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The Lost Innocence..

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Lost innocence

Caution: This entire diatribe is a paradox, in and of itself.

At one time I thought I was the king of hyperbole and cynicism. Then…I began reading real estate blogs. When I first started reading, I thought ‘WOW, look at all this great information.’ At some point I feel that what I’ve been reading has crossed from being informative to pushing the limit of “freedom of expression.” It’s like some folks are just on search and destroy missions.

Sometimes it’s like I am watching the evening news out of Washington D.C. when I open my blog reader anymore. All the cheating, the politics and the scandals that are laid out in the posts are very gloom and doom to the point of depressing.

It seems every time I open certain blogs, it’s just one blogger attacking another, for attacking another and so on… Yes, I know writing a negative post about negative posts is almost as redundant and hypocritical as one blogger attacking another for their opinion or to be attacked by another for attacking someone else… (see where I’m going with this? ….it’s cyclical….)

The funny thing is that I’ve added a lot of these blogs because they are exceptional writers and have incredible talent. I want to see more of that and less of the ‘shock jock’ mentality that a lot of us (including myself) have attempted. Yes, I know all too well that only negative rhetoric tends to get folks to come back and comment. Yes, it builds Google juice when you really stir the pot and get your “enemies” (as if to say someone you disagree with must be your sworn enemy) to come back to your blog and argue with you.

I’ve found some great friends through the social media venues and find most of them very friendly. Once in awhile, I’ll hear them chatting on Twitter or other apps and say “hey, that’s a really nice guy/gal”; then only to go read their blog and it’s full of venom. That’s ok, it’s their release and their ability to express themselves, but sometimes, I don’t want to be depressed after reading a post. I don’t want to be angry at NAR or whoever the rant is against that week.

So finding bloggers who are writing posts of value and substance is sometime hard.

Here are a list of my favorite writers (I have others I like, but these are my favorites) and I go out of my way to read whatever I can find from them…

Teresa Boardman

Mariana Wagner

Jim Duncan

Lani Anglin-Rosales

Benn Rosales

Jay Thompson

Russell Shaw

Daniel Rothamel

Frank LLosa

If you read these folks, you know that they can be very creative and challenging, without necessarily attacking another person. I respect these folks, because I feel that I could disagree and could still be respected as a person.

Professionalism and respect are critical elements to being credible. I’ve seen some very good writers get dropped from readers quickly, because of their “mean” streak. I am not necessarily making a plea to be Mary Poppins, but if you’re going to disagree be respectful, if you’re going to rant about an issue, try to give a possible resolution.

I think it’s a reasonable request. I know I don’t get it right all the time, but I am thankful to those who have grace with me while I work it all out!

In the interim I am hoping that we can all do a little bit better about writing meaningful and informative posts, and spend a little less time dwelling on all the negative. Almost anyone can complain, only a few can educate and inform others well.

If you want to meet a great group of bloggers and real estate professionals, follow my friends on Twitter. You can find my profile HERE.

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is TheAgentTrainer.com.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Mariana

    March 18, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Wow. Thank you for including me on your list. I am right there with you when you say: “I know I don’t get it right all the time, but I am thankful to those who have grace with me while I work it all out!” … I am always learning…

  2. Daniel Rothamel

    March 18, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    I know exactly how you feel, sometimes. Basketball does the same thing to me a few times during the season.

    I am honored to be included amongst such fine company.

  3. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    March 18, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    You know, blogging is full of extremely passionate people and even if you’re a big person, it can be difficult not to express passion, even if it’s negative. We fight for what we believe in and for whatever reason (for me, it’s faith, for others it may be purely business PR) we *must* heed your advice and not cross the line too far!

    Thanks for including me in the list- Benn’s really my better half and has led many of us to the greener grass!

  4. Jim Duncan

    March 18, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Passion is a difficult thing – to reign in and express – and the fact that I personally feel that about such often-seemingly insignificant things such as change in our profession confounds me. I am grateful and humbled that you include me in the above list. Thank you.

  5. Ines

    March 18, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    I love to be able to healthily disagree with someone knowing that a good discussion will begin instead of bashing. And a sense of humor is difficult to put down on paper and all on your list have achieved it.

