Negotiation, Negotiation, Negotiation

UK Property Investment news and comments from Mark Harrison of YourPropertyExpert.com

Archive for the ‘Wikinomics’ Category

Bridging the Digital Divide in Kingston – e-voice.org.uk

Posted by markharrison on November 2, 2007

Once in a while, I come across an organisation that I just want to help promote/publicise.

Well, this morning, I learnt about e-voice.org.uk

To quote from Guarav Patel, who told me about it (on a Ubuntu list.) (Apologies to those who are reading this blog entry ON the Ubuntu Planet syndication site, and already know all about this – but 99% of my readers aren’t from that community):

I’m a member of a team of an organisation where I volunteer every
Wednesday to offer free wireless Internet in an estate in Kingston,
London.

A problem we had was that many people in this estate had very little
money and very little computing knowledge.

Long story short, we had to supply the computers. We had another
charity organisation offer a around 80 old Dell Optiplex (I think the
model number is GX1). We pre-install these computers with Ubuntu 6.06
and give everything away for a low low price of £0.

If you want to know more about what we’re doing, there’s some information on the website at http://www.e-voice.org.uk/comcon/

Here’s the kind of thing you’ll find on their website:

We are distributing free PCs on a “first come, first served” basis, although we will be happy to give priority to those currently without any PC already at home, or people who can demonstrate a particular need (e.g. limited mobility, school-aged children, etc).

Way to go people, keep up the fantastic work!

Posted in Companies I Like, Open Source, Wikinomics | Leave a Comment »

Lunch Parties, courtesy of the Luxury Homes Digest blog

Posted by markharrison on August 9, 2007

Luxury Homes Digest is one of those US sites that demonstrates how much UK estate agents need to change to appeal to the Web Generation.

Mixing quirky items with Real Estate information, it’s well-designed, amusing, and an interesting insight into how real estate works in the lives of the super-rich. (Oh, and they sell homes as well.)

The article that really caught my eye, was a post on making omlettes for dinner parties, and what struck me as a sufficiently good idea that I’d share – here’s a quick summary (but the original is better):

  • Put some “ingredients” for fillings into bowls, and lay them out on the table.
  • Each guest writes their name on a sealable freezer bag with a permanet marker
  • The host cracks a couple of eggs into the bag, and shakes (not stirs, how James Bond?)
  • Each guest adds their choice of ingredients to the bag, and shakes more.
  • Expel the air from the bag and seal
  • The host puts the bags into a big pot of boiling water, for 13 minutes
  • On opening, personalised omlettes roll out

Amazing what you learn on Real Estate Blogs, eh?

Posted in Dinner parties, Wikinomics | 2 Comments »

Another step forward for customer choice.

Posted by markharrison on August 7, 2007

As you may know, both www.yourpropertyexpert.com and www.mythinge.com run on servers that run something called Linux.

Linux is an alternative to Microsoft Windows, that started on the premise that there were two ways to develop software:

  • Either pay a bunch of programmers to do it, and exchange your money for their time. Generally, this software is sold on a “usage” basis, in that customers have the right to run it, but not to modify it.
  • Get a larger bunch of programmers to get involved on a voluntary basis, because they were willing to put in their time to improve products. The “contract” as it were is that everyone can have the right to make improvements to the software directly, provided they share those improvements back with the community.

Companies like Microsoft,  and Lotus took the first route – Microsoft employs an awful lot of programmers. Other groups took the “large numbers of volunteers” route.

That was now a long time ago. Over the last 10 years, more software companies have taken the view that there are some real benefits to using and improving, so-called Open Source Software, to the extent that a lot of “free software” is actually coded by paid employees – their employers having decided that it’s cheaper to modify something free than to buy in an expensive licence.

While most of the Internet’s servers now run in Linux, it’s also true to say that 98% of home PC users pick Windows. Linux was an alternative that, until relatively recently, always appeared to lag behind in functionality and ease of use.

More recently, however, a company called Canonical have sponsored a version of Linux called Ubuntu, which does seem to be a head-on competitor to Windows. Earlier this year, Dell started selling laptop and desktops with Ubuntu installed instead of Windows.

As of tomorrow, Dell are going to offer these products in Europe as well.
More information here at the Ubuntu website.

Posted in MyThingE, MyThingE.com, Wikinomics | 3 Comments »

Yes, there will be a market crash (for both technology stocks and property)

Posted by markharrison on August 3, 2007

Yesterday, I was involved in two separate conversations, both of which ended up being about market crashes.

  • Firstly, I’d been  asked to record a CD about property investment mistakes for Nightingale Conant, and one of them was buying in the wrong way for where we are in the market cycle.

