Archive for the 'Innovation' Category
How do you know when a time is right for your idea? How about when someone else comes up with something similar?: Atheist ‘mega-churches’ take root across USA, world. For the past three months, I’ve been thinking about starting a church evangelizing egoism and excluding no one, and here is the something similar. I’m reading this as a publicity stunt, but we’ll see. That’s definitely not what I’m about.
What I want is a mission devoted to the idea of doing better. Just that. The doctrine is mine, Man Alive, et very cetera, but I’m a lot more interested in praxis than dogma. If you cross a soul-enriching music performance with a mind-enflaming motivational seminar, you’re halfway to seeing what I see.
Picture a real live church service somewhere, once a week. My ideal location would be a big bar on late Saturday afternoons, to put the idea of choosing admirably in mind just when it might be needed most. That can be simulcast by Ustream or Spreecast, so the whole world can join in, one mind at a time.
But: I’m digging living on the road a lot, so I would love to take this show on Read more2 comments
It’s not mentioned in the Reason article, but the real curse of zoning is the prohibition of innovation. By forbidding all projects, land-use tyrants exclude not just the dreck but also the sheer genius. Some builder coud have come up with the modern equivalent of Wright’s Five-Thousand Dollar Home, but that guy works in software instead, where innovation is celebrated and rewarded.
When a news crew showed up to film a public meeting in tony Darien, Connecticut, in 2005, some of the residents were less than thrilled. “Why don’t you fucking shoot something else?” one demanded. Hundreds crammed into the hearing, sneering and jeering during the presentation.
The fresh hell residents showed up to protest? A proposal to replace a nondescript single-family home on a one-acre lot with 20 condos for senior citizens.
In Snob Zones, journalist Lisa Prevost describes the heights of entitlement to which property owners ascend when faced with the prospect of new development, especially multi-family dwellings in neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes. Prevost tours New England and finds an aging, declining populace bent on excluding outsiders. In town after town, affluent and working-class alike, residents line up to shout down new development no matter how modest.
In Darien, the need for the proposed project was clear; the town’s senior housing center had a long wait list, as did the last condo development built in the area (in 1994). Still, many townsfolk, expecting the project to open the floodgates to more high-density projects in the resolutely low-density burgh, were incensed.
Incumbent homeowners have a powerful weapon for vetoing change: zoning. In Darien and other exclusive zip codes, mandated minimum lot sizes kneecap developers who want to build something other than super-sized homes. In the process, they put entire towns out of reach for all but the wealthy. In hardscrabble Ossippee, New Hampshire, where it’s not uncommon for the working poor to live in tents during the summer months to save on rent, the zoning code flatly prohibits new apartment buildings.
Though Prevost, who covers the real estate beat for The New York Times, has no problem with the traditional justification for zoning (but for it, she believes, dirty industries might locate in residential neighborhoods), she has written as damning an indictment of zoning as any free marketeer could hope for. “The market is hungry for apartments, condominiums, and small homes,” says Prevost, “if only zoning restrictions would get out of the way.”
Where libertarians see an infringement on property rights, Prevost sees a problematic tradeoff between local demands for low density (tinged with fears that undesirables might move in next door) and regional needs for affordable housing. It amounts to the same thing, however: established residents using government force to kill the low-cost housing that would exist in a free market. In the words of the pioneering community planner (and ardent urban renewal opponent) Paul Davidoff, those who wield zoning laws “have not bought the land but instead have done the cheap and nasty thing of employing the police power to protect their own interest.” Nice.
Read the whole thing. Here’s a sweet joke for incentive:
In the words of one developer who switched to building cottage homes during the recession: “I used to say, we’re building homes for people who can’t afford them, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t know. You could just see it—it was stupid.”10 comments
I was walking around the house Saturday — busily working away, headset in my ear, making phone calls and dealing with emails — when it hit me:
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the world’s first peripatetic computer.
It’s easy and natural to work — to do real work — while walking. Salesmaniacs know that you work better on the phone when you’re walking and talking, but that’s just one aspect of the the sheer utility of doing the desk work where the work is, instead of trying to disgarble the mangled reports of intermediaries.
Comprehensive reviews of the S4 abound, pick your poison. I’m Apple to the core since 1985, so this was a big move for me. I have zero doubt that all smartphones are rip-offs of Apple, that without the iPhone, cell phones would still look and disappoint like the the Nokias and Motorolas of yore. But Samsung is number two and it is trying harder than Apple is now — a lot harder.
