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3 questions early tech adopters must remember to ask

Early adopters of technology that have been pioneering the use of tools in their business are often the fastest to shell out money for this or that, but there are three fundamental questions that should be asked before clicking the “add to cart” button on any technology.



Pride in being an early adopter

I pride myself in being a trendsetter when it comes to use of technology in my real estate business. As an early adopter, I bought into online form software while the rest of my former company was still firmly entrenched in paper forms. Now as the broker of my own firm, we frequently test and buy into technology quickly after it hits the market. Most of the time, this is a smart move. Being an early adopter gives us an edge as we frequently are the first in our market to use new marketing channels and real estate software. However, this speed to try new things is not without its risks.

A few weeks ago, I received a marketing email from a company selling a new smartphone app targeted at real estate and mortgage professionals. The copy was exciting and promised that industry professionals who downloaded and purchased this new app would be able to share the app with their clients, and even sell “space” on the app to trusted vendors. It sounded great — and I clicked on the email link which took me to a splash page for the app. Before doing too much due diligence, I admit I sent the developer $149 through PayPal for my own customized smartphone app.

After logging in to customize my app, I quickly figured out this was probably not a smart move. I uploaded info on my trusted lender and home inspector, and invited them to try the app. Both declined. Not interested. Hmmm. So I guess I won’t be collecting part of the app fee from these guys, who normally do pay for sponsorship on my folders and on co-branded ads. Okay. No big deal. If it works, I can afford $149.

The three questions you must ask

One: Does it really solve a problem or is it just fancy bells and whistles?
I show the app to a few select clients of mine. Two of them work for computer firms, and between them probably own every piece of cool tech there is. Both just blinked when I showed them the app. “But you can click my realty app here to get my contact info at your fingertips!” They both gave me a blank stare, and a “Duh” moment. One guy said “But I already have that info in my contact database.” The other guy said “You’re my agent. I know how to find you.” Then I showed them my preferred vendors on the app. Again, both guys have trusted lenders at their disposal and don’t need mine. Okay, so the app is pretty on their phones, but not really necessary for current clients — and that’s who I am supposed to invite to download the app. See the catch 22?

Two: What is the company’s refund policy?
After discovering that I was not 100% thrilled with the purchase, I went online to see how to contact the company. There was no refund policy online, so I sent an email to the address on the web, with no reply. Three days later, I sent another email. No reply. Then I sent an email to the owner of the company (which I tracked down through the PayPal address I sent the money to). He replied that he would refund the money. That was six days ago. I just sent a second email to the owner. I did try to contact PayPal, but their dispute mechanism seems to not relate to software apps as none of the choices apply to my situation, and there is no “other” choice when disputing a charge.

Three: Will this give me an edge in business?
Finally, will buying this new technology give me an edge in my business? How does it read in an advertisement? Try to create a “benefit” statement out of it and see if it makes any sense. If I had done this, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so quick to send that company $149 for the app. “Hire me and I’ll give you a free app to download my contact info and the info of my trusted lender.” Really? Who cares!

I am still proud of being a trendsetter in my industry. My company is the “techy geeky firm” in our area, and I won’t change that. But hopefully next time I get an email urging me to send someone money to download the latest technology, I’ll pause and think this through a bit better. Oh, and I’m giving that app company three days to refund my money before I share the name of that app company. Just kidding, Mike. Or not. We’ll see.

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

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  1. Roland Estrada

    May 15, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Well first off, every tech journalist I read, listen to and follow would have not problem publicly burning a vendor that screwed them over. Why? Because they are not just reviewers. They feel they owe it to their readers and listeners to warn them of shady vendors. Second, the public forum they have can sometimes help resolve someone else’s  problem. 
    I’ve been in the position of jumping to quickly, the price I pay for being bleeding edge. Well bleeding edge when it comes to real estate agents. I remember some arrogant dope at the office asking me how liked my new toy (I got the iPad 1 on the first day). He ended up getting an iPad a year later and I ended up teaching an iPad class for Realtors.
    You should be discerning about your tech. Getting the hardware is relatively easy. It’s difficult not getting sucked into apps and services you don’t need, can get cheaper or for free. 

  2. franciszrobles

    May 15, 2012 at 6:21 am

    One advantage to 123 Refinance is as you look for a lender to refinance your loan, if the lender you decide to work with fails to come through, you can move on to another lender quickly.

    • Roland Estrada

      May 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm

       @franciszrobles Nice SPAM!!

