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A letter from the CEO of NAR to AG- prepare to laugh

When the world’s largest trade group is led by someone who can make references to Betty White and Star Trek in one email, you’ve got a winner.

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As the NAR Annual Convention came to a close and everyone returned to the comfort of their laptops and office computers to recap, one particular article here on AG got quite a bit of attention. Herman Chan opined, “If I hear the term ‘social media’ one more time, I am gonna hurl. It’s overkill, over the hill and overdid.”

In the many comments on AG and elsewhere on the bastardization of the term “social media,” one stood out in particular to us and that was a comment by our friend Nobu Hata who is highly involved in the National Association of Realtors Young Professionals Network (YPN). Hata like many before him asked, “So instead of opining about your discontent on a forum where you’re preaching to the choir, how about joining the Convention Committee and becoming part of the selection process?”

Because YPN is a NAR organization, we dropped Dale Stinton, the CEO of NAR an email asking if he supported Hata’s indication that being on a committee is the way to change things (as opposed to editorialize on a national stage).

Rather than summarize or tell you what to think, we would like to share the entire email with you because we read it out loud in the office repeatedly and cracked up… also, despite our differences with NAR (past and present), we totally love Dale. His direct response below highlights the Dale that we know:

Dale Stinton’s personal response to us: “I usually stay out of these conversations as they seem to pop up more than my capacity to engage. However, you were kind enough to contact me, and with all of the convention activities still fairly fresh in my mind, I am happy to offer a few observations.

I don’t think Nobu’s intent was to stifle anyone’s thoughts. He was expressing a personal opinion just like the 50 others (yes, I did read them) that have commented on the “social media” spin that frequented the exhibit hall floor. I wouldn’t read anymore into it than that – he had a point of view and he expressed it.

Since I’m in the flow though, I might as well jump in with my view of the overuse or misuse of the social media jargon. My experience, particularly in the tech or quasi-tech arena has been, that whenever someone wants to sound like they know what they’re talking about they grab the phrase of the day. Twenty plus years ago it was “mainframe” (and if you really wanted to impress ‘em you said “concatination”). Then it was “system software solutions” and “distributed processing”. Moving on, we stored up for the right occasion “PC”, “desktop”, and my personal favorites “internet and intranet”. Recently it’s been “how about that 2.0 – wait til it gets here” and now the ever popular “cloud”. Mark Lesswing tells me if I really want to be hip and get extra credit for really being “on the edge” (hey, I just tripped over another one there) that I should start using the terms “air play technology” and “geolocation”. You may all use them, but I get credit (very important to my age group credibility) for using them first. You see, more often than not, this penchant for appearing “in the know” is a function of my generations (let’s just say 50+) need to find some place of comfort in a rapidly changing world that seems to have gone absolutely crazy. The exhibit show floor was littered with my generational brethren all clinging to the social media term as the latest expression of their own relevance and competency. We’ll move on to the next catchy phrase with a half life soon enough – in the meantime be kind to us, we gave you Star Trek and Betty White…and with that – “Beam me up Betty?'”

While Dale and his generation were worried about “concatination” (which we totally had to look up), I was worried about getting permanent marker off of my Cabbage Patch doll’s face.

What we get from the hilarious response above is kind of a “c’est la vie” mentality that we agree you will see become more and more commonplace. In the world of sales, the phrase of the day will always become so prominent that it sickens everyone, it’s part of the cycle. The phrases of today surround social media and while we’re sick of hearing them too, even we have to continue talking about it because our inbox is full of questions about it from agents struggling to keep up in a down economy and is grasping at straws.

Thank you, Dale, for taking the time out to opine, we know that we appreciate it and we have reached out to Betty White for a comment on your shout out.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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47 Comments

47 Comments

  1. Matt Kelly

    November 11, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I can completely related to Dales term “de jour” comments. One of the many questions I’ve pondered over the years as it relates to his thoughts is “I wonder what happened to all of those Y2K Consultants?”

    • Jay Thompson

      November 11, 2010 at 6:06 pm

      “I wonder what happened to all of those Y2K Consultants?”

      They are all “social media guru’s” now….

  2. hermanchan.com

    November 11, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    OMfG, it’s NAR’s very own Oscar Wilde. any one who can coherently string together concatination, star trek & betty white has got my vote!

  3. Ken Brand

    November 11, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I’m impressed.

