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Author Archive

Throwing a Virtual Rent Party

While Greg and Brian are talking about “Battling Back”; Eric, Teri and I have been talking about “Throwing Parties”.  As in Rent Parties.

If you are not familiar with the term, Rent Parties flourished in Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s.  Musicians would make the rounds after their paying gigs, guests would pay a small admission fee to dance and party all night at someone’s apartment, and the host would end up with enough money to pay the landlord for another month.

Greg’s revealing personal post yesterday inspired the idea that we could throw a Rent Party online.  And. the party could boogie on 24/7/365.

To my surprise the domain name was available.  By last night I had the bare bones foundation of the site up and running; and Teri had incredible visions of the good work that could be done.  You can see our work at

Meanwhile, I am plumb tuckered out.  🙂

Anyone who would like to work with us on building out the content please tell us in the comments; we’re thinking everything from video dance contests, to straight talk around the kitchen table about putting your financial life together.  I will quickly and gratefully send any volunteer a login ID and password.

And yes, there are already a couple donations in the hat.  I certainly respect that you didn’t intend to induce charity, Mr. Swann, but there it is, your friends won’t leave you to face trouble alone.  If you won’t accept the funds, I bet Cathleen’s foster pet project would happily accept them, or Teri has some ideas in her community too.


engenu Epiphany #2: A hierarchy of Folders becomes a hierachy of Pages becomes a functional web site

I drafted this article a few days ago, before Greg posted his video demo of engenu.  Coincidentally, I think my post here serves as a pretty good introduction to the engenu functions that are covered in the video.

I like Greg’s description of  engenu’s functionality here.  (About two thirds of the way down in the post, below the photos.)

And once you own the basic, core engenu concept of folders become pages, what Greg is describing is logical,  and actually quite easy to do.

But I think I a simpler, pared down example of folders becoming pages becoming a web site will help everyone get from here to there.

Suppose I want to build a very simple, single property web site.

I want a page with the property description to be the main entry page.  I want three sub-pages.  One with neighborhood information, one with my bio, and a contact me page.

If I was working in WordPress, I’d log into my WordPress Dashboard, create each each page, set the front page display to the property description page, and activate the Pages widget to display a list of pages in the sidebar, or handcode them into sidebar.php.

To build the same site in engenu, the paradigm shifts to setting up the structure offline first.

I have found it is quick and easy to just create folders with my FTP program.

First I’d create an empty folder named “123 Green Street”.  Yes, that folder could also contain PDFs, and images which will automatically become a slideshow,  but hold that thought for the later.

Then I open the empty “123 Green Street” folder, and create three empty sub-folders inside of it:  “Neighborhood Information”, “About Me” and “Contact Me”.

In the FTP program, I move back up a level, and upload the “123 Green Street” folder to my host/server.  Since the other three folders are nested inside of “123 Green Street”, they get uploaded, too, in one quick zap.

Now I go to and process the whole shebang through engenu.  All four folders became pages, with 123 Green Street set as the main entry page, and the three sub-pages listed in the sidebar of the main page.

And yes, I will need to visit each page in the editor, and plug in some content.  If the content I want to add is simply a set of photos for the featured engenu slideshow, I could FTP into my host/server,and upload the set of photos to the “123 Green Street ” folder.  The next time I open engenu and access that folder, I will see a message that  “Added or deleted photos will be re/disinherited upon next “Save.”  I’ll click save, and the slideshow will be activated.

If your web project could benefit from building a structured hierarchy of nested pages offline first, before creating the content, engenu will give you an advantage.

And when you choose to rearrange that hierarchy structure later, engenu will let you rearrange it on the fly, in FTP, by simply moving the folders around on the host/server.

Take another look at Greg’s description of  using engenu here as a “resource site”, a sort of virtual office to keep track of potential homes for a buyer client.

Read Joshua Hanoud’s comment on my previous post here.

Now, go watch the video.

Engenu will probably not replace your existing website or blog.  Even if you never use engenu for any other purpose, even if you never bother to hack the code to customize the skin,  I can see engenu being immensely helpful for building indivdualized “resource sites” in the way Joshua and Greg describe.

