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The hottest housing market: Information

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Michelle Singletary:

In the real estate world, there was one word that used to be the cardinal rule: location, location, location.

Just about anybody -- the informed and uninformed -- could buy a house in a good location and easily make money by flipping, selling or refinancing the home, sometimes after just a short ownership.

That was then, before the Great Recession.

This is now, and the new cardinal rule of real estate is information, information, information.

"For decades, the real estate industry has operated under the principle that the less information buyers and sellers have, the better it is for agents, lenders, title companies, and all the other folks who eat from the trough," writes Ilyce Glink in "Buy, Close, Move In: How to Navigate the New World of Real Estate -- Safely and Profitably -- and End Up with the Home of Your Dreams." "But the real estate tide seems to be turning, as the housing and credit crises of 2008 have heightened awareness in Washington, D.C., and on Wall Street about the catastrophic consequences of a closed information loop."

I have no doubt that many professionals in the real estate industry will take great exception to Glink's observation. But the evidence is on her side. We ended up in one of the worst housing market collapses because far too many borrowers were uninformed, ill-prepared and overly optimistic about potential gain because of bad information they received and gladly embraced.

Facebook's mobile strategy laid out

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Jon Swartz:

About the only thing growing faster than Facebook's overall audience -- 500 million users and counting -- is its mobile user crowd.

Since the social-networking giant said it topped 100 million mobile users a few months ago, it has added another 50 million. The whopping figure of 150 million is the population equivalent of Nigeria.

The breakneck growth, combined with the fledgling mobile market, has put Facebook in a highly advantageous position to reap the benefits of a multibillion-dollar market worldwide. "We see mobile as the future," said Erick Tseng, Facebook's new head of mobile products. "Mobile is no different from the desktop Web. All the (Facebook) apps available on the desktop should be available on smartphones.

Goldman Sachs' latest mobile report, via Joseph Cotterill.

Internet Trends

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Mary Meeker, Scott Devitt, Liang Wu: 1.2MB PDF.

Henry Blodget comments:

Some key points:

The iPad is one of the fastest-selling gadgets of all time (1mm in 28 days)

Android smartphone shipments almost now equal iPhone shipments (Apple's app leverage may disappear fast)

Global 3G wireless penetration just hit 20%, which is usually the inflection point to very rapid growth

Mobile app and search usage is up 2X year over year

iPad Internet usage is more similar to desktop usage than smartphone usage (more pageviews)

Japan shows the potential for mobile advertising: Japan mobile ad spending now $11/user, up from $1 per user six years ago.

Japan shows potential for mobile commerce: 19% of Rakutan's sales now from mobile.

Learn more about Main Street and our iPhone app. Cloud & mobile computing from leads to closings, and everything in between!

Facebook to target ads based on users' trail

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David Gelles:

Facebook has laid the ground for a new system that would track its users' behaviour as they visit other sites around the internet, using the information to deliver highly targeted advertisements to them on the social networking site.

So-called "behavioural targeting" is widely used by companies such as Google but, on Facebook.com, the move is likely to provoke a new round of criticism over incursions into users' privacy.

In order to make the system work, Facebook is planning to unveil this week a content-sharing button that other websites can embed on their pages, according to marketers briefed on the plans. Similar to buttons from Twitter and Digg that let users share content with their social networks, the Facebook button will allow users to signal the content they like on sites around the internet.

However, data from these interactions would be used to target them with related adverts once they return to Facebook.com

Jon R. Katzenbach and Zia Khan:

A few years ago we were studying a dozen front-line supervisors at a large telecommunications company in North America. These supervisors had been selected because of their widely recognized ability to motivate the people they worked with -- emotionally as well as rationally. Their people simply did not ever want to disappoint them. The managers counter-intuitively simplified the guidance they received from HR into a singular focus on making people take pride in their day-to-day work. As we came to understand what they did that most "good managers" did not do, we realized that this was a learnable skill. What they did could be captured in a few simple behaviors.

When we shared these behaviors with the CEO, he became impatient. "This seems pretty straightforward -- so why don't more supervisors do this stuff?" he asked. At first we suggested the obvious: faulty recruiting, selection, training, incentive and performance management programs. His response stopped us in our tracks:

David Gelles:

Facebook on Friday announced another round of changes to its privacy policy, including amendments that could allow the site to share user information automatically with third-party websites.

Certain websites could soon be "pre-approved" by Facebook, so that if a user is logged into Facebook and then visits the third-party website, it would receive information including the "names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting" of a user and his or her friends.

The sites might be able to retain that information "to the extent permitted under their terms of service or privacy policies".

Facebook said it would introduce the feature with a small group of partners and offer new controls for users to opt out.

However, the company could face resistance by users and advocates who see such a move as another invasion of privacy.

Brokers and others have mused the mining potential of Facebook's data.

Gelles has written a followup article on Facebook's privacy issues:

For example, when Facebook users post a new piece of content, they can decide whether to share that with an individual, a group or the entire web.

