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Living that Seattltude: Bloodhounds listening above the Sound

Still recovering from two exhausting days in Seattle. Brian Brady and I both had a great time. Taught a ton, learned a ton and met a lot of truly wonderful people.

The Zillovians were excellent hosts, pulling out all the stops for both the BloodhoundBlog Unchained event and for REBarcamp Seattle. They basically gave an entire floor of their offices to the RE.net, with spaces big and small for people to get together.

Zillow’s offices are on the 41st and 46th floor of a vast office tower. I would marvel that the building has its own Starbucks, but so does every other structure in Seattle. Here’s the view, looking north and east over the Puget Sound:

Here’s a panel from the Unchained conference featuring Rhonda Porter, Marlow Harris, Brad Coy and Rich Jacobson.

We capped off the day with a debate featuring Glenn Kelman and me. The photo shown here was taken by Marlow Harris. Marlow also shot some video clips, and I may post those later today.

REBarcamp Seattle was a lot of fun for me, mostly because I just did my own stuff and didn’t worry about it. Here’s Zillow’s Drew Meyers delivering the convocation:

On Thursday night, Scott Cowan approached Brian, asking him if he thought I might have time to talk to him on Friday. Brian laughed at the question saying, “If I know Greg Swann, he’s not going to go to any classes. Just grab his ear and ask what you want to know.”

Brian knows me better than I know myself. He signed us up to lead a session on group blogging, then later sent me off to teach a class on setting up Scenius scenes (for which I will provide better documentation Real Soon Now). Other than that, I spent my day in small offices (with incredible views) going at things one-on-one with anyone who wanted to talk to me.

Notably…

Al Lorenz is building a media empire in bucolic Lake Chelan, Washington. He wanted to learn how to build a Scenius scene, but he ended up teaching Brian and me a ton of juicy tidbits about Joomla.

Al later drove the computer for my Scenius demonstration, which was well because I cannot type and talk at the same time. Brad Coy was very helpful in that presentation, too, simply by keeping me grounded to an intelligible level of techno-babble.

I talked to a lender, I didn’t catch her name, about how to build weblogs for her strongest spheres of influence as a way of staying in front of them without being a pushy, obnoxious salesperson.

I had a wonderful conversation with a Seattle Realtor, again I didn’t catch a name, about how to tailor her listing presentation to a declining market.

The sales manager and the owner of a moving-company franchise were there, trying to figure out how to build a Web 2.0 presence as a way of developing an cultivating relationships with future movers. I spent some time talking to them, but it’s a real bear of a marketing problem.

The highlight of my day was going through engenu in detail with Scott Cowan. I had intended to do this on Thursday, but I couldn’t get enough wi-fi juice to get to my FTP server. We were able to work on Scott’s computer on Friday, and we built a site with multiple pages. With Al Lorenz earlier, and later with Scott and Andy Kaufman, I got to talk about how engenu permits you to restructure sites at will — adding, removing, moving or reorganizing sites as events transpire and objectives change.

This is something that I’ll be talking about at BloodhoundBlog Unchained in Phoenix — and I will tell you that, if you learn nothing else at Unchained, if you learn how to use engenu it will repay all your costs and then some.

Here’s an illustration of what I’m talking about. Suppose you have a family relocating from another state. You start previewing houses for them, building an engenu site so they can see the houses you’re looking at. At first the site might look like this:

  • The Covington Family Home Search
    • 123 Elm Street
    • 751 Oak Street
    • 19-A Pine Street

The top line is just the name of the web site for the search, and then each indented line is a separate web page for each house. That’s fine when you have just a few very similar houses. But the Covington’s aren’t sure those three houses, all in Oakdale, are right for them. So you add more content to the site, but you also reorganize it like this:

  • The Covington Family Home Search
    • Oakdale
      • 123 Elm Street
      • 751 Oak Street
      • 19-A Pine Street
    • Elmdale
      • 7511 Pine Terrace
      • 3516 Elm Circle
      • 4532 Oak Lane
    • Pinedale
      • 7 Oak Avenue
      • 34 Pine Trace
      • 51 Elm Boulevard

So now you have nine houses organized by town. I like to use Google maps to make it easy to picture what’s where. But the Covingtons are ready to come to town, so they send you a short list of their favorites, with the other houses sorted out as possibles an rejects. So let’s rebuild the site:

