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Opinion Editorials

Oh Noes, The Cat Got My Tongue



The chatterbox is silenced

You know what? I’m never stuck for things to say. I could talk for England, and I regularly do. But the last few weeks have been hard for me and I’m terrified the crappy economy has sucked the love out of blogging for me.

Now I don’t sell houses, nor do I lease them, or show them, or stage them…in fact I don’t even own one. But I’ve blogged about real estate for a good while now due to my various roles in real estate search technology companies. Because I’m not an agent and never have been, I don’t blog from that point of view. My domain as far as blogging has always been concerned has been covering British real estate news, news from the economy, the latest from the Bank of England and all that malarkey. I’ve written in the boom times and I’ve watched myself writing more and more about the bad times. And frankly, I hate it.

It’s the economy, stupid

I walk past the Bank of England on my 2.5 mile trek into the office each morning, without fail you’ll always see a bunch of reporters outside waiting to catch a glimpse of a banker crying or to do a piece-to-camera about the latest gloomy, depressing statistic. And every night the folk at the newspaper stands are shouting out ’10,000 made redundant today’, ‘No hope ‘til 2011’, ‘You may as well kill yourself, we’re all screwed’ and so on and so forth. I’m not in the States so I don’t know for sure how your national press are dealing with the economic downturn, but I can tell you that ours is outrageously obsessed.

Irresponsible reporting

The media are feeding this problem in a very dangerous way. And as a blogger, I don’t want to be one of those nasty people. I have no problem telling it how it is, ask me if your shoes match your pants and don’t be surprised if I tell you ‘hell no’. But I don’t want to feed a vicious cycle just because everybody else is. The result? I’ve become a quiet blogger.

But by becoming quieter and blogging less, I’ve not really helped the situation either. I’m sure some subscribers to my company blog are thinking ‘Oooh she’s not got much to say, it must be bad in the world of property’. So I’m going to publicly say I’m going to step up, not get beat down by the fact that most of my RSS feeds need to be read with a dose of Prozac on the side and get back on the blogging wagon.

Actually, there is opportunity here

Now is the perfect time to blog about the kind of things AgentGenius cover so bloody well every day, the tips and tricks for savvy agents, the things that can make you stand out from the crowd in a time when it matters most. The recession isn’t ‘all bad’. It will cut a lot of the crap from the RE industry, houses don’t sell themselves anymore and we can hope that the cowboys of the industry won’t survive. UK agents have always been blasted for being lazy and money hungry, now those that were always unfairly tarred with that brush can show they are innovative and hard working. And UK property has desperately needed a price correction, house prices here have been silly ridiculous for a long time.

I’m certainly not complaining that my generation will have to wise up their act either, growing up in the late nineties/noughties of has led to many having absolutely no grasp of money. A credit card? Well that’s the bank giving you free money, non? In Britain we need to learn to be frugal again, we’ve become out of control as spenders and shoppers. It’s no bad thing for us to have a reality check.

Granted, it’s no picnic

Don’t get me wrong with these last couple of paragraphs, I’m not trying to say ‘yay, a recession, wahoo!’. My other half lost his City job and I’ve started looking out for vouchers for grocery items. It’s not easy for anyone. But if the economy is kicking you blogging butt, don’t let it! It might take a bit more effort to think of things to write about, but we all know that blogging is worth that time commitment.

Oh look mummy, I did it!

So I guess this post was just to help me test the waters, it seems for someone with ‘bloggers block’ I’ve written a fair amount. Hurrah, I’m a real estate blogger again 😀

Poppy Dinsey works in Business Development at Globrix, the UK property search engine. She lives and works in London, which she loves except for the awful weather and lack of good pecan pie. She's got a pretty nifty degree in Eastern European Economics from UCL, which she readily admits she's never put to good use, although she did once dress up a Russian Bond Girl. You can find her on Twitter, 12Seconds, Seesmic and pretty much everywhere that's ever had a website.

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  1. teresa boardman

    November 25, 2008 at 7:21 am

    I have been struggling with the same problem and it is the economy. It got worse for me for a time when I also developed photographers block. Never heard of it but it happened.

  2. phil campbell

    November 25, 2008 at 8:14 am

    i’m the opposite, full of hope – full of looking forward to the future, i treat these moments as bumps. massive readjustment absolutely but i am prepared with open arms. even if i have to move to mexico to help build solar farms so be it.

  3. HIP Consultant

    November 25, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Hi Poppy

    I can not agree more with the whole doom and gloom reporting stance. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear a reporter break the current mould which is well cast at present and actually look at the long term rises we have seen rather than the short term downturn we are experiencing.

    Here is hoping but i wont hold my breath.

  4. Lani Rosales

    November 25, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Poppy, it’s tough all around and for me, reporting real estate news and having Twitter friends begging for any job tips I may have can drag things down. But I still have a house, an amazing husband and healthy kids and cats, so I’m keeping my chin up and writing at least 5 articles daily… I like your note to keep up the pace, this will weed some of the crap out. 🙂 Glad you’re back, hoorah!

