Facebook is dead. Twitter is dying. Bitcoin needs to be shot.

I remember about five years ago back when I was CEO of the Arizona Regional MLS in Phoenix and was building a communications department from scratch. The recently hired communications director was pitching me on new staff positions in preparation for our annual budget cycle. “We need a social media person.” We called it “person” because we did not have a good handle on a descriptive job title – manager, communicator, guru, pundit, mini-blogger – none seemed to click.

R.I.P.

R.I.P.

I was hesitant. I honestly didn’t think Facebook was all that big a deal for a business entity and Twitter was nothing but an instant message service that had no semblance of privacy. A mini-blog? Who wanted to read 140 character blog posts? “Bah, humbug. It won’t last. Facebook is a flash in the pan. It’s a social toy at best, not a business tool.” So said I, and I was sticking to my guns. But on the outside possibility that I was wrong, we hired a social content manager anyway.

Twitter is wounded

Code Blue – Crash Cart – STAT

Fast forward to Facebook’s IPO and star status. Twitter became the vehicle for not just social interaction but societal uprising and in some cases revolution. But Twitter may be signing it’s own 140-character death warrant if it can’t convince people it’s safe, secure and unhackable. “It won’t last,” said my redundant self.

Then came the growing litany of privacy concerns, the security breaches, the disclosures, shameful backroom practices and ad-revenue fueled by bad management decisions (like initiating “Likes” on behalf of users or paid Tweet placements). And the legions of imitators.

Finally, research caught up with prognostication.  According to Pew Research, millennials have been abandoning Facebook by the millions and new post-millennials have not taking their place. They moved on. Facebook was no longer the newest, shiniest thing to appease their short attention spans. And I was right. Finally.

In looking at Facebook today, I can see why it has not worked from a business perspective either.  I have 204 friends on Facebook. There are a lot of them who are not really friends, just acquaintances, but I haven’t found the “Acquaint me” button yet so I have not differentiated the two.

Of those friends, 155 are professionals in the real estate industry; 87 of those are either brokers or agents (licensed and practicing), the rest are supporting (MLS staff, vendors, consultants, etc). Fourteen are classmates from my high school/hometown; five are family members; one is an acquaintance from my former life in television dating back to 1976 in Indianapolis; two are deceased (and no, neither is still posting); and the remaining 27 are unknown (names that don’t register with me as being an acquaintance of any kind). How they got there, I have no idea. Probably an inadvertent mouse click on the “OK” button.

I am not a heavy Facebook user and only look at my timeline a couple times each week, Even though 75% of my “friends” are business associates, 99% of the postings on my newsfeed have nothing to do with business. I‘m not seeing new investment ideas or houses for sale (despite the considerable time and wasted energy expended by MLS Managers everywhere trying to write rules to regulate such advertising – it never materialized). I don’t see new business models being floated for feedback or new product/service ideas being tested for reaction.  Instead I see postings of kittens, cute cuddly kittens, doing cute cuddly kitteney things like playing with yarn or hiding in the laundry basket. I see family pictures, birthdays, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, weddings, an occasional funeral, and vacation slide shows galore. Frankly, “friends”, I could care less. What a waste of time. Two visits per week to my home page may be too many.

Granted there are some corners in Facebook-land that are actually business oriented and interesting (mostly). The “Raise the Bar” discussion group often has some worthwhile dialog on a burning issue of the day. But it has equal amounts of trivial bovine-caca. The group of classmates from my high school is useful for keeping track of who is still alive and who isn’t. (Last one out of study hall, turn off the lights.)

But for the most part the postings of “Hey, remember when we were young and stupid decided to see if we could fly from the hayloft using trash can lids as wings?” fall into the classification of “don’t remember, don’t care.” As the promised ultimate business communications tool and magic lead generating machine, Facebook has failed miserably. Apparently the younger generations are catching on to this much quicker than the rest of us. For many over 40’s it’s still “Oooooo, shiney!” but for the 39 and under crowd it’s become “Meh!?!”

And just when I started to lean back on my haunches, resting on my prodigious future-predicting laurels, along comes the next bright shiny new thing – Bitcoin.

Facebook at least had some utility for some portion of the population for some period of time. Bitcoin has reached a new level of worthlessness in far less time and with much bigger potential consequences for early adopters and potential investors. Those who think they can strike it rich by getting in on the ground floor of Bitcoin should read any Wikipedia entry that contains the phrase “gold rush” and learn from history. The scary part of the Bitcoin story is it has gone from the obscurity of an internet underground hacker hobby to mainstream in a matter of a few short months.

Bitcoin Bubble

Bitcoin Bubble??

This raging Bitcoin mania has been sustained despite warnings from well placed and knowledgeable internet veterans such as Robert X. Cringely, who has been writing for InfoWorld since I bought my first TRS-80-III back in 1981, who recently wrote, “Bitcoin is an overrated techno-bubble. Bitcoin works fine for now (sort of), but if you’re thinking about retiring on a big bag of Bitcoins, you can look forward to living out your golden years in a sparsely furnished refrigerator box on the corner of Broke and Why Me.”

And it is already touching our business. One brokerage has announced that it is accepting Bitcoin as payment for real estate transactions. It’s unclear how the seller of said house will react. I suspect the press release was more an opportunistic grab of a brief headline than a real business altering early adoption.

Bitcoin Mag Cover - Anonymous

Vol. 1 Issue 1 of Bitcoin Magazine

I looked around for some supporting evidence for my theory that Bitcoin is not to be trusted, not to be considered a viable currency, and has no intrinsic value – real or otherwise. I found a number of usable references, but perhaps none more telling than the cover of the first issue of Bitcoin magazine. For those not up to speed on your local terrorist organizations, the masked character and the mantra he holds are the trademarks of Anonymous.  Yes, Anonymous, the cyber-terrorists responsible for Occupy Wall Street and coconspirators with Wikileaks.

