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  • Geebo 9:03 am on May 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Zestimates, zillow   

    Zillow faces lawzuit over Zesitmates 

    Zillow faces lawzuit over Zesitmates

    National real estate listing site Zillow has a feature on their site called ‘Zesitmates’. These Zestimates, as the name implies, are price estimates for real estate listings. According to their website, Zillow says Zestimates are not an appraisal, but are a starting point in determining a home’s value. The Zestimates are based on a proprietary algorithm that takes user provided information and other local prices into account. Sometimes the Zestimate numbers don’t match with the actual value of the home or the price being asked by the homeowner. This sometimes vast disparity in numbers has now led to a lawsuit against Zillow.

    An Illinois homeowner has filed the suit claiming Zillow’s estimate was $60,000 less than the home is worth. The suit claims that Zillow determined this valuation by using the prices of newly built homes in their area but not quite in their neighborhood. The homeowner feels the Zestimate has limited the market potential on their home.

    Is this lawsuit warranted? Well, yes and no. While it doesn’t appear Zillow has acted with any real malice, they had to know their Zestimates could affect the market values on some homes. While Zillow may claim their Zestimates are only a starting point, they have to know a lot of potential buyers are going to use the Zestimates as a de facto appraisal no matter how many warnings they post.

     
  • Geebo 10:08 am on May 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , john oliver,   

    The battle for net neutrality is being fought on the FCC’s website 

    The battle for net neutrality is being fought on the FCC's website

    For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the concept of net neutrality, it can be best described in this way. Let’s use popular streaming site Netflix as an example. Netflix is a bandwidth hog when it comes to internet service providers. Most users need a pretty fast connection in order to use Netflix. Now say that internet providers started offering tiered services where you had to pay extra in order to get a fast connection to Netflix. Or it could be other popular sites like Facebook or Gmail. Net neutrality says that all internet traffic should be treated equally. Proponents of net neutrality wanted the FCC to regulate ISPs like a common carrier which would prevent ISPs from favoring certain web traffic over others. Opponents of net neutrality don’t want the government interfering with internet in general under the belief that once the government starts regulating the internet they will never stop regulating the internet, leading to accusations of possible censorship. Under the Obama administration, the FCC ruled that ISPs were in fact common carriers, however, under the Trump administration, those regulations have largely been gutted. This is a battle that’s been going on for years but it reached a fever pitch recently when a large salvo was fired against the Trump-controlled FCC the other night.

    It all started when political humorist John Oliver started talking to his audience about net neutrality. On his HBO show, he asked his viewers to go to the FCC website and leave their comments about how they feel about net neutrality. This included Oliver promoting a humorous but slightly off-color URL in order to lead his viewers to exactly where they needed to be on the FCC website. This led to so many users flooding the website, that it was basically knocked offline due to all the traffic it was receiving.

    This led to the FCC calling Oliver’s campaign a denial of service attack, or DDoS for short. Normally a DDoS attack is a form of cyber-vandalism used in order to intentionally knock a site offline with a flood of traffic. The difference with Oliver’s campaign is that he wanted his viewers to leave legitimate comments. This has led opponents of net neutrality to fire back by launching a number of automated scripts called bots to swarm the FCC’s website, leaving comments in support of the Trump administration’s handling of net neutrality. In case you were wondering, yes that sounds more like a DDoS attack than what John Oliver’s viewers were doing.

    Unfortunately, this is the way of the internet. When one side of an argument starts speaking up about an issue, the other side tries to shout them down. In the end, while Oliver’s actions may have been well intended, this will ultimately have no effect on the net neutrality debate, thanks to many of the players involved acting like petulant children.

    If you want to make real change about net neutrality, the best way is to write or call your representatives in Congress and let them know how you feel. Congress still operates in an old school way and gives letters and phone calls more weight than e-mails and online petitions. Also, to better get your point across, always be respectful when dealing with politicians whether they deserve it or not. If you’re rude or ranting in your communication with them, your voice will largely be disregarded.

