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Is NAR Criminal or Clueless? What difference does it make?

I  read the give and take between Greg and Mike DiMella (full disclosure, Mike is a client) with interest, because I respect them both, and it is always interesting when smart people agree to disagree and do so with civility and eloquence and without resorting to the ad hominem.

When that single MIBOR director derailed a policy change that went against them, even though it was unanimously approved by the NAR’s own technology committee, we were all left to discern a motive.

Was this the result of a long-standing “criminal conspiracy” (Greg)? Is this an attempt by some local MLSs, who see Google’s handwriting on the wall, to remian relevant by competing with their own members (me)? Or was this a consequence of the realities of trying to pull coherent policy from the collective mind of a large membership organization in a timely fashion (Mike)?

Its an interesting question, but the answer, it seems to me,  is irrelevant in the discussion of what to do next.

One thing we all agree on, I think, is that the MIBOR director used his knowledge of  NAR parliamentary procedure to work the system to MIBOR’s benefit and to the detriment of brokers and agents.

The prima facie evidence is that, at least for the next 6 months, Paula Henry is still being forced to dis-allow Google from indexing her site.

That means the damage is real.

Yes, it is contained to Indianapolis for the moment, but will it stay that way? My guess is that MIBOR will be huddling with other MLSs who share their control fetish over the next 6 months, and our friend the objecting director from Indianapolis will have a quorum come November.

Now that NAR has proven itself to be subject to the whims of directors who are nostalgic for a paper-bound MLS that brokers kept behind their desks, modern brokers and agents need to aggressively defend their own interests because, clearly, the organization that is supposed to do that is not.

I see signs of this happening now, with people getting fed up enough to get involved with their boards at the local level, but is that enough?

Perhaps now is the time forward-thinking real estate professionals to organize outside of NAR or the local MLS, and around something more solid than a diaspora of blog posts.

Of course, Internet-based technologies would still be central to the effort. Organizing has never been easier. You are looking at one of the social networking tools and at the network that we could use to do it, and we have the example of Obama’s campaign to use as a template.

Can we use these tools and our collective knowledge to create a new lobby for sane real estate practices? Can we network the people who are trying to get involved to modernize the existing boards together so they can share notes and encourage each other?

Or would any new organization be subject to the same cat herding problems that seem to plague NAR? Only with younger, more nimble cats. Call it “kitten herding” which sounds like it might come with its own set of issues.

When the time comes, will people put their money where their blog posts are? Or are we all too “heads down” in our own businesses to make a collective difference?

Is it “yes we can” or “no we can’t”?

Related posts:
  • How could the initials C.R.S. stand for Clueless Morons Club?
  • I can do better than this
  • Fire Proofing Vs. Putting Out Fires

  • 7 comments

    A Special Sunday Session at BloodhoundBlog Unchained: Russell Shaw UNPLUGGED (And: Why I’m Going to Win My Pricing Battle With Greg)

    Call me a shrewd negotiator or color me lucky but I pulled off a coup for the folks coming in for the Sunday session of the BloodhoundBlog Unchained Social Media Marketing Conference, brought to you by Zillow.com.

    I was spending my Saturday evening online and e-mailed Wonderful Russ, asking him to give me some time, on Sunday afternoon. There are two things you need to know about Russell Shaw: (1) his accomplishments dictate that you should schedule appointments for his time (2) his welcoming nature affords you an open door, so that it isn’t always a requirement. You’ll have to travel very far to meet a man more welcoming than Russell.

    Russell is a night owl, like I am. I think it’s because he is most creative at night; I know my best creative thinking comes after 10PM. I wasn’t surprised and was certainly delighted when his invitation to talk came immediately.

    Call me now- I’ll pick up,” he beckoned.

    When Russell Shaw invites you to call, you just do it. Let me give you some background, first:

    I lived in Phoenix for 12 years. I’ve been a lender there, since 1995. Anyone familiar with Phoenix knows that Russell is an institution. Everyone within reach of the Phoenix television and radio airwaves knows Russell. I’ve watched Russell lose weight and gain gray hair, over the years, as THE spokesman for Maricopa County real estate. His presence is overwhelming with his plain-spoken “no- hassle listing” offering.

    If you’re stuck on Interstate 10, driving into work, you’ll hear this, on the radio. When you return home from work and settle down to enjoy the Diamondbacks game, you’ll see this, on the television. Ubiquity is Russell’s middle name. It is not a mistake that I’ve modeled his offline presence with my own brand of online ubiquity. I’m not brilliant, just smart enough to model successful people.

    I’ve hardly started and I could continue for hours. While Russell’s success is chronicled in The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, a true testament to his success comes from a story from last Spring.

    Russell hosted a lecture series (for FREE) that Bloodhound Blog, North American Title, and World Wide Credit Corporation sponsored. You can get all of the podcasts of his presentation, here (you have to have a FREE Active Rain membership). I was elected to introduce Russell for session two. Prior to the event, I was at my sister’s home in Phoenix. When I revealed my evening activity, my sister stood up straight (all 5’2″ of her), lowered her voice to imitate Russell’s melodic baritone, and said,

    If you don’t like it…FIRE me.

    That’s branding, folks.

    Sorry for the digression. I felt the background was imperative. The coup I pulled off was merely being in the right place at the right time. It’s no secret that Russell will engage Redfin’s Glenn Kelman in a Presidential-style debate, to close out UNCHAINED. I fully expect that the presence of two leaders, debating the merits of two distinctly different business models, will be interesting enough. Still, Russell had more up his sleeve.

    You see, Russell desperately wants to help real estate agents. Desperately may be a strong word, perhaps willingly is more appropriate. He’s reached the pinnacle of his profession and chooses to openly share his success with agents thirsting for that knowledge. He does it at StarPower, CRS Sell-A-Bration, and the National Association of Realtors.

    During our midnight call, the topic turned to UNCHAINED. Russell openly asked how he could help…more. I seized the opportunity to have Russell host an “UNPLUGGED” session, for two hours, on Sunday afternoon. Here, you can ask Russell any question you’d like about real estate brokerage and marketing. I predict that the Heard Museum will kick us out and Russell will be answering your questions in the parking lot; he’s just that compelling and enthusiastic.