1 comment

engenu Epiphany #1: Folders become pages

When I saw this a few days ago on BHB, I was not sure I could come up with anything “helpful”.

Like most folks, when I first looked at engenu last year, I just didn’t “get” it.  In fact, I didn’t “get”  it until just yesterday when I decided to take on this little challenge.

Understanding the power of engenu requires one fundamental paradigm shift.  And that shift is this:  Folders become pages.

When you build a standard-issue web site, you think in terms of pages. If you are creating a web site for, say,  a listed property, you most likely have a page for the property description, another page talking about the neighborhood, another page for your bio and contact information, etc.

In engenu, folders become pages.

In engenu, you add a folder for a particular topic, instead of creating a page for that topic. And when you process that folder through engenu, that folder becomes a page.  For example, to create a page for your bio information, you start with an empty folder named “about me.”

If the very first page you created in engenu was a slideshow from a folder full of images, that’s great, and engenu does that extremely well, but if that is all you did, you may have missed the necessary paradigm shift.

To experience the paradigm shift, try this instead:

The prerequisites are a). Have engenu installed and working on one of your sites, and b). Have an FTP program and an basic idea of how to use the FTP program.

Start your FTP program, and in the panel for your local computer create a new folder.  Name the folder “About Me”.  That’s it.  Leave it as an empty folder.

Still in the FTP program, connect to your server/host.

Upload the empty folder to your server/host.

Exit the FTP program and go to  Click on the name of the folder (About Me) and engenu’s editor will open.  Paste a short bio into the “Body copy” text box.  Click “Save and Continue”  then click “Preview Saved Changes” .

Your empty “About Me” folder became a web page.

Think about that:  You can create a whole hierarchy of folders (empty or not), nested inside of one another.  You upload that whole hierarchy to your server.  Process through engenu, and each folder becomes a separate web page, linked on the sidebar of the master page.

With engenu you can simply create the entire structure of a site before you ever add a single sentence of content.  More on that later. Then I’ll tackle custom skins.


Creating an Online Policy and Procedure Manual

A question for other small independent brokerage owners and managers:

I have almost completed the online version policy and procedure manual for my smallish, independent brokerage office.  It’s been a lot of work.  Who knew?  I ended up using a WordPress platform, since I didn’t have the energy to learn all the ins and outs of designing around the wiki format.

Here’s the question:  Can the online version completely replace a printed version?  Do you add a paragraph to your agent’s contracts stating they have read the online manual (yeah, right) and they agree to comply with the policies and procedures?

Creating a printed version kinda defeats the purpose, though I suppose I could install one of those “Turn-Your-Blog-into-a-Book” plugins.

Thoughts, suggestions, anyone?


Adding a Print Stylesheet to Your WordPress Blog

I have a Dead Tree Addiction.  Somehow words seem clearer and truer, and their cadence more lovely when I read them on a printed page, rather than a computer screen.

So, when I read a well written blog post, one that addresses an important issue, one that speaks clearly to me,  my first inclination is to hit “PRINT”.  And all rational reasoning to the contrary, sometimes that urge to PRINT just simply cannot be denied.

Unfortunately many WordPress theme designers neglect to include a print stylesheet in their theme files, and the resultant printer output often contains an endless jumble of sidebar images and unusable navigation link text.

If you’d like to make it easy for your readers to print your posts, add a print stylesheet.  Here’s how:

In a plain text editor (Windows Notepad works just fine) create a new file named print.css

Paste this CSS code into your print.css file

#nav {display: none; }

#sidebar {display: none; }

#content {width: 100%; margin: 0; float: none;}

a:link, a:visited {color: #000000}

That’s it, that’s all.  The code is saying: “Don’t display the navigation bar, don’t display the sidebar, don’t print the links in fancy colors, and fill the entire width of the page with the post content”.

Save the print.css file, and upload it to your WordPress blog host.  Place it in the individual theme’s folder; the most likely path would be something like

Now at the WordPress dashboard, go Design -> Theme Editor -> and in the Theme Files – Templates column, click on header.php to open the file.

