Google, Yelp and Data Scraping

Danny in the valley podcast:

The Sunday Times’ tech correspondent Danny Fortson brings on Jeremy Stoppelman, founder of Yelp, to talk about the early days of “user-generated content” (3:50), when ‘Yelp’ became a verb (7:10), when Google took notice (9:00), becoming a resource for the search giant (11:35), when Google tried to buy Yelp (12:40), testifying in Congress (13:40), Google’s dirty deeds (16:00), Google’s unseen power (18:50), whether Trump is good for Yelp (23:20), the coming crackdown (25:50)

Related: Keller Williams’ recent Google “Data Alliance” announcement.

Oregon Just Voted to Legalize Duplexes on Almost Every City Lot

Michael Andersen:

“This is about choice,” said Rep. Tina Kotek, the Democratic speaker of Oregon’s house and the bill’s architect and lead champion, when she introduced the bill in February. “This is about allowing for different opportunities in neighborhoods that are currently extremely limited.”

“We all have an affordable housing crisis in our areas,” said Rep. Jack Zika, a Redmond Republican who supported the bill before a different committee June 11. “This is not a silver bullet, but will address some of the things that all our constituents need. … We have an opportunity now for first-time homebuyers.”

About 2.8 million Oregonians live in jurisdictions affected by the bill. Of those, about 2.5 million live in larger cities and the Portland metro area where up to four homes per lot would become legal; the rest, in mid-size cities where only duplexes would be legalized.

Cities would retain the ability to regulate building size and design, giving them leeway to ensure that change will be gradual. Cities also have flexibility to incentivize projects that create new below-market homes. (Portland, which has been working on its own fourplex legalization for the last four years, is planning to do exactly that, using a sliding scale of size bonuses that lets buildings be slightly larger for each additional home they create, and another bonus if one or more of the homes is offered below market price.)

Internet Trends: Daily Hours Spent with Digital Media, by Device

Internet Trends 2019.

Millions of Business Listings on Google Maps Are Fake—and Google Profits

Rob Copeland and Katherine Bindley:

Yet despite its powerful algorithms and first-rate software engineers, the company struggles to protect against chronic deceit on Google Maps.

Once considered a sleepy, low-margin business by the company and known mostly for giving travel directions, Google Maps in recent months has packed more ads onto its search queries. It is central to Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s GOOG 0.93% hope to recharge a cresting digital-advertising operation.

Often, Google Maps yields mirages, visible in local business searches of U.S. cities, including Mountain View, Calif., Google’s hometown. Of a dozen addresses for personal-injury attorneys on Google Maps during a recent search, only one office was real. A Viennese patisserie was among the businesses at addresses purported to house lawyers. The fakes vanished after inquiries to Google from The Wall Street Journal.

The false listings benefit businesses seeking more customer calls by sprinkling made-up branches in various corners of a city. In other cases, as Ms. Carter discovered, calls to listed phone numbers connect to unscrupulous competitors, a misdirection forbidden by Google rules but sporadically policed by the company.

Hundreds of thousands of false listings sprout on Google Maps each month, according to experts. Google says it catches many others before they appear.

Online advertising specialists identified by Google as deft fraud fighters estimated that Google Maps carries roughly 11 million falsely listed businesses on any given day, according to a Journal survey of these experts.

Facebook usage falling after privacy scandals, data suggests

Alex Hern:

The decline coincided with a series of data, privacy and hate speech scandals. In September the company discovered a breach affecting 50m accounts, in November it admitted that an executive hired a PR firm to attack the philanthropist George Soros, and it has been repeatedly criticised for allowing its platform to be used to fuel ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

Facebook’s own statistics show increases in daily and monthly active users (DAUs and MAUs), the numbers logging on to the site at least once in the respective periods, during the year ending March 2019.

In the company’s latest quarterly earnings report, published in April, it said it averaged 1.56bn DAUs in March up 8% on March 2018, and MAUs were also up 8% year on year.

The two sets of numbers can be reconciled. Anecdotal reports over the past year have suggested that while few users have deleted their Facebook accounts or stopped logging on since the scandals, many have reduced their usage.

This month a market research firm, eMarketer, reported a decline in Facebook usage in the US, saying the typical Facebook user spent 38 minutes a day on the site, down from 41 minutes in 2017.

“On top of that, Facebook has continued to lose younger users, who are spreading their time and attention across other social platforms and digital activities,” eMarketer said.

How to Design for the Web in 2019

Casper Beyer:

Chrome is moving to block ad-blockers so if the user is using a browser like Brave we’ll be able to just claim the user’s browser isn’t modern enough.

Death of the Country Club

Charles McElwee:

The country club, once a mainstay of American suburbia, faces a cloudy future, with a changing culture eroding its societal influence. Golf and tennis, the traditional club pastimes, have lost popularity. Declining marriage and fertility rates mean fewer families joining. Young professionals, many burdened with limited incomes and high debt, balk at paying dues. And a yearning for broader community makes the clubhouse’s exclusivity unappealing. The country club is increasingly a refuge for retirees—and, upon closure, a site for mixed-use development.

Country clubs once served as communal centers for social climbers. Dating to the 1880s, the clubs—modeled on the British aristocracy’s country houses—opened in the bucolic outskirts of industrial cities and towns. For a growing upper-middle-class, wealth permitted entry into this local society. Golf, dormant since the colonial era, became the favored sport for club members; in 1895 alone, more than 100 courses opened. Country clubs would help shape the development of streetcar suburbs, with stately homes lining manicured courses. By the Great Depression, nearly 4,500 country clubs existed across the country.

Brand Building: The Wrong Math

Bob Hoffman:

Sadly in the field of advertising and marketing, experts are not usually hatched based on their record of producing reliable results, but on their ability to attract attention. Consequently we should be highly dubious of their “expertise.” But we’re not. Because as Kahneman also says, “a reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition.”

One of the most frequently repeated and, in my opinion, highly dubious tropes in our industry these days is the idea that the paragon of media strategy is “mass one-to-one” communication. In non-jargonista terms, this means reaching large numbers with individualized messages.

You would expect that this assertion would be met with skepticism. For one thing, there is no record of “mass one-to-one” communication achieving anything. You might argue that no one has yet been able to engineer “mass one-to-one” and that is why there is no record. Which is exactly my point. Shouldn’t we exercise a little skepticism about a theory for which there are no examples?


