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Taking It To The Streets Information Superhighway.

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The Stigliano Chronicles - Taking It To The Streets

They’re only words.

Words. Words are powerful stuff. Words can hurt, elate, destroy, and effect change. They can be designed to do any of these things (and much more) or they can do it without intention. Words can be anything we want them to be. Being a blogger, I’ve become a bit more fond of words lately. I try to mix them up, use them effectively, and make sure their message is clear. I don’t always succeed. More than anything though, is the ability of words to change someone’s mind. To effect change through conversation. To influence decisions based on what you say. Power.

Yesterday was a crazy day here at AgentGenius. If you somehow missed it all (how, I will never understand), a large outcry began over a post by Paula Henry involving Google, scraping, IDX, and as many people felt, the future of internet based listing marketing and whether or not the National Association Of Realtors® really understood what’s going on in the “real world.” I spent quite a bit of the day thinking about all I was reading and the implications of the story. I read through the comments and picked up some insight I had missed and applauded some I had thought of myself. I added my views as well. Anyone that knows me, knows that I think the meat of a post is often in the comments. When you start a conversation, a post can take on a life of its own. And man oh man, did that post have a life!

Powerful words, powerful results.

If you’re out there and not convinced about the power of blogging, you need look no further. The final results of the post won’t be known for sometime, but it brought immediate attention to the issue, brought agents to the comments that you don’t see here on a regular basis (can someone say “call to action?”), and got responses from NAR itself. It opened up a next step process with Jay Thompson and Paula Henry being invited to speak before the MLS Committee next week (at NAR’s expense I might add). I fully expect the two of them will speak with passion, conviction, and the general betterment of real estate in mind. I think they’re both gifted writers and will be able to get their points across. I hope it will effect the change that will prevent this issue from spreading to other boards and associations.

The bigger picture.

Although I hope for the best from all of this, I see something else that I am excited about. Reaction. Conversation. Plans. (And hopefully) Resolution. Have you fully comprehended what just happened in a day and a half? Some of NAR’s members took a stand, voiced their opinions and were heard. This is what I envisioned the social media position at NAR should be all about. Todd Carpenter took a lot of flak as he was first on the scene (and whether or not he was speaking on behalf of NAR, as Jay pointed out, there will always be that association) and even I jumped to conclusions about his answers as I read them. Unfortunately, until the dues-paying members fully trust their own association, I feel Todd will always be a bit of a whipping-boy for the social media sect of Realtors®. Many people know him personally and although I don’t, I’ve spoken to him briefly on Twitter once or twice and know enough about him to know that he’s well respected by many. Regardless of what happens, there was a conversation at least and an opening to more in front of one of NAR’s committees.

With the internet, it’s easy to expect immediate results. Unfortunately, I don’t think those are going to be the first changes we see. I view this as a test of the might of the internet and social media to effect change. Of course, if it fails, we could easily slide backwards at a fast pace. If it succeeds, it should make all us all think of ways to continue pushing the envelope to bring about the changes that we desire. Todd said we need to get involved and I think many did, but perhaps in a new way. I don’t think we’ll see change tomorrow, but I think we may have just seen a glimpse of a possible future.

photo courtesy of alanwoo

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Lee Ellis

    May 7, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    That post is having a good, long life, indeed! Part of that future includes people who have commented, taken action and “met” online to meet in person and continue turning powerful words into meaningful actions. So before hearing Paula’s and Jay’s comments at the MLS Forum, I hope to meet many of you at the “REALTOR Mixer” next Wednesday night at Petits Plats co-hosted with Deborah Madey.

  2. Monika

    May 7, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    We’ll be at Midyear and will attend the MLS meeting to lend support.

  3. Matt Stigliano

    May 7, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    I look forward to hearing all the reports.

    Lee – I had written something for my site that I was considering converting for here, but I decided to go a completely different route. I just thought the idea of what happened as the comments unfolded was worthy of its own mention.

    Monika – I wish I was heading there to listen in.

  4. Missy Caulk

    May 7, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Matthew, this was the power of social media. Our voices were heard, and it could not have happened without the blog and the passion of so many.

    Some folks just “get it” faster than others, the early adopters. I know in my own office and in Ann Arbor in general. Folks are just starting to get on board with social media and very few blog.

    They are totally in the dark on all of this and I dare say wouldn’t have understood most of what occurred. Usually 20% adopt early on and then you hit critical mass. We are not at critical mass for social media yet.

    I’m happy Paula and Jay are getting to go. Todd is a great guy and I’m glad he is there.

  5. Matt Stigliano

    May 7, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Missy – It really served as a prime example of the power of social media and being able to get involved. I saw it mentioned in several places (so it was spreading news) and could see how it was being passed from one person to the next and then to their “friends” and then on and on. I think the whole post/comments could be printed and shown to anyone who says, “I don’t get social media.” If that doesn’t explain it, I don’t know what will. AgentGenius became the town hall of the RE.net for a meeting on the new plans for our town. Arguments were made, discussions were had, and solutions were proposed.

    I wrote this about an hour ago – I forgot how to hit “submit” apparently.

