XML Initiative – Your Ideas

Just a quick one. I want to get all of your ideas of what you think the Open XML Initiative should be all about. I have my ideas and I am sure all of the current participants have their ideas, however I want to formulate something to put to all of the founding members to gather an idea of what this Open XML Specification should be all about. So this is just about ideas, good and bad, throw your minds to the wind and give me some ideas.

Here are some of mine that I will be putting forward.

  • Standard for Identifying Property Data (Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Business)
  • Standard for Back Reporting (Property Views, Email Enquiries – Week, Month, Year)
  • Sales and Lease Data (Week Month Year)
  • I understand that there will be a lot more to this, but we do have to start somewhere. We have a great bunch of people from big and small industry, from major portals, to multi uploaders, agents, real estate institutes and property data information companies.

    So give me your ideas, this is a working document and if you want to be a part of it, just send an email to peter at agentpoint.com.au

    You can also read more here.

    XML

    SEO For Real Estate
    Listing Leads
    Agentpoint Real estate

    About Peter J Ricci

    Peter Ricci is the Director of Agentpoint.com.au, Business2.com.au, Ginga.com.au and ZooProperty.com and has been involved in designing and developing real estate systems and websites since 1997. In July 2001 Peter founded Business2.com.au to help real estate agents better understand the power of the Internet and the real estate landscape in Australia and New Zealand. Since then he has penned over 300 articles on a variety of subjects in the real estate technology industry. Business2.com.au is now the leading real estate technology site in Australasia.

    20 Responses to XML Initiative – Your Ideas

    1. Mark Cohen June 9, 2007 at 2:09 pm #

      [I work for domain.com.au]

      I think one of the primary objectives should be that any xml schema that is put forward is sufficiently different to the existing proprietary schemas to be unaffected by any copyrights on existing DTDs.

      It is also very much worth pursuing a model that is flexible enough to cater for the different areas in the industry, like the differing requirements of commercial vs rental vs residential sale property.

      Some mechanism to potentially allow individual portals to extend the model with “extra” non-standard fields in name-value pairs would be good. For example if the model did not specifically cover (say) washing lines, a portal that wanted washing lines could add a “supplemental” field as

      If the model does not offer both as comprehensive a standard model AND as much flexibility as a portal would need, adoption will not happen. Same for ambiguity with other organisations’ copyrights.

      Mark

    2. Glenn June 10, 2007 at 1:10 pm #

      Mark,

      How can the group be breaching copyright when the IP owners you suggest will be submitting to the group. Unless of course Domain has no intention of giving to the group, only from benefiting from its results. This seems like the old Linux versus Unix IP problem that erupted some years ago. Unix programmers contributed to the coding of Linux and then the Unix IP owners tried to claim ownership and/or damages by Linux.

      If domain participates are you suggesting that domain will not be forthcoming in providing its experience to date and research (all intellectual property) to the group? What do you want to participate for? If you just want to be a recipient of the final solution step out and wait for it to be finalised or is it that you want a say in what happens but you dont want to contribute? Having your cake and eating it too!!

      You seem to be drawing a line in the sand that this group has to come up with something different than your IP. I would have thought that both domain and realestate.com.au would have entered into this with an open mind instead of drawing a line in the sand saying this is mine…. dont touch!

      By its very nature any schema involving real estate data will be primarily the same as many others. The whole idea of copyrighting a schema is another discussion on its own. Suffice to say that a company or individual might indeed hold the copyright of the actual text as a whole but if someone duplicates the functionality of the schema using different tag names I would think your copyright would then be worthless.

      Of course tag names for things like bedrooms, bathrooms, garage etc etc etc are never yours to copyright in the first place. If that was the case I would copyright the words “Chapter 1” and sue for everybody that uses it in their book.

      Protection in a schema may lie better in a patent where you can detail the design and functionality of the schema but I reckon their would be good arguements for and against this.. I guess thats why we have judges to sort this out.

    3. Mark Cohen June 10, 2007 at 4:52 pm #

      Glenn, it’s not the words like bedroom, bathroom, etc that are copyrighted. It’s the schema. I am suggesting that we should make the arrangement of the information (the xml DTD) as unambiguously “open” as possible. We could try and re-use the schemas currently in use by any of the major portals and we would then need to spend a lot of time and effort making sure we did not find ourselves in copyright trouble later, or we could make sure we did things sufficiently differently up-fromt and could save the time and effort later.

