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There’s always something to howl about

The return counter — Looking AG’s Trojan Horse in the mouth: No mere API-ing ape, Dwellicious is a true dead-pool mash-up

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

        –Robert Burns, To a Louse

In a comment on AG’s bribe/gift extravaganza, I said:

And, yes, the Dwellicious campaign stunk to high heaven. It’s headed straight for the dead pool, once it actually launches. The same dumbass “idea” has already failed several times. To say anything else is absurd.

That remark turns out to be grossly unfair. Dwellicious is not all-on-its-own to the dead-pool destined, it is a mash-up and mash-note-like send-up of a vast host of future dead-pool denizens.

Here’s the pitch. People will shop at lots of different Realty.bots, see? So Dwellicious gives them an easy way to organize all the houses they are finding on these various sites. It has social-networking tools built in, since, apparently, social-networking-type homebuyers can’t even go to the bathroom without permission from their TwitterButtBuddies. Not only that, but Dwellicious taps into every available Realty.bot and social-networking API, which will possibly prove to be astounding if anyone ever accidentally uses this silly site.

I watched the Dwellicious PR campaign a few weeks ago, assuming that it had to be astroturf, but today is the first time I have paid even one second’s attention to the product itself.

It’s actually quite an instructive clusterfrolic, if there are web entrepreneurs out there who want to learn how to get just about everything wrong.

Here’s the straight dope: Dwellicious seems to have been developed by paying devout attention to the TwitWit echo chamber — without one second or one dollar being devoted to actual market research.

Premise: People will shop at lots of different Realty.bots.

This is almost certainly false. Homebuyers window-shop at sites like Trulia and Zillow. When they get serious, they move to a particular, robust and — important concepts ahead — complete and non-redundant IDX or VOW search engine.

(A subsidiary premise of the entire dead-pool-bound Realty.bot movement is the idea that some strange imaginary people might want to purchase a residence in more than one major city at the same time. It turns out that most people have only one head, and therefore need only one spot for their pillows.)

Conclusion: Dwellicious gives them an easy way to organize all the houses they are finding on these various sites.

But they’re not finding houses on various sites. People who are really searching for a residence they intend to purchase are searching on one or at most two sites, none of which have goofy Realty.bot APIs.

The rest of the Dwellicious “idea” is just beyond stupid, since it provides for a whole lot of options and activities for people who are not going to show up in the first place. Whatever reason an actual — non-imaginary — regular user of Zillow or Trulia has for returning to those sites, they have zero reasons to wander off to another site — to effect social bookmarking of the houses they’re not searching for in the first place.

In a comment at Sellsius, Tony Arko wonders why a homebuyer would share a prize find in public. It’s a good question, except it presumes that buyers will show up at Dwellicious in the first place. They won’t.

Dwellicious is all about serving a population of people who don’t exist, all while hooking-in every which way to Realty.bots and social media sites that are themselves on extremely shaky financial ground. It would be incorrect to say the site sucks, because I can’t see that it has any suction to begin with.

(A note to zombies from boring weblogs who show up at BloodhoundBlog attempting to link-bait traffic by teaching me how to write colorlessly: This essay draws upon an arcane literary discipline known as “style.” It’s worth looking into.)

So what’s with all the Dwellicious hoopla? I rack it up to political tendency, in this case putting beer and friendship before an honest evaluation of what is, in fact, an essentially useless product.

Witness:

Benn Rosales, Agent Shortbus: “It really puts into perspective what is most important in our industry and it doesn’t exclude the professional. [....] We hear rumors of a pay as you go Pro Plan that tosses out the idea of long term contracts- Genius like! Also, private party rumors are circling for Inman NYC, as well as some kick ass swag… we all love swag.”

Well, that’s pretty much a confession of pecuniary tendency.

More:

The WAV Group, whomever that might be: “Like a lime in a Corona, dwellicious is cool and refreshing.”

Wonder who paid for the Corona…?

There’s a lot more, but it’s all pretty embarrassing. I can’t but think that the coverage of Dwellicious, so far, has been almost nothing but tendency — bloggers telling fibs for beer or money. That’s pretty sad. People will say I’m mean for pointing out the true nature of this idiot site, but it’s not as if its idiocy could be kept secret from the marketplace. Once Dwellicious actually launches the secret that the louse is naked will be well and truly exposed.