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    March 18, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Holy bananas bat-girl (@LaniAR) I completely had Benn on the draft but evidentially didn’t save and come back. Who couldn’t respect a blogger who puts a pix of his wife getting a medical treatment!?!?! Yes, Mr. AG is very much on my fav list and I’ve added him to the post.

    Jim, I agree that passion can sometimes come across different than we intended. When 70% of communication is body language, we have to be careful with how the other 30% comes across. I’ve never felt you were irreverent, but that come from agreeing with you most of the time.

    Ines… unfortunately my humor comes across as snarky, even when I don’t at all want it to. BTW aren’t you suppose to be working on your PR for your adult site?

    Daniel, sports can be used for just about any allegory, can’t they? I swear, I never got enhancement drugs from my best friend who testified that I did…

    Mizzle, I think you do more teaching (as opposed to learning) than you know!

    Thanks to all for commenting!

  7. Russell Shaw

    March 19, 2008 at 1:05 am

    Sorry, Matthew – now I am going to have to attack you for saying something in this post I disagree with! 🙂

  8. Teresa Boardman

    March 19, 2008 at 3:30 am

    Thanks so much for the compliment. Now you need to get the “h” out of my name. 🙂

  9. Mike Farmer

    March 19, 2008 at 5:09 am

    Dang, I didn’t make the list. Oh well, I have something to strive for. When you’re 976 you try harder.

  10. Blue Ridge Cabin Rentals

    March 19, 2008 at 5:10 am

    I think the current economy and situation of housing crisis allows us all to look for blame and I know I have added alot of political comments on blogs. Thanks for the kick in the pants to remind us of whats really important.

  11. Bill Lublin

    March 19, 2008 at 6:13 am

    Matthew I don’t see a paradox – When I was taught math they told me that two negatives make a positive – And this post is certainly that – As a newer participant in this venue thanks for pointing me to some of the places you think have value –

    Blue Ridge; To right that when things are hard we can too wasily fall into the “blame game” even though that only makes it harder to stay positive – but if you guys wil take it from someone who has seen a few recessions from the street – the survivors come through the trial tempered and with additional strength-

  12. Bill Lublin

    March 19, 2008 at 6:17 am

    So I just learned that the danger of typing and submitting without proffing is that you might appear incomprehensible –
    My first goof in the comment above was that it might not indicate how positive I felt Matthew’s post was – So I really wanted to clear that up – I thought the post was great –

    The second error was that “we can too wasily (easily) fall into the blame game” –
    Hope y’all will forgive me for an error that I think is wasily made! 🙂

  13. Matthew Rathbun

    March 19, 2008 at 6:19 am

    Russell, I’m sorry… You don’t agree that you’re a good writer? 🙂

    Teresa… well, if you’d spell it like I expect you to, then I wouldn’t have this issue! That’s what I get for putting you at the top of the list – you prima-donna

    Mike that’s ok, I wouldn’t make my own list!

  14. Mike Farmer

    March 19, 2008 at 6:52 am

    “Mike that’s ok, I wouldn’t make my own list!”

    Unfortunately, I have to read my own stuff.

  15. Cyndee Haydon

    March 19, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Matt – great list and I have to agree – I find I don’t even visit the sites that attack others – like others said we all make mistakes however why demean the person in the process. Enjoying you on twitter too!

  16. Matthew Rathbun

    March 19, 2008 at 7:51 am

    Bill – I knew what you were saying… But, I’ll admit that had to Wikipedia “wasily” 🙂

  17. Jay Thompson

    March 19, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Well thanks for the inclusion in that lofty list of names. What an honor!

    “Shock jock” writing (and attitude) “works” for getting traffic. Look how rich Howard Stern is. But there is a lot more to life than traffic, comments, links, whatever.

    Great post Matthew!

  18. Dru Bloomfield

    March 23, 2008 at 6:11 am

    Matthew, I didn’t “discover” you, until I dipped my toe into Twitter, and now reading this post, I see I’ve been missing a lot. I appreciate your perspective.