First, I believe brands are far more likely to achieve big success if they are well-known. Public media (broad based media) make you well-known. Private media (one-to-one) don’t. Perhaps the best argument for this can be found outside the advertising industry. As many have noted, in their early stages Google, Facebook, and Amazon were brands that became successful without advertising. How did they become successful? One component was that news media fell in love with them and gave them zillions in free coverage. These companies became well-known without advertising, and being well-known helped them grow. The rules of probability don’t just apply to advertising, they apply across the board.

Second, I believe people are more likely to accept the legitimacy of brands that advertise in public than brands that advertise in private

Third, except for sociopaths, we all (secretly) want to fit in. Understanding what products fit with our peer culture is part of fitting in. This is why goths wear black and golfers wear plaid. Consequently, we are more likely to buy a brand about which everyone in our group knows what the brand stands for. Public media provide the framework to believe that your group has the same understanding of what the brand is about as you do. Private media do not. When advertising is customized for individuals, we have no idea if others know what we know.

Is GDPR working? Brave’s Johnny Ryan says it’s starting to, and marketers must heed the risks

Greg Sterling:

Article 7 (3) of the GDPR requires that an opt-in must be as easy to undo as it was to give in the first place, and that people can do so without detriment.

Tech Platforms

Ben Evans:

There are about 5.3bn people on earth aged over 15. Of these, around 5bn have a mobile phone. This is an estimate: I’m going with the GSMA’s but most others are in the same range. The data challenge is that mobile operators collectively know how many people have a SIM card, but a lot of people have more than one. Meanwhile, ownership starts at aged 10 or so in developed markets, whereas in some developing markets half of the population is under 15, which means that a penetration number given as a share of the total population masks a much higher penetration of the adult population.

About 4bn people have a smartphone. How do we get to this number? Well:

  • Apple gave a number of 900m active iPhones at the beginning of the year, which is consistent with the unit sales that it reported until recently.

  • Google said at this year’s IO conference that there are 2.5bn active Android devices, and the Android developer dashboard says that about 95% of these are phones.
  • Google’s number does not include Android phones in China, which do not come with any Google services (conversely Apple’s number does include iOS devices in China). The Chinese government estimates just over 800m internet-connected smartphones in China, and perhaps 20% of these are iPhones, giving a round number of 650m Android phones.

How many of these are online? These sources are all based on devices that connect to the internet regularly in order for them to be counted, but ‘connection’ is a pretty fuzzy thing. The entry price for low-end Android is now well under $50, and cellular data connectivity is relatively expensive for people earning less than $10 or $5 a day (and yes, all of these people are getting phones). Charging your phone is also expensive – if you live without grid electricity, you may need to pay the neighbor who owns a generator, solar cells or car battery to top up your battery. Hence, MTN Nigeria recently reported that 47% of its users had a smartphone but only 27% were active data users (defined as using >5 meg/month). Of course, some of these will be limiting their use to wifi, where they can get it. These issues will obviously intensify as the next billion convert to smartphones (or near-smartphones like KaiOS) in the next few years. There are lots of paths to address this, including the continuing cost efficiencies of cellular, cheaper backhaul (perhaps using LEO satellites), and cheap solar panels (and indeed more wifi). The fratricidal price wars started by Jio in India are another contributor, though you can’t really rely on that to happen globally. But this issue means that on one hand there are actually more than 4bn smartphones in use in some way, but on the other that fewer than 4bn are really online.

Facebook held talks with Winklevoss twins over new currency

Hanna Murphy and Philip Stafford:

Facebook’s vaulting ambition to create a new global digital currency has led it to hold talks with some of America’s largest trading houses and cryptocurrency exchanges, including one founded by Mark Zuckerberg’s sworn enemies — the Winklevoss twins.

A secretive unit of the social media company has been working for more than a year to create a currency that its 2bn users can use to send money to each other, and to buy things not just on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp but across the internet and in the real world.

“Payments is one of the areas where we have an opportunity to make it a lot easier. I believe it should be as easy to send money to someone as it is to send a photo,” said Mr Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, at the company’s developer conference at the end of April.

But the project will be “bigger and more open” than just a way to make payments and purchases within Facebook, according to three people familiar with the project.

To make sure that its new currency, a digital coin linked to the value of the dollar, is liquid and tradeable, Facebook has talked to Jump and DRW, Chicago’s biggest high-frequency trading firms about making a market, according to two people familiar with the talks.

Both firms declined to comment. Facebook has required all parties taking part in talks to sign non-disclosure agreements.

CrossFit, Inc. Suspends Use of Facebook and Associated Properties


Recently, Facebook deleted without warning or explanation the Banting7DayMealPlan user group. The group has 1.65 million users who post testimonials and other information regarding the efficacy of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. While the site has subsequently been reinstated (also without warning or explanation), Facebook’s action should give any serious person reason to pause, especially those of us engaged in activities contrary to prevailing opinion.

Facebook and its properties host and oversee a significant share of the marketplace of public thought. To millions of individuals and communities across the world, Facebook and its properties remain the platforms where ideas and information are exchanged. Facebook thus serves as a de facto authority over the public square, arbitrating a worldwide exchange of information as well as overseeing the security of the individuals and communities who entrust their ideas, work, and private data to this platform. This mandates a certain responsibility and assurance of good faith, transparency, and due process.

CrossFit, Inc., as a voluntary user of and contributor to this marketplace, can and must remove itself from this particular manifestation of the public square when it becomes clear that such responsibilities are betrayed or reneged upon to the detriment of our community. Common decency demands that we do so, as do our convictions regarding fitness, health, and nutrition, which sit at the heart of CrossFit’s identity and prescription. To this end, all activity on CrossFit, Inc.’s Facebook and Instagram accounts was suspended as of May 22, 2019, as CrossFit investigates the circumstances pertaining to Facebook’s deletion of the Banting7DayMealPlan and other well-known public complaints about the social-media company that may adversely impact the security and privacy of our global CrossFit community.

The Rise of the Rural Creative Class (!)

