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RoomGroove is eHarmony for roommates

Not even three months old yet, RoomGroove has already attracted the interest of big names in multifamily and takes a much needed creative approach to the roommate search sector, using modern technologies.

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RoomGroove, ambitious real estate startup

Less than 90 days old, RoomGroove has launched to match roommates more effectively and crushing the need for multifamily management to spend inefficiently on expensive lead generation tools that are outdated. The company currently operates in Austin and is focused on procuring their own content and listings, currently porting in information from Capstone, the Gables, and other luxury apartment communities.

The key ingredient to RoomGroove is the social interaction offered before people lease. But that already exists you say, and you’re wrong. Yes, there are roommate search sites in existence that allow you to reach out to potential roommates, but RoomGroove actually uses the Facebook and LinkedIn APIs to find commonalities between potential roommates quantifying their compatible before they ever even connect.

It’s like eHarmony for renters, and the young founders are confident not only that their service fills a need for roommates, but also for landlords. Many multifamily properties spend a great deal of time and money on social media, which typically is focused on resident retention, but RoomGroove allows them to focus on potential leads and improve conversion, which is one of their key goals.

Additionally, in a climate of rising rents, landlords have the added benefit of what RoomGroove calls their “special sauce,” which is to help potential renters to find each other and rent a bigger unit, particularly when people find they can’t afford a one bedroom alone. We predict multifamily properties will want to partner with this startup to have them as an option to suggest immediately upon lack of income qualification or lack of availability for single units.

What’s next for RoomGroove?

As with any startup, they are constantly tweaking and improving their offering. The company tells AGBeat that they will be expanding to new markets and will have a presence in San Francisco and New York by March 9th.

One of the company’s future features that piqued our attention is that they’re currently developing an app that allows users to set up a quick profile and check in at a property which instantly notifies anyone else that has also checked in. It’s like instant gratification and could potentially lead to apartment reservations before the person even leaves the leasing office. RoomGroove makes renting social in a unique way by adding a dash of eHarmony with a bit of FourSquare.

The company can be seen at the SXSW VC Fast Pitch at 3:30 on March 9th in the Startup Village (4th floor of the Austin Hilton), where they could land the interest of some pretty influential investors.

How RoomGroove came to fruition

In early 2011, 22 year old Elliot Counts left college and got his real estate license, finding a gig consulting with multifamily management and was immediately struck by all of the money wasted on expensive lead generation models which charged for leads, with half of the leads he was seeing not even fitting the property’s needs. But they had to pay anyhow.

In response to the waste he witnessed first hand, Counts sought to help the industry, so dreamed up the eHarmony model for roommates.

Commercial real estate agent Graham Sparrow joined as Counts’ Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer and in January 2012, they brought on their developer Bain Mullens who became their Chief Technology Officer and whipped up their first product, a feat by any standards. Less than three months in, they’re already turning heads.

With some money behind them, it would be interesting to see the potential of the company to not only go national but to solve some of the real pain points not only for renters but of landlords, bringing concurrence between the two that previously existed only in fragments.

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Tiktok: Did they really just censor disabled users?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) TikTok was concerned about disabled users being bullied so in a stunning reversal, they limited those users visibility on the app. Yikes.

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TikTok, the popular social media platform where users upload short, often silly or light-hearted, videos is coming under fire this week. Internal moderation documents acquired by the German digital rights blog, Netzpolitik.org, show that TikTok has been discriminating against users who are disabled, queer, and fat.

According to these documents, TikTok instructed moderators to tag any content created by so-called, “special users.” The “special users” tag refers to users who are “susceptible to harassment or cyberbullying based on their physical or mental condition.”

The idea behind the tag was to provide these “special users” with protection from cyber bullying and online harassment. This was achieved by limiting the visibility of these user’s content. Videos with this tag had their viewership limited to the user’s country of origin and were prevented from being featured on the “for you” section of the app.

To make matters even worse, moderators only had about 30 seconds to make the decision to flag a video or not. Imagine looking at a complete stranger for less than a minute and having to decide if they fall somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Now, imagine doing that with only a 15 second video for reference.

Sources inside TikTok say that moderators complained about this policy multiple times, but their concerns were ignored. According to a TikTok spokesperson, the tag system was meant to be a temporary solution.

“This was never designed to be a long-term solution, but rather a way to help manage a troubling trend until our teams and user-facing controls could keep up.”

