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Spy vs spy: Seven sites on your side

September 6th, 2007

I found this link of 40 sites to bookmark that you don’t know about on del.icio.us. (I was invited to see the preview site, so I had to go check it out.) But the theme I discovered was spy vs spy: sites designed to fix intentional flaws in other services.

Here are seven sites that provide ways to foil sites that may be requiring things you don’t like:

  1. BugMeNot.com: allows users to find out working registration creditials for sites that (unnecessarily) require logins, like newspaper web sites. I’ve found it to be useful.
  2. RetailMeNot.com: lets you get discount codes and coupons from online retailers that are searchable. In fact, they have a plug in that will alert you as you shop to available coupons. I haven’t used this service yet, but it reminds me of a service that I use to find deals on computer equipment called SlickDeals.net or TravelZoo for travel and DailyCandy for new restaurants in NYC and other cities. Rather than letting retail companies decide what and when you buy things, this helps consumers stay in charge.
  3. NoPhoneTrees.com: they navigate the phone tree, and then call you back when there is phone operator. You don’t have to waste your time dealing with the crummy automatic system.
  4. PhoneZoo: let you convert your own mp3’s to ringtones. I have no interest in this, but it never ceases to amaze me that other people spend $1 or more on ringtones.
  5. PriceProtectr – tracks items you bought online drops and notifies in case of price-drops so you can request a refund.
  6. mShopper – instantly check up on the bargain deals for any product (or even order) right from your mobile phone. Video demo.
  7. Yapta.com: get automatic credit for a lower price on airline tickets if the price goes down.

Phew, I hope I’ve made my point. I’d say the second most common category of service are community/self-organizing sites, and you can see a couple of those kinds of services in the list above (e.g., bugmenot.com).

Cautiously, remember the lessons of spy vs spy: your defenses can backfire (recall the old collusion trick of the “lowest price guaranteed“) and the other side is thinking of even more nefarious ways to get you. More hopefully, can these services convince businesses to make sites that are not broken on purpose in the first place?

Update: iTunes is a service that is broken in two key ways: (1) you can’t load music off your iPod to your computer and (2) you can only store it on as many devices as Apple thinks you should. Here are two bonus sites that allow you work around these intentionally crippling of your music: how to get your music off your ipod and how to free your iTunes purchases

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