Paste the code below into your header.php file, right below all the other lines that start with link rel=”stylesheet”

<link type=”text/css” media=”print” rel=”stylesheet” href=”<?php bloginfo(‘template_url’); ?>/print.css” />

Make sure it is above the line that reads </head>. Click Update File.  This little piece of code is telling the system that if it receives a “print” command, to apply the print stylesheet instead of the “media” styleheet.

To test, click Visit Site, click File -> Print Preview

Notice that I did not remove the Footer.  If you’d like all printouts to include your contact information, the footer can be a handy place to insert it.

Open the footer.php file, and you will probably see a line that reads <div id=”footer”> or <p id=”footer”>  Right below that line insert something like :


You may need to experiment a bit with the placement, but now in addition to appearing on screen, at the bottom of your blog pages, your contact info will appear, as part of the footer, each time someone prints one of your posts.  Why let the theme’s designer get all the glory?  🙂


Appendix A: Linking to Author’s Profile in Multi-Author WordPress Blog

After setting up the author image code, I decided my next step in creating our new multi-author company blog would be linking the author name to the author’s profile page.  I decided on a  profile page rather than an email link to a). initially keep the reader drilling deeper into the blogsite for more information, and b). the profile page can then present offsite links to the author’s other blogs or website as well as an email link.

As Greg describes here, the code is simple enough

Posted by      <a href=”<?PHP the_author_url(); ?>”>
<?php the_author() ?></a> <br>

But then I started scratching my head.  Where the devil does the author URL come from?  How does the system know what it is? Am I going to need to construct a database of author URLs?  (People who know the answer are probably laughing out loud right now.)

I Googled frantically, and finally after reading and rereading this page in the WordPress Codex, the moment of epiphany came.

The author URL is the website address from the user profile page.

Click on Users in the upper right corner of the WordPress Dashboard.  Click on the username, scroll down to the Contact Info section, and at Website, paste in the URL of the author’s about/profile page.


Prequel to Speaking in Tongues: Displaying Author Images in WordPress

Several months ago, Greg described this process in Project Bloodhound speaking in tongues: To whom am I speaking?

At the time, I had no need to implement author images in a WordPress multi-author blog, (and I already knew the technique for TypePad), so I didn’t work with the process until just today.

As I set up what will become a company blog for our incoming agents, I realized that the average WordPress user might need a little more background information to put Greg’s code to use.

First of all, you need to find all your authors’ ID numbers.  Unfortunately current versions of WordPress do not show author ID numbers.  The easy solution for me was to download the Reveal IDs for WP Admin plugin.

Once the Reveal IDs plugin is activated, when you go to the Users page, you’ll see each author’s ID number displayed beside their username.  All ID numbers, that is, except your own.  The only way to see your own ID number is to create a new separate admin username and login, then login as that new identity, and find your old self on the list.

Next step:  Obtain images of each author.  Resize each image (I decided on 52 pixels in height, and 50 pixels in width as appropriate for the design I am using.)  Each image must be named simply by the author ID number.  For instance, my lovely image here on Bloodhound Blog is titled 34.jpg.

Upload all the newly resized and newly renamed images to your blog’s root directory.

Now you are ready to rock and roll.

Open your Main Index Template file (index.php)

I simplified Greg’s code for now to only display the author’s image and name

<img src=”<?php the_author_ID(); ?>.jpg” height=”52″ width=”50″ align=”left” hspace=”10″>
Posted by <?php the_author() ?> <br>

And I placed it under the PHP code that inserts the post title.  Here’s the complete snippet:

<?php if (have_posts()) : while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>
<div class=”entry”>

<h1><a href=”<?php the_permalink() ?>” rel=”bookmark” title=”<?php the_title(); ?>”><?php the_title(); ?></a></h1>

<img src=”<?php the_author_ID(); ?>.jpg” height=”52″ width=”50″ align=”left” hspace=”10″>
Posted by <?php the_author() ?> <br>

<span class=”meta”><?php the_time(‘F jS, Y’) ?> <br>
Posted in <?php the_category(‘, ‘) ?> <?php edit_post_link(‘| Edit’, ”, ”); ?></span>

<br class=”clear” /><br />

I’ll add the email link code when l actually have live people posting. 🙂

UPDATE: Reading the comment stream suggests that a footnote might be indicated:  If you copy and paste the above code, you might want to first paste it into a plain text editor (Windows Notepad, for example), save it, select and copy it again from the text editor, then paste it into your index.php file.

