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Opinion Editorials

Does aggregators’ use of the term “MLS” damage the industry?

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Is the boat about to rock?

A recent survey by RealTrends.com which they plan to present to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), “Over 70% of respondents thought that the value of ‘MLS’ could be easily diminished through the confusion caused by non-Realtor aggregator’s use of that term.”

Because the term “MLS” (Multiple Listing Service) is not trademarked and there are currently no industry protections over the term, and there is currently support brewing for trademarking the term given that anyone can use the term when describing real estate data collected and presented by anyone, even third party companies.

We ask who would govern the national enforcement and would it look like the NAR’s protection over the term “REALTOR®” where a department shoots off a cease and desist order followed by threats and eventual legal action, or would it look more along the lines of moderation on a forum where use is flagged and reported and governed by the national community at large?

Time for you to weigh in

In an effort to make sure your voice is heard, please take a moment to lend your opinion to the debate, which we will make sure is shared with NAR. Would this move be yet another stifling of innovation or is protection critical now more than ever? Let us know!

CC Licensed image courtesy of harmonious design via Flickr.com.

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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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Michael Wurzer

    June 16, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Lani, the cat’s out of the bag, neither NAR nor anyone else can get a US trademark over the accronym MLS today, because the term has become generic. It’s simply too late. More interesting, however, is the issue of domain names, and there is an effort underway to obtain the .mls top-level domain for MLS organizations. See https://www.mlsdomains.org/.

  2. Benn Rosales

    June 16, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I’m with Michael on this one, stuffing this one back in the bag is both too late and a waste of time and resources.

  3. Eric Hempler

    June 16, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I remember when I first looked up MLS and Major League Soccer (MLS) came up. Does that mean they have to change the name of the league of MLS becomes trademarked?

  4. Ruthmarie Hicks

    June 16, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I’m not so sure that that’s the case. I can’t use MLS on my IDX – why should aggregators have the privilege? Information is power and frankly I don’t get how the MLS information is NOT proprietary. Stuffing it back in the bag may be necessary for the survival of the industry. I do not buy into the notion that “information longs to be ‘free’ and will find a way to be so.” I worked in a field where proprietary information was the norm and you had to get PERMISSION to utilize or have access to it. It represented the work of others – and thus no matter how much the information longed to be “free” it belonged to someone. …plain and simple.

  5. Lani Rosales

    June 16, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Comments from facebook.com/agentgenius where we asked, “So “REALTOR” is trademarked, but some are arguing that “MLS” should be as well and say that websites using the acronym “MLS” are damaging the industry by causing confusion. What do YOU think?”

    Ron Foo Chun: I agree MLS should be trademarked. It’s a brand and the confusing sites using it only dilutes and confuses the public.

    Laura Nelson Brown: I agree. It is misleading to have names like MLS Realty, etc.

    Daniel Bates: I agree that it’s a brand, but I don’t know that anything these other companies are anything worse than what Homes.com has contorted it into. I don’t think it really matters, The MLS lose all value as soon as one of the big brokerages pulls out. The NAR simply is not providing any value for all the dues it’s reaping in and there’s no compelling argument to keep a company like Homes.com in charge of all the data when google, trulia, and zillow are making better technological bounds.

    Fred Romano: I don’t agree. Mls is just an acronym for multiple listing service which are generic terms. Any system that has “multiple” listings can be considered an mls. This includes fsbo sites and independent websites that allow listings to be posted.

    Andy Nazaroff: MLS is not owned by NAR & this battle was already fought and lost. However, certain local MLS’ have been able to get websites to take down their version of “localcity”mls.com

    Eric Hempler: What happens to Major League Soccer (MLS) do they loose [sic] their initials?

  6. Century 21

    June 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Does aggregators’ use of the term “MLS” damage the industry? https://bit.ly/b3ndq1 (@agentgenius)

  7. Mark Jacobs

    June 16, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    If we can’t use it then why should aggregators have the privilege?

  8. Soccer West

    June 16, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Does aggregators' use of the term “MLS” damage the industry?: Because the term “MLS” (Multiple Listing Service) is… https://bit.ly/9usBSn

  9. Shea Bunch

    June 17, 2010 at 12:06 am

    I agree that if agents are not allowed to use the term MLS then the aggregators should not as well, but as several others have already commented, this battle has already been lost.

