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The User As The Center Of The Universe: Integration Of Real Estate Video And Geolocation

March 5, 2007

(This article is also available in español)

We’ve written before about the geolocation infrastructure that allows our web engine to internally geolocate properties, videos, etc. without using an external online mapping service. A rather long post follows..accept my apologies in advance.

We put together some beta functionality on our site that shows how real estate videos can be geolocated and filtered to the user based on distance and some limited context rather than the more traditional filtering methods (form, google map, etc).  Though the beta is simple, it clearly demonstrates some possibilities with other media and content for user-centric search with such an approach.

How To Try The New Beta Functionality

Go to http://vidlisting.com/interviews.asp and select any real estate video interview. That’s it. 

Below the video, you’ll see thumbnails of the eight videos that are closest geographically to the location of the interview that you are watching and in the same language that you are using.  They change with every video that you watch based on your language selection.  It isn’t unusual that the choices often cross international boundaries (that’s intentional to demonstrate the functionality). Try any of the ones in Costa Rica or Nicaragua to see the international options at work. This isn’t anything earth-shaking (and my designer will need to clean up my 3am CSS issues tomorrow. UPDATED: throw in my non-IE7 friendly CSS as well), but I think that it shows what’s possible in terms of integrating geolocation and real estate video without the usual “Google mashup” map.

We would have preferred doing this with our large selection of property videos but frankly we dont yet have the diversity of locations for our property videos that we do with real estate video interviews. 

Why Did We Do This?

It’s Just Plain Different: We haven’t seen everything so you may have seen something like this before.  We haven’t and we’ve been looking. Most of the integrated use of online mapping that we have seen for consumer use in the real estate industry seems focused on visual filtering of information on the part of the user based on address or zip code or providing some visualization of IP address.  Clearly, there is a lot of value to tradional online mapping funcionality.  However, perhaps there is room for more intelligence on the part of the system to help the user and inline geolocation functionality might just be one more way to assist. 

Works Where Others Will Not: Almost none of the online mapping services have coverage outside of about 5 or 6 countries. Ouch..the international second or retirement  home market suffers from a lack of tools as a result. Just for fun, we’ve purposefully used countries for the beta not currently available to the Google Geocoder. The functionality will work just as well in the US or any other country.  Oh, and we can drive could Google Maps from our own geocoder (assuming no terms of use issues).  You’ll soon see that the only limitation is imagination with the user interfaces that could be developed.

Supplements Other Traditional Filtering Methods: We’ve been working to tightly integrate geolocation to real estate video (and some other things) in a way that isn’t 100% tied to political divisions on a map or knowledge about an area. This is a search that can change the center point of the search process to where the user currently is. In short, the user is the center of their own search Universe and everything else revolves around them.  Another way to think about it might be to to show the user what is available with respect to where they are rather than make them guess where to go next.

As an example, because the web engine knows the location of everything within the system, it would know if there were properties in the system just over the state line if you were searching in the panhandle of Florida.  Major cities in other states often can just be a few miles away. A geo-aware application would know that. Some other uses might be to show all of the real estate videos available in or about a town, neighborhood, or area based on user configurable preferences as an additional way to filter the “river of real estate videos”.  As a side note, user configurable video, podcasts, or other RSS feeds that show all types of content within N miles of X town are possible today with the same level of technology as what we’ve demonstrated.

As Joel Burslem so eloquently states over on his Future Of Real Estate Marketing blog, “[Subscribing to a new agents video listings] would be far more relevant if it could deliver video results of a customized property search – a virtual ‘video river’ of all an agent’s or broker’s listings would quickly become annoying. ”

It’s Contextual: For the beta, we are only using limited contextual clues to present options to the user. In the case of our beta, language and distance are the contexts that we are using to present filtered video choices to the user. With a bit more coding (and videos!), we can have the web engine filter many potential choices to the user based just about any contextual clues that they provide through their use of the system.  When combined with a more traditional online mapping service, this could be a very powerful tool that combines system-provided recommendations along with the choices of tradition online mapping.  As our body of content grows, the presentation of that content can be even more locally focused.

– Integral 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 manager (and meta-data manager or those technical folks out there). Every piece of content, advertising, properties, videos, written articles, basically anything contained within the system can take advantage of the built-in geolocation capabilities. We just had not made any user interfaces to demonstrate the capabilities.  <grin> 

Can Be Applied To Other Areas Related To Real Estate: By demonstrating this functionality with real estate video, it isn’t a long leap to doing the same things with advertising, for instance, and generating text, banner, or video ads based on contextual clues provided by the user.

Update: just before hitting the sheets, I found a small issue that I think can wait until I wake up to fix. 

Lots of things to chew on (and it’s just about to be 4am as I write this). I’d love to hear your thoughts and if anyone is doing these types of integrations….

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2 comments

  1. […] Another benefit is that with our own custom geocoding infrastructure already in place, we’ll have less dependence on online mapping APIs in general to do the most basic of geolocation tasks.  We’ll also have full access to combining this data with contextual user data to provide some truly value-added services that other sites may not have.  For instance, what if your site’s flash video player knew where you had been searching for properties. The page for real estate video might allow users to indicate a search radius preference of a certain number of miles/kilometers and provide a playlist of other available real estate property videos within that radius without ever leaving the video player page.  (5 Mar 2007 Update: this feature is now available). […]


  2. […] For more on this, read The User As The Center Of The Universe: Integration Of Real Estate Video And Geolocation by For Sale… […]



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