  • The Covington Family Home Search
    • Short List
      • 7511 Pine Terrace
      • 3516 Elm Circle
      • 123 Elm Street
    • Possibles
      • 751 Oak Street
      • 19-A Pine Street
      • 4532 Oak Lane
      • 34 Pine Trace
    • Rejects
      • 7 Oak Avenue
      • 51 Elm Boulevard

So the Covingtons come to town, and, not surprisingly, they end up putting a contract on a home they thought would really not suit them. The site might look like this now:

  • The Covington Family Home Search
    • 51 Elm Boulevard
      • Inspections
      • Rejects
        • 123 Elm Street
        • 19-A Pine Street
        • 34 Pine Trace
        • 3516 Elm Circle
        • 4532 Oak Lane
        • 7 Oak Avenue
        • 751 Oak Street
        • 7511 Pine Terrace

    We’ve isolated to the one house we’re buying, but we haven’t forgotten the others. The new Inspections page might contain a PDF copy of the inspectors’ reports, perhaps also with an embedded Youtube video showing the home inspector talking about the condition and health and safety issues of the home.

    Suppose the Covingtons want you to supervise the seller’s repairs, and also to keep an eye on remodeling contractors they have hired to work on the home after close of escrow but before they can move in. The site might look like this:

    • The Covington Family Home Search
      • 51 Elm Boulevard
        • Inspections
        • Repairs
        • Remodeling
          • Kitchen
          • Bathrooms
          • Pool and Patio
      • Rejects
        • 123 Elm Street
        • 19-A Pine Street
        • 34 Pine Trace
        • 3516 Elm Circle
        • 4532 Oak Lane
        • 7 Oak Avenue
        • 751 Oak Street
        • 7511 Pine Terrace

    The point of all this is that engenu lets you build and rebuild your sites — very easily and as often as you want. We’re literally just adding and moving folders around on the file server, then reinheriting the structure of the site and all of its link relationships — a process that takes less than a second. You can click here to see a site I have built and rebuilt like this.

    Cathleen and I used engenu to build 1,400 unique pages in 2008, this on top of everything else we did. Real estate professionals have a publishing problem. With engenu, you can pound out and share new web sites and web pages as quickly as you can collect the content. And thanks to REBarCamp Seattle, the number of people who really understand engenu has doubled — from three to six. 😉

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    18 comments

    18 Comments so far

    1. Todd Carpenter February 14th, 2009 3:41 pm

      >>”Other than that, I spent my day in small offices (with incredible views) going at things one-on-one with anyone who wanted to talk to me.”

      The absolute spirit of RE BarCamp. So glad you made it Greg. So jealous I could not be there. So looking forward to being at REBC Virginia on March 3rd.

    2. Cheryl Johnson February 14th, 2009 5:46 pm

      That’s a FABULOUS description of how someone would use engenu!!

    3. Monica Ray February 14th, 2009 6:54 pm

      Greg – thanks for sharing your information and ideas at RE Bar, we learned a lot. Now we’re interested in learning more about engenu, and also Joomla.

    4. Russ Squire February 14th, 2009 8:18 pm

      So many realtors are so far behind on the Web 2.0 curve it is staggering. Of course about half of them won’t be in business come 2010.

    5. Jim Reppond February 14th, 2009 10:30 pm

      Hi Greg,

      Thanks for your presentation at RE BarCamp – Seattle on your Scenius product. I may choose to set this up for my own blog. Here is a link to the video I took of the presentation of the Scenius setup process for you to use and/or distribute as you see fit.

      Scenius Setup Video

      Cheers,

      Jim Reppond
      TheSeattleSpecialist.com

    6. Greg Swann February 15th, 2009 8:44 am

      > Scenius Setup Video

      Oh, bless you for that, Jim. I had completely forgotten about that.

      Later today, I’ll set up an engenu site to document Scenius, and I’ll link your video there, too.

    7. Brad Coy February 15th, 2009 2:02 am

      Just returned myself and I’m exhausted. I’m grateful you and Brian both sponsored and involved yourselves in Friday’s event. Andy and I were talking on the way back, and it’s incredible to see how these events are taking a unique form every time.

      This was a great group of people to work with and the setting could not have been better. Thanks to everyone who participated.

    8. Greg Swann February 15th, 2009 9:03 am

      > The absolute spirit of RE BarCamp.

      😉 So is everything else, apparently.

      Here’s what would have been cool in that space, though: The Zillow.com REBarCamp Sleepover. There were plenty of opportunities for killer sceniuses, but the imposition of order by scheduling got in the way of that. This is why we’re leaving so much time among the labs at Unchained in Phoenix. People need time to work things through.