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Opinion Editorials

Popular opinion: Unemployment in a pandemic sucks [EDITORIAL]

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) I got laid off during the pandemic, and I think I can speak for all of us to say that unemployment – especially now – really, really sucks.

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Stressed man thinking over laptop about unemployment.

Despite not being in an office for what feels like an eternity, losing my job stung. Holding onto work during The Worst Timeline was rough, considering Rome was burning all around. My job was the boat of sanity I could sit in while the waves of bullshit crashed all around. Pre-pandemic, I had just separated from my wife, so my emotional health wasn’t in tip-top shape. But then millions of people go and get sick, the economy took a nosedive, and well, the world changed. When everything around you sucks, and people are on the news crying about unemployment and potential homelessness, you’re thankful as hell that you’re not with them – until you are.

I was writing for a startup, one that came with a litany of headaches thanks to fluctuating budgets and constant directional pivots, but it was steady work. When the Coronavirus hit, it was a scenario of “we’re going to get through this,” but as we switched gears again and again, I started to get an unsettling feeling: I’ve seen this story before. When you live in Austin and are in the creative field, you’ve worked with startups. And there are always trappings on when something lingers in the air – hierarchy shuffles, people aren’t as optimistic, and senior folks start quietly bailing out. Those are the obvious moves that make your unemployment-related Spidey sense tingle, but with COVID, everything is remote. There aren’t the office vibes, the shortened conversations that make you, “I know what’s happening here.” Instead, you’re checking Slack or email and surviving like everyone else.

We were happy to be working, to see the direct deposit hit every two weeks and sigh, knowing you were still in the fight, that you might see this thing through.

We saw our entire business change overnight. Leadership rose to meet the challenges of an old model rooted in hospitality, restaurants, and events, which died with a viral disease shotgun blast. Because the infrastructure was there, we managed to help out workers, and grocery stores work together to keep people fed across the nation. It was legitimately a point of pride. Like all things, though, the market settled. We bought time.

In July, I had a full-blown depressive episode. The weight of the divorce, the lack of human interaction, my work having less value, my career stalled felt like a Terminator robot foot on my skull. I couldn’t get out of bed, and everything I wrote were the smatterings of a broken man. And to my ex-bosses’ credit, my breakdown was NOT my best work, I could barely look at a computer, let alone forge thoughts on an entirely new industry with any authority, or even a fake it till you make it scenario.

When the CEO put time on my calendar, I knew it was a wrap. Startup CEOs don’t make house calls; they swing the ax. When you’re the lone creative in a company trying to survive a nearly company-killing event, you’re the head on the block. Creatives are expensive, and we’re expendable. Site copy, content, media placements, all that can kick rocks when developers need to keep the business moving, even if it’s at a glacial pace. When I was given my walking papers, it was an exhale, on one hand, I’d been professionally empty, but at the same time, I needed consistent money. My personal life was a minefield and I’ve got kids.

I got severance. Unemployment took forever to hit. The state of Texas authorized amount makes me cringe. Punishing Americans for losing their jobs during a crisis is appalling. Millions are without safety nets, and it’s totally ok with elected leaders.

There are deferments available. I had to get them on my credit cards, which I jacked up thanks to spending $8,500 on an amicable divorce, along with a new MacBook Pro that was the price of a used Nissan. I got a deferment on my car note, too.

I’ve applied to over 100 jobs, both remote and local. I’ve applied for jobs I’m overqualified for in hopes they’ll hire me as a freelancer. There are lots of rejection letters. I get to round two interviews. References or the round three interviews haven’t happened yet. I get told I’m too experienced or too expensive. Sometimes, recruiters won’t even show up. And then there are the Zoom meetings. Can we all agree we’re over Zoom? Sometimes, you don’t want to comb your hair.

I’ll get promised the much needed “next steps” and then a rejection email, “thanks but no thanks.” Could you at least tell me what the X-Factor for this decision was? Was there a typo? Did you check my Facebook? The ambiguity kills me. Being a broke senior creative person kills me. I interviewed President Obama and have written for Apple, but ask myself: Can I afford that falafel wrap for lunch? Do you think springing for the fries is worth that extra $3? You’ve got soup at home, you know.

