Today’s launch of has generated some buzz across the real estate blogiverse, and beyond.

I haven’t come across a post yet though from someone who actually “joined” the Zolve network. What I’ve seen is bloggers looking at the site from the outside, or discussing the business model. All perfectly apropos, but missing just a little piece of the pie.

So off I went to explore Zolve from a Realtor’s perspective.

Immediately upon going to I was greeted by a “talking head” sliding into my screen. Personally, I find these incredibly annoying. You can shut her off, but she comes right back every single time you return to the home page.

The other thing I noticed was the large spinning globe. If you hover over the continents, they are highlighted — implying something should happen if you click them. But nothing does.

I thought I would jump straight to the video tour (after all, the talking head told me to do just that) but alas, the “Take a Video Tour” link on the home page is non-functional. I noticed a “Tour Zolve” link in the nav menu so I tried it. It did send me to a new page — saying “Zolve Tour Video Coming Soon!”

Sigh. I have to be honest and admit that at this point, had I not been there to review the site I would have simply moved on. But I pressed forward.

I created a Zolve profile in just a few minutes. (It’s a lame profile due to me, not Zolve. The capability to do much more is there.) The interface is certainly nothing groundbreaking, but it is intuitive and simple. One concern in the profile creation process is that I had to enter my credit card info. It was not charged (there is a 30 day free trial period), but I suspect some will be wary of entering credit card info for a free trial. You can also pay with a PayPal account, which is well integrated and simple. I do not see a way to cancel your account, I assume you would have to use the “Contact Zolve” form.

And the contact form lead me to a disturbing discovery. There is no phone number or physical address that I can find anywhere on the site. This verbiage is in the contact form:

Zolve is an internet-based network and website so we communicate with our members through email. We will respond to your question or comment as soon as fast as possible.

I understand that, but business web sites need a physical address and phone number. Go to any of the organizations that “certify” trusted web sites (such as TRUSTe, BBBOnline, etc) and they require contact information beyond an email form. Zolve doesn’t even provide an email address.

Which brings us to the Zolve Privacy policy which states (in part):

Additionally, your contact, postal, e-mail address and demographic information may be shared with third party marketers for marketing purposes.

I’m sorry, but if I’m paying $395 to $1000 a year to belong to a network/website, I don’t want my contact info shared with third party marketers. I should at least have an opt-out option!

I suppose these things may not bother some people, but for me no contact info and no opt out for sharing my private information is a deal killer. Period.

Despite this, I pressed on in my explorations.

The site is easy to get around in. It’s got a nice clean look and an intuitive UI (thought the “captcha’s” are extremely difficult for these old eyes to see).

There appear to be a few bugs. This is displayed in one place on my profile:

And this is displayed in my Referral Management section:

Hmmm. I thought I could fix this apparent conflict by clicking on the link that says, “Click here to complete this information”, but instead I found yet another non-functional link. And given that the main purpose of Zolve is to coordinate referrals, well….. here I am, unable to do just that without a clue as to why.

I could not figure out how to subscribe to the blogs RSS feed. It’s calling some Javascript that isn’t working (or I can’t figure out how to make it work). I don’t understand the use of Java here…

There are a couple of places with an “online/offline” indicator, which is a good idea for a site promoting member networking. But my indicator has yet to show me as online.

The blogging section is easy to use and is formatted well. Someone already rated my “test post” with 4 out 5 stars, even though the entire post consists of “Testing 1 2 3”. (Well, it shows 4 stars in one place, none in others.) Is this a harbinger of how agents will rate other agents in the referral network? The old, “If I rate them well, they’ll rate me well”?? As of 10:00pm MST there are 4 blog posts on the network, including mine. With an advertised 2,200+ members, that seems shockingly low. There are also many empty profiles — devoid of anything but a name. Makes one wonder how active the “pre-launch” membership was…

Given the likes of ActiveRain, REW Blogs and (gasp) even blogs, not to mention WordPress, TypePad and Blogger et al., I just don’t see the need for yet another blogging platform. I don’t think Zolve is trying to be another blogging platform, but then if that’s the case, why call it a blog?

I’ll freely admit that I also don’t see the need for a paid membership site to find agents to refer business to. There are countless free methods for doing just that (Google, ActiveRain, RealTalk, designation directories, brokerage directories, etc.). The agent ranking system might prove handy, but I’m not going to send a client to anyone just because they have some stars by their name. Unless I know them, I’m picking up the telephone and interviewing them before I send them my clients, regardless of what someone else says about them. But maybe that’s just me.

Perhaps I’m short-sighted and/or am missing something. I certainly don’t wish Brain Wilson any ill-will. In fact, I hope he’s wildly successful. He’s a bright, dedicated guy and I’m sure Zolve will Evolve. Business model questions aside, everything here I mentioned regarding the site itself can, and I am sure will, be fixed. Whether the Zolve model will be successful in its current incarnation amongst a sea of other “social networking” sites remains to be seen. From everything I’ve seen and read of Brian Wilson, I know he won’t stop pushing for success for every Zolve member.