Monthly Archives: February 2010

Rent/Buy Worksheet from Inman Column

I got a couple of requests via email/DM for this so…

This is the rent-buy worksheet I used while writing my latest Inman column (subscription required).  I took it from Khan Academy and then modified it.  Feel free to point out errors, etc. right in the comments, and I’ll modify what I can. :)

Rent/Buy Analysis Worksheet (Right-click, and “Save Link As…”)

Enjoy!

-rsh

Missing the Forest for the Trees: the RPR License

See that green pattern on the bark! That's 3.2(b)(iii) of the License!

Once again, I find myself in the curious position of praising the good folks at RPR while at the same time ending up on a negative note.  On the one hand, RPR’s posting their Content License Agreement (complete with redlined corrections) is by far the most transparent thing that I’ve seen a company do in real estate industry thus far.  Kudos not just to Reggie Nicolay, the Social Media director of RPR, but also to Marty Frame and to Dale Ross, the executives in charge of RPR.  These guys talk the talk, and walk the walk of being open and transparent.  Thank you guys, and I really mean that.

If you’d like to look at the entire Agreement, including the Terms of Use for the RPR Website, go to the Google Doc here.

Some of the critiques already on the web may be entirely valid, but I think they largely miss the point.  For example, Mike Wurzer’s post suggesting that the new License Agreement allows RPR to sell listing-level data to various customers may be accurate (or may not be, as Marty Frame points out in the comments), but… this falls into the category of missing the forest because you’re too busy looking at whether the tree is a douglas fir or a pine tree.

There are three major, fundamental issues that the License Agreement does not address — primarily because those issues stem from RPR’s business model and its basic value proposition.  If the goal is to nitpick the language of the Agreement in the hopes of finding a provision on which one can base a future lawsuit, I suppose the detailed analysis being done now is interesting.  If the goal, however, is to understand the fundamental challenge of RPR, then we need to raise our eyes up a bit.

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Random Thoughts on Dual Agency

image: Polly Jordan, realestatecafe.com

Once in a while, realestistas get around to discussing tame, non-controversial topics.  And as any regular reader of this blog knows, I am simply allergic to controversy and disagreement.  I am glad, therefore, that people are talking over at Agent Genius about the entirely boring and controversy-free topic of dual agency.

As it happens, I happen to have a view or two about dual agency, and figured I’d meditate on a few unrelated (or maybe related) topics as follows.  Most of them are inspired by the comments to the AG post:

  1. Dual Agency and #RTB
  2. Dual Agency and Brokerage
  3. What Dual Agency Says About Agent Value

Twitter version: Dual Agency is a symptom of so much that is wrong with real estate today.  Long version follows after the jump.

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Quick Update: Maybe We’ll See Clarity on Employer Liability for Social Media

This is a quick note.

I found something recently that bears directly on my post on Employer Liability for Employee Social Media, and I’m somewhat hopeful that we’ll see more clarity on this topic.

Michael Yon is an independent journalist who reports from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world where the U.S. military (and its allies) are fighting.  I happen to love his work, and believe it points to the future of journalism, but that’s a different story.

He recently posted a report on Facebook about two soldiers who were killed by Taliban attacks.  That in and of itself is not unusual. He does this all the time, doing the job that the national media rarely does.

What is unusual is that in the comments to this report on Facebook, a Mike Garcia attacked Yon for releasing the names of the soldiers before the DoD got around to it.  Scroll down in Michael’s fan page to find this thread, as I couldn’t find a way to link directly to his post and to the comments.

Turns out that Yon had followed all guidelines, directives, and had cleared the release with Army commanders on the ground in Afghanistan.  What followed is where things get interesting for us.

We see that Mike Garcia says that the FB comment is is personal opinion, that he is not representing the US Army or speak in any official capacity, even though he is a Public Affairs Officer.

Michael Yon is having none of it.  He believes that the fact that Mike Garcia is a Public Affairs Officer of the US Army means that he represents the Army even on a Facebook comment.  Which means that Yon believes he can now sue the Army for defamation and libel.

