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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wichita Falls: Great People in a Great City Will Overcome Detractors

I love Wichita Falls. I like and admire the vast majority of kind people living here. I lived here for 2 ½ years in 2011 through late 2013, and came back in March of this year. There are 104,900 people in this city, and the GREAT NEWS is at least 104,000 of them are fantastic, terrific, giving, loving, kind people. They care, they share, they take an interest, they smile, they contribute. Time and again I have seen this community come together in terms of tragedy or crisis. From my 2nd day here I was fascinated with the Downtown architecture and “feel;” good strides have been made and CONTINUE to be made in it's “revival,” but it's just so damned cool to me I like to just walk around there and take photos. It reminds me of Liverpool in many ways, and I'm ALL FOR helping to promote it despite a few individuals dropping the ball and not using the photos I took free of charge and offered to submit FOR its promotion. Perhaps in the future.

The fly in the ointment are a handful of unprofessional, dishonest, good 'ol boy network, lying glad handers that have to a limited extent “spoiled my experience.” As is the case anywhere, fly by night liars exist but not to the level I've seen here. It's a disgrace, as well as a disservice to the great folks here whose handshake, word or promise certainly mean something. I'd like to outline those instances both to get it off my chest and send out a friendly warning that not everyone who smiles is your friend. We have all, especially those involved in business / sales, experienced flakes. It's part of the human condition anywhere and everywhere. But egregious LYING, especially when my returning here was BASED on trusting someone, is a different matter. Thanks for reading and here they are:

1) I was friends since 2011
 with a Realtor here. I spoke with her on the phone over a hear ago whilst still in Palm Springs and considering returning here. It was a GREAT nearly one hour phone call and I thanked them for taking the time. We discussed Real Estate photography, markets in Wichita Falls vs California, and other topics including the Realtor's not being happy with an existing Wichita Falls photographer complete with a list of faults. 6 months later when I was preparing to come, I called and said “you don't have to commit to a certain NUMBER of listings to be photographed, but would you use me as your photographer?” I was trying to hit the ground running with some “pre-sold clients.” The Realtor said “Yes. Sure.”
During my first month here I got an email saying they would use me “next month.” I acknowledged that and said thanks. Couple of weeks later, a text saying “I have one Monday.” I texted back and said weather would be better Tuesday. That was agreed. Friday of that week, it was canceled. “No problem,” I thought. The Realtor said “I'll use you for the next one.”
That was 5 months ago. I never contacted them again. Why bother? Four lies in a ROW:
  • I will use you if you come
  • I will use you in the next month
  • I will use you on Monday
  • I will use you for the next one
tells me it's both not going to happen and isn't WORTH it happening. I never had this in California. 11AM Tuesday meant 11AM Tuesday. If someone isn't interested they'll TELL YOU, politely. Saves everyone time, effort and most of all “hoping or expectation.” I found it odd that the “photographer with faults” opened an Instagram 2 weeks after I arrived here. Not only that but lovey-dove comments on her page from someone who originally wasn't happy. All I can surmise is that THAT photographer was a local and I AM NOT. I AM an “outsider from California.” I posted a YouTube video examining perspective problems and all of a sudden the “competition” was taking steps to correct just that in their photos. Odd, huh? My tips are being fed to the person being used in lieu of me on an Instagram account created at the time I came, which by the way copied some of my hashtags. It doesn't get any more smarmy or high school; I blocked them both. “

2) About a month
 ago a gladhanding "man about town" contacts ME for social media help. We talk in message, then on phone, and he's all kinds of interested. He asks for a meeting, which is usually unnecessary but I agree and we meet at a coffee shop. I read 2 clues immediately...A) He walks in with HIS OWN coffee & sits down; I purchase mine (and give the waitress a 100% tip). B) Tells me during meeting he gets up early & reads the Bible every morning. Also tells me "oh, if I weren't proceeding I wouldn't even be here."