  4. Loren Nason

    November 11, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    I just tell people they should use aggressive processor scaling to achieve unprecedented power consumption reduction in low-use scenarios.

  5. Nadina Cole-Potter

    November 11, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I can see why you love Dale! And, BTW, everyone, Betty White’s generation is between mine and my parents’ generation — and I am approaching … Let’s just say I remember my uniformed father and uncles during WWII.

    I am still smiling!

  6. Josh Nekrep

    November 11, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    You know, he really has a point… and my hat’s off to him for saying it.

    There’s really two sides to this issue:
    1) Social Media and internet tech in general is absolutely changing the way we do things on a day-to-day basis. There’s absolutely no doubting that.
    2) Many, many things have “changed the way we do things” before… so many that I’m not sure we need another “revolution”. It simply is what it is. The reason so many of us get so wrapped up in it is because we’re trying so hard to stay ahead of the curve.

    On this Remembrance/Veterans Day… maybe it’s time to just take a breath. I’m going to spend my evening being social in a decidedly analog way. 🙂

  7. Jonathan Benya

    November 11, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    That’s a very well put response. Kudos to Dale for taking the time to write it, although I’m not sure that I agree with his view point.

    Yeah, SM is the “in” thing. Yes, it will cease being a buzz word eventually (not soon enough, IMHO). SM cannot be linked in the same “buzz word” category as “system software solutions” and “distributed processing”, however. I think that marketers are going to get a whole lot more mileage out of SM, largely due to the ambiguous nature of what social media really is. I think very few people, relative to the real estate community, fully understand the scope; hell I get it wrong sometimes myself!

    Things like the internet are simple. It’s there, you’re on it, or you’re not. SM has a very blurred line. Is reading blogs social media? commenting? writing? Is logging into facebook enough to count, or do I need to talk about real estate for it to qualify.

    All of this is made worse, as Herman pointed out, with folks selling “social media frames”, and other quasi-related stuffs that don’t really have a bearing on SM at all. Nobody knows where to get the right answer, yet. Much like the internet took time for real estate, so does social media. My thought is that we all need to be ready to adapt, change, and shift in order to grow and adopt the tools that our clients are already using. At the end of the day, it’s much like any other shift in technology. Throw out your cassettes, learn which end of the CD is up, and keep moving along.

  8. Ken Montville

    November 11, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Hey, let’s not forget Tony Bennett. He was the hot thing for the MTV generation just a few years back and now, he’s like, who? Tony was the Betty White of the early 2000s.

    But I digress.

    The original post talked about the over saturation or bastardizaion of “social media”. Nobu suggested working from the inside to change the convention vendor mix. It’s really two separate issues. Yes. Social media is over used as a term and poorly understood by the masses. Probably because there is no “standard” for social media (as I think Jonathan Benya was pointing to),

    The other part was about the mix of vendors on the expo floor. I wasn’t there but I can imagine if someone was selling digital frames as “social media” that it was a real circus. However, I’m not sure that volunteering for one of NAR’s ginormous committees to be the lone voice of reason is a workable solution. Perhaps blogging about it on AG, catching the attention of someone like Nobu and Dale (and others) will create a greater groundswell of, let’s say, intentionality, about who the vendors will be.

    Of course, the real deal with vendors is the money. One can’t really be too choosy. The reason snake oil sells is because there are buyers.

  9. Jay Thompson

    November 11, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Despite the abundance of “social media this and that” on the expo floor, you know what were consistently the most crowded booths that I walked by?

    Those selling purses, scarves and jewelry,

    Seriously.

    • hermanchan.com

      November 11, 2010 at 7:41 pm

      how can you beat $10 kashmere scarves ?! (yes, cashmere with a K) i bought 5!

    • Ann Cummings

      November 12, 2010 at 6:16 am

      Those are always the busiest booths at every convention I’ve ever gone to. I often wonder what happened to the booths that used to see supplies like letterhead, notecards, license plate holders and such – those used to be packed booths, too.