      I did not imply at all that we would not share our knowledge or experience, quite the contrary. I am offering to participate and contribute, in a positive way. I’m happy for you to contact me directly if you have any issues or need any clarification of what I am saying, and I would strongly suggest refraining from taking a conflicting or condescending stance as it is detrimental to the intent of what Peter is striving for and what we would all like to see achieved.

      Thanks

      Mark

    4. Glenn June 10, 2007 at 10:59 pm #

      Mark,

      So your suggesting that if someone comments on something you dont like or asks questions of you to clarify your position and you consider that is conflicting to your position they should just shutup. Great way to start an open discussion!

      So although you have suggested you are willing to contribute on one hand, with the other you seem to be taking a big stick approach and saying that if the end result is too close to what you have now there might be copyright trouble.

      My point is that if the portals (or anybody really) are going to contribute they should do so openly and without the threat of a future claim of copyright breech later. If each portal and franchise comes into this with the same sort of threats where would we be?

      If that means that everybody participating has to sign waivers on whatever they contribute to the benefit of the group then thats what should be done, in due course. If you wont want the group to use it, dont provide it. This was actually my position way before you posted and was one of the things that Peter and I have discussed in the past. Your post has only reinforced my belief that there could be future issues without everyone contributing openly, freely and without conditions.

      Do you think if thats what the group decides, would Domain do this?

      Please understand that in no way am I suggesting that whatever you contribute could then be used by other members (ie. realestate.com.au), only the group itself, and only in the process of producing an industry standard in whatever form it takes.

    5. Glenn June 10, 2007 at 11:22 pm #

      I believe that there should be a Universally Unique ID for each listing across the whole industry. You could do this similar to Microsofts GUID and the ID could be 24 bit used in Hexadecimal format.

      3F2504-E04F89-11D3-9A0C-0305E82C3301

      There is 340282366920938463463374607431768211456 keys so the use of such a system means that there does not have to be a central body keeping track of all the unique id’s handed out. Apparently even after you have created 10 billion numbers the chances of creating another ID that clashes is still 1 in a quintillion. Keys could have the first 4 or 6 characters used to record exactly which company created the key with that master list kept by the group.

      With every property have a completely unique id the whole syncing issue between companies should be vastly simplified. Multi-loaders like Portplus have to deal with a stack of different portals, big and small and no doubt each one currently wants their own ID used.

    6. Elizabeth June 11, 2007 at 9:41 am #

      Good morning,

      Glenn, I am pretty sure that “3F2504-E04F89-11D3-9A0C-0305E82C3301” is not an all that memorable property ID number for people to type into realestate or domain.

      http://www.realestate.com.au/3F2504-E04F89-11D3-9A0C-0305E82C3301

      What would you do when two agencies have the same listing? who over rides the other? is it better listings details or images?

      What is your underlying premice for such a stance?

      How can you enforce, or suggest a standardised approach to listings data when there is inconsistent legislation across the country having differing impacts on how properties are marketed?

      E

    7. Peter June 11, 2007 at 10:21 am #

      Hi Guys and Gals

      I just want to say that what Mark is suggesting is basically thinking about what may or may not happen in the future. We do have to be careful that we do not encroach on any copyrights. I doubt anyone can own this type of thing, but in saying that being right or wrong doesn’t matter, we want to make sure that we do not encroach at all as legal fees even if you are right historically ruins companies.

      I come from an ideas perspective and whilst I do know a little about coding, I am by no means an expert in this area.

    8. Peter June 11, 2007 at 10:25 am #

      As for Glenn’s idea are you saying that all sites should carry the same id number? If so, I would not agree Glenn. I think each site should be free to be able to have its own way of doing things. The idea here is that when developing sites and systems that everyone has an open standard on how to create these things and how each particle of data is identified and used.

    9. Kitchen Designer June 11, 2007 at 7:07 pm #

      What if each property was identified by it’s LatLon (latitude/longitude)?

    10. Glenn June 11, 2007 at 7:36 pm #

      Elizabeth…

      obviously you dont understand how UUID (such as Microsoft’s GUID)works so I will try and explain it a little better and simpler. This code is used in the background and swapped between computers behind the scenes. Have you ever seen such a number on any of your computers ??? yet each one of your pc’s have thousands of them and your programs and your computers use them all the time between each other. Your computer translates those codes on your behalf automatically. As a user you would never see this identifier unless you went looking for it and knew where to find it and a consumer would never have the opportunity to see this code.

      Realestate.com.au could continue to use their own ID, you could continue to use your own ID etc etc..