    What’s this mean to you? Russell traditionally nets seven figures annually. You can reserve your spot, with him, for less than $200, now.

    Of course, that’s not all you’ll get for your money. We’re going to feed you lunch, on Monday and Tuesday. We’ll have snacks, all three days. We’ll give you free wireless internet during the duration of the seminar. You’ll get DVD recordings of the event so you can review what you’ve learned, all year long. The price includes a workbook, a journal of sorts, for you to chronicle all that you learn.

    Get Russell, the food, the wireless internet, the workbook, and the DVDs for $199.

    Sunday will be funday but you’ll get some great ideas. Ron Cates of Constant Contact has agreed to host a workshop called, “The Power of E-mail Marketing“. While he offers that seminar free to ConstantContact members, the knowledge you’ll gain about e-mail marketing, done correctly, could be worth thousands of dollars to your bottom line.

    Laurie Manny and Teri Lussier will be on stage, discussing how to build a local real estate weblog. Teri was Greg Swann’s apprentice in the Project Blogger contest and hosts The Brick Ranch, in Dayton, OH. Laurie owns the Google search term ““Long Beach Real Estate”. No extra charge for their knowledge; you get it for $200, inclusive.

    BawldGuy Jeff Brown will be discussing his comment marketing strategy. That’s a fancy way of saying that Jeff gains valuable referrals, for his investment practice, by actively commenting on real estate weblogs. Of course, there’s more to it than JUST commenting and Jeff will share that with you at UNCHAINED. Jeff’s another seven figure guy so you guess what an extended consultation with him costs.

    Ya see where I’m going with this? I haven’t even gotten to Mary McKnight, Professor Greg, or my goofy marketing ideas.

    I’ll throw in a zinger — David Gibbons. Is there a better online reputation manager than David Gibbons? What Would David Gibbons Do? is a mantra we use here at BloodhoundBlog when we discuss online reputation management. Forget what you’d PAY someone like David, focus on the thousands of dollars he’ll SAVE you by teaching you what NOT to do.

    Barry Cunningham was SPEECHLESS when I told him what we were charging for UNCHAINED. Now, Barry’s not prone to speechlessness so he immediately chastised me for not charging enough. Fortunately, I explained the value proposition of this conference and convinced him and his partner, Barry Johnson, to broadcast live, from UNCHAINED, on Real Estate Radio USA.

    The Barrys will be introducing their project, Agent Rockstar, at UNCHAINED. They’re convinced that they can develop their talented producer, Lindsay Richardson, into a budding mega-agent…strictly from the resources available to her from her Rolodex. You’ll have someone to benchmark after you leave the seminar.

    Many of you have asked about purchasing the DVD set, after the event. The DVD set and the workbooks go on sale, now, for the price of the event. Buy the DVD set and we’ll throw in the UNCHAINED seminar for free. Why won’t I discount the DVDs? The answer is simple — we’ve discounted the event. The DVD price will go up to the full $350 when the event price rises- and that will be soon.

    Reserve the DVDs or seminar admission for the same price, $199, today.

    Without the Zillow.com support, we couldn’t offer this “market downturn” special price; it just wouldn’t pencil out. What Zillow offers in financial support, Russell Shaw offers in moral support. Snaring his UNPLUGGED session was really a bonus. I hope you’ll enjoy the seminar, as much as I will, next month.

    PS: I know we’re delivering the goods but you don’t. I said this to Vance Shutes, who’s traveling from Michigan, and I’ll say it to you. This isn’t a beauty contest. While there will be networking opportunities and plenty of fun, Greg and I are hell-bent on giving you thousands of dollars of value for your seminar fee.

    If you’re not satisfied with your investment, before, during, or after the event (or receipt of the workbook and DVDs) , simply tell us. We’ll refund all of your money, no questions asked.

    PPS: I don’t anticipate this discount to last . Sean Purcell and I gave a “warm-up” presentation, to a packed house at San Diego’s Commonwealth Title, yesterday. I spoke to a group in La Quinta, last week. Greg Swann and I will be talking to 3-4 groups, in Phoenix, over the next few weeks. Greg promised a “guerrilla’ discount to those of you who jumped early.

    It’s no surprise that I’ve been WANTING to raise the price because the masses don’t recognize the value at this low price. Greg’s your best friend; he wants to keep this ultra-affordable for the folks in the trenches, trying to make it big in this tough market. I will eventually win this battle. Don’t wait for that to happen. Whether you’re planning to come to sunny Phoenix for BloodhoundBlog Unchained or buying the “home study” version in the form of the DVDs and workbook, commit your funds now before the price goes up…

    Related posts:
  • Russell Shaw interview: Exploring the mind of a mega-producer . . .
  • Bidding farewell to Russell Shaw
  • Russell Shaw — the Portland-based technology blogger, not our Russell Shaw — shuffles off this mortal coil

  • 21 comments

    The Odysseus Medal: “This stuff is simple to learn. No heavy lifting.”

    Sunny and 93 degrees outside right now. This is warm for April, but not hugely so. I rode my bike when I should have been writing this post. Dock my pay. I deserve it.

    There was a lot of great stuff on the nets this week, but nothing totally slayed me, so I’m not awarding an Odysseus Medal. We’ll see what next week brings. (I’ve already see one insanely great Black Pearl.) Here are this week’s awards:

    The Black Pearl Award this week goes to Russell Shaw for I Want To Be A Lister – The Listing Presentation – The Objections:

    About a year ago I wrote what was really part 1 of The Listing Presentation. Anyone wanting to increase their listing skills will likely find time spent on this post and that first post time well spent. I have mentioned the short list of different things a seller might say (or objections they might have to listing) to you. All good listers know these objections and are not startled or thrown off by the seller bringing them up. In fact, great listers know the objections so well that they want the seller to bring them up and if the seller does not bring them up the agent will bring them up. That’s correct. If you already know what they are thinking, why not just address it before they even mention it? It is usually fun to hit a softball when it is a slow underhand pitch.