He tries to pick my brain for free, which I think was the plan all along, but he'll have to get up a little earlier than that. Meeting ends with him saying he'll get with me next week. Following week, nothing. Now it's 2 weeks. Not only do I not think I'll hear; I just don't care and furthermore don't even want to work with him. If this is how he lies with me, how bad is he screwing customers? Recently I noticed there's a “social media seminar” being offered at the Chamber of Commerce Dec 7th. ONE GUESS who is giving the talk?

You would think somewhere in that Bible would be something about honesty. I'll tell you folks, from not chiseling a waitress to friendships of 40+ years, I sleep REALLY WELL at night. I was raised with ethics, decency & honesty. And I don't need a Bible to give me or anyone else that "impression." If you ask for help, take up my time and decide not to proceed, that's fine. Call and say “no.” Don't be a “prayerful warrior” who then charges $50 to people to give them knowledge you obviously don't have, after committing to me for a 3 month promotion plan because you don't have the knowledge. It absolutely pains me to think of people paying good money for that who won't come away with a shred of practical tools. That's the reason I don't speak to groups; without a reach on supportive network, you might as well open your bedroom window, scream what it is you do, and slam the window shut. These “gurus” usually have 80 followers on Instagram or Twitter or something, and propose you get a Facebook "Like Page." Don't get me started on those! LOL!

3) Several days ago a now ex-FaceBook friend checked in where he works a part time job. The check in led to a page showing a horrid 1-star rating out of 5. This was broadcast to all his friends and/or anyone who shared the post or commented. Since I was also friends with his boss, the General Manager, I sent her a message pointing it out. She messaged back something to the effect of “OMG thank you for pointing this out, it's a generic FaceBook generated page and that looks dreadful.” Since she didn't have access or ownership (which is why I contacted her, hoping she did), I told her there was a solution … if she went and gave it 5 stars, the employee did the same, and I did it … that would make 3 5s and a 1 totaling 16, divided by 4 … would be 4-star rating. At least better than one!

10 minutes later the employee blocked me on FaceBook. I messaged her to advise her of that … and then SHE blocked me. In other words, “thanks for pointing out a glaring 1-star review on a hotel I manage, but we've both blocked you for your trouble.”

What the hell is in the water here?! Since when do you try and help with a DREADFUL stupid goof bringing attention to a 1-star review, only to be blocked? Really?

WOW. Three instances of ignorance on a stick. But I won't let them soil my image of a good city full of MOSTLY GOOD people. The vast majority, in fact.

So, to conclude… I can see someone “dropping the ball;” When I photographed the Zales Building Dedication the person from “Downtown WF” didn't have a good enough camera for the group shot at the end. I tapped her shoulder and said “No worries, mine is wide enough, get in the photo. Email me later (I gave her my card) and I will send you the pic to use.” NO EMAIL. EVER. Never wrote. Another example? I met the new owner of a rather famous building in Downtown Wichita Falls and he said “Oh, you're a photographer… I need a shot of the building for a postcard flyer.” I said “No worries, I've got one you can use for free with my logo at the bottom.” He said “Great, give me you email and I'll email you today.” I said “Alright, just make sure you remember and I'll send it to you ASAP.” NO EMAIL. EVER. Neither of these cases would have cost them a penny; I was offering for free. NO FOLLOW THROUGH. No sense of urgency. Really?

You can't save everybody. What you can do is insist on PayPal prepayment before wasting your time with lying flakes. You know what's funny? People think that would be the standard procedure in Los Angeles where I'm from. You know … “those Left Coast L.A. flakes” mentality. NO ONE THERE tried to shaft me. Ever. I'm glad I'm not more gullible or I'd have suffered a loss. I feel like I have anyway ~ not financial but with regard to faith in humanity. The good news? >> While I'm convinced that 5% of the people here have all the money and pull, and the other 95% are struggling picking the peanuts out of their own turds … the 95% are nicer people. We can and should rise up against this archaic “Good 'ol boy network” and demand people be accountable. That's how we would judge any of you moving from Wichita Falls to Los Angeles. There are NO “outsiders” there; you're immediately and always welcome. You're judged on your word, character and results.

