“To Measure is to Know”

Lord Kelvin
Meet Lord Kelvin — all around cool guy. See what I did there?  Lord Kelvin is known for discovering the lower temperture limit, absolute zero, and units of of absolute temperature are named “kelvin” in his honor.

More on topic, Lord Kelvin is credited with two of my favorite quotes.  “To measure is to know,” and “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.”

Serious gold earners need tools for measuring their progress.  There are many things to track, but the most basic ability you need to start is a way to track your gold balance over time.

I like to be able to get a quick overview of my gold balance all the time.  Trade skill master’s accounting module and auctioneer’s beancounter are big, all-in-one solutions that allow you to pretty much get any data you want about your sales and gold balance.  I use TSM:accounting for deep analysis, but for everyday, every minute use, I like Auditor.  In the author’s own words:

“Auditor is a nifty addon that tracks your incoming and outgoing money from a variety of sources, and provides an easy to use Data Broker interface to choose whose data you would like to look at, and for what time period.”

Auditor Display

Once you install Auditor, activate it and log into each of your characters, it starts tracking all gold related activity in real time.  At any time you can mouse over the auditor tag on your toolbar and you’ll get a tool tip like this one with an overall gold activity summary for a given timeframe.  You can select different timeframes and either view a single character or all character totals.

Lib Data Broker

There is one complication I believe keeps auditor from becoming a much more popular addon.  It uses the Lib Data Broker interface to display this tool tip and therefore to use Auditor you must have a Lib Data Broker display addon installed as well.  These addons provide you with toolbars you can customize and use to organize the data displayed on your UI.  For example, these bars provide an alternative to the overcrowded mini-map icon mess.  I currently use docking station as my LDB display, however it is getting a little outdated and it’s not on curse.  TitanPanel and ChocolateBar are other alternatives, however I’ve not tried them (yet).  You can find more information about Lib Data Broker and LDB display addons here.

It’s worth taking the plunge.  Once you have a LDB display you’ll find that many of your addons can use it to display information.  And just having auditor makes it worth the effort for the serious gold earner.

 

Mail Basics and Using CODs

I think it was on a recent episode of Call to Auction that the hosts discussed the fact that a lot of players don’t understand how the COD mail system works, and therefore they are afraid to use it.  (By the way, Call to Auction is fantastic — I’m so glad they are back and I really hope they stick around and keep the ‘casts coming).

I’ve noticed this as well.  I don’t generally buy or sell in trade but occasionally I do respond to people selling things there.  And if I suggest a COD more often than not the person doesn’t want to do it.   Even though we’ve been playing the game a long time, some things have changed over time and we forget the details.  So I thought I’d provide a quick overview/review of the mail system basics, including how COD works.

In-Game Mail Basics

The exact size of your mail box “behind the scenes” is unknown outside of Blizzard best I can tell.  However many pieces of mail you have, a maximum of 50 are displayed at a time.  To see messages beyond the first 50, you have to remove (read and delete) some of the first 50 to make room, and re-open or refresh the mail box.

Unlike a lot of mail systems outside the game, you do not retain a copy of mail you send.  (There is no “sent items”).  There is also no way to recover deleted mail.  The system is designed for mail to serve its purpose and be removed promptly thereafter.

Mail Expiration Times

  • Normal mail expires in 30 days, after which the message is deleted
  • Mail with attachments expires in 30 day, after which the items are returned to the sender
  • COD messages expire in 3 days if not paid for, after which the items are returned to the sender
  • Returned messages and items will expire from the original sender’s mail after 30 days and be deleted.  (In other words, they will not bounce back and forth.)

Delivery Times

  • Text only messages with no attachments arrive immediately
  • Mail sent to a character on the same account as the sending character will arrive immediately
  • Any mail, including those with attachments or money, sent between characters in the same guild will arrive immediately if the guild has the guild mail perk, awarded at guild level 17.
  • Without the guild mail perk, mail sent to a character on a different account from the sending character with items or money attached will take one hour to arrive.
  • Items purchased from the auction house arrive immediately in the buyers mail.
  • Money received from the auction house to the seller of an item takes one hour to arrive.
  • Returned mail arrives immediately
  • Money received from COD sales arrives immediately.

Cash on Delivery (CODs)

When you send mail with items attached, you have the option to require the mail recipient to pay an amount of gold for the items by selecting the COD check-box and entering the cost of the item or items.  You enter one total amount for all the items attached to the mail.

