Category: Computer & Internet

Microsoft announces new Photosynth iPhone app to create panoramic photos and tours on the go

Photosynth is a great tool designed to create 3D “experiences” and panoramas, and has always had great potential for real estate marketing, in addition to the travel industry and for anyone else intellectually curious about the world around them. By taking a series of fully-comprehensive photos, the user/creator can use Photosynth to “stitch” these photos together to create a unique and interactive tour of the subject, be it a museum, a travel destination or a house for sale.

Microsoft and the Photosynth team annouced this week that they have released a new iPhone app that can create a tour on the go, and it can create full panoramas from a series of individual photos that you snap with your device’s camera.

Compatible with the iPhone 3Gs and 4, the iPad 2, and the iPod Touch 4G, Photosynth is simple to use. You just point your device at the subject and tap the screen to snap the first photo. The app then prompts you to position your device to take the next shot. You can then either tap the screen to shoot again or wait for the app to automatically snap the next photo. You keep doing this until you’ve captured the full panorama of shots to include.

Head engineer and architect Blaise Aguera y Arcas explains the new release on video. He’s the guy that did that TED talk that people are still raving about, and I’m sure he’s got more cool things coming up in the pipeline. He’s been shooting dozens of new Photosynth’s around town that he’s posting on his FB page.

Today, I made my own Photosynth of a listing I have for sale on Capitol Hill. It’s only 87% synthy, and next time I’ll shoot higher and lower to get a more dynamic tour of the main rooms, but it’s a good start and is much better than the video I made

324 17th Avenue East, Seattle WA 98112

Others involved in real estate also have applause for this new app. Lani Rosales at Agent Genius says,

We’ve shown you a tool for panoramic videos and the new Photosynth app has major implications in the real estate world – can you say “virtual tours made in seconds” on the go? What once took an expert professionals hours to create can be stitched on a smartphone in seconds and shared on Facebook.

Realtors can upload their Photosynth images to Bing maps and even be alongside business search results!!! Even listings can be Photosynthed and put on Bing maps. If you thought Bing traffic surge was impressive as of last week, it’s about to get even better… Microsoft isn’t playing around, they’re serious about Bing.

My husband and I were excited to participate in the first launch of Photosynth by lending our house for an interior shoot for a commercial starring Laura Foy for Microsoft and Channel 9 TV.

During the shoot, Group Program Manager David Gedye, shot a wonderful and professional Photosynth of the interior of the main floor of our home. And if you look very carefully, you’ll find Jodavid and I, an Easter Egg for Easter weekend…..

David’s synth is, of course, 100% synthy.

Photosynth mobile app has epic implications for real estate

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Coldwell Banker Launches Application for iPhone and Android

Coldwell Banker today announced the launch of the first-ever international home search application for iPhone and Android-powered devices. The mobile application enables users to search for property listings and recent home sales in 28 countries and the results of these searches as well as the search itself can be saved in a personalized ‘My Coldwell Banker’ account newly created from the user’s smartphone or added to an existing account with coldwellbanker.com by logging into the site directly from the handheld device.

Features of the new application include:

1. GPS-based search to locate nearby homes for sale, open houses and recent homes sold.
2. Ability to sort recently sold properties by location, price and sale date.
3. Option to view search results in list form or on a variety of maps including street, hybrid and satellite that are marked with “clickable” Coldwell Banker Real Estate icons.
4. Detailed property listings that include images and a slideshow view.
5. Direct dial and e-mail functions from the user’s mobile handset to the local Coldwell Banker Real Estate listing agent associated with each property.
6. Real-time notifications of new properties and open houses identified through the user’s customized saved searches.

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Windows Live Mail is whack

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I get these all the time.

Emails directly from Windows Live Mail blocked for safety by Windows Live Mail.

If Microsoft can’t even deliver their own mail, why do we continue to trust them to deliver anyone else’s? I would love to use Outlook but last time I downloaded it, it erased all of my saved emails off the server.

Gmail has the same problem as Hotmail by limiting emails to 50 or 100 per page. That’s so annoying.

I wish I could find an email program that shows all of my emails on one page like MSN Mail or Outlook.

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Has Advanced Access jumped the shark?

fonzie-jumping-the-shark

I’ve had an Advanced Access website for 10 years and was very happy with it the first 5 or so, until the company was sold to Dominion. Since then, Customer Service is a disservice and the product continues to suffer.

They’ve had periodic outages almost every month, and this last week, they’ve announced several “down times” late at night to relocate their data center, but this weekend, the sites are out without explanation, we have no access to our “Virtual Office” to make needed updates and changes to our listings for our Open Houses on the weekend and no one is replying to emails and “Online Chat” is closed.