  3. MitchTheGeekGuy

    May 16, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Confused, so after a few days of speaking to a couple of clients you bash the software? Would that not be like bashing Facebook because you can’t get people to like your fan page? Or blaming the website designer because no one visits your website! Did the app work? Did it have the ability to advertise your preferred vendors? Would this not make more sense to give to new clients as opposed to existing clients?
    You call yourself a trendsetter, I believe most trendsetters have issues getting people to buy in to their new trends at first.

    • Roland Estrada

      May 16, 2012 at 5:50 pm

       @MitchTheGeekGuy This is a garbage app. It looks like it was written by some dropout teen. These kinds of apps are all the same. They offer a cheap “mobile app” that is nothing more than some basic code. No wonder they won’t give Erica the time of day. Thanks Erica, for outing these losers. I’m sorry, was I to blunt? 🙂

  4. ericaramus

    May 16, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Mitch — I realized the app was not as useful to me as I had hoped. Yes it worked as in it functioned. But after using it and demonstrating it to clients I also saw the app is not necessary for my business. Therefore I requested a refund. I’ve emailed now 5 times with zero response. When I contacted the VP of sales 8 days ago he replied I would have a refund. However, subsequent emails went unanswered. 
    UPDATE 5/16/12… it’s been 8 days now since the app VP of Sales promised me a refund. The app’s name is The Working Business Card. I would definitely not recommend this app to real estate professionals. And based on their poor customer service I’ll be letting everyone know that the refund I was promised never materialized. 

  5. Frugyl

    May 30, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Early adoption is where it’s at! *squeal!*

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Tech News

This Zoom alternative offers a branded video meeting experience

(TECH NEWS) AirConnect is a conferencing portal that allows for company customization and automated onboarding so you can focus on other priorities.



video portal airconnect

The concepts of company culture and branding are now more important than they’ve ever been. When we were first hearing these terms, they felt like buzzwords and ways to attract new talent and business without any actual execution.

Now that we have an understanding of what they are and how to use them, they are so much more practical and necessary – from big businesses to a one-person Etsy shop.

It’s been a little different in the last few months trying to figure out how to make company culture exude in the virtual world. For places that are hiring, it is also tricky to show how they differ from the rest over a video conference call.

The creators of AirConnect have taken this into account and have unleashed the virtual conference concept with an element of customization. As they say, “nothing beats a personal touch”.

Through use of this video conferencing tool, you can meet virtually with customers and clients in a brand video meeting portal. Customization options include headers, logo placement, and colors.

Additionally, the tool allows for customers to access their data via a customer portal, which allows for some automation when onboarding clients, assisting customers, or meeting with partners. AirConnect urges users to “say goodbye to Zoom links”.

“Let’s face it, nobody likes the where’s-the-link, what’s-the-password, can-you-hear-me-yet: and that includes your customers. Say hello to a single place where they can meet with you, as well as seeing all their account information, resources and anything else you like. Ah, that’s better, isn’t it?” explains the website.

The fully featured customer portal allows users to go beyond the simple zone of a place to talk. The ability to connect to sheets is where customers can access the aforementioned data.

The video call feature in the branded portal offers as many video touchpoints as the user would like; whether it’s used for on-boarding or standard consultations. The fact that customers can access their own data anytime allows users to put their time towards the high-value touchpoints.

On-boarding processes can also be automated by capturing customers’ information and documents in a single portal, making activation simple.

This certainly differentiates from Zoom or Skype as it has the customization option. What do you think – is it useful or flashy for the sake of flash?

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Tech News

Google Messages adds features to catch up to iMessage

(TECH NEWS) Google Messages just added a bunch of features (including a web version) to make the chat service feel a lot more like iMessage. Better late than never!



From the way people talk about iMessage, you’d think Apple has the market cornered on instant messaging–and, if you have an Android, you’re pretty much out of luck. With some new additions to Google Chat in the last week, this may no longer be the case.

According to CNET, Google added a slew of features to the RCS Messaging–typically referred to as Google Chat–app, all of which should now be available directly within your Android’s Messages app (technological limitations for older devices notwithstanding). Among these features are reactions to messages and the ability to text from your computer.

CNET notes that you’ll have to use the Google Messages app–not your phone’s built-in chat app if it’s different–in order to access these features, though they also point out that Samsung is in the process of adding the RCS Messaging suite to their proprietary messaging app as well.