  10. Janie Coffey

    November 11, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I am sooooo over hearing people gripe about the words “social media”. People call it that for lack of a better word(s), but the truth is, it’s here to stay. Just like the internet way, email way, texting way. Socal media, networking, new media, whatever you want to call it is no longer the next shiny new object. I fully agree with Dale, the word is overused, but it does not minimize the powerful impact social “whatever you want to call it” is having on our lives. It’s a game changer and as sick as you might be of hearing it, it ain’t going anywhere and I am thankful for Dale’s pragmatic response. More than wanting to “hurl” when I hear social media, I want to “hurl” when I hear someone even bring it up as being tired of hearing it. It is what it is, what’s next? Let’s look for that!

  11. Missy Caulk

    November 11, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    To quote Jay, “Despite the abundance of “social media this and that” on the expo floor, you know what were consistently the most crowded booths that I walked by?

    Those selling purses, scarves and jewelry,”

    and to add my own…QR Codes, everywhere.

  12. Matthew Rathbun

    November 11, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Did we get upset at the phrase the “web”? I’m proud of Dale for engaging AG. I wish all the Association Exec’s would be so engaging.

    • Ann Cummings

      November 12, 2010 at 6:18 am

      Matt – I don’t think most know how.

  13. Teresa boardman

    November 12, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Is this a paradigm shift? Thought I would throw in one more “boomerism” so that we have a more complete list.

    • Lisa L

      November 12, 2010 at 12:46 pm

      And let’s not forget the social media “sensibility” that real estate bloggers represent…to quote Bridget Jones, “Gaaaahhhh!”

  14. Matthew Hardy

    November 12, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    People who sell use terms and phrases like: sell, sales, contact you and contract.

    People who sell and want to pretend they’re *not* selling use terms and phrases like: engage, friend you, reach out and understanding.

    I miss transparency.

  15. Michael Sosnowski

    November 13, 2010 at 8:09 am

    How about this…..the expo floor is all about selling Realtors “stuff”. That’s what vendors do. At a NAR convention that are thousands of potential clients looking for the next easy solution to “fix” their business or accomplish goals without really working. Has this ever changed? If you are a Realtor you are constantly bombarded by crummy products that are dumbed down for the masses. SM is the current “in” thing because there are many opportunities to sell agents stuff.

    If you are overlooking SM or the next “technology” you do so at your business peril, but like anything else it takes hard work and dedication and a good evaluation of where it fits in your overall business model.

  16. MarikaRealtor

    November 16, 2010 at 11:18 am

    The letter and all of the remarks that follojust are amazing! Jjust for having literary skills exposed, appreciated and shared on such scale – social media will be ever fascinating.

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Why robots freak us out, and what it means for the future of AI

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Robots and humans have a long way to go before the social divide disappears, but research is giving us insight on how to cross the uncanny valley.

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Close of R2D2 toy, an example of robots that we root for, but why?

We hate robots. Ok, wait, back up. We at least think they are more evil than good. Try it yourself – “are robots” in Google nets you evil before good. Megatron has higher SEO than Optimus Prime, and it’s not just because he’s so much cooler. It cuz he evil, cuz. It do be like that.

It’s not even a compliment to call someone robotic; society connotes this to emotionless preprogrammed shells of hideous nothing, empty clankbags that walk and talk and not much else. So, me at a party. Or if you’re a nerd, you’re a robot. (Me at a party once again.)

Let’s start by assuming robots as human-like bipedal machines that are designed with some amount of artificial intelligence, generally designed to fulfill a job to free up humanity from drudgery. All sounds good so far. So why do they creep us out?

There’s a litany of reasons why, best summed up with the concept of the uncanny valley, first coined by roboticist Masahiro Mori (Wow he’s still alive! The robots have not yet won) in 1970. Essentially, we know what a human is and how it looks and behaves against the greater backdrop of life and physics. When this is translated to a synthetic being, we are ok with making a robot look and act like us to a point, where we then notice all the irregularities and differences.

Most of these are minor – unnaturally smooth or rigid movements, light not scattering properly on a surface, eyes that don’t sync up quite right when they blink, and several other tiny details. Lots of theories take over at this point about why this creeps us out. But a blanket way to think about it is that our expectation doesn’t match what we are seeing; the reality we’re presented with is off just enough and this makes us uncomfortable .

Ever stream a show and the audio is a half second off? Makes you really annoyed. Magnify that feeling by a thousand and you’re smack in the middle of the uncanny valley. It’s that unnerving. One possible term for this is abjection, which is what happens the moment before we begin to fear something. Our minds – sensing incompatibility with robots – know this is something else, something other , and faced with no way to categorize this, we crash.