    As the nature of the objections has never really changed it is really sort of silly for any agent wanting to take a lot of listings to not know – in advance – that these are the concerns of the seller. I know that the internet and these new-brand-new-all-new-discount-really-really-low-maybe-even-no-commission companies have changed the very nature of life on earth, as we know it – but I am pretty sure the main objections that you could hear from a home seller back in 1968 were still the same in 1978.  They are still the same in 2008. I am thinking they may be still quite similar in 2048. Just a guess, but if you are planning on sticking around in this business for a while, perhaps it might be a good idea to know how you are going to respond when they bring these up.

    As a really humorous aside, there were also discount companies in 1978 that would list and sell homes for practically nothing. Those companies too were going to change the very nature of how real estate was done. Life just wouldn’t be the same anymore after consumers found out about the existence of those lower cost companies. No one was ever going to pay 6 or 7 % again. Not now, not with them here. Those companies expanded and prospered during the hot seller’s markets and then went broke and shut down completely during the later, much longer buyer’s market. Just like now. If you’re young enough you will get to see this again a few more times before you retire.

    I believe that almost all long-term successful residential Realtors in the English speaking world have a listings based business. The three component parts of getting listings are: 1. effectively market oneself or effectively prospect for customers (note: these are the only two methods of getting customers – so get good at one or both). 2., The listing presentation. 3., Closing techniques. I believe that any agent who relies on closing techniques has a crappy or non-existent listing presentation.  I also believe that any agent who will not effectively market themselves or effectively prospect for sellers has a crappy or non-existent listing presentation. This stuff is simple to learn. No heavy lifting. None.

    This week’s People’s Choice Award goes to Courtney Tuttle with 10 Ways to Improve Blog Traffic in 30 Minutes or Less:

    5. Edit your post one more time
    How can you improve your title? How can you improve your first paragraph? Small details in your post, especially in the beginning of your post, can make an enormous difference in its ability to draw social traffic and links. You can definitely improve your title, first paragraph, formatting, and grammar within 30 minutes.

    6. Stop writing about yourself. Start solving problems
    Surfers become readers when a blog provides something that is wanted. A casual visitor may read your blog because they find training, answers to problems, entertainment, or something else they want. This more than likely will mean that they won’t want to read about you, your girlfriend, your cats, your kids, or your catastrophes (unless you have a personal blog that your friends read). Discontinuing the off-topic posts will help you to develop more repeat traffic and takes exactly 0 minutes to implement.

    7. Subscribe to the feeds of your industry’s major players
    That way, you won’t miss important news releases. When news breaks in your industry, there will be a lot of extra traffic searching for information on the event. Adding your thoughts will almost always generate extra traffic. Subscribing to the feeds of your industry’s top sites should take no more than 15 minutes.

    If you didn’t check out this week’s nominees for The Odysseus Medal, you should.

    We have a brand new tool for promoting The Long List of Odysseus Medal nominees. The Long List will be shown in that little gizmo until the current week’s Short List is announced and then I’ll update it with the new week’s nominees. This is link-love back from BloodhoundBlog, but my reason for building the tool is to promote the best ideas in real estate any way I can. To that end, read this post so that you can learn how to echo The Long List on your own site.

    The Long List also has its very own weblog, a link blog of the latest Long List nominees as they are nominated. Feel free to visit, but probably the best way for you to keep abreast of the best in real estate weblogging is to subscribe to The Long List RSS feed.

    And as always, if you hear a great objection, close on it and then nominate it.

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own work or any post you admire here.

    Congratulations to the winners — and to everyone who participated.

    Technorati Tags: , ,

    Related posts:
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  • No joy in Bloodville…
  • Easy nomination form for The Odysseus Medal

  • 1 comment

    The Odysseus Medal competition — Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open

    We have 17 entries on the short list this week, out of a long long list of 60 posts. This week I’m showing nothing but Black Pearls, practical hard-headed ideas for working better, faster and more profitably.

    Vote for the People’s Choice Award here. You can use the voting interface to see each nominated post, so comparison is easy.

    Ahem: Please don’t spam all your friends to come and vote for you. First, what we’re interested in is what is popular among people who would have been voting anyway. And second, I’ll eliminate you for cheating. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

    Voting runs through to 12 Noon MST Monday. I’ll announce the winners of this week’s awards soon thereafter.

    Here is this week’s short-list of Odysseus Medal nominees:

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own weblog entry or any post you admire here.

    Technorati Tags: , ,

    Related posts:
  • Voting for The People Choice Award: The long and short of short-listing Odysseus Medal nominations
  • Feel like playing? The People’s Choice voting interface is live
  • How do you win The Odysseus Medal? Write your heart out — and follow the rules . . .

  • 1 comment

    The Odysseus Medal: “It makes no difference what has happened. That is the past. Live in the future. Create it.”

    I think I have a pretty good track record at picking contributors for BloodhoundBlog. The people who write here are a cut above, clearly, but I think what sets them apart is that they are all so interested in getting better. We’re all constantly reading, learning, thinking, inventing, re-inventing, and we all end up driving each other to new ideas. I love this, as you might guess, since it pushes me to do better, also.

    Here’s a true confession: When Russell Shaw approached me to write with us, I wasn’t quite sure what to do about him. It was still just me and Cathy in those days. We knew of Russell, of course — no one who lives in Phoenix does not know of Russell Shaw. I have no idea what Russell’s firing clause looks like, but I built our firing clause from the literal words on his radio commercial: “Fire me at any time.”

    Even so, I would not have thought to trust the Russell Shaw I knew through the radio. I had no reason to distrust him, nothing except the generalized mistrust in which I hold all Realtors I don’t know. In truth, there are a lot of genuinely nice people out there, but our business attracts more than its share of crooks, misanthropes and morons. I had no reason to think ill of Russell, but I had no reason to think well of him, either.

    Two facts swung the balance for me. Second was Russell’s having mentioned that he had read Hugh Hewitt’s book on weblogging. Anyone who actually prepares for a new undertaking can’t be all bad. But first, I had read in The Millionaire Real Estate Agent that Russell knew that in the previous year his team had gotten 519 listings from 912 listing appointments. My impression of Russell was changed from then on — not the production, but the presence of mind to have tracked the statistics.

    You can laugh at me, if you want, for having been so careful about what has turned out to be such a great decision. BloodhoundBlog is what it is because we don’t do anything — not even the obvious thing — half-assed.

