Put an End to Zillow Listing Spoofing

In recent years, Zillow has become one of the most ubiquitous platforms for homebuyers. When passing by a house with a for sale sign, we no longer get out to “grab a brochure” instead, we just look to our smartphones and “Zillow it” for quick information on pricing, taxes, and schools. Never before have buyers had so much information available at their fingertips.

For sellers, Zillow is a great platform to get out in front of millions of prospective buyers for little or no cost. Technology enables people to virtually tour your house from their smartphones without wasting any of your Sunday afternoon with unnecessary showings. It even gives you an early idea of what you can expect to receive for your home based on your “Zestimate,” which I gather is the floor of what you could expect on the open market, or the minimum price in which you should feel confident receiving for your home, in many cases.

Whenever an “open” platform offers so many benefits for little to no cost, there will always be people that take advantage of it, bending the rules to further their agenda. My wife and I call this “Zillow spoofing,” and it’s a real nuisance for homebuyers.

Spoofing is a nefarious act of creating communication to make it appear it came from a different source, hoaxing or tricking someone into believing they are receiving communication from someone else. This tactic is used often in social engineering, making you believe you have received an official communication from someone of importance. In phone networks, this can be called phreaking, and makes it appear that you are receiving a phone call from a disguised number.

In Zillow, I consider spoofing to occur when a builder or listing agent intentionally misrepresents the address or coordinates of a home or homesite in order to appear in the search results of popular or desirable areas in a metropolitan area. Today, I came across a listing for a new subdivision 30 minutes away from the area in which I was looking. This is a nuisance as homebuyers must sort through the listing to determine if it is “really” where the map says it is.

What’s tough about this grey area is that the listings are real–the houses or homesites are for sale/contract, and they could be easily corrected to show their “true” location. And, more often than not, they’re being posted by legitimate brokers and builders. Unlike other scams and fake listings, these are seemingly benign. However, in aggregate, they can really waste time homebuyers’ time “vetting” each listing to see if it is location accurate.

So what can we do about it? Unfortunately, there is no easy way to report spoofing on Zillow. Users are given a menu of options to report listings, although I don’t think that these categorically fall under spam. Perhaps that’s how I should report them. In either case, this behavior needs to stop and Zillow needs to create a system of accountability for builders and listing agents that abuse the privilege of using their platform.

Do you work for Zillow and have any positive assurance? Are you a homebuyer bothered by this? Leave a comment below and thanks for reading.

Adventures in modifying my child’s toys to lower their volume

For Christmas, my son received a number of toys that were manufactured in China. Many of these included batteries, lights, and very loud sounds. Some of the sounds though, were louder than expected, and I feared may damage his hearing. So, to preserve my sanity (and my son’s hearing) I decided to take them apart to bring peace to our household (or at least some gentler sound effects and songs).

To accomplish this, I purchased a small gauge wire stripper, a kit of resistors on Amazon as well as some shrink wrap tubing. Using a pair of sidecutters, I cut one of the wires connecting the speaker to the PCB, stripped both ends and soldered a 100 ohm resister (remembering to slide the heat shrink tubing before the second solder). This significantly lowered the volume of the toy and restored peace and peace of mind, knowing that my son’s toy is now less likely to damage his hearing and my attitude.

Rudolph the Blacked Out Reindeer

15.446 Million

That’s how many families weren’t able to watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer when it was blocked on CBS via streaming providers this evening, according to the latest subscriber counts for the six largest streaming providers (e.g. YouTubeTV and Hulu) and CBS All Access.

I’m curious what led to the decision to block this programming from streaming by CBS. In 2020, media companies should be prepared and equipped to distribute content equally across multiple platforms while maximizing revenue through channel optimization. So what really happened? Are antiquated rights agreements to blame or just corporate greed? In either case, bah humbug, I say!

(source: https://lnkd.in/e9MPbZ8 and https://lnkd.in/endsJv3) #rudolph #christmas #advertising #streaming #TV

Leaving Facebook Behind

Today marks seven years since I deleted my Facebook account. Since then, I’ve also deleted my Twitter account, leaving me merely with an Instagram and LinkedIn presence. While I don’t miss Facebook, I’m sometimes frustrated by the over reliance by organizations and businesses on its use as a community platform. This creates a barrier to communication with neighborhood groups and the like, a small price to pay, but nonetheless a sad note for those not using a specific product.