The unique features of the phone are gee-whiz and boy-howdy both, doubt you nothing, but that’s all just geekery (and the whole Android universe is rife with the kind of self-satisfied jargonistic needlessly-arcane asshattery that made normal people shun Unix (Eunichs?) geeks even before they made DOS for the dumb ones). What makes the S4 work is the way it’s made for work.
* Size: Nice in my hand, maybe just a touch big for the wimminz, but very pocketable, unlike the largely-comparable Galaxy Note 2. (Between the lines: Leaving the phone out of the iPad and iPad Mini was an unforced error on Apple’s part.)
* Weight: That plastic shell feels cheesy, but it makes the phone super-light. I can hold it stationary in one hand indefinitely, easily, without rest or stress. I sold my iPad 2 because the weight of the thing made it, de facto, a crippled laptop, not a usefully-mobile computing solution.
* Software: This is still the weakest link for true peripateticism, computing while ambulating, working while you walk, but we’re getting there. The whole “app” diversion has been a disaster, with millions of people possessed of dozens of one-off (cr)apps, each one of which is really just a showy database client. But because Google is (dimly, slowly) catching onto the idea that the essential component in computing is not the device, not the code and not the data but the end-user, device-irrelevant computing gets better and better. As it does, the amount of work you can get done wherever you are grows dramatically.
* Camera: Better than my point-and-shoot — by a lot. The sharing support everywhere is first rate, but it’s easy to move photos or videos wherever you want them.
* Battery: It’s a slow charge for a long life, a good trade-off. Much better, the battery is user-swappable, so dedicated road warriors can keep a spare or two fully-charged.
But wait. There’s more.
Take a look at this docking station. Power, monitor, hard-disk, keyboard, mouse — desktop. The S4 and this dock are, as of now, the perfect solution for working a conference: The workstation stays at your seat as you, the phone and your headset work the breaks, then everything is back to a desktop/laptop-like solution when you sit back down.
Invite me to your show. I want to prove this will work beautifully!
I’ll have more to say about the S4 as I have more time with it. But so far it’s doing for me what my Macbook Pro, my iPhone and my erstwhile iPad could not do: Giving me a way to work when the only flat surface available to me is my left hand.10 comments
From my mail this morning:
That’s a spoofed email — no links back to the mothership, and a big, fat executable at the bottom. I’m betting it’s WinPoison, so it probably won’t hurt my iMac, but I won’t be researching that question.
But: Be alert. Whether it’s spam, malware or a phishing line, nothing goes wrong until you make the mistake of clicking on the wrong file or link.2 comments
Occupational licensing is a tricky topic for those of us who have “professional” occupations. The notion that any old schmuck can simply hang out a shingle – in the case of a law practice – or open a brokerage with nothing more than a computer, smartphone, and printer – in the case of real estate – strikes fear in the hearts of established practitioners and of busybodies everywhere.
What about the ignorant public? What about the sacred profession (whichever profession) we’re a part of? What about my own livelihood?
If there are oxes to be gored, we’d prefer they be other peoples’ oxes. Not our own.
It didn’t used to be so. Occupational licensing and testing and fee-paying and continuing professional education programs didn’t really get going until the 1920s, a consequence of the progressive movement. In the 1950s, only about 1 in 20 American workers needed the government’s permission before pursuing their chosen occupation. Today, it’s almost one in three. Greg’s called this Rotarian socialism.
Enter the Internal Revenue Service. For nearly 100 years, tax preparers were unlicensed. Consumers – i.e., filers – could make their own decisions about whom they wished to hire in order to prepare their taxes. Civil and criminal statutes can punish preparers who prepare inaccurate or fraudulent returns.
But in 2011, the IRS decided these laws were not enough, and imposed sweeping changes that would require tax preparers to apply for licenses from the IRS in order to prepare federal tax returns on behalf of clients. The new regulations require all paid tax return preparers—except for attorneys and CPAS-to become a “registered tax return preparer” by taking and passing a competency examination, and paying application fees. They would also require preparers to complete 15 hours of continuing education.
The regulations did not spring ex nihilo into existence. They were largely drafted by the former CEO of H&R Block. Most occupational licensing helps big firms or brokerages which can bear the cost of training employees and paying fees, and who benefit disproportionately when small and independent providers are kept out of the business.