    In any case, Russell Shaw is this week’s winner of The Odysseus Medal for What Do I Do Now?:

    So what to do? Lets start with attitude. Ignore anyone who says or (even worse, without saying) gets you thinking you aren’t going to come out of this just fine. Do whatever is necessary to get that kind of crap out of your head and straighten out, blunt or cut any communication line that has you “wondering”. It isn’t that all of those people have it in for you but as they themselves are failing, it just wouldn’t be “right” for you to do real well. Anyone spewing failure, succumb or any of that stuff in all of its various guises can be safely ignored. Whatever the activity, if you don’t feel “more up” as a result of doing it or being there, stop it. Real estate offices can be a giant cesspool of contaminating failure. Stop watching the news and stop reading it in the papers. If there is something vital you won’t be able to stop hearing about it anyway.  People, places, things and activities that make you happy – do them. A lot. Every day do something just for you.

    Production is the basis of morale. You want to have a high morale? Produce. Find a statistic that you can control. That is vital. Find something that can be measured (number of new contacts, for example) that you can control. Every day work on getting that stat up. Do not focus on the deals or listings you don’t have, focus on that stat. From the Bible, it is Leads, Listings, Leverage. Right now you are only working on leads. Cut out all “lead generating activities” that cost money that are not productive. If it works, keep it in. If not, change the “button” and make it work or get rid of it. You are in the lead generation business. You have no other job.

    This week’s People’s Choice Award goes to Brian Brady for Zillow Mortgage Bourse: How To Acquire Long-Term Clients and Zillow Mortgage Marketplace: One Way Transparency Like A Bad Online Dating Site:

    Two people contacted me, via e-mail, from the Zillow Mortgage Bourse. Both are cost-conscious and both need advice. I directed both consumers to the article I wrote about lock-execution (with my recent performance results) and my article about ARMs. Both customers talked to me on the telephone, this morning.

    The first was the customer I feared; the foot-stomping, “you’re just a middle-man” brat. The consumer gleaned some free advice, then invited me to “re-quote” my loan recommendation, on the Bourse. That consumer seemed stunned that I wouldn’t re-compete for the business. That consumer will lock at the wrong time and it will cost lots of money.

    The second consumer is EXACTLY who I want as a client. That consumer valued my advice, was astonished with my track record, and extremely excited to be in relationship with me. The loan solution I offered, Thursday, cost the new client a few hundred dollars more, today. This new client locked the loan, paid the deposit, and was relieved that I would be monitoring future “trade” opportunities.

    Because I restricted the Short List to posts about Zillow’s Mortgage Marketplace, I’m not awarding a Black Pearl Award this week. But: Here’s a Black Pearl to take away: Because ZMM and other forms-based ways of interacting with clients will tend to flatten out the curve for those incidental factors salespeople have always depended on — looks, charm, connections, etc. — you must not ever pass up those small opportunities you have to exercise your sales skills. In the case of Zillow’s Mortgage Marketplace, this means that you should take full advantage of the personal remarks section of your quote. What should you put there? How about reasons to believe in you even if you’re not the cheapest rate in the hopper? How about links to weblog posts that establish your bona fides. I think about this all the time — I have 680 characters in an MLS listing available for pure selling, and I rarely waste more than three of those characters. How do you make money when everyone is lined up like a platoon of uniformed soldiers? You find a way to stand out from the crowd, that’s how.

    Also: My apologies that both of this week’s winners are Bloodhounds, but I only picked one of them.

    If you didn’t check out this week’s nominees for The Odysseus Medal, you should.

    We have a brand new tool for promoting The Long List of Odysseus Medal nominees. The Long List will be shown in that little gizmo until the current week’s Short List is announced and then I’ll update it with the new week’s nominees. This is link-love back from BloodhoundBlog, but my reason for building the tool is to promote the best ideas in real estate any way I can. To that end, read this post so that you can learn how to echo The Long List on your own site.

    The Long List also has its very own weblog, a link blog of the latest Long List nominees as they are nominated. Feel free to visit, but probably the best way for you to keep abreast of the best in real estate weblogging is to subscribe to The Long List RSS feed.

    And as always, take a chance on untested brilliance and nominate it.

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own work or any post you admire here.

    Congratulations to the winners — and to everyone who participated.

    Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

    Related posts:
  • No joy in Bloodville…
  • Easy nomination form for The Odysseus Medal
  • Odysseus Medal

  • 1 comment

    The Odysseus Medal competition — Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open

    We have 14 entries on the short list this week, out of a long long list of 96 posts. I’ve already decided on the winner of the Odysseus Medal, so I’m not linking that way. This week’s Short List is all Zillow Mortgage Marketplace posts, all of them written by lenders. If you’re not interested, you’re just not interested, but I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t be.

    Four of the Short List contestants wrote two posts each, so I’m going to count a vote for either as a vot for that person. If one of them wins, I’ll split the People’s Choice Award between both posts.

    Vote for the People’s Choice Award here. You can use the voting interface to see each nominated post, so comparison is easy.

    Ahem: Please don’t spam all your friends to come and vote for you. First, what we’re interested in is what is popular among people who would have been voting anyway. And second, I’ll eliminate you for cheating. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

    Voting runs through to 12 Noon MST Monday. I’ll announce the winners of this week’s awards soon thereafter.

    Here is this week’s short-list of Odysseus Medal nominees:

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own weblog entry or any post you admire here.

    Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

    Related posts:
  • Voting for The People Choice Award: The long and short of short-listing Odysseus Medal nominations
  • Feel like playing? The People’s Choice voting interface is live
  • How do you win The Odysseus Medal? Write your heart out — and follow the rules . . .

  • 4 comments

    The Odysseus Medal: “I feel like I too, am losing market share quickly in this wildly out of control time warp where one second I’m a kid and the next, I’m in my 50s selling real estate in a down market.”

    The Odysseus Medal this week goes to Geno Petro for Geno’s Wrong (bang a gong):

    My mother brings in a ham sandwich on a kaiser roll from the kitchen. It has mayo, mustard and a pickle on it. Onion, too. I rarely eat any of those things but I dare not say a word for fear of offending her.  “Diet Coke?” she asks.

