The "Google Is A Scraper" Saga Continues.

By
Real Estate Agent with Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME

Slide showing proposed changes to the language in NAR Rules regarding scraping vs. indexing from 2009 NAR Midyear Meetings.

photo courtesy of PhoenixREGuy

I hate writing this post.

I feel angry, frustrated, and annoyed that I am doing this post.  I shouldn't have to.  For those of you that have been following along with the recent decision by MIBOR (Metropolitan Indianapolis Board Of Realtors®) to send everything back to committee (again).  If you haven't been following, these articles will help bring you up to speed:

AgentGenius - Did Google Scrape My Website? You Be The Judge. Rules Threaten Realtors & IDX Providers. - Paula Henry

ActiveRain - Is Google A Scraper Site? - Missy Caulk

AgentGenius - NAR Responds in DC - The MLS Committee to recommend Google policy change - Paula Henry

AgentGenius - MIBOR Blocks Change, NAR Committee Agrees- Politics Beats Agents In DC - Benn Rosales

Does MIBOR's decision affect me?

There are several issues at play here and I think most of them affect each on of us directly.  First, is the issue of scraping vs. indexing.  It's a no brainer in my book.  My sellers want their house sold.  I want it sold.  I don't care about dual-agency.  Getting their listing in every corner of the internet is my goal.  My goal is not to advertise myself.  That comes naturally.  When I sell houses, my reputation increases.  I do not need to control my data so that no one else can do my advertising for me.  I know some people disagree with this rationale, but I do not.  I am all for the idea that my listings can be brought to your site via IDX.  And if your IDX solution is indexable, more power to you.  You've just added all your visitors eyeballs to my listing.  They might not have found it through my efforts, but now they have.  I sell the house and me and my sellers win.  The idea of Google being a "scraper" is just flat out absurd.  Google is a search engine (if you don't know the history of search engines, read this) and although on the web sever level its functionality may look just like scraping, it is clear that it's not scraping our sites for nefarious purposes.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith Go To Washington.

At the request of NAR, Paula Henry (the agent directly affected by the MIBOR decision) and Jay Thompson were sent to Washington to represent their opinions to the MLS Committee at NAR's Midyear Meetings.  They did and from all accounts, they did it well.  I applaud the efforts of Todd Carpenter, Hilary Marsh, and Cliff Niersbach to make this reality.  By seeing the need for a dialog and allowing it to happen, they certainly helped boost my opinion of NAR.  Even if they were just paying lip service to the outrage that was being bantered about on the various blogs and Twitter (which I don't think they were doing) at least there were some gains.  Of course, the announcement came that Jay and Paula had been successful in convincing the committee and the agents that had followed along couldn't have been more thrilled.

MIBOR puts its foot down.

After the gains were celebrated (and believe me, everyone knew there was still more road to travel to full success), MIBOR turned the agent world on its head by deferring the decision back to committee.  NAR agreed and now there won't be any word on this until November.  I am of the opinion that MIBOR got its feelings hurt by an agent standing up to them and knew what they were doing when they deferred to the committee (after the committee had just recommended changes to the Board Of Directors).  In effect, they have moved the issue off the table (for now) and allowed themselves to save face.  They weren't defeated by an agent (Paula) with the backing of her peers.  Now while I'm sure MIBOR would not frame this as I have, I really believe this is nothing more than a case of a child having a temper tantrum for not getting their way.

Where do we go from here?

I know agents like Paula and Jay have seen a new light in their lives.  They both dropped everything to wage a battle in our names and fly to D.C. to help make change come to NAR.  I'm proud of both of them for their actions and words.  I admit, I have been rather inspired by this and my own personal involvement in it and I have decided to become more involved in the politics of NAR, TAR (Texas Association Of Realtors®), and SABOR (San Antonio Board Of Realtors®).  For the record, I hate politics.  But, if it means the difference between having the ability to run my business my way and having to deal with the decisions of others, I would rather jump into the fray and take a few bruises for myself and my fellow agents.  As it states in my profile here on ActiveRain:

I not only hope to help my clients, but other agents as well*, because I believe that the better we are as a whole in San Antonio, the better we can all serve our clients.  I continue to further my education, not just for my mandatory licensing requirements, but because I want to know more.  The more we know, the better we can serve our clients and help each other out.

