About Dustin Luther

As the Director of Engagement at Dun & Bradstreet, Dustin heads up content, event and social media teams. In addition to managing Rain City Guide, he also manages Dun & Bradstreet's B2B Insights and plays hard on his personal blog. You can find me on Twitter (@tyr), Facebook (dluther) and Google+ (+Dustin Luther).

RCG: Now with Seattle listing goodness

It may be late in the night as I start to write this post, but I’m so excited because I just flipped the switch on some pretty big changes to Rain City Guide.  They include both a complete redesign as well as one of the coolest features I’ve ever added to RCG:  A very, slick home search tool!

You know when you meet up with someone and you almost instantly bond with them… Well, a few months ago, I had one of those bonding experiences when I met with a broker out of Portland named Garron Selliken who gave me a demo of the custom home search tool he had built.  Our conversations reminded me of the good ‘ol days when real estate search wasn’t nearly as stale and was actually pushing boundaries. Not surprisingly, we immediately started hatching a plan for launching his home search tool on RCG!

Hatching a plan to launch something interesting on RCG happens all the time, so I wasn’t too surprised. However, I became a bit concerned a few days later when I realized that Garron was serious and this idea had legs.  And just a few weeks later, the new site has been launched!

It just so happens that Garron and I are meeting up this week in San Francisco (for only the 2nd time in person) and I’m positive I’m going to take some time aside with him to talk about why we’re so excited about the changes to RCG! As a broker and software developer, Garron really does rock. He has an awesome team and we have some interesting ideas for improving the site over the next few weeks and months.

But for now, it’s way too late for me to continue writing, so I’ll end the post by asking you to play with the revised site, kick the tires on the home search tool and let us know what you think.   If you see anything that looks broken or just not working like you want it to, don’t hesitate to let us know!

Gone Facebooking… Be back soon

seahawk fansEarlier today, I launched the latest integration between Facebook and RCG… If you check out the right sidepanel, you’ll see that you can now become a fan of RCG directly from this site thanks a new tool released by Facebook called the Fan Box.

Since I launched the RCG fan page a few weeks ago, I’ve been experimenting will all kinds of content. Some RCG articles, some news articles, some community blog posts, some event related posts… and it’s been really interesting to see which ones resonate with people enough to get them to engage. Just some of the articles I’ve highlighted on our fan page include:

What I really like about the RCG FB Page is that it lets me publish quick links that I think will be interesting to the RCG community without the need to take up a post.

If you’re interested in taking part in this extension of RCG, all you need to do is “become a fan” using the box to the right!

And if you have a story you want to see us cover, I just created a page that will let you use a nifty Facebook Updater widget to share links and/or stories with us. This is definitely not the permanent solution, but as a test of the technology, it should do the trick!

Happy Facebooking!

[CC photo courtesy of Lopolis]

Live Video Streams on RCG? With Facebook Chat?

I’ve been told my interest in using Facebook for marketing is a bit unhealthy, but I’ve been having so much fun, and this week I pushed the limits in some ways that I thought I’d share in the hope we could spark some interesting conversations…

275x229First off, I’ve been really fortunate to work with the team behind a really interesting movie called The Stoning of Soraya M. that’s being released in selected theaters today (and Seattle on July 17th). It’s a controversial movie based on the true story of a woman who was stoned to death in the Iran after being accused of adultly adultery by her husband. To help with outreach for the movie, I built (with some ridiculously well-timed help from Loren Nason of the Future of Real Estate Technology) a Facebook app that let me combine both a live video stream with a streaming facebook chat-style app. The result was an interview with the director where we took questions from the Facebook community. You can see a recording of the video on the Spinnio app page where we hosted the conversation.

