Hacker Connect January 16 in New York
An event for and by the real estate tech community

Editor’s note: Inman News columnist Alison Rogers attended the Real Estate Connect conference last week in New York City and served as a moderator for several panels at the event. She sums up her conference experience in this column, written during the show.

NEW YORK — People at the Real Estate Connect conference in New York City have teased me for wearing my sneakers, but it allowed me to hit a lot of panels.

A sampling of what I’ve seen:

Inman News Publisher Brad Inman ran us through the crazy number of changes that have hit the economy in the past nine months — everything from the stock market making our 401(k)s into 201(k)s to the fact that giant banks like Wachovia aren’t independent anymore. He also proposed a number of changes, including a national multiple listing service, an overhaul of the commission compensation model, and a tough new regulatory framework for both real estate agents and mortgage brokers, where "work experience is required before you’re licensed."

Craig Newmark, founder and customer service executive of Craigslist, expressed some optimism about the political transition, noting that the Obama administration is providing the millennials (that’s demographic-speak for "young people") with the opportunity to become the new "Greatest Generation." Newmark pointed out, "In American history, when we’re faced with actual challenges, we do pretty well." He also mentioned that he might someday be looking for an apartment in New York City’s Greenwich Village (I handed him what I’m sure was the first of many fliers for a listing I have there). He mentioned that he would use an agent who he knows — "sometimes amateurs can do a good job, but I do believe in the value of trained professionals."

On the video front, Joel Burslem, Inman’s vice president of content, mentioned that one theme of his panels was that "video doesn’t have to be just property-centric." Christian Sterner, the co-founder of WellcomeMat, a Boulder, Colo.-based local video platform, notes that "the large brands are harnessing video," which seems to be not just about awareness but also price, since Sterner estimates that the average price a Realtor pays for a video now is about $250, half of what it was two-and-a-half years ago.

At Bloggers Connect, Maureen Francis of Oakland County, Mich., won the "blog makeover," so drop in on her from time to time at mioaklandcounty.com to watch her already well-established blog gain branding, clearer organization, and bigger and better calls to action. One tip from Dustin Luther, strategist at the 4realz.net marketing firm: "Most people who visit blogs don’t land on a home page first. They come to a specific page from an article." Also, HitTail was mentioned — for those of you who don’t remember this "improve your keywords" darling from 2006, go to www.hittail.com.

The headliner was Gary Vaynerchuk, a guy who has parlayed a love of wine and a manic style into a career of consulting about personal branding and social media. As is pretty usual for a headliner, the crowd went from, "Where did Brad find this guy?" to "Yeah!" over the course of his speech. No fan of traditional media, Vaynerchuk said that the return on investment in traditional media is "laughable" — "They’re pricing like it’s nine years ago." He says the great thing about personal branding is that "no decision-maker is in your way." For Realtors, he argues that the keys are to be knowledgeable, transparent and "do what you rock at." (For those of you who would rather sell homes than be content producers, a tip was to use Google blog search to see what the 40 top-visited blogs are in your area, and to buy ads on those blogs.)

The newcomers panel was proxio.com, which lets you enter your listings in any language; dwellicious.com, which is meant to be a real estate version of del.icio.us or digg; ourbania.com, a wiki for commercial real estate; webmls.net, a national virtual brokerage; propertyportalwatch.com, which offers info on property portals around the world; and two more that were my special faves.

Giroptic.com sells a camera that shoots a 360-degree picture with one shot — Chief Information Officer Richard Ollier demonstrated it to me … in French. Even though I am a beginning French speaker and only caught about roughly every other word, the pictures did their own selling. Microsoft Outlook users seemed excited about xobni.com. The Web address is "inbox" spelled backwards — and before you decide that these guys are too cute for their own good, try their plug-in that promises to help you make some sense of your inbox.

As I’m writing this, the two best quarterbacks in college football are playing (I know you’re reading this on Tuesday, but at this moment, Oklahoma-Florida is a nail-biting 7-7) so I think I’ll save all of the international stuff for a separate wrap-up.

However, I’ll give you a football metaphor — the game is so exciting because even though the two Heisman-trophy-winning quarterbacks have thrown eight interceptions all year, they’ve thrown three tonight in the first half alone. As the level of competition rises, these greats make more mistakes, not less. So try out some of these ideas and technologies — not everything will work on a tough field of play, but you could score some fantastic touchdowns.

Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."

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