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Behind "Door #1" at Inman Connect … "Fear & Embarrassment"

“This is not my Locker”

I know it is inevitable that I will be asked (perhaps 100’s of times) “What did you learn from Inman Connect SF this week”? or “What was the most interesting thing you learned at Inman Connect SF”? or some variation of that general question. In years past I may have made something up to illicit a response like “That’s Nice” or “Wow, that’s great!”, but NOT this year!

This year something very accidental, yet incredibly enlightening happened and it all began with me accidentally walking into the wrong “MeetUp”…

It was like a Bad episode of “Reality TV”

Wednesday at ICSF was jam packed! Stuff happening from the morning bell to the 5pm cocktail call. I was constantly looking at my playbook, trying to decide where I was going…What topic? What room? What subject? It was crazy! So right after lunch I knew I wanted to go to a “MeetUp” of Real Estate Tech Vendors in Continental Parlor #2, that started at 1:00pm. Now the MeetUps were not necessarily open to the public, though they were not marked “Private” or anything, but they were designed for the Vendors to congregate and talk amongst themselves regarding what they were experiencing in the market. This MeetUp was Facilitated by a friend of mine, Greg Robertson from W&R Studios (Cloud CMA), so I knew he would let me “Sit in” on it. After all, I am a Techy!

So off I went on my merry way at about 1:10pm, feverishly typing away at Twitter on my phone, into Continental Parlor #1 ( for those of you who have had your morning Starbucks you probably got it, but for those who have not…I said Parlor #1!). Now in Parlor #1, I was not sitting in on my intended MeetUp, Real Estate Tech Vendors, but instead I was “Transported” to some unknown geographical location somewhere in the 1950’s … It was titled “MLS Operators, Vendors, and Staff” DA DA DUMB! (Cue the music from the 1950’s classic TV show, Dragnet!)

“Son-of-a-bitch!” I thought, I gotta get outta here! but I couldn’t. Something was mysteriously keeping me from moving, it was as if I were paralyzed. The conversation was about the “Consumers” (Keep this meaningless term in mind, it will come up again) perception of our Industry. Specifically, at that moment, about how when they see Listing data in multiple sources (MLS, Trulia, Broker Sites, Agent Sites ect…) that is not the same (different price, Sold vs Active ect…) they say “How stupid is this?”

That’s when it got interesting ….

Think Hatfield’s & McCoy’s, Shark’s & Jet’s, Snoop Dawg & Puffy!

Ok, so I will be the 1st to admit, I have a limited knowledge of the inter-workings of the MLS’s. I am however a keen observer of human behavior, and the overall atmosphere in this room was … hmmmm … What’s the right word? Depressing? no Frustrating? no oh wait… I’ve got it! EMBARRASSING!

Though the Facilitator, Marilyn Wilson a Partner at WAV Group (@marilynwilson), did her best to mediate, like a Beverly Hills divorce case, this was no small task. Don’t get me wrong, there were no punches thrown, no “F” bombs were dropped, nothing uncivilized, Though two MLS operators (one who resembled that Scottish Guy from Austin Powers movies & one who looked a bit like Santa Claus in the off season, ya know, beard was trimmed dropped a few pounds, but the whole grey thing was working for him) felt it was an appropriate venue to make off-color remarks regarding their sex lives. Then there was the MLS guy (who looked a bit like a character from The Sopranos) who felt very comfortable stating that “Brokers are the REAL problem, they refuse to fire the 53% of their REALTORS (c) who are a bunch of Morons and haven’t done a single transaction in over a year” that was kinda weird, being it had seemingly nothing to do with the conversation…other than that…oh wait…

The reason we are headed for Government regulation of our Data

… The room also had a number of bright young minds, from Tech start-ups, some Exec’s from 3rd Party Aggregators, and a few representatives of the Broker/Agent community. These folks were asking for some cooporation in areas like:

  • Sharing of Data in more Open fashion
  • Involvement by the MLS’s in a Rating system for Agents/Brokers/Affiliates/Aggregators
  • More “Open-Mindedness” to new Technologies & Ideas
  • An Intranet for the MLS’s to communicate with each other about questionable Vendors
  • A more “Open” forum for New Vendors to present ideas

Ya know, Stupid stuff like that!

Each and every time a bright young mind in the Vendor community, or a Consumer Advocate, or a Forward thinking Broker offered a suggestion (some of which, to me of course, were awesome) they were met with the same response from The MLS Boys…”Good Luck with That!” and then came the round of “Belly Laughs” (led by Scottish Guy, Santa, & Soprano Guy)…at first I was amused by them myself. then when I realized that they came from a deeply rooted “Arrogance”, rather than a playful sense of “Humor”, I was faced with the realization that our Industry was “doomed” to be regulated. No one, and I am convinced, No one will be able to get these two opposing sides (Old School & New School) to join together and bring our industry into the 21st century.

