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Archive for September, 2011

Who “Nose” What’s Right?

This is an article whose inception has come from some recent interactions on other blogs with regard to NAR’s update of Article 10 of the Code of Ethics concerning discrimination against sexual orientation. Though I participated in commentary on this topic, what really was bothering me was what follows. Simply put, I’m pretty damned tired of being proselytized and dumbed down by NAR, and even more tired of watching the planet forsake common sense because crafty special interest groups have figured out how to dilute the “Fathertongue” so as to render it useless.

I’m against “Gay Marriage”, and wanted to talk with you about why.

Wait, excuse me for a minute…there’s a bunch of people at my door.  Oh my, it’s the ACLU, some folks with signs with something about LGBT on them, some reporters from MSNBC, and even someone from NAR with a photocopy of the newly amended Article 10 sexual orientation anti-discriminatory verbiage.

Ground rule #1 – This is not about religion. Yes, I am a Christian, and yes Christians mostly believe that gay marriage is not appropriate. Yes, I’m one of them. But in this article you get no traction with any comments slamming Christianity. This is not about my faith. As with most “discrimination” issues, I am well able to separate my philosophy and faith from an honest discussion about rule of law, society, sociology, the family, and more importantly, the long hand of a master to whom I owe no allegiance.

Your Right to Throw a Punch Ends Where My Nose Begins

This saying has been a way of life for me for as long as I was able to stick up for myself. Hopefully you won’t find the saying controversial. It’s a reminder that I am an individual, complete and independent, and while we do in fact interact, your right to exercise your independence ends where my “nose” begins. You may shout or debate. You may whisper behind my back, or come to my door with placards. You may join with your own pugilists to wage war on my philosophy. You may lobby and convince. All these things you may do. But you must stop your fist where my nose begins.

The Marketing Wordsmith

My stand in saying I am “against” gay marriage comes from my long love of the written and spoken word. I’ve written that we must say what we mean, and that doing otherwise because of societal or group pressure always demeans and diminishes us. Greg Swann writes eloquently of these pressures in an essay at SplendorQuest.com.

I think that Greg uses the term “fathertongue” to describe the activity of communicating with the use of the written and spoken word. He differentiates this from “mothertongue” communications, nonverbal in nature. And so if it follows that we communicate, and that communication is a lynchpin that holds society together, then understanding, respecting and mastering the written and spoken word are skills all of us should undertake to the best of our abilities.

Believe me, those who work in the field of marketing have in fact mastered this art, and I’ll use these marketing wordsmiths’ work products to demonstrate how and why the word “marriage ” morphed from X to Y while the “fathertongue” watchmen slept in the tower.

We Say X…but we Mean Y

Here’s some examples of how we’ve lost our way with words, and more importantly, the real meaning behind those words.

• If you take a pregnant woman and force the early termination of a child she is carrying….it was called an abortion. Now it’s “a woman’s right to choose.
• We used to call the duty we owed to our country the Selective Service. Now it’s the All Volunteer Army.
• We used to talk about same sex relationships as homosexuality. Now it’s “gay rights.”

You see, the marketing folks figured out that if you SAY it over and over, this new phrase for the old phrase, we’ll dumb down and forget what the original term actually meant. Only I haven’t forgotten…and I really care.   You should, too.

Marriage – The Union of a Man and a Woman

You know the phrase, don’t you? “It’s the economy, stupid.” Small talk, hardball, softball, gamesmanship, scare tactics….none of these hide the obvious. We all know what this phrase means.

Marriage. You know what it means. Boy meets girl. Guy meets gal. Man and woman join together. Kids (mostly the old fashioned way, with an occasional wonderful adoption). This what the word marriage means.

We have other words to describe relationships. Dating. Going steady. Living together. Friends with benefits. Different words, all of which denote a different relationship with a different set of facts.

Why then, I ask, change the true meaning, context and value of the word marriage, a word and relationship from which we have germinated and grown our society over these many years? Will you replace MY fathertongue with yours? Will you thrust your fist into my nose, insisting you have a right which I do not? Will a segment of this democracy numbering 20% or less dictate a change in my right to use the commonest of words in the commonest of ways to communicate the commonest of relations?

