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Don’t Kill The Messenger


I opened my feed reader to find a well intentioned plea from Drew Meyers on the GeekEstate blog. He is making a request to the to refrain from personal attacks on blogs.

The vitriol and name calling we are seeing lately isn’t limited in its direction to individual bloggers. I read another post from a “real estate instructor & consultant” that characterized Active Rain as a “Litigious Cesspool”. I’m having a hard time understanding why so many people in the find it necessary to kill the messenger. Some would kill the medium if they could. I don’t care for a lot of things said in blogs in general. Would it make sense for me write a headline that says “WordPress Servers are Cesspools of Irresponsible Wannabe Journalism”? I think not.

Should real estate brokers be afraid of the liability inherent to blogging and social networking? Sure, business is all about risk/reward, however the fear level shouldn’t be any different than the fear they have when agents talk at a dinner party. If something is said that would lead to legal issues would you entertain the idea of taking action against the party’s host? Of course not. Active Rain isn’t the “Litigious Cesspool” and if the problem is as prevalent as the author states, it only serves to bring attention to business issues that have nothing to do with medium and everything to do with the message.

When was the last time you spent any time at all on the RealTalk listserv? Last November Saul Klein told me there were something like 13,000 Realtors participating in that platform. It’s been around for many years and I have personally witnessed conversations that would raise your eyebrows past your hairline. I remember a thread a few years ago where an agent in one market commented regarding a business practice that an agent in an east coast market used. She collects something like $500 for expenses before she started showing properties. The agent questioning the tactic said she would not be able to compete under those circumstances. The response back from the agent on the east coast blew my mind. She said (paraphrasing, I don’t remember the exact words) “It’s not a competitive problem here, all of the brokers in our market do exactly the same thing and charge the same amount”. That’s just one example of the many potential legal issues that one might find in RealTalk. Is it Saul’s fault? Of course not. RealTalk is moderated, and I’m sure they do their best to reign in as much as they can, but that isn’t really the point.

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Social media, blogs and other new tools of the web are not going away. If you look at the big picture, we seem to be approaching a milestone in an evolutional process. The tools are merely catalysts of that process. Left to it’s own device it will only be a part of a process that helps elevate the best of the best and eventually cull the herd of the weakest.

Every time someone makes a personal attack of someone in the it should be an indictment of the attacker, not the platform used to perpetuate it. The same is true if someone choses to attack a company. Drew pointed out one of the two basic tenets of blogging established by Dustin Luther, “If you are going to attack something… attack ideas, not people. (i.e. “your idea sucks”… not “you suck”)” I think even if your opinion of an idea is overtly antithetical, how you approach the delivery should be tempered with the professionalism that any business discussion deserves.

The Bible says in Isaiah, “We will eat the fruit of our words.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want mine to come back to me in the form of rotten prune pits.

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Written By

I'm not an Agent, nor a genius. I do what I can on the Interwebs to share some wisdom and knowledge and stick my nose into a few conversations here and there. I write for my own blog at along with this one and Zillow's GeekEstate Blog. I also have a kick ass product for Agents and Brokers - Check it out:



  1. Daniel Rothamel

    February 17, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Right on the money, MP. As someone who delivers the message all the time (in stripes, no less), I know exactly what you are talking about.

    One of the problems of the internet is that the only thing worse than “beer muscles” is the “keyboard mouth.”

  2. Michael Price

    February 17, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Yeah, my Dad put it a different way. He always told me never to let my alligator mouth overload my parakeet ass. Good advice. 🙂

  3. Daniel Rothamel

    February 17, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    LOL. 😀

  4. Teresa Boardman

    February 17, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    I don’t do personal, attack or otherwise. 🙂 I think that the people who write the personal attacks always will. It is the notion that is is controversy that makes a blog work. I guess if I did not have enough of an imagination to use a little humor on my blogs, and some photos maybe I would have to rely on controversy via attacks to make them work

  5. Missy Caulk

    February 17, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Excellent Mike, it sure has been one of those weekends.I appreciate your summary.

  6. Rob Aubrey

    February 17, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    It’s one thing to say some of these items it is another to put it writing.

    However as Gary Keller said, when the there are more deer than food, the herd starts to thin out.

    I just keep practicing one of my new scripts. I am so sorry you have to go and work for your brother n law laying tile or what ever. Don’t worry you will come back before you know it. Oh by the way how much do you want for those hardly used lock boxes?

  7. Maureen Francis

    February 18, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Right on. It is the indicter, not the platform though some do a better job of keeping things in line than others.