My good friend Dan Alban, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, a libertarian non-profit law firm that sues the government on issues relating to licensing, eminent domain, economic freedom, school choice, and the like, won a tremendous victory on January 18 when a federal district court judge struck down the the IRS’ licensing scheme, saying that the Congress had never given the IRS the power to regulate tax preparers and the IRS could not unilaterally grab this power on its own.
The IRS has since appealed the ruling, and asked for the judge to lift the injunction that has put a stop to these regulations.
I would not expect this battle to be over so quickly. The big tax preparers certainly have the ability to lobby Congress to grant the IRS this regulatory authority, even if the IRS loses on this particular issue.
That would be a shame. As I noted on my blog in a different context, there’s no evidence that compulsory educational requirements imposed by certain states on lawyers have any positive benefit for the public.
Whenever I broach the subject of the bar, the bar exam, and licensing regulations, lawyers I talk to acknowledge how ineffective these rules and requirements are. But in the next breath, they worry about the flood of people who would join the profession if we didn’t have such barriers to entry.
The idea that we should be free to pursue a profession or a job used to be a quintessentially American idea. But no longer…19 comments
How often had you heard real estate agents complain about “the inventory problem” this past year? I used to think their complaints were farcical until these past 3-4 months. I have about a dozen pre-approved buyers out looking for homes. Interest rates are low and the foreclosures are getting snapped up as soon as they hit the market. Not one of those dozen has been able to get an accepted offer since Labor Day, 2012.
Clearly, there must be an inventory problem.
It’s time to change gears real estate agents. A few years back, I suggested that buyers would be controlling the market and the listings side of the business should be de-emphasized. All the properties being offered were short sales or foreclosures. Paperwork-intensive transactions didn’t sound so appealing to me and I recommended that agents focus all their efforts on finding buyers and getting them into contracts. Those who followed such advice didn’t get rich but earned a darned good living these past few years.
I had breakfast this morning with Mr. Oceanside, Don Reedy. We discussed the local market and “the inventory problem” when it hit me; there is no shortage of homes. In Oceanside alone, there are thousands of home owners, with equity, who can sell their properties to ready and willing home buyers. This offers the ambitious real estate agent a great opportunity. Too often, real estate agents (and loan originators) forget that we are paid to add value to transactions. If we’re simply acting as gatekeepers, we are no different from everyone else. We need to “create personal inventory”–find sellers for the buyers who want their homes.
Here is my ten- step plan for real estate agents, for a great 2013…with PLENTY of “personal” inventory:
- Attend your local caravan meeting each week. Pay close attention to the agents who speak during the “buyers’ needs” segment.
Call a dozen local agents weekly who work with buyers. Find out where the inventory problem is. At this point, you will see a glaring opportunity in your town/market area. If you know that those agents have 2-3 buyers, for a certain price range, in a certain area, you have identified “half” a market.
- Look at the property tax records in the “problem” subdivision. Choose only properties with owner’s equity. Generally speaking, you’ll look for homes bought prior to 2006 or in 2010. If you’re doing a search with the local title company, and you know the homes are worth $350,000-$400,000, you could also search for sales which had recorded mortgages under $250,000 (that can eliminate a lot of problems). Compile a lit of potential “equity sellers”.
- Visit those equity sellers on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Don’t mail them. Don’t call them. Don’t email them. Bang on their door and tell them that you KNOW where 2-3 willing buyers of their property are. Ask to meet with them to discuss the idea of “equity transfer” to different property.
- Meet the now interested seller and explain that, when they look at their original mortgage payment (before they refinanced), and add the expected equity from the sale of their home, they might be able to buy a “better” (bigger, nicer, closer to work) home. It might be useful to have some listings printed out, in the “better” homes’ price range, to whet their appetite. Recommend that they speak with America’s #1 mortgage broker, to get pre-qualified for the “equity transfer” program, with mortgage payments which were equal to their original (before they refinanced) payment. Schedule a follow-up visit and tell them you’ll have the mortgage broker call them in the morning.
- Speak with the agents who have willing buyers for the home. Verify that they are still in the market and that you might have a property about to hit the MLS. Explain that you’ll give them a “heads up”, right after the listing agreement is signed, and tell them that you’ll let their buyers “preview” the property the day the listing is entered into the MLS. Estimate when you think that will be.