Richard Florida:

One of the most persistent myths in America today is that urban areas are innovative and rural areas are not. While it is overwhelmingly clear that innovation and creativity tend to cluster in a small number of cities and metropolitan areas, it’s a big mistake to think that they somehow skip over rural America.

A series of studies from Tim Wojan and his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service documents the drivers of rural innovation. Their findings draw on a variety of data sets, including a large-scale survey that compares innovation in urban and rural areas called the Rural Establishment Innovation Survey (REIS). This is based on some 11,000 business establishments with at least five paid employees in tradable industries—that is, sectors that produce goods and services that are or could be traded internationally—in rural (or non-metro) and urban (metro) areas.

The survey divides businesses into three main groups. Roughly 30 percent of firms are substantive innovators, launching new products and services, making data-driven decisions, and creating intellectual property worth protecting; another 33 percent are nominal innovators who engage in more incremental improvement of their products and processes; and 38 percent show little or no evidence of innovation, so are considered to be non-innovators.

Google to push new ads on its apps to snare shoppers

Paresh Dave:

The search giant on Tuesday announced an expansion of its advertising real estate to boost revenue from mobile shoppers. It will feature ads on the homepage of its smartphone app worldwide, show more ads in Maps and place ads with image galleries in search results.

The changes come as choppy revenue growth prompt questions from some Alphabet investors about whether services such as Inc and Facebook Inc’s Instagram are drawing online shoppers and in turn, advertisers away from Google.

Google executives told reporters on Monday the latest features were a response to how users behave, not competition.

Today’s subscription services cover toilet paper, dog toys, and furniture. But what is lost with convenience?

Amanda Mull:

A subscription, at its base, is simply a schedule of recurring fees that gives consumers continual access to goods or services. A car lease is a subscription, but so is your gym membership and the way you use Microsoft Office. Subscription creep dates to at least 2007, when Amazon launched Subscribe & Save, a service that lets shoppers pre-authorize periodic charges for thousands of consumable goods, such as sandwich bags or face wash (or toilet paper), usually at a slight discount over individual purchases. Then, in 2010, came Birchbox, which provides women with miniature portions of beauty products on a monthly basis for $15. At its peak, the company was valued at more than $500 million.

Both Amazon’s and Birchbox’s models have been widely copied, and their success underscores the appeal of subscriptions to businesses and consumers alike, according to Utpal Dholakia, a marketing professor at Rice University. “The pain of payment and the friction of how a person is going to pay is totally gone,” he says. Consumers receive things they need or want without having to make any decisions, and that creates more stable and predictable revenue streams for the businesses they patronize.

Present Your CMA, Market Stats and Buyer Presentations Online, Live! Sign documents, too.

Glenn Sanford, eXp Realty Co-Founder:

All brokerages must rethink how to engage with consumers. Real estate brokerages must embrace instant showings, qualify consumers virtually, etc. Think about the next level of consumer engagement that you can do online that you are not yet doing.

– via T360’s “Executive Summit” [Notes].

Virtual Properties’ agent app users can share, present and close with one app. In person, or remotely.

A few examples:

New Listings at a Virtual Sales Meeting

CMA and Buyer Presentation

Netsheet: Interactive Pricing

Market Analytics

Autofill documents, sign and close

Get Started:

Turn on iPhone/iPad screen sharing

Install the Zoom app App Store Play Store

iOS screen sharing can be used to record and share your screens, as well. This is very useful for rich messages along with social posts.

Contact or 608 468 6013 for a deeper dive.

US Mobile Market Highlights: Q1 2019

Chetan Sharma:

Smartphone penetration stood at 95%.

AT&T also added the most number of connected cars for the year in the history of the industry. Its total tally stands at almost 32M connected vehicles. AT&T has now added more than 1.5M cars to its network for the 9th straight quarter.

Connected wearables continued to grow at a good pace in Q1 continuing the surprisingly good run in 2018.

The internet didn’t shrink 6% real estate commissions. But this lawsuit might

Lydia DePillis:

Whether or not the lawsuits succeed, traditional brokers and the MLSes they depend on are facing challenges from all sides.

One is a crop of startups offering private listings, off the MLS, to high-net-worth clients who might pay a premium to avoid a bidding war. That allows the property to sell more quickly, even if agents take a higher cut. Then there are a group of companies known as iBuyers, like OpenDoor, which will buy homes sight unseen and hold them only as long as it takes to sell them again, which allows sellers to skip the MLS and attendant commissions altogether.
Billions of dollars of investor capital have been flowing into these startups, allowing them to gain market share without necessarily turning a profit. Some of the more established online listing portals, like Zillow, have launched their own iBuyer platforms as well. Keller Williams, the nation’s largest brokerage franchise, just got into the iBuyer game, too.

Even companies that have tried to make the real estate industry more competitive worry that will end up fragmenting the MLS, undermining a system that — while flawed in some ways — at least allowed all listings to be broadly available. Glenn Kelman, the CEO of Redfin, describes himself as “completely unreconstructed in my ambition to make real estate better for consumers.” But he fears that if real estate agents aren’t incentivized to contribute to the MLS, the whole network could break down.

After all, the National Association of Realtors’ firm rules have created an economic contract — the prospect of earning commissions — that gives market participants a reason to collaborate and create an information commons. If that financial motivation goes away, the real estate market may turn into a collection of well-capitalized tech fiefdoms that hoard information, allowing few consumers to access all of it.

“What I feel almost protective about, in this really sad elegiac way, is the MLS,” Kelman said. “Scientists believe that the dinosaurs were living a very marginal existence when the asteroid hit. I think the ecosystem in real estate is already just extremely vulnerable.”

Small Mortgages Are Getting Harder to Come By

Ben Eisen:

Only about a quarter of homes that sold for less than $70,000 were financed with a mortgage, while almost 80% of sales between $70,000 and $150,000 had one, according to an Urban Institute analysis last year. Low-end borrowers had their applications denied at a higher rate than those taking out bigger mortgages even when comparing borrowers with similar credit quality, according to the think tank.

Housing experts say small mortgages have become rarer because lenders have trouble making profits on smaller loans. Lenders typically have a fixed cost to extend a mortgage, and the smaller the loan, the smaller the profits.

“The whole system incentivizes high[-balance] loans,” said Michael Bright, the president of the Structured Finance Industry Group.