In my mind, a sound digital community should be established on a platform-agnostic framework, welcoming everyone regardless of their social network preferences. Sometime along the lines of WordPress, which is freely available to all would be a great solution to this problem. Unfortunately, many don’t see it as a problem at all.

A Case of the Mondays

When I first started at Marriott International, my leader would have a fun time leaving me voicemails. Often they’d sound something like this: “uhhhh hi yeah, Peter? What’s happening…Um, I’m gonna need you go ahead and come in tomorrow. So if you could be here around six, that would be great. Mmmkay? Oh, and one more thing, I’m going to need you to work a double, too.” #officespace #humor #hotellife #operations

Is this thing still on?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here and a lot has happened. We’re now over 6 months into a global pandemic that has cost the lives of over 200,000 Americans. Several industries have been decimated by the economic consequences of suspended travel. I’ve watched too many of my friends and colleagues lose their jobs, and some of them are even starting to lose hope about finding a job in this new reality. It’s horrible.

As we wait for a vaccine, it’s becoming more clear that it may not be the panacea we need to overcome this. If COVID-19 becomes endemic, we’ll need to rethink much of how we travel, meet, and gather as tribes and societies. Regardless of the near-term outlook, we will all be better served by trusting science. Hope and optimism are great tools to catalyze our recovery, but only if our actions are grounded in science.

One thing that has really bothered me lately is seeing people making their defiance of risks clear by not wearing face coverings when serving others–I’m talking to you, small restaurant owners and workers.

Wearing a mask doesn’t infringe on your freedom. In fact, it enables the freedom of others.

The point of wearing masks isn’t to protect ourselves, it’s to protect our neighbors. So, won’t you be my neighbor?

The Universe Winked at Me

We all have different beliefs about coincidences, divine messages, friendly spirits, simulation theory, and other ways to rationalize the coincidences that happen in our lives. But, despite the rationalizations, sometimes you’re forced to smile when they continue to pile on.

In my last blog post, I wrote about a sample that appeared in a song from one of my favorite albums, Kids by The Midnight. A sample from a an interview young computer enthusiast is featured in the opening song, and the source video of that sample recently appeared in my YouTube queue. Pretty cool, right?

Well, it went a step further yesterday. For some reason, I had delayed watching Street Light Stories: Chapter II, based on characters from the “Pittsburgh Dad” show written and produced by Chris Preksta & Curt Wootton. In the Pittsburgh Dad series, Curt plays an all-too-familiar and relatable blue collar father from Pittsburgh.

Street Light Stories, which was originally released in July of 2019 pulled at my heart strings. It was set in a suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood in the summer of 1987. The film included a stunning soundtrack, opening with Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday by Stevie Wonder whilst neighborhood kids were playing “ocka bocka soda poppa” and running around having fun.

The first film goes into the “Pittsburgh Dad” household and gives you an all-too-familiar glimpse of their home and family dynamic, filled with lots of “Pittsburghisms” and Pittsburghese that will resound with anyone from Western Pennsylvania.

In the end of the film, the kids are in the yard catching fireflies as the closing number, Just the Way You Are, by Billy Joel fades in. It really pulled at my heart strings as I remembered my childhood growing up in Pittsburgh.

Fast forward more than two later, and I finally decide to watch Chapter II, which also fast forwards to the summer of 1989 where Pittsburgh Dad’s kids host their first sleepovers. This episode took all of the funny nostalgia of the first short film and merged it with heartwarming portraits of adolescence from the perspectives of a young boy, his teenage sister, and two parents learning to adapt to their growing kids.

As if the episode wasn’t great enough, it ended a perfectly wistful, but uplifting and aptly named anthem, Memories, by who else, but The Midnight from their 2016 album (also appropriately named), Endless Summer.

Just maybe, as the song says, “All of this was planned when the world was started.”

When is the last time the universe winked at you in a big or little way?

Connecting the Dots

One of the great things about the Internet is its ability to help you discover connections between seemingly desperate things. This morning I was aimlessly scrolling through YouTube, looking for inspiration on a new project I’m starting. Along the way, I encountered this video interviewing a child talented with computers in 1979:

Elements of the interview seemed familiar and I quickly realized that this was the source of samples for the opening track, Youth, on the album Kids, by The Midnight:

It’s always fun to discover how computers can help humans connect the dots.

As we navigate this unprecedented moment in history, some of us have been given the opportunity to pause our lives and look deeply into what it is that brings us happiness and success. For me, at least 2-3 months away from my career will give me the chance to evaluate what I have been doing to determine if it is what I want to continue doing.