Why?  Because your browser might copy in rich-text format, changing straight quote marks to curly quote marks  …  And code won’t run with curlies.

( Screen shots available at Queen of Kludge )


Writing an office policy manual for Real Estate 2.0

As part of our current ongoing “expansion”, for the last few days I have been trying to cobble together something that resembles a real estate company policy manual.

I am going to post a few of my policy manual paragraphs here, in the hopes that my Bloodhound friends might suggest revisions or additional thoughts.

The issues addressed by these paragraphs aren’t exactly the sort found in sample policy manuals, so I’m kinda sorta winging it here:

Social Media

Salespeople and staff members are encouraged to create profiles and participate in conversations on social media sites such as Active Rain, Trulia, Zillow, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, RealSeekr, MyAgentBook, and others.

You are also encouraged to post frequently on the Company blog at, and will be given a password and login. (Aside: I hope to make this work for the new folks as a “sandbox” site.)


In the interest of providing seller clients with a consistent experience, for each listing the Company will provide the following services at the Company’s expense:

  • The Company will create a single property web site with a .info domain name. That will leave the .com domain name available if you wish to create your own additional web site for the property.
  • The Company will create and install a unique custom sign for each listing.
  • The Company will create and print color flyers on standard paper stock. You are responsible for attaching a flyer box to the listing sign, and maintaining a supply of flyers at the property. You are encouraged to create additional flyers of your own design.
  • The Company will generate weekly postings on Craigslist.

So, would you guys write this stuff differently?  What other things would you address?  Thanks!


Meanwhile, back at the ranch…. (Or Creating a local, independent, powerhouse brokerage)

Bob and I opened our own office, Bob Taylor Properties, Inc. in 2000.  Good friend and friendly competitor Dan Jordinelli had already opened his own office, Jordinelli and Associates,  in 1986.   I like to think that over the years both offices have built up some recognition and respect.

A few weeks ago, Dan approached us with a proposal.  Dan wants to close his office and join us. He wants to get back in the field and do what he loves: Sell real estate. Oh, and some of his agents want to come along.

So, as the global financial markets are collapsing, amidst this ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry,  I’ve been rather preoccupied with the notion of creating a local, independent, powerhouse brokerage in Northeast Los Angeles, in this new, post-bail-out era of real estate.

I’ve read all Sean Purcell’s posts here, here, here, and here all Mike Farmer’s posts here, here, here, here, here, and here.  But, in the end, while the new models and structures suggested are very intriguing,  I decided on a simple, basic, traditional commission split model.  Agent gets XX%.  Company gets XX%.

Branding? I have no concern over agents designing their own logos, their own business cards with their color schemes, and running their own businesses in a way that works for them.  I want only core concept associated with my company:  Excellence.  I want our people recognized as the most knowledgeable and most competent.

However, there is one area where I do want to impose some structure:  The taking and marketing of listings.  Marketing a listing as Greg demonstrates in is a definable, perfectible praxis.  No matter which agent in the company they list with, I want sellers to know they can expect proper pricing, good preparation and presentation, good photography, a custom web-site, custom signage.

Meanwhile, there are practical and pragmatic issues to address.  I usually identify myself as a “high-functioning hoarder” so the process of making room for several new people in the office has been interesting.   My Ebay/Etsy photo studio, the giant screen TV and Bob’s exercise equipment are now all artfully arranged in one room of our building.  Old files and excess furnishings have been hauled to a Public Storage unit.

I even printed a sign for the office refrigerator door  “Any open package, can, or bottle containing partially consumed food or beverage items remaining in the refrigerator for more than 48 hours will be removed and discarded.”


Understanding the difference between and plus a little bit about custom domain names

Here’s a point of confusion I often notice when people begin their search for a blogging platform:

There are two different flavors of WordPress. is a hosted platform. You go there and sign up for account, pick a pre-designed theme, and start blogging.   It’s free, it’s very easy.  Software updates and security are handled for you.  However, You don’t have an option of custom designing your own theme, your choice of plugins andwidgets is limited. You cannot FTP into your blog.

