Note to Self: Bring Advil to Real Estate Connect

By Stacey Moncrieff, Editor in Chief, REALTOR® Magazine

Today’s the first day of Real Estate Connect San Francisco, the annual gathering that brings together technology innovators with real estate industry players, including brokers, agents, and MLS executives. This is the place to learn which new technologies are emerging and which are fading.

The conference officially starts this afternoon, but this morning there were some warm-up sessions.  I guess the pre-conference sessions were designed to get people up-to-speed in their areas of interest. There was an odd mix: you could attend a series of talks on WordPress; sessions on digital marketing (for agents), a broker summit (audience seems obvious enough), and “Connect Tech” for all the Web and mobile developers wandering around the San Francisco Hilton.

Our office has a resident WordPress expert, NAR’s social media manager Todd Carpenter—in fact, he was one of the speakers this morning—so I figured I could skip those sessions. I also decided to skip the broker and agent sessions; I can pick up the same information at NAR conferences or through our own technology writers. I went straight for the heavy stuff.

Connect Tech included 10-minute talks on such topics as HTML5, development for the Android, geolocation, and augmented reality.

By the time the moderator called “1 minute” on the first speaker, my head felt like it was going to explode.

None of this is exactly new stuff to the tech savvy—Trulia became an augmented reality publisher on Layar nearly a year ago—but it was hard to determine how much of this applied to the typical agent on the street. I did gain a couple of insights for the magazine, though, and this information may be useful to you in your real estate business, too:

1. HTML5—the next upgrade to the language we use to create structured content on the Web (headings, paragraphs, bullet points, live links and so on)—will incorporate video playback as a native feature. That means we’ll no longer be dependent on a third-party solutions, such as Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silver, to show video at our Web sites. This appears to be great news for REALTOR Magazine. All our videos are posted in Flash. A few weeks ago, I wanted to show our publisher the fun, new “30 Under 30” page. He pulled out his iPad, and I was forced to admit that the interactive photo and video we’d worked so hard on didn’t show on the iPad. I found this neat graphical explanation of HTML5 in Flickr by searching Google for “What Is HTML5?” Here’s the ConnectTech presentation from speaker Tantek Çelik , founder of Global Media Protocols Group.

2. Google’s Pubsubhubbub is gaining traction as a way to syndicate information in real time. Pubsubhubbub takes your Atom or RSS feeds and posts them immediately for your subscribers. OK, I don’t totally get this one. We already have RSS feeds for our daily news and blogs, and our headlines already syndicate automatically via at our Twitter account, @realtormag.  So anyone who follows us on Twitter already sees our posts essentially in real time. What Brett Slatkin, a software engineer with Google, explained is that Pubsubhubub is open source, so publishers who use it won’t be dependent on companies such as Twitter to syndicate their content. One audience member also explained that Pubsubhubbub reduces the bandwidth required for RSS, because the hub gets pinged when a publisher posts an update and the hub then fetches the information. I guess it’s the difference between a water fountain, where the water’s always running, and a faucet, where you turn it on and off as needed. There’s a three-minute video here, in which Brett and one of his colleagues explain Pubsubhubbub.

The Connect Tech sessions wrapped up a bit early, so I dipped a toe into the agent track. The speakers were talking about mobile apps vs. mobile Web. It seems as if everyone’s trying to create great iPhone apps, but the speakers (whose companies admittedly focus on mobile Web) said they were underwhelmed. Broker and agents, they said, should instead focus on a mobile presence that works across mobile platforms (Blackberry, iPhone, Droid, Nokia, and Samsung were mentioned) and is an extension of their Web presence.

I’ll write more about the pros and cons of apps vs. mobile Web in a future post.

Stacey Moncrieff

Stacey is vice president of business-to-business communications for the National Association of REALTORS®, overseeing the association's key communications with NAR members and REALTOR® association executives.

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