MyFrontSteps at Inman

June 27, 2008
Things are starting to come together at MyFrontSteps. We have been selected as a participant on a panel to discuss new real estate technology.  The panel is appropriately titled: Changing the industry: 5 ideas at a time .  In this venue we will be talking about  our StepRep product for home service providers. However, we have been around in the industry long enough to know that “a new tool” for real estate professionals, while exciting, won’t be game changing proposition unless you can bring the consumer along , and en mass at that.
 
So what, you might ask, do we have for the consumer?  Well, were not really saying just yet but we have been experimenting with Common Craft style videos.  Here is an early try at a high level partial explanation of MyFrontSteps  Like I said, this is one of our very early videos so please be kind. 🙂

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.

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