 It’s not a bad idea to go ahead and set up a blog on, even if you don’t intend it as your primary business blog.  Make it a “cat blog”. It will give you a chance to test drive the post editor interface, practice adding images or videos with the “Add Media” tool, and get a feel for the concept of changing themes. is a web site from which you can download the WordPress software. You then install the WordPress software on your own host. Same concept as installing a new program on your own computer, except that you are installing a new program on a remote “host” computer.   You can install any plugins or themes you like, and customize them to your heart’s content.  You can run affiliate advertising, and edit the database. You can write your own PHP code and use it in the blog’s design. 

Although the software is free, you will need a hosting account somewhere. That’s not free.  Average hosting fees run about $10 per month.   My WordPress blogs are hosted on GoDaddy. BHB with much higher bandwidth requirements, is not.  Where is BHB hosted now, Greg? 

I have heard good comments about BlueHost.  Maybe some other contributors will jump in with info on their choice of hosts.

You can register your own custom domain name and use it with either flavor of WordPress, so don’t let anyone mistakenly tell you that you can’t map a domain name to a site.  You can. 

Here is a how-to  I wrote several months ago on mapping a custom domain name to a blog.

And as a FYI, you can register and use a custom domain name with TypePad and Blogger, too.

Here’s the how-to I wrote on how to map a domain on TypePad.

I didn’t write one for Blogger, so here is Blogger’s own how-to map a custom domain name page.


Friday Haiku

tangled commitments

and juggled obligations

clatter on the floor

1 comment

I can think. I can wait. I can fast.

Back  in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I read all the works of Herman Hesse.   Some of them over, and over again.  Siddhartha  stuck a deep chord.

Siddhartha, after living three years as an ascetic, emerges from the forest and meets a beautiful woman.  In order to obtain worldly items to please woman, Siddhartha seeks employment with a merchant.  The merchant asks Siddhartha “What have you learned that you can give?”   Siddhartha replies “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.”

The merchant asks Siddhartha, “What good is fasting?”

Siddhartha responds “If, for instance,  Siddhartha has not learned to fast, he would have had to seek some kind of work today, either with you, or elsewhere, for hunger would have driven him.  But as it is, Siddhartha can wait calmly.  He is not impatient, he is not in need, he can ward off hunger for a long time and laugh at it.  Therefore, fasting is useful, sir.”

I can think.  I  can wait.  I can fast.  Those three short sentences became a mantra.

I can think.  I can offer ideas, I can create solutions.  I can wait.  I can hunker down and stay the course.  I can fast.   One look at my waistline could convince you not to take this answer in the literal sense.  But I can indeed  wait calmly,  in a position of strength, unencumbered by impatience or urgency.

I can remember repeating “I can think, I can wait, I can fast” to prospective employers a few times on job interviews back in those long ago days, to be met with blank, but polite, stares.

Fast forward a few decades.  I write a post on Bloodhound blog exploring ideas about re-inventing a small real estate brokerage in the Web 2.0 World.   People correctly point out that I need to assess what I can give a prospective agent. 

I visualize myself sitting across from a new agent, conducting an interview.  The agent is asking “so, what do you offer?”  I ponder E&O, desk fees, commission splits, niche marketing, contact systems, lead generation, vertical searches.  Lions and tigers and bears.  Oh my.

But after all these years, I have come full circle.   What else can I give to anyone; other than the answers of Siddhartha, what else can I answer? 

I visualize myself replying to that new agent:  “I can think.  I can wait.  I can fast”.  I smile, there is a gentle humor in the juxtaposition of Siddhartha’s assertions and today’s real estate market.

But these are the assertions of a strong and confident young man.  And then the thought comes to me:  I can add two more answers, distinctly mine.  Answers I have only learned only with the passage of time, although I would like to believe Siddhartha also learned them as he neared the end of his life.

I can delight.  I can forgive.

Are these useful qualities in your real estate broker?  Points to put in an independent contractor agreement?  A foundation upon which to build a business?  I do not know.  And yet here I am.

