SocialNotes for Blog Posts?

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Click the button below to try out this tool from PopularMedia that makes it that much easier to share articles with others. If I get positive feedback, I’ll add it to all the posts on RCG!

This week according to 4realz…

I can tell from the comments that many regular readers of RCG have been checking out the what I’ve been doing on It’s been fun to try out something a bit different as I do my best to summarize the news and gossip of the real estate technology and communities.

However, besides blogging on 4realz, I’m also committed to sending out a weekly email that summarizes the news and gossip that I think the typical real estate executive should know. Interestingly, I did something like this at Move and I know from feedback I got that the email was definitely appreciated since most executives don’t have the time to follow all the blogs and news sites that they wish they could. However, I do say “executive” pretty broadly since there are a lot of people who would appreciate a weekly summary of news and gossip from the online real estate community.

I’m extremely hesitant to republish the email on 4realz as a blog post each week (despite requests) because it feels like it would be repeating the same stories that would have already been covered on the blog earlier in the week. I still haven’t figured what I will do each week, but this week I thought I would post the email here on RCG!


While I expected it to be a slow week thanks to the holiday season, there was more than enough action to keep a blogger busy with all the big names making news week:


By the way, if you want to subscribe to my weekly email (similar to notes above), it is 100% free and 100% opt-in. To get on the list email me at with a request (a simple β€œplease include me on your weekly emails

Subscribe to Comments via Email

I just installed a long requested plugin that allows a user (YOU!) to subscribe to comments on any given post. The idea is that after you’ve written a comment you can opt to also be notified via email every time a new comment is added to that post. It is not for everyone, but if this is your cup-of-tea, then try it out and let me know if you’re having any issues…

Use Your Sent-Items Folder as Inspiration

It was so much fun to stop off in Seattle last week to give the seminar in downtown. Meeting up with Rhonda and Jillyane (and potentially a new contributor I’ll introduce soon!) was awesome!

One of the tidbits I share with the real estate professionals in the audience that seems to resonate well (at least based on the feedback I’m getting) is when I explain to them that even the non-bloggers in the audience are already writing blog posts, but they are not getting credit for it. Here’s my logic in a nutshell…

Assumption #1: Writing a blog post is just like sending a webmail (via Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, etc), except that it is one step easier. With a webmail you need to (1) click on “write” or “compose” message, (2) fill in the email address of recipient, (3) fill in the title of email, (4) write your message, and (5) click “send”. Blogging is one step simpler because you do not need for step 2, i.e. fill in the email address of the recipient since a blog post is essentially an “email to the world.” Otherwise, all the steps are essentially the same with the final step being “publish” instead of “send”.

Assumption #2: The sent-items folder for most real estate professionals is already filled with good stuff that they are already experts on… For most real estate agents, the sent-items folder of their email program is likely to find information on neighborhoods, mortgage and closing process, local events, etc..

Because most agents are already sharing lots of their knowledge via email and because a blog post is nothing more than an email to the world, hopefully, you’ll start to see how I can say that most agents are already blogging… The idea that they are not getting credit for their knowledge stems from the fact that if a professional has a lot of stored up information in their “sent items” folder, then the search engines and other bloggers can’t give them credit for this knowledge. The last bit is critical to the seminar, but not necessarily to this blog post… πŸ˜‰

Interestingly, both Steve Rubel (Turn Gmail Into Your Personal Nerve Center) and Greg Swann (Feed guarding: Protecting your weblog content from theft β€” or worse fates . . .) wrote articles today that either demonstrate the blurring of email and blogging (i.e. blogging via email) or take it for granted (i.e. RSS syndication).

By the way, I’ve been taking my own advice about unleashing the “knowledge” from my sent-items folder over on the seminar blog by publishing answers to many of the questions that I’ve been getting from seminar participants. I’ve been inundated with email questions lately which is great for providing me blog content, but not so good in terms of providing me time to answer everyone quickly! πŸ™‚

Sharing the spam – Is Zillow going to China?

[photopress:spam.jpg,full,alignright]I got an interesting piece of investor spam yesterday. This one was so interesting, I figured I share it and give somebody a good laugh or chuckle. Apparently they are talking up a company in China that has “pilfered every costly lesson learned by Rich Barton and pals… plus every breakthrough technology Microsoft gladly spent $100 million to develop their own business with optimized Rich Barton’s billion-dollar baby.”

