Create a Search Robot

Use a Perl script to perform searches automatically and email you the results.

A collector in search of a particular item or type of item may repeat the same search, often several times a week. A serious collector, knowing that items sometimes sell within hours of being listed [Hack #31] , may repeat a search several times a day for an item. But who has the time?

The Favorites tab of the My eBay page, which allows you to keep track of up to 100 favorite searches [Hack #20] , also has a feature to email you when new items matching your search criteria appear on the site. Just check the Preferences link next to the search caption, and then turn on the “Email me daily whenever there are new items” option.

Unfortunately, eBay’s new-item notification feature will send you notifications no more than once a day, and in that time, any number of juicy auctions could’ve started and ended. And eBay’s emails are limited to only 20 listings per message. So I created this hack to do my searches for me, and to do them as often as I see fit.

Constructing the Robot

A robot is a program that does automatically what you’d otherwise have to do manually. In this case, the goal is a robot that automatically performs an eBay search at a regular interval, and then emails you any new listings.

This hack uses a technique called scraping, wherein an ordinary search on the eBay site is performed and the results are extracted by parsing the page for links pointing to listings. This script ...

Get eBay Hacks, 2nd Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.