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Posts from the ‘technology’ Category

Growing Your Business By Community Blogging – I’m Speaking At WordCamp Victoria 2013

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Coming up this Saturday, January 12, 2013 is WordCamp Victoria 2013. If you are curious about blogging or how you can learn new skills and hear about new tools to blog better, WordCamp Victoria is where you want to be this Saturday.

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Tim Ayres at NAR Conference 2009 San Diego – Day 1 – Social Media and Gender Differences [Video]

Day 1 of the NAR Convention in San Diego was very productive – I saw two sessions today and unfortunately was shut out of a third due to it being full. The Introduction to Social Media session was great. As a REALTOR® who puts himself out there online using social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc, I was very pleased with the session. It was facilitated by three practicing agents, just like me, and they nailed it. Ginger Wilcox, Kelley Koehler, and Mariana Wagner were excellent – it was refreshing seeing a social media presentation by three working real estate professionals who actually, as they put it, do this to feed their kids.

Check out my video update from Day 1:

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Sooke Biz Net Inaugural Event – Thursday

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Are you in business in the Sooke region? The newly formed Sooke Biz Net business networking group is hosting its inaugural event tomorrow night, Thursday, June 25th.

The idea behind Sooke Biz Net is that it will be different from other business networking groups. Gone is the exclusivity and structured format. We’ve thrown the traditional out the window and have created a made-in-Sooke solution that’s based on monthly networking events, with featured speakers and presenters. You’ll learn something at the event that you can use immediately to help run your business or expand your reach. The focus is on fun, and you’ll need to expect the unexpected!

Tomorrow night’s event will be held at Sooke Ocean Resort, 6669 Horne Road, from 5:30 until 7:30. Tickets to the event are only $20 and that covers wine and fabulous food by Kari Osselton of Sushi on the Sea/Souki Sushi.

The theme for the evening is Communication This Moment! I will be the featured speaker for the evening, presenting Twitter in Ten Minutes, a short overview of one of the most powerful networking and communications tools since the advent of the Internet. The featured technology for the evening will be Skype, and Wendy Ashbee will speak about Send Out Cards.

There will also be prizes courtesy of Bombora Gifts and Sooke Fine Art Gallery, and the grand prize of a full-page colour ad for your business in the RV Times (a $2000 value).

Don’t miss this fun event. Come mix, mingle, network, learn and most of all, have fun!

Contact me at 250-885-012, fill in my contact form, or email tim@timayres.ca for tickets.

Follow Sooke Biz Net on Twitter!

I hope to see you there!

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Think Realtor.ca Sucks? It Will Get Better Soon

Actual Users, Maude and Bill

Actual Users, Maude and Bill

Since the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) replaced the much-loved MLS.ca with the (so far) much-maligned REALTOR.ca last month, they’ve had nothing but complaints from everyone who uses it (consumers) and everyone who benefits from it (REALTORS® in Canada).

I can understand the domain name switch. Since its inception, MLS.ca has never been all that clear that it is a service provided by REALTORS® in Canada, and the switch to REALTOR.ca takes care of that. And I do believe it was time for a technology update – MLS.ca was pretty old-school.

But it worked, and it was simple. CREA threw the baby out with the bathwater on this one.

Yesterday, I noticed an update on our REALTOR® intranet, which outlined a few changes that will take place later this month, which should help to improve the overall user experience.

Users may have noticed that there is a limit on how far you can zoom into the interactive map. You can zoom only so far, and then it sort of bounces back to the limited zoom level. Effective November 20th, this restriction will be removed. This should help alleviate the “500 property” warning because you will be able to zoom down to reduce the number of properties displayed on the map. The map will also stop “yo-yo-ing”  as users reach the zoom limit and it snaps back to a wider view.

A big complaint has been the clunky way that neighbourhoods are handled. CREA assumed everyone would enjoy zooming down into the specific neighbourhood that they were interested in. This is in contrast to the old static MLS.ca maps where you could drill down to the specific MLS zones set up by the various real estate boards. For example, you could click BC–> Vancouver Island/Smaller Islands –> Victoria–> Sooke–> Broom Hill to see all the listings in that MLS zone. The Realtor.ca experience so far has been limited. The site was launched before many of these neighbourhoods could be defined in the database. So when somebody searched for Broom Hill, they might get the actual geographical feature rather than the MLS zone of the same name – clearly a problem. CREA has identified and added some 3500 of these areas since October 2nd, and will continue to add more as the local real estate boards provide the data. The Victoria Real Estate Board has been on this since day one and many of our MLS sub-areas are already in the CREA database. This is probably the largest issue with the site, and it will get better.