    “No mom…you know what Paris Hilton says about Diet Coke, don’t you?”

    “Oh, I don’t like her.” declares Mitzi.

    “What?” my dad pipes in, apparently with a different opinion of the media icon.

    “Only fat people drink Diet Coke,” I say.

    “Fat people?”

    “Yeah, it’s a joke I think.” I say,  now wondering myself if it’s even funny. They don’t get it and now, I don’t get it either. My wife Mona, is taking a nap upstairs, belly full with as many sandwiches as she’s probably eaten in a month. The volume is turned down on the television and closed captions are streaming across the top third of the screen, covering  the faces of everyone on the Fox News Network. My parents read, watch and comment unfavorably whenever someone bashes Hillary or Obama and hiss in unison when anything positive is said about Bush or the War. I ask them why they even watch Fox at all if they are Democrats but they don’t really get the question. I guess I don’t really get it either in this particular election year. Perhaps they just have trouble working the remote and are afraid to mess with the Dish. There are Post-it notes taped to everything electronic in the house and most things static, as well.

    And despite what I have just witnessed, I feel like I too, am losing market share quickly in this wildly out of control time warp where one second I’m a kid and the next, I’m in my 50s selling real estate in a down market.  In 10 minutes, I’ll be my father looking for any small victory I can muster. I sometimes feel as if I’m lagging behind all the youth and technology in my chosen industry of real estate. I have to read something three times before it makes sense, lately. I can only buy my way out of so much of it before I get lapped by the genius youth who have only known an iPhone/Facebook/Starbucks existence on this planet. I am now the age my parents were a mere 28 years ago. My goodness, it was just the other day that I graduated college and…

    The man takes my breath away every time he sits down at the keyboard. Todd Carpenter posted an interview with Geno earlier this week.

    The Black Pearl Award this week goes to Jeff Turner with Panasonic Lumix FX35 vs. Kodak v705:

    Lots of you purchased the Kodak v705 based on my recommendation. So many, I wish I were making some form of commission, that’s for sure. But the Kodak v705 has been discontinued and no replacement has been announced.

    Enter the Panasonic Lumix FX35.

    The Panasonic Lumix FX35 was announced in January, but was not officially launched to the public until last week. Mine arrived yesterday and I tested it this morning. For me to recommend a camera for the average user, it has to do one thing very well, take a great photo right out of the box without changing a single setting. Why? Because I know most people will never take the time to learn how to use all of the feature of any camera. So, if a camera doesn’t allow you to take a good photo with it’s basic, default settings, I can’t recommend it.

    How does it compare?

    • Cost: $239 – $349 online.
    • Portability: It is slightly smaller than the Kodak v705.
    • Simplicity: The photos below were taken using the default settings.
    • Ultra-Wide Angle: The Panasonic Lumix FX35 has a 25mm wide angle lens.

    You must not underestimate the importance of a really wide angle lens.

    It took me a long time to find a replacement for the Kodak v705, mainly because most of the “wide” angle lenses touted by camera makers are 28mm. The Kodak was 23mm and really showed off rooms in a home. A 28mm lens doesn’t come close enough. The Panasonic Lumix FX35 touted a 25mm lens, so that caught my attention.

    The Lumix features a Leica lens, as well, which sets it apart from the herd. If you’re in real estate, you need a real estate-ready camera with you all the time. It should be parked with your car keys, and it should go wherever your car keys go.

    This week’s People’s Choice Award goes to The Queen of Controversy, Mary McKnight for Real Estate blogs are stores, not newspapers – so blog like you are selling houses, not writing for your local paper:

    I’m going to say this up front, so there is no misunderstanding. The entire point of this post is to get you to understand that if your business is about real estate and you want to attract customers that have a real estate need you MUST write about real estate not skateboards and restaurants. Why? Because a home is not a whim purchase, it is typically a well planned decision. There are very few of us that pass by the local real estate office and say, “hey honey, I know we set out to buy a skateboard for Timmy, but let’s buy a house instead, this store has pretty ones.” Therefore, it is inconceivable to me that by driving people into your blog with an article about local skate parks, you will snag a home buyer. Seriously, find me one person that ever set out in the morning to buy a skateboard and came back with a house.

    Mary’s post generated quite a bit of heat — more than it merited, I thought. The point of her post seems pretty non-controversial to me, except that it’s essentially a straw man argument: There is no one insisting that anyone should write about skate boards or restaurants instead of real estate. Todd Carpenter thought Mary went too far overboard in pursuit of the great white SEO, and, while I can agree that many real estate weblogging advocates talk way too much about SEO and way too little about making direct contact with targeted prospects, I didn’t think Mary’s post was over the top. To the contrary, I’m on the record arguing that the purpose of real estate marketing is to sell real estate. I thought Sean Purcell struck the right balance, overall.

    And the question came up in email, so I’ll answer it here: Does a Long List or Short List nomination imply any sort of endorsement from me?

    The answer: No.

    For the Long List, I will vet a nomination to this extent: Is it there? Is it on topic? Is it of moment? Is the idea developed enough to be worth thinking about? Is it primarily the original work of the author? Around ten percent of nominated posts get cut for failing one or more of those criteria.

    For the Short List, my only criterion is this: Is the idea worthy of greater attention? I like for things to be well written, but a great idea blasts through everything. I don’t care if I disagree, I care if the author is going to make readers think.

    People might choose to think of me as being their friend or their enemy, but I don’t approach the world that way. When I’m looking at the quality of your thought, all I am looking at is the quality of your thought. If I happen to like you, that scores you zero points with me. If I happen to think you behave like an ape, that scores you zero points with me.

    I judge two of these awards — The Odysseus Medal and The Black Pearl — and I strive for an Olympian detachment. I want to highlight the best work, that’s all. I almost never vote for The People’s Choice Award, and only then to break a tie.

    Nothing emerging from human judgement can emerge free of bias, but the process I use to pick nominees and winners is as free of bias as I can make it. I’ve had email from people telling me that they use the Long List as their RE.net feed reader, so I guess I must be doing something right.

    If you didn’t check out this week’s nominees for The Odysseus Medal, you should.

