After selling PistonHeads in 2007, I spent four years on what might be described as 'gardening leave'. Having exhausted my enthusiasm for mowing the lawn, 2011 arrived and I was free to play with car websites again.
I was drawn back to the world of forums and how we enthusiasts share our passions. I started developing a new site with a view to creating a more interesting and flexible format than forums currently offer.
Part of my vision for that site was that dealers should be able to get involved easily. I wanted specialist cars dealers to be able to list their stock and partake in the community like regular petrolheads.
The traditional means by which dealers upload stock is via overnight uploads to agreed destinations and it can all get a bit complicated.
Then I wondered about the possibility of getting a web crawler to look at dealer sites and see if it could load the stock directly (like a search engine's web crawlers). One night I knocked up some code and found it easier than expected to get the basic data.
I was quite excited by the ease of obtaining the cars and the possibility of doing this on a large scale with dealers not having to lift a finger.
I showed the prototype to some friends and although intrigued they quickly pointed out that the search facility was poor. It might show all 911s they said, but how do you find a 996 specifically? And I only want one with air-con they demanded.
Conceding they had a point, I embarked on a journey into natural language processing and things got a lot more interesting (and somewhat more complicated too!).
So, the journey continues and there's still plenty to do. So far we have:
There's plenty more to come and I'm loving putting this together, so please give me your feedback and help me evolve this into something really special.