In the mean time, my take is that developer Greg Robertson’s drinking buddies are just making themselves look like nitwits.

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  • 18 comments

    18 Comments so far

    1. Jayson December 29th, 2008 11:10 pm

      To be honest, I don’t think the idea of tracking your home search history is such a bad idea. We’ve actually been working on a similar toolbar for several months (keeps getting tossed to the back due to new projects) but we should launch it soon. It’s not as comprehensive as dwellicious.com’s bookmarking tool – no social aspect and there’s not as many “info” tools – but, it has many different features that hopefully users will find some value in; hopefully, you’ll like them too!

      I think the hard part in this situation is getting folks to dwellicious.com – outside of that
      using the tool might be beneficial…but would it be beneficial enough to launch an entire site around? Only time will tell I guess…

    2. Michael Wurzer December 29th, 2008 11:24 pm

      First some caveats: I am one of Greg Robertson’s drinking buddies and have been for years. Also, Greg’s partner, Dan Woolley, the developer of Dwellicious, is on FBS’s Board of Directors. Accordingly, I have plenty of reasons to be biased even though none of those reasons are pecuniary.

      Here’s what I think you miss in your analysis: Even though most consumers may stick with one site, an agent will work with many consumers who will prefer different sites. Dwellicious provides agents an opportunity to work with a variety of customers using a variety of sites in a common platform. Put another way, your criticism largely is that consumers will never come to Dwellicious but they don’t need consumers, they need agents, who will bring their customers.

      As an IDX provider, I definitely agree with you that IDX and VOW sites are the sharpest knife in an agent’s or broker’s drawer. At the same time, there are many markets across the country where IDX is a mess because of opt-outs or because the MLS will not allow combining listing data with data from other sites or even from other MLSs and so a bookmarking system like Dwellicious could have value to agents and brokers in those markets.

      My prediction is that Dwellicious will find a place in certain markets across the country and Greg and Dan will have a third successful business after IRIS and eNeighborhoods. The biggest challenge I think they face is that once agents and consumers find Dwellicious useful, they’ll want to stay there and that means they need some sort of search function, too. That turns right back to your point that IDX is most important, either through partnerships or developing it themselves, which they’re certainly capable of doing.

      There’s no doubt Dwellicious has an uphill battle to gain traction with agents and brokers, but Greg and Dan have a proven track record of success over the last 20 years in the real estate software industry and I’d bet with them long before I bet against them — whether they were my friends and colleagues or not.

    3. Eric Bramlett December 30th, 2008 7:37 am

      Dwellicious provides agents an opportunity to work with a variety of customers using a variety of sites in a common platform.

      Michael, that’s such an unnecessary service, it’s ridiculous. IDX/RETS sites are MUCH more complete representations of what’s available for sale on the market. Any agent worth their salt will have an IDX/RETS solution integrated into their site (and if they don’t, they DEFINITELY shouldn’t spend any money on a silly “real estate bookmarking site” BEFORE getting one.) As such, the only platforms an agents’ clients’ need are that RETS/IDX solution + email. RETS/IDX for the 99.999% of the properties they will be interested in viewing, and email for the .001% of properties they find elsewhere.

      All modern RETS/IDX solutions allow clients to save searches & favorites in the backend. In order for an agent to track what his/her clients’ want, that agent need only to log into the backend and take a look – or use the phone/email.

    4. Eric Bramlett December 30th, 2008 7:38 am

      The Web 2.0′ers need to get beyond “Ooh, look how shiny it is,” and start asking, “Will this friggin’ thing make me money?”

    5. Greg Swann December 30th, 2008 8:19 am

      > I’d bet with them long before I bet against them

      Are you an investor, Michael, or are you betting with make-believe money?

      FWIW, I read the November astroturfing as a dumbshow for the actual investors. “See! We got buzz! What could go wrong?!?” My bet would be the other way: The developers already know they’re headed for the dead pool, and they’re putting on a pantomime to make it look like they had the right idea at the wrong time. But, since I can’t know the insides of their minds, I can’t bet on that.