I had lunch with some of the folks from Zillow today. Even though they know Rich Barton better than I do, they didn’t even know about this opprotunity! They also said, they wanted in on the action… πŸ™‚

Anyway, here’s my spam for your reading enjoyment…

Rich Barton Spam

And if you figure out what exactly they’re talking about, let me know. πŸ˜‰

Top 10 reasons to ditch gMail for Microsoft

[photopress:BringItOn.jpg,full,alignright]OK, you knew I had to respond to this. I brought my flame proof suit. I used to work on Exchange, Outlook and Outlook Web Access when I was a ‘softie. Galen’s last post was very Roeper, and I’m going go Ebert on him. I have 3 sets of 3 words and 10 reasons for my buddy Galen.

The 3 set of 3 words
Windows Live Mail
Outlook Web Access
Bring It On

The 10 reasons

  1. So your cheap and use Firefox. Well I agree Hotmail sucks, but Windows Live Mail is damn near OWA good, does very well against gMail thank you very much.
  2. Try using gMail w/o internet access. Where’s the offline functionality? I’m sorry folks but Verizon EVDO and those T-Mobile hot spots aren’t everywhere yet. Have you tried using an AJAX app w/ a slow cellular net connection? (talk about a fate worse than water torture). Wanna gMail on a plane? Sorry, no can do. Until ClearWire takes over the world, a desktop / offline e-mail is a requirement for me.
  3. If you use POP/SMTP w/ Outlook and store your mail client side, your limited only by your computer’s hard drive space. (didn’t Google’s CEO say 2GB ought to be enough for anyone) πŸ™‚
  4. That said, web e-mail is also a requirement for me. Which is why I use Outlook Web Access 2003. OWA still kicks the living snot out of Gmail (on IE anyway). Remember kids, the OWA team practically invented AJAX (they called it Remote Scripting back in 90s). They were the team that convinced the IE team to include an XMLHTTP object with the browser! Without them, there would be no gMail. That said, the FireFox version of OWA 2003 sucks. In partial defense of MS, the last version of OWA shipped before Firefox 1.0 was released. I’ve heard OWA 2007 will have much better FireFox support. But if you use Firefox only (I use IE & Firefox), then I admit OWA 2003 won’t do it for you.
  5. Hosted Exchange servers aren’t that expensive. I currently use Intermedia and have the ability to add/remove mail boxes, change storage quota, etc. I’ve heard 1AND1 is even cheaper.
  6. Privacy. What if the US government decided to Subpoena Google and read your e-mail? Don’t think it doesn’t happen. Granted, Live Mail would also be a target of govt. snooping, but my Exchange server probably would not be.
  7. Calendaring. Can you type “2 weeks from Friday” into a gmail appointment form and have it resolve to “Fri 9/15/2006”? You can with Outlook! Get a real date parser!
  8. Contacts. Where the heck is the mapping integration w/ address info in gMail? OWA & Outlook have had this since the Web 1.0 days. I know cause I wrote that feature for OWA for Exchange 5.5 (way back in 1998)!
  9. Looking for Tasks & Notes? Sorry Google doesn’t have that either.
  10. API support – Google may offer an API in the future, but Microsoft offers that today

Galen can keep his gMail. But, you can pry Live Mail, OWA, Exchange and Outlook away from my cold dead hands! Offline scenarios still have value to people. Feature rich Windows/Mac/Linux apps (Outlook, Entourage, Evolution, etc) can still clobber web only apps (no matter how much AJAX & Flash you try to put into them). I’ll freely admit the Redmond evil empire’s shortcomings (see the above “Hotmail sucks” & “OWA’s 2003 firefox support is weak” remarks), but Google is going have to do much better than have better Firefox support than OWA 2003 to convince me it’s better than Microsoft’s e-mail technology. E-mail mindshare, well that is another debate…

Let the e-mail Jihad begin! Who & what do you use for your e-mail and why? Would you pay for e-mail service or is free ad supported e-mail the only way to go? How important is your domain name to you? Does your e-mail server use SMTP/POP, IMAP, or HTTP? How important is offline to you? What do you look for in a web e-mail client? What about them Blackberry’s, Q’s and cell phone sized devices that do e-mail? Is Galen the one on crack or am I? (or are we both right)?

Real Estate, Technology and Transparency

[photopress:transparent.jpg,thumb,alignright]I’ve been running two experiments, trying to find the true meaning and value of transparency in the real estate transaction. I’ve taken all of the things I have known forever, and added the things I’ve learned in recent months, and combined them into a Transparency Model using email.