- At the follow up visit to the interested seller, start the meeting off by showing them the available inventory for the pre-approved amount (you’ll have a pre-approval letter from the mortgage broker). Sell the fact that you are transferring the equity from the existing property. If they seem excited, offer to list thee property for 30 days only. Explain that this market is a bit of an anomaly and, if you can’t get them the price they need, to affect the “equity transfer” in 30 days, it may not make sense to sell at that time. Have the seller sign a 30-day listing agreement along with a 60-day buyer’s brokerage agreement.
- Instruct them to be out of the property from 2PM-7PM on the next Friday and out of the property from 1PM-4PM on the next Saturday. Schedule time to review offers, at 6PM on that Sunday evening.
- Plan to enter the listing into the MLS on Friday morning (or late Thursday night). Schedule an open house for that Saturday. Call the agents with buyers, and instruct them to schedule a showing on that Friday (from 2:30PM until 6PM). Tell those agents you plan to hold it open that Saturday and that quick offers are the wisest policy. Explain that you expect to be presenting offers all day Sunday.
- Find your seller a new home. Collect commission checks for adding real value to a lopsided market. Celebrate.
It really is that simple. If there are more buyers than sellers in a market, find more sellers.17 comments
Pre-2007, I am not sure this topic would have even been controversial; people not only regularly utilized their home as their “primary investment”, but often, treated it as their personal piggy bank. In hindsight we can all judge others as we secretly lick our own wounds from a vicious downturn no saw coming, but that experience left a visceral taste in many mouths.
Most experts would suggest that your primary residence is not an investment. Why, you ask? First, you purchase a home based on need. Your buy and sell decisions rarely spring from analytical thinking around market timing. Instead, most times, they are rooted in your changing life needs. Second, investment strategy wages a secret war with your personal desires. For example, I want a tricked out man cave equipped with a full wet bar, bathroom and other appropriate amenities. Am I thinking about the return on my investment, or the endless joy my friends and I will have watching football on Sunday, Monday and Thursday? Sure, I will likely increase the value of my home with these upgrades, but the anemic return on investment, if any, would never be worth the money. Said differently, would you make the same upgrades to your rental property; probably not.
If it was that easy, I wouldn’t write the article.
I will start with a question. Is it easier to invest in stock or buy a house? Right now, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A) trades at $128,175 per share. Its five year performance has been strikingly similar to the performance of many real estate markets. If you have a job making $50k and $7k in the bank, do you think you will ever in your lifetime own a share of Berkshire Hathaway A outside of a very lucky lotto ticket? The answer is unequivocally no. You don’t qualify for the right to buy on margin and even if you did, where would you get the 50% required to do a margin buy? And how would you live on the prison food when the margin call comes? All important questions to consider…
Now, let’s take that same fellow and put him / her into a working class neighborhood. He sees a for-sale sign and the asking price is $130k. He walks into his local bank branch gets a pre-approval letter and in 30 days, he is the proud owner of a similar $128k asset. Interesting… Are these two assets really that different? Sure, the risk profile is different, but not as different as people would have thought 4 years ago.
The real difference is access. Leaving aside the risk of foreclosure and the costs associated with credit repair, moving, etc., this person has $7,000 at risk and unlimited upside. Additionally, there is no other investment available to them with a lower risk profile or higher upside. This person probably could not even qualify for a real estate investment loan, but interestingly, they can get one chance to basically play with house money.
I would humbly submit that your primary residence is what you make of it. You can treat it like an investment, moving to an up and coming neighborhood every 4 – 7 years, investing in only the Spartan renovations that meet a certain return threshold, or you can treat it like your home, “investing” in renovations that make you smile a little bit every time you walk in the door. The choice is yours, but importantly, it is a choice. If you treat yourself as you would a tenant and you make sound investment decisions, you very well could do well with your primary investment. Given the easy access to financing, it may just be the biggest, safest investment in your portfolio. Or not, its really up to you.14 comments
If you are like me, you have a random sampling of news websites to keep you abreast of the happenings of the world every hour or so. It’s the age we live in; every data point, story, press release, blog post triggers a monsoon of pundits and analytical analysis that either sends you running for the hills or tripling down on your latest investment. If you don’t believe me, scroll through this reputable blog and tell me how I should be the most confident in years on Tuesday then be disappointed in home sales twice only a week later. With everything out there, how do you find the truth?
First, understand the underlying data. As it relates to real estate, one needs to be especially cautious. Data may or may not be adjusted for seasonality, it may or may not be a selection of particularly poor or particularly good markets, it may be new homes vs. existing homes, etc. With the need for new headlines every hour, data can and will be manipulated to tell whatever story is the flavor of the moment. Personally, I always start at one of the sources.