Instead, many lenders are catering to more high-end borrowers. Jumbo loans—those too large to sell to government-sponsored guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac —have been a bright spot for banks. Financial institutions have grown increasingly competitive when trying to attract these customers, in part because they are seen as prime targets for selling additional services.

The dearth of smaller mortgages is becoming an impediment to home buying in regions where prices are otherwise affordable, especially in Midwestern and Southern cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Youngstown, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, according to local housing advocates and attorneys.

For many home buyers, the difficulty of obtaining small mortgages represents another rung sawed off the ladder to upward mobility.

“Like everything else in our economy, the housing market has become less equitable,” said Julia Gordon, president of the National Community Stabilization Trust, a nonprofit whose work focuses on neighborhoods with low-price homes.

The Hidden Air Pollution in Our Homes

Nicola Twilley:

Food magazines typically celebrate Thanksgiving in mid-July, bronzing turkeys and crimping piecrust four months in advance. By that time last year, Marina Vance, an environmental engineer at the University of Colorado Boulder, had already prepared two full Thanksgiving dinners for more than a dozen people. Vance studies air quality, and, last June, she was one of two scientists in charge of Homechem, a four-week orgy of cooking, cleaning, and emissions measurement, which brought sixty scientists and four and a half million dollars’ worth of high-tech instrumentation to a ranch house on the engineering campus of the University of Texas at Austin. The two Thanksgiving dinners were the climax of the project and represented what Vance called a “worst-case scenario.” She suspected that the Pilgrims’ harvest celebration, as it is observed in twenty-first-century America, qualified as an airborne toxic event.

The morning of the second simulated Thanksgiving began simply enough, with the researchers making themselves breakfast. Vance and three helpers arrived at the house at half past eight. The kitchen was open plan and modest, with peeling laminate surfaces and flimsy cabinets, but its countertops were crammed with instruments for monitoring airborne particles: a condensation-nucleus counter, a differential-mobility analyzer, and so on. Wires threaded all around the room, and stainless-steel hoses led to four trailers outside, which contained equipment too big to fit in the kitchen.

Andrew Abeleira, a postdoctoral researcher, cracked eight eggs on the edge of the countertop and whisked them; Vance chopped tomatoes while heating oil to fry sausage patties. The banality of the activities was belied by the precision with which the team carried them out: a rigid protocol dictated when each gas burner could be lit, how hot the frying pan should be, and at what setting to toast the bread. The aim was to turn Thanksgiving into a reproducible, scientifically valid experiment.

The Mighty U.S. Consumer Is Struggling

Danielle DiMartino-Booth:

Digging into March’s personal spending data, the headline once again belied strength. On the surface, spending of 0.9 percent was as robust as it gets even after adjusting for inflation, which took it to 0.7 percent. Net out the biggest savings drawdown in six years, however, and you arrive at a decline of 0.2 percent for March.

As for what’s pushing households to tap into their rainy-day funds, Deutsche Bank recently pointed to the 15 percent year-on-year increase in household interest payments. Levels of payments rising at a similar pace preceded the onsets of the last two recessions.

Is it any wonder credit-card issuers are bolstering their cushions to absorb future losses? And it’s not just Capital One that caters to lower-credit quality borrowers. All seven of the largest U.S. card issuers boosted their charge-off rates in the first quarter to an average of 3.82 percent, an almost seven-year high.

Analysis: Does Google’s $1B revenue miss reveal a flawed business model?

Tom Foremski:

Every quarter Google reports a drop in revenues per click — compared with the prior year — of around 20%. This has been going on for years. Google always manages to outpace its falling per click revenues by selling more ads in more places. But is this a sustainable business model?

The recent financial report could be a sign of cracks in the company’s growth strategy.

Google said that the largest drivers of revenue growth in Q1 included mobile ads. But how many ads can Google show on a mobile screen? Is Google running out of places to sell and show more ads?

The company has been trying to hedge its future by building other business outside of advertising such as its Cloud IT services. These non-advertising businesses reported Q1 revenues of $5.4 billion — missing Wall Street estimates of $5.67 billion. And “Other bets” such as the Waymo self- driving cars venture reported a loss of $868 million

A survey of the Real Estate Brokerage Space: Threats and Opportunities

Steve Murray:

Industry Opportunities
In every new iteration of our industry, there are bright spots. Here are a few:

The use of agents by consumers hit an 18-year high in 2018 at 90 percent. Even millennials used agents to buy and sell at a 92 percent level (Harris Insights/REAL Trends 2018).

Nearly two-thirds of all consumers still found and chose an agent because of a relationship of some kind.
Millennials and Gen Z have the same appetite for homeownership as all previous generations, and they will become the largest, most prosperous and most educated generations in American history.

Gross commission incomes came in at just over $72 billion in 2018. The average commission rate remained above 5 percent during the year. Total commission revenues were flat in 2017 even though unit sales were down.

For the first time in nearly 40 years, private investors are investing in brokerage. All past purchasers were involved in building their brokerage firms—trying for scale. Investors today think there are new and creative ways to build brokerage firms and take advantage of the proven cross-marketing activities of related core services.

Technology is driving fewer agents to do more of the business. For the top 10 percent of agents and teams, productivity is rising. The real promise of technology to equip agents and brokerage firms so they all benefit from increased productivity has not been fully developed yet but it will be.

As the Classic Department Store Falters, These 4 Challengers Want to Upend the Retail Model

Ann-Marie Alacantara:

Don’t call it a comeback—call it a renaissance, a golden age of retail. Contrary to headlines bemoaning the death of merchandising, the so-called “retail apocalypse,” it’s still alive and kicking and was all anyone talked about at this year’s Shoptalk retail/commerce conference.

The rise of fear-based social media like Nextdoor, Citizen, and now Amazon’s Neighbors

Rani Molla:

Violent crime in the US is at its lowest rate in decades. But you wouldn’t know that from a crop of increasingly popular social media apps that are forming around crime.

Apps like Nextdoor, Citizen, and Amazon Ring’s Neighbors — all of which allow users to view local crime in real time and discuss it with people nearby — are some of the most downloaded social and news apps in the US, according to rankings from the App Store and Google Play.