*emphasis added

The question is, what are you going to do to help make the associations work how we want them to work?  We all disagree on many things, but from my reading over the past few weeks, I know one thing - we all seem to think there's room for improvement and change.  I have already reached out to several Realtors® at the local and state level requesting information on joining committees and volunteering my time to make San Antonio a better place to participate in a real estate transaction.  If I can help locally, I can move to make change nationally.

Please comment on the issue on Realtor.org (thanks to Missy Caulk for the tip to the post).  Comments are moderated and will take awhile to appear, but it's a great place to make sure your voice is heard (although I know NAR has been monitoring the posts associated with issue quite a lot over the past week or so).  I'd rather see comments over there than here, so if you don't have time to comment on both, please go to Realtor.org first.

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  1. BJ Matson 05/18/2009 10:10 AM
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Rainer
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Lee Ali
Las Americas Real Estate - Fairfield, CT

TLW, you are absolutely correct about talking to the wall. Check this out. These guys at NAR are talking to the wall instead of each other. :)

May 18, 2009 07:41 AM #60
Ambassador
557,018
"The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW.
President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc. - Kissimmee, FL

Matt...

Please don't kill Lee's link. The vid he's pointing too is flippin' hilarious :)

Pretty please with sugar on it? :)

TLW...ROAR!

May 18, 2009 08:25 AM #61
Rainmaker
272,035
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Courtney - Despite the time and effort to keep up with all of this, I have enjoyed it.  I've learned more over the past week and a half than I thought possible.  I have great teachers and am on a personal quest for knowledge now, so it's good for me in a sense.

TLW - I've had a few in my day...both people who seemed like walls and probably a few real walls as well.  The worst part of all this is that NAR did listen and did move in the right direction for a moment.  It's been a bit of an up and down ride.

Joe - Thanks for passing it on to them.  I hope they see things the way many of us do.  The problem with MIBOR is that they had one complaint and they didn't see it the way most of us do.  And then they went to NAR for clarification and the interpretation (which is admittedly not quite right according to Cliff Niersbach and others as they all see that the intent of the rule was not to classify Google as a scraper).  They got an answer and put it in place.  Even with the outcry and the MLS Committee's additional suggested language, MIBOR has still refused to move forward - throwing it back into NAR's lap.

Lee - I see what you're saying, but I'm not so sure a national database in the answer.  If the big sites can't get it right (and still provide inaccurate data), whose to say that we (whether it's NAR or some other company or group) will be able to build and maintain a database of at least 4 million homes for sale (according to realtor.com - that doesn't include every FSBO, although as we know, plenty of those are on realtor.com as well).  Although I understand your issue of control on the local level and the problems that come with it, that information is still available on a global scale via IDX and the various syndication systems (as well as realtor.com).  It just seems that moving everything up to the national level would only mire us in more politics and control.  I'm not against the idea, just not so sure it would work.

Lee - I laughed.  A little too much probably.

TLW - I am leaving the link.  I may actually write about this, but I'm feeling a bit like you did earlier.

May 18, 2009 08:40 AM #62
Ambassador
557,018
"The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW.
President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc. - Kissimmee, FL

Matt...

I feel compelled to tell you there's no such thing as laughing too much :)

I hope you do write about it. I am swamped with moving so please feel free to 'e' me when you post it. I need the heads up right now :)

TLW...ROAR!

May 18, 2009 09:01 AM #63
Rainmaker
272,035
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

TLW - I agree.  I have about a million posts to write, so hopefully I can find time and the words to express what I was thinking when I watched it.  I'll let you know.  Good luck with the move.

May 18, 2009 12:37 PM #65
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Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

The Flintstones was my fav cartoon growing up. LOL

May 18, 2009 01:38 PM #66
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Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

Matt, I applaud you and the others for taking a stand on this, particularly you in a different state and less directly affected.  I agree... representing our sellers requires maximum exposure and any effort by NAR or a state association to interfere with this is flat out unethical.  If google or anyone else helps expose our listings to the market place, or helps buyers find the "right" home for them, I'm all for it!

May 18, 2009 02:47 PM #67
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Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation

'Looking forward to hearing Paula Henry and Jay Thompson discussing this on Blog Talk Radio tomorrow (Tuesday) at 6 p.m.

May 18, 2009 02:57 PM #68
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Lane Bailey
Century 21 Results Realty - Suwanee, GA
Realtor & Car Guy

I guess they learned their lesson about approving comments.  Back when they first started their blog, I got involved in a little scrap... back then they moderated comments away if they didn't like them. 

