What I love about Zillow (And hate about real estate agents and old media)

From an article in the Nashville City Paper by Richard Lawson on the glut of homes on the real estate market, and speaking of a builder who works on both custom and spec homes:

Still, he won’t drop the price to encourage a sale, saying it’s better for property values in the neighborhoods where he builds. Instead, he has been offering buyers’ agents more commission or other concessions if they bring a full-price offer.

My gripe with old media: great tactic by the builder, now what about the consumer?

My gripe with real estate agents: Jarvis over at BuzzMachine has written a couple of times of “freeconomics” and the new business model of the Web. Having just worked with a real estate agent to buy a home (a professional and hard working one at that) I still have to say that the ability to peruse a plethora of market-specific data on Zillow in the comfort of my home made me immeasurably more comfortable with the purchase.

Their ability to force a consumer to bring a full-price offer rests with the fact that they hold more information than the buyer, an advantage Zillow obliterates.

Where do people find the time?


Growing up with the Internet (my parents got dial up when I was eight or nine years old), I always despised the television, but lacked the historical framework to explain why. Broadcast news and sitcoms were my usual targets, and I would contrast the passive isolation of watching television with the participatory, group nature of the Web.

Clay Shirky offers a persuasive framework for understanding how the Web is changing/has been changing/will continue to change society.


“Evangelical Power Vastly Diminished Headed Into Super Tuesday”

OffTheBus MastheadThe so-called “evangelical vote,” often cited by media analysts as a crucial constituency in securing the Republican nomination, is likely to exercise considerably less influence this cycle, according to a series of interviews with clergy and political analysts conducted by HuffPost’s OffTheBus {citizen journalism project.}

I recently participated in the Huffington Post’s OffTheBus citizen journalism project, which can be read at the above link. I interviewed Executive Pastor Marty Thompson of Bethel Evangelical Free Church in Fargo, North Dakota, for the piece.

It was my first such participation in a citizen journalism project and I was both impressed with Amanda Michel, Marc Cooper and Dan Truel for coordinating the effort, as well as pleased with the final result. Although many of the issues discussed in the article fell outside the scope of my specific conversation with Pastor Thompson, I still felt my interview informed the article and helped the group arrive at a collective truth regarding the so-called “Evangelical vote” leading up to Super Tuesday. Namely, we dispelled the notion that evangelical Christians are somehow to be perceived of as a homogeneous voting bloc in the United States, a notion reflected in my particular interview with Marty Thompson.

The best new magazine Web site of 2008

PopSci LogoI just wanted to take a moment and recognize the folks over at Popular Science magazine for their Web efforts. They quietly launched a redesigned site, PopSci.com, in 2008. It’s built on the Drupal platform and one way of looking at it is that, functionally, it’s a group blog. Each navigational bucket along the top represents a category, but all posts/articles/stories appear time-stamped in reverse chronological order on the home page.

PopSci home page

If you haven’t checked it out, I recommend.

It offers a unique model for a traditional print company to leverage their assets on the Web. It also gives me hope that old media companies will come to realize that a blog is just as easily (and perhaps more helpfully) understood as a medium, not as a genre.

Does Facebook’s ‘friend limit’ thwart the ability for mass organization?

A friend of mine sent me the following story of a Canadian union organizer banned from Facebook for making too many friends:

CUPE organizer/Labour Start correspondent Derek Blackadder’s foray into labor-related social networking was rudely interrupted by a warning from Facebook saying that he was making too many friends.

Facebook LogoHe then asked me, “Does this thwart the potential for organizing through Facebook?”

No, I said. And here’s why:

Obviously, if you want to get a message out to organize a protest, a prayer service or anything else , you’ll get that message out most QUICKLY by having a lot of friends, say, more than the 5,000 limit. Note I said most QUICKLY. (This is the equivalent of broadcasting a message through a traditional one-to-many medium).

But not necessarily most EFFECTIVELY, nor most SUCCESSFULLY, if the barometer for success is how many people take the desired action you’re hoping for.

Here’s the key

Successfully organizing on Facebook doesn’t necessarily mean one person broadcasting a message to 5,000 people. If anything, that message is going to be watered down for broad appeal, less relevant to each specific person, and prompt the least (percentage wise) action.

The KEY is getting 50 people to each tell 50 people to teach tell 50 people, etc., etc., etc. (Or, really, 5 people to tell 5 people, etc., etc., etc.) Each message then becomes a relevant, targeted message, and a message that the recipient of which is most likely to pass on.

And that’s what gives social networking sites, such as Facebook, such a great potential for organization.

So you sort of have two issues: 1) crafting the right message and 2) getting that message to the right people.

Obviously what I’m describing here is simply viral marketing in theory (the practitioners of which will tell you in reality is anything but simple).

Catholicism 2.0: Religious blogging, podcasting & online communities

Call to Action logoEach year Call to Action, a progressive, reform-minded organization within the Catholic Church, convenes a National Convention. This year the group aims to hold a few sessions on how to utilize new media technologies to inform and galvanize the laity to action. Some suggested sessions include blogging, podcasting and social networking. I had a conversation last night with an organizer, and hope to sit on a panel for the group. The convention is in November and preliminary information can be found here. More to come soon…