When a mail recipient opens the COD mail and attempts to take any of the attached items they will get a dialogue box asking them if they agree to pay.  If they do, the money will automatically be withdrawn from their gold total and sent to the sender/seller.

CODs are convenient for many uses.  Not only can you buy something from a seller in trade without either person traveling, you also don’t pay any auction house deposits or fees.  You can set up an ongoing deal with a materials farmer to send you everything they farm for a set price, and then not even be online at the same time.  And in conjunction with the guild mail perk, it’s a very convenient way to do business with guild mates since the mail is delivered immediately.

In the past there were issues with CODs being used in gold scams or for other under-handed purposes.  I’d rather not outline the tactics here.  But there have been changes made that make it pretty hard to take advantage with someone using COD.  As a seller you can be assured that you will either receive payment for your items or you will receive the items back within 3 days.  And as a buyer, you need to carefully review what is attached to the mail and what price the seller input before you accept the item — that dialogue box appears for your protection, so use it and don’t just click blindly!

 

Auction House Changes Comment Summary

A good while back Robin Torres at WoW Insider posted a breakfast topic that linked to a post of mine and posed the question to their readers “how would you change the auction house?“  I’ve been intending to summarize the comments for awhile, sorry it took so long.

Buy Orders

Simply stated everyone wants them.  Buy orders are the ability to post an offer to buy something at a certain price.  Pretty much the only detail hinted at in the comments is whether or not the system should allow orders to be partially filled.  This point is related to other comments below about how commodities are handled.  I’d say when I set up the buy order I should be able to specify if I want partial fulfillment allowed, but however it would be done it should be consistent with how commodity sell orders are handled.

Options for sorting and filtering auctions

Here’s a list of just some of the numerous sorting and filtering options people would like to see added to the standard UI.

  • Sort by unit price
  • Sort by buy out
  • Search multiple categories at a time like all ranged weapons
  • Exact match check box (ie “Lava Coral” would not return “Reckless Lava Coral”)
  • Filter by expansions (ie Cataclysm herbs… )
  • Cut and uncut gems in separate categories
  • Darkmoon faire artifacts in a category
  • View by stats (gems and gear)
  • View by socket color for gems (ie orange, red and purple for a red socket)
  • Trasmog features, eligible or not, models, colors
  • See more on one screen and summarize multiple listings (“auctionator style”)
  • Search within the filtered list

Make it like the Diablo III auction house, or not

A lot of people love the Diablo III auction house and suggest that WoW should either work exactly the same way or adopt many of its features.  On the other hand a fewer number of people specifically didn’t like aspects of D3.

The main plus seems to be that commodity items in Diablo III are treated more as “fungible” items — in other words if you have 1000 herbs to list you just list them, you don’t package or price them in stacks.  Further when you buy 1000 herbs you are simply presented with the lowest priced 1000 to buy.  I’m neutral about this idea, it would often be convenient but would also take away my ability to package and price items with discounts for volume buys.

Sales information

Most people agree that information is power and we need more!  Pluses sited for getting sales information include that it would help sellers price items, help buyers decide if prices are fair, and hurt those who attempt to take advantage by pricing things in manipulative or deceptive ways.  People suggested that average sales or posting prices should be easily viewable in the posting and buying UI.

Some commenters suggested people just use the undermine journal — I love the undermine journal, but it doesn’t have and can’t get actual sales information, it only know about posted prices.

Other feature and function ideas

  • Buy multiple stacks with one click
  • Buy or sell partial stacks
  • Listing commodities “stackless” like Diablo III
  • Check box to select lines and do something to them all
  • Make the neutral auction house cross server, or add a cross realm/battle group auction house
  • Combine alliance and horde auction houses on the same realm, go all neutral
  • Make it easier to post multiple items by just putting them in a special bag
  • Adjusting auction fees based on reputation or other factors
  • Functions to blacklist or whitelist sellers/buyers
  • Making the mail interface to the auction house better or removing it so that items you buy simply appear in your inventory if you have space, and sales proceeds appear in your gold total without opening mail.
  • Finally I had one new idea while writing this summary — make common vendor items (poisons, reagents, etc) available in the auction house, just as a convenience.