However, before I was ready to go live with the app for the movie, I decided to use the Spinnio app to record a weekly radio show that I run with Rob Hahn called the RE:RnD (Real Estate Radio with Rob and Dustin)… Normally, Rob and I record our radio show form opposite sides of the country, but this week, we were both in Orange County for REBCOC. We took advantage of some of the great real estate people in attendance to interview:

You can watch the video here:

But wait, there’s more!!!

seattle-channelI happen to think the technology of streaming video with Facebook Chat is simply too interesting to resist… so I created a page on RCG that combines the live stream from the Seattle Channel with a chat box that lets you comment on the video with anyone else on RCG watching the video. While I doubt this page will get the critical mass to be extremely interesting, hopefully you can see how cool it could be and just where the Facebook chat/status update technology is heading.

Also, I’m somewhat hesitant to throw a generic chat on RCG in a prominent place, but what do you think?

FB.init(“639647c0b027e22dfc546244ab17a875”, “files/xd_receiver.htm”);

(By the way, this works! Feel free to try it out, although be prepared that each comment leaves a “status” update on your profile.)

I’ve never liked the idea of adding a message board because I simply don’t have the time to moderate it, but I have a feeling that this would be pretty self-moderating considering it’s tied to people’s Facebook account… But what do you think? Should I create a place on RCG where you can leave comments and engage in conversations that aren’t tied to any blog post?

Top 3 Reason to Love Facebook Pages

We already know the folks at RCG love twitter, and while I like twitter, the marketer in me has completely fallen for Facebook Pages (note: these are a very different beast than Facebook profiles)… and if you’re running a small business, there are many reasons you should be interested in FB Pages too.

The three main reasons I’m been putting a ton of energy into building out Facebook Pages for my clients lately are:

  • Traffic: at this point traffic from social media feeds (like twitter’s stream and Facebook’s newsfeeds) are generating more traffic than RSS feeds for almost every website I run.
  • Engagement: For new sites, it’s becoming harder-and-harder to build a “community” on your own site without tapping into the communities where they already exist (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • Reach. Unlike Twitter, Facebook Pages allow you to get into the highlights and recommendation sections of fans… allowing you to reach the often elusive “friends of fans.”   For most small businesses, the friends of your fans are a ridiculously relevant audience and even more relevant than traditional SEO traffic.

rain city guide on facebook

By the way, I was inspired to create this post because I JUST created a Facebook Page for Rain City Guide and of course, I’m hoping you’ll join up and become a fan.

Similar to the Rain City Guide blog, I’m going to be using the page to engage with folks about Seattle real estate.   It’s not that we “need” another place for a conversation, but rather an experiment to see what it will look like when we take the typical RCG conversation to the Facebook audience.

Of  course, many of the stories on the Page will be about RCG articles, but truth be told, I’ll be looking to link out to any real estate articles I think will interest people interested in Seattle real estate.  So, if Facebook is the place you’d like to engage, join the conversation by becoming a fan of RCG!

And if you’re interested in a seeing a more developed implementation of Facebook Pages, check out the business page I created around my social media consulting and speaking.  In just a few months, it’s grown to over 1200 folks who are consistently engaging in ideas around using social media to generate business.

Thoughts on a new theme for RCG?

4realz screenshotI’ve wanted to update the Rain City Guide theme for a while now, and took some time this week to play around with some different ideas.  I *think*I’ve come up with something that will work well for me, but wanted to run it by the RCG community for feedback first…  If you head over to 4realz.net, you can see the theme (in action) that I’m thinking of launching here.

Here’s what I like about this theme:

