Massive Rewrite in Google Maps V3!

Well, I did it. I finally got around to rewriting PadMapper in a newer version of Google Maps.

I’m probably one of the last developers on the planet to upgrade to Google Maps v3. Why? Well, I really, really liked Google Maps v2. That, and I wrote more extensive v2 code than most, and many of the features I had been using weren’t added to v3 immediately (or at all, in some cases) so upgrading was particularly daunting for me.

But that’s why a lot of the visual styling just changed. Also, if there are any bugs that have cropped up, please let me know! (padmapper@gmail.com).

The upgrade brings with it some neat features and refinements that I found time to toss in, or that v3 offered.

First, I could finally add the official Google mass transit overlay, which is a lot cleaner/neater than my old one. If you ever used it, you know that mine looked like a kid drew it with crayons on top of a nice Google map.

Second, for those of you with car storage anxiety, I added the ability to overlay parking lots on the map, which you should be able to call up and ask about rates by using the linked Yelp pages.

Third, there’s the elevation/terrain map in the upper right corner.

And finally, My Places now includes four transit types: Mass Transit (new!), Bicycling (redone to be more accurate), Driving, and Walking. This should help people like me who don’t really like dealing with having a car get a sense of how far things actually are.

Hope you guys like the changes!

Happy hunting!
Eric

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Good night, sweet PadMapper Bar

Craigslist has decided to make it impossible for the PadMapper bar to function with their listings, so now, those listings won’t have the PadMapper bar on them. Sorry everyone. If you want a consistent experience, you can filter out Craigslist listings by clicking Show More Filters and looking to the bottom to see the source filters.

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Neat Rental Analytics

Every so often, I get requests from researchers for rental data/statistics to analyze, and they frequently yield some interesting papers and visualizations.

One of them just posted some great visualizations of median rents and rent distributions that she extracted from some PadMapper data. She seems to have been more rigorous with her assumptions than most infographic makers looking for pageviews typically seem to be, so it’s worth a look. And it’s just plain interesting.

Here’s a geographic (and interactive!) map-based breakdown of median rents

A violin plot of the distributions

And the associated blog post for the geographic breakdown

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Vacation Rentals!

You may have noticed a small addition to the filter box – a little checkbox called “Vacation”. It’s probably temporary, but for now that will let you filter for/filter out nightly/weekly vacation rentals. The prices are still quoted by the month, though, so if you see any outrageously expensive seeming places, that might be why.

I’m thinking about doing something more specifically tailored to the vacation rentals to replace the little checkbox, because the current search interface isn’t a great fit for them – for example, date availability is a pretty basic part of searching for a vacation rental, and monthly prices, while nice for their consistency with the rest of the site, are not usually what people care about in a vacation rental. So, I have more work to do. But for now, I thought it would be interesting to include them and see whether people found that useful.

If you have any feedback or notice any issues that probably aren’t things I just haven’t gotten to yet, please send me email at padmapper@gmail.com

Happy hunting!
Eric

PS: Lots of people I talk to don’t seem to realize that CL is back in the results, so spread the word! In other news, the lawsuit with Craigslist is still ongoing.

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How to Solve Crappy Cell Phone Reception at Home

The following is a post mostly written for me by the folks at UberSignal.com, who sell cell phone reception boosters. They didn’t pay me anything to post this, I just thought it was useful because this has been one of my issues with my place, hopefully you find it useful too.

Everyone has a list of “deal breakers” when searching for a new apartment. These can include from price, storage space, windows, and many times, cell phone reception. While you can’t change many of these items, poor cell phone reception is actually one which can be solved. We’ve put together a list of options for ways to improve cell phone reception and make it that much easier to find your perfect place.

1. Jump Ship

The first option is the most straightforward, and that is to switch cellular carriers. If you’re not in a contract and another carrier provides better service in your apartment, switching carriers might be the easiest way to solve your signal problem. Unfortunately, most people in the US are in multi-year contracts, which cost a pretty penny to break, so this isn’t always a great option.

2. Femtocell

The second option is a device which the cellular carriers sell or give away themselves, called a femtocell (also known as a microcell). A femtocell is a device that looks like a wireless router and acts like a mini cell phone tower right in your apartment. It connects to the broadband Internet connection in your apartment, and it routes all of your calls through the Internet, rather over the cell tower network. In the past, some customers with exceptionally bad reception were able to get a femtocell for free, but that happens very rarely these days. Femtocells may also help with reception problems related to cell tower congestion, rather than just signal strength issues.

A femtocell could be a great solution, but there are some downsides to be aware of. The device requires a fast and reliable Internet connection, so it won’t work if you have a slow or spotty connection. Most femtocells have a built-in GPS receiver to ensure that it’s being used in the authorized location, so you’ll often need to place the femtocell near a window to receive a GPS signal. Lastly, since femtocells are sold by your carrier, you may not qualify for one, depending on your location, proximity to neighbors, and other factors.