This is why they make good villains in movies – something we don’t understand and given free will and autonomy, potentially imbued with the bias of a creator or capable of forming terrifying conclusions all on its own (humans are a virus). But they also make good heroes, especially if they are cute or funny. Who doesn’t love C3PO? That surprise that they are good delights us. Build in enough appeal to a robot, and we root for them and feel empathy when they are faced with hardships. Do robots dream of electric sheep? Do robots have binary souls? Bits and zeros and ones?

Professor Jaime Banks (Texas Tech University’s College of Media & Communication) spends a lot of time thinking about how we perceive robots. It’s a complex and multifaceted topic that covers anthropomorphism, artificial intelligence, robot roles within society, trust, inherently measuring virtue versus evil, preconceived notions from entertainment, and numerous topics that cover human-robot interactions.

The world is approaching a future where robots may become commonplace; there are already robot bears in Japan working in the healthcare field. Dressing them up with cute faces and smiles may help, but one jerky movement later and we’ve dropped all suspension.

At some point, we have to make peace with the idea that they will be all over the place. Skynet, GLaDOS in Portal, the trope of your evil twin being a robot that your significant will have to shoot in the middle of your fight, that episode of Futurama where everything was a robot and they rose up against their human masters with wargod washing machines and killer greeting cards, the other Futurama episode where they go to a planet full of human hating murderous robots… We’ve all got some good reasons to fear robots and their coded minds.

But as technology advances, it makes sense to have robots take over menial tasks, perform duties for the needy and sick, and otherwise benefit humanity at large. And so the question we face is how to build that relationship now to help us in the future.

There’s a fine line between making them too humanlike versus too mechanical. Pixar solved the issue of unnerving humanoids in their movies by designing them stylistically – we know they are human and accept that the figure would look odd in real life. We can do the same with robots – enough familiarity to develop an appeal, but not enough to erase the divide between humanity and robot. It may just be a question of time and new generations growing up with robots becoming fixtures of everyday life. I’m down for cyborgs too.

Fearing them might not even be bad, as Banks points out: “…a certain amount of fear can be a useful thing. Fear can make us think critically and carefully and be thoughtful about our interactions, and that would likely help us productively engage a world where robots are key players.”

Also, check out Robot Carnival if you get the chance – specifically the Presence episode of the anthology.

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Opinion Editorials

4 simple tips to ease friction with your boss while working remotely

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Find it challenging to get along with your boss while working from home? Here are a few things you can try to ease the tension.

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Woman stressed over laptop in remote work.

Most people probably feel like their relationship with their boss is fine. If you’re encountering friction with your boss for any reason, though, remote work will often exacerbate it—this is one instance where distance doesn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder. Here are a few ways to remove some of that friction without adding to your boss’ overflowing plate.

According to CNN, determining the problem that exists between you and your boss should be your first step. There’s one caveat to consider, however: Your boss’ boundaries. Problem-solving on your own time is fine, but demanding more of your boss’ time—especially when you’re supposed to be working—may compound the issue.

An easy way around this is a low-impact communique—e.g., an email—sent at the beginning or end of the workday. Since that’s a more passive communication style that takes only a minute or two out of your day, it’s less likely to frustrate your boss further.

If ironing out the issue isn’t your prerogative for now, examining your boss’ parameters for success is another place to start. Does your boss prefer to receive multiple updates throughout the day, or do they want one summative report each morning? Do you respect your boss’ preferred communication styles? These are important questions to ask during remote work. If you find yourself reaching out more than necessary, for example, it may be time to cut back.

It can also be difficult to satiate your boss if you don’t know their expectations. If you’re able to speak to them about the expectations regarding a project or task, do it; clarifying the parameters around your work will always help both of you. It is worth noting that some supervisors may expect that you know your way around some types of responsibilities, though, so err on the side of complementing that knowledge rather than asking for comprehensive instructions.

Finally, keep in mind that some bosses simply don’t communicate the same way you do. I’ve personally been blessed with a bevy of nurturing, enthusiastic supervisors, but we’ve all had superiors who refuse to acknowledge our successes and instead focus on our failures. That can be a really tough mentality to work with during remote periods, but knowing that they have a specific communication style that hampers their sociability can help dampen the effects.

As always, communication is key—even if that means doing it a little bit less than you’d like.

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