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English as a Second Language (E, S and L)



original creative commons image courtesy of ebmorse

The Combo Platter Incident

The keyboard that keeps my desktop computer company needs to buy a vowel. And a couple of consonants, while we are at it. It seems that some time during the past year, a year involving a lot of overuse and a little misuse (the latter related to an unfortunate incident involving a #5 Mexican Combo Platter), my “E,” “S” and “L” keys have been wiped clean. How is it that I continue to type?

Being a child of the industrial age (circa Before Most People Alive Today Were Born), I long ago mastered the art of ten-fingered typing. I have been doing it for so long, I just know intuitively where all of those little letters are. In fact, I don’t even see them anymore, and my three (and, apparently, favorite) keys have probably been missing for months. I just didn’t notice, because I didn’t need to.
Not so the number keys. I have to look when I am typing numbers. I suppose I just haven’t been using them as much. But occasionally, I do need one of those little guys, and then I have to pay very close attention.

My Favorite Inman Connect Panel

Without further ado, let the segue to ensue. My favorite panel discussion at the Inman Real Estate Connect Conference took place at the Blogger’s Connect pre-conference. The title of this session was “Growing Pains: Take Your Blog to the Next Level.” It was my favorite because the message was contrarian and, I believe, right on target.

The next level in our on-line evolution is a step backwards, we were told, and I couldn’t agree more. We have been teching out for so long now in our attempt to connect with our customers that we are in danger of disconnecting entirely. In our efforts to speak their language, we risk no longer speaking to them at all.

Then Came a Comment…

During the panel question and answer session, one attendee said that he was left feeling “empty;” he said he was hoping for new technology ideas to deploy to accomplish that next level of success. While I know his comments were mostly tongue in cheek (and I won’t name names, Ben Martin), I think a lot of us (myself included) tend to fall into this trap. We have so mastered the on-line alphabet, that we are forgetting or have never taken the time to learn where all those little numbers, our customers, are located. Eventually if we want to continue to make a living, we are going to need one of those.

They are located one block or two or twenty miles from my home and my office. They are on-line, certainly, but they are ultimately going to be in my car or sitting across from me at the kitchen table. They like search engines and blogs and widgets as much as the rest of us, but what they ultimately like is neighborhood information and expertise. They speak the language of search engines and browsers and cyber social networks, but that is their second language. The universal language is one of localism. Schools, neighborhoods, services, and the need for a stop sign at my intersection; these are the things that speak to our clients on the most personal level.

Refocusing Attention

We are dangerously close to making the language of our customers our second language. In my case, that is because the numbers have not been so day-to-day critical; they have played a much smaller role in my message because I was too busy following the on-line marketing book to the letter. It just might be time to move on or at least refocus our attention at the keyboard.

This is not to say that we should turn our backs on technology. To the contrary, we must continue to embrace it. But, at some point piling technology on technology is going to be like writing a post using the Wingdings font. A few may get it, but we may be failing to connect with the majority. Like the case of the missing E, S and L, I can do a reasonable job of communicating to the on-line audience without further obsessing about the keystrokes. I could replace the missing keys, but twenty-three out of twenty-six is pretty close to perfect, so my biggest return on investment at this point is going to come from making that next distinction — successfully hitting the numbers. And if I just stop to look, I will realize that my numbers live in my neighborhood.

Kris Berg is Broker/Owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She is the perpetrator of the San Diego Home Blog, a locally-focused real estate blog, and in her spare time enjoys fencing, luge, and kittens.

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  1. Ken B.

    July 28, 2008 at 9:03 am


    Lot’s of blogging, tweeting, Facebooking et al, connection, relationship building, lead generation, time suck? Anyway, great point. I believe the Social Media efforts are worthwhile, but, as you say, keep your eye on the prize – people who know you, trust you and like you….in real time and other time. Referrals from the satisfied and the delighted is platinum.

    I raise an eyebrow when I hear, “I get all my business from the internet.” I wonder, why don’t you get tons of referrals from the people you meet and help from the internet? I mean come on, if you’re doing a fabulous job, shouldn’t 50%+ of your business come from personal referrals. If not, point your Social Media at those folks as well. Right?

    I think an agent can expand their sphere, meet new people and maybe even more importantly, stay deeply connected to their friends, family, past clients, suspects and prospects. While the old school players limit themselves to post cards, eCards, Newsletters, print ads, the new school kids can amp up with 2.0 and whiz forward.

    Another huge advantage of Social Media, people really can get to know you before you meet in person. Speed and comfort are precious.

    I sorta bounced around there, but you know what I mean.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Ush

    July 28, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Spot on.

