Yesterday Benn Rosales wrote a post about NAR’s reaction to what he termed (properly) NAR’s first real engagement after their appointment of Todd Carpenter as their SMM. In that post he referenced another post written by Rob Hahn that called into question the manner in which NAR and Todd handled the controversy over a local board’s recent decision regarding the enforcement of an existing MLS policy. I read Rob’s post, and delayed the post I had originally written to run today in order to discuss some flaws in Rob’s well written, articulate, criticism of the NAR response.
Todd Vs. Todd
The first place where Rob and I have divergent opinions is his assessment of Todd’s participation in this situation. Todd engaged as an individual and then in his official capacity. As an experienced participant in the social media space, he opted for transparency, and clearly indicated when he was speaking officially and when he was voicing his own opinion. I don’t believe that his statements were contradictory, and I think it is disingenuous of us to think that he cannot speak from both of those positions.
I would think that Todd should be congratulated for the clarity with which he approaches the job, and the commitment that he has shown to both our trade association, our members, and his conscience. When Todd said, “I don’t make policy at NAR. To be frank, I won’t be doing anything to get this policy changed. That’s on you guys. The members. An official statement for NAR was published in the comment stream.” all he was doing was disseminating information – accurate information- and informing the readership of the process.
We’re not a Democracy
In his discussion about the manner in which he feels NAR should handle this type of situation Rob suggested;
3. Unless there’s some good reason not to do so, open up the whole process to the stakeholder community.
Unless the issue at hand involves trade secrets, proprietary technology, or personal information that you just can’t share, consider opening up the whole process from soup to nuts on social media. Conduct the business in plain sight, in front of your community, and get them involved in the whole process from very early on.
The process is open to the whole stakeholder community. The NAR Mid-Year Meetings are open to every member of the organization, and there are seats available at the Multiple Listing Issues & Policies Forum and Committee meetings for any members who wish to attend. The business is conducted in plain sight , in front of the community, and all it requires to participate in the forum is to show up. (and as Wood Allen said, “90% of life is just showing up”). The fact that our current process takes place off line does not invalidate the process or make it closed in some manner.
Rob then went on to suggest that Cliff Niersbach , an incredibly bright, smart and engaging individual who has dedicated his professional career to the REALTOR organization, should have spoken directly to the readers of this blog;
Imagine if Cliff Niersbach had simply gotten on that AgentGenius thread, posted a greeting, acknowledged the controversy, and said, “Okay, I’m all ears, people. What do you want to do?” There would have been no “Us” vs. “Them” created; instead, all of the commenters would have made suggestions, protested the policy, etc. Cliff could then have responded with his concerns, brought other staffers in, brought in people from the CRT to raise questions, ask questions, and turned the thread into a wonderful discussion/debate.
Some individuals would have remained very fired up about it, but the vast majority of stakeholders would see that things have settled down to a boring, dry, technical discussion of how to word the policy, how to define “indexing” vs. “scraping”, and so on, and would have gone back to their daily lives, feeling reassured that “people” (not “We” or “They” but “people who know what they’re talking about”) are looking at it.
I have to respectfully disagree. Though I think highly of this blog, its publishers, authors, and readers, we are not the only people involved here. We are, in fact, only a small portion of the community that is impacted by this issue, and though the importance of this forum is substantial, this is an issue for the entire membership, not for a portion of the membership.Our opinions are only opinions, and they should have no more weight than any other individual members of the group.
Cliff actually executed a more appropriate version of what Rob suggests. He spoke to the most knowledgeable people in the organization about the technical issues involved, and , with the input of the appropriate people in the organization, arranged to bring two smart well informed advocates for change to address the body charged with investigating and acting on issues like these. Our organization is a republic, not democracy. We have representatives both elected and appointed, who conduct the business of the organization for the benefit of their constituency (the members) on a regular basis. It is those people who need to review this issue and determine the correct course for the organization to take.Because of the open nature of our association, we have a system of forums in which every member can be heard without regard for their level of involvement in the goveranance of the group.
Ron then discusses the possibility of a need for limited transparency;
If you can’t open up the process to that level of transparency, then say so, and say why not: “Hey gang, as much as we want to get you all involved, I’m afraid this involves some pending patents, and possible litigation, so we’re gonna have to go behind closed doors. But we’ll let you know as soon as we decide something, and get your thoughts.”
While I appreciate Rob’s desire to mention the possibility to allow for a fair assessment of possible limitations, it just isn’t the case here. In fact the organization is going above and beyond by bringing in two people , at the expense of the group to assure that the voices calling for change are being championed by people that are willing and able to make the most compelling case possible for the change the want to see.How much more transparency could anyone ask for?