My plea to any and all who read this is this: HOLD ON TO YOUR WALLET. Don’t get sucked in to what is a going to be a nuclear sized implosion. Bitcoin is not just a hypothetical asset or tradable commodity (like buying a futures contract or selling stock short). Bitcoin is an illusion, created by unknown people in mysterious, spontaneous ways using computer algorithms that no one understands and has value only so long as some other sucker thinks it does.

Bitcoin’s “value” can, and will, evaporate in a heartbeat as soon as the next shiny thing appears on the horizon (or the SEC steps in to regulate Bitcoin exchanges, whichever comes first).

There have been many “virtual currencies,” from Dutch tulip bulbs to the collectable cards used in popular games. Without exception, they have all peaked and collapsed, leaving their owners with worthless inventories.

~~Charles Gray, GlobalTimes.cn

Please don’t let it last as long as Facebook.

For this post:
Cause: I finally got one prediction right
Effect: Going out on a limb for the next one

I can’t compete with Rob Hahn on predictions, so this one is only posted on Procuring-Cause.com. But please read Rob’s take on what’s unlikely to happen in 2014. We’ll compare notes later.

 

The Doctor is in, please be seated

Over the holidays after weeks of badgering from the next generation members of our household, my wife and I downloaded and devoured the entire five season, 62 episode run of Breaking Bad. And the son person was right. It was one of the best TV series ever.

That got me to thinking about other long running, highly acclaimed shows I missed over the years of being way too engrossed by career pursuits to stop and smell the

G-G Mafia video roses along the way. The Sopranos came immediately to mind. I had seen a few of the later episodes and I enjoyed them despite not knowing the full back story or character motivations. I promised myself I would go back some day and catch up. We just finished season one’s 13 episodes and we’re hooked again. The Sopranos isn’t just another gangster story in the shadow of Godfather or Goodfellas. It’s more of a study in the human psyche told through the revealing conversations between protagonist Tony Soprano and his psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi.

Sopranos[Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t seen the entire Sopranos series, stop reading now. Go turn on your HBO On Demand service wherever you subscribe to it and watch it now. All of it. Then come back here. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.]            [OK, welcome back!]

Tony is torn by sometimes conflicting requirements in trying to take care of two families: his home family (wife, two kids) and his crime family (a collection of neer-do-wells with their own agendas). Tony has a deep-seated sense of right and wrong, good and evil (using his definitions of both, which may or may not coincide with either religious scripture or criminal law) but it is unfortunately offset by a misguided sense of when to pick which and a sociopath’s need for consistent overachievement. Add in an abusive mother and an uncle who wants him whacked (a move that may or may not have been condoned by the mother) and you can see why he spends a good portion of each episode talking to a shrink.

Tony operates under a code of conduct that has not evolved over the decades to address more contemporary dilemmas. Justice, vengeance, and vendetta are all black-and-white issues, with no room for any shades of gray. Often the retribution delivered today in a cloud of self-righteousness is merely the foreshadowing of a misunderstood or unintentional misstep by the victim some time before. Then the guilt sets in and the cycle continues.

What’s this got to do with us, Bob?

Well, glad you asked. I see some strong parallels between the moral mental tug-of-war of Tony Soprano and the current debates facing the real estate industry. (No, I’m not implying a connection to the Mafia. We’re talking about the man here, not the crimes of the man.)

Organized real estate, our catch-all term for the collective of participants in the business of, or the support of the business of, real estate is facing some deeply divisive issues, issues where not just the outcome but even the debate generates derisive commentary.

What is good for brokers may not be good for agents. That which helps the MLS stay solvent may conflict with the business practices of the brokers that the MLS serves. When an Association sucks money from the MLS operation rather than raise dues to cover its own program costs, is this treating the membership respectfully, honestly, and transparently? And will they resent the MLS or the Association for doing it – or both?

We have already heard or read (here, here, and here) many predictions about what lies ahead in 2014 and beyond. There are more on the way. Each prediction has multiple permutations and each of those a cause and effect relationship with multiple alternative outcomes.

Since starting Procuring-Cause.com I have had the pleasure of addressing various organizations on some of these issues, pointing out the pro and con arguments on each and helping them grapple with the local implications of any of their possible decisions. My presentations are not directive. I offer insights, but I don’t advocate a specific course of action because, honestly, if the local leadership doesn’t create its own long term strategy and embrace a tactical blueprint that the field generals can execute on, any direction I might offer would fall on deaf ears.  I offer options, facilitate conversation and debate, and help them create a plan they can own. For many, a single plan isn’t enough. What do we do if Plan A doesn’t work – what is Plan B?

In the course of these engagements I see similarities between these group leaders and the aforementioned Mr. Soprano. Many MLS CEOs stumble when trying to serve two masters with different agendas. Many MLS boards of directors, composed of both agents and brokers, fail to look out for the best interests of not only the shareholders but all stakeholders. The realty version of Omertà prevents the industry from policing or measuring itself internally and at the same time rejects any outside efforts to do the same. There’s only so much hair one can pull out before the psychiatrist’s couch starts looking like the better alternative.

LucyboothI’m no doctor, especially no shrink. I don’t even play one on TV. But I can help you grapple with the pressing questions and develop answers that will shape the future of your organization. Once again, industry leaders will be gathering next week in New York for the winter Inman Connect conference. If you feel like you need a psych evaluation, look me up or shoot me an email. Taking a page from the Lucy rate card, the first office visit is just 5-cents.

I hope to see you there.

For this post:
Cause: the Prozac quit working
Effect: I want a new drug