New Inman Site Strategy Explained

April 24, 2008
I have always been a fan of free and providing value . Done right this doesn’t mean you  can’t make money (maybe you can even make more).   I really like the idea of transforming a paid subscription (web 1.0) into a paid social network (very web 2.0).   I like what Joel and his team have done with the Inman News site.  Joel talks about the obviously well thought out  strategy and execution here.  Congrats guys!
Joel, nice tips on reputation tracking btw.  We have some free value of our own coming soon at Vendasta.  🙂

Realtor Ratings and Reputation 2.0

March 19, 2008
Last night I posted a video on Reputation 2.0 and Identity 2.0  we made on NoMoreDoorKnocking and am getting a lot of email from people asking me questions.  Jay Thompson posted it and Joel Burslem included it in a very interesting discussion on Identity 2.0 and the real estate industry.
The crux of the discussion is that there there needs to be a way to rate real estate professionals and to find out how the real estate client discovered it.  Personally, I say why relegate the conversation to one industry when all service industries need it, but for the sake of this discussion let’s stick to Realtors.  Most of them are stuck with a rap they don’t deserve.
Joel raised an interesting point about this issue:
“But as much as I cheer these entrepreneurs coming in and providing solutions to the issue of Identity 2.0 – I can’t help but wonder, shouldn’t this be something the industry takes the lead on? Give us a way to rate, rank and review your membership. Especially if it were done in a totally transparent and honest manner, so the rating was not up for abuse or gaming. I’m convinced this is something that NAR or the local Associations should get behind.”
Frankly, the Industry doesn’t have the tools or the fortitude to tackle this problem and their governance structure is such that it is almost impossible to effect any change let alone controversial change.
I have some personal experience with this issue. Last July at the Inman connect conference I was on a panel with Bob Hale, President of HAR(Houston Association of Realtors), in my view the most progressive MLS around (Check out the Realtor search)  He talked about his plan for public agent ratings. I suspect that Bob will not be able to make this happen and if  Bob can’t get his done no other MLS will come close.  I also presented at the Bernice Ross’s  Really awesome Women in Real Estate last spring.  I was asked if I supported Agent Ratings and had to answer no.  When I sat down I was soundly scolded by Leslie Appleton-Young, Chief economist for CAR.
So why did I say I didn’t support agent rating?
Well, I believe that for the most part REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONALS are not scared to have their reputations exposed, maybe those who buy properties for cash might have reason to. However, they are scared of a rating method that they don’t understand and into which they have no insight or control. They know that online, identity is a sham and can be “gamed” as Joel put it. And let’s face it, who wants to be “rated”?  What the heck does that mean?  Rated on the basis of what?  Good looks? negotiation?  How can I rate negotiation skills if I am a poor negotiator?  What one customer loves another will hate. For these reasons, rating qualitative skills with a quantitative number is scary.
These are the reasons, when asked directly, “do you think rating Realtors is a good idea” that I said “no”. What I do believe in is exposing the Identity and Reputation of Realtors to potential customers.  What customers desperately desire is insight into the type of person they are about to contractually entrust their biggest and most important asset – their home.  It’s simply not fair or accurate to boil down this insight and information to a “rating”.
So, you might ask, how do we establish Identity and transparency and honestly provide this insight into a Realtor’s reputation?  Offline you might interview three or four of hisor her last customers.  Or you might rely on designations from  NAR, CRS, ABR, GRI and the myriad of associations and boards that have all gone to great lengths to ensure that their members are reputable.  However, the fact remains that there are some bad actors in the group and reputation online is different than reputation offline (make sure to watch our video below).
Fortunately there is an answer for online and offline Identity and Reputation.  In my mind, Identity and Reputation are inextricably tied to a person’s social graphs – think Reputation 2.0.  Offline relationships are being explicitly mapped online or can be extracted semantically from the web.  In effect, this is going to allow for the mapping of peoples social graphs.  You can’t “game”, fool, or fake your Social Graph.  Everyone has a social graph.  Defining, making transparent and allowing for easy interaction with any social graph will provide a consumer with what they so desperately crave – information.
Reputation 2.0 combined with Identity 2.0 is something that we can all get behind.  It’s better than ratings. It’s real, it can’t be cheated or faked, nobody has to “sign up” (everyone has a social graph), Realtors understand its offline or analogue version, it gives customers more information and a better basis for choosing on a Realtor.  As always, the best always come out on top.  With the Internet it is just going to happen faster.