They Keep Trying to Get it Right
I walked the halls of the Midyear meetings today, watching the swarm of REALTORS walking to and from their meetings. All of them are volunteers. All of them have businesses that are working through the challenges of the current economy. And yet all of them made the trip to Washington to donate their time to deal with the issues facing us as an industry , this scraping issue among them. They are supported by the best staff I have ever had the pleasure to work with. All of these volunteer are here trying to “do the right thing” for our industry, as did the volunteers that came before them. If our leaders don’t always “get it right” , it’s only because they’re human – not for want of trying. And by trying, the association keeps doing better and better, and will hopefully continue to do so with the help of a participatory membership given voice through vehicles like AG.
Image courtesy of 2008 NAR General Session courtesy of creativecommons.org and JohnHallAssociates
May 13, 2009 at 8:03 am
Bill – As always you manage to make me think a bit. This week has been a heady one for me as it’s the first time I truly felt passionate about an issue within our association and did something about it. I’m still growing and learning (and won’t stop any time soon) and I’m glad to have been introduced to people like you, who give me food for thought and encourage me to learn more and act more. I hope to attend a Midyear Meeting in the future and see first hand how the process works. Thanks Bill, yet a little more push for me to be more active.
May 13, 2009 at 8:09 am
Thanks so much for your comment. Don’t wait for next year’s mid-year- there’s the annual meeting in San Diego in November, and governance issues are addressed at that meeting as well. And I might even be tempted to by you the adult beverage of your choice!
May 13, 2009 at 9:03 am
I have been very impressed with intellectual conversation here, on AG. There have been views that have led me to ask my technology friends (not realtors) questions about indexing, intellectual property rights and the need for protection. It has been a real education for me… so thanks everyone!
Bill, I will be walking the halls in DC tomorrow and will make sure to introduce myself to you, and maybe ask you to join me for lunch!
May 13, 2009 at 9:19 am
If you want to call my writing a trackback explanation a post, I suppose technically you could call it that, but it wasn’t that.
I did a few things- I addressed the issue of co-opting as it was specifically referred to in Rob’s article, and in comments here on AG. I also noted that it was a difficult writing assignment not making this a referendum on the SMM, and quoted the two issues Rob specifically stated were the mistakes.
I thought Rob’s post was thoughtful and well articulated and it didn’t appear to ass kiss nor attack in the process- it was professional.
Unfortunately, the smm does not have the social capital to resurrect the image of the NAR, and these situations should not hinge on Todd, nor his popularity, nor lack there of- they’re serious issues that are bigger than him.
Having said that, as much as I respect the SMM and Hilary, I find an A out of the gate a sad day for the future, because it says that it’s the best it can be. I for one am not in a mood to actually pass judgment as the smm has really only been in place a short time, judging it currently is the equivalent to seeing a painting before it’s finished and unfair to those involved- although I think the strategy, content, and response is up for debate- NAR is bigger than a breadbox, which is why I personally was wondering who would bite into this issue.
Since I’ve been named in an attempt to defend Todd from I’m not sure what, I’ll post later on the subject to dispel any possible myth about what I think- I’m not an affiliate, nor a stakeholder so I assure you, I’ll be as constructive as I’ve always tried to be in these situations.
May 13, 2009 at 9:41 am
noting A for appropriate, I would agree with that assessment, it didn’t register when I read it. but ultimately, it changes nothing.
May 13, 2009 at 10:35 am
Doug; Thanks for your comment, it would be pleasure to meet you and lunch is always an option. You can check the Blogger’s loung at the min- that’s where I am if I’m not at meetings or the Trade expo. It would be my pleasure.
May 13, 2009 at 11:25 am
I just got back from meetings and saw your comments – sorry for misnaming the trackback explanation.
I didn’t name you for any purpose nor think that you did anything there except share your thoughts that Rob’s post was well reasoned and articulate – both if which it was. However I thought he was wrong about a few things, because of a lack of knowledge about the process and that was why I wrote this post. And I wasn’t defending Todd from anything, but I did feel that Rob was not correct in his assessment of the responses as they were framed in his post.
Thanks again for providing this platform for these discussions
May 13, 2009 at 11:27 am
AgentGenius is proving itself more and more to be an intelligent and professional source of industry opinion. I applaud the high-level discussion found here that is, thankfully, largely free of the incessant name-calling so prevalent on some other national blogs.
May 13, 2009 at 2:05 pm
“I didn’t name you for any purpose nor think that you did anything there except share your thoughts that Rob’s post was well reasoned and articulate – both if which it was.”
May 14, 2009 at 7:03 am
Thanks for your thoughtful response. I did read the other post as a result of a “Google Alert” which is how I found your post too. It is great to see the points as well as the discussion from both sides. You are so right in that the folks keep trying and are devoting their time out of loyalty and for the greater good. I think it is a wake-up call or inspiration per se such as Matt said for others to get more involved as well. I need to come on Agent Genious more often !
