Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jott is my personal dictation assistant...

Liz Caraway introduced me to Jott with this post, and I haven't stopped since.

How often have you received a text message asking you a question while driving and not able to respond without risking life and limb? Now, I can call Jott's toll free number (1-866-JOTT-123) from my registered cell phone number, speak the person's name I want to text, and then say up to a paragraph of words and Jott will transcribe it to an SMS message to them.

Adding my friends to my contact list was easy, Jott provides a field for me to type the phonetic spelling of their name. I can use Jott to post updates to my Twitter and even my blogger blog.

The most amazing thing about this service is the amazing accuracy of the transcription. Here is an example one that I sent to a friend tonight:

"Hey Jay, I left the office before I got your text about the 360(?). Do you want me to pick one up at Wal-Mart or Sam's Club. Just call me otherwise."

Jott heard "three sixty" and converted it to 360 (added the ? to indicate it wasn't sure). Notice how my friend's name is capitalized, and Jott recognized the proper names of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club... very cool. Plus, I didn't say "stop" or "period"... it interpreted the inflection in my voice. It didn't catch that I asked a question, but I can live with that.

Now the best part of all.... its free....

David

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Calling all to the RETS workgroups...

I know, sounds exciting eh? But seriously, if you (or someone you know) could participate, it would be great. I am sure many of you now know that NAR has a new rule “Realtor owned MLSs must comply with the current version of the RETS specification by June, 2009”. I bet that sounds as vague to you as it does to me. So, the RESO Board is calling all interested parties to participate and help make sure that the way we put this new rule into practice is best for all.

Workgroup membership does not necessitate any travel. Periodic conference calls and online discussions is where most of the activity will take place. At a minimum, I recommend giving it a try, and if it doesn’t work for you, have your name removed, no harm done.

So, everyone is now saying “Where do I sign up?” right? And here it is:

http://www.rets.org/cms/workgroup/sign-up

Check off the one (or ones) you wish to participate in. If you have questions about the workgroups, comment on this post and I will get them answered for you. Some groups are brand new, so part of the first activities will be to better define their “charter”

Thanks in advance,
David Harris
FMLS
RESO Board Member

Friday, December 7, 2007

RESO Board - humbled and excited...

We just finished up the December 2007 RETS Conference. The RESO Board spent most of the first day discussing our plans and priorities. Michael Wurzer was elected the Chairman and Gregg Petch the Vice Chairman. Michael presented our initial structure and goals at the start of the second day. The board is committed to addressing the issues that surround the RETS specification effort as it stands today.


One thing we want to make perfectly clear, we want your input! Everyone's opinion is valuable. Historically, Agent and Broker participation in RETS has been nearly absent. As a quick first step, we have set up BOD[a]rets.org to allow anyone to send a note to the entire board of directors.

We are in the process of reviewing and evaluating everything including version naming, workgroup structures, and compliance testing and procedures. With the new NAR Policy concerning MLS and RETS, we want to reach out to as many affected MLSs as possible. If you are involved with any MLS, I invite you to list your RETS offering on the RETS Wiki (don't forget "None" is an extremely valuable response).

With the weight of the real estate technology community resting upon our shoulders, we will strive to be as thorough and deliberate with every decision we make.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Kiva - The gift that gives to many...

We all have those friends and relatives who are tough to buy for. They always get the things they want when they want them, leaving you to have to find some lame substitute or gift card.

Along come Kiva.org, a great option for people who say "don't get me anything, just donate in my name". But it is definition of a hand up.... not a hand out.

Kiva is a microloan service to 3rd world entrepreneurs. Kiva works with local "field partners" that take applications, evaluate business plans, select ventures to fund, and monitors their performance.

In my opinion, no one is more dedicated to helping people in a community, than those that live in that community. To seek out and find those driven individuals who wish to better themselves and make their communities more self sufficient, is finding the most valuable resource. And the field partners have to report periodically on a journal about each projects progress, which is emailed to you if you are a lender. You can participate in many projects for as little as $25.

Some examples are:

Narciso Chincay - A furniture maker in Ecuador
Patricio - A general store owner in Mozambique
Mukaddas Dadaboeva - A bakery owner in Tajikistan

This is just 3 of over 3000 entrepreneurs Kiva has helped.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

RETS RESO Board off to a great start...