  6. Joe@Augusta GA Homes

    May 8, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Matt, As an agent who has invested a significant amount of time and money in to moving my site up in the Google rankings, I hope and pray that the NAR talking heads shut those heads up long enough to open their ears to Paula and Jay at this meeting. As a dues paying member of NAR, I cannot believe they would classify the #1 search engine on the planet this way – to the detriment of our clients. I have fought tooth and nail to move my rankings up the Google ladder, and the last thing I want is to turn off that money stream because of archaic rules that do nothing to help my clients sell their home.

  7. Matt Stigliano

    May 8, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Joe – I agree that its shocking to see that Google would be classified as any thing other than a search engine. I do hope that Paula and Jay are well received, listened to, and have enough time to get their points made. I know they will do a great job, I just hope that it goes well.

  8. Austin Smith - Goomzee.com

    May 8, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I hope so as well. As a blogger, I can’t think of two people I would rather have represent our community than Jay and Paula. Good luck, guys.

  9. Paula Henry

    May 9, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Matt – I am only beginning to get back to look at all the posts written in support of the post I wrote. What has happened here is truly the power of social media. It’s true, there are many who do not understand and many more who don’t want to. The point is, those of us here who do understand have the power to reach across boundaries we would not have otherwise had.

  10. Paula Henry

    May 9, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Austin – Thank You!

  11. Matt Stigliano

    May 10, 2009 at 7:32 am

    Austin – It is good to have such great representation. I have admired them both for their blogs in the past, but now I have more reason to. I wish them the best in their travels. I just hope that NAR will truly listen to what they have to say.

    Paula – With the bazillion emails, posts, and comments you’ve probably generated, I’m sure you’re swamped so I appreciate you taking a few moments to stop by here. You’ve been given a heavy burden because of your post, but luckily, I know you can take it on. I have full faith in you and Jay and wish you the best. Imagine this had happened ten years ago, it would probably happened quietly and never been seen by most. Thanks to your post, the word is spreading and people are reacting.

  12. Valorie Stover

    May 11, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Glad this is going to be heard by NAR and thanks to Jay and Paul,a know they will serve us well.

    Social media gets the word out faster than any the old gossip line ever did.

  13. Matt Stigliano

    May 12, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Valorie – It was fast. Although your mention of the word “gossip” brings up a good point too. It’s easy to spread rumors, false claims, gossip, lies, and sow discontent a lot faster than ever before. Everything always has a down side to it I guess.

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Opinion Editorials

Freelance is the Future? I call bull malarky

(EDITORIAL) Some have predicted that due to company needs and employees’ desire for flexibility, and even COVID, freelance is the future of work. But I have reservations.

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Freelance desk

Long gone are the days of punching a clock in Corporate America to be in your seat at your desk for an exact period of 8 hours on a day x 5 = 40 hours per week. If you work in an office setting now, usually you are expected to manage your time and finish your projects but companies have adjusted their strict butt in seat polices so that you can come in late after a doctor appointment or even leave a little early for Susie’s soccer tournament.

The truth is, with the advancement of technology and connected devices, many of us can work from anywhere (as long as there’s Wi-Fi or we have our hotspot). So, as long as your work gets done, there’s a little bit of room for “flexibility”.

When a company pitches this as flexibility, it’s really just a way of re-wording that you will work a lot so they will cut you some slack here and there considering most of us work well over our 40 hours a week. We can check email first thing in the morning, forward documents from the plane and even be on conference calls while in a line or in an Uber. You may work late on a Tuesday due to Wednesday deliverables which allows you to take off on Friday at 3pm when usually your projects are in a good place. There are also times where you will work on the weekend.

The opportunity to work anywhere has led to some considering that freelance is the future? I just don’t buy it. And this might be an unpopular opinion. I think that’s like turning the Titanic around. People rely on companies to offer a feeling of stability (or so we think) so that you know there’s a paycheck coming in every other week and you definitely have your fair share of projects (oh yeah, plus healthcare benefits).

If we all moved in to freelancing, we’d have a wide variety of clients, customers, teammates and paychecks that could be difficult to keep up with. We’d be forced to be the CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, CMOs, CFOs, oh, forget it, the entire C-suite of our own careers. It’s really difficult to generate new clients in the future while you’re working on a current project.

However, it’s equally difficult to have a lull so you have to be constantly engaged and pitching business (at the same time you have your current work). You have to be on your A-game at all times and out pitching yourself and your brand. You have to be creating content on all the social channels and be invited to participate in fancy conferences and meetings. This unfortunately is the life of freelance.

Does it seem like more people will do freelance? Yes. There’s lots of opportunity now thanks to the world wide web. But I predict they will do this in addition to their regular jobs. Is it possible that we may move to a gig economy? We are already there. You’ve heard of Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Fiverr and Upwork…It seems like that most people that have 2-3 gigs to make them whole are typically looking for full-time opportunities or would love to find something that can replace the others with more consistent work and not all the hustle. Are Small Businesses on the rise? Absolutely.

It seems that it depends on your desire for either slightly more predictable work and paychecks or if you’re a throw caution to the wind person and live that freelancer life. Also, if your skill sets are the ones employers are looking for on an ad hoc basis. No doubt many people live a freelancer life and love it. But I just don’t see it being the masses – I think it takes a special kind of dedication to rely on freelance and/or starting your own business. Plus, you’re off your parents’ healthcare at age 26. That’s when real the “real job” starts to sound really appealing.

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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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