Now while it’s highly unlikely that Yon would actually sue the Army for defamation, I sorta hope he would so we’d get a case directly on point as to when the employer is and is not responsible for the social media actions of an employee, and what the relevant factors might be.  In this case, Major Garcia is a Public Affairs Officer — something close to a PR person — and posting on Facebook is likely in the sphere of his employment.  Respondeat superior ought to follow.

But at a minimum, we might see the Army promulgate specific directives clarifying when a soldier (an employee of the Army) is and is not speaking for the Army when engaging in social media.  That would be helpful for additional clarity.

-rsh

Helpful Links If Your Content Has Been Stolen

Image via Lovely Petal (Flickr: Samiksha)

On Twitter tonight, Sue Adler (@sueadler) says nonchalantly:

Shocking to find MY town pgs & photos copied exactly on another’s site. Hoping this agent, who I know well, hired someone & wasnt aware. hmm

That ain’t a “hmm” Sue — that should be a, “I’ve been robbed!”  That’s outright copyright violation — a theft of your intellectual property.

I know it happens.  Copyright violation on the Internet is not a matter of “IF” it happens, but “WHEN” it happens to you.  A lot of the violations are these automated spam blogs (“splogs”) that go out, scrape content, put it on a page to drive Google rankings and make a few bucks off of advertising.  In less common cases, it’s someone who just really liked your post or your content or something and thought it’s no big deal to copy the whole thing and put it on their site, as long as they link back to you and give you credit.

Except that it’s not okay, since Google punishes duplicate content.  To be sure, there is some dispute as to whether the original copyright holder gets hit with the penalty or not… but since anyone who claims to know exactly how the Google algorithms work who doesn’t have a valid Google Employee ID is probably talking out of his ass, why take the chance?  It isn’t as if the plagiarist is doing something legitimate to begin with.

As it happens, there are others who are far more expert than I in this area of what to do and how to protect yourself.  So here are a few links you might want to browse if you think someone (or multiple someones) is copying your content wholesale:

  • What To Do When Someone Steals Your Content by Lorelle.  This is a fantastic, detailed post, with helpful tips, even a form email to send to the offending party, useful links, and just a wealth of information.  Start here.
  • Copyscape.  This is a website that can simplify the effort of tracking who out on the Web is stealing your content.  I’ve managed to find quite a few of my blogposts on random splogs through this tool.  It also has helpful links right into WHOIS and other tools to simplify gathering information you’ll want and need to pursue the matter further.
  • Chilling Effects.  This is for those who want to get a bit deeper into some of the legal issues in copyright infringement and piracy.  They also provide a great FAQ on copyright on piracy.
  • Splogs: Spam Blogs and Stolen Content.  More of a call to arms, but there’s a lot of great information on this post, as well as links to other useful sites and tools.

I’m certain there are other great resources on the Web and elsewhere.  I’d appreciate any comments sharing ones you’ve found.

Fight Back; Content Theft is NOT Sharing

I know the spirit of sharing on the Web generally and in the RE.net more specifically are very strong.  Many of us are constantly sharing ideas, giving away “intellectual property”, and go to REBarCamps where we give stuff away for free all the time without any expectation of (immediate) gain.

But stealing content outright is not sharing.  I’m not talking about excerpting a paragraph or two to make a point here.  I’m talking about copying entire blogposts, pictures and all.  I’m talking about taking another agent’s local market information lock, stock and barrel and passing it off as your own.  Even if you include a token link to my original post, or put up some little piece of crap like “originally posted on XYZ blog”, you’re stealing my traffic, stealing my ability to interact with readers, and should anyone actually comment on your copy of my post, preventing the community from sharing ideas with each other.

As in all things, you can go overboard with trying to fight content theft.  You can’t live with paranoia all the time.  You have to use your judgment as to whether the offender was trying to steal your intellectual property, or made an honest mistake.

But fight back.  For all of us.  I for one plan on starting.  Have sent one letter so far tonight to a splog operator.  We’ll see if he takes it down.

-rsh