I believe that there will be another crash in both markets. I have to believe this, because I can only believe one of two things:

  •  This Government (and the other world governments, given we live in an interconnected world) have put such a firm framework for continuous growth in place that, irrespective of what happens in the future, and who gets elected, we have seen the end to boom and bust

or

  • Boom and bust is still with us – the last few years have been relatively boomy (in both UK property and technology stocks)… so bust will come at some point in the next few years, sure as day follows night (but with less predictable timing.)

There are some common things that get wheeled out in every bubble, since, well, Tulipmania in 1636-7:

  1. It’s different this time… this one tends to get used by people with strong vested interests, either because their jobs depend on it (rational denial), or because they have invested heavily in a sector and hope it’s true (irrational denial). Experience of the last few hundred years has shown that “it’s different this time” tends to get used more and more frequently, the closer we get to the crash.
  2. People will still need/use XXX (a place to live, social networking sites)… OK, but if this were “sufficient” reason, then the property crash of 1989-94 would not have happened, nor would the .com collapse of 2000. There will be winners and losers – some will go on to be worth far more, some will “tread water”, others will go down in value.
  3. XXX has a vested interest in saying there will be a crash. OK, so we do 🙂 … but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to be wrong. (See also point 1)

What I can’t do is tell you two things:  I can’t say WHEN the crashes will come, nor can I say how deep they’ll be.

But, boom and bust is here to stay…

Posted in Property Investment, Social Networking, Web Marketing, Wikinomics | 5 Comments »

Don’t talk about this!

Posted by markharrison on July 24, 2007

Fortunately, I don’t use MySpace, or more specifically, I don’t use the “ParentCare” control, which is a piece of software intended to help parents keep track of what their teenagers are doing on the Internet.

Because, if I did use ParentCare, I wouldn’t be allowed to write this message!

Part of the terms and conditions of the software are that you aren’t allowed to tell anyone what you think of it. Just look at this quote:

By downloading the ParentCare Beta software, you agree to not disclose any information about its content, its look and feel, and your experience with the software or your opinions about the software to any party other than a representative of Fox Interactive Media.  Examples of prohibited disclosures are as follows:

  • Communicating with reporters or media regarding the software
  • Posting comments on an internet bulletin board regarding the software
  • Sending emails regarding the software

Thank you for your compliance with this nondisclosure agreement …

As I said, I’ve not downloaded the software. I’ve not agreed to abide by the NDA (In fact, I got the text from Wired.) So I’m allowed to mention it.

No idea what it’s like though.

It does strike me as very bizarre – if you released a product, and made customers sign a contract that forbade them from sharing their experiences, would you imagine this was:

  •  A: A superb masterpiece that everyone would want
    or
  • B: The kind of product normally described in terms invented for the leavings of dogs with antisocial owners?

Frankly, if you like this blog, the YourPropertyExpert.com newsletter, or MyThingE.com, then tell people about them 🙂

However, if you HATE this blog, the YourPropertyExpert.com newsletter, of MyThingE.com, then feel free tell people about that as well… just please let me know what you hate, so we can have a go at fixing it!

Posted in Internet problems, SNO, Social Networking, Social Networking Optimisation, Web Marketing, Wikinomics | Leave a Comment »

Social Networking Optimisation (SNO)

Posted by markharrison on July 20, 2007

I’ve been reading with interest the discussion about SNO over at O’Reilly.

The world is changing rapidly:

  • Ten years ago, “experts” had books, TV shows, and (maybe) websites
  • Five years ago, we started getting into building mailing lists (Heh, I was slow – yourpropertyexpert.com didn’t start its newsletter until September 2004)
  • But the world has moved on…

I make no secret of the fact that I sell a bunch of information products – CDs, a book, several training courses, an ebook and a couple of other own-brand products… plus a limited number of other products I’ve personally used and am happy to recommend.

But the idea that some experts have that they can stand on a pedestal, and have “fans” who will lap up their every word seems almost entirely laughable these days (except, maybe, in fashion, but heh, I’m about 100 years too late for my style to be cutting-edge.)

SEO – search engine optimisation – is an odd field, a few people who teach good stuff, and a lot of snake-oil – people who claim you can make “passive income” just by bidding on AdWords and selling other people’s ebooks. It worked for a few people, for a short time, but the markets are getting more sophisticated.

Web2.0 – the whole “Two Way Web”, where everything is a discussion, a conversation, is where everyone is moving – blogs rather than newsletter (OK, as well as newsletters!), forums rather than static websites, facebook rather than Google. (Though, to be fair, Google’s Pagerank, where they give high listings to sites linked to a lot by other high-quality sites, was arguably a “systemised” version of the two-way web, albeit one that only really gave power to those who could set up their own sites a few years ago.)