The issue of limited/no compatibility with non-Internet Explorer web browsers (Firefox, Safari, etc) is also being worked on. Thank-you, CREA, for no longer excluding some 47% of browser market share 😉

2008 IE7 IE6 Chrome FireFox Moz Safari O
October 26.9% 20.2% 3.0% 44.0% 0.4% 2.8% 2.2%
September 26.3% 22.3% 3.1% 42.6% 0.5% 2.7% 2.0%

There have also been complaints that photos are too small (I agree!), thumbnail information that pops up when you mouse over a property on the map is insufficient (probably), and that the listings are just too hard to find. There are changes that are being tested to address these issues as well.

Specifically in our marketplace, one of the problems has been that too many listings have appeared in the “not mapped” column which makes them extremely hard to find. This was caused by our previous MLS back-end software, which had an antiquated procedure for placing properties on a map. Also, the default data setting was to not supply an address to MLS.ca. With our new MLS system, the default is reversed, and all of the old listings were automatically mapped by address and postal code as they were imported into the new database, so that should solve most of the problem.

We want REALTOR.ca to work. Believe me. CREA spends millions of our (the REALTORS®) dollars to create and operate that site for the benefit of consumers. Canada is lucky to have it. There is no equivalent in the U.S., where MLS data is sometimes split across different websites for one city, let alone the entire country like we have here. I believe that once the bugs are worked out, REALTOR.ca will be far superior to MLS.ca

Questions? Comments? Post them below (or click through to the post if you’re reading this in a reader).

If you’re still having trouble with REALTOR.ca or would like more detailed information than it provides,  I can set up a private client portal for you to view the Sooke or Victoria MLS listings. Give me a call any time at 250-885-0512, fill in my buyer’s form, or shoot me an e-mail at Tim@TimAyres.ca. My services are available to buyers at no cost.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Bell’s -er Campaign Might Be Confusing, But At Least It’s Grammatically Correct

Since I wrote about Bell’s confusing -er infused advertising campaign, it’s become one of the most searched-for, read, and commented-on posts I’ve ever done. I guess I wasn’t alone in my confusion or annoyance with that campaign.

I have to wonder, however, if the same outfit that drummed up that campaign is involved with US wireless carrier T-Mobile‘s new Google Android powered phone, the G1 [warning: link has music].

I had to laugh at this one, as the concept has been taken one step further by abusing the already-beleaguered English language by proclaiming that the G1 is “The Only Phone That Makes You Smarterer.”

Yes. Smarterer. See for yourself:

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Victoria Real Estate Board Green Task Force Tours Eco-Sense Sustainable Home

The Eco-Sense House in Victoria, BC

The Eco-Sense House in Victoria, BC

As a volunteer on the Victoria Real Estate Board‘s Green Task Force, I was fortunate enough to visit a truly one-of-a-kind project in the Highlands District near Victoria yesterday. Ann and Gord Baird are the people behind Eco-Sense. Part lifestyle, part science experiment, part eco-pioneering, this truly amazing and simply fascinating home is nearing completion atop a rocky pinnacle in the rural municipality about 20 minutes outside downtown Victoria.

What’s so special about Eco-Sense? The short answer: Everything. Ann and Gord have invested myriad time and energy to research, design, and build North America’s first code-approved, seismically engineered load-bearing insulated cob house. As if that wasn’t enough, the home features a BC Hydro grid intertie system, meaning that their electrical meter flows both ways. When their solar and wind energy array is producing more power than the home requires, it reverses the flow of electricity, selling the excess to Hydro. Furthermore, the house is also heated by the sun with a solar hot water system, which also provides the hot water for the plumbing.

Ann and Gords Living Room

Ann and Gord's Living Room

From the foundation up, every detail has been thought about and constructed in a way that is not only environmentally sound, but also economically so. The foundation was poured with high fly-ash (a by-product of Albertan coal-fired power plants) concrete, and fabric forms were used to reduce waste wood. Total cost of forms? $300.

What’s cob? Cob is a building material; a mixture of sand, clay, and straw. Ann and Gord took this one step further and introduced pumice (lightweight, porous volcanic rock) into the mix to decrease the weight of the mixture, and to increase the insulative value. The cob is structural; there is no load-bearing framing in the walls of the home. One of the parts I found most interesting is the wiring and plumbing. Channels for the wires are carved out of the walls, the wiring installed and inspected by the city, and then simply filled over with more cob or plaster. It’s simple, seamless, and it works! Not only is the cob functional, but when finished in a lime-plaster it is also beautiful.

The house features lots of natural light. Light pipes direct sunlight from the roof into a dome-light-like fixture in the ceiling. Also, embedded in the walls are old glass bricks, and wine and beer bottles (my favourite were the blue ones). Other lighting is LED. While the bulbs cost considerably more than incandescent or compact fluorescent, they’ll last quite literally a lifetime, and use a mere fraction of the electricity.