Oh wait, back to the visualization.  The attractive young agent in the well tailored suit is getting up now.  “Thank you,” she says.  “I enjoyed meeting you,” she says.  She does not say “have a nice life,”  although the unspoken words hang in the air between us for a brief moment.  Then she leaves, and I remain, remembering, thinking and waiting, and delighting in the sweet absurdity of it all.


True Confessions of A Real Estate Broker

The times are indeed changing.  I am not a real estate salesperson.  I am the broker/co-owner of a small real estate office.    Please put the hammer away, Greg.  My partner Bob, and I, opened it up precisely in order to own our own systems,  and develop our own approach to business.  Initially, it was just us, but after over 25 years in the business I realized I wouldn’t mind having a few agents on board to help with the heavy lifting.  And while I certainly don’t want to milk any underlings, there are bills to pay.

So here’s the question … In true Web 2.0 spirit I am putting it out to the community.

Gentle readers, if you were a broker-owner of a small independent real estate office, just precisely how would you structure your business to survive in the Web 2.0 world?  Or is the extinction of the broker/salesperson model so close and inevitable that it would not be worth the effort?

Could a small independent brokerage reinvent itself based on, say, a team concept?  What commission split would you offer agents?  What services would you provide for agents, or not provide?  

Any and all comments and opinions are welcome.  Thank you, everyone.


Memorial Day 2008 – Taking A Long View

Today we remember and honor those who gave their lives in service of our country. Is it fitting and proper that we do so. 

But ours is a young country, our conflicts are recent, and the memories fresh in our collective conscious.

Proud and brave young lives have been sacrificed through out human history.

Imagine the Greek King Pyrrhus of Epirus surveying the blood soaked battlefield of Asculum in 279 BC. Pyrrhus deployed 40,000 calvary and infantry and 20 war elephants. The Romans under Publius Decius Mus deployed 40,000 calvary and infantry and 300 anti-elephant devices.

After a two day battle, the Greeks were victorious. The Romans lost 6,000 men; Pyrrhus, 3,500, including many of his officers. Pyrrhus looked on the devastation and stated “One more victory like this, and we shall be utterly undone.”

This Memorial Day, while I pause to honor the sacrifice of our country’s great heroes, and express my deep gratitude, I will think, too, of sacrifices made throughout history, even back to antiquity, sacrifices that formed civilization as we know it today. And I will say a tiny prayer that somehow, someday, humans will indeed find a way to put an end to war.


The Secret Hunger

Congratulations to Brian, Greg and Cathy, and everyone, for a successful conference. Thanks to Glenn for his presentation. And special thanks to Russell Shaw for contributing. Super special thanks to Rudy Bachraty for yesterday’s live video feed – that was awesome! And on to Orlando!

And all that brings me back to Don Reedy’s comment yesterday about how much he enjoyed Greg Swann’s opening segment that delved into history and philosophy. I wholeheartedly agreed.

I suppose I might be in the minority, but I would happily attend a conference consisting of 100% history, philosophy and linguistics. Greg Swann would be the main event, and I wonder if interesting people from local universities might be found who would enjoy presenting summaries of their particular disciplines.

Oh, and I think I would toss in a public speaking coach, since with the advent of video as a marketing medium, grace and skill in public speaking is becoming an absolute necessity.

I even have a name for this conference: “A Crash Course In Liberal Arts For the Busy Professional”. Seriously. We get so caught up in the frenzy of doing business and finding ways to prospect for more business, that we forget the foundation for all commerce lies in our ability to think, to understand, and to reason. And learning to think, understand and reason is precisely the purpose of a Liberal Arts education.

Keep in mind here the word “liberal” in this context does not relate to a contemporary political opinion, but rather the definition from classical antiquity: The education proper to a freeman (Latin: libera, “free”) as opposed to a slave.

I think the reason Greg’ words resonate so deeply is many people have passed up a Liberal Arts education, opting instead for business-intensive vocational or technical learning. And when we get a taste of that Liberal Arts mindset, we are hungry for more. We find there is a deeper and wider context with which to view our activities and our lives.

I am wondering if a one or two day conference built on that idea of introducing Liberal Arts to frenzied business people just might be successful. It does kinda sorta fit with the whole Jesuit/Missionary/Bloodhound thing.


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