    Blogging about tech and widgets does not build a customer pipeline.

    Unless – that pipeline is potiential consumers of such technology, in which case you are now in a different business, and should be able to also communicate the value of those tech widgets.

    Real estate customers want to know what you offer to better realize their real estate goals, what do you know about the area, how do you work, can you negotiate, can you market, e.t.c.

    Tell them why you the best choice for their real estate transaction? Not the tech widgets that you think are cool.


  3. Bill Lublin

    July 28, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Kri_ B_rg;
    What a wond_rfu_ po-t you wrot_ h_r_.

    I hav_ l_arn_d _o much from your _ffort_ to communicat_ with the con_um_r that I hop_ to gain additional in_ight to my own int_ration with p_opl_.

    See, I can write without the E,S,or L as well, and I use only two fingers to type (due to a poor public school education). 😉

    Seriously, your post is so on target. Even prior to our losing ourselves to our technology, we tended to speak in a jargon of professional abbreviations which made more sense to us then to the people we were speaking to. The technology does nothing if we forget the end purpose. Meeting with and providing solutions for our consumers.

    BTW is Ken B a psuedonym? Awfully complimentary , and suspiciously similar initials.. I’m just throwin’ it out there 😉

    (Ok, I’m just jealous I wasn’t the first commentor)

  4. Kris Berg

    July 28, 2008 at 10:06 am

    That was quite impressive, Bill. All of those shifts and underscores must have wiped you out. I am honored by the effort.

  5. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 28, 2008 at 10:22 am


    Seems in one fingered typers in Philly they don’t even have the keys – we should start a collection to get Lublin a new board? 🙂

    Your proposal here and that made the session is S-O on the M-O-N-E-Y. Our acronym lingo really does leave people without keys to understanding. We assume too much in our dance with tech believing that everybody implicitly understands why we want to be T-W-I-T-S.

    As you suggest, we need to K-I-S-S more often? 🙂

  6. Glenn fm Naples

    July 28, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Feeding site visitors about our “localism” is what they are looking for. Most of the people I have met via my web site, like the information about the area’s neighborhoods. However, I feel that in many cases it lacks – content, pictures, and videos. But another item I realize is there needs to be more of me included, not just real estate or “localism”.

    BTW – Has anyone noticed the arrangement of the number pad on a keyboard versus the phone key pad? Check it out!

  7. Bill Lublin

    July 28, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Sorry Kris I was napping after I wrote that comment. The Yatter chatter woke me up though 🙂
    (One fingered typist indeed – I use TWO fingers – and the occasional thumb – humph)
    Did you notice he got right to the KISS part?

  8. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 28, 2008 at 11:17 am



    having a senior’s moment there were we? 🙂

  9. Irina Netchaev

    July 28, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Chris, very insightful… I see a couple of things here. For agents that are just beginning to blog and utilize social networking platforms, the learning curve is so steep that it takes a lot of energy and time just to keep up with existing technology. Then, you find yourself spending so much time on line that you forget that real people in your car is what you need to make a sale. At least, that’s what I found myself doing – spending too much time on line and not enough time in person.

    It took a concerted effort to get out of that mode.

  10. Rich Jacobson

    July 28, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Kris – I have to confess that my favorite soundbite from the Inman was what you said during the panel. Basicially, it was that none of us really know what the h*ll we’re talking about, and we’re just making this stuff up as we go. Thanks for breathing a little candid honesty into the program!….

  11. Jonathan Dalton

    July 28, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    I’ve heard many times that real estate is a belly-to-belly business. For me, the best way to get their belly pressed against mine is through the web. And so here I am (and there and there and way over there as well.) It’s got the best ROI that I’ve found.

    At the same time, if you don’t have the slightest idea what to do when you’ve finally got them in your car or if they decide then they don’t like you, you’re hooped.

  12. ines

    July 28, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    It was one of my favorite as well – to think that we are getting so good at the technical aspect of this industry and may forget the basics is a dangerously amazing thought. Back to “CONNECTIONS” and that’s why we were there are “connect”, no? – if we can’t make sticky connections, then we may as well loose the keys to our listings.

  13. Jay Thompson

    July 28, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    “I raise an eyebrow when I hear, “I get all my business from the internet.” I wonder, why don’t you get tons of referrals from the people you meet and help from the internet?”

    Great point Ken. I can only speak for myself, but I count those types of referrals as “internet business” because that’s how they originated — from the internet. Looking back, maybe that is “cheating”, but the fact is, “the internet” was the original source of the client.