Nextdoor bills itself as the “world’s largest social network for the neighborhood,” where you can ask for nearby restaurant recommendations, buy used furniture, or report a stolen bike. In practice, its “crime and safety” section has been a hotbed for racial stereotyping that’s forced the company to rewrite its software and policies.

Citizen — whose previous form was called Vigilante and which appeared to encourage users to stop crimes in action — sends users 9-1-1 alerts for crimes happening nearby. It also allows users to livestream footage they record of the crime scene, “chat with other Citizen users as situations develop” and “build out your Inner Circle of family and friends to create your own personal safety network, and receive alerts whenever they’re close to danger.”

Now Amazon has thrown its hat in the ring — with Ring. It recently advertised an editorial position that would coordinate news coverage on crime, specifically based around its Ring video doorbell and Neighbors, its attendant social media app. Neighbors alerts users to local crime news from “unconfirmed sources” and is full of Amazon Ring videos of people stealing Amazon packages and “suspicious” brown people on porches. “Neighbors is more than an app, it’s the power of your community coming together to keep you safe and informed,” it boasts.

“the shift from information scarcity to information abundance”

David Perell:

The reason is simple: brands are about trust and signaling. They’re a substitute for incomplete information. When information is scarce and asymmetric, consumers flock to trusted brands. But in many parts of the economy, when consumers have reviews at their fingertips, they no longer defer to brands when they make a purchasing decision.

To be sure, the internet has made some brands stronger, particularly in domains of incomplete information where people don’t know each other very well. The more an industry is about signaling, the more brand matters. That’s why brands matter so much in industries like fashion and beauty. Signaling brands are context-dependent. Signaling brands thrive in environments with high geographic and social mobility. When mobility is high, information asymmetry is the norm. As a result, we use heuristics such as brand associations to gauge strangers. Just consider the differences in behavior between big cities and small towns. Big cities are full of strangers, but small towns are brightened by hugs and handshakes all the way down. In small cities, where everybody already knows each other, the utility of signaling brands is diminished.

The Aldi effect: how one discount supermarket transformed the way Britain shops

Xan Rice:

But today, the boasts of Tesco and Sainsbury’s read like a classic example of business hubris. While the major supermarkets dozed, convinced that many people would not be seen dead in a discount store, the German chains quietly turned the sector on its head. Nearly two-thirds of households now visit an Aldi or Lidl branch at least once every 12 weeks, according to the research firm Kantar Worldpanel.

In 2017, Aldi overtook the Co-op to become the UK’s fifth largest retailer; today it has a 7.5% market share, closing in on fourth-place Morrisons, with 10.6%. Lidl has 5.3%, more than Waitrose. What’s more, the two discounters are still growing quickly – opening an average of one new store every week, often in more affluent towns.

By sucking in shoppers and, as former Aldi UK CEO Paul Foley puts it, “sucking the profitability out of the industry” – profit margins of 2-3% are now the norm – the two German-owned companies have forced the “big four” supermarkets to take drastic measures. Morrisons has closed stores and laid off workers, while Sainsbury’s and Asda, desperate to cut costs and stop losing market share, announced a proposed £13bn merger in May, which the UK competition watchdog now appears likely to block. Tesco, meanwhile, has slashed its product range and bought the discount wholesaler Booker. In September, in a belated acknowledgement that the major threat to its business comes from Aldi and Lidl, Tesco launched its own discount chain, called Jack’s.

These industry shifts often lead the news, because supermarkets are so important to the economy: with more than 300,000 staff, Tesco is the UK’s biggest private-sector employer and the biggest retailer of any sort. But we also follow these stories closely for a more sentimental reason: grocery shopping is an intimate part of our lives. We don’t need to buy books or fancy trainers, but we do need to eat.

Home Sellers’ Doctored Photos Challenge Buyers’ Bots

Ryan Dezember:

Real-estate listing photos have always accentuated the positive, but computer-generated imagery of the sort Hollywood uses has now become so cheap and prolific that home sellers are taking out walls, removing ugly paneling and even adding digital swimming pools.

At the same time, photos are more important than ever: Nearly every home search begins online and deals are often struck without in-person showings, particularly among investors who are putting photos through their own algorithms to price homes as they make an unprecedented move into the U.S. housing market.

The technology allows sellers to green browned lawns, stage rooms with virtual furniture like digital dollhouses and even perform full-blown HGTV-style makeovers with clicks of a mouse.

The hazards to buyers range from disappointment when they arrive for in-person showings to blown renovation budgets. That could prove an especially thorny issue for investors, who may need to retrain computer models they use to comb through listings for houses that are good candidates to turn into rentals or flips.

Risks associated with doctored listing photos could spread beyond sight-unseen buyers. Federal rule makers are considering a proposal to open up more of the home-appraisal business to computers that generate property values partly by scraping online listing photos to gauge condition and finishes.

Redfin Corp. , the discount online real-estate broker, said that 20% of 1,463 recent home buyers it surveyed in May said they had made offers on houses they had never visited. In 2017, when the market was hotter, as many as 35% of the individuals who responded to a similar study said they had made offers sight unseen, Redfin says.

Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life

Wolfie Christl:

In recent years, a wide range of companies has started to monitor, track and follow people in virtually every aspect of their lives. The behaviors, movements, social relationships, interests, weaknesses and most private moments of billions are now constantly recorded, evaluated and analyzed in real-time. The exploitation of personal information has become a multi-billion industry. Yet only the tip of the iceberg of today’s pervasive digital tracking is visible; much of it occurs in the background and remains opaque to most of us.

This report by Cracked Labs examines the actual practices and inner workings of this personal data industry. Based on years of research and a previous 2016 report, the investigation shines light on the hidden data flows between companies. It maps the structure and scope of today’s digital tracking and profiling ecosystems and explores relevant technologies, platforms and devices, as well as key recent developments.

While the full report is available as PDF download, this web publication presents a ten part overview.

Compare Keller Williams’ Command

Keller Williams Chairman and CEO Gary Keller recently declared victory in the real estate tech platform wars.

Command, according to KW “streamlines agents’ jobs, allowing them to automate tasks, create customized marketing campaigns, and manage databases and contacts all in one place, among other things”.

Let’s compare Virtual Properties single entry platform, in production…..