For as long as I can remember, agents will tell each other things that they would never say to a consumer. Same with most ancillary service providers. We can talk to each other point blank and in short hand and with a clarity that has pinpoint precision. But when talking with the consumer everyone starts being guarded, balancing telling the truth with trying to get their business, and saying what they “know” the consumer wants to hear. Falling into what I call (and hate) “script mode”.

I’ve been having some conversations with agents, while copying “the outsider”…the owner. The other agent didn’t realize I was copying the owner at first, and was responding directly to me without hitting “reply to all”. That was a good thing, because it was quick, it was spot on info, and it was very good and valuable info.

Sometimes the consumer doesn’t know the right questions to ask, or they are just not in the same conversation with us. So we end up “communicating” with the consumer out in left field on some irrelevant tangent, while trying to focus on the real issues all at the same time. Owners tend to fall back into the past, remembering when and why they painted that wall bright purple when their daughter was 10. She is now grown, married and has children of her own. We’re trying very hard to say get rid of that purple, but they’ve lapsed back in the time machine and are standing in the room with their ten year old daughter. When they finally come back and realize you are in the room, you end up saying “yeah, love that purple!”.

By letting the owner watch two agents email back and forth quickly about their home, they “see” the real issues at hand. Very much like that photo up there, it’s as if they are looking through a two sided mirror where they can see us and we don’t see them. If they can’t comprehend it at the moment or if they just can’t take the mental picture of their ten year old out of their head, they can come back later and read it again and again. They absorb the information in small doses, and eventually “get it”.

I remember one owner way back when, who came up with a brilliant idea “in a dream” nine months later, that was exactly what I told him to do, on the first day I met him. He just wasn’t ready to hear it at the time. Too much going on that night. By using email, he can revisit and address all of the ideas in smaller doses.

Email is scary sometimes, because you are putting some hard facts “on paper” that we, in the past, would only say, but not write down. But it introduces a higher level of transparency, because the consumer can go back later and read it again and again. Different people absorb different things each time they read it. I just received an email from a seller in answer to an email I sent maybe ten days ago. She read it ten times before coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Then she emailed me…she’s about 80 years old πŸ™‚

I am going to try, with my “Ardell & Oxford” real estate talks, to bring this “transparency” to RCG. To talk to an agent, woman to woman, pretending no one is watching us talk. NOT about the industry at large. NOT about how agents feel about the industry. I want to talk to an agent about a house and what the seller needs to do to get it sold. I want to talk about a buyer, and why they are or are not being successful in their quest. I want to talk to another agent the way we talk to each other, while everyone else is watching and learning.

Contrary to what Dustin said, it really wasn’t hard for me to find someone who will do this with me, as agents do this with me every day, always have. Now finding someone willing to do it with me live and in your face on RCG, well yes, I have found someone. But that was pure happenstance. Let’s run with it and see what happens. I should have her set up by the end of the week, if not sooner.

We are the “innovators”. Let’s kick transparency up a notch. Instead of asking others what that means, let’s create what it REALLY means…as only we can. Not because we are smarter…just because for some reason, we seem to have the cajunes to make fools of ourselves in open view πŸ™‚ Speaking for myself, of course.

Five reasons to ditch Outlook for Google Apps

If I had a 5-30 person office, I would jump on Google Apps in an instant, particularly if I didn’t already have an imap server and all the other hardware and software jazz Microsoft likes to sell you so Outlook will actually work.

Here’s why:

  1. You will never run out of space on your email account: Every email account comes with 2+ gigs of storage.
  2. You can easily add and remove email addresses from a web-based panel (no more calling the tech guy for basic tasks).
  3. Your employees can access their email from anywhere and on any operating system (the Mac guy can keep his Mac!).
  4. You get my new favorite Calendar system – it’s really easy to add events, invite others, and manage multiple calendars including group calendars (we use group Calendars for the very infrequent events that we must all attend at ShackPrices). Also, you can access your calendars from other people’s computers.
  5. Your employees get all the nice little touches that are quickly being added to Gmail – the ability to preview word documents, excel spreadsheets, and pdfs without opening up a new program, in-browser chatting with other gmail users, and the ability to send voice mails (to anyone!) from Google Talk.

You can already download all your email from gmail to any email program and Google will be offering an API, so you can hire a programmer (or download plug-ins) to access all the rest of your information should you ever decide to quit.

Via John Battelle’s Search Blog (a great blog if you haven’t checked it out)

Are you E-mail marketing in style?