  5. Barry Bevis

    November 25, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    I’m all for culling the dead wood out of the industry… and as we go through this process technology will become more and more important for agents to run lean shops.

    Dont be down… Things are looking up!

  6. Deborah Deschamps

    November 25, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    I’ve been a Realtor in Massachusetts for about 10 years. I have some ideas about how our people in my line of work could help themselves and the real estate market. Here’s what I think: first, we could get back into spending some time face to face with people, working on our listening skills, finding out how we can be better at providing what real estate services they need. We aren’t doing that for a very good reason: Because we’re learning to Twitter, Tweet, Poke, Tag, and Blog (among other things). And lest you think I’m casting stones from the doorway of this glass house, let me say I have an affection for doing all of those things,obviously – since here I am blogging. I think the social networking scene is important and can’t be ignored. In its own way, it IS answering the preferences of a new generation’s way of communicating. I think the human scene however, is at least as, if not more important, and IS being ignored by Realtors to a deplorable extent.

    For example, we scoff the direct mail approach. But I don’t know ANYone who doesn’t still LOVE to get a handwritten note in the mail. I have resolved to write five handwritten notes every day to my sphere of influence ( a VERY old fashioned term) just the way I did when I first started in this business, which is Just the way I went from a rookie to a consistently Top Producing Realtor in my area in very little time. something like, “back to basics”.

  7. fred

    November 25, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    @Deborah – I respect your opinion, but the real estate industry is changing, and “back to basics” is over. You cant go backwards when buyers and sellers are moving forwards, it just won’t work.

    Buyers are connecting with sellers online now, and Realtors are not “searching” for listings anymore, they are counseling.

    Sellers are looking for more cost effective ways to list and using flat fee listing services such as mine at .

    Smart sellers are just not listing with full service (expensive) brokers anymore.

    Fred Romano, Broker/Owner
    CT Realty Services

  8. Bill Lublin

    November 26, 2008 at 3:35 am

    Everything is truly subjective, and we are measured not by the times we live in but by how we respond to them. Well thought and well phrased!

  9. Vicki Moore

    November 30, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Action alleviates/eliminates worry. Get moving and feel better fast. Sometimes easier said than done but…

  10. CTannStarr

    November 30, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Poppy, you speak from the heart and it is a rare thing to keep one’s integrity in the Blogosphere. You keep doing what you do and do it the way you see fit. There is only one Poppy Dinsey and we love you when you are up or down. Your ability to always be yourself is amazing. Don’t lose yourself, just keep writing from the heart, even if the message has to be a sad one for the current state of affairs. Every single day the market changes. Approach it one day at a time and always make sure you take “me time” so you can rest and recharge your batteries. Hope to see you at Inman in Jan. Your rowdy American friends would love to give you lots of material to blog about. We’d love seeing you even better. <3 C.

  11. Laura Watts

    December 2, 2008 at 12:09 am

    Poppy, I guess we are all feeling the crunch in the Real Estate Market. I am looking upwards and praying it does get better. I have noticed a small upward lift in the calls and sales.

    I hope it picks up for you as well…

  12. Linsey

    December 3, 2008 at 12:14 am

    I remember the beginning of the downturn. I remember looking forward to ridding the industry of those that weren’t serious, full time, committed real estate professionals.

    The reality is, although the competition in the industry has decreased, the challenges I face in the day-to-day business can be discouraging. It takes so much discipline and work to bring a transaction together.

    Yet, I find some wonderful changes. I understand Deborah’s point about face-to-face time – that is when real transactions are completed. However, one of the most exciting things that I see taking place from this market is that agent’s are responding to consumers in a real and meaningful way. It may be too ‘2.0’ for some tastes, but the fact is consumers want content, information, and true guidance. Finally, we may have an opportunity to elevate the industry and quit the narcissistic, self-promotion that, particularly in this country, has plagued our industry.

    Now THAT is what keeps me excited about the direction of our industry.

  13. Deborah Deschamps

    December 3, 2008 at 8:00 am

    Vicki Moore – Right on! I once saw Dave Beson, the real estate speaker/trainer/coach. He said this: “Everything works, nothing doesn’t.” I get that. The simple energy of a good effort alone will work wonders toward getting things moving in the right direction. Which should mean both making it a point to talk (briefly and positively) with (not to) at least one person face to face everyday about what what we do as real estate professionals. Ask for a referallal if you can do it in a charming and professional way. Find something in your community that you can do that is helpful and you can put your heart into. Get to know people, and let them know you. and let them know you’re proud to be a real estate professional. Fred – this is the “face to face time” I’m talking about. And your comments about flat flee vs. expensive realtors is out of place here, IMHO, too by the way. And until my neighbor turns into a “2.0” morph of some kind and only communicates with computers and not other humans, I think I’ll keep the “face to face” aspect of my business in place.

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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.



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.



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.



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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