The “Straw” that broke the “Consumers” back

It was all made so incredibly clear by a comment from “Soprano Guy”, in response to the statement from Marilyn Wilson “it’s abundantly clear, from all the polls, that the Consumer overwhelmingly wants the Rating System”!

Soprano Guy then blurted out “Who”? “The Consumer”? “That’s not my Customer, The Brokers are my Customers. They pay my bills, not the Consumers”.

In Closing…

You never know what life has in store for you. One minute everything’s all “peaches & cream”. You’re minding your own business, happily “Tweeting” about that nights cocktail parties, or the crazy new Technologies you just heard some Geek talk about on stage and then …. BAM! … Your visions of your industry’s future are shattered by a room full of “Closed Minds”…though it was “riveting” and certainly more interesting than the “Meet The Leaders” segment downstairs, it was then and will forever be my most disappointing “Wrong Turn”

I don’t know how this gets fixed. I just know somebody with the “Schwag” to do it needs to get involved and fix it!

If not, Obama (or the next elected leader of our country) will!

Stay Blogging My Friends!

@TheRECoach

About TheRECoach

www.Plus.AskTheRECoach.com & www.TheOnlineOutline.com I am Independent Consultant, specializing in the Real Estate Industry, with a focus on The Internet, and it's endless potential for Marketing a business. I have been Blogging since late 2007, an early Adopter on Facebook, and Twitter (July 2007). As you would expect, you can connect with me, "TheRECoach", on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn or even use the more "Archaic" forms of known as email & phone ... TheRECoach@gmail.com or 562.646.6710

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  • Wow! Funny how our biggest mistakes usually turn out to be our greatest lessons…and in your case, geeeez louise!

    Perhaps I am just an eternal optimist or serial idealist but I’ve got to believe that what you witnessed are the scared threats of insignificant bullies that are beginning to figure out that they have no pull, no power and everyone they’ve ever picked on have grown to resemble the offensive line of “name your favorite NFL team”…and they’re looking to gain more than just a few yards on this next drive.

    Great post Coach!

  • Wow! Funny how our biggest mistakes usually turn out to be our greatest lessons…and in your case, geeeez louise!

    Perhaps I am just an eternal optimist or serial idealist but I’ve got to believe that what you witnessed are the scared threats of insignificant bullies that are beginning to figure out that they have no pull, no power and everyone they’ve ever picked on have grown to resemble the offensive line of “name your favorite NFL team”…and they’re looking to gain more than just a few yards on this next drive.

    Great post Coach!

  • Nice report. It boggles.

  • Michael Wurzer

    Something to consider: Your sitting in on an hour meeting doesn't provide sufficient perspective to judge.

    A proper perspective would include knowledge about the many innovations each of the three leaders you reference have brought to their markets. They all engage regularly with lots of “bright young minds” and have bright young minds themselves, with the very large advantage of a broad perspective from broad experience.

    Sometimes the post not written is your best.

    • TheRECoach

      Thanks for the opposing opinion Michael, I believe that's what makes our system great! I would like to hear more from your perspective. I would love to see your Avatar or Image, so I might be able to recognize you. Have we met? What do you do in the industry, that gives you your insight on this matter? In my post, I did not use names, yet you speak to the fact that you know of whom I spoke? Were you also in the room?

      Never, in our Democratic society, will the best post be “The post not written”. I will always believe in that. If you believe it could have been written better? well then, I can not argue that 🙂

      Your view point is important, and I would love to know more. Please do comment back.

      thanks

  • Michael Wurzer

    I'm the President of FBS, which creates the flexmls system, and I write the FBS Blog. http://www.flexmls.com/blog. I was in the room for about 20 minutes, and then had to leave to go to moderate the MLS panels and speak about data standards. I know the three leaders you reference very well, and can assure you that your impressions are all wrong. I haven't mentioned their names here, because I believe your post is so wrong that having Google index their names to this post would be a disservice to you and them. Each of the people you reference, however, are leaders in the MLS industry and have created very innovative platforms for developers to leverage. Also, they are at the forefront of data standards in our industry, leading where others will not. Yes, they are very focused on delivering value for their customers, who are, in fact, agents and brokers. Does that mean they ignore consumers? No, the two are not mutually exclusive most of the time.

