House wars, 3-inch high condos, and Google Account Activity
It’s like 2006 all over again. According to Bloomberg, bidding wars for homes are breaking out once more. “The bidding wars seen in such places as Seattle aren’t found everywhere. In metropolitan areas including Atlanta and California’s Riverside and San Bernardino counties, housing remains weak as high unemployment and falling prices deter first-time and move-up homebuyers.” The competition for home is for the usual reasons—empty nesters job changes and divorce.
A Toronto developer has plans under way to develop what they believe will be the first condominium building comprised of safety deposit boxes. The Globe & Mail reports that unlike traditional rental boxes, owners can sell or rent these out themselves.
Who’s watching the watcher? Google has launched a new service called Account Activity that will provide you a monthly report on how you are using Googles vast array of services – email, search, video, etc. Google is touting it as a new security feature. If you notice anything strange, you can take steps to protect yourself from hackers.
In recent years, reality TV has explored the lives of hoarders on various shows. But hoarding isn’t only keeping and collecting material things. Have you used all your free space on gmail and now have to purchase extra storage? The Wall Street Journal examines the little known world of digital hoarders and offers advice on how to let go.
Why don’t young Americans buy cars? The billion-dollar question for automakers is whether this shift is truly permanent, the result of a baked-in attitude shift among Millennials that will last well into adulthood, or the product of an economy that’s been particularly brutal on the young.
What can the rescue of trapped Chilean miners teach us about leadership and teamwork? A lot, according to Knowledge@Wharton. Cooperation was international, ranging from Schramm drilling company and Center Rock drill suppliers providing equipment and knowledge, a former NASA deputy chief medical officer, the Chilean Embassy in Washington D.C., Steve Jobs and Apple, who provided iPods for the miners as gifts after the rescue, and a company who donated toothbrushes for hygiene.
Schramm’s Breiner chalked up the rescue’s success to an uninhibited exchange of ideas and information. “Technology, the free flow of trade and collaboration are what saved the miners,” he said. “There was leadership below the ground — people of character and faith sustaining themselves for 17 days [without knowledge that the outside world knew they were alive] — and people above ground exchanging [the] ideas … that made [the rescue] happen.”
It’s all fine and good that some talking head touts an economic recovery, but what about some more concrete statistics? Time looks at some more esoteric measures to see if a recovery is really under way.
A new model for online education, FB Timeline, using music in video, and YouTube
What if you offered your course online for free, announced in just one email, and 160,000 people enrolled? That happened last year for Professor Sebastian Thrun of Stanford. And the online class was such a success that students in the physical class slowly began switching to the online version as the semester progressed. So is Stanford doing more? Well, Professor Thrun decided to leave and launch his own online university instead. It’s an interesting look at what might be in store for online education.
Ready or not, here comes Timeline. If you haven’t activated Facebook’s new format yet, you won’t have a choice soon.
Mongolia is on its way to becoming the next Brunei or Qatar due to its mineral wealth, strategic location next to China, and its low population. The Economist has a great article on a country that’s booming.
Though we love a great deal, this week we learn more of the standards in which many of our bargains are produced. The New York Times draws attention to the Foxconn Technology factory in China. A few weeks earlier, Bloomberg shined a light on cotton production in Burkina Faso.
If winter static-shock has instilled a sense of fear into your daily actions, then dryer sheets are your new best friend. Keep one in your pocket to prevent painful shocks from opening doors and greeting friends. In fact, dryer sheets have many uses.
Using music in videos is tricky because without the rights to a song, you’re breaking the law, plain and simple. Here are some tips on finding free and legal music for your video podcasts.
What do the M’s in M & M’s stand for? Yahoo has a quick video explaining the origin of some brand names.
The mere act of petting a dog can cause a chain of events. Instantly, neurotransmitters in our heads do a happy dance — it’s involuntary. We feel good. USA Today discusses how dogs (and pets in general) spread happiness.
A new report estimates that the average American worker drops nearly $1,100 annually on coffee. That’s not much less than what the average worker spends to commute to the job. Time looks at what people spend on everyday goods like gas, coffee, pets, beer, etc.
Finally, Google put out a new video and accompanying website on its YouTube video platform. Every ten days, a century of video is uploaded to YouTube. Yikes!
