One of the best programmers I know is selling a web application on eBay, that he’s been developing and running for the past three years. Given the starting price and considering what one lucky person or company will walk away with, I must say, it’s an amazing deal. I’m writing about his auction here so that I can help it get the proper exposure it deserves and because I think it’s an incredible bargain for anyone who is interested!
BlogBabel, the aforementioned site/web app, is a blog indexing and aggregation service that began in 2006. Amongst its features are the ability to detect and show the most popular blog discussions, weekly posts, books, videos, and even popular blog entries based on their location (through geotagging). It also features leaderboards of the most popular blogs.
Its codebase uses Python and Django, and consists of 27,359 physical lines of code (roughly equivalent to 6.46 person-years, according to sloccount). The R&D alone makes this application worthwhile to an interested party.
At this stage, BlogBabel has an Italian interface (located at it.blogbabel.com) and aggregates almost 15,000 Italian blogs and 5 million posts. Changing the interface to make it an international project that’s available in several languages, or switching to English (solely), would not be challenging in the least (they used to run a Spanish version as well, for example, but decided to discontinue it so as to focus on the Italian one).
BlogBabel has been featured in the mainstream Italian media and has had a noticeable influence on the Italian blogosphere. One could argue that it has been the yellow pages of the Italian blogosphere. Because of this, Ludovico Magnocavallo (the site’s creator) received substantial offers to buy BlogBabel in the past, but he turned them down because he wanted to continue building this site. Now however, due to personal circumstances and lack of time/resources, he’s willing to sell this application for what may amount to far less than its true value. And here’s the real bargain, the starting price, without a reserve, is 4,999 Euros. This is of course, a ridiculously low price for the value being offered. But Ludovico believes in letting the market decide.
If I had the funds lying around, I would buy it myself and gear it towards the English speaking world (in conjunction with the pre-existing Italian version). It’s a prepackaged, virtually ready-made startup with a great deal of potential both in its current state and in terms of what it could grow to become.
To recap, the auction includes:
The domain name blogbabel.com (it.blogbabel.com has a pagerank of 6);
The full codebase (almost 30,000 lines of code);
A database containing 3 years worth of data relating to the Italian blogosphere (more than 30 GB, lots of data-mining opportunities);
4 hours of work to help you with setting up the site on your own servers.
BlogBabel has been running smoothly for three years, and is currently under-marketed. Optimizing ads, affiliates, and similar sources of revenue wouldn’t be hard at all, especially if one were to aim this site at the English speaking world.
Also, Ludovico has already implemented most of the code that’s necessary to allow users to have accounts (through OpenID), but since these “social features” are not fully implemented yet, they have not been deployed in production. A buyer could decide to disregard them or finish implementing them and roll out a technorati-like service. The winner of this auction could decide to implement support for Twitter, comments on social networks, sentiment analysis, etc, on their own. The possibilities are really limitless when you start with a solid engine and crawler, and already have a great deal of data at your fingertips.
I know Ludovico and he’s a stand-up guy. If you are interested in this great deal, you can bid here. If you have technical questions about this auction, please feel free to contact him directly through eBay.
UPDATE (September 8, 2009): Ludovico received an undisclosed offer for the site and a few years of maintenance work, so the auction for the site alone was suspended.
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Antonio Cangiano is a Software Developer and AI Evangelist at IBM. He authored Ruby on Rails for Microsoft Developers (Wrox, 2009) and Technical Blogging ( The Pragmatic Bookshelf, 2012, 2019). He is also the Marketing Lead for Cognitive Class, an educational initiative which he helped grow from zero to over 1 Million students. You can follow him on Twitter.