    A key to the MLS that so many bright young minds ignore is that building a critical mass network of cooperating competitors, for that's what an MLS is, requires focus on those participating in the network. Thinking of the MLS as analogous to Facebook or other social networks may help. When the network is starting out, building critical mass requires that the participants see value in adding their content to the network and comfort in knowing what will be done with their content — who can see it, what they can do with it, who owns it, etc. Once critical mass is reached, people join the network because it is the “place to be” even if they don't necessarily agree with the rules. But that doesn't mean that the rules are not important, for they created the critical mass in the first instance.

    Leaders like those you denigrate in this post understand what it means to build a successful network, because they've done it. They know it's hard work and that the core terms of use are critical to maintaining the network. And, directly to the points in your post, they know that changing the rules needs to happen carefully.

    To better understand this, recall the firestorms that brew every time Facebook changes their terms of use. Importantly, unlike Facebook that simply dictates the terms, most MLSs are broker or Association owned. In other words, the members of the network make the decisions, through elected representatives, about the terms of use. The job of the leaders you denigrate is to help provide leadership to these member-driven organizations.

    Yes, MLS organizations have been around a long time. And they have constitutions (terms of use) that frustrate people at times. But that doesn't mean they are wrong or unnecessary or outdated or dinosaurs that need to be extinguished. If you extinguish the reasons why the members were willing to contribute their content in the first instance, you likely will extinguish the content, which has proven to be immensely valuable to consumers.

    • TheRECoach

      Awesome Micheal! Thank you so much for your input. You used the word “denigrate” a few times to describe your impression of my intentions, and I wanted to say formally, that it was not my intention to “Denigrate” anyone, and if I came across as anything other than my normal “humorous”, “tongue in cheek” self I am sorry.

      Please remember, I was sharing my impressions of what went on in that room. I did hear them (Scottish Guy & Santa) make off-color sexual remarks. I did hear Soprano Guy refer to 53% of REALTORS (c) as “morons”, I did hear a good deal of the MLS representatives laugh at the (Santa's) comments “Good Luck with that sonny” & “These youngsters think they know everything”. So that may have “Slanted” my perception of the true intentions of the MLS representatives. I have admitted that I don't know enough. I just feel so strongly after witnessing that meeting, that it's an issue that needs some attention.

      You sound as if your opinion would have been quite valuable in that room & I am disappointed you couldn't have stayed and lent some more insight.

      Is there a more “Formal” gathering of interested parties that has, or will, take place on these subjects?

      thanks again for engaging in this conversation with me 🙂

      @TheRECoach

      • Michael Wurzer

        You say, “it's an issue that needs attention” but what specifically do you mean? I presume you mean more than the comments you found offensive. Making some broad claims that “it” all needs to be fixed is not useful or interesting. You might get a bunch of commentators who cheer on your ambiguous revolution, but, without more substance, the revolution is over before it begins.

        There are many meetings relevant to MLSs throughout the year. The National Association of REALTORS meets twice per year, first in Washington, D.C., in the spring, and then in the fall at a different location each year (this year the meeting is New Orleans). You can learn more at realtor.org. There also is an MLS specific meeting organized by the Council of MLSs (http://www.councilofmls.com).

        I encourage you to learn more and hold your judgment until you do, for the error in your post is the judgment. With the power of free speech comes an equally powerful responsibility, which should always be exercised with care.

        • TheRECoach

          Michael, please try to be less “adversarial” in your replies. I have made it clear that I am not as educated on this as you, or even as much as I would like to be. I have clearly stated my respect for your experience and opinion. I want to gain insight from your participation in this discussion not create a “my Dad's bigger than your Dad” scenario.

          “It” is actually 2 “It's” ..

          #1 – Yes, the comments I (and I am sure the hand full of ladies in the room) found offensive is one of the “Its”. I think that as long as that (I'll call it) arrogance exists, constructive dialogue will not take place.

          #2 (“it”) – A way to correct the inconsistencies in Data throughout the Internet destinations, used by Consumers. It makes our Industry (already in a PR mess) look incompetent. A voice in that room had a solution and it was squashed by the “belly laughs” of those whom you have defended as MLS Industry leaders. Why? A more “Open Source” approach to The Data.

          I thank you for your references to assist in my gaining further insight regarding this, and other, issues pertaining to the MLS's position.

          Thanks Again,

          @TheRECoach

          • Michael Wurzer

            I’m not really sure what you mean by adversarial, but I do disagree with your post and I’ve replied substantively and not personally. Asking you to withhold your judgment until you you have a full perspective is not adversarial but good advice.

            >>A way to correct the inconsistencies in Data throughout the Internet destinations, used by Consumers.<<

            The portals need to step up and do a better job of ranking sources and de-duplicating listings. The vast majority of the MLSs represented by those in the room are already providing feeds to the major portals, and the portals need to prioritize those feeds. The problem is not the MLS feeds but rather syndication from all the other sources that do not bother to update the listings.