2012 Tech trends, preparing for taxes, CES duds
Social media guru Todd Carpenter asked several social-media-savvy real estate professionals, “What new tools or trends will have the biggest impact on the real estate industry in 2012?” Here’s what they had to say.
Maybe the economy is improving: shopping center leasing seems to be picking up as consumer confidence climbs, according to REIS.
Twitter has complained about changes made by Google to integrate its social network Google+ into search results.
The U.S. Mint circulated more quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies last year. And that’s a good thing.
A New Year, a New You! But the same old taxes. Yahoo! and Fox tell you what’s new, what’s changed, and what to watch out for as you prepare your taxes in the next few months.
Need another social network? Pinterest is visually pleasing site for collecting photos and links to stuff you like and sharing them with others. While there are tons of other options for social bookmarking (e.g., Digg and Reddit), Pinterest’s photo-rich interface has made it a great hit.
The annual giant Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is taking place this week in Las Vegas. While its stature is diminishing, it’s still the place to introduce new products and wares. Not all are a success. Fox takes a look at some of the CES duds to be introduced over the years.
8 Things You Shouldn’t Buy in the Winter: summer veggies, summer clothes, computers, snowblowers, etc.
Holiday obligations, insurance, penny horders, and how to wrap a cat
Just because everyone is buying the boss a gift, pulling names off the giving tree, and organizing an office potluck for the holidays doesn’t mean you have to participate. While it’s probably not a wise career move to completely withdraw from office festivities, don’t feel bad about bowing out from some things. The Chicago Tribune gives some advice on how to gracefully decline office holiday obligations.
Well, if you do decide to go to the office holiday party, remember they can be a minefield of faux pas. Prepare yourself with some simple tips on how to survive the office party and come out clean.
And what if that holiday party continues on into your home, or the boss invites you over for some celebrating? Alcohol, ice and snow can combine into an accident waiting to happen. And I hate to say it, but what about theft? All of this is leading to: this is a good time of year to review your home insurance policy.
Google is investing in affordable housing near it’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA. But before you think, “Gee, how nice of them,” realize it’s a tax write-off.
Did you know it’s illegal to melt down old pennies for their copper? That’s not stopping people from hording them, waiting for the day pennies go out of circulation. ABC has an interesting article on some patient savers. It gives new meaning to “a penny saved is a penny earned.”
And it’s a little early for 2011 top ten lists, don’t you think? Regardless, Time has already put out their Top 10 Everything of 2011 master list.
And finally, how to wrap a cat for Christmas.
Exotic Locales, Elegant E-mail Signatures, and Energy Efficiency
We’ve been enjoying the New York Times series “House hunting in …” In several installments we have learned about the real estate market in Austria, Switzerland, Madrid, British Columbia, and this week, Antigua. It may never happen for us, but it sure is fun to imagine!
Forbes offers a treasure trove of intriguing content, from outrageous home amenity slide shows to stealthy green cars, but this week 12 Housing Markets Moving in the Right Direction caught our fancy. The picture of Seattle does not do it justice, in case you were wondering.
Speaking of cars, Yahoo! shares some stealthy cars that thieves don’t want; whether you can afford a BMW 5 Series or Audi A6 is another story.
E-mail signatures often become unwieldy. Chris Smith gives some tips on streamlining your signature.
Last week we shared details on Google’s push in the social sphere. In the company’s eternal quest to take over the world, this week it acquired Zagat. Mountain View, California sure smells like Pinky and the Brain these days…
Homeownership declines in all but elderly in last 20 years, real estate auctions & customer service hell
Conforming mortgage limits are dropping at the beginning of October from $729,750 to $625,500, meaning that buyers looking for homes priced over that amount will have to seek out and qualify for a jumbo mortgage – generally at a higher interest rate and with a large downpayment. For most of the country, it is not that big of a deal. Buyers looking for million dollar homes generally have some financial flexibility. But in New York City, the change in conforming loan limits impacts a much broader swatch of the market. The New York Times has the details.
The blog Calculated Risk takes Census data to show some remarkable declines in homeownership over the last 20 years by all but the elderly. They attribute it to various factors including younger people waiting longer to marry, mobility issues, etc.
