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  1. #1
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    Characters in SAS datafeeds: Merchants, please don't do this!
    Pretty, pretty please. Please don't do this!

    If you use the forward slash in categories, as in

    Groceries / Produce / Fruit

    If we want to break down into actual, targeted (buyer-friendly) categories we have to use the text to columns feature in MS Excel and what happens is that it completely breaks up our links to your site into little pieces that don't work - because the forward slash is a reserved character used in the IP/TCP protocol for URLs.

    If you use

    Groceries > Produce > Fruit

    Instead of:

    Groceries / Produce / Fruit

    Then the > character can be used as the delimiter for text to columns and it's all cool.

    No, we CAN'T do it ourselves with find and replace, because if we do it'll not only modify the category columns using / , but it will also modify the URLs for links to your site - and the pages and links won't work.

  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador Snib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by webworker
    No, we CAN'T do it ourselves with find and replace, because if we do it'll not only modify the category columns using / , but it will also modify the URLs for links to your site - and the pages and links won't work.
    Why not just do a find and replace on the category column only? You don't have to do it on the entire document.

    - Scott
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snib
    Why not just do a find and replace on the category column only? You don't have to do it on the entire document.

    - Scott
    I did try that Scott, and it didn't work. Instead, it broke up all the links in the entire spreadsheet.

    In addition, text to columns is (technically) only supposed to work on that specific column, yet using it broke up all the links into being unusable in the whole spreadsheet.

    Merchants just need to not use the / since it has a specific meaning in IP/TCP protocol that software will identify and respond to. It's just as easy to use a different character as a category/subcategory delimiter and avoid potential problems in the first place.
    Last edited by webworker; March 25th, 2007 at 04:34 AM.

  4. #4
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    I did try that Scott, and it didn't work. Instead, it broke up all the links in the entire spreadsheet.
    When I do it, the trick has been to actually highlight the entire column(s) I want to find/replace on. Otherwise it hits everything, like you said.
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  5. #5
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    Wouldn't it be better if each sub category was a separate field?
    Bob Pets Warehouse
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetsWarehouse.com
    Wouldn't it be better if each sub category was a separate field?
    Yes, absolutely it would. But sometimes it's like pulling teeth to ask, cajole and/or beg a merchant to implement categorizing their products - and still, some won't.

    Hopefully, the new SAS initiative/system for additional feed categories will solve some of the issues; but if there are merchants who still won't properly categorize their products for feeds, IMHO they aren't worth promoting.

    Still, anything that's a reserved character for internet or programming protocols should be avoided so there won't be problems encountered using the data.

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador PatrickAllmond's Avatar
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    I don't see why Snibs method would not work - like he said if you are using Excel just do it on that one column and you won't have an issue. If you are using any sort of programming language this should definitely not be a problem.

    Have you tried writing a macro in excel to just take care of it in that one column if it is something you have to do over and over again?

    Putting each category in separate column works if you always know your depth of the category system.
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  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador MoneyBusiness's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetsWarehouse.com
    Wouldn't it be better if each sub category was a separate field?
    Life would be so much easier and wonderful if all merchants (if any) would do something like that. Such as:

    MainCat = Main Cateogry
    SubCat = Sub Category
    Custom1 = Third Sub Category
    Custom2 = Fourth Sub Category
    Custom3 = Fifth Sub Category

    I have only one merchant that actually goes this in depth. The others put the entire category trail in one field (i.e., maincat > subcat > unrelatedsubcat and so on). It's a pain in the ass (with forward slashes or not) to have to parse all of these values and make a useful navigation configuration.

  9. #9
    ABW Ambassador PatrickAllmond's Avatar
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    I am really not trying to be difficult, but to me I don't see it as a pain at all. As a matter of fact I'd rather have it all in one field. It frees up the other fields to be used by something else. I can also check one field and know whether I have a depth of one or five. Then again we may be using different methods to parse out this data.

    What are you using to parse this?
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  10. #10
    ABW Ambassador MoneyBusiness's Avatar
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    Using good ole' PHP. I'm assuming you're taking your long field string and parsing it ONCE ONLY and storing it soemhow? Or do you consistenly parse it everytime you need category info?

  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador PatrickAllmond's Avatar
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    I am using ASP.NET but the concept is the same. Write a reusable function called ParseSASCategoryField(full_string_goes_here) to parse it out. When you get it back it is put into seperate elements of an array. You should then know how many you have and they should be in the individual elements of the array.
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  12. #12
    ABW Ambassador MoneyBusiness's Avatar
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    Gotcha, thanks.