            I do understand that the portals have accepted a lot of feeds from any source to bolster their databases and because they've felt it necessary when they couldn't get a feed from the MLS. Today, however, every major MLS has a group of people on staff who handle requests to license the MLS database, and the data is licensed and syndicated far and wide. On behalf of our customers, our RETS servers are churning out data 24/7/365, and that's on top of all the major and minor syndicators.

            The terms for licensing the data are driven by the members of the MLS through their governance structure. (These are some of the terms of use I referenced earlier that are critical to cooperation of the competitors in submitting their content in the first instance.) Undoubtedly, there will be portals or others who do not want to agree to the license terms, which is their choice just as it is the choice of the MLS to define the terms on which they (the cooperating competitors) will license the database.

            Making the data "open source" is a non-starter. Back to my Facebook analogy, I'm pretty sure that the participants of Facebook would be pretty angry if all of the content they contribute to the network were "open sourced" and given away to anyone who wanted it without their permission.

            That you found the belly laughs objectionable is unfortunate, but, frankly, the idea to just "open source" the MLS database is, in reality, as laughable as it would be for Facebook to turn over everyone's data to just anyone who wanted it.

            Equally important, MLSs are all interested in getting the portals to improve the accuracy of their data, because they are inundated with calls from their members and sellers and yet they have no direct control over the portal sites.

          • Michael Wurzer

            I’m not really sure what you mean by adversarial, but I do disagree with your post and I’ve replied substantively and not personally. Asking you to withhold your judgment until you you have a full perspective is not adversarial but good advice.

            >>A way to correct the inconsistencies in Data throughout the Internet destinations, used by Consumers.<<

            The portals need to step up and do a better job of ranking sources and de-duplicating listings. The vast majority of the MLSs represented by those in the room are already providing feeds to the major portals, and the portals need to prioritize those feeds. The problem is not the MLS feeds but rather syndication from all the other sources that do not bother to update the listings.

            I do understand that the portals have accepted a lot of feeds from any source to bolster their databases and because they've felt it necessary when they couldn't get a feed from the MLS. Today, however, every major MLS has a group of people on staff who handle requests to license the MLS database, and the data is licensed and syndicated far and wide. On behalf of our customers, our RETS servers are churning out data 24/7/365, and that's on top of all the major and minor syndicators.

            The terms for licensing the data are driven by the members of the MLS through their governance structure. (These are some of the terms of use I referenced earlier that are critical to cooperation of the competitors in submitting their content in the first instance.) Undoubtedly, there will be portals or others who do not want to agree to the license terms, which is their choice just as it is the choice of the MLS to define the terms on which they (the cooperating competitors) will license the database.

            Making the data "open source" is a non-starter. Back to my Facebook analogy, I'm pretty sure that the participants of Facebook would be pretty angry if all of the content they contribute to the network were "open sourced" and given away to anyone who wanted it without their permission.

            That you found the belly laughs objectionable is unfortunate, but, frankly, the idea to just "open source" the MLS database is, in reality, as laughable as it would be for Facebook to turn over everyone's data to just anyone who wanted it.

            Equally important, MLSs are all interested in getting the portals to improve the accuracy of their data, because they are inundated with calls from their members and sellers and yet they have no direct control over the portal sites.

          • Michael Wurzer

            I posted a reply to this yesterday, but haven't seen it come through. Anyway, my main points were:

            1. The portals will take data from nearly anyone, which makes their job of validating and de-duplicating the data very difficult. The portals take whatever they can get, partly because they wouldn't or couldn't, given their business models, agree to the licensing terms from the MLS. Today, however, most portals have deals with most of the major MLSs for listing feeds, and so they're working on prioritizing these feeds to improve accuracy. The bottom line, though, is that the primary responsibility for accuracy of the data lies with the portals. MLSs incur plenty of expense dealing with complaints from customers and consumers because of the “take whatever we can get” policy from the portals, so they'd love to see a solution here as well.

            2. I'm not completely sure what you mean by “open source” the data, but that would be like asking Facebook to turn over all their member data to anyone who wanted it.

            3. That you found the belly laughs objectionable is unfortunate and those who laughed could have offered a better explanation, but, frankly, the idea that an MLS could just “open source” the data is laughable. Their members entrusted the MLS with their data knowing that it would only be distributed to others under a proper licensing arrangement. Violating that agreement would be no different than Facebook violating their terms of use — a contractual breach that would subject them to liability. So, no, open sourcing the data isn't a viable option.

            Lastly, I disagree with your judgment and that means I'm adversarial to your judgment.