Jakob Nielson is the go to guy for user-interface/intuitive product design advice. His latest column talks in part about how the rise of mobile and portable devices doesn’t mean the end of the desktop PC. One invention rarely completely replaces another. Because of this, companies will need to design for multiple screen types – mobile, PC, TV and maybe more based on their product. What works on one, may not work on another. How is your MLS system responding? Is it keeping up with various formats and designs or is it trying a one-size-fits-all approach?
Real estate auctions, long used in the sale of foreclosed properties, are becoming more popular among wealthy homeowners to drum up interest for mansions that have languished on the market after the housing crash.
Google’s axiom: don’t be evil. Yet, many of us remain suspicious. Some insight into Google’s intentions. For up-to-the-minute tech articles and research from the National Association of REALTORS®, follow @nartech on Twitter.
Getting out of voicemail/automated calling hell. While you’ll never have this nightmare when calling us at Information Central, sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to bypass the auto prompts. The author suggests stomping on the ’0′ or ‘#” keys.
While you can’t ignore reality, you also can’t let financial anxiety take over your life. That’s no way to live. If you’re having a hard time keeping a sense of perspective, here are three suggestions to help you through trying times.
Just what you were waiting for: Facebook to launch music service.
Everyone have a great holiday weekend!
On Friday I received an invitation from a colleague to Google+, Google’s new social network. I signed up and wanted to share my initial thoughts.
For those of you that haven’t heard, Google+ is the search powerhouse’s latest attempt at social networking. Google’s previous attempts have crashed and burned – wave and buzz both come to mind. Google+ so far seems to be better positioned to survive. Set up was pretty easy. I created a profile, uploaded a picture, and sent off invitations to friends who requested them.
What’s the same/what’s different
Google+ appears to be an amalgam of Facebook and Twitter in that you can do all the usual social media stuff (status updates, pics, likes, etc) with your friends and colleagues, but you can also follow people or add them to any of your ‘circles’ without having to ask permission. This is not only for the famous, like Mark Zuckerberg, but any hipster who’s bothered to sign up and create a profile. You can block unwanted followers, but that is an extra step. Another difference from Facebook is that you have much less control on the privacy of your information even though it may seem you have more. Sure you can select which ‘circles’ see your posts, photos or updates, but what is visible to the whole world is already pretty broad. And if you don’t remember to change your sharing setting after each post, things could get ugly. My motto is assume whatever I post is visible to everyone, including my dead grandmother. Right now I only have links to 23 people. As this grows, we will see how things will work.
There are some new features in Google+. First of all, Google+ adds the ability to follow topics of interest to you through its Sparks application. Leveraging on its search and indexing power, Google will provide a continually updated stream of articles around your interest from the web. If you’ve ever subscribed to RSS feeds via Google Reader or My Yahoo!, these feeds will be familiar to you. It could also be considered similar to following hashtags(#) on Twitter though with a bit more curation in content. I added ‘Chicago’, ‘Cycling’, and a few others to test it out.
Google+ also has a feature called the Hangouts where you and your friends can go to video chat together using Google’s video and phone service as its base. Facebook and Skype are starting a similar service, though whether there is demand for either of these has yet to be seen.
There’s lots more to explore and I’ll update as appropriate. For now though while promising, I’m not sure that Google+ offers enough to make me want to switch out of Facebook, or even taking the time to update my status. While all my friends are on Facebook, only a few have made the jump to Google+. I can see maintaining two broad social networks for now, but at some point that could become burdensome. Add in the more specialized LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr and there just isn’t enough time for all of these.
CNET has a good intro video on Google+.
- – - -
linkage to other Google resources – email, photos, etc.
Sorting contacts into different ‘circles’
no farmville or other games – though I bet this will change
thin user base
no killer app to drive people to use it
Communities based on communication, social networking, a new iPhone, and a house of books
Researchers at MIT, AT&T Labs and IBM Research are revealing new research that redefines regional boundaries in the United States, using patterns of social connectedness across the country derived from anonymous and aggregated cell phone data.
Billionaire Warren Buffett said U.S. employment will surge with the eventual rebound of the housing market.