  13. #13
    http and a telephoto
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    A. We don't have enough fields to include the entire category structure
    B. You can tell *us* here not to do it, but you still have to deal with it in all those feeds for merchants that don't hang out here
    C. Search and replace on the category column certainly does work, I do it all the time.

    And I agree that I want it all in one field, the way I use feeds if it were broken into separate fields I would have to go merge them all back together AND I need them to have the / character.

    So one man's poison... etc.
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  14. #14
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    When I load from the feed to my database with php I bust that category trail into separate categories. I then load those into separate columns in my database. The explode function does all the work.
    PHP Code:
    // Bust up category and load cat1, cat2, cat3, and cat4  
                  
    $cat_trail $icategory;
                  
    $chop explode("/",$cat_trail);
                  
    $cat1 addslashes($chop[0]);
                  
    $cat2 addslashes($chop[1]);
                  
    $cat3 addslashes($chop[2]);
                  
    $cat4 addslashes($chop[3]); 
    $icategory represents the Book / Fiction / Paperback

  15. #15
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    One thing that may help in the near future...

    SAS just released a new datafeed format that includes 2 new columns: "MerchantCategory" and "MerchantSubcategory"

    Using these new columns will allow leave more room in the custom columns to further break down categories if needed (which is exactly what MoneyBusiness requested above).

    It was released to merchants a few weeks ago... It should probably be available to affs now (but not all merchants may have implemented it yet).
    Bart at <A HREF=http://www.modernartisans.com>Modern Artisans</A>... Artful Living for Home, Garden & Soul.
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  16. #16
    ABW Ambassador Ron Bechdolt's Avatar
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    I know when we rebuilt the MetroUniforms.com datafeed we were very conscious of what affiliates wanted and not only did the Womens > Dickies > Scrub Pant in one column we also set each of these identifiers up in their own separate columns.

    I think the folks the create feeds should be made to actually use them in different ways and see just how difficult it can be. My PHP skills are such I could probably pull what I want from any type of listing and get it to build what I want, but it took me years to get to that level and not everyone has the time or energy to learn extensive PHP. Therefore we tried to build our feed so it was the most simple to use and yet worked with many different programs that utilize feeds.
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  17. #17
    Affiliate Manager PetsWarehouse.com's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7-days
    I know when we rebuilt the MetroUniforms.com datafeed we were very conscious of what affiliates wanted and not only did the Womens > Dickies > Scrub Pant in one column we also set each of these identifiers up in their own separate columns.
    Ron,

    Right on, we agree with that layout plan.
    It allows total flexability.
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  18. #18
    ABW Ambassador
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7-days
    I know when we rebuilt the MetroUniforms.com datafeed we were very conscious of what affiliates wanted and not only did the Womens > Dickies > Scrub Pant in one column we also set each of these identifiers up in their own separate columns.
    Piece of cake to handle when they're like that, and can also work when wanting to do one page without breaking down further.

    I think the folks the create feeds should be made to actually use them in different ways and see just how difficult it can be. My PHP skills are such I could probably pull what I want from any type of listing and get it to build what I want, but it took me years to get to that level and not everyone has the time or energy to learn extensive PHP.
    Exactly, being able to program is great, but the people who do have to remember that not everyone does - nor does everyone want to have to rely on having to pay for a programmer, to set up and maintain sites. I can't, and I don't want to pay.

    Therefore we tried to build our feed so it was the most simple to use and yet worked with many different programs that utilize feeds.
    Like Webmerge.

    One of the items in your data feed that will cause problems, is where you need to create file names or directories based on information in the data feed. For example, if you are trying to build file names based on categories in the data feed, and there are forward slashes “/” in the category name, you’ll need to get rid of them. WebMerge might create a directory where you want a filename, because it thinks there might be a Path there (as in path to a directory or URL).
    http://www.web-procreate.com/wm-feed-prepare.htm

    Womens > Dickies > Scrub Pant
    Works perfectly when done like that, every time, without having to contend with reserved characters that have standardized uses intended for other purposes.

  19. #19
    ABW Ambassador 2busy's Avatar
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    A quickie, low-tech fix would be to copy and paste the offending column into a blamk db sheet and then do find and replace. Paste the corrected column back where it was.

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