Ann and Gord explain about their home.

Ann and Gord explain about their home.

Nearly all wood in the house is recycled, from local sources including the demolished Mayfair Lanes bowling alley (they even used the nails!).

The house has a composting toilet (no water use), a rainwater collection system for gardening, and a greywater (from sinks, laundry, and showers) treatment system, which is also used for irrigation.

It’s not easy being an eco-pioneer. Since no one has ever done the things that Ann and Gord have been doing, they have had to get each little step approved by the municipality. In fact, they had to shop around for a municipality that was willing to work with them to see this project through. Everything has been done to code, and that meant a few sacrifices. To appease the plumbing inspector, they had to install a flush toilet which has now been removed. They even had to install a $30,000 septic system, even though they aren’t going to be using it. Their toilet uses no water, and the rest of the wastewater is grey water, which is being treated and used for irrigation. Their modified cob mixture had to be strength tested in the lab. However, a nice by-product of building walls out of a non-flammable material is that you get a nice discount on your insurance.

The low-slope roofs will be living roofs, planted with native species. This replaces the vegetation that is lost where the house sits, and also helps insulate the home and purify the rainwater which also flows more evenly and slowly because the soil retains some water before it drains out.

Cob floors, before finishing

Cob floors, before finishing

Now, one thing that’s always bugged me about so-called “green” buildings is that they cost ever so much to build, that it’s hard to get people to buy into it. Every system in the Eco-Sense house has been evaluated on a triple-bottom-line basis. All things considered, Ann and Gord figure that their per-square-foot cost is around $140. Standard construction starts around $150 as I understand it. This is also including an estimate of their labour cost over 15 months, and a very pricey $60,000 alternative heating system. Therein lies the beauty of what Ann and Gord are doing. They are building Eco-Sense the way they see as best for the planet, but realize that other people might have different ideas. You could do more or you could do less. The point is that there are alternatives to frame construction for single family, two-storey dwellings.

This was the kicker for me. It made sense to my logical business brain. Here are two people, who have a

Recycled glass is used extensively in the home.

Recycled glass is used extensively in the home.

lifestyle they want to live that has less of an impact of the natural environment, and they are demonstrating that it can be done very well while remaining with reach of the average family. Once municipal codes and building techniques catch up with the innovation that these two eco-pioneers are forging in the Highlands District of Victoria, it will become even easier and more within reach of the common man.

Why should only the rich be able to afford to be nice to our planet when it comes to housing?

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

For more information, check out Eco-Sense.ca. Ann and Gord offer fascinating tours for the general public, as well as private tours for technical/tradespeople. Many thanks to Ann and Gord for sharing their work with us. More photos can be found on my flickr page.

EDIT: For even more, check out Gord’s Flickr page, and the eco-sense blog

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Twitter Explained in Plain English

The guys at CommonCraft have created this great video on what exactly Twitter is all about. I joined Twitter a few months ago and had not been using it at all. I was confused as to why I joined and why it would be useful or fun. Then I downloaded a little desktop application called Twhirl, and activated Twitter on my mobile phone. It suddenly got fun. Updating whoever cared what I happened to be doing at any given moment became a near obsession. Seeing what others on my list were up to was also fun.

The best way I can explain Twitter is that it’s like instant messaging (MSN, Yahoo!, GChat, etc) but not as frequent, and with more users. It’s like a blog, but with shorter, more frequent posts (limited to 140 characters, to be precise).

You can export your Twitter posts to your blog, your website, or any other web space you can think of. Your clients can follow your updates, and it’s a great way to share new information (listings, price changes, sales, or even the latest webcomic). I think Twitter is pretty useful, it’s easy to use, addictive, and a short <140 character message is not a time-sink like many web applications. Give it a try.

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o">http://youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o</a>


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Microsoft Surface: Imagine the Possibilities

Microsoft Surface I’ve been meaning to blog about Microsoft’s Surface technology for a while now, but a video from TechCrunch this morning (below) has reminded me how utterly cool this is. The concept was conceived in 2001 and the first prototype was in 2003, so it’s nothing new, but we have yet to see any sort of large-scale rollout.

The implications for real estate technology are huge. Imagine one of these units in your office. Your clients and prospects would no doubt be wowed by the seamless integration of all the aspects of your business, and the novel way it was presented to them. Watch the videos below. The first is a YouTube video from a year or so ago which shows some of the neat features, and the second is the TechCrunch video [it’s kind of loud!] from this week’s CES show, going on in Las Vegas, which helps explain how it works and clarify some of the differences between this technology and other multi-touch interfaces. More commentary after the videos.