  • Magazine-style so more articles are featured “above-the-fold” . This “teaser” style of posts is a bit controversial, and I won’t really know if it’s better until after I have some data with RCG-level traffic. My hope is that the bounce-rate for people that land on the homepage will go down.
  • The pages and categories are featured just below the header which, for a site like RCG, will help show off the breadth of content.
  • I noticed that the existing RCG theme played funny with a couple of new features of WordPress (in ways I didn’t like), and this one plays much better. Just one example is that when I linked out to RCG with a Facebook status update the existing theme is doing something funny so that the title and photos are not being pulled… That problem is solved with this new theme.
  • Threaded comments@ARDELLd and I have been having an interesting conversation about this on twitter, but my opinion is that the threaded conversations will actually help improve the flow of the conversation. It will be interesting to see and would love your feedback on this feature.
  • By pushing the “pages” to the header, I’ll free up some space for bringing recent comments in a more prominent place (I’ll probably put them where the “connect” widget currently exists).
  • And finally, my wife, Anna, says the theme is easier on the eyes (and I trust her “design” sense over mine any day!). When/if I launch this theme on RCG, I’m going to use “RCG” colors instead of “4realz” colors (i.e. maroon instead of blue) and “Seattle” photos instead of “Dustin” photos, but the idea is that the new theme will be very similar

Here’s a screenshot with the colors/graphics I’m thinking I’ll use when (if?) I launch it on RCG:


One of the main things I’ll be looking at with the new theme is if our bounce rate for people who arrive on the homepage for the first time drops… I don’t know if a magazine-style theme is the solution to our high bounce rate, but the easiest way to find out if to actually launch it on the site.

By the way, the theme I’m using is a slightly modified version of the theme by c.bavota called Magazine Basic. The only changes I made were to:

  • Add some color and graphics (like the 4realz/Raindrop logo in the header)
  • Add an “author” box below each post (much more important for RCG than 4realz!)
  • Add some code so that the “comment preview” shows up with a box around it…

As you can see, really minor stuff… and that’s only because the theme rocks the boat right out of the box!

As always, I’d love your feedback!

4 Years Later, RCG is still Rock’n the Real Estate World

Today is Rain City Guide’s 4th Birthday!

When I hit submit on our Hello World post 4 years ago, I had no idea what I was embarking on… but what a fun journey it’s been. You’ll have given me so many chance to test out different tools, meet so many interesting people and take part in so many fabulous discussions. Thank you!

Seattle park

By the time we were 1 year old, I was savvy enough in the ways of linking to get the site ranked for having the sexiest real estate agents. Since then, I’ve tried to remain thankful to the RCG community and my family

This year, I want to continue the tradition by saying thanks to all of you that make RCG possible! You’all rock! 😉

And just to give you an idea of how RCG continues to rock the real estate world, I’ll end this post with a chart showing RCG’s growth since Feb ’06 (when I first started using Google Analytics). While the growth is no longer “exponential”, I don’t feel like I’m going out on a limb when I say there is no other local blog written by real estate professionals that generates nearly this much traffic! Interesting, traffic to the site continues to grow and last month we broke the broke the 100K PV benchmark for the first time! Obviously, none of this would be possible without so many awesome contributors and such an active real estate community in Seattle!


Thank you all!

On this day in…

Just a quick update on some things I’ve been doing to the RCG site.   First off,  I want to thank everyone for their feedback on the Facebook Connect tool.

Thanks to your feedback, I cleaned up a number of issues (like the way that the avatars showed up within comments and the way profile information was displayed on people’s new profile page.  To see an example of a new profile page for Facebook members, simply click on anyone’s photo who shows up under the “Last Visitors” section.

In addition, I recently added a few Rain Drop Ads to the sidepanel of RCG, so I really want to thank both Craig Blackmon and Western Van and Storage for stepping up the plate early on.  I have a few more people who are showing interest in putting up Rain Drop ads, so I expect you’ll see even more in the near future.

Also, in a recent video, I mentioned at one point that I have a foot fetish and that I’ve been looking to make the footer of RCG more interesting.   Along those lines, I just moved the Similar Posts and Recent Posts sections to the footer as well as added a new section, “On this Day,” that brings back to life RCG posts from the past.

on-this-dayYou can see this feature below the comment section of any post on the site, including this one!

It should be no surprise I have a bunch more stuff planned, but that’s all the announcments for now…  As always, if there’s something you’d like to see on RCG, please just let me know!

