Friday, January 24, 2014

Facebook, Zillow and Trulia

I was on my phone learning some facts on Memrise, when all of a sudden I get a message that I need to login. I was annoyed, because it looked like facebook had expired its login. But, I couldn't remember the local password I had set up, so I went to use the facebook login. Facebook, alas, decided that I was logging on from some new location. (Ummm, this is the same location I was using 5 minutes before...) In its security minded approach, it asked me to validate some things. It gave three options:

1) Answer "Secret questions"
2) Get text on phone
3) Identify people in photos.

I have know idea what phone I used with facebook, but since it has been a while, I am guessing it is and old one that I don't have anymore. "Secret questions" are always problematic, especially if it has been a while. What was my favorite movie back then? It depends on when "then" was.

I opted for "identify people in photos."

This had its own set of problems. I primarily use facebook as a convenient way to sign in to various apps. If I need a login, and there is not anything super valuable there, facebook is a convenient option. Fewer passwords to remember. As for accessing facebook, well, I think I posted something myself a few years ago. About the only activity I get is produced by various acts. (Hence my sister asking why I was listening to Katy Perry on Spotify.)

I'll also occasionally go in there and respond to friend requests and add a few suggested friends. This turned out to be my downfall.

It is easy to identify pictures of my family or current friends. But, facebook doesn't stick with those. It gives me a wonderful picture of somebody that I haven't seen since elementary school. Uh, perhaps process of elimination will help. Even worse, it will show the extended family of somebody that I haven't seen in years. I guess this is their encouragement to be actively involved in facebook. My first try, I failed out the identification. On the second try, the final picture was of my mom. Whew! Made it.

It would be a little helpful if they would actually show photos of the person. When they ask me to identify an adult friend, and I get a picture of a six year old, I know something is up. It would also be useful if they would tell me why they think there is a login from a new place. I did go to their logs, and didn't see anything that looked unusually. There was me on the work network. And there was my phone and computer on the home network. Why was there an issue?

I've also run into another annoyance with Real Estate sites. I was interested in seeing house values for some condos. Sites like Zillow are very good at showing values of single family homes. You can zoom into a neighborhood and see numbers next to each of the houses. Alas, for condos, it gets confused. Really confused.

It shows some jumbled text at the building. Ok. I can deal with that. However, the details, can be even more bizarre. It shows some of the units in the building. But not others. I see a couple apartment 2s. Only, one has one address and once has a different one. Eventually I got a listing that seemed to have everything - maybe. This was a condo complex that had about 6 different addresses, with 3 units per address. I finally found one address that where I could get all the units. The only problem was that they were labeled as "apt 1. apt 1. #1. Apt 2" etc. Eventually digging down could get some sales prices.

Trulia could be even more bizarre. I would do a couple search for the address and get one result from Trulia. Then I'd try typing that into their search engine and get nothing. Huh? Oh well. All they need is a simple feature: "show nearby units." Alas, it is next to impossible to get it.

Also, it was interesting to see the different estimates. I saw estimates ranging from 130k to 210k for the units, depending on the site. After looking, it appeared that there was an attempt to sell one unit for about 210k a year ago, but the sale never went through. There was also an attempted short sell for about 130k recently. I guess that explains the wide range. The actual value is likely somewhere in between.

There are so many "junk" sites out there. It is hard to filter through all the "Spam" sites that google returns to get to ones that actually have relevant real estate data. Another curse of the ease of access to big data. If only these companies that make junk sites would spend their efforts making quality data rather than just trying to show up high on the search engine rankings.

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