May 14, 2009 at 8:15 am
Got a link to Rob’s post?
May 14, 2009 at 8:50 am
“The process is open to the whole stakeholder community. The NAR Mid-Year Meetings are open to every member of the organization, and there are seats available at the Multiple Listing Issues & Policies Forum and Committee meetings for any members who wish to attend. The business is conducted in plain sight , in front of the community, and all it requires to participate in the forum is to show up.”
Unfortunately for the bulk of us (non brokers, smaller, depressed markets) this is simply a fiscal issue. I can either come to this – hear what someone else has to say to learn how it works, or plan to go to Family Reunion or Mega Camp instead (to grow). Cannot do both on my budget in this market. I’ve been blessed to still be in the trade (and to increase my business), but the truth is the VAST majority of the NAR stakeholders DO NOT have the resources in this economy to go to DC or San Diego. I would hazzard a guess that upwards of 85% of us couldn’t come if we wanted to. We need the transperancy some type of online Town Hall meeting might bring. Our forums are our letters, emails, and our comments on this and other sites.
Enjoyed the eloquence, agree with most of what you have to say, just struck me as a hint of arrogance that you were a bit glib about “you can just come and see…..” Down here in the dirt we can’t afford it.
Navy Chief, Navy Pride
May 14, 2009 at 9:44 am
Chris & Matthew j
Thanks for your comments. They are very kind and much appreciated.
I thought the link did go to the post. I am responding to comments from my phone but I will try to fix that when I get back to my computer
Joe; Thanks for reading,for your comments, but most of all for your service.
I appreciate your concern about the costs of attending various meetings, but that’s a business decision, not a flaw in the system. And there was no arrogance felt or intended in my statement. When I began attending NAR meetings we were at the tail end of a major recession, I had a 4 year old son, was single income family and faced all of the financial issues that you refer to. I felt that my trade association events were important to building my business. If you feel that you need to spend your time and money attending other events, that is a personal choice that I would have no comment about. Your suggestions however do not allow for the interplay of members that a forum affords, the ability of the members to debate issues that are discussed, or the ability of the committee members to listen to all of these points of view immediately prior to their discussions on the topic (which the members present can observe as they unfold). So again, with all due respect to your personal and business choices, I would stand by my earlier position encouraging their attendance and participation. .
May 14, 2009 at 10:18 am
In your estimation, what percentage of NAR membership is in attendance this week? I don’t ask as a way of belaboring my point, just to get a feel for how important these events are in the eyes of the grunts on the ground.
Perhaps I should take your advice and alternate what events I can budget for to ensure I’m not voting without representation. As an example, the KW Orlando event had approximately 10% participation (77,000 agents, approx that number of attendees, minus a “0”).
Perhaps – as you and many others already do – I should look to leading the way by example, instead of by textample (ha! just invented a word!) – as the bumper sticker says “Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote”
Navy Chief, Navy Pride
May 14, 2009 at 12:02 pm
In other words…if you want change….don’t just blab (<—-is that a word?) your mouth, get involved!!! In the amount of organizations I am involved, I love when people show up and say “this should happen, this should change, I suggest this” and then expect others to take action. It’s easy to talk but takes a lot of determination and commitment to volunteer and actually make those changes.
May 14, 2009 at 12:12 pm
Joe; Love the new word ‘textample’ but I think you’re right that your leading by example would be the best way to participate. If you do decide to come to NAR meetings ping me & I would be pleased to meet & talk f2f and introduce you to people at CRT and in the blogger’s lounge where I think you’ll find a bunch of people you know from the re.net.
Ines as always articulate as well as beautiful. And someone who steps up to work when stuff needs to be done. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. 🙂
May 14, 2009 at 2:14 pm
We’re not the entire spectrum … here’s the opposition:
Agent calls to check on “my listing” which isn’t my listing and isn’t purported to be my listing. Her clients found it through my IDX and she couldn’t find it in MLS. (Hint: remove the status checkbox and she’d have seen it was pending and her clients had dated information.)
So I explain all of this, we wish each other a good day.
Two hours later she calls back with another home and – you guessed it – it’s not my listing. At this point, it’s clear she’s either not checking the MLS, doesn’t know how to check the MLS, is Googling addresses for her data or is relying on her clients rather than doing the work herself.
It’s hard for me to say because when I’m handed an MLS number by a client (or an address), the first place I go is the MLS. Call me crazy.
This could be someone less than thrilled with indexing; clearly the concept is confusing to her.
Still if that’s the other side of the coin, I’ll happily stay over here.