      What I am suggesting is that the UUID be used for data transfers between all sites for data transfer and syncing purposes. At the moment every portal wants their own id used in all transfers and for companies that multi-load to a number of portals this would be an absolute nightmare to manage.

      If there is just one code used for all data transfers… this whole nightmare of using 10-20 codes for transferring the same property goes away. Imagine someone like Portplus who pushes to say 10 portals for their clients. Every property now has 11 different codes that they have to maintain. What I suggest is that each company is responsible for internally syncing their internal ID with the UUID which is used for transfers.

      Without such a unique id, the xml standard will have to allow for every portal and every franchise groups individual id’s which is essentially what is happening now and one of things we are trying to improve upon.

      There are other benefits to using a UUID across the industry as well. You can build in authentication checks into the algorithm and everybody in the chain can see exactly where the source data orginated from.

      It is also a way to ensure companies who pay for the use of the standard (if thats the model that is chosen) are the only ones who can use it because each company is given its unique code. Only when they subscribe (which may or many not include fees but would probably at least include terms of use agreements) are they given their unique code.

    11. John Dedes June 12, 2007 at 8:14 am #

      Totally agree.

      Here in SA, as a talking point.

      The Land Agency called Commercial SA who operates in the Commercial & Industrial segments of the market was a front runner in open information posted on their website. Eg rents, lease information, net lettable areas etc etc

      Great work CSA!

      The others should follow!?

    12. Elizabeth June 12, 2007 at 8:42 am #

      Good Morning,

      Glenn you are right, I do not know much about what you are spruiking, but I have people for that.

      Interesting that you are now including a cost, and associated rights to using a format. So much for the internet being Free and all inclusive!

      I still am not sure if you addressed the duplication issue. Nor do I think that we have the full picture of what you actually want to steer towards. Perhaps an Australian MLS?

      Many things to iron out it seems.

      E

    13. Glenn June 12, 2007 at 9:43 am #

      Elizabeth,

      I am not including a cost, I just said that a UUID would assist if thats where the group moves to. That is for the group to decide but personally I would be surprised if it did not come up with some sort of funding strategy… It will have costs involved that has to be paid somehow or are you thinking it will plant a money tree?

      Besides, whoever said the internet was FREE? Your kidding yourself if you think thats the case. Somebody always pays. I doubt you have FREE computers, operating a FREE OS with FREE programs on a FREE broadband connection whilst the portals offer you FREE subscription, and your staff perform for FREE doing data entry and handling enqurieis. I guess you have never heard the saying that there is no such thing as a FREE lunch.

      As towards your comment on the MLS… Where do you get that from? You are reading far far too much into it. That fact that your not getting the full picture is because there is not one for you to see. You are looking for a forest out there. You are not missing the forest because of the trees…. because that is all that is there. One tree, one suggestion. The thread was to pitch ideas. If a UUID is implemented it would only be one small facet of the whole concept leaving your truly prophetic statement correct and that is there are, “Many things to iron out it seems”.

      Elizabeth, I explained it as easy as I could to you and you try and turn this into some conspiracy theory about MLS’s. I am surprised you did claim that the franchises where behind it all! Maybe you can get some of your “people” to explain it in a way that you can understand it better.

    14. Peter Ricci June 12, 2007 at 9:54 am #

      Hi Guys and Girls…

      Ok, we seem to be getting a little side tracked. What this is all about (Open XML Initiative) is creating standards. Even if there were a cost, thios would be off set by the cost involved currently in doing things. We have around 2 main portals 5 less significant portals and an untold amount of new entries – not to mention agents own websites. Whilst most work around REA’s data, I think it would be in everyones interest to have an Open System that allows us all to participate in making everything easier for everybody.

      By having a set way of describing and identifying data and then applying usage rules for this data this would mean lower costs to developers, portals, new entrants and most of all agents can get back to selling and renting properties instead of spending time ringing up portals and customer service about errors with listings.

      The future of real estate marketing will not only be confined to the web, it will include mobile and set top boxes and to get things right the first time will only serve everyone better.

      This forum is to express ideas, not to drown down others, the best ideas come from left field and each one listed above makes me and I am sure others think a little more about the way we will go about this.

      We have an amazing group of people willing to give their time to make this work and I am sure we will come up with something simple to begin with and then build on this because we will think about all of the future things we would like to include.

    15. Glenn June 12, 2007 at 7:08 pm #

      Peter,

      What information/technology do you have in mind that should be allowed for in this that is not currently being sent between parties?