          • Sorry Michael-
            We've been getting killed by SPAM recently so we made it so all comments have to get approved. Not ideal, I know…

            I just dug your comment out of spam and approved it

  • Coach, nice job responding to Michael's criticism of your post. You can handle yourself well.

    Michael, you are a bulldog… someone I would want in my corner for sure. Nice job sticking up for your colleagues.

    Visualizing this meeting based on the Coach's post reminds me of an Adam Smith quote:

    People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

    • Well said Brian.

    • TheRECoach

      Wow Brian, amazing coincidence just occurred..I was not familiar with that quote of Smith's, so I Googled it! It led me to a book titled “The Economics of Regulation”, which lends to my original remarks in the post, that if we don't work this out amongst ourselves, Uncle Sam will!

      thanks for the great reply, and more so, the great quote!

      @TheRECoach

  • Here's some more context on issues ratings systems pose for MLSs:

    http://www.inman.com/news/2010/07/15/agents-not

    • TheRECoach

      very Nice Matt, a little Shameless Self-promotion together with relevant insight to the topic!

      thank you very much 😉

  • Jay

    I think your summary of events is fair and not slanted at all. I found your post amusing, interesting, and I beleive you may be right. I especially like the 53% morons comment. I would like to see whoever made that comment jump out there and and try to make a living selling homes! Of course getting that bi-monthly check is nice, how about waiting 3 months between pay checks.

    Good post and keep telling it like it realy is!

    • TheRECoach

      The “objective” of this post Jay, was to open this subject up and spread the word…so TY, now go tell 5 friends to get involved. The more ask for transparency, the better our chance of seeing it!

      Thanks for the read

  • robhahn

    As I didn't attend the session, and have little idea who “Santa” and “Sopranos Guy” and such are, I'll limit my comments to what I do know and observe the following.

    1. MLS staff and executives tend to be among the most conscientiously service-oriented people in this industry. They tend, on the whole, to do things that would “hurt” them from a selfish standpoint, but would benefit their customers, i.e., brokers and agents who rely on the MLS to deliver accurate and timely data. It's hard to find such self-sacrificing group of businesses. Seriously.

    Are there exceptions? I'm sure there are. But to paint with such a broad brush as you do suggests a hastiness to judge.

    2. You speak of “young bright minds” in the vendor community. Let me suggest that when one of the brightest bright young minds, Michael Wurzer, comes down on you like a ton of bricks… perhaps the conflict and the arrogance you're seeing are not really there.

    As far as I'm concerned, the problem with the MLS industry is too much selflessness, too much humility, and too much willingness to bend over backwards for their customers….

    -rsh

    • Rob, I don't think anyone knows how to respond to that… especially anyone who has tried to work with an MLS to provide better data and IDX solutions for the MLS members. Houston Association of Realtors for example intentionally makes it difficult for members to use any new IDX system outside of the one they provide. “Bending over backwards” is not the kind of “bending over” that one is used to when dealing with most MLS's.

      • TheRECoach

        Well, what a surprise! I find myself on the opposite side of a discussion with the infamous Rob Hahn! 🙂

        Sorry Rob, this topic is not really one you can pull your “Soap Box” up to and spew your diatribe. I intentionally put it out there so it couldn't be taken over as a “ratings booster” for dying thought processes. My point is … what I witnessed (keep in mind, I WAS THERE and you were not) was inappropriate conversation, arrogance, and un-willingness to engage in a real discussion on the part of a “Few” MLS operators. My fear is that they have enough power (and apparently friends who choose to turn a blind eye to reality) that they will be able to hold back progress just long enough to allow Uncle Sam in the door. When that happens, we all loose.

        secondly, how can you or anyone else (Stop for a second, I know you made your living off opposing everything, but really think this time) oppose the thought of an open data platform that corrects the inconsistencies in data throughout the Real Estate sites? Seriously.

        It's not a “he said, She said” thing…its a Let's really do something for the “Consumer” and The Industry thing.

        Thanks for your interest in this important issue.

        @TheRECoach

        • robhahn

          I blame the crappy state of the Internet access for the past few days for not responding sooner.

          I hope that our chat in-person at SMMOC has been fruitful, and that you at least understand where I'm coming from. I expect that you would withdraw your insinuations about “making your living off” and so on, calling my motivations into question. I'm no stranger to controversy and debate, but I do take exception to such ad hominem attacks.

          Having said that, if your issue is about communication, the style with which various people spoke, then I suppose I have nothing to add to what Michael Wurzer already wrote. Different folks have a different sense of humor and what is and is not appropriate, and I wasn't there. You're entitled to whatever sense of outrage you feel, but it's hard to get worked up over that.