Oh, but gay couples want equal rights. They want the right to live together, bring children into their families, devise and contract as couples, obtain the right to be considered direct family for such things as medical care, visitation, etc. And do I protest these?

Not for one moment. I’ve been an advocate for these changes for many years. A child of the 1960’s, Vietnam, and the Civil Rights movement left me well equipped to stamp out discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head. (I surely did not need NAR to remind me of this as they felt they had to in Article 10 of their Code of Ethics….but thanks daddy).

Just don’t usurp my word.

You can have these words (or more) – civil union, civil partners, LGBT’s….and I’ll march with you to the legislatures to see that the rights I mentioned above are provided rightfully to you.

Just don’t try to morph my word.

But Things and Meanings Change Over Time

Sure, some things have changed.

  • I used to think that what Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather said was true….turns out it wasn’t always.
  • I used to think my baseball heroes were, well heroes. Rose, Bonds and Clemmons prove otherwise.
  • I used to think Congress had the only right to declare war. Billions of dollars and thousands of lives later…..guess not.
  • Used to be that “R” rates movies had some bad language and some frontal nudity (mostly female and breasts only). Now……(don’t get me started).
  • And you used to be able to stand toe to toe with another person, shout, scream, spill venom, and if fisticuffs broke out a Band-Aid usually fixed the damage. Now, it’s shoot first, stab second, defame publicly third. No one understands the importance, the tradition, the meaning of discourse any longer.

Don’t Get Your Nose Out of Shape

Who “nose” if I’m right about gay marriage? Remember, it’s the word “marriage”, and its common and well established usage that I am unwilling to cede over to a special interest group. (Yes, LGBT is, by just about any standard, a special interest group).

Who “nose” if NAR had to take the step of reminding all of us that discrimination, in any form, is discrimination? I suppose if our governing body thinks we’re unable to conduct ourselves without discriminating, then it should come as no surprise that the general public likewise fails to discriminate our profession from that of politicians, lawyers and car salesmen.  (Again, no offense intended to you should you fall into these categories….but you know what I’m talking about, don’t you?)

So if you’d like to punch me out because I’ve expressed a view with which you do not agree, then just remember to be nice. Your right to throw your punch ends where my nose begins.

60 comments

Splendor on — and in spite of — Labor Day.

This is me looking back on looking back on a Labor Day a long time ago. The first extract was written on Labor Day, 2005, as the City of New Orleans was demonstrating for all of us that dependence on government is a fatal error. The second extract was written a year or two before that. And the Labor Day I am talking about there must have been eleven or twelve years ago. Even so, every bit of this is perfectly apposite to the world we live in now — more is the pity.

This is me from elsewhen. I think about this every year at Labor Day. I spent much of the weekend working on business planning issues, macro, micro and meta. I remember from the days when I had a job how much I relished long weekends, because I could build so much on vast tracts of uninterrupted time. I did a bunch of money work last week, but my weekend was virtually my own — to fill with the work that too often takes a back seat to money work. Off and on we had Fox News on in the office, and the whining, pissing and moaning was an effective counterpoint to my entire way of life. My world is where the Splendor is, no alternatives, no substitutions, no adulterations, no crybaby excuses:

The time of your life is your sole capital. If you trade that time in such a way that you get in exchange less than you really want, less than you might actually have achieved, you have deliberately cheated yourself. You have acted to your own destruction by failing to use your time to construct of your life what you want most and need most and deserve most. You have let your obsession or anger — over what amounts to a trivial evil in a world where people are shredded alive — deprive you of all of the rest of your values. This is anegoic, acting contrary to the true needs of the self.

One of my favorite memories is of a Labor Day years ago. My son and I were out riding our bikes and we rode to a CompUSA to see all the latest software. The store was packed. Middle managers poring over the PERT packages, programmers pawing through hefty manuals, yuppie couples testing eduware with their little yuppiekinder. Labor Day is a holiday established by people who hate human productivity, who hate the human mind. It is a day set aside on the calendar to celebrate and sanctify indolence — and violence. And there in the CompUSA were the men and women of values. The people who know that to be more and have more, you must learn more and do more.