May 18, 2009 03:28 PM #69
Rainmaker
173,260
Michael Johnson
Carolina One Real Estate - Goose Creek, SC
Metro Charleston SC

Good Post Matt.  Thanks for the information!  It was new news to me.

May 18, 2009 11:56 PM #70
Rainmaker
95,714
Michael Sahlman
www.HomesForVIPs.com - Keller Williams Realty - Miami Beach, FL
e-PRO - Miami Beach Florida Luxury Homes

not exactly heartwarming is this news....what are they thinking?

May 19, 2009 12:43 AM #71
Rainmaker
135,650
Paul Francis
Francis Group Real Estate - Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas Real Estate Agent - Summerlin Homes

I don't know what is more agonizing... the controversy over what has been going on with the IDX indexing (so called misappropriation/scraping debate) or watching the link to the Podcast that Lee provided.

Certainly a strong indication of where the NAR is when it comes to technology when you start talking about IDX so called scraping/misappropriation of data..

Simply because the address from the web page is being put in the page title so the search engines can index the page they are calling it scraping and a "misappropriation" of IDX data ...

...and then watch that podcast... LOL!

Somebody please call/hire the Shamwow guy...

 

May 19, 2009 02:13 AM #72
Rainmaker
272,035
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Missy - I have to admit, I liked it too.

Margaret - I just can't understand anyone thinking it's a bad idea.  It equates to free advertising.  I really think the only people that disagree with the issue are a) unable to work the internet to their advantage or b) looking to pick up both sides of the transaction everytime.  I'd love to see someone's opinion that states otherwise.

Lane - Just read your posts on the topic.  Wow, I really hope they've gotten over that.  I learned years ago that censorship on the internet without any real warrant (obscenity, profanity, spam, etc.) is never looked kindly upon.  In fact, it often just causes the censored user to rise up and do whatever they can to call the censor out.

Michael J. - Spread the word.  The more people that know what's going on, the more we can get our voice heard.  Many agents don't know about it, because they don't visit or listen to the people that are speaking up about it.  I want every agent to know what's going on.  Right now, I'm not even affected by the issue (other than seeing my friend Paula having her whole business changed overnight), but it can easily pass from one board to the next and before you know it, we're all in the same boat.

Michael S. - I'm not sure what anybody was thinking.  It sure seemed like the MLS Committee and NAR in general were thinking in the right direction, but MIBOR wanted no part of it.

Paul - Oh, if only NAR would hire the Shamwow guy to be our spokesman.  I'd probably take any bad rule they passed if he explained it to me.  That guy can sell honey to a bee.

May 19, 2009 02:54 AM #73
Rainer
34,612
Lee Ali
Las Americas Real Estate - Fairfield, CT

Paul, the discussion here and the Postcast I provided are the two sides of the same coin. The coin is: "Disconnect from the ground reality."

Real Estate is as people a business as it gets.

ShamWow guy works for me. He is talking to the camera as if he is standing in my kitchen. The rightly inserted video clips are bonus.

May 19, 2009 03:21 AM #74
Rainmaker
272,035
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Lee - Excellent quote - "Real Estate is as people a business as it gets."

I thought I'd post my comments from Realtor.org here as well (as many of you have).  There is also a great comment from Stacey Moncrieff of Realtor® Magazine there that everyone should read.  This is someone "inside" the organization (on a slightly different side of it), but I think her comments are rather telling of what several at NAR are thinking.

Here's my comment:

I was one of those that followed this case with great attention over at AgentGenius and various other blogs. In fact, I just finished up a post on ActiveRain about the issue and the decision to defer this until November. I am a great loss to comprehend all of this at the moment.

The “concern at the speed at which these changes were about to be implemented” is an argument that I have a hard time swallowing. Why? Didn’t MIBOR go to NAR and get an immediate interpretation of the rule that was then the basis of this whole deal? Didn’t MIBOR’s quick reaction to the interpretation change the game overnight? Weren’t the rules that we’re fighting for clarification of enacted in 2005? It’s 2009 last time I checked.

If we as an association can’t keep up with the pace of technology, then we need to get out of the game or create a new system. The internet moves at a faster pace than the pre-internet world. If we can’t keep up with it, we’re going to lose. Just ask any record industry executive or the RIAA (Recording Industry Association Of America). Right or wrong, they got burnt by being slower than molasses when music came to the internet. Now, they have to fight back to remain relevant and they have a long road ahead of them. Truth be told, Apple saved them all by finally giving them a decent business model to build off of.