    Ms. Berg is, as usual, spot on and eloquent in her assessment. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    For what it’s worth (which approaches absolute zero) I type with four fingers and two thumbs. My stupid high school counselor, KNOWING I was going to college said before my senior year, “Don’t waste your time on a typing class. Take calculus instead.”

    I’ve since learned where all the keys are, and can manage about 45wpm, but I still have to look at the keyboard most of the time. As for those number keys, maybe that’s why I dread writing stats related articles….

  14. Vicki Moore

    July 29, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Kris – That was by far the biggest point I’ve taken from the whole conference – and BarCamp. Many of us – including our clients – are hiding behind the keyboard. The more we do that the more we’re going to need face-to-face communication.

    I type fast – no looking necessary. As a former court reporter it was imperative to getter done. I have to look at the numbers too though. 🙂

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Social Media

Facebook pays $52M to content mods with PTSD, proving major flaw in their business

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook will pay out up to millions to former content moderators suffering PTSD to settle the 2018 class action lawsuit.



content moderators

Facebook’s traumatized former content moderators are finally receiving their settlement for the psychological damage caused by having to view extremely disturbing content to keep it off of Facebook.

The settlement is costing the company $52 million, distributed as a one time payment of $1,000 to each of the 10,000+ content moderators in four states. If any of these workers seek psychological help and are diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their jobs, Facebook also has to pay for that medical treatment. They pay up to $50,000 per moderator in additional damages (on a case-by-case basis).

Facebook also will offer psychological counseling going forward, and will attempt to create a type of screening for future candidates to determine a candidate’s emotional resiliency, and will make one-on-one mental health counseling available to content moderators going forward. They will also give moderators the ability to stop seeing specific types of reported content.

According to NPR, Steve Williams, a lawyer for the content moderators, said, “We are so pleased that Facebook worked with us to create an unprecedented program to help people performing work that was unimaginable even a few years ago. The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe.”

Honestly, this job is not for the faint of heart, to say the least. Like the hard-working, yet not unfazeable police officers on Law & Order SVU, seeing the worst of humanity takes a toll on one’s psyche. Facebook’s content moderators are only human, after all. These workers moderated every conceivable–and inconceivable–type of disturbing content people posted on the 2 billion-users-strong social media platform for a living. Some for $28,800 a year.

I wouldn’t last five minutes in this role. It is painful to even read about what these content moderators witnessed for eight hours a day, five days a week. While Facebook refuses to admit any wrongdoing, as part of the agreement, come on, man. Graphic and disturbing content that upset someone enough to report to Facebook is what these people viewed all day every day. It sounds almost like a blueprint for creating trauma.

This settlement surely sets the precedent for more class action lawsuits to come from traumatized content moderators on other social media platforms. The settlement also shows this business model for what it is: flawed. This isn’t sustainable. It’s disgusting to think there are people out there posting heinous acts, and I am grateful the platform removes them.

However, they have to come up with a better way. Facebook employs thousands upon thousands of really smart people who are brilliant at computer technology. Twitter and YouTube and similar platforms do, too. They need to come up with a better plan going forward, instead of traumatizing these unfortunate souls. I don’t know what that will look like. But with Facebook’s sky-high piles of money and access to so many brilliant minds, they can figure it out. Something’s got to give. Please figure it out.

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Social Media

Twitter will give users a warning before a harmful tweet is sent

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter is rolling out a new warning giving users a chance to edit their tweet before they post “harmful” language, and we aren’t sure how to feel about it.



twitter warning

Twitter is testing out a new warning system for potentially offensive tweets. If a tweet contains language Twitter deems “harmful,” Twitter will pop up with a warning and opportunity to revise the potentially offensive tweet before posting. The warning mentions that language in the tweet is similar to previously reported tweets.

If internal alarms are going off in your head, congratulations, you are wary of any censorship! However, if you read a tweet spewing with bile, racism, or threatening violence against a person or institution, do you report it? Do you want Twitter to take it down? If you said yes, then congratulations, you want to protect the vulnerable and fight hatred.

If you are wary of censorship, yet want to fight hatred and protect the vulnerable, welcome to the interwebs! It’s a crazy and precarious place where almost anything can happen. Despite decades of use, we’re still navigating our way through the gauntlet of tough decisions the proliferation of platforms and ease of use have given us.

First, how does Twitter gauge a potentially harmful tweet? According to Twitter, the app responds to language similar to prior tweets that people have reported. Twitter, like Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms, already has hateful conduct rules in place. In fact, Twitter has a host of rules and policies intended to protect users from fraud, graphic violence, or explicitly sexual images.

Their rationale is detailed, but explains, “Our role is to serve the public conversation, which requires representation of a diverse range of perspectives.” However, they “recognise that if people experience abuse on Twitter, it can jeopardize their ability to express themselves.”