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=Cog8b8ojji0">http://youtube.com/watch?v=Cog8b8ojji0</a>

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.451119&w=425&h=350&fv=] from www.techcrunch.com posted with vodpod

One of the most exciting features of this technology is how it differs from other touch-screen interfaces. There are no embedded capacitors in the surface which means that unlike most touch-screen displays, you don’t have to baby it. The surface is hard plastic, so things can be dropped on it, spilled on it, and generally moved about without fear of damaging the sensitivity of the interface. This is important in our real estate world. We all know how office equipment can get used and abused. One would assume that a badly scratched surface would inhibit touch sensitivity, but some special polish or tabletop replacement would be a relatively inexpensive repair, since it is just a plastic surface.

Imagine meeting some buyers at your office. You fire up the Surface, drag about the pictures of the listings they’re interested in, and then let the system plan out a driving route, text-message the listing agents to make the appointments, and then transfer all the information to your mobile phone or PDA to guide you there along the way! While you drive, the text message confirmations come to your phone/PDA, turning the listing map points from yellow to green or red, indicating that the showings are confirmed or denied.

The clients are ready to offer. Back at the office, the purchase contracts are laid out on the Surface computer. All information is pulled from WebForms, as you are already familiar with. The clients read over the contract, sign using any object (a pen, pencil, their finger, etc), and you drag the contract across the table to the e-mail or fax icon. Away it goes to the other agent. Now you can flick it across to the printer icon to get the clients a hard copy.

These are but two exciting possibilities for this technology in the real estate world. I’m sure you could think of many more. As we move away from the traditional mouse/keyboard interfaces and into the ever-increasing world of multi-touch computing, expect more and more innovation and technology to make your life and work easier, and admittedly, more fun.

Tim Ayres


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The Web 2.0 Bubble [Video]

No one likes to hear the word “bubble” in a real estate blog.

But this isn’t about real estate. This is about Web 2.0. I’ve blogged about what exactly Web 2.0 is in the past, but to summarize for the uninitiated or not-geeky-enough, Web 2.0 is a term used to describe the current trend in Internet companies creating interactive applications that focus on user-generated content, or on using the Web as an operating system, replacing desktop applications with Web applications. For example, a blogging platform like this one is a Web 2.0 element. As are sites like Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, and application suites like Google Docs.

This video is a humourous look at what many in the industry believe is the next dot-com crash. If you remember around 2000-2001, many of the upstart Internet companies that were pioneering ways to cash in on the explosion in popularity of the Internet went belly-up, as investors pulled their funding, realizing that they had overestimated the actual earning potential of these companies.

Facebook was recently valued at $15 billion after Microsoft invested $240 million in a 2% stake in the social networking company. With many other Web 2.0 entities receiving millions of dollars in venture capital, skeptics are failing to see the earning potential of these companies, and fear the bubble might burst, again. This is a clever video:

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=I6IQ_FOCE6I">http://youtube.com/watch?v=I6IQ_FOCE6I</a>

Tim Ayres 

Hate Spam? This is How Gmail can Help a REALTOR®

How much time do you spend on spam every day?

As the resident geek in the office, I’m constantly asked by my fellow agents: “How can I get rid of all this junk e-mail?!” From shady business propositions to uhh… equipment enhancers, there is no shortage of spam out there.

As REALTORS®, we want to promote ourselves as much as possible. This includes publishing our e-mail addresses in as many places as possible. It’s no surprise, then, that we get a large volume of unsolicited messages. Spammers use ‘crawlers’ or ‘robots’ – automated programs to crawl the web and harvest unsuspecting e-mail addresses to sell or use. Some people mask their addresses as images, or in a cryptic format to fool the spam bots. For example, I could write my address as tim ([AT]) selling sooke dot ca. A regular internet user would probably be able to reconstruct it into a real address. However, a casual user [and potential client] might actually enter that into their e-mail program when contacting you – and frustration would ensue, possibly causing them to move on to another agent.

So what is the solution? Since I switched to Gmail, Google‘s free web-based e-mail system,More Spam, but not with Gmail! I’ve only had a handful of these messages, due to Google’s spam-fighting technology. Even more frustrating for our profession, which is extremely time-sensitive, is when well-meaning spam filters block messages that were actually meant to get through – the dreaded ‘false positive.’ When prospective clients are e-mailing 20 or 30 agents, it’s often the first to respond that gets the business. Why disadvantage yourself with misdirected e-mails? This is only one of many features of Gmail that make it great, which I will post about in a separate post. Click here to read about other Gmail topics I’ve posted about in the past.

But how does it work? Check out this video from the Gmail Anti-Spam Squad:

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=8FVme_xIRYk">http://youtube.com/watch?v=8FVme_xIRYk</a>

Tim Ayres