SNO – Social Networking Optimisation – is the new game in town.  How can “Social Networks”, communities, be engaged with? And I do mean “engaged with”, not just “sold to!”

The benefit of a COMMUNITY isn’t the additional sales, it’s the additional sources of information, learning, suggestions (and in the property investment world) leads and contacts.

I’ve learnt far more running the YPE mailing list, from the replies, comments, disagreements, and the like, than I’ve ever been able to impart back.

It will be interesting, with the “day job” hat on for a moment, to see whether SNO becomes a well-respected part of the marketing profession, with the SNO Agency sitting with the PR Agency and the Ad Agency… or whether it’s just another set of snake oil.

Posted in SNO, Social Networking, Social Networking Optimisation, Web Marketing, Wikinomics | Leave a Comment »

Declaring Email Bankrupcy has a new home…

Posted by markharrison on July 2, 2007

Just over two months ago, I declared email bankrupcy – that’s to say, I announced that I had too many unread emails, and therefore was going to delete them all and start again.

Since I did that, I’ve been trying to persuade people to contact me through means other than email – if you want to get back to me, ask a question, disagree, or otherwise comment on this blog – leave a comment on the blog!

Likewise, if you have a specific issue with a transaction at MyThingE.com, then you will get a far better service by registering it through the complaints process than sending me a personal email to my home address 🙂

However, the concept of email bankrupcy has caught on, to the extent that there are quite a few people now seriously discussing it at facebook. The facebook group is here.

I have to say, I’m finding facebook a very useful tool – seems to do everything for me that I did with LinkedIn, but it is free and easier to use! I’m also, ironically, finding it a better Twitter client than, well, Twitter.com

Posted in Email bankrupcy, Social Networking, Wikinomics | 5 Comments »

Free to good home?

Posted by markharrison on April 23, 2007

There are several reasons why it would be nice to be French – good wine and great cheese spring to mind… but one of the big advantages of having French as a mother tongue is that there is a difference in the words “libre” and “gratuit”, both of which translate into English as the word “free”, but which mean completely different things.

  • “Gratuit” means “free” in the sense of at zero price – as in “buy one, get one free”
  • “Libre” means “free” in the sense of unrestricted, unconstrained – as in “Nelson Mandela is now free”

What on earth has this got to do with Web Marketing?

OK – let’s re-cap the complete basics of web marketing. To build a business you:

  1. Attract people to your site
  2. Offer them something “free” in exchange for getting their contact details and permission to email them
  3. Make the “free” thing of such good value that you build up (over time) a reputation as a trustworthy source
  4. Once you have that reputation, explain what you can offer that would cost them money
  5. Track the whole process so that you understand what percentage of visitors to the website hand over their details, and what percentage of people getting the “free thing” go on to become paying customers – then use this information to gradually refine all aspects of your business so that those percentages improve over time.

This is exactly the model I use on two of my sites:

The vast majority of people who get the free stuff are perfectly happy with it – I regularly get emails of thanks attributing specific figures that people have made using some of the tips in the mini course – and this is absolutely fine. However, a small number of people go on to buy either my ebook on Property Negotiation, or even attend my one-day training course. (95% of the material in the two is the same – it’s really a question of whether people learn better by coming on an instructor-led course, whether the emotional commitment of coming to a course spurs them to action, and whether they want the confidence boost of meeting a bunch of like-minded people who are accomplishing similar things.) And let me be honest, this isn’t a huge money-maker for me – I run training courses because I enjoy it, and like meeting interesting people, rather than because it’s the most financially efficient use of my time!

However, this is only “free” in the sense of “gratuit” – I don’t charge for the newsletter or mini-course.

What about “libre” – what “freedom” comes with these items?

Under UK (and International) copyright law – the contents of the course and newsletter are mine – and the only “rights” a subscriber has is the right to read that newsletter / course item. They don’t have the right to forward them to friends, nor the right to reproduce them in their own newsletters.

The traditional view of “intellectual property” says that it would be sensible for me to enforce these rights – to try to clamp down on anyone “ripping off my material” by passing it on.

However, there’s another view – if the point of my giving this stuff away “gratuit” is to spread my reputation as a credible authority (in my case, on property negotiation specifically, and property investment in general), then what’s in my best interest?