          As to the substance, that unless “arrogant MLS executive” change their ways, there will be governmental regulation of the MLS… well, as I've said, the MLS doesn't exist in a vacuum outside of the AOR (Associations). The rules and policies are created by members, not by some cabal of executives. To the extent that you, or anyone else, want different rules, the path there is to work with other brokers and agents within the Association to get changes made. It's all very democratic, actually.

          -rsh

      • Michael Wurzer

        Brian, taking your conclusion on its face, one possible reason HAR prefers their IDX system over others is to help maintain accurate data. Some of the bad data on portals comes from IDX vendors who syndicate and fail to update. Undoubtedly, there are many hurdles vendors face from MLSs in trying to get their products in front of members using MLS data. Often, those rules appear unreasonable. Most often, however, the rules come from some attempt to deal with an abuse.

        Further, HAR's strategy has been clear for years: They develop software (a public web site, agent web site tools, etc.) themselves and provide the tools to their members for free, because they believe those tools help their members respond better to customers with the most accurate data. Having invested that money into these products their members want, I can understand why they would prefer those products over other products that require them to spend even more money to monitor for data quality and control.

        As I've tried to explain to Eric, the world here is not as black and white as it first appears. I'm not saying every MLS is perfectly reasonable or anything like that, but I reject the attempt to paint the entire industry with broad strokes of ill-intent based on limited facts.

        • Michael, let me acknowledge I have only worked with two MLS's: Pikes Peak Association of Realtors and Houston Association of Realtors. That is a small percentage of the industry; however, from what I read from people who have tried creating innovative tools for agents that use MLS data, my perception is wide-spread.

          It really comes down to an attitude; a tone. It is a tone you only get from companies who hold monopoly-type positions… like the local cable company, etc. The default attitude is not “yes, let's see how we can make it work to give our members more options and better tools.” The default tone is rather “No. It is not in our guidelines.”

          As you know, I am in the minority of people who think it is not a good idea for MLS's to consolidate into state or national MLS's. Part of that reason is because it will only make the MLS's more powerful, more bureaucratic, and the relative importance of the discontent of one agent is even far less important to them. Bottom line, less accountability to the people who do the work and pay the bills to make the MLS's possible.

          I think the best thing that you could accomplish at your MLS meetings is to work on changing this culture of “no.”

          • Michael Wurzer

            Brian, there are well-established licensing terms for use of the MLS data (e.g., IDX, VOW, and others), which say, yes, this is what is allowed. That your proposed use apparently falls outside of these terms does not make it a “culture of 'no'”. As I've explained in other comments, the participants contribute their content (listings) to the MLS based on the understanding of what will (and will not) be done with the data. The MLS is not in a position to go back on those promises without approval from their Board. So, when the MLS says, here are the terms under which we will license the data, they are simply stating the facts about what they are authorized to do. Could those terms be changed? Sure, but MLSs are inundated with people who “want the data” and so having a default position that states the terms of licensing and doesn't delve into a detailed review of data licensing policy for every request seems reasonable to me. I'd suggest finding a way to fit your needs into one of the already established licensing mechanisms, prove that your model works, and then see if the MLS is interested in your ideas for how they should modify their licensing agreements.

  • 1) Believe it or not, I as an agent am the local MLS customer, not the public. Simple reality. I just paid my dues to belong, to add my own data and to search the database. An MLS is not a public entity.

    2) “The consumer” wants “the rating system.” Which is why so very many consumers use their cousin Bill's son to help them buy a house even if he's never sold a house before, because the quality of the agent means so much to them.

    2a) A rating system is useless unless it has some validity and the models I've seen so far simply don't.

    • TheRECoach

      Thanks for being part of the discussion Jonathan.

      One of my main points, in writing this post, was that no matter what the issue, if it involves The current Leadership of The MLS's (at least those “Industry Leaders” as Michael referred to them as, that I witnessed in this meeting), the representatives of the 3rd Party Aggregators, & the Broker/Agent community I am not confident that the issue will be properly debated/communicated upon.

      When Soprano Guy says that his customer is not the Consumer,therefore he doesn't care about the polls & That 53% of REALTORS(c) are Morons… or …

      When Scottish Guy makes in-appropriate (allegedly, in my opinion) sexual comment in response to the statement “it's what The Consumer wants”…or…

      When Santa Claus Guy retorts “Good Luck with that” and “these kids think they know everything” to someones statement that they have a Technological solution to an issue…

      Then the issue is “Doomed” to remain unresolved! No matter what side you are on. This is not a side choosing issue I am writing about. It's a communication issue. Though I will say that, amongst the 5 or 6 issues, that this group was attempting to tackle was a way to share data so that everyone showed the “Correct” and most updated info on a Listing, and that just seems to me to be a an issue everyone could and should embrace. even that became a joke because of, what I saw to be an “Arrogance” amongst the current MLS regime (allegedly).