    We have a brand new tool for promoting The Long List of Odysseus Medal nominees. The Long List will be shown in that little gizmo until the current week’s Short List is announced and then I’ll update it with the new week’s nominees. This is link-love back from BloodhoundBlog, but my reason for building the tool is to promote the best ideas in real estate any way I can. To that end, read this post so that you can learn how to echo The Long List on your own site.

    The Long List also has its very own weblog, a link blog of the latest Long List nominees as they are nominated. Feel free to visit, but probably the best way for you to keep abreast of the best in real estate weblogging is to subscribe to The Long List RSS feed.

    And as always, if you come across a tasty sandwich and a Diet Coke, nominate it.

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own work or any post you admire here.

    Congratulations to the winners — and to everyone who participated.

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  • 10 comments

    The Odysseus Medal competition — Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open

    We have 13 entries on the short list this week, out of a long long list of 74 posts. I’ve already decided on the winner of the Odysseus Medal, so I’m not linking that way. Instead, again this week I’m showing nothing but Black Pearls, practical hard-headed ideas for working better, faster and more profitably.

    Vote for the People’s Choice Award here. You can use the voting interface to see each nominated post, so comparison is easy.

    Ahem: Please don’t spam all your friends to come and vote for you. First, what we’re interested in is what is popular among people who would have been voting anyway. And second, I’ll eliminate you for cheating. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

    Voting runs through to 12 Noon MST Monday. I’ll announce the winners of this week’s awards soon thereafter.

    Here is this week’s short-list of Odysseus Medal nominees:

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own weblog entry or any post you admire here.

    Technorati Tags: , ,

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  • 1 comment

    The Odysseus Medal: “Lions in the wild seem about ten times more alive”

    The Odysseus Medal this week goes to another truly amazing essay from outside our little RE.net cloister. I knew when I saw this on Saturday that it had won. Teri Lussier convinced me on Sunday that I have a leadership opportunity with the ten dozen people following me on Twitter — so I led them to this article. What is it? You weren’t meant to have a boss by Paul Graham. Ostensibly he’s writing about programmers, but that’s a superficial characteristic. What he’s writing about is the nature of human beings. What he’s writing about it you:

    A few days ago I was sitting in a cafe in Palo Alto and a group of programmers came in on some kind of scavenger hunt. It was obviously one of those corporate “team-building” exercises.

    They looked familiar. I spend nearly all my time working with programmers in their twenties and early thirties. But something seemed wrong about these. There was something missing.

    And yet the company they worked for is considered a good one, and from what I overheard of their conversation, they seemed smart enough. In fact, they seemed to be from one of the more prestigious groups within the company.

    So why did it seem there was something odd about them?

    I have a uniquely warped perspective, because nearly all the programmers I know are startup founders. We’ve now funded 80 startups with a total of about 200 founders, nearly all of them programmers. I spend a lot of time with them, and not much with other programmers. So my mental image of a young programmer is a startup founder.

    The guys on the scavenger hunt looked like the programmers I was used to, but they were employees instead of founders. And it was startling how different they seemed.

    So what, you may say. So I happen to know a subset of programmers who are especially ambitious. Of course less ambitious people will seem different. But the difference between the programmers I saw in the cafe and the ones I was used to wasn’t just a difference of degree. Something seemed wrong.

    I think it’s not so much that there’s something special about founders as that there’s something missing in the lives of employees. I think startup founders, though statistically outliers, are actually living in a way that’s more natural for humans.

    I was in Africa last year and saw a lot of animals in the wild that I’d only seen in zoos before. It was remarkable how different they seemed. Particularly lions. Lions in the wild seem about ten times more alive. They’re like different animals. And seeing those guys on their scavenger hunt was like seeing lions in a zoo after spending several years watching them in the wild.

    The Black Pearl Award this week goes to Sean Purcell for Every Day a Birthday:

    Staying fresh is a difficult concept in real estate.  Essentially, a good agent is someone who endlessly repeats the same tasks around an ever changing core – yet does so as if it were the first time each and every time.  In this way good agents are quite similar to good stage actors.  It may be the 100th time they have given their listing presentation, but the best know that their current audience is hearing it for the first time.  Embracing change and supporting a willingness to recreate yourself is a formidable weapon if you earn your living in the arena competitive – which real estate most certainly is.

    Over the past few days we have been privy to posts on super real estate companies, being entertaining, virtual remodeling and, believe it or not, talking signs!  Lots of good ideas, but only really useful to those among us that are willing to rearrange ourselves; root around inside and make changes.  Sometimes a new idea will require letting go of a long held belief.  In the 2.0 world these ideas fly by us at breakneck speed and the blessing is this: when you miss one it is OK because another one is coming.  We do not have to assimilate every innovation that lights us up.  But the ability to assimilate anything is made difficult if we are not ready to be new.

    Yesterday was the first day of spring, a day traditionally celebrated as a day of rebirth.  The secret… is to celebrate today in exactly the same way.

    This week’s People’s Choice Award goes to Barry Cunningham with Would You Hire Yourself?:

    There is an ongoing argument as to the value of a real estate agent in today’s real estate market. It can’t be settled with rhetoric and mantras. In order for there to be an effective resolve, the Realtor industry must reach out to the American consumer and seek to validate the need for their existence in a transaction.

    This should not be a hard feat. However most agents, for some unknown reason, find it to be beneath them to quantify their “value” much less dollarize it. When posed with the notion that they may be required to actually prove their worth, many ignorantly say that doctors and lawyers and professional athletes don’t have to justify their fees so why should they. Oh really?

    Is that the answer you want the Consumer to walk away with? If you are not willing to justify yourself to the Consumer, how about justifying your commission and worth to yourself?

    Would you hire yourself? Be honest. You know what you have done…lately. Don’t tell me, the Consumer or yourself that you USED to be great. At one point Carl Lewis was the fastest man in the world. At one time Bear Stearns was a respected fixture on Wall Street. At one time you may have been a high performing agent.

    Banks only allow appraisals going back 6 months, some are only allowing data that goes back just 3 months. In doing a realistic appraisal of yourself, it’s not accurate to say what you have done. The Consumer wants to know what you have done LATELY.

    If you haven’t read Barry’s post, don’t miss it. Every question he asks is a Black Pearl.