We’ve heard stories of teenagers–or even younger children–killing themselves after relentless bullying online. The feeling of anonymity when insulting a living, breathing being from behind a computer screen often causes a nasty pile-on effect. We’ve seen people use social media to bully, sexually harass, and threaten others.

Twitter cites research showing women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and other vulnerable populations are more likely to stop expressing themselves freely when someone abuses them on social media. Even Kelly Marie Tran, who played Resistance fighter Rose Tico in Star Wars, took down her Instagram photos before taking a stand against haters. And she had Jedis in her corner. Imagine your average person’s response to such cruel tactics?

We’ve seen hate groups and terrorist organizations use social media to recruit supporters and plan evil acts. We see false information springing up like weeds. Sometimes this information can be dangerous, especially when Joe Blow is out there sharing unresearched and inaccurate medical advice. Go to sleep, Blow, you’re drunk.

As an English major, and an open-minded person, I have a problem with censorship. Banned books are some of my favorites of all time. However, Twitter is a privately owned platform. Twitter has no obligation to amplify messages of hate. They feel, and I personally agree, that they have some responsibility to keep hateful words inciting violence off of their platform. This is a warning, not a ban, and one they’re only rolling out to iOS users for now.

I mean, in the history of angry rants, when was the last time a “Hey, calm down, you shouldn’t say that” ever made the person less angry or less ranty? Almost never. In which case, the person will make their post anyway, leaving it up to masses to report it. At that time, Twitter can make the decision to suspend the account and tell the user to delete it, add a warning, or otherwise take action.

Every once in a while, though, someone may appreciate the note. If you’ve ever had a colleague read an email for “tone” in a thorny work situation, you know heeding a yellow flag is often the wisest decision. This warning notice gives users a chance to edit themselves. As a writer, I always appreciate a chance to edit myself. If they flag every damn curse word, though, that will get real annoying real fast. You’re not my mom, Twitter. You’re not the boss of me.

This isn’t your great granddaddies’ book burning. This is 2020. The internet giveth; the internet taketh away. It’s a crying shame that evil creeps in when we’re not looking. Speech has consequences. Users can’t edit tweets, so once it’s out there, it’s out there. Even if they delete a tweet within moments of posting, anyone can screenshot that baby and share it with the world. Part of me says, “Good, let the haters out themselves.”

Twitter has shown itself to be open to differences in opinion, encouraging freedom of expression, and has opened up a whole new line of communication for traditionally underrepresented populations. They are a private company, and their rules and policies are posted. What, you didn’t read the terms of use? Gasp!

It’s Twitter’s rodeo, after all. This warning gives users a quick, added heads up to posting something that will likely be reported/removed anyway. For better or worse, Twitter’s still leaving it up to users to post what they want and deal with the potential fallout. Hey, I have a great idea! How about we all be respectful of each other on the internet, and Twitter won’t have to come up with this kind of thing.

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Social Media

Yelp adds virtual services classification to help during COVID

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Yelp constantly adds new classifications for how to find a business to meet your needs, now because of COVID they have added virtual services.



Yelp virtual services

Yelp is making efforts to accommodate businesses whose operations are adapting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Several new features will help businesses display updated services.

The company has added an information category titled virtual service offerings. Business can display service option such as classes, virtual consultations, performances, and tours. Yelpers can search for businesses based upon those offerings.

Yelp has already noticed trends where users are incorporating virtual services into their business profiles. In an report by TechCrunch, Yelp’s head of consumer product Akhil Kuduvalli said “With these new product updates, businesses of all types that are adapting and changing the way they operate will be able to better connect with their customers and potentially find new ones.”

Virtual services in categories like fitness, gyms, home services, real estate, and health are already increasing in popularity. Yelp intends to showcase businesses that are providing those services by creating new Collections.

Once business owners update their virtual service offerings on their Yelp for Business profiles, we will surface those updates to consumers through new call-to-action buttons, by updating the home screen and search results with links to groups of businesses offering these new virtual services, as well as surfacing them in other formats like Collections,” said Kudvalli.

Also in the works is a curbside pickup category for restaurants. Additionally, Yelp introduced a free customized banner for businesses to post updates on their profiles. About 224,000 businesses have used the banner so far.

Yelp hasn’t stopped there. It’s made its Connect feature (which allows businesses to share important updates to all Yelpers on their profile and their email subscribers) free to eligible local businesses as part of the Yelp’s commitment to waive $25 million in fees to support businesses in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

During COVID-19 businesses and consumers need all the help they can get, and thankfully Yelp is there to – help.

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