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The Flip Side of the Inaccurate Search Results Debate- Good News?

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stewieOh how they cry

From the day aggregation of MLS/Broker data began, the traditional real estate industry has cried foul over inaccurate search results, citing expired listings, withdrawn listings, or even pending listings as currently available properties within big search portals like Zillow, Trulia, Vast, and others.

But why the angst?

For years, Craigslist has been abused by the traditional sales agent in the practice of the old fashioned bait and switch, where a house with a price, no address, and a phone number is inappropriately titled “This won’t last.”  I say inappropriately because it simply didn’t exist to begin with, or maybe it did… last year. This practice continues unchecked even to this day; it’s simply an old sales tactic that no one seems to want to curb, yet ‘the traditionals’ continue to cry foul when big media companies simply aggregate the data directly from the Brokers.

Why the sales tactic works

Right or wrong, it works because the offending agent knows that the house in the Craigslist ad matters not because it was the area and price point that actually sold the unknowing consumer into making the phone call — inventory is abundant, and the agent has the MLS to satisfy the desires of the unwitting consumer.

Which brings us to the point

It’s the job of any agent to vet fact from fiction, check availability, and provide options to consumers in the first place-why and from where the phone rang is only relevant to understanding the desires of the consumer.  If in fact the listing data is correct is moot as it’s your job to present alternative options that empower the consumer to make the best decision based on all of the options anyway.  How many times have you as an agent had your own client call you on another agent’s Craigslist ad for you to find and show them the property? It happens, and you’re put in the uncomfortable position of apologizing for a 100 year old sales tactic you’ve never practiced, but ultimately, you become the hero.

So why the boohooing?

If Zillow, Trulia, and the rest provide closer to accurate information that is above and beyond popular sites like Craigslist (which are more agent driven and inaccurate), isn’t this a good thing? If the traditional industry isn’t willing to police itself in the public space where the data they’re sharing is potentially inaccurate, wouldn’t we prefer our consumers at least begin their search in an arena that at least aims for some semblance of accuracy standards? It stands to reason that if the traditional industry is so concerned with inaccurate data, then wouldn’t it be better to begin educating buyer agents against such a practice and Brokers cracking the whip on agents utilizing them? Regardless of the medium and the ethics it disregards, it seems acceptable so long as it’s done by ‘the professionals.’

Free happy endings

In our opinion, it’s good news that you (those that stand against bait and switch) are there to bring the value in accuracy and efficiency because it’s no longer about where the search began (that cat is out of the bag) but more about how it ended- with you. The search result was you- the rest remains “traditional.”

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Chris

    March 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Interesting perspective. I’ll have to show this to the agents blasted by owners/landlords who find their deal pending/expired exclusive properties on these sites.

    • Benn Rosales

      March 27, 2010 at 4:08 pm

      Good, maybe they’ll actually read the post.

  2. Bruce Lemieux

    March 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    The quality of Trulia and Zillow’s data is *so* bad, they do more harm than good. How bad is their listing data? I analyzed a popular zip code outside of D.C. in December and compared our MLS which had 72 active listings. Zillow listed 95 listings, yet only 36 of these were valid listings. Trulia showed 106 homes, yet 45 were accurate. What’s active and what’s not? A consumer would have no idea. We can’t expect them to know the difference between MLS-sourced listing data and syndicated data.

    It’s reasonable for a home buyer to expect that a national home search site would have somewhat accurate data. It irritates the life out of me that these guys knowingly present big buckets of crap data so they can sell web ads and services to agents. Under the guise of empowering home buyers, the add more confusion than clarity. It’s disingenuous and a horrible business model.

    • Benn Rosales

      March 27, 2010 at 7:54 pm

      Hi Bruce, what was their response when you showed them your comparison?

      What I’m more interested in with this article is beyond paragraph one- It’s a from the top down protection of the data beginning with traditional. You’re right, if T, and Z, ignore your findings, that is a problem, but there’s a problem right here at home and that’s so called professionals practicing this every single day on CL and in some cases, even their own sites with sold and not sold listings.

      I think if we as an industry made this a priority, the 3rd parties would have to follow suit.

      • Bruce Lemieux

        March 27, 2010 at 9:15 pm

        I didn’t share my findings with Trulia or Zillow. They are smart companies, they know how bad their data is. Any site that relies on listing syndication will have poor data quality since the data source is incomplete and unreliable.

        An MLS (and the public-facing IDX feed from the MLS) is the only place with rules to maintain a listing status accurately. It’s impossible for this to be 100% accurate all of the time since it relies on people, but wouldn’t most MLS data be 97+% accurate? I’m sure some MLS’s are better than others at policing their members. Forums like this indicate that many agents are victim to backwards/ineffective MLSs. I guess that at I’m better off than most since I participate in MRIS (metro D.C.) which is quite good. Still – I couldn’t imagine any MLS having data as poor as the syndicated sites.