Second, understand the basics of real estate. Unlike the stock market, real estate is slow moving, plodding, and a hyper-local asset class. Despite what the headlines might say, you have not missed the bottom in many locations. If you are looking to buy a single family home, tomorrow will be just as good a day as yesterday, as will six months from now. Interest rates tend to move on a quarterly basis and rarely increase more than 0.25% in that time span. Sure, your neighbor might have a 3.75% interest rate, but your 4.25% will put your payments close enough and will still be historically, the lowest in our history.
Investors will likely need to act with more urgency. In most of the hardest hit markets, institutional investors (i.e., private / public corporations with lots of money to spend) have quietly been buying up homes at a breakneck pace. Trying to find a bargain in Florida or Nevada is no longer a slam dunk. Additionally, finding lenders that will do anything beyond the bread and butter multifamily investment will also be a challenge. Small investors had a great window 12 months ago, but now that window is closing rapidly. Rapid in real estate could mean six months from now, but it could also mean yesterday.
Last, but most importantly, understand your market. National real estate statistics rarely add value to a local buyer. Real estate is cyclical everywhere; however, the size and length of the peaks and valleys can vary dramatically. If GM moves a plant in your neighborhood to another state, you can bet prices will move aggressively downward no matter what the national real estate market is doing. Understanding this differentiates great realtors from the rest of the pack.
Amazing realtors don’t parrot pseudo-facts from newspapers or websites; they utilize stats to enhance their local market knowledge. Acting as the knowledgeable voice of reason to clients inundated with misinformation will only serve to build trust and respect for your craft.11 comments
Not everything can be coordinated in cyberspace. When you gotta move, don’t take a turn without Twist.
What is it? In the shortest possible summary, Twist is ETA software. You tell it where you’re going, it tells you and the people you’re meeting there when you will arrive. Or they can tell you when they will arrive, so you don’t waste time thumb-twiddling. ETA is calculated on your actual motion, so it doesn’t tell anyone anything until you actually hit the road.
Twist integrates with iCal (which integrates with Google Calendar). It will tell you when you need to leave for an appointment so you won’t be late.
It also taps into your contact database, so you can select any destination you already know about. Twist keeps track of your past destinations, so reusing them is a breeze. And you can set up favorite destinations you use all the time (like your home or office), adding in the contacts associated with that site, for one-touch Twisting. (Realtors: Think about how many times you go back to a house you have listed or put under contract.)
And it integrates with Google Maps to give you driving directions and real-time progress updates on your travels. I don’t use GPS, and I’m off-the-charts kinesthetic, so this is more gee-whiz fun for me that something I need, but the people on the other end can track my mapping, too.
Here’s the PR movie for Twist, which for some reason is focused on dating:
Who (besides nervous daters) can use Twist? Happily-committed couples; if you’re cheating, Twist will tell on you. Bosses with drivers on the road, stipulating that the ability to supervise creates a liability for failure to supervise. And: Real estate professionals. Twist makes it easy to plan your day, to coordinate with clients, vendors and other team members — and to tell your spouse and kids when they might expect to see you again.
What would I change in the software?
I want every event in my calendar to be Twisted automatically, in the background, without my intervention. Moreover, I want the calendar integration to be more heuristic: It it looks like a street address, use it. Software that tries to engineer me is never fun.
I want the ETA estimates to be based on my track record as a driver. I move through space at least 30% faster than Twist thinks I should. Over time, the ETA times should be based on my actual pace and not Twist’s (and Google’s?) surmises.
Likewise, if I regularly deviate from the suggested route (I know all the sneaky back ways to get where I’m going), I want to use my route, not Twist’s. Anyone coming by separate vehicle should have my superior route to follow, as well.
There’s more that I haven’t even talked about: Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, walking and mass-transit options, weather, photos (including Google street view), etc. If you are committed to living a fully transparent life, Twist gives you a documented paper trail for all your movements and appointments.
Hiding from the spouse? Hiding from the boss? Hiding from The Man? Twist is not for you. But if you want to maximize your use of the precious minutes of your day, it’s a sweet little app.4 comments
It’s been quite a while since I last wrote on Bloodhoundblog. It certainly doesn’t mean that I have been absent; frankly, it just means I have been too busy to take 30 minutes and compose an interesting thought provoking piece of writing up to the standard we have all come to know and love on this site.