      Here is some quick ones off the top of my head:

      ***Agent to Portal Communication***
      Audio – such as links to hosted mp3 files discussing the property

      Video – such as links to hosted video files of the property

      Embedded Video – Such as Youtube or the other clones

      Floorplans – such as links to hosted interactive floorplans (such as flash) and the standard static type such as gif files.

      lat/long – geo location coordinates

      ***Portal to Agent Communication***
      Property Views – reporting back to the agent the property views on their properties. This could be broken down to previews and detailed views etc..

      Email Enquiries – reporting back to the agent the number of email enquiries received on their properties

      Phone Enquiries – reporting back to the agent the number of phone enquiries received on their properties

    16. Peter June 12, 2007 at 7:23 pm #

      Glenn? Have you been reading my drafts?

    17. Glenn June 12, 2007 at 7:41 pm #

      Hacked in the other day… didnt you notice πŸ™‚

      Seriously though, these ones are fairly easy to predict because many of them are available on the internet now and are only just moving into the real estate industry. What will be interesting is to see what other things people come up with that look to the future. So what else have you got that you are prepared to share??

      I noticed the yanks are currently updating their spec… Do you know if its publicly available yet even in draft or disucssion form?? I might try and do a bit of research to see if they have released discussion notes or draft versions that are easy to put our hands on.

    18. Jason June 28, 2007 at 12:03 pm #

      Much as I might agree with Glenn on a number of things, there are better ways to identify a listing that with a UUID.

      Portals, Client Software and whatever else should be free to decide to use whatever internal identifiers they like. The identification scheme to be used in the XML should only be used for data transfer. It should also not be up to any one party to be reponsible for generating the transfer identifier, since the risk is too great that the particular party will shut up shop.

      A transfer identifier should be a calculated value, so that given a minimum set of criteria, I can create an identifier for it. I should be able to take items A, B and C, apply an set and open algorithm to that data and come up with the same result every time.

      Anyone else with the same criteria should similarly be able to come up with the same identifier as well, and you should be confident that if two identifiers match, the criteria that generated them is the same.

    19. Glenn June 28, 2007 at 2:00 pm #

      Jason,

      I dont really understand most of your points.

      All offices would still use their own internal identifiers. Nothing changes there.

      I dont quite see how somebody shutting up shop would effect the whole thing. You dont have to have the UUID identify who sourced the data at all. This is something that you can do and as far as I can see it is an advantage. Some of this data gets through two or three hands before it ends up with the portal and currently a portal only knows who sent it the data, not who created it. I say somebody was found to be breaching the law and using values that were not representative of their owners instructions. In one foul swoop they could remove any listing that was sourced from that data… Also, what if the portal gets a phone call saying the price is wrong… this allows you to identify who injected the wrong price.

      And a UUID can be completly random or it can represent calculated result based upon set criteria exactly as you described. A UUID can be generated using an algorthim based upon your very example, however, it will still be unique.

      Technically the only difference between us really is that you think its possible to come up with the same identifier through different means because you have the same criteria. I would have thought that would cause no end of trouble. A portal having updates on the same listing by two agents.. who’s logo gets displayed, what about price, who is right, who is wrong?. Each will want their listing displayed seperatley.

      Sorry, I think the portals would agree that every listing needs to have a unique ID, thats why currently they create them and insist agencies and data loaders use those unique id’s. All I have proposed is that the same unique ID is used throughout the industry for data transfers.

      UUID is just a format and a currently existing standard that can be applied and allows for growth plus all of the other factors I have described. .

    20. Jason June 29, 2007 at 2:39 pm #

      Glenn,

      I do stand corrected on the UUID issue. When you were first proposing it, I was assuming you had meant a randomly generated value, not a calculated one, and a randomly generated value would have to generated by a central authority if it were to be of any use.

      A calculated value can determined by anyone given a specific set of data, and I believe it’s definitely the way to go, even if it is a UUID or some variation on that.

      I guess what we want to be able to do, however, is NOT identify a property, but a *listing* of a property. ie, a unique combination of advertiser (agent) info and property info. That’s what I had in mind when I was talking about calculated values. For that to happen, you would need unchanging values (like addresses, Agent Licence Numbers, or ABNs to identify the agent).

      In any case, when the proposal begins to gain speed, I guess we’ll all get to put in our two cents worth.

      Peter, are there any thoughts as to the proposed makeup of a committe (sales vs agent vs technical vs other interested parties)?

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