    If you didn’t check out this week’s nominees for The Odysseus Medal, you should.

    We have a brand new tool for promoting The Long List of Odysseus Medal nominees. The Long List will be shown in that little gizmo until the current week’s Short List is announced and then I’ll update it with the new week’s nominees. This is link-love back from BloodhoundBlog, but my reason for building the tool is to promote the best ideas in real estate any way I can. To that end, read this post so that you can learn how to echo The Long List on your own site.

    The Long List also has its very own weblog, a link blog of the latest Long List nominees as they are nominated. Feel free to visit, but probably the best way for you to keep abreast of the best in real estate weblogging is to subscribe to The Long List RSS feed.

    And as always, if you see a work of genius stalking like a lion in the wild, nominate it.

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own work or any post you admire here.

    Congratulations to the winners — and to everyone who participated.

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    The Short List goes to the dogs: Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open

    By the time I had time to deal with The Odysseus Medal last week, it was pretty late in the week. The week had been pretty light on nominations, and we were heading into Easter, so I made a command decision to combine these two weeks into one award.

    Then today, when I went to look at The Long List, I found a whole lot of Bloodhounds in there. There were a total of 70 unique posts from 17 of our current contributors. Just short of 40% of all of the nominated posts were written by Bloodhounds.

    You can say what you want about this weblog. It seems to be some sort of badge of dishonor to make snarky remarks about BloodhoundBlog or its contributors. About this I have one thought only — predictably a marketing issue: If your clients observe you talking trash about us behind our backs, might they not reasonably conclude that you are also spewing bile about them behind their backs? Everything you do establishes your character in the eyes of your clients — now more than ever before. That’s a Black Pearl — and the more you want to reject it, the more valuable it is.

    In any case, I don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone says, but I care a great deal about what people can demonstrate. The quality of work our contributors do, here and at their home blogs, is a potent demonstration of its own — a demonstration of the quality of minds who work here, and, I think, of the quality of thought we inspire in each other.

    In consequence, this week’s People’s Choice is given over to BloodhoundBlog contributors, to one post from each of them who made this week’s Long List.

    We end with with a total of 17 People’s Choice nominees. You can vote for the People’s Choice Award here. You can use the voting interface to see each nominated post, so comparison is easy.

    Voting runs through to 12 Noon MST Monday. I’ll announce the winners of this week’s awards soon thereafter.

    Here is this week’s short-list of Odysseus Medal nominees:

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own weblog entry or any post you admire here.

    Technorati Tags: , ,

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  • 10 comments

    The Short List is the delayed list, alas

    I’m showing right now (I wrote this post earlier), so I won’t be posting The Short List for a while. My apologies.

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    The Odysseus Medal: A breathtaking Daisy in the deserts of the mind

    I was talking to Teri Lussier in email last week about Desert Daisies, an annual wildflower you find in the Sonoran Desert. People harvest the seeds and bring them home, and the flowers will eventually take over the whole yard — for the few weeks they’re around.

    Beautiful little clarions of Spring, announcing in advance the blossoming of the citrus trees — when Phoenix is at its ultimate perfect best and god himself is green with envy.

    When I picked Teri to be my partner in last Spring’s ProjectBlogger competition, I chose better than I knew. I admired her spark, her spunkiness — what the Irish might call the soul of a poet. But I could not have foreseen her depths — although I have been more than delighted to discover them over the last year. I hope BloodhoundBlog has been good for her. I know she has been very good for BloodhoundBlog. Working here and at TheBrickRanch.com, she has blossomed into a powerhouse weblogger.

    So it’s a delight for me to announce that Teri Lussier is the first person to win The Odysseus Medal, The Black Pearl Award and The People’s Choice Award all in the same week.

    The winning entry? Zillow creates the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine, of course.

    I know some poor benighted soul will have to go digging for evidence of corruption, so I will tell you now that the fact that Teri and I happen to be on the same side of the issue of real estate licensing had nothing to do with my choice. She hit not just a home run but a grand slam with her essay, and the position she took says nothing at all about the quality of her work — except insofar as writing the heartfelt truth puts the writer at one with the gods.

    I normally quote from winning entries, but, in this case, I want you to go and read Teri’s whole post. Print it out and tape it to your monitor. Inscribe it into your mind as a particularly worthy example of the truth well told.

    This is a truly remarkable achievement by a truly remarkable talent. I am so glad I got to be a part of it.

    If you didn’t check out this week’s nominees for The Odysseus Medal, you should.

    We have a brand new tool for promoting The Long List of Odysseus Medal nominees. The Long List will be shown in that little gizmo until the current week’s Short List is announced and then I’ll update it with the new week’s nominees. This is link-love back from BloodhoundBlog, but my reason for building the tool is to promote the best ideas in real estate any way I can. To that end, read this post so that you can learn how to echo The Long List on your own site.

    The Long List also has its very own weblog, a link blog of the latest Long List nominees as they are nominated. Feel free to visit, but probably the best way for you to keep abreast of the best in real estate weblogging is to subscribe to The Long List RSS feed.

    And as always, if you spot a breathtaking Daisy in the deserts of the mind, nominate it.

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own work or any post you admire here.

    Congratulations to the winners — and to everyone who participated.

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  • 16 comments

    The Odysseus Medal competition — Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open

    My take is that the most important news this week was Zillow.com’s announcement that it will be doing background checks on the loan originators it will be referring to consumers as a part of its forthcoming mortgage product. In consequence, this week’s short list is all about Zillow’s announcement and its implications.

    So: We have just eight entries on the short list this week, out of a long long list of 115 posts. You can vote for the People’s Choice Award here. You can use the voting interface to see each nominated post, so comparison is easy.

    Ahem: Please don’t spam all your friends to come and vote for you. First, what we’re interested in is what is popular among people who would have been voting anyway. And second, I’ll eliminate you for cheating. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

    Voting runs through to 12 Noon MST Monday. I’ll announce the winners of this week’s awards soon thereafter.

    Here is this week’s short-list of Odysseus Medal nominees:

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own weblog entry or any post you admire here.