Most customers use their email forwarding service and that’s also been down for several days, with many of the customers unable to receive any emails at all and, to add insult to injury, no one is in the office and you can’t even call on the telephone and leave a message because the mailbox is FULL.

Obviously, their IT guys should have foreseen this and worked overtime or at least added some personnel to answer the phones on the weekend, but they didn’t. Calls and emails go unanswered and 1000’s of agents websites are unable to be edited and 1000’s more are unreachable via email.

I thought maybe I was the only disgruntled AA website owner, but I found pleny of other unhappy customers (soon to be ex-customers, I’m guessing.)

Advanced Access Sucks

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New home search application for Microsoft Surface

Coldwell Banker became the first national real estate brand to develop a home search application for the Microsoft Surface. The Coldwell Banker Home Search application allows one to search for properties, browse neighborhoods, amenities and more through the touchscreen interface. How cool is that? Of course, you can’t actually BUY the MS Surface yet, but it is available for commercial use, so you’ll have to come into the office to give it a try.

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Stretching the boundaries….

This aired the same day I got my new iMac. I had to load Fusion on there to run Windows too so I could use the MLS and update my website, neither of which worked with the Apple OS. I had Office for Mac, but then I discovered that my spellcheck wouldn’t work without Office for Windows too, so that’s more software I have to download (my old Office for Windows disc says it’s good for 3 computers, so why can’t I get this new one to recognize the disc? Geez.) This is about as clumsy as, well as………

Watch next Monday to see if Steve gets voted off the show….

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By nerds, for nerds?

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As a preview of what goes on at Bloodhound Unchained, Greg Swann and Brian Brady came to Seattle last week to lead a 1/2 day seminar at the Zillow headquarters in Downtown Seattle.

Blogging, social media, search and Real Estate 2.0 was discussed in earnest, and the day wrapped up with Mr. Swann and Glenn Kelman debating whether or not VC-backed real estate firms are going to eliminate the Mom-and-Pop real estate brokerage.

I don’t think they actually resolved this question, but Kelman’s musings on his business plan and the profile he presented of his current and future customer was interesting. (You can view the video here.)

Kelman said that he doesn’t expect to get all the real estate buyers out there, but a certain kind of buyer would be attracted to his business model. Typically those buyers would be techies, perhaps even described as nerds. He even told of a story about one of his employees wondering aloud why their clients were all so weird!

inman-and-tiny-hat-001

He recounts the story of the purchase of his first home. He said he was annoyed because the sales agent wanted to be his “friend” when all he wanted was to be shown houses that fit his criteria. He was especially annoyed when the agent wanted to take him to dinner. Kelman would have been just as happy to stay home and get the money instead. He guesses that there are other anti-social buyers out there that don’t want a personal relationship and would prefer to communicate via email and text message and avoid actual human contact as much as possible. For this person, Redfin was created.

Under discussion for several years now has been the observation that a great many people employed in the IT industry share some of the same traits as those described as having autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Many seem to lack basic social and motor skills, seem unable to decode body language and sense the feelings of others, avoid eye contact, and frequently launch into monologues about narrowly defined – and often highly technical – interests. They often want to avoid interaction with other humans and prefer numbers and logic to emotion and human interactions.


(Video from Wired)

Aside from some usual suspects from history (Isaac Newton, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein) and fictional pop culture (Mr. Spock, Mr. Bean, Sherlock Holmes), the name that most often comes up when discussing Asperger’s is that of the Master Geek himself, Bill Gates. (I doubt, however, that a true Asperger’s individual could ever endure the social requirements of Gates’ public life.)

I was wondering how I was going to work this photo into a blog post...
I was wondering how I was going to work this photo into a blog post...

After listening to Kelman discuss how Redfin was created and who it was created for, there appears to be a definite link between their creators, their customers and the range of the autism/Asperger’s Syndrome.

What I’ve noticed with my business and the type of client I do best with, are those who buy for emotional reasons. They rarely ask about statistics or the market, they just seem interested in how the house makes them “feel” and in envisioning their future home full of love, family and happy moments and memories. This seems to be completely opposite with a Redfin-style of buyer. Redfin’s individual city blogs have been converted from chatty commentary about homes and neighborhoods to columns full of dry statistics, mathematical formulas, bar graphs, charts and numbers, compiled by nerds for nerds.

I thank God for nerds, as we’d probably still be living in caves without them. We certainly wouldn’t have modern engineering, automobiles, airplanes, skyscrapers or computers. But obviously, society needs those who “think” and those who “feel” to function fully and thinking about that dichotomy in this way makes me understand their business model much better.