Those are my people. I love them better than any other people I meet. I work with them, laugh with them on the phone, transact business with them. I love to write about them. There are no villains, none more significant than bugs. But there are heroes. For the most part, they can’t defend their beliefs the way I can. But they live those beliefs, every day.

I think it is hypocrisy to say, “I will cooperate with the state when I shower, when I drive, when I don’t want a landfill behind my house, but I will pretend to rebel with respect to this one of the hundreds of taxes, all the rest of which I will pay without batting any eye.” But that notwithstanding, to deliberately frustrate your own self-adoration, to deliberately circumscribe your own self-actualization, to deliberately forbid yourself to live to the fullest of your capacity — that is a tax that could only be self-inflicted. No tyrant could be that diabolical. Behaving this way is anegoic, acting contrary to the true needs of the self.

The time from the birth of human awareness, age four or so, to its death, closely correspondent to your corporeal demise, is all the life you have as a human being. To deny yourself all you can have, because it is not all you otherwise might have had, is anegoic, acting contrary to the true needs of the self. The people in the West who are most free of the bonds of other people are not the tax scofflaws or the libertarians or the imaginary prudent predators. They’re the people crowding every cultural equivalent of CompUSA, working assiduously to figure out how to achieve the most and the best of all of their values, from first to last.

I think this is where true human freedom starts.

6 comments

Unchained melody: Robert Earl Keen, Feelin’ good again.

This is my kind of country song, a celebration of what human social interaction can be and should be.

This is what Don Reedy comes to BloodhoundBlog for. Teri Lussier, too. Al Lorenz, as well, I think, all of them in their own ways, along with a few other folks.

The funny part is, I’m actually pretty poor at delivering that experience here.

That feelin’-good-again feeling comes not so much from BloodhoundBlog as it does from BloodhoundBlog Unchained, from our memories of our shared experiences in Phoenix, Orlando and Seattle.

Here’s why: BloodhoundBlog Unchained brought out the best in you, wherever we did it. We were all of us learning, all of us teaching, and all of us were appreciated for our accomplishments. Just making it through our killer workdays was an achievement all on its own, but what made those workdays feel so right was that your virtues were fully visible to everyone, and each one of us was in full agreement about the worthiness and admirability of those virtues.

I am due some credit for this, I think. You cannot both attract my attention and hide from me. I learn a lot about the people I see from every opportunity I have to observe them. I have done this for my entire adult life, and I know I am good at it. When I see you, even if you don’t know I am aware of you, I am figuring out everything I can about you, gleaning every implication I can from every action of yours I am aware of. I can do a plausible back-story on just about anyone, and if I take the time to think about you, any secrets you keep from me will be matters of meaningless detail. I will have inferred everything about you that matters to you.

That’s actually a fine reason to dismiss me: I am scary-good at “reading” people.

But that matters in this context because I think that feelin’-good-again feeling starts with me seeing, understanding, admiring and celebrating your virtues — and celebrating you for being so wonderfully virtuous — by my standards and by your own. I know I can bring out the worst in bad people, but to the extent that I can bring out the best in good people, this is how I do it: By acknowledging and taking delight in the best you have within you.

At BloodhoundBlog Unchained, that kind of shared visibility and celebration of virtue was the common culture, for the short spans of time we were together. And it is that feelin’-good-again feeling that many of us are seeking here, too.

And thus I must conclude that I have been a poor host. I’ve always wanted for BloodhoundBlog to be a force for good in the real estate industry, but the reality is that almost no one in residential real estate representation, at least, has much interest in being good. Not good at representing their clients. Not good at selling real estate. And most especially not good at being a decent, honest, productive member of society.

To the contrary, most Realtors seem to me to be congenital rent-seekers in everything they do — oily, deceptive hucksters offering minimal value but demanding maximum compensation and always angling for Rotarian Socialist giveaways from the state — at the expense of their own clients.

