Mystery solved – blue satellite-looking structures at Mueller to “turn-on” tomorrow

Have you ever wondered about those blue, flower-shaped structures that resemble satellite dishes along I-35?  Well, those structures near the Mueller development are Austin’s largest public art project called SunFlowers – An Electric Garden. The so-called “sunflowers” capture solar energy during the day to provide light at night. They also rely on light sensors to determine when to begin illuminating. Any additional energy they produce will be fed into the electrical grid so they fit perfectly into Austin’s green-character and are a great addition to the Mueller area community. Don’t miss their illuminating debut tomorrow night, Thursday, July 30th.

Texas Real Estate Market Values up over 50% in the last year! Really?

Yep, Texas market values have risen over 50% in the last year.  In fact, they dropped slightly up until about the last month where they rose almost 60%.  Well, at least that’s what Zillow is telling me.  Take a look at their market value graph I saw this morning.

According to Zillow, Texas market values are up drastically.

This just goes to show you that Zillow’s estimates aren’t all that accurate.  So please be sure to check with your local Realtor to get an accurate assessment of your property or any other.

Great Site for Austin Crime Information

I just discovered krimelabb, Austin’s citywide crime data site.  It pulls information directly from APD’s crime incidence reports.  You can research by zip code and view results as a list or graph and also on a Google map.  It is very simple and easy to use.  I will definitely be using this more often when researching crime in different neighborhoods.  It is great to see the city making this information easier to use.

Moving to the cloud

I am working on a rails-based project that we have decided to host in the cloud.  We have decided to go with Amazon Web Services.  We will be using EC2 and with an Elastic IP.  We are looking into Cloudfront as well.  So far I have created my account and launched my instance which was based on Webficients prebuilt Ubuntu image.  It is geared towards rails apps with Passenger and MySQL already installed.  It also has enterprise ruby which I will look into when I have more time.  So after configuring my keys, I was able to ssh into the server and poke around.  My next step is to get the command line tools installed and configured.  Then I hope to my image customized and save it.  Since server admin isn’t really my expertise, I am hoping this image will help me automate a lot of it.  I can simply relaunch a new instance as needed with my preconfigured AMI and off I go.  At least I hope it will be that easy, we shall see.

Just auto-upgraded WordPress to 2.8

I just ran the auto-upgrade for this blog to bring it to 2.8.  This is the first time I have ever used the built-in auto-upgrade.  Most of my sites and clients’ sites are hosted on Dreamhost so I have always used their one-click installers which have been awesome.  Then WordPress came out with the built-in upgrader which makes it even easier.  Well it worked perfectly.  It’s as easy as upgrading your modules.

I Wish All My Clients Were As Prepared As This

I was browsing Ben Maurer’s Blog because he helped write the useful reCAPTCHA plugin that I use on my blog.  Then I came across his post Wanted: Temporary Palo Alto Housing

How cool is that.  A map of exactly where he wants to be and info on the property he needs.  That is a great way to pinpoint your property search.  Now if only every client was that tech-savvy.

Email Exchange Regarding NAR’s Recent Decision to Back MIBOR

Recently NAR decided to back a controversial decision made by NIBOR.  It was suggested that the best way to make your voice heard was to email Cliff Niersbach, NAR’s Vice President of Board Policy & Programs.  So I did, and since some asked, I am putting the thread here with Cliff’s permission.

My first email to Cliff:

I would like to state my unhappiness with NAR’s recent decision to back MIBOR’s decision to categorize Google as a “scraper” site.  I believe this is absolutely ridiculous and believe that NAR’s policy should be updated.  How can dues-paying Realtor’s go about getting this changed?

His response:

Good morning REALTOR® Beyer:
Thank you for your comments regarding the IDX policy, specifically as it relates to indexing and scraping.

I will, by copy of this email, share your thoughts with the REALTOR® leaders of the NAR Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee for their consideration.  It should be understood that NAR has not labelled Google as a “scraper site”. The issue is actually whether – and how – indexing by search engines can be accommodated while clearly and objectively distinguishing that functionality from the scraping the IDX policy prohibits to protect MLS databases from misuse and misappropriation.  Hopefully that can be accomplished with input and insight from thoughtful REALTORS like yourself.

My second email:

Thanks for the quick response.  Although you may not have labeled Google as a scraper you have lumped them together wtih scrapers.

Although you can easily stop a site from being indexed by Google you cannot stop scrapers.  So I am not sure what is accomplished by this latest decision.  Scraper sites still have the information you are trying to protect but useful sites such as Google do not.  So can you please tell me what the benefit of this decision is?

His response:

The decision was made in 2005 when the NAR Board of Directors amended the VOW policy. One of the amendments was the addition of the following requirement: “Participants must protect IDX information from misappropriation by employing reasonable efforts to monitor and to prevent ‘scraping’ or other unauthorized accessing, reproduction, or use of the MLS database.” This requirement has been in place for nearly four years. I do not have the technical expertise to say with certainty that there is no way to prevent IDX site from being scraped. If that’s the case (and I’m not saying it isn’t) it’s somewhat surprising that hundreds of MLSs have adopted  the rule cited above without anyone making the point that compliance is impossible.

I anticipate the issue will be discussed by the Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee next week and if the REALTORS® who serve on the Committee share your concerns, they have the ability to recommend a change in the policy to the NAR Board of Directors.

I appreciate your follow-up and will share it with the Committee’s leadership.

My last email:

Thanks again for the response.  I don’t think it is impossible but it
would be very difficult.  Probably to the point that it’s almost not
worthwhile.  I think that this is just the first time someone has
challenged the issue.  Anyway, thanks again for your response and I
look forward to hearing what the committee has to say about the issue.

So I think it is a fair response, but one thing I did notice was that Cliff changed the subject of the email.  When I sent him the first email, the subject read “Google Scraper Issue” but when I received his response, it read “IDX” and one of the first things he points out is that they did not label Google as a scraper.  Seems they definitely don’t want to mess with Google.

2920292 carmel

Are you looking for 2920292 carmel?  Well sorry, but MIBOR and the National Association of Realtors(NAR) are making it hard to find.  Although Paula Henry can help you with this property, NAR doesn’t want people to easily find it on her site.  In fact it seems that NAR is more interested in protecting a whining Realtor’s site than allowing the client to be best served by making the property as visible as possible.  NAR has decided that Google is a scraper site and therefore Paula can no longer make properties on her site indexable by Google.  NAR needs to step into this century and update their policies.