But I digress, as a real estate investor I have only worked with two great brokers in my entire investing career. I find most run-of-the-mill brokers to be under-educated, uninspired, and more interested in cashing a check by any means necessary than actually meeting my needs. The first broker was a dynamic “buyers” broker, who understood my investment goals and my available capital. Rather than over promising and under delivering, she relentlessly showed me house after house for 4 weekends straight until we found the right quaint little fixer-upper in my price range. Her reward, a $2,000 commission on a $40k home sale and my testimony.
What was my testimony worth? I did two more deals with her, both taking much less time and for a much higher dollar value in the next year (+$10k to her bottom line). I did another deal with her the following year for another $10k to her and I referred her like crazy to all of my investing friends. Even if none of them bought a single thing from her, she turned a $2k commission into $20k, at no additional cost to her and very little time thanks to her investment in me and her in-depth market knowledge.
Realtor number two is basically the same story, but add a few more zeros given some career advancement and price appreciation (Detroit vs. New York City).
From a buyer’s perspective, I am looking for the following qualities:
- Market Knowledge – I don’t need you to print off a list of 80 comps (not reviewed 90% of the time) and ask me what I think. I need you to send me a targeted list of homes you have been inside and already know will meet 90% of my needs. I need you to know why this block is superior to the next and I need you to know something about the seller if at all possible.
- Industry Knowledge – As an investor, I run my own spreadsheets, but I do need you to have a general sense of what properties make sense for investors vs. homeowners. We are different. A home does not qualify as an investment just because it can produce enough rent to cover the mortgage. I need to understand what kind of appreciation this market can expect. Are there good schools in the area? Is it a transitional neighborhood where I should be looking to hold for 3 – 5 years, or is it a heavy flip area where I could probably sell it to another investor? Any new commercial / retail coming to the area? Have a general idea about capitalization rates?
- Passion – Realtors that don’t love real estate should not be employed in real estate. If you don’t spend at least one hour a day looking at interesting real estate articles in your area just for the fun of it, you are not the person I want to hire. It’s great to love putting people in homes, but to be an amazing realtor you need to love homes, neighborhoods, and almost everything else there is to love about real estate. This is one of those characteristics you know when you see it immediately.
Are there other qualities that make a Realtor great, sure, competitive spirit, entrepreneurial drive, basic customer service skills, etc, but the three qualities above are my base criteria.
I am going to make a committed effort to start writing once a week again. Thank you to Don for knocking the cobwebs off of my keyboard.7 comments
Project Glass. Too much to love. Phone with no hands. Video with no hands. Internet with no hands. I can use an iPad when I need it, but 80% of what I’m doing with mobile computing, this can do. Here is where we’ll miss Steve Jobs. Google is better than Microsoft with new ideas, but what we’ll notice, when this ships, is everything that should be there but isn’t.
More: No phone on-board, no stereo ear-buds. A lot of hardware for so little functionality, a lot of room for me-tooish clones. This is the first of many new ideas where the passing of Steve Jobs will be sorely felt.
Six years ago Friday, I launched BloodhoundBlog with the words cited in the headline:
In a subsistence culture, the work of the mind is precious and literally unsupportable. We are by now so rich that millions of people can create intellectual resources that they give away, in turn to be remarketed by others. This may or may not work in the long run for companies tapping into and amplifying open-source-like works of the mind. Consider that aggregator software levels the playing field for small players. The interesting thing is what it will do to companies whose entire business model is based on scarcity and hoarding. If almost-as-good is free or nearly free, what is the market value of slightly-better?
I’ve hit that theme again and again over the years: How much future is there in a job that millions of very smart people are willing to do for free?
Stewart Brand said “information wants to be free”. This has intellectual property implications far beyond ordinary information. But with respect to that ordinary information — news, opinion, fiction, poetry, almost all music, etc. — the war is over. Hoarding lost. The challenge amidst this vast abundance is not getting people to pay for your information — but simply getting them to pay attention to it.
The daily newspaper has no hope whatever of nicking me for fifty cents. The question that will decide if there is even to be a newspaper is, can they hold onto my eyes for as long as fifty seconds? And will someone pay for those eyes in the random hope of piercing my vast indifference to advertising?
It comes down to career advice, I think, for the newspaperati and for all of us: How much future is there in a job that millions of very smart people are willing to do for free? Maybe not the same work, but so close that any differences become academic. And: If you’re committed to sharing information even in a marketplace where ordinary information is so abundant as to be without monetary value, what are you going to do to make a living?
