- At Last! Redfin Releases Its iPhone App! – Redfin Corporate Blog
At long last, Redfin has an iPhone application. And it is gorgeous and fast and free and freakishly powerful.
Congratulations to Matt, Sasha, and the gang on a job well done!
Archive for August, 2009
The annual Inman Connect conference wrapped up last Friday in San Francisco. After some full nights of sleep, a cross country flight, and some meds to fight this chest cold that hit me afterwards, I’ve finally recovered enough to write this wrap-up.
This years vibe seemed to revolve around hope and progress. Seems the industry is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and is pretty sure it’s daylight, not another on-coming train.
The night before the conference started was the big Beer With Bloggers bash put on by Trulia Zillow. Everyone was there and the mood was real up-beat. Greg and I actually jumped in a car with the soon to be rock stars from Real Estate Webmasters (more on that later) for the ride over.
The first day included the ConnectTech Workshop which I moderated. I’ve summarized the panels and my take-aways in a seperate post. In the afternoon and during the cocktail reception, we had a little booth in Startup Alley where we were demoing Dwellicious. As we’ve seen before, agents and brokers who see it live get it – we’ve got to figure out a better way to get the people signing up on-line to understand what it can do for themselves and their on-line buyers. I was struck by how many people came from outside the country – we talked to people from New Zealand, Australia, and Canada who were all excited to be there.
The evening included an on stage introduction of the two teams competing in Connect Create. This was a first ever challenge to create a new web application – anything the team wanted to create, as long as it was real estate related – on-site in only 48 hours. The two teams were our new friends from Real Estate Webmasters and our long-time friends from Diverse Solutions. I gotta say, when Brian Boero pitched me this idea and asked for help a couple of months ago, I thought it was real interesting and worth doing, but I wasn’t sure the agents and brokers in the audience would be that into it. My worry increased over a couple of months as the original six teams that showed interested slowly bailed out and left us with the final two brave teams. But boy, was I wrong – I really think this event was the highlight of the show. Somehow it really captured the feelings of hope and progress into a simple idea – how much creativity and innovation can teams of talented people display under the pressure of a limited amount of time. The two teams really came through – everybody was very impressed and they got thunderous applause. And it wasn’t just the finale that caught everyone’s imagination – every time I went to a party, the REW guys would show up on a short break and everyone wanted to talk to them and buy them drinks. Every time I went by their work room, there was a reporter in there interviewing them or an attendee just giving them encouragement. They were treated like rock stars everywhere they went. It was great to see an industry come together in partnership – agents and brokers realizing that they need the vendors to make this work going forward – that we’re all in this industry together. Brad Inman later mentioned this same sentiment during the wrap-up discussion.
I definitely see both ConnectTech and Connect Create being valued parts of Inman Connect going forward. Someone during the wrap up even suggested a creative contest for the future where teams of brokers, agents, and vendors get together to create a new business model for brokerages going forward – I thought that was an interesting idea.
Thursday morning included a new event called Connect Launch Pad. The idea was that CEOs from five new companies would each have five minutes to pitch their new products. A panel of three commentators – Constance Freedman from Second Century Ventures, and Zach Scott from Point2, and myself – were able to ask them questions. I think it was good that the audience got to see some progressive new ideas, but this session seemed a little rushed to me. Hopefully everyone got some good take-aways from it.
Two keynote speeches on Thursday really stood out for me. Alfred Lin, the COO from Zappos, talked about “Building a Brand that Matters”. Mike Wurzer did a good job of summarizing the take-aways from this speech. He was not allowed to talk about the Amazon merger, but was full of brand building and customer service tips. Later, Yelp COO Geoff Donaker had an open conversation with Brad about consumers rating business providers – something that is a hot topic right now in real estate. I really like what they’ve done with the Yelp site and community.
In the afternoon, I attended Mike Wurzer’s panels on MLS. It’s always great to hear what Bill Chee from Prudential Locations in Hawaii is thinking about – right now it’s about people data, and how traditional CRM does not fit the real estate industry, so he had to go out and create his own. Bob Hale from HAR and Glenn Kelman from Redfin had a great discussion about bringing transparency and consumer reviews to the real estate transaction – seems to be only a matter of time before this topic explodes across the industry.
