Contrarian or stupid? Don't be surprised if I ignore you.

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Friday, I spammed over 300 innocent people. This was a first and, in the strictest sense, it wasn’t spamming at all, but I will get to that.

It all started with a little online venting I was doing about the functionality (or lack thereof) of the Trulia listing widget I have on our side bar here. I have always loved the little guy, but it seems he had something against me, or rather, my listings. The problem was that by all appearances some ornery programmer armed with a random listing generator and intoxicated with the power of his position (Widget Czar) was unilaterally deciding which, if any, of our seller clients’ homes to display there on any particular day. I now give a big hat-tip to the Truia customer service folks who proactively worked through the problem and re-earned their exalted position to your right. Go Trulia!

As a result of that little post, I also got many “helpful hints” from other vendors, dozens actually, suggesting that they had my answer, the “better way.” If you are an agent, you like I undoubtedly get many of these “better way” offers each day in your email inbox. These unsolicited offers I generally ignore. Otherwise, I would be spending 27 hours a day doing nothing but testing new products. But, as for those who responded to my online cry for help, I don’t consider this spamming; I presented a problem publicly, and they responded.

Enter Diverse Solutions. Timing is everything. Just like the home owner thinking about selling when your recipe of the month card hits their porch, I had been thinking about replacing my current Search for Homes (IDX) provider for awhile. There was nothing inherently wrong with my current Home Search feature – it was fully populated compliments of our local San Diego MLS, it provided all of the property information for each home, and offered the automatic email feature which notifies users with new listings and status changes – but it was not map-based. I like map-based, and I am certain that the consumer does too.

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Today we are switching over to the new search platform. And it scares the heck out of me. We have tested and had some clients test it to confirm that it indeed enhances the search experience (it does), but that is not the issue. The problem is that I have over 300 people currently “signed up” for the old system, people who have been saving “favorites” and customized searches, and people who have been receiving regular email feeds for, in some cases, many, many months. These are people I have done my very best to ignore.

I have long believed that failure to respect the anonymity of visitors to our site would drive them away. If a search experience results in helpful, unsolicited, monthly newsletters from me on winterizing your home, changing the furnace filter, or evaluating the current market (“It’s a great time to buy!”), I have always strongly suspected you will take your search elsewhere, “elsewhere” being a place where they leave you alone.

One thing that always bugged me about my former IDX provider was that there was this little “welcome” email that went out with my name on it each time someone signed up for automatic notifications. Only, it wasn’t really from me. I just couldn’t turn the darn thing off. In one of many phone conversations with the company reps, I had one gentleman in particular chastise me. “What? You don’t want to convert these leads? Do you know what a gold mine you are sitting on? You mean you never follow-up?” No, no, no. Ick.

Is this contrarian or just plain stupid? He favored the latter, but I prefer the former. I still believe that you want to be the one to initiate the conversation. My email and phone number are splattered all over that site and this one, and each has a fully functioning chat box. If I haven’t heard from you yet, a reasonable person would conclude that you aren’t ready or don’t want to engage.

So, forgive me, but I have spammed. And, I assure you it will only happen this once. About to pull the plug on hundreds of visitors who were going to show up looking for their saved searches and find they had “been disappeared,” I sent out a blast to all last week explaining the conversion which would be taking place today. If you missed the memo, we will keep the old search feature running in parallel (but hidden) for the next six months or so. Your bookmarks will continue to work.

And, I’m sorry that, even briefly, I had to acknowledge your existence. I promise I won’t do it again – unless you ask me to.

(Note to valued vistors “Ben Dover,” “Lulu Lolo,” and “YoYo” – Your emails were returned undeliverable. I hope you read the blog.)

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