If everyone in your apartment has the same carrier and you have a reliable Internet connection, a femtocell could certainly be the solution to your cell phone signal troubles. To find out more about femtocells and if they’ll work for you, call your cell phone carrier, or check out one of the following:
AT&T: www.att.com/standalone/3gmicrocell/

Verizon: http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/device/network-extender

Sprint: http://now.sprint.com/airave/

T-Mobile: Does not offer a microcell. Instead, their phones offer calling over wifi, essentially VOIP. If you can’t use wifi and you threaten to switch, they sometimes offer a discounted Cel-Fi signal booster. This can be seen (but not obtained) here: http://support.t-mobile.com/community/phones_data_devices/t-mobile/signal_booster

3. Signal Booster

The last solution is a cell phone signal booster. Instead of creating a new signal like a femtocell does, a cell phone signal booster amplifies an existing cell phone signal so that it’s strong enough to cover your entire apartment. It works by taking an existing cell phone signal from a nearby good location, such as outside your apartment, boosting it and rebroadcasting it inside. Installing a cell phone signal booster is a little more difficult than a femtocell, but it has some advantages that may make it worth the effort.

The major advantage of a cell phone signal booster is that it can amplify the signal of multiple carriers at the same time, unlike femtocells which only work with a single carrier. This may be important if you have other people in the apartment with different cell providers, or frequently have visitors over that need to make calls or have 3G data access. Additionally, a signal booster does not require an Internet connection to function. Finally, when you purchase a cell phone signal booster, it’s not regulated by a third party, so you’re free to place it wherever you’d like in your apartment without it being monitored.

While signal boosters do have some benefits over femtocells, they also have some disadvantages. As the name implies, a signal booster will only work if there is an existing signal to amplify. If you get a good enough signal by a window to make a call or reliably send a text message, a signal booster should work, but any less and you’ll find it ineffective. Small signal boosters will be in the same price range as a femtocell, but if you have a larger apartment or a house, it’s likely that a larger signal booster will end up being more expensive. Signal boosters require the outside and inside antennas to be far enough apart so that their isn’t any feedback between to the two (think of holding a microphone too close to a speaker) which can make installation more difficult, especially if you need to put an antenna on your building’s roof to get enough separation or a decent signal. Finally, with the introduction of 4G, choosing the best signal booster has become more difficult. A standard dual-band signal booster will work for most carrier’s 2G and 3G networks, but the new 4G networks use completely different frequencies so if you need 4G data signal boosting in addition to phone calls, you’ll need a booster specific to your carrier.

Cell phone signal booster systems will vary based on how large of a space they can cover, the frequencies they support, where you can mount the external antenna, and so on. To find out more about cell phone signal boosters for your home or apartment, contact a provider like us (UberSignal.com) that can answer any questions you might have and help you choose the right solution for your needs.

Having a reliable cell phone signal in your home or apartment is important for day to day living, and hopefully one of these options can help you out if you have poor signal currently. If you’ve had success with one of these options in the past, we’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

[Editor's note: Landlines can be a decent last resort :-) ]

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Bringing Craigslist Back

I’ve been wrestling with whether to bring back Craigslist listings in the search results. I’ve found a way to include them that I’m told is legally kosher since it doesn’t touch their servers at all, but it still seems somewhat dickish to go against their wishes in this, and I’ve always had a lot of respect for what they’ve done for the world. Also, court seems like it’d be no fun.

But then I did some back of the envelope estimates of how much of people’s time and effort it would waste if I didn’t, and it became clear how much less nice it is to waste the time of millions of apartment hunters out of stubbornness or some clearly inaccurate assumption about the will of the community. If it takes half of PadMapper’s millions of monthly users 3 hours longer now to find an apartment, that’s over 350 man-years wasted per month, or 5 lifetimes. That really pisses me off. Apartment hunting is an activity which, unless you enjoy it or it teaches you something, adds no value to the world, and should be over as quickly as humanly possible so that you can get back to doing other, more productive things.

So, effective as soon as I can bring the new code up (almost certainly by the time you read this), I’m bringing the Craigslist search results back. This will be courtesy of the fine folks at 3taps, who provide an API for data about Craigslist postings that they gather via indirect means and so aren’t subject to CL’s Terms of Use. It’s not nice of me to do from Craigslist’s perspective, and I’d really love to just work with them to solve these problems, but my conscience is clear. I’m still going to send all traffic back to them and all that jazz.

Thanks to everyone who sent them letters, there were a surprisingly large number of you. I was a bit depressed that there didn’t seem to be much of a response from them, but it was pretty incredible to see the outpouring of support (still ongoing), and I really appreciate you all taking the time out to help out with this.

Happy hunting, everyone.
Eric

Update: Edited for language, it was immature of me to curse, sorry.

Update2: There seems to be a lot of confusion, so I should clarify that CL’s legal claim was about their TOU, not about copyright, since PadMapper isn’t reposting the listings, only summarizing bedrooms, bathrooms, price, etc. and linking to the original to read more. Using 3taps just makes it so it’s not a TOU issue.