    6. Michael Wurzer December 30th, 2008 8:19 am

      Eric, I’m confident Dwellicious is not meant as a replacement in any way for IDX. Rather, it is a tool that can help agents with consumers before they reach their IDX service or as a supplement to an IDX service. While many IDX services provide marking of favorites, most do not provide for sharing and communication like Dwellicious provides. A good example for me personally right now: My mother-in-law is looking for a new home and all the kids are involved in the search, reviewing the properties, making comments, etc. Can this be done by email? Sure, but it’s not nearly as effective as Dwellicious, which, if provided by an agent or broker, would be a very attractive tool to the family.

      Anyway, the beauty of the free market is that each agent and broker will decide what they will about the value of a tool like Dwellicious in their market. I’m sure some will conclude as you have that IDX + email is sufficient. Others, however, may find it a useful service. In the end, the market will be the arbiter of success for Dwellicious and, knowing Dan and Greg as I do, they relish the competition and opportunity the market provides to make them better.

    7. Greg Swann December 30th, 2008 8:25 am

      > All modern RETS/IDX solutions allow clients to save searches & favorites in the backend. In order for an agent to track what his/her clients’ want, that agent need only to log into the backend and take a look – or use the phone/email.

      I’ve mentioned my delight with FlexMLS before, but I should write something about the close integration between FlexMLS and its IDX solution. From the raw horsepower of the search itself to the ability to share searches, shopping carts and, especially, search portals, FlexMLS is the best IDX solution we’ve ever seen. Not the slickest in appearance, but the most useful as both a search and communications tool.

    8. Michael Wurzer December 30th, 2008 8:35 am

      No, I’m not an investor. As I said in my first comment, I have no pecuniary interest here of any kind. My understanding is that Dan and Greg are fully funding Dwellicious on their own, though I would invest if the opportunity arose.

      Greg and Dan are two guys living every day the ideals of Splendor. They are building, creating, and inventing. After being successful building up IRIS and then eNeighborhoods, they wanted to get back to basics again with just the two of them, and they’re bootstrapping Dwellicious. As I said above in reply to Eric, I’m confident they relish the opportunity to have their ideas tested by the market. These guys will come heavy every time, and they expect to win while being prepared to fail. Dwellicious is a case in point; they’re giving it a whirl. If you understand this software development phrase, it was an itch Dan needed to scratch.

      I admire both Dan and Greg for their actions, their attitude, and their honor. Opinions are worth little, results are worth a lot and these guys have produced. I’d go into business with them anytime and anywhere, and I’d be confident of producing enormous value from the venture.

    9. Greg Swann December 30th, 2008 8:52 am

      > Greg and Dan are two guys living every day the ideals of Splendor.

      I’ll have to take your word for this. The little that I have seen of Greg Robertson suggests to me that he’s a louse, but I could be mistaken.

      For the rest, as above, extensively, I don’t think they have a business — which does not distinguish them very much from the rest of the Web 2.0 start-ups. You have given them ringing endorsements, to your credit, but I don’t see how that makes any difference. There is no reason for anyone to come to this site. If it turns out I’m wrong, I’ll buy you a popsicle.

    10. Victor Lund December 30th, 2008 10:00 am

      Great discussion and thoughtful insight Greg and Michael.

      The background -

      Measure the volume of unique visitors on the top real estate search sites – r.com, google, yahoo, trulia, zillow, cyberhomes, c21, cb, sothebys, bh&g, era, kw, remax.com,etc + add to that the number of visitors to broker sites and agent sites, it becomes very clear that the audience for property search is probably 6 times greater than the number of homes sold. You can argue this point and win – it may be 4 sites, or it may be 8. Suffice us to agree that lots of people are searching more than one site. Who wants to register on all of them? What are the differences?

      The consumer problem

      I do not think that consumers really know how to distinguish between IDX powered sites and non-IDX powered sites. Most IDX sites are missing FSBO and Foreclosures, and most sites with FSBO and Foreclosures do not have IDX. Hence, very few sites are truly comprehensive.

      I think a lot of consumers (like Mike’s use case with his mother-in-law and siblings) does show that there are times when home choice involves many people searching over many sites.

      The Team

      As for Dan and Greg, they are industry veterans with a history of success and long standing relationships with companies that can make this product a success.

      Challenges that lead to failure

      1. Distribution of the plug-in will require promotion on the popular search sites – not exactly an easy task to get Zillow or Cenutry 21 or Realtor.com, or a broker sites to promote Dwellicious.