I’m not unique. This is the American Experience. We’re stuck in this self-perpetuating hell. We keep looking for jobs. We want to work. There are only so many gigs to fill when there’s constant rollercoaster news on unemployment recovery. And as long as unemployment sucks, there’s going to be a lot of people bracing for impact come Christmas. Hopefully, the brass in Washington can pass a few bills and get us back to work. At least get Americans out of the breadline by pumping up what we’re surviving off of – across the board. Working people shouldn’t have to face getting sick to bring in an income, while casualties of the Corona War should be able to look at their bills and not feel like the assistant on the knife throwers wheel.

I’m about to be a line cook to make extra cash till an intrepid manager hires me. Who doesn’t want a writer working the grill who reads French existentialist essays for enjoyment? I’d rather sit on park benches and day dream, but that ain’t reality. I’ve got bills to pay in a broken America. Who wants a burger? Deep thoughts come free but an extra slice of cheese is extra.

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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

Improve UX design by tracking your users’ eye movements

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Research shows that the fastest way to determine user behavior and predict their response is by watching their eyesight. Use this data to improve your UX design.

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UX design being created by a designer on a laptop.

By design, an ice cream truck is meant to entice. It is colorful, stupidly loud with two whole songs from the 30s (usually off key because no one is left alive who can service those bells), and lots of colorful stickers that depict delicious frozen treats that look nothing like reality. If you need an off model Disney character that already looks a little melted even when frozen, look no further.

This is design in action – the use of clever techniques to drive engagement. Brightly colored decor and the Pavlovian association of hearing The Sting in chirpy little ding dings is all working together to encourage sales and interaction.

These principles work in all industries, and the tech sector has devoted entire teams, agencies, companies, groups, and departments to the study of User Experience (UX) explicitly to help create slick, usable applications and websites that are immediately understandable by users. Tools to improve utility exist by measuring user behavior, with style guides and accepted theories preached and sang and TED-talked all over.

The best way to check behavior is to observe it directly, and options to check where someone clicks has proven invaluable in determining how to improve layouts and designs. These applications are able to draw a heat map that shows intensified red color in areas where clicks congregate the most. An evolution of this concept is to watch eyesight itself, allowing developers a quicker avenue to determining where a user will most likely go. Arguably the shortest path between predicting response, this is one of the holy grails of behavioral measurement. If your eyes can be tracked, your cursor is likely to follow.

UX design can benefit greatly from this research as this article shows. Here’s some highlights:

Techwyse completed a case study that shows conversion on landing pages is improved with clear call-to-action elements. Users will focus on objects that stand out based on position, size, bright colors, or exaggerated fonts. If these design choices are placed on a static, non-interactive component, a business will lose a customer’s interest quickly, as their click is meant with no response. This quickly leads to confusion or abandonment. Finding where a person is immediately drawn to means you should capitalize on that particular piece with executable code. Want it boiled down? Grocery stores put Cheetos front and center, because everyone want them thangs.

Going along with this, Moz found that search results with attractive elements – pictures and video – are given much more attention than simple text. We are visually inclined creatures, and should never undervalue that part of our primal minds. Adding some visual flair will bring attention, which in turn can be leveraged usefully to guide users.

Here’s an interesting study – being that we are social animals, follow the gaze of others. If you’ve ever seen kittens watching a game of ping pong, they are in sync and drawn to the action. Similarly, if we notice someone look to the left, we instinctively want to look left as well. While this sounds very specific, the idea is simple – visual cues can be optimized to direct users where to focus.

The Nielsen Group says we look at things in an F pattern. I just think that’s funny, or at least a funny way to describe it. We follow from left-to-right (just like we read, and as websites are laid out using techniques first developed for newspapers, it naturally makes sense that we’d do the same). Of course, cultural or national differences arise here – right-to-left readers need the opposite. Always be sure to keep your target audience in mind.

Of course, there are several other findings and studies that can further promote idealistic layout and design, and it should always be the goal of designers to look to the future and evaluate trends. (Interestingly, eye tracking is the first option on this list!)

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