AOL Buys Bebo

March 14, 2008
So AOL purchases Bebo for 850 Million – cash.  For those of you that don’t know Bebo is the number 4 social networking site in the world.  Bebo is huge in Europe and has a big base of users in California.  Not to long ago Microsoft purchased a tiny stake in Facebook with a 240 Million dollar investment. 
For sake of comparison AOL purchased Bebo for $21 dollars per member.  Microsoft’s investment in Facebook valued members at $204 dollars each.  Newscorp paid about $26 per member when it acquired MySpace. 
Why all the fuss about social networks?  Because, simply put,  Social Networking is going to an integral part of the “next big thing”.  More to come from VendAsta in the very near future.

Sharepoint is Dead

February 28, 2008
Google has unveiled  the re-worked JotSpot and I am loving the new Google Docs “Sites” feature.  This is truly a Microsoft Sharepoint killer.  I am going to step out on a limb here and predict that Microsoft Office Suite will find itself playing second fiddle to Google Docs in less then 18 months. Check out my VendAsta post here for proof!  If you own Microsoft Shares I say SELL! 
Oh and by the way, as Saskatoon Software Developers, we are really taking “Scrum” to a new level here. It is not just a development process! 
Watch the Video below to “See How We Scrum” 🙂

I’m a Mac and I’m a PC

February 8, 2008

What more can I say about this.

I’m a PC and I’m a Mac

Freedom Potential

January 30, 2008
Starting a new company is both challenging and rewarding but most of all it is refreshing. Imagine, for a second, that you could walk away from whatever it is you are doing for a living.  Really walk away.  Not just take a holiday, but walk away for good from all the day to day triviality.  Walk away from the phone calls to return, the full inbox, reporting requirements, and the ever present pressure of management responsibilities.    
Just imagine what you could imagine. 🙂  Essentially this is exactly what I, along with 7 of the smartest guys I have had the great fortune to cross paths with have done.  It is amazing at what a great group of people, instilled with persistence and determination can conceive and create when given the environment, opportunity and time.      
Just a few short months ago the 8 of us were bogged down with daily responsibilities and duties. Dreams and visions seemed hard to achieve. Product development felt like it was mired in molasses.  The list of bugs, maintenance and improvement tasks counted in the thousands.  This doesn’t just happen in individual companies. It seems it can affect entire industries as one of the really smart guys, Michael Wurzer points out in this blog post.
But, for now at least, we are free to huddle up here in far away Saskatoon Saskatchewan free from the melee of meetings, inboxes and telephone calls. We are free to hire the brightest minds and build the greatest software. We will make the most of this refreshing opportunity, and we will try, for as long as we can to stave off the weight of daily duties and responsibilities. Ironically, success itself will  take its toll on our new found freedom and ensure a return to duties and responsibilities of daily life.  But with a little luck, and a ton of persistence, determination and effort we will create a company that sustains and encourages this creative culture no matter our size or success.

The New Foosball Tables Arrived Today!

January 30, 2008

Two brand new T2000 Stainless Steel Tornado Foosball tables arrived yesterday.  I want to put down a challenge right here and now.  If anyone comes and visits us and beats us on these tables we will pay for you’re flights and hotel.   Russ Caper, if your reading this practice up!  Russ was my foos partner at the GooglePlex party at Inman New York. You can see the tables in action here.

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