1. “All in One Place”

Listings Leads CMA Buyers CRM Showings Markets “To Do” Documents Transactions Reports Training Class Registration Mailers Brochures Websites Apps

Desktop and Agent App

2. Automate Tasks

3. Customized Marketing Campaigns

4. Manage Databases

> 1.5m contacts in this client’s system, adding 75 to 110K annually.

5. Manage Contacts

iOS and Android agent app onboard experience. iOS CRM sync service….

6. AVM Lead Generation and CRM Integration

7. Document auto-fill & Transactions: Desktop and Agent App

Interested in a detailed comparison and live demo? Email or call 1 608 468 6013.

Creativity and Advertising


Each one is built on a single-minded thought.

Each one demands our attention.

Each one communicates persuasively with economy, wit, and confidence.

And, of course, each one has a look, an attitude and a personality that’s theirs and theirs alone – you’d be hard-pressed to mistake a VW ad for a Volvo or Citroen for a Porsche.

These ads built on one another. They accumulated value and incrementally raised expectations and properties around the brand over time. Today’s ads do none of these things. Bereft of any conceptual merit or sense of longevity, they merely piss away a tidy budget down a hole of invisibility.

Where the responsibility lies for the whole Mazda CX-5 debacle is anyone’s guess. Who knows, maybe everyone’s chuffed with it, and sales are through the roof.

Somehow I doubt it.

More Elephant Advertising

Bob Hoffman:

But if you’re asking the appropriate question — “Are you willing to trade private, personal information about yourself and your family, and have your movements tracked and catalogued both online and offline, and have your emails and texts read and archived, and have files about you sold to anyone who wants to buy them, in order to get more relevant advertising?”– I don’t think you need to be a Harvard-billionaire-semi-clever-operator to know that you better be wearing a cup.

A psychologist explains how Trader Joe’s gets you to spend more money

Jack Houston:

Narrator: Okay, so imagine yourself at the grocery store. You’re hungry but you don’t really feel like cooking. I guess pasta’s pretty easy. Suddenly you’re faced with this. That’s so many choices. Do you go for the classic tomato basil? How ’bout creamy alfredo? But what exactly is the difference between these two or these three? Wait. Why is this so hard?

Trader Joe’s is the surfy, laid back grocery chain know for it’s cheap prices and floral print clad staff. Data science professionals have ranked it number one in customer preference for two years running. The brand has held off on going high tech. They keep it simple with no online store, no loyalty programs, and no sales. When you break it down to square footage, Trader Joe’s is actually selling more than double its competitors like Whole Foods. But how much money you spend at Trade Joe’s ultimately comes down to what you are choosing to buy. But what about Trader Joe’s makes it so easy to choose?

Barry Schwartz: I spent, I’ve spent the last 25 years studying how people make decisions.

Narrator: That’s Barry Schwartz, a psychologist, a professor, and a Trader Joe’s enthusiast himself.

Schwartz: I think Trader Joe’s is the best example of how the world should be constructed.

Narrator: Whoa, take it easy there Barry. Barry coined the term the paradox of choice and quite literally wrote the book on it and it basically describes how you would think that the more–

Schwartz: Choice we have, the better off we are. That turns out empirically not to be true. When you give people too many options, they get paralyzed instead of liberated.

Compare KW: Announcements vs Shipping

Keller Williams Chairman and CEO Gary Keller recently declared victory in the real estate tech platform wars.

Brokers, agents and teams might find the following brief video worthwhile in their listing, selling and recruiting presentations vis a vis KW announcements.

Call or email for a more detailed comparison. or 1 608 468 6013.

Improve Your Privacy in the Age of Mass Surveillance

today we’ll reclaim our privacy and improve browsing experience step-by-step. There is a difference between protecting your grandma sharing cake recipes, and a human rights activists in a hostile country. Your granny might not be the right person to sell a prepaid SIM & burner-phone to. An activist might consider the below steps entry-level basics, even dangerous if not tailored to the individual. But we all need protection. Even more so if you assume that «you got nothing to hide».

«Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.» – Edward Snowden

Those with nothing to hide still like curtains in their bedroom, and prefer public restrooms equipped with locks minus the CCTV cameras. If you need further convincing the movie Nothing to Hide released earlier this year is available free online.

This site my dear reader has plenty info on the pitfalls of technology, so please do come back often. You may notice I don’t use cookies to track you, or provide share buttons, or ask you for your email. You can subscribe to new articles via RSS feed from the comfort of a browser. I encourage you to copy/paste anything you see here and publish however you see fit. There is no need to give credit either.

The below steps start off very easy. Once half-way through the list you’ll notice things pick up speed. Stop at any point and come back later -or not at all. Everyone should manage to complete the first 4 or 5 steps. This will already make a huge difference to the ability of corporations to track you! Please also help others, less technology-savvy people, in learning some of these methods.

Opendoor files to raise another $200M at a $3.7B valuation, documents show

Ingrid Lunden:

The housing market is predicted to cool this year, but the market for startups selling houses? It seems to be heating up. Opendoor, the company that aims to bypass real estate agents and brokers by providing an online platform — by way of a mobile app — for people to buy and sell properties direct, has filed papers in Delaware indicating that it would like to raise around $200 million more, at a valuation of about $3.7 billion.

The Delaware documents (embedded below, and provided to us by Prime Unicorn Index) do not make it clear if this would come in the form of an outside round, or a conversion — secondary transactions would not be disclosed in public domain documents, or a combination of the two; nor is it clear if the funding has closed already. The documents are dated February 8th of this year.

The raise comes just one month after Knock, an Opendoor competitor, raised $400 million.

Facts & Advertising

Bob Hoffman:

Of course, this turned out to be completely wrong. Millennial income did not overtake baby boomers in 2017. According to Business Insider, in 2018 in the US baby boomers out-earned millennials in every state in the union. “In all 50 states and Washington, DC, the median millennial made less money than the median Gen Xer or baby boomer…The gap in median income between millennials and baby boomers ranged from the older generation making about 25% more than millennials in Iowa to 65% more than millennials in Alaska.”

The average millennial income is about $35,000. The average baby boomer income is about $46,000. There are about 9% more millennials than baby boomers, but their income is about 24% less. So even though there are substantially more of them, in aggregate their income is way behind baby boomers.