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Help Replenish Landlord Listings on PadMapper using PadLister

A couple years ago, when I thought seriously that Craigslist might ask me to remove their listings and that I should have a backup plan, I created PadLister for listing directly on PadMapper. Over time it started to seem like CL was probably OK with PadMapper, so I haven’t pushed PadLister at all except for a little link on PadMapper. Many of you are now asking me about direct listing options, so it seems like I should let everyone know about it now.

With Craigslist gone, PadMapper is likely missing a lot of the best sublet/small landlord options, so I’d really like to get small landlords to list directly.

So, if you or anyone you know wants to find a tenant, let them know that they should post on PadLister (they should also post on Craigslist – PadLister helps with that, actually). By doing that, they’ll get the almost-undivided attention of lots of PadMapper’s millions of searchers, and they’ll get to use PadLister’s handy features for managing the search for a tenant. It’s a free service.

http://www.padlister.com , or go to PadMapper and hit the “Post a Pad” link.

It’d obviously be better if PadMapper just got Craigslist back, so hopefully Craigslist will change their mind or improve their apartment searching interface soon, if that’s what prompted this, but with peak apartment hunting season upon us, I’d like to give you guys as many tools as possible and make PadMapper useful again quickly. Help spread the word to every landlord you know! They’ll get a lot of free advertising, and the more listings there are, the better PadMapper will be for everyone.

Thanks everyone for your overwhelming support in this, I’ve gotten hundreds of emails about this, most of them extremely nice. I’ve been trying to reply to as many as I can, but I apologize if I don’t get to yours, they’ve come in faster than I’ve been able to respond.

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Emails/Letters to Craigslist

Thanks everyone for writing so many emails and letters to Craig and Jim of Craigslist! No response yet from Craig and Jim, but that’s possibly because it’s been the weekend. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a great letter from a PadMapper user named Jeff Standard.

Missed Connections: M 4 PM

Me: Starving student with gleam in his eye trying to make his way for the summer at a Silicon Valley startup. 6ft, athletic build, loves to use online tools such as padmapper.com to effectively ensure he isn’t homeless this summer.

You: Savvy proprietors of the world’s best informal apartment and sublet listings (among other things) website. You realize the value that Padmapper and other tools add over the rudimentary Craigslist interface. You also support entrepreneurs who are looking to improve the lives of others by building a personalized, efficient way to track listings at your website, sending you additional traffic.

I saw you on the internet a few months ago before you filed a Cease and Desist letter. I was struggling to land an internship out in the Bay. You smiled at me and I smiled back, but then you left with some other guy. I hope you’ll return and realize the usefulness of Padmapper and how great an opportunity it is for Craigslist listings to be included. Hope to sit down for coffee and potentially something more substantial.

· Please do contact this poster with agreements or disagreements with statements to help clarify his understanding

UPDATE:
I’m bringing Craigslist listings back! Here’s the blog post.

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Bye Bye Craigslist :-(

It’s with a heavy heart that I must announce that PadMapper is no longer including Craigslist rental listings – they’re currently being wiped from the search index. I recently received a Cease and Desist letter from Craigslist, and wasn’t able to get a meeting or convince Craigslist’s lawyer that PadMapper was beneficial to Craigslist and apartment hunters in general. They allow mobile apps to display their listings if you buy a license from them, but not websites.

If you or any of your friends that PadMapper has helped would like to weigh in and tell them how PadMapper has helped you search through Craigslist, you can contact them at:

jim@craigslist.org – Jim Buckmaster, CEO
craig@craigslist.org – Craig Newmark, Founder

If you do contact them, please, please keep it civil. Perhaps if they see how many people PadMapper has helped, they’ll be willing to consider changing their minds.

PadMapper still has a lot of other sources, I’ll be adding more, and I’ll keep mapping pads, but it’s a sad day for pad mapping and apartment hunting. Craigslist is a really important source of apartment listings, and I hope we can get it back someday.

Thanks everyone,
Eric ☮

UPDATE: Many of you have asked me how you can post to PadMapper now that Craigslist is gone. I just posted about PadLister, a completely free way to post directly to PadMapper. I still want to get Craigslist back on there, but in the meantime, it’d be great if you guys could encourage any landlords you know to post their vacancies on PadLister as well (they should, of course, continue to post on Craigslist). Alternately, you can post to Oodle, RentalHomesPlus, Rent.com, ApartmentFinder, or one of the more local sources PadMapper picks up. Of these, Oodle is also free.

UPDATE 2:
If your area is looking empty without CList, you may want to enable Rent.com’s listings to show up. Look under “Show More Filters” and check that on if it’s not.

UPDATE 3:
I’m bringing Craigslist listings back! Here’s the blog post.

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Reordering Favorites

It’s a pretty basic feature, but you can now reorder your favorites list by clicking and dragging! This should allow you to order your list by priority, by dog vs. no dogs, living with a roommate vs. not, or however else you want. Hope you guys like it!

Happy hunting!
Eric

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