For the first time in many years, a June has come and gone without a iPhone update announcement from Apple. That doesn’t mean the rumors aren’t flying that something new will be coming from Cupertino this fall. Engadget rounds up the iPhone 4s/5 rumors.
There’s not just money to be made in social networking websites—smartphone applications also prove a profitable business, with Apple selling its 15 Billionth App this week.
Data and computer security is a constant battle. Now a new front has opened: mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet computers. As these mini-computers become more and more powerful and more and more a business necessity, thieves are realizing the ease of unlocking corporate data from them. BBC News has the details.
Need help getting your car repaired, but don’t know what it may cost? Need advice on where to go? Repairpal.com to the rescue!.
Say goodbye to the Picasa and Blogger names: Google intends to retire several non-Google name brands and rename them as Google products. Note: just the names will change, the products will still be there.
For a librarian, a house full of books is a dream. What about a house made of and supported by books? A scholar in Osaka, Japan recently had a house built supported by an innovative bookshelf system that can hold up to 10 tons of books.
Bill Gates, the American Dream, and Father’s Day
‘Loose lips sink ships’ was the saying. The same holds true in the real estate biz. Agents, buyers, and sellers will look for any trickle of information to help in negotiating a deal. Even the most casual of comments can weaken your position. Agents are advised to read their clients their own version of Miranda Rights or just get them out of the house altogether.
Although there may be bargains, the continuing decline of home prices makes many buyers nervous. And uncertainty over jobs makes buyers less willing to make gambles on big investments. NPR looks at the fear of housing commitment in the great recession.
Bill Gates is still the second wealthiest man in the world. And the Daily Mail just published a wide-ranging interview with him. It’s worth a read in its own right, but if you need a condensed version, Mashable provides 10 key facts on Bill Gates from the longer piece.
Buying vs. Renting? It’s not an easy one-way-or-the-other answer. Lots of factors go into making the decision, but for many home ownership is still part of the American Dream.
Google is investing in solar panels – not for itself, but for you.
Apple founder Steve Jobs announced a free service last week that allows consumers to store vast amounts of music, video, photos and documents on the Web, one of several emerging “cloud” computing offerings, reports the Washington Post, that are diminishing the need for a computer.
Google has stumbled before in social media, but pundits are looking on its latest offering with a bit more promise. Google’s +1. Not only can users “+1″ (said “plus one”) directly in Google search results, but website owners can add the button to their home page or website posts. It’s similar to the Facebook “like” button and is a vote in Google for specific content which could alter the way you see search results in Google. Agent Genius gives six things you should know about the Google +1 button.
DigitalTrends lists 9 tech gadgets that any dad is sure to love.
Baby carrots as junk food, the homebuyer tax credit, and spring cleaning your gadgets
Take a former Coke executive and make him CEO of a baby carrot giant. What happens? Marketing baby carrots as the new junk food, complete with crinkly packaging and a dinosaur mascot. ps. Now there’s even a game for your iPhone!
Google’s plan to digitize whole libraries has been shot down by a judge who felt the arrangement between Google and parties representing authors and publishers went too far. CNN Money has the details.
The Today show offers great tips and ideas for cleaning up the cord clutter in your home. Tangled and frayed cords lead to falls and even fires. Conceal wires along the baseboards with a plastic cover, label and color-code your cords, use velcro strips to hold looped cords in place and stop using extension cords.
You have a smartphone, and iPod, a digital camera and a video camera with lots of overlapping functions. What can you get rid of, what should you keep? The New York Times runs through the list of gadgets to keep and the list to recycle.
Miss Manners on 21st Century phone etiquette (a.k.a. email first to set up a phone appointment).
A new survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests the fundamentals of commercial real estate are improving as it moves beyond the crater of the real estate bust.
Unhappy with some of the changes in the just-released Firefox 4? Gizmodo tells you how to undo some of them. And how to create an awesomebar like in Chrome.
Military members can still take advantage of the homebuyer tax credit that expired for the rest of us almost a year ago. Get your paperwork in by April 30 and close by June 30. Wisebread has the details on how to qualify.
“Steam” is the new black in the cleaning world. From mops to dryers to dishwashers, everyone is touting the benefits of steam cleaning. But is it really worth it? An article in the Kansas City Star says, it depends.