Pricing and selling restrictions

Well all that is already a lot of comments and ideas,  but by far and away the most discussion was had around people’s desire to regulate “bad” behavior via posting or buying restrictions.  These suggestions included:

  • Price caps based on level or numerous other criteria to prevent gouging
  • Limits on the number of auctions you can post at one time
  • Price minimums or restrictions on undercutting existing auctions
  • Limits on buying that would disallow you from buying all of an item in an effort to “corner the market”

I think it’s important to acknowledge the real concerns people have that give rise to these suggestions.  It’s valid to want the market to be useful to players of all experience levels.  It’s valid to want truly new players to be able to level their professions naturally as they level their characters.  And people feel frustrated competing with other players who seem to have vast resources — both gold and time.

That said, numerous commenters pointed out the flaws with these type of restrictions.  While low level characters suffer when low level materials sell for high prices, they also benefit from selling these materials at high prices as they naturally collect them playing in lower level zones.  Concerns about access to materials needed to level professions could be addressed by providing alternative methods to level professions or obtain materials (ie quests or special vendors).  Players who try to “corner the market” quickly discover that if you don’t control the supply, you can’t control the market — while you may not be challenged immediately, anyone can mine ore or make glyphs and disrupt your market at anytime.  More (sales) information and better ways to filter and sort auction listings would help eliminate a lot of the deceptive practices people employ.

Finally regarding undercutting, I’ll quote one of the best comments from rolua89.  (Sorry it’s long but it’s all good stuff — it could be it’s own blog post!)

Here’s the thing about undercutting by a copper: When someone undercuts by a copper, his competitors don’t lose hardly anything by undercutting him back, again by a copper. This means that the most sales will go to the person who has the most time to camp the AH.

Contrast this with undercutting by a large margin: Now, in order to undercut, that player’s competitors must make a non-trivial sacrifice of profit if they want to get ahead in sales. This means that the most sales will go to the player who is most willing to slash his profit margins. It also means that, out of two people equally aggressive with their undercutting, the most profit will go to the one who can produce the item at the lowest cost, since he can make that market unprofitable for his competitors.

If I would rather do something other than camp the AH for hours at a time, I am then motivated to undercut heavily. This immediately gives my competitors a choice: they can undercut me again, and cut their own profits, or they can wait it out and let my auctions get bought out, with theirs next in line. They have a choice between cutting profits or cutting sales volume. Either way they don’t make as much money. Which is exactly what’s supposed to happen when two suppliers compete in a market.

With all this in mind, remember that every sale that is made comes from a player wanting the item and being willing to pay the lowest price listed. If a market has tons of demand, then it doesn’t matter whether your competitors undercut heavily. They’ll get bought out extremely quickly, and then yours will be the lowest auctions up. But if there’s not enough demand to consume the volume being brought in by the suppliers, the price WILL drop, and you will make less money.

But what happens if no one undercuts by much, and the demand drops off? Then you still don’t make much money, because even with all that effort posting and reposting, no one is buying your auctions.

Either way, you still make less money with less demand. But if people undercut heavily, at least you’ll know the market is flooded, instead of posting again and again with no sales.

Heavy undercutting doesn’t ruin a market; low demand ruins a market.

Thanks again to Robin Torres, WoW Insider and all the wonderful commenters!

Reward of the Week: You Can Totally Afford All Those Recipes

I’m not much of a pure recipe collector.  I tend to buy what I need to level and then buy just recipes I’ll definitely make either for myself or to sell.  But after I reached my first gold goal I realized that I could afford to splurge on recipes, and it was fun to have them.  And the more recipes you have, the better the chance you can respond quickly to a money making opportunity on some obscure item should that opportunity arise.

If you decide to treat yourself to some shiny new recipes, be aware that many if not most of the recipes listed on the auction house are available from vendors and are being “flipped” by your gold earning counterparts.  You can decide to either run around and get them all from the vendors or pay a premium price to avoid all that work.  After all, this is a reward, so you’d be justified to take the easy way out.

A few addons will help your recipe collecting a great deal.  The most important one is Ackis Recipe List (ARL), which I wrote a brief guide about here.  This will show you a list of all the recipes you don’t have and let you filter it by a whole bunch of different criteria.  In this case, where you are buying recipes as a gold earning reward, you probably will want to only list those recipes that you can purchase from a vendor or from another player, therefore excluding the BoP ones.  And if you decide to be a bit frugal and go to the vendors instead of the auction house, ARL tells you the exact location for each vendor.

Ackis Recipe List

Another useful addon for recipe buying is Altoholic.  After you install it and open your tradeskill windows on each character, it remembers what recipes you know and displays “could be learned by” and “already known by” information in the tool tip when you mouse over a recipe.