     
  • Geebo 9:05 am on May 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    AIM Group confirms our suspicions about OfferUp and LetGo 

    AIM Group confirms our suspicions about OfferUp and LetGo

    In a recent blog post, classifieds industry watchdog organization the AIM Group, appears to have confirmed some of our suspicions about classifieds apps OfferUp and LetGo. In our blog post about the Forbes article that called us ‘for naught’, we questioned the financial and userbase stats put out by the two apps. While we postulated the use of clickfarms may be involved, AIM Group founder Peter M. Zollman seems to believe the claims of success put out by both apps are fabricated.

    Regarding the claims of monetary success from both apps, Mr. Zollman had this to say…

    OfferUp “says it will handily surpass $20 billion in goods sold this year, with about half coming from car sales.” (To which we reply: “Oh really? And how do you value transactions when they never take place on the site, when listings are reposted over and over, when your users don’t have any transaction capabilities, and when user visits are no indicator of who’s actually buying or selling?” We don’t take estimates of sales on OfferUp, LetGo and similar sites with a grain of salt; we take them as unmitigated baloney, to use the polite term.)

    Mr. Zollman also calls LetGo’s claims that they will facilitate $23.4B in transactions baloney.

    With all due respect, the allegedly fictitious claims made by both apps seem to exhibit a desperate attempt to not only please current investors, but also to try to attract new investors in the ever-increasing shell game that is startup funding.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on May 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , UK   

    Facebook turns to old media to fight fake news prior to UK election 

    Facebook turns to old media to fight fake news prior to UK election

    In the run up to Election Day in the UK, Facebook has turned to an unlikely ally in their continuing struggle against ‘fake news’. The social network behemoth has taken out several print ads in UK newspapers on how to recognize fake news.

    While the ads do contain helpful information on how to be a more discerning news consumer, it does indicate something Facebook probably won’t admit to itself. Facebook may feel some responsibility for the fake news that many think unduly affected the 2016 US Presidential Election. Thousands of dummy Facebook accounts have also been purged in anticipation of the election.

    However, the problem with the fake news argument is certain individuals have such a confirmation bias that they can’t be turned into more responsible content consumers. Take vaccinations for example. It was once claimed vaccinations caused autism, which caused many parents to forgo immunizations for their children. Even though that claim has been discredited many times over, there are still many people who cling to that fallacy.

    For many people, politics are their vaccinations. They blindly follow whatever dogma their chosen political party subscribes to no matter who the candidate may be. With those political leanings, many of these people will only read news from sources biased towards their own affiliation. It’s too late for Facebook users like that, they are lost to us.

    The only way to combat this kind of ignorance is for those of us who can discern fake news from fact to become more active in political matters and to get out and actually vote.

     
  • Geebo 8:57 am on May 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: landlines, ,   

    Most US homes ditch landlines in favor of mobile 

    Most US homes ditch landlines in favor of mobile

    In a survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for the first time since the advent of the telephone, more than half of US homes have eschewed the once required landline in favor of mobile phones. This really should come as no surprise, the surprise really is what took everyone so long?

    Back in the days that even predate television, landline phones were once hard-wired into the house. There was no unplugging the phone and once it was installed the phone couldn’t be relocated anywhere else in the home. In addition to that, even when the phones advanced to the point where they could be unplugged and relocated, you could only get your phone from the phone company itself. You didn’t even get to own the phone, instead you were charged a monthly rental fee. Service itself was often difficult to get and if you didn’t meet certain financial requirements. the phone company wouldn’t even allow you to have service. That’s not even mentioning they were the company that invented the “We’ll be there sometime between 1 and 6pm to install service”. The service was prohibitively expensive too if you had to make long distance calls.

    Conversely, in today’s market, you can go to just about any store, including gas stations, pick up a relatively cheap mobile phone and be up and running with service in just a few minutes. Rates are relatively cheap plus you get the added benefits of texting and internet. The only real advantage to having a landline is if you ever need to call 911, emergency services know exactly where you’re calling from. However, mobile phone technology is advancing to where that should no longer be an issue.