Just came from our first conference call. Man, what a great group of smart people, I was honored to just listen in. The group is made up of a great cross-section of the real estate technology industry. The names are officially posted here, but here they are again:

Technical:

Sergio DelRio (T4Bi)
Jaison Freed (FBS)
Paul Hethmon (Clareity)
Dan Mills (MarketLinx)
Dan Woolley (Dominion Enterprises)

Business:

Kristen Carr (RMLS FL)
David Harris (First MLS)
Chip McAvoy (First American)
Gregg Petch (MRIS)
Michael Wurzer (FBS)

Some of the first steps we hope to accomplish:

  1. Get a full-time Executive Officer (EO) who will be the first employee of the RESO Corporation, a wholly owned non-profit corp of NAR. So if you or any one you know would be a great candidate for this awesome opportunity, contact Mark Lesswing.
  2. Evaluate our current workgroup structure, and decide which ones are working well and which ones need to be restructured. And appoint an official Chair and Vice-Chair of the committees that will be formed from the working groups.
  3. Decide on the proper naming of RETS2 and RETS 1.x. Most of the community agrees that the two are enough different that they both have a purpose in existing long term. So their names should not indicate succession. Maybe RETS 'apple' and RETS 'orange' (you get my drift).
  4. Set some Goals for 2008. With the NAR MLS rules now requiring a compliant RETS server (link to come to soon), RESO is perfectly suited to assist the MLS's in this effort.

Please comment on this post with any ideas and/or suggestions you have for the RESO Board, we are all ears. Also, join the active and passionate community that exists on the RETS Forums.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sneek Peak at Realtor.com's new "Find a Neighborhood" Site


I just got a pre-release bulletin today about Realtor.com's new "Find A Neighborhood" tool that will be announced at NAR next week. The link to it is:

http://neighborhoods.realtor.com/

The announcement stated that they will be launching with data for 34 areas. So far, it seems to pack in a lot of data that you can get in pieces on different sites. They make extensive use of Microsoft Virtual Earth throughout the different features. In Atlanta, one of the listed neighborhoods is Berkeley Lake in the Norcross area, which I will use for my feature links.

Heat Maps. Realtor.com has used the overlay method on Virtual Earth. Like this one that covers average home price

School Info. Realtor.com has partnered with GreatSchools to provide some ratings on schools. They even integrate the parent reviews feed from their site.

Active Listings. Of course you knew they would integrate the listings feed into this.

Crime Data. Ah the one statistic you love to hate. Be prepared now that your buyers can see the house they are interested in is specifically shaded a different color than the surrounding area.

I could keep showing, but go check it out for yourself because... you know your home buyers (and home sellers) will be...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Marketlinx's RETS Connector - a huge step forward.

As RETS continues to achieve greater and greater levels of adoption, the uses of the data retrieved will continue to expand. As I see it, RETS has 3 main sources of use in the data retrieval arena:

1. Client Tool access
2. IDX vendor access for daily website refresh
3. Ad-Hoc data needs.

Client Tool Access
Many of the client tools out there (WyldFyre, Top Producer, HP Real Estate Marketing Assistant) have a connection tool built in them to access data via RETS. Which makes using those products that much easier, eliminating to pull the data externally, format the file appropriately, and then import into each application.

IDX vendor access
This by far is the most popular use of RETS. The more traditional method for data access has been FTP. But RETS has several advantages over FTP:

1. RETS is near real time, you get the data with updates often just a few minutes before, whereas FTP is usually a static file from the night before.

2. RETS is only what you ask for. If you want the $10 million homes, then you get just those records. With FTP, you have to pull ALL the listings, then extract the ones you want.

Historically, RETS has been more difficult to schedule. FTP has several software packages that allow for you to schedule a daily data pull. Since RETS is real estate specific, you usually needed to construct your own (often complex) method to schedule a periodic data pull that does not require you to manually start.

Ad-Hoc data needs
This is the newest type of data access. As more and more agents/brokers/etc. get more tech-savvy, they will need more specific and immediate data needs. Being able to pull a specific set of records from the MLS, and analyze them using spreadsheet software such as Excel, will allow them to gain insight about the market that they would not have been able to in the past. In fact, CRT even has a RETS-to-Excel tool that does this job very nicely.

So... what does all of this have to do with Marketlinx's RETS Connector? Marketlinx has produced a RETS download client that provides a very easy to use, reliable, and robust method to access the data within your MLS. It has a "Metadata-aware" interface, which means it can interpret what fields and values an MLS has available to you by reading in the RETS Metadata.

And, more importantly, you can schedule this to run however often you need it to (and forget it). And yes, if you install this on a server, it will run as a service and not need to be run under a user session.

Bottom Line, if you are an agent/broker who is a member of an MLS that offers RETS, download this and give it a shot. RETS Connector is primarily designed for customers of the MLXchange or TEMPO systems, but is written to comply with the specification, so should concievably work with any RETS server.

Alternatively, MRIS (the largest MLS in the country) has developed an equally powerful RETS client called Conduit. Try them both out, and see which you like better...