  8. Gail Robinson

    February 18, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    From what I’ve read of case law regarding the liability of Internet sites and comments on them, the law has been on the side of the site owner. It’s understood that the site owner can’t have moderators overseeing and deleting every comment on a bulletin board or blog. The ones that get in trouble are ones where the site owner makes the comment that is problematic. That’s my understanding, but I might be behind the times. It’s been a while since I read up on this issue.

  9. Matthew Rathbun

    February 18, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    MIchael, I’d like to add an exert from the post you referenced:

    “In conclusion, I’d like to say that Activerain can be a great way to learn from one another and I don’t think the “rules of engagement” are that difficult. Use some common sense (which is not really all that common) and ask how this post or comment could harm someone. Be kind and as the foundation of almost all religions and the COE states: Do unto others, as you would have them to unto you.”

    The post was a caution to individuals based on what I have been reading and seeing. The post wasn’t a personal attack, as I don’t see AR as a person, but a medium it was a warning to the users of the most widely used medium that they need to be more cautious.

    My premise, which I should have expressed better was that users of AR typically don’t take the time to fully understand the cautions they should use, as most external blog authors do.

    I see your point in re-reading the post and I’m thankful for readership and feedback. I completely agree with non-personal attacks and have commented on such lately, especially with some blogs that seemed to be based on this. However, pointing out that agents have risk and should be more careful when writing on AR or any other venue for that matter.

    As one who is studying to be a pastor, I am familiar with the verse in Isiah. The actual verse is Isiah 3:10 and it says that “Say to the righteous that it is well; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. (MKJV)” This was a supportive statement to the depressed that were being suppressed because of their beliefs. What I was doing was authoring a warning to the AR users (all mediums really) and never said it was a bad venue.

    Strangely enough this post seems a bit like a personal attack in a sense. I don’t say that as a counter-point and VERY much need to take your statements into counsel for further posts about topics to more clear in my intent. I think that AR has done a great deal of good for novice bloggers (such as myself) to spring board into other venues.

    Not all cautions or statements must be an attack. There has much to do about personal attacks in and to the point that we’re looking for it everywhere now.

    I received many “amen’s” from other blog authors (some of them AG contributers) after this post. I see where I needed to be clearer, but I don’t feel I was that far off base.

    Thanks for the insight and the opportunity to clarify.

  10. Michael Price

    February 18, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    I actually have no problem with your post, in fact the issue of legal implication in blogging is one that needs a great deal of attention. I only wanted to draw attention to the fact that you associated the name of Active Rain with the issue in a manner that implies AR is culpable or responsible. By displaying their logo and evoking their name in a negative light it indicts their platform as guilty by association. Perhaps that wasn’t your intention, however, that was the effect of the cause. Just like any agent who makes the mistake of overstepping legal bounds in a blog, once it’s done, it’s done. NAR’s operating agreement with Move, Inc. is, in my opinion, an arm’s length endorsement of all the tech products sold by Move Inc, including the blogging platform now available to any member of NAR. Something tells me you would take a great deal of pause before characterizing it or anything else NAR sanctions as a “cesspool”.

    I am not an attorney, however, I would suggest that your blog and those that you train include a disclaimer that states that your writings include opinions. Journalists go to great lengths to differentiate fact from opinion. By writing a headline that says. “Active Rain Is a Litigious Cesspool”, you’ve established something as fact by using one little two letter word….is. That headline implies that there is already active litigation and could also imply that somehow, Active Rain is culpable in it. Embedding their logo in a graphic and adding the tag line “Caution: High Risk Blogging” also implies that the vendor is somehow responsible for the content. It may seem like semantics to you, but if caution is part of your MO, it seems to me it would help to lead by example.

    It would be a stretch to construe my post as a personal attack, it is merely an opinion formed from observation and analysis. Attacks are not a part of my DNA. I have no patience for the sophomoric crap that seems to be infecting the lately, I’ve only had a chance to glance over the rest of your blog, but I’m guessing from your well formed comment you’re a traveler of the high road as well. Let’s take the next exit and get a beer. You can buy 🙂


  11. Matthew Rathbun

    February 18, 2008 at 5:20 pm


    I did get your point and feel that the issue is a matter of correctly applied hyper-sensitivity on both sides. There was a disclosure as you mentioned, but I am in the process of revamping my site and haven’t reloaded the new graphic. Good point, I’ll do that soon. I’ll happily meet you at the exit and buy the first round!



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