    While we may take our plastic fondle squares for granted, it’s amazing to take a moment to reflect on just how far the technology has come in such a relatively short period of time.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on May 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    DOJ launches criminal investigation into Uber 

    DOJ launches criminal investigation into Uber

    If you haven’t been following the plethora of problems that have plagued ride sharing service Uber, they got into a bit of hot water not too long ago for allegedly using a program called Greyball. Investigators with the city of Portland, Oregon, accused Uber of using Greyball to try to identify city inspectors and obfuscate their findings. Uber defended Greyball saying they were using it to protect themselves against user and driver fraud but still vowed to discontinue the program. Apparently, that apology was not enough for some people, as the Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into Uber’s alleged use of Greyball.

    While Uber has not yet been charged with any criminal activity, they have been subpoenaed by a Northern California grand jury. No details have been made available regarding the subpoena, however, many tech news outlets are speculating Uber may have violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by using Greyball. Neither the US Attorney’s Office nor Uber is commenting on the pending investigation.

    So far, Uber appears to be coated in teflon when it comes to any controversy sticking to them. People continue to use the platform by the millions despite all the accusations of anti-competitiveness and their alleged culture that has fostered sexual harassment. What would it actually take for people to stop using Uber to the point where the company would no longer financially viable to exist? Probably not a criminal fraud conviction.

     
  • Geebo 8:57 am on May 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Forbes, , ,   

    Geebo is not for naught, despite what Forbes may say 

    Geebo is not for naught, despite what Forbes may say

    Recently, Forbes.com published a blog post about startup classifieds apps LetGo and OfferUp and how one of them may be the latest craigslist killer. By that we mean a proverbial David taking on the Goliath of craigslist, and not one of the 100+ murderers that have used craigslist to find their victims. We’ll get to those startups in a moment, but first a comment in the article made about Geebo needs to be addressed.

    Halfway down the page Geebo is dismissed by the Forbes blogger in the following manner…

    Every few years, someone in Silicon Valley looks at Craigslist and thinks he or she can do better. In the late 1990s, the startled newspaper companies tried collaborating with each other on various projects, and in 2000, Geebo launched as the “safe” Craigslist. In 2004, there was Oodle, a well-financed website that later tried to incorporate Facebook identities. All these efforts basically came to naught.

    The Forbes blogger seems to have not done his research as very little what he wrote about Geebo is correct. Geebo was founded in 1999, however, it was not launched as the “safe” alternative to craigslist as he put it. Geebo CEO Greg Collier founded Geebo to provide a better user experience than what was being put out by hard-copy newspapers. Not only that, but at the time of Geebo’s founding Mr. Collier had not even heard of craigslist as it had not yet become the brand that we know today. Mr. Collier even said that he didn’t want Geebo to be anything like craigslist. He also wanted Geebo to have its own users rather than trying to take users away from craigslist. Since that time Geebo has in fact marketed itself as a safer community classifieds. That’s a claim that Geebo takes very seriously considering the number of murders and other crimes that have been committed through the so-called industry leaders craigslist and Backpage. Even relative newcomer LetGo has had a couple of murders committed through its app.

    The rest of the Forbes blog post seems to be nothing more than a love letter to OfferUp. While OfferUp may not be headquartered in Silicon Valley, it still follows the same old Silicon Valley routine. They went to venture capitalists looking for seed money in order to get their startup off the ground. And let’s face it, apps like LetGo and OfferUp are usually founded for one primary reason and that’s to be bought out by a larger company. Geebo has always been a self funded company and has maintained profitability in an industry where many startups don’t even have a monetization plan. In fact Geebo generates more net profit than craigslist per 1 million users.

    Speaking of users, the Forbes post states that LetGo has a userbase of 7.3 million while OfferUp users come in around 6.3 million. Legitimate user numbers can be tricky in determining since a number of companies use click farms overseas to inflate their numbers. These click farms can also be used to scrape content from other sites.

    This isn’t even taking into consideration that Forbes.com isn’t the financial journal of record that it once was. A few years ago they opened up their website to just about anyone who cared to write for them. They have basically become a content farm for the financial sector.

    In conclusion, Geebo has been a successful business in an industry that has seen many proverbial bodies left in its wake. We were here before the startups and we’ll be here after they’re gone. All while maintaining a reputation of being an ethical and safer classifieds.