        This is a post with my comparison of MLS and syndicated sites – bit.ly/6SYIw8

        I do see old listings on individual agent web sites, but most (all) don’t get enough hits to make a difference. And how many home buyers are looking on CL? Some, I guess, but isn’t this a tiny percentage of the total? CL is a horrible place to search for homes (or anything else). Still — I agree with you that a Broker must take responsibility for their agents CL shenanigans.

        • Benn Rosales

          March 27, 2010 at 9:24 pm

          Bruce, your last paragraph says it, but I assure you, we’re not talking about a few hits when we’re talking about CL. It’s popular because consumers want to consumer to consumer transactions, FSBO type approach, and mixed within are agents so badly that CL here in Austin began separating agents and consumers, and even still agents infiltrate the fsbo side posing as consumers. CL is big enough that Craigs been to Inman God knows how many times, and a few media companies want their share of lease ads.

          I know in a few markets midwest, cl is really just coming to life, but this isn’t just CL, or just online media, it’s in the real estate book, and many many other publications- this is sales tactic that spans decades.

  3. Missy

    March 27, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Agents should stay on top of their listings. They syndicate to the big 3 but when it sells it doesn’t go away except on R dot C to my knowledge.

    Most agents just list a house, and forget it. Two or more years later, a consumer calls on a house, they found. I check the MLS, it is sold or expired.

    Still it is up to the agent IMO to check their own listings.

    • Benn Rosales

      March 27, 2010 at 7:48 pm

      Missy, if we’re to continue to cry about data perfection, you’re right, it really should start at ground zero in either case. I find the MLS to be inaccurate as well time and time again, from showing times, to status – I once found a home with another houses images, imagine our surprise when we rolled up…

  4. Deborah Bernat

    March 27, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    @agentgenius The Flip Side of the Inaccurate Search Results Debate- Good News? https://bit.ly/aYVCeR

  5. good

    March 27, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    The Flip Side of the Inaccurate Search Results Debate- Good News? https://bit.ly/cXVNEa

  6. realdiggity

    March 27, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    The Flip Side of the Inaccurate Search Results Debate- Good News?: comments https://bit.ly/bPyRRg

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Social Media

Facebook’s Hobbi app was a complete flop

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook seemingly has enough money to throw away projects and apps they know will fail. Hobbi is their most recent flop.

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Facebook failed Hobbi

Due to its abysmal underperformance on the App Store, Facebook is killing their new app, Hobbi, just months after its rollout in February.

Hobbi was the brainchild of Facebook’s New Product Experimentation Team, whose stated purpose is to rapidly ideate, build, and launch experimental new apps – then pull them if they aren’t successful.

Hobbi was designed to help users document their progress on their various personal projects and, well, hobbies. Complaints centered primarily on its threadbare feature offerings. Notably, Hobbi does not allow its users to browse the works of other creators through the app- it only packages media like photos and videos for sharing elsewhere.

A post on the Tech@Facebook blog states that they “expect many failures” from the NPE Team, suggesting that Hobbi was not necessarily intended to last. But you have to wonder… what is supposed to be the point of a tool like this?

Stories are a popular feature on most major social media websites, including Facebook itself. And Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) already allows its users to curate and group posts about whatever they want, including personal projects, hobbies and interests, through their story highlights.

So Facebook created a product that was already made redundant by their existing properties. What is experimental about that, exactly?

Hobbi originally drew comparisons to Pinterest. Both are like digital scrapbooks; Pinterest is a platform for content that inspires creativity, and Hobbi creates progress reports for creative undertakings.

One could also compare Hobbi to the underperforming video streaming platform, Quibi, which recently became infamous for its ostentatious ad campaign, aggressively flaunted celebrity cameos, and ultimately, its overwhelming failure.

Jeffery Katzenberg, Quibi cofounder of Disney and Dreamworks fame, blamed the coronavirus pandemic for Quibi’s flop – a questionable claim, considering just how much free time many have had to binge Netflix’s Tiger King during the lockdown.

The same could be said about Hobbi. People have been taking on projects like crazy in the time that has Hobbi been on the market. Quarantine cabin fever has us baking, crafting, painting, cleaning, and redecorating like never before. Yet Hobbi went nearly untouched.

Nobody used it because nobody needed it. Surely some cursory research would have demonstrated this?

One conclusion is that the app itself was the research – that Facebook’s NPE team isn’t really creating finished products, but rather testing the waters for potential new ones. (Could this framing be an elegant form of damage control, though? It’s easier to say “I meant to do that!” than it is to admit failure, especially in business.)

Still, creating throwaway apps in a bloated industry feels like cheating, whether it was meant for research purposes or not. There are plenty of indie app developers who create great tools with way less funding. Filling app marketplaces with lemons makes it harder for folks to find those gems.