Facebook's motives are not hard to grasp. By making more personal information publicly accessible, it is improving its ability to target users with highly-specified adverts. "They are pushing the envelope because it is in their financial best interest to do so," says Augie Ray, an analyst with Forrester Research.

However, Facebook - and the rest of the social networking industry - is facing the prospect of increased regulation in Europe and the US, its biggest markets.



Morgan Stanley 2.5MB PDF, Mary Meeker / Scott Devitt / Liang Wu:

  1. Wealth Creation / Destruction is Material in New Computing Cycles - Now in Early Innings of Mobile Internet Cycle, the 5th Cycle of Last Half Century.
  2. Mobile Ramping Faster than Desktop Internet Did and Will Be Bigger Than Most Think - 5 Trends Converging (3G + Social Networking + Video + VoIP + Impressive Mobile Devices).
  3. Apple Leading in Mobile Innovation + Impact, for Now - Depth of App Ecosystems + User Experience + Pricing Will Determine Long-Term Winners.
  4. Game-Changing Communications / Commerce Platforms (Social Networking + Mobile) Emerging Very Rapidly.
  5. Massive Data Growth Driving Carrier / Equipment Transitions.
  6. Growth / Monetization Roadmaps Provided by Japan Mobile + Desktop Internet.
Learn more about Virtual Properties' iPhone app here.

Why focus groups tell you the obvious

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Luke Johnson:

Irecently commissioned some market research and, as is too often the case, it told me what I already knew or was obvious. I paid the bill of several tens of thousands of pounds, consoling myself with the fact that the work at least confirmed my prejudices - always a satisfying sensation. But I also sensed I had received very poor value; and in talking to other clients of research companies, I realise quite a few feel the same way.

As Michael Skapinker wrote on Tuesday, the idea that the customer is always right has become an accepted truth in business. Unfortunately, customer desires are often wholly unrealistic - because of cost, technology or legislation. As Henry Ford said at the launch of the Model T: "If I'd asked the customer, he'd have asked for a faster horse."

I remember Peter Boizot, founder of PizzaExpress and my predecessor as chairman, telling me how, in 1965, customers in his Soho pizzeria felt uncomfortable with authentic Italian pizza - and demanded chips. But he stuck to his vision and guided their tastes to the genuine product.

The Economist:

HEN the Sloan Digital Sky Survey started work in 2000, its telescope in New Mexico collected more data in its first few weeks than had been amassed in the entire history of astronomy. Now, a decade later, its archive contains a whopping 140 terabytes of information. A successor, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, due to come on stream in Chile in 2016, will acquire that quantity of data every five days.

Such astronomical amounts of information can be found closer to Earth too. Wal-Mart, a retail giant, handles more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases estimated at more than 2.5 petabytes--the equivalent of 167 times the books in America's Library of Congress (see article for an explanation of how data are quantified). Facebook, a social-networking website, is home to 40 billion photos. And decoding the human genome involves analysing 3 billion base pairs--which took ten years the first time it was done, in 2003, but can now be achieved in one week.

All these examples tell the same story: that the world contains an unimaginably vast amount of digital information which is getting ever vaster ever more rapidly. This makes it possible to do many things that previously could not be done: spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on. Managed well, the data can be used to unlock new sources of economic value, provide fresh insights into science and hold governments to account.

The Future of the City & Technology Trends

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Samuel Palmisano (Chairman of IBM):

A few years ago, the world crossed a threshold. For the first time, more than half the human race is living in cities. By 2050 the figure will rise to 70 percent. We are adding the equivalent of seven New Yorks to the planet every year.

This means the most important locus for 21st-century innovation--technological, economic, and societal--will be our cities. They present the most promising opportunity to make our planet smarter.

Cities bring together the systems by which our world works: education, transportation, public safety, and health care, among others.

We have the capacity to inject new intelligence into those systems. Enormous computational power can be delivered in forms so small and inexpensive that it is being put into phones, cars, and appliances, as well as things we wouldn't recognize as computers, such as roadways (to monitor traffic) or rivers (to monitor pollution and better allocate water use). The data captured by these digital devices--soon to number in the trillions--will be turned to intelligence, because we now have the processing power and advanced analytics to make sense of it all.

Our challenge is to apply this technology to improving the places we live. Consider the applications:

Things we know:
  • Networks, particularly wireless, will be faster and pervasive
  • Mobile technology is exploding, and will be the right tool at the right time for most real estate professionals, see the latest version of our branded iPhone app. It is faster, easier to use and more convenient than most traditional website search and analysis tools.
  • People are flooded with data. Turning that data into useful information - the "value add" and building relationships is the key to broker business growth.
  • Some of the broker concierge services schemes from dot com boom #1 may now actually happen. Our Main Street software includes an extensive set of CRM/customer for life, transaction and concierge tools. One real time system from leads to closings.
  • The key question for all organizations: "what is your value equation?"
Let's discuss the opportunities that lie ahead. Contact Virtual Properties +1 608 271 9601 or zellmer at virtualproperties.com

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