Traditional mail vs. e-mail campaigns
In the spirit of always thinking of ways to assist our stylish Realtor and Loan Officer customers, particularly in fostering their long-term business relationships with their clients, I frequently make suggestions, tips and write comments to our entire customer and client base via e-mail marketing campaigns. It never ceases to amaze me at all the great stuff, tools and suggestions here at RCG and out in the blogosphere. While browsing some of my favorite blogs, I ran across an e-mail marketing post at The Future of Real Estate Marketing.

While many agents can use generic e-mail group lists in their Outlook or Thunderbird programs to do the job, there are some great resources that really (in the voice of Chef Emeril Lagasse) kick it up at notch!

May I introduce Emma

One of the very best at e-mail marketing is at MyEmma. I came across Emma about a year ago when they were still very new. It has one of the best e-mail campaign editing tools and allows you to upload pictures in a snap. The UI is simple and very easy to navigate. One of the great features is the ability to track your responses to e-mail campaigns in a meaningful way. I know when someone opens the e-mail, at the precise time and whether or not they clicked on related links. There is also a way to allow customers to opt out if they choose or forward the e-mail to a friend–something that always results in the referrer receiving a nice gift card for a cup of coffee.


Emma’s support is first rate and the responses to you are always helpful and humorous! When Emma announces new tools, improvements or “APB’s,” they always seem to have at least one reference to us customers as “stylish people.” I never knew I was stylish until I started hanging out with Emma. If you have a tough day at work and want to lift your spirit, just browse their site bio’s and company history. If you are like me, you LOL!

With traditional mailings, you can’t track success. If you have not added e-mail campaign marketing to your complete marketing program, perhaps now is the time.

20 million reasons to cancel AOL

Update: You can now search the AOL data from your web browser.
As promised earlier, I did some scans through the massive privacy invasion from AOL for some real state search insight. I’ll leave it to other sites to search for the tell you about the disgusting things people search for.
Not many AOL searchers are looking for “seattle real estate” in those words – in fact only 21 of the 20 million queries contained that text and those users largely went to the big Google-optimized sites like Seattle Power Search (the number one result) or the Seattle Times (the number 3 result).

AOL users found Rain City Guide through many long-tailish routes, with relevant keywords like “zilllow” (sic), “small condos,” “seattle real estate,” “earnest money recipt” (sic), and “five factors that determine if an idea is a good investment opportunity.” Guilty-conscience user 917673 came to us while searching for “sellers disclosure for condominium complex.” And User 1636230, who came to Rain City Guide after searching for “seattle real estate,” also visited Winderemere and Seattle Power Search. One searcher also found us when they searched for “dustin dustin.”
Here’s where this data goes beyond our own site (and where it gets creepier): what preceded and followed those inquisitive searches? Can we tell something about these people? Well, User 1636230’s interest in real estate was passing. They searched around for five minutes in March:

  • 2006-03-21 14:12:20 2
  • 2006-03-21 14:12:20 2
  • hometown realty executives 2006-03-21 15:30:32
  • hometown realty executives seattle 2006-03-21 15:30:41
  • hometown r.e. executives seattle 2006-03-21 15:31:05
  • hometown real estate executives seattle 2006-03-21 15:31:24
  • seattle real estate 2006-03-21 15:33:18 1
  • seattle real estate 2006-03-21 15:33:18 8
  • seattle real estate 2006-03-21 15:33:18 9
  • locks for love 2006-03-22 10:52:35 1

Then decided to look into building their own home a week later:

  • lux homes 2006-03-28 15:33:40 1
  • woodenville builders 2006-03-28 15:34:56 (4 more identical searches)

User-1636230 then went on to search for approximately 10,000 pet related items and for much sadder subjects, including for cancer drugs and incontinence.

What of guilty-conscience-User 917673? They were clearly concerned about their condo and they didn’t want to tell the buyer. Here are three of their searches (of over forty):

  • condominium disclosure by seller in los angeles
  • arbitration for selling or buying a condo
  • consequences of no disclosure from seller

Sounds like someone got a bum deal on that condo!

In looking at the other Seattle Real Estate searches, it seems that the adage that buyers and sellers go with the first agent they talk to does not apply to searches (no big surprise here). Searchers go all over the internet and leave and come back to the same search repeatedly. If they’re as committed as User 917673, they use lots of slightly different word combinations. What I found interesting was watching users hit a site that they are interested in, then go on to search for that company’s or person’s name to see if they can find some background (so it is good to be on a first name basis with the search engines).

I only found 668 occurrences of “cancel AOL.” I suspect and hope there will be a lot more this week.