    Technorati Tags: , , ,

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  • 1 comment

    The Odysseus Medal: “Free has emerged as a full-fledged economy”

    I’m sorry to keep going outside the RE.net for the Odysseus Medal competition, but that’s where the news is right now. Inside the RahRah.net, present company excepted, everything seems to be devoted to mutual back-slapping — which would be boring even if it were warranted. In any case, The Odysseus Medal this week goes to Chris Anderson for Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business:

    Thanks to Gillette, the idea that you can make money by giving something away is no longer radical. But until recently, practically everything “free” was really just the result of what economists would call a cross-subsidy: You’d get one thing free if you bought another, or you’d get a product free only if you paid for a service.

    Over the past decade, however, a different sort of free has emerged. The new model is based not on cross-subsidies — the shifting of costs from one product to another — but on the fact that the cost of products themselves is falling fast. It’s as if the price of steel had dropped so close to zero that King Gillette could give away both razor and blade, and make his money on something else entirely. (Shaving cream?)

    You know this freaky land of free as the Web. A decade and a half into the great online experiment, the last debates over free versus pay online are ending. In 2007 The New York Times went free; this year, so will much of The Wall Street Journal. (The remaining fee-based parts, new owner Rupert Murdoch announced, will be “really special … and, sorry to tell you, probably more expensive.” This calls to mind one version of Stewart Brand’s original aphorism from 1984: “Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive … That tension will not go away.”)

    Once a marketing gimmick, free has emerged as a full-fledged economy. Offering free music proved successful for Radiohead, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and a swarm of other bands on MySpace that grasped the audience-building merits of zero. The fastest-growing parts of the gaming industry are ad-supported casual games online and free-to-try massively multiplayer online games. Virtually everything Google does is free to consumers, from Gmail to Picasa to GOOG-411.

    This is important. Make the time to read it all.

    The Black Pearl Award this week goes to James Hsu for Pictures are Worth a Thousand Words, but what are your pictures actually saying?:

    So how are these photos done? True, these are not “natural” photos. Depending on the sunlight, you don’t typically get a scene where both foreground, house and sky are all well exposed. If the sun is behind the house, you’ll usually get a sky that’s well exposed and the house is dark. Or the opposite, where the house is properly exposed and the sky is washed out. Here’s my secret. It requires a few tools. 1) a camera that allows you to manually set its exposure, 2) some software and 3) a tripod.

    The technique used here is called HDR. High Dynamic Range photography. It basically involves taking several shots of the same image at different exposures. The idea is that at different exposures, different parts of the image will be properly exposed. Once you have your set of pictures, you feed them into the software and it merges them all together. You then have to go and tweak the picture to get different things to show up better. Easy as pie. There’s various versions of the software. You can get a photoshop plugin or a stand-alone. I use HDRsoft’s standalone package. The software is the easy part. Getting a cheap digital camera to take differently exposed photos is tricky and would involve lots of menu button presses (which is where the tripod comes in). You need all your shots to be the same. Too much movement and the software won’t be able to properly mash them together.

    This week’s People’s Choice Award goes to Dave Smith with Hyper Local Target Marketing Create Your Own Backlinks:

    Sometimes Barbara just does something because she heard something at the office, she read an article, etc. I don’t know the source for this one. But one day I noticed in my Hittail results a link that looked strange. It didn’t come from a search engine, it came from Craig’s list. Barbara had entered a listing of ours. She had read about how to do this and what to include and not include to be within the Craig’s List guidelines. We got a few hits from it and I looked at the Title she had entered. Then we had a discussion about Title Tags.
    Bonus Gem: From time to time I’ll be blathering on about things like the importance of “Title Tags” and showing Barbara how we are ranking because of the words in the title. I usually get this deer in the headlights look indicating either “I don’t get it” or “I really don’t care about this at all” usually it is the later. But Title Tags stuck. She started writing some really great title’s for her Craig’s list submissions and putting links in to the single property sites for the listings as well as the blog which is closest to the listing (geographically on topic).

    I can always tell when she has been entering on Craig’s List, the traffic spikes and we bring a lot of readers to the various blogs through these links which are (back links created by us). Think about it, these are people looking for a home in the area we live and work. They find the listing, they find the blog, they find us. THIS IS TARGET MARKETING!

    If you didn’t check out this week’s nominees for The Odysseus Medal, you should.

    We have a brand new tool for promoting The Long List of Odysseus Medal nominees. The Long List will be shown in that little gizmo until the current week’s Short List is announced and then I’ll update it with the new week’s nominees. This is link-love back from BloodhoundBlog, but my reason for building the tool is to promote the best ideas in real estate any way I can. To that end, read this post so that you can learn how to echo The Long List on your own site.

    The Long List also has its very own weblog, a link blog of the latest Long List nominees as they are nominated. Feel free to visit, but probably the best way for you to keep abreast of the best in real estate weblogging is to subscribe to The Long List RSS feed.

    And as always, if you see a glint of genius, don’t check its price — nominate it.

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own work or any post you admire here.

    Congratulations to the winners — and to everyone who participated.

    Technorati Tags: , ,

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  • 3 comments

    The Odysseus Medal competition — Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open

    We have 15 entries on the short list this week, out of a long long list of 91 posts. I’ve already decided on the winner of the Odysseus Medal, so I’m not linking that way. Instead, again this week I’m showing nothing but Black Pearls, practical hard-headed ideas for working better, faster and more profitably.

    Vote for the People’s Choice Award here. You can use the voting interface to see each nominated post, so comparison is easy.

    Ahem: Please don’t spam all your friends to come and vote for you. First, what we’re interested in is what is popular among people who would have been voting anyway. And second, I’ll eliminate you for cheating. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

    Voting runs through to 12 Noon MST Monday. I’ll announce the winners of this week’s awards soon thereafter.

    Here is this week’s short-list of Odysseus Medal nominees:

    Deadline for next week’s competition is Sunday at 12 Noon MST. You can nominate your own weblog entry or any post you admire here.

    Technorati Tags: , , ,

    Related posts:
  • Voting for The People Choice Award: The long and short of short-listing Odysseus Medal nominations
  • Feel like playing? The People’s Choice voting interface is live
  • How do you win The Odysseus Medal? Write your heart out — and follow the rules . . .

  • 1 comment

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