The highlight on Friday was the unveiling of the Connect Create projects. I was on-stage as a judge, again along with Constance and Zach, to ask questions. Real Estate Webmasters demoed their IDX project which was designed to be lower cost than their usual custom web sites, but still allowed an agent to self control the layout of the search and listings pages using simple drag and drop of the page elements. They wrote it in PHP with heavy use of the jQuery library and it ran on a traditional LAMP stack. Very nicely done. Diverse Solutions then showed their agent rating app. Their team included a very good graphic designer, and the extra time they took showed in the very beautiful, polished UI. CEO Justin LaJoie was very concerned that a lot of agents and brokers would not like the idea of consumer ratings of Realtors, but the app got a big applause, and when Brian Boero asked if anyone would like to use this product on their own web site, a dozen hands shot up. They wrote theirs in .NET, also made use of jQuery, on a Microsoft stack. Something amazing happened when we walked off stage – several brokers had literally snuck into the backstage area to give their cards to the teams, begging to be the first with access to these apps. As the teams entered the hallway, you could see a sense of relief that they had pulled it off and created something that the audience very much appreciated.
As always, some of the greatest discussions and most fun occurred outside the official conference at the parties and dinners, but those are stories I’ll keep to myself!
In my opinion, this years event was the best in the last several years. What did you think?
The first day of the Inman Connect conference this year included the ConnectTech Workshop, which I moderated. The idea was to bring back some more technical topics to appeal to the developers and geeks in the industry. See the full agenda here.
Here’s a synopsis of my take aways from each session:
- Mobile – The statement was made repeatedly by Eric from SmarterAgent and Jim from Kurio that users demand native apps customized for each phone. That may be true right now, but I see the adoption of HTML5 in mobile browsers, combined with abstraction toolkits like PhoneGap, making possible universal, browser-based apps in the future. At least I hope so – building native apps for each platform right now is a very expensive and time consuming endeavor. Sasha from Redfin concentrated on the importance of a clean and simple UI for the phone, but would not give up any details on the rumored imminent release development of a Redfin mobile app.
- API’s – Oren from Mashery made the point that you should think of your API as an “ecosystem” wrapped around your data or service. That was very well received, and set the stage for Matt from Walkscore and Steve from Education.com to discuss exactly what they’ve done, on a more practical level, with their API’s. We use both of those API’s in Dwellicious and that data is very popular.
- MLS Hell – What would an Inman conference be without people complaining about MLS data standards? The panel – Chris from Wolfnet, David from eNeighborhoods, and Mark from Homefinder – each gave an overview of their architecture for downloading and normalizing MLS data. The general agreement was that RETS succeeds in giving real-time access to updated data that can be easily downloaded, but fails when it comes to data standardization, thus the need for sophisticated normalization procedures that are unique to each MLS. Mike Wurzer from FBS asked the group if they would adopt a new standard for field names if RETS were to create one, and the unanimous consensus was yes – although there didn’t seem to be too much confidence that this would see the light of day anytime soon. One thing the struck me was the huge cost that hundreds of vendors are incurring doing the same exact thing – downloading and normalizing MLS data. Of course, that cost is being passed on to the customers.
- User Experience – This panel was designed to be a discussion about Flex, Silverlight, and AJAX. Cosmo from ForeclosureRadar.com was up first and gave an overview of their architecture which used a web services back-end and a Flex front-end. He was very careful to point out the positives and the negatives of Flex – the main positive being the speed of UI creation and the main negative being lack of a good PDF/printing solution. For PDF creation, he had to fall back on a PHP solution, but I felt that was a good example of using the best tool for the job and not forcing everything to be Flex. Ben from Ajaxian.com and Mozilla then gave what I thought was the most fascinating presentation of the day when he showed browser developments coming in the next year. He showed what could be done with HTML5, Canvas, and made the point that the speed of the new generation of browsers made certain client side and AJAX techniques possible that weren’t just a year or two ago. His presentation further convinced me that open standard browsers are, currently and in the future, the direction to take for client side UI. Interestingly, we were not able to find anyone to speak on Silverlight, and even those few in the audience who indicated they were doing some development with Silverlight had no positive comments to make about it during the Q&A segment.
- Agile Development – This was a panel I was really looking forward to, being that it’s a hot topic right now, especially in the Ruby on Rails community. Mike from Elevated Rails gave a great overview of Agile, then Zach from Point2 brought some practical experience and stories about how he used Agile to make their large team of developers more efficient. Galen from Estately then followed with details of how they use Agile and Rails with their small team of developers. My take away on this one is that Agile not only makes development teams more efficient, but also makes them happier because they are getting constant feedback on their projects and that is keeping them from going down blind alleys, diverging from the goals of the customers and the rest of the organization.
My one complaint was that 45 minutes for each panel of three speakers made everything too rushed – I would like to see one hour sessions next year.
What did you take away from ConnectTech? I covered the entire Inman Connect conference in another post.