Tool Tip

Even the standard auction house UI has one very nice feature for recipe collecting — the “usable items” filter.  By selecting it you’ll only see recipes listed that you can learn. (on the character you are on — it doesn’t know about your alts like the Altoholic tool tip does.)   So if you want to go nuts you can just select “Recipe” on the left, click “Usable Items” near the middle top, and start buying!

Standard Auction House UI

 

Sunday Blog Post Roundup: Vol. 2

This week’s Sunday blog post roundup brought to you by the letter g…

Breakfast Topic: How would you change the Auction House? by Robin Torres at WoW Insider

The good, the bad and the addons by Mommar on Just My Two Copper

The Psychology of Diablo III Loot Part 1: Anchoring the Auction House by jmadigan on The Psychology of Video Games

Mists of Pandaria: Tailoring Preview by perculia on Wowhead News

Enchanting without Greater Eternals/Illusion Dusts by Rades on Orcish Army Knife

 

Ideas for New Auction House Features

The current WoW auction house has good and bad features.  The standard auction house interface is poor, but Blizzard’s facilitation of addons means that if you really can’t stand the UI (I can’t), at least you can do something about it.  Addon facilitation is a good thing/smart move by Blizzard overall, not just as it relates to the auction house, just ask a SWTOR player.

Of course it would be great if Blizzard simply polished up the standard auction house UI.  Doing that would make things a lot easier for the vast majority of players who don’t spend as much time in the auction house as Frinka does.  But I’d love to see a few new features beyond merely the UI — things that can’t be done by addons now.

I touched on this some already in my post this week for the Blog Azeroth shared topic, and The Annoyed Mage made an interesting post a few weeks ago expressing his views.  Here’s a fuller description of what I’d like to see.

  1. Selling groups of items.  It would be wonderful to be able to sell items bundled together, either multiple stacks of the same item or complete “kits” of different items.  For example you could offer a complete transmog set, or all the components needed to level a profession.
  2. Offers, or bounties.  This is a pretty simple one and it’s been discussed at length in the past.  EQ I even had this feature (although please, don’t make me describe how much more horrible the EQ I bazaar was compared to the WoW AH, just trust me, we have it good now).  Adding the ability to post an offer to buy a quantity of an item at a certain price level would be very convenient, it would help sellers meet buyer needs, and it would make the WoW auction house much more like a real life market (NYSE, NASDAQ, etc.)
  3. Sales informationThe Undermine Journal does the best it can, but lacking information on actual sales means we can’t fully know how the market is behaving.  This also enables certain types of market manipulation (read that as people taking unfair advantage of others) that would be far more difficult if we knew what things actually sold for in the past.
  4. Statistics.  If we had sales information then either Blizzard or someone like The Undermine Journal could generate information more like what we get for real markets, or like what is generated for games like EVE.  Just look at this recent post I saw about the EVE economy — they have price indexes, it’s so cool.
  5. Auctiongroups.  I confess I know nothing about EVE — I couldn’t get past the tutorial.  (I tried, because it seemed like I’d love a game with so many economic features.)  But I believe there is a single server structure in EVE — meaning everyone plays in the same game world and buys and sell on the same market.   If this were the case in WoW there wouldn’t be small economy servers and large economy servers.  I understand that the shear number of players across WoW may make complete consolidation impossible, but maybe they could have “auctiongroups” similar to battlegroups where multiple server’s auction houses were connected.  I can see there would be numerous technical and procedural issues, but if they could be overcome, wouldn’t it be nice for everyone to play in a bigger market?

Quartz Addon for Professions?

I’m sure you could do this with the cast bar addon of your choice, but I just happen to use Quartz.  Purely by accident one day on my scribe I had quartz activated and I noticed that it performed a very useful function.

When I’m making a lot of ink using the “Create All” button, Quartz lets me know how long it will take in total and displays my overall progress along the way.  Simple, and very handy if you are someone who likes to multitask.

Now I’m off to make more ink!

Sunday Blog Post Roundup

Part of the process of jumping into blogging for me has been to subscribe to and read as many other related blogs as I can.  Every Sunday morning I’ll highlight some interesting posts from the past week that relate to gold earning, professions, or addons in WoW.