Either way, hopefully we will see some original ideas coming from Facebook’s NPE Team moving forward, because this was clearly a disappointment.

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Can Twitter ever secure data privacy, like even once?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter releases private information affecting already hurting businesses, should this even be a surprise anymore? They have a history of privacy breaches.

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twitter privacy

Dear Twitter,

I don’t know if you’ve seen the news within the past two years, but Facebook’s been under continuous scrutiny for privacy malpractices that affected millions of its users, so unless your goal is to be the next social network to infringe upon our first amendment right to privacy, I suggest you GET IT TOGETHER!

Over the weekend, users, specifically businesses, realized their billing information was being stored in their browsers cache. This is devastating news for business owners who rely on Twitter to promote their product, or stay in touch with their customers, who over the recent months have already faced monumental challenges. It is hard as a business owner to not feel this is an intentional overreach of privacy.

In an age where we have actual robots to vacuum our floors, and 3D printing, I speak for the people when I say this is unacceptable.

This isn’t the first time Twitter has been caught privacy breaching. A little over a year ago, Twitter announced that they were fixing a bug, many weren’t even aware of, that released phone numbers, location, and other personal data. AND GET THIS, even those who selected the option to keep their information private were affected, so what the hell is the point of asking us our preference in the first place?!!!

What about the time that Twitter accounts could be highjacked by ISIS and used to spread propaganda? All because Twitter didn’t require an email confirmation for account access. Or what about when Twitter stored your passwords in plaintext instead of something easily more secure. Flaws like these show a distinct ability of Twitter to just half ass things; to make it work, but not think about how to keep the users safe.

Like I said in the beginning, get it together Twitter.

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Facebook’s Forecast wants ‘qualified’ predictions, but no one’s asking why

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is asking a bunch of so-called experts to chime in on what the future holds, but can we trust them with the information we’re giving them?

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Forecast app

These days, trolls don’t necessarily lurk beneath bridges in order to ensnare unsuspecting travelers. Instead, they hide out in the comment sections on social media posts, ready to incite wrath and stir up controversy with their incendiary remarks. Because Facebook knows how quickly reasonable discourse can quickly devolve thanks in part to these online trolls, they’ve made a move to establish intelligent discussions through their new “Forecast” app.

The premise of Forecast is fairly straightforward. Facebook has invited an assortment of so-called experts (whether they work in the medical field or academia, or some other field) to cast their vote on predictions about the future. Not only will they share their vote, though, they’ll also pitch in their own two cents about these predictions, sparking what is expected to be insightful and reasonable conversation about the topics.

However, while the premise is exciting (smart people! not basement dwellers! talking about serious stuff!), there’s more than a small amount of risk associated with Forecast. For starters, what exactly is Facebook planning on doing with all of this information that is being volunteered on their app? And secondly, are they going to take precautions to help prevent the spread of misinformation when these results are eventually published?

The fact is, Facebook is notorious for propagating and spreading misinformation. Now, I’m not blaming Facebook itself for this issue. Rather, the sheer volume of its user base inevitably leads to flame wars and dishonesty. You can’t spell “Fake News” with at least a couple of the same letters used in Facebook. Or something like that. The problem arises when people see the results of these polls, recognize that the information is being presented by these hand-picked experts, and then immediately takes them at face value.

It’s not so much that most people are simple minded or unable to think for themselves; rather, they’re primed to believe that the admittedly educated guesses from these experts are somehow better, smarter, than what would be presented to them by the average layperson. The bias is inherent in the selection process of who is and isn’t allowed to vote. By excluding everyday folks like you and me (I certainly wasn’t given an invite!), undue prestige may be attributed to these projections.

At the moment, many of these projections are silly bits of fluff. One question asks, “Will Tiger King on Netflix get a spinoff season?” Another one wonders, “Will Mulan debut on Disney+ at the same time as or instead of a theatrical release?” But other questions? Well, they’re a little more serious than that. And speculating on serious issues (such as COVID-19, or the presidential election) can lead to the spread of serious — and potentially dangerous — misinformation.

Facebook has implemented very strict guidelines about what types of questions are allowed and which ones are forbidden. That, at least, is a step in the right direction. It’s no secret that expectation can actually lead to the predicted outcomes, directly influencing actions and behaviors. While it’s too early to tell if Forecast will ever gain that much power, it undoubtedly puts us in a position of wondering if and when intervention may be necessary.

But I’ll be honest with you: I don’t exactly trust Facebook’s ability to put this cultivated information to good use. Sometimes a troll doesn’t have to be overtly provocative in order to be effective, and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see someone in a position of power exploit the results of these polls to influence the public. It’ll be interesting to see if Forecast is still around in the next few years, but alas, there’s no option for me to submit my vote on that to find out.

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