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What Are We Building?

August 13, 2006

(This blog post was written in late 2006 – we have since built out the web engine – an overview of the actual online video content platform is now available)

In short, we are building a web engine that can create personalized user experiences in multiple languages across dozens or hundreds of websites. Interest in international aspects of web commerce are definitely growing. Non-English speaking use of the web is rising dramatically – a fact that is often lost in the echo chamber of Web 2.0 Silicon Valley. One of my favorite venture capital bloggers, Rick Segal, has a recent blog posting on this and related issues.

For context, though most of this posting will be talking about the capabilities of the ForSaleByLocals(tm) web engine, we’ll be running the web engine for version 1 (v1) on our infrastructure until we feel that it is ready to license for others to use. Frankly, we have been been focused on the user experience and there is still much work to be done around the administration of the engine to make the menus customer-ready.

Anyway, a lot of thought has gone into this project. We think that the web engine has a number of fairly interesting components:

Listings Engine: The simplest premise of the listings engine is that it allows users to browse almost any type of formatted into listings in their preferred language, currency, and units of measure. It also allows sellers to post in their preferred language, currency, and units of measure. The listings engine has location information that allows the engine owner to easily specify preferred critera for a given site’s listings. This gives us an automated way to optimize for likely visitors in terms of the various contexts of the likely visitor, language, and location (country, state/province or even city/postal code level if needed).

Translation Workflow: We believe that machine translation is improving but still not great. So, for the moment, all listings on our site(s) will be translated by a human into every language that we support. These languages include English, Spanish, and Portuguese. This translation will be done within 72 hours for individual but a key performance indicator for us is to have listings translated into all supported languages within 1 business day. We’ll see how close to that goal that we get.

Now, you are likely reading this and thinking, “ok, what’s gonna happen when someone responds in a language that I can’t read?”. The translation workflow extends to the internal mail system available to registered users on the site as well. Can’t read an email because it’s in a different language? Touch the “Translate This Email” button on the user interface and you’ll receive a human translated copy within a few hours. The mail system is free (the only cost is a minute or so of your time for registration – hopefully Rick won’t have bad comments about ours!). Mail translation is a paid service but a certain quantity of translations are included in the premium memberships.

We’ll work to have the translation workflow available after launch as a separate service that could be integrated into other products or listings oriented sites and leveraging our pool of translators. If interested in such a service, feel free to contact me. I’m hoping to be a bit more rested (and less grumpy) after launch though. <grin>

Service Provider Integration: We’ll be integrating profiles and contacts for local service providers into our property search process based on user searches and preferences. This directory is not just for residential real estate agents. All types of service providers are welcome to join and there are free options as well as premium paid options for the directory. In V1, we’ve built in the capability to match service providers with people looking for services. This is an area that we will expand on in subsequent versions of the web engine.

Alternative Media Integration: Did you know that this weblog is generally between #2 and #5 on Google for “real estate video”? Thank you! We are doing a lot of thinking about the challenges and concepts around real estate video as well addressing more hands-on issues that our customers might have. The result is tight integration of online video and and video podcasts just after launch. We already have video of about fifty properties to show on launch as a result of our efforts in this area.

Advertising Engine: Page-based advertising will be only be presented to non-registered users of the site via an engine that will change advertisements based on user preferences and search criteria. This engine uses much of the same contextual information as the listings engine (though the processing can be distributed separately from the listing engine). When a non-registered user changes languages and search criteria, all associated advertising will change with her. She might choose an advertising context geared towards likely buyers or likely sellers.

As a user, she should never see an ad outside of her chosen language even if her choices change. If she searches in portuguese to buy timeshares in Orlando, she’ll be presented with a certain set of ads in portuguese – for timeshares for sale in orlando if available. If she switches her language choice to English and investigates selling her house in Seattle, her ads will switch to english as well and the site will choose those ads most closely matching her current criteria…in this case, perhaps agents looking for listings.

Advertising packages based on context, language, location, and level of exclusivity can be reserved, media uploaded, and directly purchased via the free member user interface. You be able to track both the impressions of your ads across the network of sites and the numbers of clickthrus. Advertising may also be included as part of premium membership levels at significant savings.

RSS and Tagging: not so new anymore but still an important part of the push and pull sides of gaining visibility for your listings. We’re planning on adding a great deal of functionality in this area after launch.