This is not something I’m happy about, if you hadn’t guessed.

But it profits me nothing to dwell on these sad facts. The people I’m talking about know who they are. They’re the folks who are feeling huffy and insulted right now. But because they’re feeling huffy and insulted, there is no chance whatever that they will change their behavior, not right now: Acting huffy and insulted is how you justify behavior you already know is wrong. If you thought you were actually in the right, you would feel dismissiveness or, most appropriately, indifference. An error is comical, at best. You put on a display of offended virtue — to fool whom? — when you are caught and you won’t admit it.

Have fun with that. I don’t care. I live in a world of splendor, and there is nothing of mine to be found in any kind of squalor.

Which is not to imply that I will stop bitching at the NAR, at Inman, at the vendorsluts and all of their grateful victims. I won’t cross the street to step on a cockroach, but the proper fate of cockroaches is to be stepped on, when they come too near true human values.

But: At the same time: I am working at a larger game. If you are a friend of the dogs who knows and likes that feelin’-good-again feeling — that feeling of being admired by people you like and respect for what you yourself see as your most admirable qualities and feeling that same admiration for them — I want for you to have more of that. And if you’re someone who has always missed out on that feeling — I’d like to show you how to find it.

I’m doing most of that work at SplendorQuest.com. It’s on-topic there, not so much here. As my time permits, I want to document everything I know about this — about the proper care and functioning of the human ego. I’ve been saying this for three years, so it’s time I got it done.

Meanwhile, that probably means less big stuff from me here. I can’t not write here. I’m bursting with things to say. But the heavier reading is going to end up over there — and I invite you to join me there.

What does that mean here? I’m thinking it means the other contributors need to step up to the plate. I have never pushed people to write here — and I never, ever want anyone writing here from that creepy, rent-seeking hustle and jive. But for the writers here who like seeing that feelin’-good-again feeling on our pages, I’ll tell you where it comes from:

You come up with an idea you’re really proud of. You work it out so that you know that it really works — and why it works. You write it up for BloodhoundBlog. And the dogs eat it up. It’s the formula we started with, and it’s always worked great. Not only do you feel good about the work you’ve done, everyone feels better. The comments might unearth even better ideas, which can turn into new discussions.

The good — the pursuit and practice of virtuous behavior — is simply this: Continuously getting better at being alive as a fully-human being. This is a job BloodhoundBlog can do. How do I know? Because I can see it in your eyes — from any distance. I might be a lousy host, but I am honored to have such wonderful people as my guests.

8 comments

Eat you hearts out, social mediocrities: I’m a six-figure TwitWit.

From my PhoenixBargains Twitter account:

Doesn’t count, of course. It’s all software, and you can be assured I waste not one second of my time documenting my belches.

Why do I do it? I could name some nebulously plausible benefits, but this is the truth:

I do it because I think it’s funny, and because I can.

5 comments

Some black real estate humor for Friday: We have to destroy the village to save it? No, save it first, then destroy it.

A couple of real estate headlines from the you-have-to-laugh section of the news-nets:

From the New York Times, when a bank is too big to fail, you have to rescue it so you can sue it later. Missing, for some reason, from the list of parties to be sued: Barney Franks, Christopher Dodd, Andrew Cuomo, the NAR — and FannieMae and FreddieMac. Given that crony-“capitalist” Warren (tax-me-more-please) Buffett just dumped billions into the Bank of America, I’m thinking we can look forward to this lawsuit ending with a whimper.

Meanwhile, in bucolic New London, CT, the land that the city fought all the way to the Supreme Court for the “right” to steal in the famous Kelo case is now — wait for it — a dumping ground. Nice.

5 comments

Google Thinks Your IDX Site Sucks

There are plenty of places to go if this is your first time hearing about “Panda”, but the general idea is that Google has set out to target what it considers to be “low quality” content of the sort generally propagated by link farms, scrapers, and the eHows of the Web.