Asperger’s and IT: Dark secret or open secret? from Computer World

Revenge of the Nerds from the Autistic Society

Napoleon Dynamite: Asperger’s Disorder or Geek NOS? from Academic Psychiatry

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Seattle Real Estate Bar Camp

The name “BarCamp” is a reference to the events origin, with reference to the hacker term, foobar: BarCamp arose as a spin-off of Foo Camp, an annual attendant-driven conference hosted by Tim O’Reilly.

The ideas were absconded by and riffed upon by techies in the real estate field and Real Estate Bar Camp was born.

The most interesting thing about it is that it’s user/attendant created: the program is developed by the attendees at the event, using big whiteboards upon which a schedule is hastily put together, that can be rewritten or overwritten by attendees to optimize the days events. The goal is to reach out to new people who will increase the common intelligence about new technologies, and to create opportunities for cross-fertilization between people and new ideas.

How cool is that?

Seattle’s event was held at the lovely Zillow offices and a big shout-out and thank you goes to the management who allowed us to use their vacant offices for the event.

I enjoyed seminars on blogging, creating dynamic websites, Twitter and other social networking sites, something from Greg Swann called Scenius, a great presentation by Mike Simondson from Altos Research, and another about Active Rain from Rich Jacobson. I met the fellow behind WalkScore.com, which is a great way to rate the walkability of a neighborhood.

Rhonda Porter and Jim Reppond
Rhonda Porter and Jim Reppond

Greg Swann
Greg Swann

David Gibbons
David Gibbons

Whitney Tyner
Whitney Tyner

Rich Barton
Rich Barton

Jim, Lloyd Frink & Spencer Rascoff
Jim, Lloyd Frink & Spencer Rascoff

I got to listen to statistician Stan Humphries discuss Zillow’s data. I had a nice chat with Rhonda Porter and I guess Ardell was there, but I missed her somehow. I enjoyed seeing David Gibbons again and hearing about his roundabout journey to Zillow. I also got to meet a lot of the brains behind Zillow, Spencer Rascoff, Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink, and had a beer with my friend Whitney Tyner at the after-party beer blast that Zillow hosted in their 46th floor office suites.


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Woman sues city after it orders her to remove a link to the local cops’ website

A woman in Sheboygan, WI is suing the city because the city’s attorney used legal threats to get her to remove a link to the local police department website — the city apparently believes you need permission to communicate the URLs of its pages:

The city went further, the lawsuit claims, launching a criminal investigation of Reisinger for linking to the department on one of her sites.

Many agents offer community links for home shoppers, including links to their local police departments, city offices and neighborhood resources.

Sheboygan women files landmark case over Web links

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Faux Redfin

Tereau Redfin clone While reading Real Estate Webmasters forums, I came across a fellow named Ron Park from Tuscon who was enamoured with the Redfin site, so he hired a tech company in India to try to re-create Redfin’s mapping technology and cababilities. He wanted a Redfin clone for the Tuscon real estate market, and it’s unclear if he just wanted the mapping capabilities or if he was also going to copy their business model too, but he’s unhappy with the final product.

By hiring a discount off-shore company and Google maps instead of MS Virtual Earth, he got a pale imitation of the actual Redfin technology, and the map is slow and buggy.

It looks like, from his comments on the forums, that he paid about $10K for a site that probably would cost about 10 times that to develop, but now he wants to dispute his bill and he wants his money back.

By doing a little research he could have had an acceptable mapping feature to frame on his website using Real Bird, for $19 a month, that integrates listings from his own MLS. I use Real Tech and get an adequate mapping tool using Microsoft Virtual Earth and I pay $10 a month for that, and I’m able to put it on Seattle Dream Homes for a seamless home search. It even comes branded with my photo and contact information, and there are some great features that allow a shopper to save their favorites and forward those to me for future viewings, plus they can save their search criteria and have new listings forwarded to their in-box everyday.

The folks from India, taking the directive to make a Redfin clone seriously, even added a “Sweet Digs” section and a “Redfin Forums” feature. No Kelman-type PR master was included, however.

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Google launches Website Optimizer

Google has taken the beta label off a project that is significantly younger than Gmail, which remains in beta. Google Website Optimizer has been available to AdWords customers for the past year, but now the company is making it available to anyone who wants to test out different web site layouts.

Basically, the tool lets you try out different designs on you web page to see which one performs best. Want to see which ad unit is more likely to get people to click? Want to see which RSS icon is more likely to get people to subscribe to your site’s feed? Google Website Optimizer will let you set up an experiment and track the results.

There’s also a new Google Website Optimizer blog that you can follow for news and tips related to the tool. Since I do my own SEO for my websites, I’m looking forward to fiddling around with this new tool.

