Silencing Trulia Voices

Jonathan Dalton, Phoenix Real Estate AgentSteve Belt finally figured it out. Of course it took lunch with Heather Barr to be convinced that there was little reason to be a contributor to Trulia Voices; why he didn’t come to this conclusion based on my incredibly persuasive arguments the world may never know.

Steve has decided to stop participating in Trulia Voices, the free-for-all where buyers and sellers who want the advice real estate agents can provide but don’t want to have to pay said agents for said advice can ask whatever questions they choose. Answers about local real estate here in Phoenix amazingly often come from the West Coast, from New Orleans and from other areas where Arrowhead Ranch neighborhood experts are laying in wait like sleeper agents.

(My favorite moment was when someone in California was arguing that their knowledge of real estate in general qualified them as an expert in Casa Grande. Sure it does.)

Jay Thompson is following suit. Bully to both.

A large percentage of answers are of the “ask your agent” derivative, ignoring that if these folks had agents they wouldn’t be on Trulia looking for free advice. Other answers pay no heed to small details such as Fair Housing laws. And others have no basis in reality.

Some answers are dead on … you usually can tell these by the “thumbs down” votes from agents who believe “call your agent and if you don’t have one call me” is the best answer to virtually any question.

The product we as agents sell is ourselves, our knowledge and our expertise. When you have someone asking for a valuation of their home, as happened the other day, why does it make sense to answer the question? Especially without ever seeing the property? If they want a blind guess send them to Zillow. You’re not going to win any business this way. And if you do it’s based off the list price you’re suggesting which is a no-win way to compete.

Back on target …

Trulia could fix the problem in an instant. Stop counting the number of questions asked. Stop counting the number of answers given. Stop highlighting how many “first answers” someone has and how many “best answers” someone has.

Just stop counting and the problem will go away. It’s a remarkably easy fix.

Until then, let’s hope some others see Voices for the farce it has become and join Steve, Jay and I on the sidelines.

P.S. Taking your answer you would have posted on Voices and posting it on your blog is a tremendous idea. I should know. 🙂

[tags]Trulia, real estate marketing, real estate technology[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at


  • Steve Belt 10 years ago

    Jonathan, I really do hope we start a mini-movement here.

    One other change that I would be in favor of is if Trulia introduced some type of enforcement or limitation over what is an agent’s area of expertise.

    I have a license to practice real estate in Arizona. I have an MLS subscription to ARMLS. The combination farily well describes the maximum possible area of my expertise.

    As well, my license, by it’s very nature, requires me to practice real estate only within my area of expertise. I assume most state laws limit the owner of a real estate license to practicing real estate only within their area of expertise.

    There’s no reason why Trulia can’t put a few curbs in the system to limit agents from practicing outside their area of expertise.

    But most definitely get rid of the counting and the ranking based on the counting.

  • Jay Thompson 10 years ago

    Ya bunch of rabble-rousers!

    For the past…. I don’t know, months? I’ve mostly shaken my head in amazement at some of the answers supplied on Trulia.

    And like Steve (and you too JD), I’ve gotten the big red “thumbs down” on several answers that, while probably not perfect, were certainly from the only local Voice…

    I could care less which direction people vote my answers. I didn’t go there to “win”, I went there to help and learn.

    It’s unfortunate, because Voices could be a great place to share info.

  • Pete Flint @ 10 years ago

    Hello there,
    I just posted this on Steve’s blog – pasting below for you all:


    Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the great comments and thoughts.
    We hear you. I agree that things are not perfect today.

    To give you some background. When we launched Trulia Voices in May this year we didn’t want to build in many “rules” around what the moderation tools (thumbs up etc) did at the very beginning, only that they track your participation. As the user contributions have grown that has to change.

    Our engineers are working on a system that has the following components:
    – enables open participation (which is a very important part of Trulia Voices).
    – encourages positive and valuable contributions (not spam) by clever interpretation of user flags and other factors
    – scales with large volumes of participation
    – considers the natural incentives of the different participants in the community

    As you can imagine this is not easy to do and requires some pretty advanced algorithms to get it right. The good thing is now we have lots and lots of data and users to help us build the system that can do this.

    I can’t give a date, as we are working on many things right now and it is pretty complex, but we’re on it.

    What we’re building is pretty clever (we hope) and it will take into account the thumbs ups and downs, those “out of state” answers, poor answers and a number of other factors. Our goal is to eliminate all gaming using advanced algorithms and encourage the best Voices to heard loud and clear.

    We believe there is a strong consumer need in helping people understand the complex issues around real estate and helping them connect with the RIGHT agent for them.

    To that end, anyone answering lots questions poorly today will be adversely affected and those that answer questions excellently will be rewarded. Retroactively.

    Hence, I ask you to stick with us. It is clearly in Trulia’s interest to let the cream rise to the top and that is the principle by which we are building the system.

    I hope that helps.
    More soon


  • Athol Kay 10 years ago

    I think I called it bunch of agents tossing each other softball questions in a big daisy chain experience months ago and never went back. Where’s my prize?

    That being said, Pete if you want help with the algorithms, I’d suggest you look towards MMORPGs player vs player rankings and rewards as a template rather than reinventing the wheel.

    And yes these algorithms ARE amazingly hard to get right.

    It is with some moderate irony that I suggest you look at the gaming industry for advice. You are after all attempting to create an online game experience, abet a serious one, so you may as well look to games for insight.

    MMORPGs are quite used to players attempting to milk any system for benefit. And frankly the people playing are smarter than the average realtor by far.

  • Pete Flint @ 10 years ago

    Thanks Athol,
    Great suggestion on the MMORPGs. I totally agree that there are many lessons from these platforms as well as other social media sites. These problems are not unique, but we do have to solve them for the unique real estate world!
    Thanks for the tip.

  • Patrick 10 years ago

    I posted this to Jay and Steve this morning, only the misspellings have been changed

    Good Morning Jay, Jonthan and Steve,

    I think there should have been a vote, before a strike was called.

    Growing up in a union family I am not accustom to crossing picket lines. You have made this a very difficult decision.
    To top it off it is Nov 1st, do you know how many expired listings I should be waking up right now.

    I made this Video Oct 28th, regarding Trulia`s ranking system.

    I do totally agree that there are several agents that just answer questions to improve their ranking. I have asked questions myself, and wondered if the agents responding ever read the question.

    I myself have answered many questions outside of Arizona, because I felt that I was being helpful, or these people just needed to hear my opinion. Lately, some people just need a good slap.

    One thing is true about Trulia. When answering a question about Arizona. I better be right, because I am competing with the likes of Dalton, Belt, and Thompson.

    It is my Opinion that your protest would be better waged on the pages of Trulia, calling out every B.S. answer for what it is in Arizona, in the only unique way the three of you can

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    A video? I don’t do video for aesthetic reasons. I’ve called out the folks going for answer “points” on the platform and been rewarded with a thumbs down. There’s a Yiddish phrase that covers that kind of situation, one I won’t share here.

    Honestly, I don’t even look at any of the questions from outside Arizona. Maybe I should just for the fun of it all.

    Pete – I appreciate the effort going into the algorithms and such. But what I don’t quite get is why the number of answers given or questions asked simply can’t be removed. I maintain that will clean up a number of the issues.

    All you’ll have left are those folks who are blatantly pandering to gain the business of those who don’t want to hire one of us.