How to set up your alts for gold making by Basil Berntsen on WoW Insider

My GPS is “THIS” Big by Mommar on Just My Two Copper

NBI Award Winners by Syp on Bio Break

Addon Wars: AdiBags vs ArkInventory vs Blizz Bags by Aunaka on Aunaka Heals

Glyph thresholds by Foo on Foo’s WoW musings

Can’t Wait by Matticus on World of Matticus

Archeology Leveling Secondary Profit Sources by Cold on Cold’s Gold Factory

Five Fast Gold Making Tips : June by Farli on The Overcut

 

Buying Herbs to Mill using TSM: Shopping

TradeSkillMaster is completely overwhelming at first, and because of that there are plenty of good articles floating around that try to walk you through setting it up initially. (Check out the TradeSkillMaster site, WoW Insider, or just Google it.)

Personally, I found I just had to jump in.  I had used Auctioneer before and was therefore somewhat familiar with the concepts, so your mileage may vary.  But luckily I had one thing in my back pocket that you have too — the business process model.  I didn’t try to use all of TSM, and to this day I still don’t touch half of it.  Instead I poked around to find what TSM had to offer for specific activities.

Along those lines, shopping is a good place to start, specifically buying herbs to use in the production of glyphs.  In order to get the best prices, you need to determine the ink yield you’ll get from each type of herb, then compare different herb prices to each other and to the price of pigments or already made inks people may be selling.  On top of all that, you can trade blackfallow ink for all the other types of common ink, so you only want to make the other inks if they are cheaper to make than blackfallow.

TSM: Shopping knows all of this out of the box.  It has a function called destroying that lets you search for lion’s ink (for example) and all its components and all the alternative means of getting it at the same time.  Then it lists auctions for you in order of the cheapest way to ultimately end up with lion’s ink.  The destroying function of TSM:Shopping also offers searches for enchanting materials (disenchanting) and raw gems (prospecting) that work in much the same way.

To get started, you need to download and install the TSM core addon and TSM: Shopping at a bare minimum.  (Even though we are using the destroying function inside TSM: Shopping, you don’t need TSM: Destroying — that module is for the actual milling or disenchanting processes after you buy materials.)  Then head over to an auction house and open your auction interface.  You’ll notice that there is an additional tab labeled “TSM”.

Depending on what you installed, your screen may have fewer or more tabs or buttons.  However you should see a button on the left for destroying.  After selecting it, select the destroy “mode” for milling by pressing the mill icon near the upper left (the mortar and pestle.)  Then moving to the left across the top, choose common inks and ink of the sea (just for an example) from the drop downs.  Hitting search should then begin a process where the addon scans your auction house and produces a list similar to the one pictured above.  (Note, if you’ve never scanned the auction house before, you won’t have % market values.)

If you get this far you’ve got the addon installed and working.  But we need to think about how to use it in our business process activity “buying herbs for inscription”.  The objective of this activity will be to buy the least costly materials to restock our ink supplies.  Because I make glyphs every day, I keep a small buffer supply of ink on my scribe at all times.

As you can see I have no ink of the sea or ethereal ink.  So after identifying what I’m shopping for, I would use destroying to produce a list like the one above and starting at the top I’d buy materials.  Because I keep amounts on hand and use them often, I don’t bother trying to hit an exact inventory level.  Notice that when I happened to screen shot this scan, the ingredients to make blackfallow ink and trade it for ink of the sea were cheaper than the direct ingredients for ink of the sea.  It’s extremely convenient that these comparisons are made based on yield estimates that might vary for different methods and you don’t have to figure it all out.

Two details to think about:

  1. Set the “Even Stacks” check box as you wish, but think about what makes sense for your process.  If you mill your own herbs on the same character that does all the other activies, you may not have room in your bags or bank for leftover, un-millable small stacks.  And non-standard stack sizes can mess up some milling macros.  However in my case, I send the materials to my business partner to mill.  He has a dedicated toon that manages milling, including all the odds and ends, allowing us to pick up really cheep herbs when they are offered in very small quantities and use them later.
  2. I haven’t figured out a good way to put in bids using this process.  (If someone has, please post it here!!!)  Before TSM I maintained my own lists of herbs to buy per ink produced and when I searched for them I could put in bids on some where the buyout was too high but the bid was a real steal.  I managed to pick up some real bargains that way, but not as many as you’d think.  Overall this process is better despite this “problem”.

It’s important to end by saying don’t be afraid to try this, you really can’t break anything.  You have nothing to lose, and gold to gain.  Try it, and let me know how it goes for you.