  • To lock down and restrict the material so that only people who have given over their contact details get it?
  • To make sure that it only ever appears in exactly the format I’d intended, without modification

OR

  • To open it up, and let as many people as possible get at it
  • To allow other people to use vast chunks of it, with their own angle, or improvement
  • (providing the new readers know where it came from originally)

The second model is exactly the one that that the “free software” community uses. The software licences like the so-called “GPL” are specifically written to give people a bunch of rights not just to use software, but to modify it, and redistribute it. Both of the elements are key – the “redistribution” right means that software like Ubuntu Linux now has millions of users world-wide. And the “modify” right means that the product is far, far, better than if only the small team (who work for a company called Canonical) who produced the original Ubuntu CDs could change things. Canonical make their money be providing support and installation services – though you are welcome to use their products whether you buy their add-on services or not. Indeed, their products are, in turn, modifications and improvements of other products issued under similar terms.

My view is that I’m far better off trying to get the newsletter stuff out to as wide an audience as possible, and not worry too much whether I have the email address of every reader on my database!

So, what does this mean to my material?

As of today, there’s a “new deal” available on the yourpropertyexpert.com newsletter:

  • If you run a website or newsletter yourself, you are welcome to take any article from the http://www.yourpropertyexpert.com website, and re-distribute it to your readers provided that you include the line “Copyright <year> http://www.yourpropertyexpert.com – reproduced with permission” on the article.
  • There is no obligation on you to let me know you’ve done this (though it would be nice)
  • Obviously, you’ll need to replace the text <year> with the year the article was actually written.
  • If you allow other people to use articles from your stuff, you need to make sure that they know they have to include that message as well!

Right, that covers the “redistribution” side, what about the “modification” side?

  • If you run a website or newsletter yourself, you are welcome to take any article from the http://www.yourpropertyexpert.com website, and use parts of it, added in with your own text, and re-distribute it to your readers provided that you include the line “Parts of this article are Copyright <year> http://www.yourpropertyexpert.com – reproduced with permission” on your version.
  • There is no obligation on you to let me know you’ve done this (though it would be nice)
  • Obviously, you’ll need to replace the text <year> with the year the article was actually written.
  • If you allow other people to use articles from your stuff, you need to make sure that they know they have to include that message as well!

At this point, the traditional “list-builder” marketeers will be reeling in shock! The traditional approach is that you have to capture every name, and that the key metric to success is the “size of your list”, because they are the people you can sell other stuff to more effectively.

My point is that making all this stuff available for free (libre and gratuit) is, I believe, a better way to grow that list quickly – since many people who’ve read my material elsewhere will ultimately choose to come to the source and subscribe directly… and that providing material to other people will only increase the brand awareness of the name “Mark Harrison” in property investment circles.

Posted in Blog marketing, Building Businesses, Open Source, Web Marketing, Wikinomics | Leave a Comment »

Wikipedia vs. Britannica – Alan Johnson isn’t as dumb as people are claiming!

Posted by markharrison on April 19, 2007

The UK Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, gave a speech last week, at the annual conference of the National Association of Schoolteachers and Union of Women Teachers, in which he praised Wikipedia for providing free access to information that, a few years ago, was only available to those with deep pockets able to afford things like the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Over the last week, there have been various attacks on Mr. Johnson (like this one in the Guardian), which have pointed out that Wikipedia contains various errors, and therefore he shouldn’t have recommended it. Several of these attacks have held up Encyclopedia Britannica as a model of good scholarship.

The difference in styles is obvious.

  • Wikipedia allows anyone to go in and edit articles, and assumes that, overall, there will be a lot more people will working to make sure that errors are corrected than there will be vandals who deliberately (or accidentally) get things wrong.
  • Britannica, on the other hand, employs respected experts to write the articles, to ensure accuracy.

One would expect that an encyclopaedia compiled by experts would be a lot more accurate, right?

About a year ago, Nature magazine decided to test this. What they did was clever – they picked a bunch of articles from Wikipedia and from Britannica, and sent them off to a group of specialists in the fields of the articles. They asked the specialists to pick up any mistakes – however they didn’t tell the specialists where the articles came from.

The specialists found 8 major mistakes! Four from Wikipedia – and four from Britannica.

The specialists found a larger number of more minor errors, and to be fair, more of these came from Wikipedia (162) than Britannica (123).

But the differences aren’t staggering.

In the various articles in the week (particularly on the BBC which has, as ever, done a good job of reporting the debate), various journalists have made the point that students should not trust wikipedia, but should instead double-check references and sources – in fact, follow standard academic and journalistic practice.

The problem is that many of the articles have failed to point out that the same is true of Britannica!

So, maybe Alan Johnson had a point – if both contain similar levels of errors, why would you choose the one that cost several thousand quid over the free one?

Posted in Open Source, Wikinomics | 4 Comments »