What to know before you check your Zestimate (again)

Amy Scott:

Getting that asking price wrong can have real consequences.

“Statistics show that if you overprice your home and take even one price reduction, the final price that you will settle for is usually 5-7 percent lower than you would have gotten if you had priced the home properly to begin with,” Ciancio said, citing sales data from the multiple listing service REcolorado.

Though David Romer and Amber Wilson got less than they wanted for their old house, they said got a good deal on the new one, a four-bedroom ranch they bought for $469,000. Sitting by the fire on a recent evening, Romer dared to pull up the old app on his phone.

“The Zestimate shows at [$515,000],” he said.

“Yay, winning,” Wilson said, relieved. Even though they were well aware how off that number can be, for the moment they could feel a little richer.

The ARPUs of the Big Four Dwarf Everybody Else

Frederic Filloux:

Let’s start with some context by looking at the period 2011–2018 on the US market:

Over the past seven years, Digital ad spending in the United States rose from $32B to $111B; a 3.5x increase.

Google, which had already a stronghold on the US market seven years ago rose from $18B to $63B in revenue, also a 3.5x increase.

Facebook, which was created eight years after Google, catapulted from $2.1B to $27B, a 13x rise.

The New York Times digital advertising revenue rose from $233m in 2011 to $259m, a modest 11 percent increase. See the chart below (the perimeter has evolved: for the FY 2011, I took the NYT “News Media Group”, which excluded properties such as the Boston Globe):

Super Bowl ads and Culture..

Brett Robinson:

Therefore, the number one priority of advertisers is making sure that the new mediums built to sustain the next generation of marketing efforts appear as human and natural as possible as they enter the cultural slipstream. The medium is still the message. We are in the midst of a vast re-education program about what it means to live thoroughly digitized lives. Take the ad about the Google assistant’s language translation capabilities. The ad seems to be about the convenience of having a digital assistant translate speech in real-time. The viewer is taken on a visual and linguistic tour of the planet, dropping in on conversations between people of different cultures who overcome the language barrier by asking Google for help.

Visual signifiers like open air markets, women wearing hijabs and exotic nature scenes tell us that we are having a multicultural experience. The narrator speaks gently to the viewer in a vaguely Indian accent about all the kinds of words that are translated in these settings. Words about food, friendship, sports, belief, fear, “Words that can hurt and sometimes divide. But everyday, the most translated words in the world are “how are you,” “thank you,” and “I love you.”

The tinkling piano soundtrack lends an air of humility and heartfelt goodwill between people of different backgrounds. But what is really going on here?

The global fraternal charity bit is at least as old as Coke’s similarly cloying 1971 ad, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” where a band of singers on a hilltop, all with the same glazed expression, sing about the peace and harmony brought about by sharing a Coke. Babel was not built in a day, so Google picks up where Coke left off and continues selling the idea that products have the transcendent ability to resolve deep cultural tensions.

The Google ad is titled “100 Billion Words” because we are told at the beginning of the ad that more than 100 billion words are translated everyday. How do we know this? Because Google has likely captured and analyzed them. The cynical ad copy dangles words—food, friendship and sports—like the piece of meat for the guard dog of the mind. Sure, who doesn’t like those things! It does not matter where you are from or what you believe, we can all agree about the goodness of food and sports.

Meanwhile, the more architectonic work of inculcating the universal language of the new digital medium, namely its binary logic and code, is the real work of the ad. Food and sports work just fine at the human level but the system level has to be made up of something more consistent and uniform like 1’s and 0’s. More importantly, binary language and logic must be embraced as the new natural syntax for human interaction via our omnipresent devices.

Jean Baudrillard hit upon this nearly forty years ago in his seminal treatise, Simulacra and Simulation. Signs no longer reflect a profound reality. Think of the sacraments. Oil, water, bread and wine are signs that bring about profound changes in the soul of the recipient because they are tied to a fundamental reality, God’s saving love for mankind affected through the Incarnation and the created order. In Baudrillard’s view, signs no longer have this sacramental power because they have been detached from the Real, due, in no small part, to the dissembling media environment.

I have a question

The correct answer, in 2019?

  1. Let me go to the office, search the MLS and get back to you in a few days?
  2. Let me go to the office, look at my system and schedule a time to meet again?
  3. Open agent app, tap stats. Present, discuss and share via airdrop, messages or email.

Call 1 608 468 6013 or email for a demo.

Measuring the “Filter Bubble”: How Google is influencing what you click

Spread Privacy:

Over the years, there has been considerable discussion of Google’s “filter bubble” problem. Put simply, it’s the manipulation of your search results based on your personal data. In practice this means links are moved up or down or added to your Google search results, necessitating the filtering of other search results altogether. These editorialized results are informed by the personal information Google has on you (like your search, browsing, and purchase history), and puts you in a bubble based on what Google’s algorithms think you’re most likely to click on.

The filter bubble is particularly pernicious when searching for political topics. That’s because undecided and inquisitive voters turn to search engines to conduct basic research on candidates and issues in the critical time when they are forming their opinions on them. If they’re getting information that is swayed to one side because of their personal filter bubbles, then this can have a significant effect on political outcomes in aggregate.

Back in 2012 we ran a study showing Google’s filter bubble may have significantly influenced the 2012 U.S. Presidential election by inserting tens of millions of more links for Obama than for Romney in the run-up to that election. Our research inspired an independent study by the Wall Street Journal (paywall):

Compass hires a new CFO

Philip Grant:

New York City real estate firm Compass is another.

In September, Compass raised $400 million in a series F round led by the Vision Fund and Qatar Investment Authority, valuing the start-up at $4.4 billion. That’s double the valuation fetched at the prior round in December 2017. Consistent with financial backer Masa Son, Compass CEO Robert Reffkin is thinking big. In June, Reffkin told Bloomberg: “What books were for Amazon, the brokerage model is for us.”

Compass, which began the year with 30 offices, will finish the year with 150 and reach 300 locations by the end of next year, according to chief growth officer Rob Lehman. On Nov. 29, The Real Deal reported that Compass is launching a company-branded credit card for its real estate agents, who can pay back their charges on their “own timelines,” according to Lehman. In October, The Real Deal reported on another generous perk for agents: a company stock option program which provides for a 30% bonus for every dollar invested back in Compass. The company reported last month that more than 1,000 agents have invested some or all of their commissions back into the unicorn, a development that CEO Reffkin described thusly:

It’s not something we needed to do to raise capital. It’s purely an offering to respond to an agent’s desire to have ownership in Compass’ future success.