Redfin Circles Back to an Old Biz Model…

Redfin‘s been through so many business models over the years, I can completely understand why some folks would think that Redfin is entering a new area by working with real estate agents, but I can’t help remind folks that this is a business model that they’ve tried in the past… and it failed miserably the first time.

In only the 2nd time Redfin was mentioned on RCG, Anna was upset (to put it mildly), that Redfin had gone from being a company that did only referral business to agents (accepting a 20% cut), to including a flat-fee option for FSBO’s to get their listings in the MLS.  (Jun ’05)

A few months later, RCG agreed to give Redfin a 2nd chance after they had dropped all references to the flat-fee option for sellers from their website. (Oct ’05)

However, the Redfin evolution when Glenn Kelman took the helm of Redfin in Sept ’05.   From this article Galen published in Jan ’06, Glenn Kelman is being quoted talking about Redfin’s referral busines to agents saying:

“How do we make money now? People sign up for a real estate agent… The real estate agent and Redfin share the fruits of that.”


I SOOO wish I had a screenshot of Anna’s profile she had on the Redfin site back in early ’05 because the content on the page would be shockingly similar to the current agent profiles.     I can’t remember exactly what the profiles looked like, but I’m almost positive they listed the agent’s recent transactions and had consumer reviews (I vaguely even remember a star system for the agents).

I honestly wish no ill will on the Redfin folks and wish them the best in their latest endeavor.   It’s just that the blogger in me can’t believe so many folks are letting them get away with saying they are doing something new.   About the only thing I see new with this program is that they are charging a 30% referral fee instead of the 20% they used to charge to agents back when Anna took part in ’05.

Why Connect with Facebook?

connect-with-fbIf you’re been to RCG recently, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that I added Facebook Connect to the sidepanel.   I really want to invite you all to use this feature, so I thought I’d let you know why I added it:

  1. I’m a Facebook addict, love the service, and enjoy connecting with others.  I’m thinking there’s at least a few other RCG community members who would enjoy connecting via the service
  2. I’ve been looking for a way to give a “carrot” to folks who properly identify themselves when they leave comments. I don’t want to “punish” anonymous commenters, I just want to give a bonus to those who aren’t anonymous.

The carrot we’re now offering is two-fold:

  1. Your comment will bypass almost all of the moderation filters that occasionally slow down a comment from showing up immediately on the site.
  2. Your profile link will be of the “dofollow” variety.

For most of the folks in the RCG community, I’m positive you’re here because you love the conversation and could care less about the positive link luv RCG can give you.   Nonetheless, if you’re willing to identify yourself with your “real” identity, then these two things are just two small carrots we’re now offering…

So, please consider taking advantage by clicking on the “Connect with Facebook” button to the right and follow the simple instructions.  As a bonus, after you “connect”, you’ll be able to update your profile on RCG with a few additional fields that will make it easier than ever to connect with others from the RCG community.

And finally, I launched FB Connect on the site despite the fact that I’m not 100% happy with it yet. Here are some problems I’ve found and/or things I’m working on:

  1. FB Connect plays funny (or doesn’t play at all!) with early versions of Internet Explorer, (especially IE 6.0 and below).  This might sound harsh, but my solution is to beg for you to get and use Firefox (or even Chrome),  but if you’re not willing to do that, at least get the latest version of IE
  2. The feature that let’s you “add your comment to your Facebook feed” was giving some folks some problems, so I disabled it.  I really like the idea of this feature, so I’ll work on troubleshooting exactly what was causing problems, although I think it had something to do with old versions of IE (see previous comment!).
  3. I really want the avatar that shows up next to users to default to the “gravatar” instead of the FB avatar.  My thought here is that many folks have a “fun” avatar on Facebook, but might prefer to have a more consistent avatar on a business site like RCG.  I spent some time trying to get this work and while I made some progress, it’s still not working well enough for me to feel comfortable launching… but hopefully soon.

