Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Bush’s website blocked to foreigners

Posted in Politics by Elliott Back on October 27th, 2004.


“The blocking does not appear to be due to an attack by vandals or malicious hackers, but as a result of a policy decision by the Bush camp. “

NYPD Shuts Down Wall Street To Thwart Anonymous Protests

Posted in Law,NYC by Elliott Back on September 18th, 2011.

The protests this weekend on Wall Street have led to an NYPD blockade of much of the NYSE immediate area, leaving residents unable to freely walk the streets without having to pass through illegal NYPD checkpoints and show ID and proof of residence, and discouraging NYC tourists from visiting the historic area. The New York Times writes in Wall Street Protest Begins, With Demonstrators Blocked:

[T]he demonstrators found much of their target off limits on Saturday as the city shut down sections of Wall Street near the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall well before their arrival. By 10 a.m., metal barricades manned by police officers ringed the blocks of Wall Street between Broadway and William Street to the east. (In a statement, Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman said, “A protest area was established on Broad Street at Exchange Street, next to the stock exchange, but protesters elected not to use it.”)

The area blocked off by the police is approximately all of Wall Street from Broadway to William:

I am personally a bit irritated at the NYPD for stepping all over the 1st Amendment, which grants protesters the right to peaceful assembly:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The police barricades make it annoying to come and go on Wall Street; having 700-1200 protesters would crowd things as well, so it’s six of one half a dozen of the other. The only thing about the latter scenario is that I would able to go home feeling proud that Americans are standing up for their rights, rather than feeling like that the police state is already upon us and there’s nothing we can do about it.

I spoke to one of the police offers last night and asked him if the police action was constitutional. He asked if wanted “protesters breaking things and wrecking your home.” I said I didn’t, but they had the right to come protest, at which point the officer said it wasn’t worth his time talking to a wiseass. Oh well….

You can follow the progress of the protest on Twitter tags #DayOfRage, #TakeWallStreet and #OccupyWallSt. Gothamist also has a nice gallery of photos, the Daily Mail rag as well.

Selling on Ebay: My Experience

Posted in Finance by Elliott Back on October 27th, 2010.

I just sold three Apple iPhone 4s on Ebay and wanted to write some thoughts on my experience as a seller. I have a 100% positive feedback rating, so I’m a good seller. However, I haven’t sold very many items over the years, and am no way near a “power seller” or a paypal merchant. I’m just a regular guy with an ebay and paypal account, and some stuff to sell.

Here are my listings:

So my total revenue from these sales was $2,791.17. Now comes time for the fees. According to eBay’s fee schedule, by selling in the auction format, and starting my listings at $.99, I pay a $.99 listing fee, and a $50 fee when the item sells. Paypal also took their cut, a total of $93.80 at a rate of 2.9% for two payments, and 3.9% for a guy from Sweden. Finally, priority shipping with maximum insurance cost $13.50 a package, for another $40.50. So, here’s how I made out in the end:

  • Cost of iPhones: 3 * $812 = $-2,436
  • Cost of Shipping: $-40.50
  • Cost of Ebay Fees: $-153.00
  • Cost of Paypal Fees: $-93.80
  • Total Cost: $-2,723
  • Total Revenue: $2,791.17
  • Profit: $67.87 (2.7%)
  • Profit without Ebay/Paypal Fees: $314.67 (12.9%)

Fortunately I also sold a fourth iPhone on Craigslist for $875, bringing in another $63 of profit. The bottom line here–and it’s a bit sad–is that I made more selling a single iPhone on Craigslist than I did selling three on eBay. My buyer paid significantly less; all parties came away satisfied. I also didn’t have to deal with shipping costs, as I met the guy in NYC. There were no Paypal fees to pay, because my buyer paid me in cash, which we sat in a sleek black car, and counted twice.

So my recommendations for those looking to sell high-value items for profit in the future are the following:

  • Don’t use eBay. The suck out most of your profits. Instead, try listing on Craigslist or other community sites.
  • Don’t use Amazon either, as their commission, while lower than eBay’s, is still quite high.
  • If you have to list of eBay, try to charge more for shipping. At $15 I could cover my expenses (just barely). At $20 I would have made back a little more! Be aggressive on shipping, and look at similar auctions to determine what you should charge. I definitely under-offered here, leaving money on the table.
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