Three weeks ago, Compass hired Carlyle Group veteran Kristen Ankerbrandt as chief financial officer to help oversee what Reffkin termed the company’s “next stage of hypergrowth.” Ankerbrandt replaces Craig Anderson, who was on the job for just seven months.

For a detailed analysis of SoftBank, see the Nov. 30 edition of Grant’s.

Dead Air More Effective Than Facebook Ads

Bob Hoffman:

The astounding thing is that with all the data Facebook is collecting, all the geniuses we have analyzing display ad results, all the space-age targeting we are constantly being beaten over the head with, and all the young creative prodigies lecturing us on the magic of online advertising, empty ads outperformed our online geniuses.

Premeditated Stupidity: A Planned Mistake Is Something Worse

James Albright:

We aren’t as smart as we think. I need periodic reminders of that fact, but even then, I seem to fall into the trap again. Fortunately, my biggest mistakes are ancient history. (Yes, I’ll share those with you shortly.)

As a unique demographic, it seems we pilots never run out of ways of to be, well, stupid. I think the best way to learn how to avoid that is to examine the actions of others who clearly did not. It may be worth a laugh — “I would never do that!” — but keep in mind you may be tempted to do something along the same lines. You must always be on guard for the next stupid thing.

There is no shortage of stupid in the pilot pool; it seems to be a phase some of us go through, including me. Luckily, I got my dunce cap in 1981, long before the advent of cellphone cameras and Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) programs. The other advantage that I had was we lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force were expected to be stupid back then. (It was part of our bloodthirsty killer training.) The service, fortunately, grew out of that mindset. But before I start throwing stones from my glass house, let me fess up about my worst. Then we can move on to more recent examples and consider a way of surviving it all.

When software Eats the Real (estate) World

Alex Rampell:

Buying a home is in many ways the pinnacle of the American dream. And yet the way things work today, it’s a painful process. Real estate agents, brokers, banks, notaries, title insurers, and many other intermediaries all make for a convoluted, difficult, and expensive process for home buyers and sellers alike.

In this presentation from a16z’s annual Summit event, a16z general partner Alex Rampell explains how as consumers get used to less friction and more transparency in the age of mobile, software is finally beginning to disrupt buying a home — from discovery to purchase to finance and more. Including even disrupting the nature of home ownership itself.

The Facebook Era is Over

Gina Bianchini:

Facebook’s shifting algorithms and pay-to-play “boosting” schemes over the past few years have primed a generation of influencers, podcasters, bloggers, and Group admins to look for the exit. When you’ve worked for a decade to build a following, and now only 1% of that following sees what you produce, you’re ready for an alternative.

Creators and Group admins used to be scared their users would riot if they took their page or group elsewhere. What a difference a year makes. Yesterday I spoke to a podcaster whose large following explicitly asked him to find a Facebook alternative. This isn’t to say that people are deleting Facebook. It’s more nuanced than that. It’s a way for people to have fewer reasons to be there. If they’re part of something special and authentic, many don’t want it to be tarnished by what’s happening across the rest of the social network.

Big brands will be the last to leave. Unlike creators and Group admins, big brands will stick with Facebook for as long as possible. Despite CPMs jumping 171% in one year, big brands have institutionalized Facebook ad buying and posting not only with budgets but with dedicated teams. They’re too invested to acknowledge the writing on the wall, despite objectively diminishing returns.

The Unintended Consequences of the ‘Free’ Internet

Greg Ip:

If executives at his unnamed targets— Facebook Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. —rolled their eyes, you can understand why. Mr. Cook is, after all, talking his book: Apple makes its money by charging premium prices for its products. Google and Facebook make theirs by giving away their products and then selling ads.

Yet this is not just some internecine battle of billionaires. The zero-price business model is a source of many of the problems plaguing the Internet. It’s no coincidence that Google, Facebook and Twitter Inc. —which garner more than 80% of their revenue from advertising—are the ones most often accused of propagating toxic content and eroding privacy, while Microsoft Corp. and Apple, whose revenue comes from selling software, hardware and services, fly under the radar.

Think about why price matters: It’s how the market rations precious resources. A price signals to suppliers how much to invest in a product. It’s how a consumer decides whether that product is the best use of her budget.

A price of zero cripples that rationing role. When it comes to generating volume, free is a dream; when it comes to quality control, it’s a nightmare.

Effects of Parental Home Ownership on Millennial Homebuying

Urban Institute:

The homeownership rate among older millennials (ages 25 to 34) is 37 percent, compared with 45 percent for Gen Xers and baby boomers when they were the same age, and these rates vary when broken down by race and ethnicity. This data talk session will explore these racial gaps and size up the mortgage-ready millennial population by race and ethnicity. Millennials are more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations, and it is likely that the parents of millennials of color have lower wealth and lower homeownership rates than their white counterparts. This data talk will ask the question, “What is the impact of parents’ homeownership and wealth on the homebuying prospects of their children?” and quantify how parents’ homeownership and wealth impact their children’s homeownership prospects. We also estimate the portion of the racial gap in young adult homeownership that can be explained by parental tenure status and financial capacity. Speakers will also examine how an increase in parents’ housing value and wealth increases their children’s ability to transition to successful homeownership.

Baby Boomers Embrace Technology

Felix Richter:

While Millennials, often referred to as digital natives, have grown up using technology and are thus fully versed in the world of bits and bytes, the post-war generation known as Baby Boomers is having a harder time adjusting to modern technology. While using electronic devices may not come as naturally to those aged 50+ as it does to younger people, that doesn’t necessarily mean that older Americans are disconnected from the modern world of technology.

A recent report by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) shows that many Americans aged 50 and older are embracing technology to stay connected with their families and the world in general. According to the AARP’s findings, 7 in 10 Americans above the age of 50 own a smartphone and 9 in 10 own either a Laptop or a Desktop PC. The following chart provides a more detailed look at what devices older Americans are currently using and which ones they steer clear of for now.