      One of my key complaints against the BarCamp idea has been the lack of structure, but, going forward, it might make sense to make small spaces available for completely unstructured contact.

    9. Greg Swann February 15th, 2009 9:07 am

      > That’s a FABULOUS description of how someone would use engenu!!

      Thanks. I think what knocked Scott’s socks of the most was the fact that for this rental home search, the web page documenting the community amenities at Coldwater Springs was picked up from this single-property web site. I made minor edits, but mainly I just drag-copied it over and reused the content for a different engenu site.

    10. Colleen Fischesser February 15th, 2009 10:58 am

      Thanks for sharing Greg. I enjoyed Thursday and came home with some great ideas. (Unfortunately also a horrible cough which prevented me from attending Friday). Looking forward to researching both engenu.us & scenius more. BTW, the Glen Kelman thing was fascinating.

    11. Scott Cowan February 15th, 2009 11:16 am

      Greg,

      Thank you so very much for making my brain feel like oatmeal after only a hour! The Scenius and Engenu applications are so very powerful and useful that I cannot wait to get going! (still FTP challenged) I will keep you posted and I am sure I will have questions too. This will be great material for Unchained!

      Best,

      Scott Cowan

    12. Brad Coy February 15th, 2009 4:42 pm

      >There were plenty of opportunities for killer sceniuses, but the imposition of order by scheduling got in the way of that.

      Excellent feedback. This did happen in a way. People are just starting to understand the concept of taking charge and having a BarCamp session. There were a handful of sessions made up as the day progressed. With all of that space one could have takend a room and scheduled something all day long if they wanted to. I think at least two sessions were extended beyond one hour to two.

      One very cool thing that happened is sessions later in the day were formed out of Unchained the day before and from earlier sesions that morning. It is a work in progress. The future of having this type of opportunity might be limited, given the venue and resources. Some of the organizers have disussed how to implement a bit more structure as well. People do need more time to work things out ideas and have hands on training as well – more good feedback.

      I know that attendees of both days were excited about the idea Unchained has to offer and being an alum myself, I encouraged many of them to sign up for Phoenix. From what I can tell it’s going to be excellent opportinity to get in the lab and put your nose to the grindstone with real time training.

    13. Al Lorenz February 16th, 2009 12:20 pm

      What a great couple of days in Seattle! Thanks Greg, Brian, Scott & everyone else. I have been playing with Scenius more this morning and will be putting together some Engenu sites, with luck, later this week. What powerful applications that solve issues I was struggling with just last week before the Seattle events! A bit slow of me to not understand them and take them to keyboard sooner. Thanks again!
      Al

    14. Andy Kaufman February 17th, 2009 3:19 pm

      Greg- A big thanks to and you Brian for everything you did to make last Thursday and Friday a trip worth taking. I really appreciated the personal test drive of Engenu and I’m looking forward to tinkering around with it, as well as Scenius.

      Like Brad said, we appreciate any feedback and look forward making minor tweaks as the RE BarCamp movement matures, so that we can keep on improving the experience for future attendees/participants.

      To me, it all comes down to the fact that RE BarCamp is what you make of it. I know you hadn’t planned on leading it, but your group blogging session in the morning was dynamite and is a great example of how great sessions can be formed on short notice and then adapted to accommodate the various participants (like when Ardell joined the panel).

      Parking yourself in an office and opening yourself up to 1-1 discussions was also a brilliant move and something that might be a good ideas for certain participants at future events

      For me, what it all comes down to is that I treasure the opportunity to meet and get to know the people that attend/participate in these events better. IRL is still the best social network :)

    15. Greg Swann February 17th, 2009 3:41 pm

      The essence of cool on the way out of town. The rest of Brad Coy’s photos are here.

    16. Gary McNinch February 18th, 2009 1:53 am

      Greg,

      Thanks to both of you for all the great info. I was in both the breakout sessions that you taught. Contrary to your contrary opinion, you didn’t spend all day Friday in the small rooms. Glad we could bring out the sunshine and view for ya in Seattle. And I won’t forget the look on Scott Cowan’s face when you showed him Jott. Appreciate your travels, tips and time.

    17. […] a pretty good introduction to the engenu functions that are covered in the video.  Greg described engenu’s functionality here.  (About two thirds of the way down in the post, below the […]

    18. […] described engenu’s functionality here.  (About two thirds of the way down in the post, below the […]