  10. SoccerPhD

    June 17, 2010 at 2:39 am

    Does aggregators' use of the term “MLS” damage the industry? https://bit.ly/bAWDWU

  11. Tom Lyons

    June 17, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Does aggregators’ use of the term “MLS” damage the industry? – Is the boat about to rock?
    A recent survey by … https://tinyurl.com/29q4y82

  12. Lucus

    June 21, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I remember NAR trying to stop people from using MLS in their domain names. What a joke. They tried to get me to pull one of me sites, using their standard cease and desist orders. I told the to stuff it. The domain is still up today.

    I can’t wait until realtor becomes public domain like kleenex, etc.

  13. JWL Consulting

    July 13, 2010 at 1:27 am

    "Does aggregators’ use of the term “MLS” damage the industry?" ( https://bit.ly/bsemeb ). The solution is DotMLS.

  14. Judith Lindenau

    July 13, 2010 at 2:20 am

    RT @JWLConsulting: "Does aggregators’ use of the term “MLS” damage the industry?" ( https://bit.ly/bsemeb ). The solution is DotMLS.

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Opinion Editorials

Ways to socialize safely during quarantine

(EDITORIAL) Months of isolation due to quarantine is causing loneliness for many, but joining virtual social groups from home may help fill the need for interaction.

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quarantine

Quarantining, sheltering in place, staying home. We’re tired of hearing it; we’re tired of doing it. Yet, it’s what we still need to be doing to stay safe for a while longer. All of this can be lonesome. As the days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the alone time is getting to even the most introverted among us.

Solitary confinement is considered one of the most psychologically damaging punishments a human can endure. The New Yorker reported on this in a 1992 study of prisoners in detention camps in the former Yugoslavia, as well as Vietnam veterans who experienced isolation. These studies showed that prisoners who had experienced solitary confinement demonstrated similar brain activity to those who’d suffered a severe head injury, noting that “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.”

We aren’t meant to be solitary creatures. Your “pandemic brain” is real. That fogginess, the lack of productivity, can be attributed to many things, including anxiety, but being kept apart from other humans is a big part of it too. Be kind to yourself, give yourself grace, and join others virtually. Be it an app, a class, a Facebook group, a chat room, or a livestream, someone somewhere is out there waiting to connect with you too.

The good news? We are lucky enough to live in an era of near limitless ways to interact socially online. Sure, it is different, but it is something. It’s important. The best thing about this type of social interaction is being able to hone in on your specific interests, though I’d caution you against getting caught in an online echo chamber. Diversity of interests, personality, and opinion make for a richer experience, with opportunities for connecting and expanding your worldview.

Here are a few suggestions on ways to socialize while staying home and staying safe. Communicating with other humans is good for you, physically and mentally.

Interactive Livestreams on Twitch:

Twitch is best known as a streaming service for video game fans, but it offers multiple streams appealing to different interests. This is more than passive watching (although that is an option, too) as Twitch livestream channels also have chat rooms. Twitch is fun for people who like multi-tasking because the chat rooms for popular livestream channels can get busy with chatter.

While people watch the Twitch hosts play a video game, film a live podcast, make music or art, mix cocktails, or dance, they can comment on what they’re watching, make suggestions, ask questions, crack jokes, and get to know each other (by Twitch handle, so it is still as anonymous as you want it to be) in the chat room. The best hosts take time every so often to interact directly with the chat room questions and comments.

Many Twitch channels develop loyal followers who get to know each other, thus forming communities. I have participated in the Alamo Drafthouse Master Pancake movie mocks a few times because they are fun and local to Austin, where I live. Plus, in my non-quarantine life, I would go to Master Pancake shows live sometimes. The chat room feels familiar in a nice way. While watching online is free, you can (and totally should) tip them.

Online trivia in real time:

There are some good options for real-time online trivia, but I’m impressed with the NYC Trivia League’s model. They have trivia games online on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The NYC Trivia League seems to have figured out a good way to run the game live while keeping answers private from the other teams. They run games on Instagram Live with a live video of the host, and participants answer via the question feature. Clever!

Online book club:

First I have to shout out my Austin local independent bookstore, BookPeople, because they are fantastic. They run book clubs throughout the year, along with readings, book signings, and all things book-related. BookPeople hosts several online book clubs during these lockdown days, and most people will find something that appeals to them.

I’m also impressed with this list from Hugo House, a writer’s resource based out of Seattle. This list includes Instagram and Goodread book clubs, book clubs for Black women, rebels, and poetry lovers. The Financial Diet recommends the Reddit book club, if you are comfortable with the Reddit format. Please note that it’s a busy place, but if you like Reddit, you already know this.

Cooking class or virtual tasting:

This is doubly satisfying because you can follow these chefs in real time, and you end up with a meal. There are a couple on Instagram Live, such as The Culinistas or Chef Massimo Bottura.