I have a feeling there’s going to be lots more to come in terms of taking advantage of Facebook tools within RCG in the future. Hopefully, you’ll play along and if there is something that doesn’t appear to be working right or a feature you’d like to see, please let me know!

Raining Updates: Ads on RCG, Contributing Update, Footer Candy, New Feed, Email Tools, the HUGE list of RCG plugins and more!

There are so many updates to give, I decided to record a video to describe them all:

In the video, I talk about a number of changes and updates I’ve made to RCG recently including:

  • Rain Drop Ads on RCG… and if you’re one of the first five who signs up, then I’m willing to offer you a particularly good deal!
  • New page on how to get involved in becoming a contributor to RCG
  • Update to the theme by putting the active contributor information at the footer
  • Added MyBlogLog widget to the footer (as well as a few buttons)
  • Switched the main RCG feed over to Feedburner
  • Made it easier to email articles to others. Look for the “Email this Post” prompt at the bottom of every post
  • Speaking of email, you can know subscribe to RCG by email
  • Cleaned up the categories and hopefully made them more useful

And finally, because I haven’t done this in a while, I thought I’d list out all the plugins I’m currently using on Rain City Guide.

Plugin Description
Akismet Akismet checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not. By Matt Mullenweg.
All in One SEO Pack Out-of-the-box SEO for your WordPress blog. By Michael Torbert.
Exclude Pages from Navigation Provides a checkbox on the editing page which you can check to exclude pages from the primary navigation. By Simon Wheatley.
FeedBurner FeedSmith Originally authored by Steve Smith, this plugin detects all ways to access your original WordPress feeds and redirects them to your FeedBurner feed so you can track every possible subscriber. By FeedBurner.
Get Recent Comments Display the most recent comments or trackbacks with your own formatting in the sidebar. By Krischan Jodies.
Google XML Sitemaps This plugin will generate a sitemaps.org compatible sitemap of your WordPress blog which is supported by Ask.com, Google, MSN Search and YAHOO. By Arne Brachhold.
Maintenance Mode Adds a splash page to your blog that lets visitors know your blog is down for maintenance. By Michael Wöhrer.
Photopress Photopress adds some image handling tools to WordPress, including a popup upload and browse tool, a random image template function, and a simple album. By Isaac Wedin.
Post-Plugin Library Does nothing by itself but supplies common code for the Similar Posts, Recent Posts, Random Posts, and Recent Comments plugins.  By Rob Marsh, SJ.
Register Plus WordPress 2.5+ ONLY. Enhance your Registration Page. Add Custom Logo, Password Field, Invitation Codes, Disclaimer, Captcha Validation, Email Validation, User Moderation, Profile Fields and more. By Skullbit.
RSS Footer Allows you to add a line of content to the end of your RSS feed articles. By Joost de Valk.
Seesmic Enables Seesmic video in wordpress. By Seesmic Inc.
Similar Posts Displays a highly configurable list of related posts. By Rob Marsh, SJ.
Subscribe To Comments Allows readers to receive notifications of new comments that are posted to an entry.  By Mark Jaquith.
WordPress.com Stats Tracks views, post/page views, referrers, and clicks. Requires a WordPress.com API key. By Andy Skelton.
WordPress Database Backup On-demand backup of your WordPress database.  By Austin Matzko.
wp-cache Very fast cache module. By Ricardo Galli Granada.
WP-EMail Allows people to recommand/send your WordPress blog’s post/page to a friend. By Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan.
WP Ajax Edit Comments Allows users and admin to edit their comments inline. Admin and editors can edit all comments. By Ronald Huereca.
WP Status Notifier Sends email notification of posts pending review. By iDope.

With the exception of just one plugin that will remain nameless for now, that’s the full list. If you have any questions about why or how I use any of the plugins, feel free to ask away!


  • I JUST realized I also forgot to mention the “new” RCG search box.    I added a Google custom search box that searches not just RCG, but contributor websites and blogs as well.   It’s pretty slick and I was even able to integrate it with the site so that the search shows up on right on the page.