      It has to stop! They must all come to the table in a true spirit of cooperation and unity of purpose, or Regulation is in our future, and that would suck for all.

      Thanks again

      @TheRECoach

      • Michael Wurzer

        Eric, really? Based on a one hour meeting among fifty people in which a few made some jokes and comments that rubbed you the wrong way, you're concluding that every issue facing our industry is “[d]oomed” and the “[a]rrogance” “must stop!” or “Regulation is in our future, and that would suck for all”? And you accuse Rob of being on a “[s]oap [b]ox”?

        You claim to be listening and glad for advice, but you insist on pushing forward your errant conclusion and doomsday scenario though you admit you lack knowledge to form such a conclusion.

        Here's another approach I'll suggest: You say you're a friend of Greg; call him and chat about this and I'm confident he'll tell you that the industry is not perfect but that your judgment is wrong about this meeting and the people in the room. (By the way, Greg is on the Board for CMLS, which I referenced in an earlier comment.)

        Here's some final advice: Instead of writing these doomsday scenarios that place dire judgments on people you don't know, why don't you write substantively about the idea for “open sourcing” the data to improve accuracy on the portals so that the idea can be discussed. The few blurbs you tout here do not provide enough information for people to understand the idea, let alone embrace it. Explain in detail how and why you believe such a program would work. That's a post worth writing.

        • TheRECoach

          Michael, this response (though still a bit bullyish) was full of real insight and I thank you for that. I'm pretty sure I am not in a position to follow your suggested approach (and I think you knew that before you suggested it. perhaps to somehow show your superiority in the subject matter & paint me as a neophyte, which I am), because I am just a Dumb “Schmo” who wandered into, what appeared to be, a room of long established bias's with little or no power (on my part) compared to those inside. I was compelled to share through the post what I saw.

          I'm only guessing here, but its my understanding that the substantive content regarding open sourcing the data to improve accuracy has been written about, discussed, innovated, suggested and subsequently quashed by the guys in that room and others many times over. So, much like your consistent attempts to divert the attention of my post (which to me seemed so clear, being that from my perspective that day these guys were in no way interested in working anything out, that would in anyway effect their bottom line. Be that good for the Consumer, the Industry, or anyone) i just don't see it coming to fruition?

          I understand why you (and Rob) weigh in on the side of MLS's being good guys ect… you make your living off of them. Easy to understand. Though you did (finally) acknowledge in this last comment that referenced the off-color (allegedly) sexual remarks, arrogant belly laughs, & seemingly mean spirited reference to 53% of REALTORS(c) being morons took place. You once again failed to mention that they may have been inappropriate. To me, that speaks volumes. You are not concerned, as I am, with the prevailing thoughts of these individuals. You are concerned with something quite different. I think that's a waste of a good mind.

          I believe you (and after meeting Rob Hahn yesterday, certainly he) could use your wealth of knowledge and true ability to debate and negotiate to further a substantive conversation about, not only open data standards, but statewide or even nationwide data portals, or Managed Agent rating systems, or a host of other issues.

          As you are a relentless bulldog for your industry (MLS), so am I a relentless bulldog for what I believe is right. Those gentleman I referenced (and I loved that fact that my, humorous descriptions of them, were so accurate that you immediately recognized who they were) were representing your industry that day, and they did so in a way that you should feel embarrassed by. There was no true spirit of progress in that room, and you should feel compelled to make sure that this does not occur again. It is a waste of time and a waste of ideas.

          You have comported yourself in this comment stream far better than they, and though I feel you may be taking this a bit personal. you are taking this seriously. You should lead these man. You could lead these men. I would like to see it.

          Thanks again for your attention to this matter,

          @TheREcoach

        • Michael Wurzer

          Eric, we've come full circle. You started this entire thread by placing a judgment on people you don't really know, and now you've decided I must be devious because I must have known that you don't have the knowledge to write substantively about these topics. My point from the beginning: If you don't know enough to write substantively, how then do you know enough to judge whether those rejecting the positions are exhibiting “[c]losed [m]inds”?

          Regarding the jokes and comments that set you off, my main point in my very first comment was that you should not take those comments without considering the entirety of the people you reference. You say: “You [Michael] are not concerned, as I am, with the prevailing thoughts of these individuals.” My main point here is that you have no idea what the prevailing thoughts of these individuals are based on a one hour meeting. And yet, not only do you judge them, you are now presuming to know about my concerns as well. If you want to know more about me, read the FBS Blog. Come to some conference as I suggested earlier. Call a few people you trust and know about some of these people and topics. Bottom line: Learn more about who and what you write. Once you do, you'll know the mistake you made here.