Point blank, TikTok discriminated against users based on their physical appearance and perceived disabilities. They denied these users a fair opportunity on their app by limiting the visibility of their content therefor preventing them from growing their audiences.

In their statement about the moderation policy, TikTok’s spokesperson asserts that the policy is no longer in effect.

“While the intention was good, the approach was wrong and we have long since changed the earlier policy in favor of more nuanced anti-bullying policies and in-app protections.”

Owning up to their mistake is a good start, but a simple ‘our bad y’all’ is not good enough. When a company currently estimated to be worth 75 billion dollars admits to blatant discrimination against its users, there need to be some reparations.

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Facebook is finally allowing you to use your data freely, kinda

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is taking baby steps to improve data portability with new photo transfer tool. They are working with google, twitter, and microsoft to make it work

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Facebook is rolling out a new feature which will allow users to transfer their photos directly to Google Photos. The product is rolling out in Ireland first for some beta testing, but set to launch globally in the first half of 2020. At first glance this may seem like a mundane new tool, but it is just one thread in a complex web of legal and social change related to users’ right to their own data.

The true heart of this story is the ongoing issue of data portability. Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft are all part of the Data Transfer Project which aims to create data portability. Data portability refers to an individual users’ right to control their own data on the web, which includes the right to download and transfer their data to different services. The hope is that a seamless flow of data will create a more authentic sense of competition.

In their statement about the new product, Facebook reiterates this belief by stating, “we believe that if you share data with one service, you should be able to move it to another. That’s the principle of data portability, which gives people control and choice while also encouraging innovation.”

Being able to seamlessly transfer your photos from Facebook to any outside platform is a big step for a company that has spent most of the year in anti-trust investigations.

The photo transfer tool will be helpful to some users, but is it a genuine step towards breaking up the Facebook data monopoly? After all, Google has also gone through anti-trust investigations this year, so perhaps more open competition between two of the largest software companies on the globe is not exactly what legislators had in mind.

It’s nearly impossible to read whether Facebook’s attempts to improve global data portability are sincere or just an elaborate effort to keep governments off their bottom line. There is an argument to made about whether or not corporations can ever be sincere, but that is a story for a different day.

The best thing everyday users can do to protect their data right now is to stay informed and keep asking questions.

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‘Secret sister’ gift exchanges are not just lame, they’re ILLEGAL – tell your friends

(SOCIAL MEDIA) There’s a new gift giving program spread on Facebook but you may be giving more than gifts. Secret Sister is actually an illegal MLM that gives away your identity.

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‘Tis the season for Christmas themed pyramid schemes! No, we’re not talking about your favorite MLM adding some holiday flair (though that’s probably happening too), this is something more sinister: Secret Sister gift exchanges.

Not to be confused with Secret Santa (the anonymous gift exchange among friends), Secret Sister exchanges promises the impossible: buy one gift for a stranger, get upwards of 36 gifts in return. It might sound like a Christmas miracle, but it’s actually classified as a pyramid scheme… and gambling, to boot.

Not to mention, it’s definitely illegal, hun.

Circulated primarily on Facebook and targeted mostly at women, Secret Sister exchanges have been running since 2015, according to Snopes. Users are invited to join and invite up to six friends to participate too. Like all pyramid schemes, the further down the ladder you are, the less likely you are to receive many (if any!) gifts in return.

That’s the best case scenario.

Not only are you bothering your friends and potentially gaining nothing (or little) in return, you’re also at risk of identity theft when you participate in a secret sister exchange. Why? Well, most of these schemes involve users submitting important personal information such as phone number and home address, which aren’t the sorts of things you want falling into the hands of total strangers.

These “Secret Sister” gift exchanges might also go by other fun, festive names. For instance, one scam focused on “wine drinkers” and encouraged participants to purchase bottles of wine. But a pyramid scheme by any other name is still a massive waste of time and money.

A good rule of thumb? If something is offering amazing results for a fraction of the cost (like 36 gifts for the price of one), be wary. That’s the same promise you’ll get at a slot machine – and that’s less likely to steal your identity after you’ve lost money.

Not to sound like a PSA, but if you or anyone you know seems to be caught up in a secret sister gift exchange, get out! It shouldn’t be the season of law-breaking and identity theft. And if that $10 is burning a hole in your pocket, there’s plenty of ways to find some holiday cheer. Donate to a local charity, buy a gift for a coworker, maybe even treat yourself!

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