At Forbes magazine, Susannah Breslin offers advice on why you should not be a writer. Her arguments seem a little defensive to me, but it’s hard to fault her for that: She’s getting paid to write — for now — but getting paid to create ordinary information seems like a diminishing return to me. Here’s why: The quantity of ordinary information available to you is ludicrously infinite. The quantity of time you have available for that information is tragically finite. You can’t begin to make a dent in all the stuff that is available to you for free. Why would you pay for more?
That’s a question that elicits a dinosaur’s roar from paleo-journalist Leonard Pitts:
The function served by daily newspaper journalism is critical to the very maintenance of democracy.
That reads to me like the the opening argument in a plea for tax-payer subsidies. Good luck with that…
The death of pay-for-play in the lesser arts results from the massive horizontalization of art. If I used to read the newspaper at lunch but now I catch up with my Facebook friends, why am I still subscribing to the newspaper? Reading is reading, and reading about people I like is more fun that getting heartburn over the antics of Obama or Romney. Mindshare is finite and the content competing for it is infinite. What is the market value of a commodity available in infinite quantities? Zero. Don’t like that? Dang…
Salon magazine wonders, “What happens if no one pays for music?” The answer? The band plays on. What currency actually motivates artists? Attention. They want to get paid, but they need to be noticed. If the artists who want to get paid more than they want to be noticed go get other jobs… no one will notice. The working conditions at the Malaysian shoe factory are terrible, but the line outside the personnel office is two miles long. Meanwhile, for consumers, crap art is crap art, and free crap art is the richest kind. How do we know all this is so? Because the crap artists who used to get paid by standing athwart the chokepoint now sing lyrics written for them by Leonard Pitts: “The function served by forgettable-music-for-pay is critical to the very maintenance of democracy.” Yeah. Good luck with that, too…
This is all very funny to me, because it is obvious to each one of as consumers, and, simultaneously, completely opaque to us as producers: We want everything we can get for free, but we want to be paid for everything we have for sale. Here’s the way the world really works: You own your property to the exact extent you can defend it. This has always been the case, it’s just more obvious as the marginal value of commodity goods plummets and the marginal cost of defending them soars. Rock stars want for you to subsidize the expense of defending their essentially worthless property. Journalists go them one better, appealing for coerced hand-outs in exchange for their worthless prose. Neither of these irrational arguments is likely to hold up for long. How many taxpayer-funded ceremonial blacksmiths do you have in your town?
Here’s the funniest bit of all, though: Academics want to know who is going to pay them for regurgitating the same swill over and over again, when a much better teacher can do the job once, perfectly, and teach a billion students effectively for free:
Inevitably, as colleges struggle with competition, they will be torn between using their credentialing authority to better sell their own courses rather and allowing students to choose the courses offering them the best value. Will they uphold the public trust that is manifest in degree-granting authority—or use credentialing to pursue profit-maximizing strategies?
If you have any doubts about the answer to that question, take it up with Leonard Pitts — or your favorite ex-rock star.
Again: If almost-as-good is free or nearly free, what is the market value of slightly-better?
Not much. And if you think that’s a bad thing, you just might be a dinosaur…
(Cross-posted from SelfAdoration.com.)
A note to the Bloodhounds: I want to come in from the cold. If you know of a biggish Phoenix brokerage that could use my skills and assets, I’d appreciate the referral. –GSS
I own a very small boutique real estate brokerage — good reputation, strong good will, clean books, and colossal internet power — but I am ready to move on to something else. Stripped to the essence, this is what I have to offer:
- A very strong internet presence consisting of several hundred-thousand web pages on a number of domains. I have several custom-built automated IDX sites, and I can throw 300,000+ backlinks at any web page, raising any web site’s standings in the Search Engine Results Pages virtually overnight.
- A FlexMLS-based IDX real estate search site that scores on the first page of Google for a number of very-high-value search terms.
- Me: A sales professional with a deep background in print and internet marketing and strong systems, applications and API programming skills. I built all of the web sites discussed below, and I have a lot of experience building workable IDX/VOW RETS solutions from the FlexMLS database. I have high-level relationships with real estate industry technical professionals and vendors, and I can present comfortably to groups from 50 to 50,000 people.