          • TheRECoach

            Hey Michael, I just saw the comments you made earlier in the stream that ended up in the SPAM filter (have to admit I giggled a bit at the irony of that) and it cleared up a few things I was confused about, that didn't seam to flow right. It also reinforced to me that, through your bias's regarding the issue I was raising, you really are a “bright young mind” yourself. Your insight is exceptional, and your experience shows through well.

            For me to debate the inner workings of the current system with you would be akin to “bringing a knife to a gun fight”, not so good 🙂 Which lends to my comment earlier that your insight is valuable, and I would hope that you would use it to help produce the finest customer facing product ever seen. Something that would help the RE Industry quell the current public perception of the it.

            Lucky for me my point has always been based on what I saw. So let's focus on that, since it was and continues to be my inspiration for the post. To a completely unbiased observer, the fashion in which the men you defend as “Pillars of the MLS Industry” handled themselves in this 1 meeting (remember that's all I am talking about) was an indication that little will be solved until the sides are represented by people who are more in the “Spirit of cooperation” and not with ones who are pre-disposed to the status quo.

            Trust me, it was embarrassing to watch. If I allow you the latitude to begin the phrase with “If what you are saying is true” … can you at least say that these guys were “wrong” (because you still haven't touched that) for what they said?

            BTW – I took your advice and asked 7 people in the Industry, I know and respect, how they felt about my observations of these 3 guys. To a man (and 1 woman) they all said I “nailed it” related to their own perceptions. They also said that I had little or no chance to get any of them to change and that this issue is larger than I could ever imagine. They suggested, like you, that I just give it up, walk away, & spend my time on issues I can effect.

            That made me sad

            Hope one day to meet in person and talk further about this. I think I could learn a thing or two from a guy like you 😉

            @TheRECoach

          • Michael Wurzer

            Do the people you asked know the people in question?

            I never suggested you give up, I suggested you take the time to learn before judging.

          • TheRECoach

            Yes they knew them (some knew them very well, others knew them professionally) . They also knew you, and were complementary of your skills.

            I won't give up, I will continue to educate myself and maybe others to the best of my ability.

            thanks,

      • An inappropriate comment or two in a non-public forum doesn't much bother me, to be honest. PC doesn't have anything to do with the real issue. I have to say I take issue with the 53% comment as my experience on the front lines indicates that percentage is considerably different.

        Back on track … the leap you're making to regulation seems like one hell of a stretch. What is it that's going to be regulated – the data being repackaged by the third-party aggregators? Shouldn't the responsibility fall on these aggregators to ensure what they are culling and repackaging is kept updated rather than pulling the data and then pointing fingers other directions over the continuing accuracy of the data?

        Again, the MLS isn't a public interface. At its heart it's a marketing tool by agents and brokers for agents and brokers. Imagine a world without Zillow or Trulia … it's easy if you can.

        • TheRECoach

          Regulation may be a stretch Jonathan, I admit that. I think because of the Lending issue that led to our current RE market, Wall St's recent Insider past, BP's oil spill, and even as far back as Enron. Uncle Sam looks for issues & reasons to step in. If, and its a big if I know, they did I just don't think it would be good.

          Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't the data begin at an MLS? therefor, when a change is made at that MLS, shouldn't that change be broadcast to each outlet that the data has been given, sold, or sent to? Just thinking out loud.

          When I look at it from a Private Citizen's perspective, the data is theirs (especially the Home Seller) and it's intended to be put forth in a responsible way. They allow MLS's, Aggregators, and Brokers to use that data to assist them in selling their house. They expect that it is handled with care. They continue to demand that it be correct. Since it starts with the MLS's, I suspect they see them as the “responsible” party to the data. Which is why the comment by Soprano Guy “The Consumer is not my customer” really turned me off.

          Many industries have assumed that they are bigger than the Consumer. That they somehow know better. But when public support swells to overwhelming size, they find out they were wrong. When the People speak, we should listen.

          enjoyed the conversation,

          @TheRECoach

          • The data begins with the MLS but not all data is provided by the MLS. As long as the aggregators are allowing backdoor access – in this case defined as data entered outside the MLS channels (think Postlets, Listhub, etc.) – and not enforcing a requirement to update data and status, you're going to have a problem.

  • I'm not going to be able to add any more to the conversation that Mike has not already said.

    The only question I have is this; If you were to have made it to the room with my “MeetUp” what nickname would have you given me. ; )

    • TheRECoach

      Probably would said “the guy who looks like a cross between Gilligan and The Skipper”! 😉

      BTW – Feel free to share your feelings on this next time we meet. I am more interested in it than ever now!

      @TheRECoach

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