      2. Only a small number of people use social bookmarking, but it is on the raise still. In order to gain product adoption, they will need to ride the coat tails of mass consumer adoption of this functionality.

      3. It needs to generate results – They will need to find some early partners, study the adoption rates and correlate the results with driving more business to agents and brokers to create a value proposition for the site owner and the consumer.

      4. What is the revenue model? It is not clear who will pay, or how much.

      In summary

      These are difficult challenges and most start-ups fail. Today Dwellicious has built a proof of concept, so they have taken the first step. There are many, many steps to be taken before the company has relevance. In so far as we are talking about the company here on Bloodhound, they are also building brand and product awareness using NEW marketing tactics.

      If it does fail, Dan and Greg will go on vacation and play with their kids until their non-compete expires with Dominion, then do something else. If it does succeed, $2M in revenue will easily cover the expenses of two families. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

      I like that they built their solution using ruby on rails – hence the refreshing lime :-). There were not many new products to get excited about at the NAR convention.

    11. Michael Wurzer December 30th, 2008 10:00 am

      If it turns out I’m wrong, I’ll buy you a popsicle.

      For future reference, I like orange popsicles.

    12. David Harris December 30th, 2008 12:36 pm

      As is always the case with Swann, you have to sift through his “shock-blog” mentality to see if there is anything worthwhile. Its hard to take someone’s “professional” opinion/review on something when it is littered with grade-school language like “nitwit” and “louse”.

      Bottom line, I welcome any and all innovation into the RE.net world, god knows we need it. Innovation breeds innovation. If Dwellicious doesn’t succeed, then maybe one of its grandchildren will… breed on!!!

      David

    13. Greg Swann December 30th, 2008 12:54 pm

      > it becomes very clear that the audience for property search is probably 6 times greater than the number of homes sold

      Which should tell you that the people hitting Realty.bot sites are not serious buyers, It’s instructive to take one whole day of your own web surfing and marvel at how many sites you hit where you did nothing fruitful at all. Useful to watch the bounce rate on sites where you can see the stats, too.

      Other than that, your analysis is a good read. ;)

    14. Greg Swann December 30th, 2008 1:00 pm

      > As is always the case with Swann, you have to sift through his “shock-blog” mentality to see if there is anything worthwhile.

      Oh. Wow. Who didn’t see you coming?

      (A note to zombies from boring weblogs who show up at BloodhoundBlog attempting to link-bait traffic by teaching me how to write colorlessly: This essay draws upon an arcane literary discipline known as “style.” It’s worth looking into.)

      > Its hard to take someone’s “professional” opinion/review on something when it is littered with grade-school language like “nitwit” and “louse”.

      Yeah, me and Bobbie Burns. What a couple of losers.

    15. Bob December 30th, 2008 2:38 pm

      Someone kick your dog, Greg? Why all the recent vile?

      You want to do a review, go to it – but why the name calling?

      It’s beneath someone with your intellect.

    16. J Boyer Morristown NJ December 30th, 2008 2:49 pm

      I just love it when the grammar police show up and try to say that someones opinions and ideas are bad because the commentor does not like his or her way of saying things.

      “Its hard to take someone’s “professional” opinion/review on something when it is littered with grade-school language like “nitwit” and “louse”.”

      Always makes me think, what an A$$ and then if it is a comment on my own blog I usually send it off to Akismet.

      As to Greg Swann’s writting, I rather enjoy it and find it to be entertaining as well as informative and hope that he keeps to what works for him.

    17. Eric Bramlett December 30th, 2008 4:05 pm

      To bring it back on topic.

      Rather, it is a tool that can help agents with consumers before they reach their IDX service or as a supplement to an IDX service.

      Seriously? Someone has to be searching for real estate online in order for dwellicious to be useful. If someone is searching for real estate online, they’re using someone’s IDX/RETS service.

    18. Eric Bramlett December 30th, 2008 4:13 pm

      My mother-in-law is looking for a new home and all the kids are involved in the search, reviewing the properties, making comments, etc. Can this be done by email?

      It can’t be done w/ email, but it can be organized w/ Client Gateway, and with many IDX/RETS solutions.

      Dwellicious is unnecessary, foolish, and will never reach a sustainable # of paid members.