You can also participate in virtual tastings for wine, whiskey, or chocolate, though you will have to buy the product to participate in the classes (usually held over Zoom or Facebook Live). If you are in Austin, Dallas, or Houston, I recommend BeenThere Locals. The cost of the course includes the wine, spirits, or cooking kit in most cases, and all of the money goes to the business and expert hosting the class.

Look for your favorite wine, spirits, cheese, chocolate makers, and chefs that are local to you to find a similar experience. Most either prepare the class kit for pickup or delivery within a local area.

Quarantine chat:

To interact with another quarantined person seeking social interaction, there’s Quarantine Chat. Quarantine chat is one of the ways to connect through the Dialup app, available on iOS and Android devices. Sign up to make and receive calls when you want to speak with someone. The Dialup app pairs you randomly with another person for a phone conversation, at a scheduled time, either with anyone or with someone with shared interests.

Quarantine chat takes it a step further with calls at random times. When your quarantine chat caller calls, you will not see their number (or they yours), only the “Quarantine Chat” caller ID. If you are unable to pick up when they call, they will be connected with someone else, so there is no pressure to answer. It’s nice to hear someone else’s voice, merely to talk about what you’ve been cooking or what hilarious thing your pet is doing.

Play Uno:

Uno Freak lets people set up games and play Uno online with friends or strangers. Players do not need to register or download anything to play. Uno Freak is web-based.

Talk to mental health professionals:

If your state of loneliness starts sliding toward depression, call someone you can speak to right away to talk over your concerns. When in doubt, call a trained professional! Here are a few resources:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET, 800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to this text line 24/7 for someone to text with who will also be able to refer you to other resources: U.S. and Canada: 74174, U.K. 85258, Ireland: 50808.
  • Psych Central has put together this comprehensive list of crisis intervention specialists and ways to contact them immediately.

There are many ways to connect even though we are physically apart. These are just a few real time ways to interact with others online. If you want something a little more flesh and blood, take a walk around the block or even sit in a chair in front of where you live.

Wave at people from afar, and remember that we have lots of brilliant doctors and scientists working on a way out of this. Hang in there, buddy. I’m rooting for you. I’m rooting for all of us.

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Opinion Editorials

Working remotely: Will we ever go back? (Probably not)

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Now that the pandemic has opened the door on working remotely, there’s no way we’ll put the genie back in the bottle. But, here’s some ways you can adapt.

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Woman working remotely on her couch with a laptop on her lap.

When it comes to working remotely, will the toothpaste ever go back in the tube?

Mark Zuckerberg recently said, “We are going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale…” By 2030, Zuckerberg anticipates that over half of Facebook’s workforce will be remote. Many other companies are jumping on the work from home bandwagon. Working remotely has helped many businesses manage the pandemic crisis, but it’s unsure what form remote working will take over the next 10 years.

We know that employees are responding positively to WFH, as reported in this article – Employers: Lacking remote work options may cause you to lose employees. As offices transition to a post-COVID normal, here are some things to consider about your office and remote work.

What does your business gain from allowing workers to WFH?
The future of remote work depends on a conscious application of WFH. It’s not just as easy as moving employees out of the office to home. You have to set up a system to manage workers, wherever they are working. The companies with good WFH cultures have set up rules and metrics to know whether it’s working for their business. You’ll need to have technology and resources that let your teams work remotely.

Can your business achieve its goals through remote work?
The pandemic may have proved the WFH model, but is this model sustainable? There are dozens of benefits to remote work. You can hire a more diverse workforce. You may save money on office space. Employees respond well to remote work. You reduce your carbon emissions.

But that can’t be your only measure of whether remote work fits into your vision for your organization. You should be looking at how employees will work remotely, but you need to consider why employees work remotely.

The work paradigm is shifting – how will you adapt?
The work environment has shifted over the past century. Remote work is here to stay, but how it fits into your company should be based on more than what employees want. You will have to work closely with managers and HR to build the WFH infrastructure that grows with your organization to support your teams.

We don’t know exactly how remote work will change over the next decade, but we do know that the workplace is being reinvented. Don’t just jump in because everyone is doing it. Make an investment in developing your WFH plan.

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Opinion Editorials

The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it

(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.

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unemployment

Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?

This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.

It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”

It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.

More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!

The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.

1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.

2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!

3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–

4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.

Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.

Ergo, fact number five…

5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.

That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.

The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.

To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”

Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.

I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.

Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out. And even as we enter 2021, there is still more to be aware of – we’re not out of the woods yet.

I’d like to end this on a more positive note… So let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.

Keep your heads up, and masked.

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