So I promised a more serious post about Blip.fm, the social music network that I’m fairly obsessed with these days. It’s taken a few days for the thoughts to gel, and I’m not convinced that they have fully. But in the interests of starting the discussion, I want to get this out there.
Could a blip.fm type of service work in real estate?
On Blip Itself
First, we must talk a little bit about Blip for those who don’t know that the *blip* I’m ranting about.
Blip is basically Twitter + Online Radio. The concept is really cute — every person signs up and can become a “DJ” by “blipping” various tunes. Each tune, with its 140 character message, goes on a blipstream that is identical to Twitter. Your listeners/followers can hear the songs you’ve blipped in turn.
So rather than listening to a professional DJ on some online radio station (and I guess that makes the term “professional” somewhat loose here), you can listen to music that all of your friends think is cool.
The mechanism for how one actually goes about doing blips is worth a look. First, the box at top is a search box, rather than a Twitter-style message box. That search then activates an in-screen search of songs/artists that match the keywords:
From right here, you can “Preview” — meaning, you can listen to the song — then you can “Blip” which means you actually publish that song as your choice.
The actual Blip then brings up the message window:
Second, the social aspect of Blip.fm is pretty strong. The basic one is that people listen to you — if you’re blipping the tunes that more people like, then they’re more likely to listen to you. The other one is that you can give and get “Props” to other DJ’s for their selections. The props then lead to little stars on your profile pic. Ego-stroking is a very important thing on the Web.
The whole thing is very addicting, especially if you’re into obscure 80’s new wave songs and old school rap and such.
So… RE Blip?
What I was wondering is whether this mechanism can work in real estate, as a replacement for traditional search.
I don’t mean traditional search as in the search box that exists on a website — I mean the actual process of looking for a house: checking websites, driving around neighborhoods, talking to people, and so on.
Why not crowdsource the whole thing, as Blip does for music?
Imagine a scenario where I can go onto reblip.com, do a basic keyword search, find a bunch of listings, find a bunch of neighborhood info pages, etc. and “blip” it with commentary. Such commentary could be something positive like “This looks like a great deal” to something critical like “I can’t believe someone actually put this piece of crap up for sale”.
Folks who are actually IN the search process can blip the houses they’ve gone to see with commentary; their friends and followers would pick up on that.
Realtors can continuously blip listings that they really like, or interesting neighborhoods, etc. and see if anyone follows them. That seems obvious.
The traditional “featured listing” mechanism won’t work here — because if you’re just pimping your highest priced property, or blipping a listing only because you’ve promised the seller that you’d do that — then no one is likely to follow you. What’s the point?
Furthermore, if you’re good at finding neat houses, or underpriced properties, or whatever, then you can get props propelling your visibility upwards as well.
Now… I understand that all of this can actually be done via Twitter. Just put a tinyurl link of the listing itself into the tweet, and there you go.
Thing is, I don’t think that’s enough. To me, what makes Blip compelling is that the entire experience is unified and self-contained. There are no external links for fetching music. No external search. In fact, I can listen to the music directly from within Blip. Twitter can be used for this sort of crowdsourced search of properties, but that makes the experience disjointed.
A single site, with a unified user experience, that is able to showcase at least the highlights directly in the “blipstream” would work better, I think. Because that lets me, if I’m a follower of various REBlippers, to quickly scan a bunch of properties that those people think are cool for one reason or another.
The Recommendation Engine
There is one other key to Blip: the recommendation engine. It’s a very simple one for Blip. Whenever you blip a song, the system tells you (and shows you) who else has blipped that song. You can then decide to follow them, seeing as how you have similar tastes in music.
For REBlip, this is going to be a bit more complicated. Non-realtor users are unlikely to blip anything, as they’re the consumers of information. But even if they did, it strikes me as unlikely that others who blipped the same house have the same taste as you do. Plus, the properties themselves do not necessarily share commonalities as music does.
A song by Jay-Z and a song by Public Enemy are both rap songs, a distinct genre of music. But is a 3BR/2BA Tudor in one city the same “genre” of housing as a different 3BR/2BA ranch in another city?
Taken together, these challenges suggests to me that a relatively sophisticated recommendation engine would need to be developed with something like a “House Genome Project” — patterened after Pandora’s pioneering Music Genome Project. This way, if I’m a consumer user, I can follow certain folks who have a knack for blipping properties I find interesting for one reason or another.
The Dream Search
It probably has to do with the fact that I am a fairly lazy guy when it comes to things like shopping for stuff, but my dream house search looks very much like my dream shopping experience. Which I’ve actually had at Emporio Armani. I walk in, find an associate, tell him in vague and general terms what I’m looking for (“Something appropriate for business, but still casual and hip”), have someone hand me a caffe latte, and I sit around and wait for various well-dressed minions to bring me merchandise. In most cases, the good salespeople bring me items that I personally would never have looked at twice, but end up buying because their fashion eye is better than mine.
I kinda want to be able to tell my friends and various professionals out there in vague general terms what I’m looking for in a house or in a neighborhood, and have them bring me merchandise. Maybe my friends know me better than I do and blip me properties they think I’d be happy with. Perhaps the professionals I follow have a knack for finding stuff that is spot on for needs of a thirtysomething officeworker with a family.
But I think something like a REBlip could be pretty cool to have. Crowdsourced real estate search. Somebody get on that please.