In short, I have a freight train’s worth of internet power being pulled by a mule-powered real estate business. The interent presence I bring to the table would be of substantially greater benefit to a much larger brokerage. Here is a summary of my internet assets:
- BloodhoundRealty.com — Main brokerage lead-generation site. It’s built as a WordPress weblog at the top level, but it subsumes thousands of pages, including separate web pages for every community and subdivision in Metropolitan Phoenix. The idea is to capture long-tail searches and upstream them into qualified leads. I have technology, so far not implemented, to effect the same kind of long-tail search-capture for every street address in Metropolitan Phoenix, taking those searches back from the national Realty.bot sites like Zillow.com, Trulia.com and Realtor.com.
- FreePhoenixMLSSearch.com — The most robust MLS search in Metropolitan Phoenix, and one of the strongest MLS sites in SEO performance. This site is a consistent source of motivated buyer leads. The IDX-driven sites discussed below drive click-traffic back to this site to keep potential buyers engaged as they refine their searches.
- Ascende.me — Pictured above, this is an iPad-optimized IDX-driven luxury homes catalog. This site can be repurposed to support subdivision listing farms for individual agents. This is the future of internet real estate marketing to both buyers and sellers and no one has it but me.
- DistinctiveParadiseValleyHomes.com — A weblog built to rhapsodize Paradise Valley luxury properties.
- ABetterListing.com — A site devoted to marketing to equity sellers, a demographic category we may soon see more of.
- PhoenixShortsaleValues.com — A site focused on marketing to short sale sellers.
- Re-brandable lead-generation sites — These are running as automated IDX-driven sites now, capturing and upstreaming long-tail searches.
- DistinctivePhoenix.com — Metropolitan Phoenix luxury properties.
- DistinctiveParadiseValley.com — Paradise Valley luxury properties.
- DistinctiveScottsdale.com — Scottsdale luxury properties.
- PhoenixAreaShortsaleListings.com — Pre-approved short sale listings.
- PhoenixRentalValues.com — Properties likely to appeal to rental home investors.
- Real estate weblogging sites — Real estate industry-specific weblogging.
- BloodhoundBlog.com — National real estate industry weblog with long-standing SEO reach. This site is free of real estate hucksterism, and I will want to sustain that intellectual independence regardless of any arrangement we might make.
- PhoenixRealEstateTechnologyExchange.com — A real estate technology site ripe for repurposing.
- RealEstateWeblogging101.com — Fundamentals of real estate social marketing.
I’m open to just about any idea, but I’m initiating this discussion in pursuit of compensation. I can help you maintain and build upon these internet investments as well as maximizing and building upon the value of your existing net presence, but my immediate objective is to transfer my business assets to a broker better equipped to manage them. I have skills that are in very short supply, and I want to maximize the value of my intellectual capital. As it says in the headline, I’m looking for a buyer, a partner, an investor or a job. If you want to push your business to a higher level on the internet, I want to hear from you.26 comments
What’s the real difference between a broker and a salesperson? Whatever his or her license status, the broker is one who knows the deal ain’t done until you’ve got the money. Starting in April, DocuSign is going to make a broker’s life a lot easier:
DocuSign’s upcoming April release ushers in a new era for the global standard for eSignature with the introduction of Payment Processing. Once available, you will be able to close the deal and collect the cash with DocuSign in one step to further accelerate transaction times, increase speed to revenue, reduce costs and enhance your customers’ experience.
It’s PayPal, and the charges are plausibly reversible, so it’s not perfect money. But this is document-as-storefront, a whole new way for paper-pusher to sell.
Note to the vendorslut mafia: I gain nothing by chastising you for your unbounded mediocrity, which is why I’ve stopped paying attention entirely to your artifacts of ineptitude. But take careful note: DocuSign knows how to deliver the goods. They are in a constant added-value mode, with the result that no less-motivated competitor can even come close to them. It’s not just the features, it’s how they are implemented — software-as-a-service in both directions, with a REST API coming in the new release.9 comments
Lunchtime links: Will the robo-signing settlement fail? Will Western Civ collapse to ruins? Who cares? Sheldon Cooper lives!
From good friend of the dawgs, Jim Klein, comes this grim reminder of the times we live in: SurvivalRealty.com.
Todd Zywicki finds the robo-signing settlement unsettling.
But despair you nothing: There is a real-life Sheldon Cooper going to high school in Nevada.
Limited lunchtime? Give it all to the third article. It’s the best read, and the most inspiring. The world runs by itself, but your spirit does not. Feed it wisely.1 comment