What does this mean for you? In v1, all of our listings will be available across all of our affiliated sites. Every site will have differing set of context, location, and language so that users are more likely to immediately find what they are looking for without filtering or having to use a website that isnt language friendly. Having the details of all this context managed primarily by the web engine should make search engine optimization easier in an increasingly competitive space. This allows tightly targeted sites each with a specific focus but with all listings filterable and accessible across every site in the network. By making properties available across dozens of context, location, and language focused websites that bear little visual resemblance to each other, there will likely be one that attracts your special buyer who might have otherwise never found your property.

Languages by their nature add a new dimension to software issues. Hopefully, our efforts will help your business prosper and find new customers in the current real estate market.

More to follow as we get closer to launch.

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16 comments

  1. You are right in that a tons of opportunities are overlooked because ‘mainstream’ seems to think phone numbers are only +1 and ten digits.

    Good luck with your launch, email me when you go live.

    best,

    Rick Segal


  2. Thanks Rick. Glad that you stopped by. I always look forward to your blog postings…you have one of the best blogs on the net in general and a must read for startups.

    Tony


  3. Hello

    We have a real estate company in Costa Rica. We have many beautiful beach and ocean view properties. We also have farms for sale perfect for development. Looking for a contact such as yourselves for a possible partnership on sales commissions.
    Thank you
    Brian Jensen
    Natural Properties Costa Rica


  4. […] […]


  5. […] Aside from text translation, the ForSaleByLocals(tm) web engine will also drive the translation workflow of the audio portion of digital video. The example below is one of dozens of audio translations that CasaComprar.com (our spanish language flagship website and weblog) has done under license in support of real estate agencies with existing video. We are working to make production and posting of real estate video as simple as possible. The original audio portion was in Spanish and the video was broadcast live on a local daily real estate show. For the example, we translated the audio portion into English and Portuguese – we did not edit the video in any way or provide any graphics/animation support. […]


  6. […] Why is this important? The international real estate community normally mirrors north American developments. Though international real estate has much “longer tail” of opportunity, there is little infrastructure exists to group international sites and audiences together due to language differences. Our web engine has many of the components to build a multi-language content mall (ad engine, management of microsites, translation workflow). However, like many startups, we dont yet have the brand quality or engagement to meet the standard. We are making progress in the video area as we now have 2 additional contracts with different companies for translating approx. 50-60 videos per week primarily from Spanish right now. We also are on the cusp of launching a number of targetted real estate microsites run by the same web engine that manages our three principal sites in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Gaining brand quality and engagement is definitely a high priority task for us over the coming weeks and months… […]


  7. […] Part Of The ForSaleByLocals Web Engine: Actually, the FSBL web engine was built around integrated geolocation as one of the design criteria. The engine is basically content […]


  8. […] launches will demonstrate the power of the real estate content management web engine that we have built for quickly developing microsite with contextually relevant information (something that we talked […]


  9. Hi,
    I think you have a great concept. Content is what rules for the web, sites like yours provides interest tools that change the way real estate is marketed on the net.
    I have a site about How to buy Colombia real estate , primarily focus on foreign people who wants to invest in Colombia. We only have two months live and we already have an average of 900 visits a month and increasing.
    I think we have points in common that can benefit both of us. I would like to exchange ideas on how we can use our strenghts to provide valuable services to the Colombian market.
    Best regards,

    Mauricio
    http://www.buycolombiarealty.com


  10. […] Linking Content To Context: Basic Concepts Deriving User Context Matching Real Estate Content With Context Real Estate Websites of the Future The Real Estate Video Manifesto Why The Real Estate Video Tour Industry Just Doesn’t Get It Description of the capabilities of our real estate video web engine […]


  11. Property for sale in almeria – Buy, sell, rent or advertise Villas for sale in almeria including flats, houses, apartments and other Property in almeria.


  12. Hola and congrats on your website! I admire what you have put together here. Content Is key to a great website most certainly.

    In the interest of supplying informative content I wish to find continuous new sources on the web that I can link with, to offer to my potential buyer/investors. I also think blogging adds an additional educational/informative element to a website. Kepp up the good work and all the best to you for a healthy & happy 2008.

    Warmly,
    Katrina


  13. […] data around multimedia content for some time now.  This has been limited to aggregating content by language and geolocation (including latitude and longitude in order to span political boundaries). Now, we […]


  14. your site is good


  15. […] platform like we do. Having this documentation also means that we have moved out of the “what are we building?” phase of the platform to “what do we […]


  16. […] satisfying to spend some time looking over Randy: Test For Php Includes (Technology and Coding). What Are We Building? is […]



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