There’s always something to howl about

Socratic Dialogue, Deductive Reasoning, BHB and the State of Real Estate.

[I was just finishing this up when I read Greg’s terrific post.  Timing in life and all that…]

My first jaunt into online polemics was in the early nineties, the topic animal rights.  The Animal Liberation Front was active in the Northwest – burning fur farms and research labs to prove the efficacy of their argument – and my (then) wife was involved with the breeding and showing of dogs, the kind of thing that worked a True Believer into lather.

Then, of course, it wasn’t blogs, but  newsgroups – talk.politics.animals, as I recall – and it should come as no surprise that conversations tended to get a little, well, testy.  I actually took a moderator position for a short time, part of my job to write, every third post or so, a plea of the “Can’t we all just get along?” variety, which would settle things down, but never for much longer than twenty minutes.

[One can tolerate only so much. A reader had logged in to pour out his heart: He was a teacher in a middle school that, for a fundraiser, had staged a pig kissing contest.  The kids loved it, but the teacher was traumatized by the humiliation caused the pigs; he’d gone home and cried himself to sleep.  What could he do to make others understand?  I was asked to step down due to the insensitivity of my reply.]

Turning someone already steeped in the dogma is impossible, but there are tools available to convince the fence sitters:  The first thing I did was read the literature, then I downloaded and printed out – I still have the somewhat yellowed copy within arm’s length of where I type – a list of forty three logical fallacies.

Dialogue requires order.


Unfortunately, the web and blogs have managed to define discourse down even further.   And – who’d have thought? – it’s even beginning to infect RE blogs.  I think that’s why Rain City Guide’s Dustin Luther issued his preemptive admonition,  brilliant in its brevity:  Attack ideas, not people; no personal promotion. All’s well, and RCG continues to be one of the best in quality dialogue.

Then several days ago a food fight broke out at the latest iteration of the PI’s Seattle Real Estate Professionals site, reminding me oh-so-much of the early days.  That would seem a natural result of mingling anonymous bubble bloggers – of whom I know just enough – and some new, particularly acerbic contributors. Greg Perry, Sandy Kaduce and Marlow Harris tried valiantly to rein in the vitriol, but from experience I can say that nothing so aptly fits the herding of cats.  Vitriol can be entertaining, I suppose, if that’s your shtick, but it’s tedious to wade through if you’re trying to actually learn something. 

All of which is a roundabout way of offering compliments, mostly to those of you who comment:  BHB has, I think, the best running dialogue on, and I suspect readers – certainly those readers who want the full perspective on an issue –read all the comments as well as the posts.  Thanks to all those who participate, and encouragement to those who don’t.  I’ve said before, I can learn more in a week here than I learned in 150 hours of RE licensing prep. 

But also compliments to Greg for setting the tone of BHB, by establishing these immutable rules for contributors: 

1. There are no rules.  2.  See (1). 

Thus instead of ever increasing prescripts; instead of “Please!  Can’t we all just get along?”; instead of rules governing behavior, behavior has established the rules: 

People here are more interested in their own success than someone else’s failure.    I learned early that animal rights zealots are considerably less pro-animal than anti-human; that’s the mentality that informs a high percentage of the dialogue on the net.  (See: BDS) Bubble bloggers seek vindication through my collapse; oddly enough, that annoys me. 

Here I think we all agree that real estate is an industry that needs serious reform, but the goal is the ultimate fix, not the destruction.  No one to my knowledge is invested, say, in seeing Redfin go under; in fact the underlying theme is in embracing new technology.  We just want the right new technology. 

Statements, hypotheses and proposals offer validation.  Even those who don’t know the difference between secundum quid and petitio principii instinctively follow logical principles; if not, they’re called on it.  We follow a loose form of Socratic dialogue, the parrying of question and answer until either a conclusion or a contradiction is reached; if the latter, the discussion backs up until the contradiction is overcome. 

Deductive reasoning allows us not only to accurately infer cause from effect, but to, as accurately as possible, infer effect from cause.  Will the work necessary for a hyperlocal blog, as Jeff has proposed, be justified by the result?  

What will happen when commissions are divorced? 


Happy spin is anathema to cogent dialogue.  The opposite of the bubble bloggers – where apocalypse is around the corner – is the NAR, where the sky is always blue, the status quo always defended and individual thought is discouraged by the issuance of talking points.  Even Dave Liniger (politely) calls them on it

Not a lot of happy spinners here. 

There’s no resentment in disagreement.  When we’re all looking for an answer, as opposed to insisting on being right just to be right, we can disagree passionately and still have great respect for the person with whom we’re disagreeing. 

To repeat: We all want the same thing. 

So, Greg, I think you’re absolutely right.  The real estate industry is going to change – it has to – and I think BHB, with the elevated level of discussion, will have a lot to do with it. 

A lot. 

[For the record:  A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy can’t be defended successfully.]


4 Comments so far

  1. Jeff Brown October 24th, 2007 9:06 am

    Jeff – yer irritating the ‘unhappy spinners’ by not mentioning them by group name. :)

    >Happy spin is anathema to cogent dialogue.

    Sound like you’ve been channeling Grandma. :)

    Great stuff.

  2. Jeff Kempe October 24th, 2007 9:11 am

    YIKES! Far be it from me to irritate anyone!

    Can’t we all just get along??

  3. Sandy October 24th, 2007 11:24 am

    I think a couple of our contributors and commenters would rather fight than quit but overall I do think something was accomplished through our little “food fight.” There is starting to be real dialogue between the bubble-peeps and the contributors (mostly, in those cases when both sides want dialog rather than a fight), and I think it is important to have both sides stop seeing each other as “the enemy.” It is not the bubble-peeps fault that the market is weakening in Seattle, and it is not our fault that they find housing unaffordable. To stop seeing each other as the enemy means you are able to listen and learn from one another and I think that is important. And I think we are getting there for the most part.

  4. Marlow October 25th, 2007 9:18 am

    Some of our writers are new to blogging so they haven’t figured out how to keep them at bay and others just like to bait them. Either way, the bubble dudes (most seem to be guys) love to lurk and occasionally attack. It doesn’t matter, for the most part, we enjoy their contributions.