What are my strengths? What am I naturally inclined at doing that I should pursue more seriously? What are the things that I enjoy doing that I could profit from?

Maybe connecting those dots will lead us all to something new and exciting.

The project that I’m working on is a podcast for hospitality and travel workers to share their stories and help others learn to grow their careers. While the industry takes a pause through the pandemic, this will enable professionals to stay connected through stories of others and hopefully give them hope for the future of their careers and the future of travel.

The project will allow me to connect a few of my favorite dots: producing multimedia content, being creative, sharing stories, and connecting people with others of mutual value.

What dots are you hoping to connect?

You’re about to get a check. How you spend it could save our country and your neighbor.

Friday was a tough day. Many of my friends and colleagues were dealt a hard blow as their careers and livelihoods were put on pause through layoffs, furloughs, and reduced work schedules. A large number of these talented leaders have industry-specific jobs that will be difficult to transfer into other industries, especially in a saturated labor market.

Word on the street is that Uncle Sam is going to help by sending some of you a check in the mail. Deciding what to do with that money could be overwhelming. Stocks are on sale, and you could probably use the extra money to invest in your future. You could use the money to pay off a bill. You could save the money for Christmas, or a rainy day.

Don’t.

Restaurant workers, hoteliers, retail, and the aviation industry are counting on you spending this money to save their jobs and keep their doors open.

If you receive a check from the government and don’t need the extra cash, please think of your friends and neighbors filing for unemployment or your corner sandwich shop struggling to pay its rent.

Book that trip at the fancy hotel. Order from your local restaurant. DM your small town store advertising on Instagram to see if they’ll ship your purchase.

Whatever you do, when you receive this check, please, spend it or share it with those in need so we can all feed our families and get back to what we love doing best, taking care of you as you explore the world.

Life’s a little messy right now. And that’s okay.

It’s the second day of working from home with our handsome, brilliant, and energetic one year-old. After days of talks of the COVID-19 impact on the airline industry, news reports finally hit home for many hospitality workers. Restaurants and bars are closing around the country, and hotels are experiencing record low occupancies. Retail stores are now shuttering until it’s safe to re-open. It’s too early to tell how long the damage will last, but millions of people in the travel and hospitality industry will soon be (at least temporarily) without jobs.

Collateral damage is likely. Suppliers, intermediaries, service providers, contractors, and supportive infrastructure will all soon feel the effects.

For those of us on the fringe, still hanging on, life isn’t easy. Guilt of watching housekeepers, restaurant servers, store clerks and bartenders lose their hours while we struggle through difficult projects and conversations is overwhelming. Added to that: the prospect of furloughs, financial uncertainty and no telling when this will all get better. And even more: many of us are finding what it is like to work at home in isolation from our friends, extended family, co-workers and neighbors as we take on the new roles of caretaker and homeschooler.

“If something happens, how will we pay the bills?” “What if he screams during a conference call?” “Do we have enough in savings?” “Should we refinance the house?” “When will we ever do the dishes?” are common questions.

It’s a lot.

We’ve just entered a period of uncertainty, discomfort, and unrest all while trying to stay six feet apart from everyone else in the world.

So what can we do about it? Here are three ideas to start:

  1. Enjoy time with your family. There will never be another opportunity like this in your life to spend so much time together.
  2. Take the news in daily doses, not a constant drip. There won’t be much good news, so why not consume something you enjoy?
  3. Use social media as your balcony. Sing, play music, share a funny (but not misleading) meme. Interact with your friends and neighbors and remind everyone that we’re all going to be okay.

This isn’t going to be easy, but neither was 3rd shift, back-to-backs, opening after you closed, managing a tight turn in the ballroom or at the front desk, or covering that extra shift when you needed to be somewhere else.

Together, as an industry, we’ve been through some crazy things, too. There was 9/11, the financial crisis of 2008, Avian Flu, and countless hurricanes just to name a few. Despite all of these setbacks, we always emerged further ahead. Hotels are chicer. Retail is more luxurious. Restaurant food is better than ever. Craft cocktails raised the bar. Planes are greener. Technology is converging, and career paths are more promising.

What’s different about the service culture is that we do everything in service of others, and that spirit is what will carry us through.

Many people in the world outside of the hospitality industry don’t know the lengths that workers will go, or sacrifices that workers will make to ensure their guests feel safe, welcome, and well-taken care of. And that’s exactly what we’ll do for each other right now.

Hospitality exists when you believe that the other person is on your side.

Danny Meyer