You do have to jump through a couple of hoops to ensure that you’re able to use these features in Google Messages, starting with making sure you’ve updated your phone to the latest operating system version. That’s just good life advice anyway, so double-check your phone’s settings for updates before you proceed.

Obviously, you’ll also need Google Messages installed on your phone as well. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store, and it should be compatible with most devices.

Once your phone is updated and Google Messages is installed, you can set Messages as your default texting app from within settings. This process will differ slightly depending on the Android model you have, but the easiest way to do this is by opening Google Messages after installing it, and then following the on-screen prompts to set it as your default texting app.

If you’ve ignored these prompts in the past and you don’t want to redownload the app, you can search your Android’s settings for “chat” or “text” to narrow down the possibilities for where the default texting app setting is hiding.

There is one last step you’ll need to accomplish before you can actually use Google Messages’ chat features, and that’s enabling the features themselves. Google Messages will usually prompt you to upgrade to these features once you start a conversation (this typically takes the form of a message asking if you want to see when your friends are typing), but you can also navigate to Google Message settings, elect to “turn Chat on”, and follow the ensuing prompts.

From here, you’re free to use Messages, much like you would iMessage; you can react to messages by long-pressing them, check and respond to messages from Google Messages on your computer, organize and view message history, and so on. If you’re someone who feels like you missed out on the iMessage craze–or you’ve recently switched from an iPhone to an Android–Google Messages should feel right at home on your phone.

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Tech News

“Mine” helps you find your digital footprint and DELETE it

(TECH NEWS) Most people value their online security, but don’t know to manage their data without abandoning the apps and websites that they love. Mine is trying to change that.



I’m pretty concerned with keeping my personal data safe these days: I recently got a VPN and I try to use a privacy browser for everything I do on the internet. But it’s impossible to completely avoid sharing my personal information, especially if I want to watch, buy, say, or do anything at all online.

So when I first heard about Mine, a new machine-learning tool which claims to be “the future of data ownership”, it really piqued my interest. 

Using your email history, Mine identifies companies that are most likely to be storing your information based on the headers of the messages in your inbox. Its AI then independently locates the privacy policies for these companies to determine what kinds of information they’re storing, rather than looking through the actual contents of your emails.

Mine seems very mindful of the fact that they must be trustworthy in order to be successful. It’s free right now while they’re still new; Mine only got started in January. But they have plans to introduce a subscription service in the future.

To quote their FAQ: “Tech companies that are not interested in your money are interested in your data, your online behavior, or other personal assets they can monetize. In other words, if an app is free, they’re probably getting their money from somewhere else 🙂 Our goal is the opposite – we want to make data ownership accessible for all without monetizing our users’ data.”

Of course, when I saw the smiley face, I figured I’d give it a shot. Hey, if they help me get my information out of the hands of a less smiley entity, everything evens out, right?

After sifting through my emails, Mine spat out a list of the places that were allegedly storing my information. I was pretty shocked to see around 100 different companies pop up. Some of them were there for obvious reasons. Google, for example, was self-explanatory… but there were also names that I could swear I’ve never heard of.

I ended up submitting over 50 data deletion requests. The tool made it really easy to see who had my information, and streamlined the process of sending requests to these companies. With two taps, it was bombs away.

My inbox was suddenly buried in automated messages, mostly about how “support” would get back to me “as soon as possible.” I spent the next few days virtually waist deep in what was, for all intents and purposes, spam mail.

The select few that promptly, and properly, addressed my request produced mixed results: only three companies immediately confirmed that they had erased the data they were storing about me. The rest were going to make me do a bit more legwork, with each having their own rabbit holes for me to jump through before they would delete a dang thing. I won’t lie, this frustrated me, but the reasons for these extra steps are not necessarily sinister.

When I spoke to Gal Ringel, co-founder and CEO of Mine, he shared that often, companies do this because they need to be provided with more information than an email address in order to fully complete the request. He says that Mine will soon be incorporating “enriched” data erasure requests that should cut back on the need to inconvenience users with these outside processes.

In the meantime, he and his team have been working with businesses to develop policies that facilitate the process of data erasure. The majority of businesses, he says, consider it a good investment in building trust with the public. It’s also a prudent move to prevent identity theft, should others gain access to their records.

So, what’s my verdict on Mine? It really simplified the process of asking companies to delete my personal information. It is an important step on a long journey towards redefining the relationships that we have with our data, since the majority of people simply don’t have an accessible way to exercise control over it.

Mine is still in development, and I really look forward to seeing what it becomes in the future. (Hopefully, something that involves fewer emails!)

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