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What a Google penalty looks like

A day doesn’t go by when I’m not contacted by a real estate agent or a new blogger who wants to exchange links. I even get requests to add a link by webmasters of sites that have nothing to do with real estate. Knowing how Google views such reciprocal links, I’m tempted to remove even my blogroll. At the very least, I’ll think twice about adding anyone else.

Be careful before exchanging links with anyone, and avoid it if possible. Make your content so compelling that people link to you, and keep your outgoing links, especially on your homepage of your static site, limited.

What it Looks Like to Be Hit By Google’s Real Estate Reciprocal Link Penalty

Algorithm March

My main website is currently #1 in Google, in organic results, for the search terms “Seattle real estate for sale“, before Realtor.com, Trulia or any local real estate brokerage. It also is in the top 10 for “Seattle Homes”, “Seattle Homes for Sale” and “Seattle, Washington Real Estate”, and I try to update the site weekly. However, due to an old penalty, my site is practically non-existent in Yahoo. Though the penalty has been lifted, I’ve had a hard time getting anywhere or regaining my past placement.

Being penalized by Google for excessive and/or spammy reciprocal linking can take affect in several different ways. One of the most common ways is the -30 effect where your website is immediately dropped 30 ranking points. If you have experienced loss of rankings within Google and you have questionable spammy reciprocal links (especially Realtor to Realtor linking), you may be penalized. If you do believe you have been penalized, you will need to follow the Google reinclusion instructions after your site is cleaned up.

Top 10 Bad SEO Ideas

Complete list of best SEO Tools

How to Tell if Your Domain is Banned in a Search Engine

(NOTE: 4/15, the site is #2 for “Seattle Real Estate for Sale”. I wonder what I did wrong today??)

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Does that content belong to you?

Many of us have our own websites that we have created ourselves. They belong to us, not our company or brokerage or web host, right?

A few years ago, as an experiment, I purchased a “Connecting Neighbors” website. I was intrigued by the interactive nature of the site and I loved the automatic monthly newsletters that I could adapt to my own chosen neighborhood. It was a template site, yet allowed for a good deal of customization. I could create pages and content, including neighborhood photos, school info, entertainment, arts, events, recipes and local real estate.

And I did that. I added photos of local restaurants and shops, parks, schools and events. I added stories about neighborhood happenings and highlighted local fund-raisers, pancake breakfasts and lasagna dinners. I added new listings as they became available, and I added hundreds of links to local and neighborhood websites that would be of interest to those who lived in or who were relocating to the neighborhood.

The coolest thing about the website was that, theoretically, after it was set up, you wouldn’t have to do anything. Because it was interactive, readers could add their own content without being registered, and Connecting Neighbors would monitor the content for anything that was inappropriate. Readers could add information about their church picnic or the winner of the local elementary schools soccer match. It actually worked pretty well.

The cost of the website with the automatic newsletter mailing was $39.95 a month, and I had thought it worth-while if I had been able to get a critical mass of readers together to keep it fresh and updated.

Alas, I could not, and it was up to me to continually add content.

When they raised the price in January to $59.95 a month, I thought it time to bail and just chalk it up to a lesson learned.

However, when I went to cancel, they kept the site live.

When I pointed out to them that I had cancelled the website, I was told by a representative of the company: “Please note the website still remains live online so it can be resold by our sales team.”

I was shocked. They had removed my name, photo and contact information from the site, but kept the name and all of the original content and photos online and they were attempting to market it, fully customized, to another real estate agent.

Of course, I couldn’t let that happen. Fortunately, I was still able to access the site, so I could delete all of the photos and original content and add my own disclaimer to alert any unwary agent in the future that the website contained content that I had compiled and created.

Luckily, I also owned the domain name, so I was able to redirect that to another page I had created, but I’m guessing other unwitting real estate agents may not be able to do that and they may become a victim of this company. Respected names in the real estate industry, including Michael Russer and Allen Hainge, are partners with Connecting Neighbors, and I hope they will look into this unfair practice so other agents are not victimized by their actions.

Connecting Neighbors urges agents to purchase not only the website through them, but the domain as well. Hence, when the website is discontinued, Connecting Neighbors can just sell that site to another agent, even though it may be a very elaborate site, with a customized look, feel and brand, created by one particular agent. Nothing belongs to the agent, it’s all owned by Connecting Neighbors, even if created by the purchaser. This is good to know if you’re considering working with this company. It’s potentially a valuable product, but may not be worth the cost in the long run since once you start with them, they can just raise the price and if you discontinue, all your hard work, branding and unique domain name can then be sold to another.

The right thing to do would be to just take the website offline when the service was cancelled and not try to resell the site to another before removing all of the custom content.

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