     
  • Geebo 9:02 am on May 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Airbnb waves the white flag in fight with San Francisco 

    Airbnb waves the white flag in fight with San Francisco

    In case you were unaware, there is a dire housing crisis in San Francisco. There is little housing available and the housing on hand is priced out of the range of most working families. This is why the city of San Francisco decided to step in when it came to home sharing services like Airbnb. For those of you who may not know, Airbnb is a service that allows you to rent out your home for temporary or short stays. The city’s concern was that property owners would keep their properties unavailable for renters or buyers so they could instead make more profit by renting them out on Airbnb as de facto hotels. Some sources say there are close to four times more Airbnb properties for lease then there are Airbnb property owners.

    Airbnb and the city were locked in a legal battle over the registration of its users with the city. The municipal government feels the registration is necessary due to the potential abuses landlords could inflict on their tenants, such as evicting them so they could instead cash in with Airbnb. Airbnb tried a tactic that may be familiar with some of our readers. They claimed the Communications Decency Act of 1996 and the First Amendment protected them since Airbnb believed they were not responsible for the actions of its hosts. This is the same argument Backpage uses when it comes to defending the sex trafficking ads that continue to litter their site. As much as patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel so is claiming free speech in order to potentially violate the rights of others.

    On Monday, Airbnb finally settled with the city and will require its San Francisco hosts to be registered with the city.

    Airbnb has said they will institute software for their hosts to register with the city and current hosts have 8 months to register.

    Much like Uber and Backpage, it seems start up culture tries to establish their businesses before not only taking the legal ramifications into account, but also not seeming to care who is harmed in the wake of their search for profits.

     
    • varitasit 2:30 am on May 4, 2017 Permalink

      I like this on little housing available and the housing on hand is priced out of the range of most working families.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on May 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bloomberg, ,   

    Twitter strikes deal with Bloomberg to provide real news 

    Twitter strikes deal with Bloomberg to provide real news

    Limited character count social network Twitter, announced yesterday they were entering into a partnership with one of the more trusted news organizations in the business. On Monday, at an event for advertisers, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey detailed plans for them to host a 24 hour live news stream produced by Bloomberg.

    Dorsey was quoted as saying…

    “We want to be the first place that anyone hears of anything that’s going on that matters to them, the first place where people hear of what matters. That is our focus, and that is what we will work so hard to deliver.”

    This is a great move for Twitter. Not only is Twitter usually the first place a lot of people go worldwide for details on breaking stories, now it could be the first place where a lot of these stories are confirmed. This is in direct contrast to what Facebook is doing by relying on themselves and users to try and combat the modern scourge that is fake news.

    Outside of the Bloomberg news stream, Twitter will also be entering into other entertainment streams as well. This could be beneficial for the financially questionable platform as the streams will be ad supported. In its history, Twitter has always had the spectre of profitability hanging over its head. Not only could this push Twitter past Facebook in legitimacy, but it could also bring them to new levels of financial stability.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on May 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , propaganda   

    Facebook claims that foreign agents used propaganda to influence 2016 election 

    Facebook claims that foreign agents used propaganda to influence 2016 election

    Facebook recently released a report claiming that there were agents they believe were backed by foreign governments who tried using the social network to influence the 2016 presidential election. While not outright saying that it was the Russians, Facebook did say in its report that their findings did not contradict the US Director of National Intelligence’s claim that Russia was allegedly interfering.

    The propaganda was supposedly spread through the following ways. First, bad actors would create legitimate looking websites that would post false information, or as we commonly call it now, ‘fake news’. They would then set up fake Facebook accounts by the thousands and repost the false information. Then, actual people, who don’t know it’s false information, would repost these false stories. Surprisingly, this wasn’t done by using bots, or automated scripts, but were done by multitudes of human users.

    The social network has said that it’s taking steps to prevent these kinds of events from happening again, but don’t Facebook’s users bear some responsibility in this matter? It’s so much easier to just click share rather than researching a story. This is especially true for people who prefer to remain in their own echo chambers with their personal biases.

    While Facebook can take steps to try to prevent this spread of misinformation, it’s ultimately up to us to be more discerning with what content we post to our virtual walls.

     
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