proposed is an Internet sales tax.  This has cropped up every now and then so the idea isn’t new.  It is just that there is so much opposition that it is politically unpopular and no politician who wishes to be re-elected will vote for this. 

But there are other ways such a tax could be levied.  One of the proposals was on the sale of digital items.  As you can imagine, this has far-reaching implications, even for us.  Diablo 3 was to have a real money auction house; where you could purchase digital items for real world cash.  As controversial as this is, Blizzard had plans to do this.  But even the mighty Blizzard buckled at the legal quagmire that would ensue.  For instance, is a digital item new or used?  I don’t mean just in the pedestrian way, but in the legal sense of when the tax was imposed on the item.
These and many more questions need to be answered and will eventually be addressed by the US Supreme Court.  But this is many years away and will not affect us bot owners for the foreseeable future.