The worst part? An agent who’s trying her hardest to be the best agent she can be has become caught in the middle of a battle. The best part? She has inspired many of us to take action. I count myself amongst on those people.

May 19, 2009 05:18 AM #75
Ambassador
557,018
"The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW.
President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc. - Kissimmee, FL

Matt...

Allow me to be honest with you. I don't think I'm smart enough to participate in this conversation :)

TLW...ROAR!

May 19, 2009 05:55 AM #76
Rainmaker
272,035
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

TLW - Allow me to be honest with you, I didn't think I was when I joined the fray.  I received a quick education and applied my own thoughts to it.

I posted a new comment on the Realtor.org site in reaction to Todd Carpenter's release of the NAR's updated position on the topic:

Matt Stigliano’s updated position is as follows:

Maybe NAR needs to take one lesson from the music industry. When we received contracts it always contained language referring to future marketing tools, delivery methods, etc. (ie, internet sales which didn’t exist when I signed my contract, internet radio which wasn’t even a reality, websites (barely any band had a website when I built our first one), my first record came out on cassette still, etc.). By allowing for “the future” in the language, cases like this could be avoided a little better. By the time NAR gets done shuttling this back and forth, there will be a new technology that brings up a whole other set of issues.

I still say that this is a case of no one (NAR or MIBOR) wanting to act first or step up and be the game changer. The interpretation is flawed and that’s clear as a bell to me in Cliff’s comment to Jay (which he allowed to be published on AgentGenius):

It should be understood that the focus of the rule in question has never been on blocking indexing by search engines. That potential effect was not contemplated when the rule was adopted by the NAR Board of Directors in 2005 and only came to light in the past few weeks. Simply put, the issue is whether - and how - indexing by search engines can be accommodated while at the same time clearly and objectively distinguishing that functionality from the scraping the IDX policy prohibits to protect MLS databases from misuse and misappropriation.

May 19, 2009 09:08 AM #77
Rainmaker
1,168,524
Jay Thompson
Zillow - Seattle, WA

Hey look! One of my photos made it on a featured post!

Thanks for bringing this to the attention of the AR community Matt. It was an interesting experience going to DC and addressing the MLS committee. We went from elation to disappointment in a couple of days.

BUT, at least the issue is in front of people now. It's *really* important to not let this issue die so it's just swept under the rug come November.

Of note, the MLS Committee passed these changes unanimously. So the supprt is there. We just need to get the Board of Directors to understand the importance now.

And I think we will.

May 19, 2009 11:50 AM #78
Rainer
34,612
Lee Ali
Las Americas Real Estate - Fairfield, CT

The talk about SEO and search engine results is silly. It exists because MLS gods have manufactured scarcity of data in the guise of privacy, prevention of abuse, blah, blah, blah... [Price has a strange habit of going down if scarcity is not artificially maintained.]

SEO works for static information. The MLS information is not static. Properties get listed, go into contract, come back out of contract, sold, etc.

The reason clients use Google to find a property is because MLSs are fragmented and Google/Trulia/Zillow/etc. provides a window into that fragmented world of data through one search box.

Short Term - MLSs should only be populating Realtor.com with all kinds of listings not just home listings. We can then have links from Realtor.com to agent's websites.

IDX vendors can re-write their data feeds to point to Realtor.com API (Application Programming Interface. In English, a set of programs which talk to two different systems to provide functions/data from one system to the other.)

Long Term - All the MLSs in the US should be consolidated into one web-based MLS. This will make Realtor.com unnecessary.

Crystal Ball - I see massive consolidation of MLSs and the elimination of IDX.

May 19, 2009 01:58 PM #79
Rainmaker
272,035
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Jay - I searched for photos from you and Paula just so I could tie them all together.  Once again, thanks for going to D.C.  You know I'm not forgetting it anytime soon, especially if you read my latest post on AgentGenius.  I thought it important to take the discussion outside of AgentGenius to other places to raise some awareness, so that's why I did this.  I know not everyone reads every post over there.  I know what I felt like at the victory/defeat - I can only imagine what you and Paula felt like.

P.S. Your post "You Have Full Permission To Advertise My Listings" is quite possibly one of my favorites.  It's given me some ideas, so as soon as I get a few moments, I'll start working on them.

May 20, 2009 10:47 PM #80
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