Any time Google makes a major change to their algorithm there are winners and losers, and you can count on the losers to raise a fuss about Google goring their ox. This time, Google has come back and said, in effect, “If you don’t publish crap you have nothing to worry about”.

The problem for those of us who currently rely on IDX to power listing search on broker and agent Web sites is that IDX content is, by Google’s definition, crap — and the crap has come home to roost: Some of our sites are down 30% since Panda hit.

This, finally, should force some brokers to address the issue of content quality and strategy, because the alternative is to pay through the nose for inquiries that Google would send, for free, if brokers understood what Google wants.

Here are some of the questions Google suggests site owners ask themselves about their content. I’ve picked a few that speak directly to real estate listings and IDX (the whole list is here). Every place that Google had the words “article”, “content”, or “page” I’ve inserted the real estate specific terminology {in brackets}:

  • Does the {listing detail page} provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
    Google is focused on sending its users to the creators of original content, because that is generally the best user experience. Since the listing agent is the only one who actually knows anything about the listing, that is doubly true for real estate.The irony is that all listing content — the text, the pictures, the video — is original content right up until the moment it goes into IDX and listing syndication. As soon as that happens, Google cannot distinguish the listing creator’s domain from the rest, and you have just given up the value of being the creator, which is basically to guarantee yourself #1 position in a Google search for your listing.
  • Does the {listing detail page} provide substantial value when compared to other {listing detail pages} in search results?
    Nope, everyone is using the exact same content.
  • How much quality control is done on {the listing} content?
    To paraphrase a former president, that depends on what your definition of “quality control” is.
  • Was the {the listing} edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
    90% of the time, there is no editing, no attempt to follow basic rules of grammar, and correct spelling is optional, especially if an abbreviation or acronym (that no homebuyer would search for) can be used instead of a real word.
  • Are the {listing detail pages} produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
    As it might be put by an agent according to the rule of thumb above, ROTFLMAO.
  • Does this {listing} provide a complete or comprehensive description of the {property}?
    How many IDX listings for a $250,000 home have you seen that have more content than the product page for a $25 book on Amazon?
  • Does this {listing} contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
    You mean beyond filling out the MLS form? God forbid.
  • Would you expect to see this {listing} in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
    Yes, The Darwin Awards.
  • Are the {listings} short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
    I would argue that listing pages loaded with facts like “Garage Y/N=Y” but lacking any context fit this description.
  • Are the {listings} mass-produced…or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
    Yup.

Let’s put this in perspective: Most people move locally. The median distance people move is 12 miles after living in the same place for a median term of 9 years (sellers of single family, detached homes in 2010 according to NAR). Therefore, most people know what streets, neighborhoods, developments, and very often, which specific house they are interested in.

That means real estate is, and always will be, fundamentally a search-driven business.

Most users naturally know the keywords that describe the properties they might want to see and have little patience for search forms that want them to pick towns out of a drop down list, what property type they want, and how many bathrooms.

The easiest, most direct way to get the listing information they want is to use the same search engine they use for everything else, so that is what they do.

Google controls somewhere between 65 and 70% of what comScore calls “explicit core searches”, ergo, most real estate searches start on Google.

When those homebuyers google a listing, Google (or Yahoo, or Bing) returns a list of domains that often does not include the listing broker, but they have the listing broker’s content and are most likely associating it with another broker’s agent unless they are getting paid not to.

The solution is simple in theory and I’ve advocated it before: Send basic, low-quality content to IDX and syndication and create rich, high quality content that you reserve for your own domain or a domain that is specific to the listing.

The problem is getting agents to execute that theory: I’ve lost a lot of them with the “create rich, high quality content” part because that sounds like work (because it is).

But maybe now that Google is systematically pushing the last of the local broker domains off of Page 1 while national domains like Realtor.com and Century21.com move up, brokers will finally wake up and either demand quality content or pay someone to create it.

Or they can just give up and pay to get the same inquires that Google would send them, for free, from the sites that have the heft (which now seems to mean branding) that enables them to use the same old low quality crap listing content to beat them in Google — and keep those MLS, syndicator and franchise bills coming.

19 comments

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