It's a cool concept. And we didn't go to Ryder High. Imagine that. I'll SHOW YOU "outsider."

COME ON PEOPLE! From clerks in the stores to independent shop owners, from cab drivers to artists, from people in animal rescue to wait staff, from nurses to folks in piercing/tat shops … this town is CHOCK FULL of great people! Do as I'm going to try and do, and that is forget the weasels. A tad difficult since it seems they appear to be “in charge of all things commerce,” but they can be replaced with the honest folks. How? By promoting a business or person YOU TRUST and calling out the liars. Simple. Give credit for that great haircut. Rave about something. REJECT glad handers who have never done a single thing FOR YOU but manage to have everyone ELSE fooled. Get involved, especially in “leadership” positions in the City. Not necessarily government; it can be helping promote a cause or business up upcoming event. I even started a FaceBook group to do just that; it's up to almost 800 members and it takes some of my time to maintain but I don't mind at all. Friend and message me on FaceBook if you'd like to be added. OR … start your own! Every little bit helps.

Thanks for reading especially if you endured all of my rather long “Magna Carta” blogs. There are short answers and there are correct answers; there are very few short correct answers. For that reason I tend to be wordy but complete :) I hope you and your families have a safe and wonderful Christmas and feel free to contact me if you have thoughts or suggestions as to how to overcome a few insects ruining the great “pie” that is Wichita Falls.

Be safe xo
©Paul Roberts 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Social Media ~ Know What It Really Means Before You Hire

Hi friends and interested people; this is hopefully a helpful overview you can learn from, based on my personal growing frustration & observations of late both here in Palm Springs California, Wichita Falls Texas and online worldwide. Forgive the occasional cynicism and instead consider it as a positive encouragement to you, whoever and wherever you are, if you're contemplating social media or hiring someone to help. This isn't a resume, bragfest or about my achievements or talents; you can contact me via email, phone or text through my website if you'd like my help. This is instead a perhaps long overdue synopsis and “help sheet” which you can hopefully gleen some pearls from!

I've been hearing terms like “social media, SEO, brand, branding, soc-med consultant, virtual assistant, etc” for 7 years now; frankly it's making me testy. I have redefined “eyeroll” a few hundred times now; it's a wonder they're in my eye sockets at all. What passes for “professional,” “expert,” and “branding manager” is an INSULT to most peoples' intelligence and perhaps most especially for the poor saps who hire one without doing homework.

If you are considering either bolstering or venturing “into” social media, you had better know a few simple truths right off the bat.

1) NO ONE can give you an instant social media presence (although I can get you on the board pretty quick). It's not a coupon, bus ticket, or purchasable, immediate benefit. Anyone telling you that they can double your store revenue, internet sales, popularity, “brand” (I detest that word) probably knows nothing more than how to press “enter” on a computer. It's like people buying a digital camera and thinking they're Ansel Adams the following morning. It's just not TRUE. It's just not a FACT. It's just NOT going to happen.

2) Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. TEACH him how to fish, and the fish are nervous. It's the same with social media. YOU have to take a vested interest in it. If you “don't have time” you're never going to be “known” in the vein you need to be ~ i.e. “personally.” You do NOT get to suddenly jump on the bandwagon, get 7-10 Twitter followers and a FaceBook Like Page, and suddenly be the Kim Kardashian of fresh fruit grocery stands or brain surgeons or Realtors or political candidates in the blink of an eye. It happens over TIME. Fortunately that window can be a short one but don't fool yourself. Another example are people espousing about “being real and genuine,” and then seeing they're AUTO posting from a script. They're telling you to be real and using a computer to generate the post about being real. It's crap, it's harmful to you, and it's rude to your audience & potential clients.

3) Before you “HIRE” a social media “consultant” you should look at THEIR social media. Do they have 27 likes, 90 FaceBook friends and 22 Twitter followers? Perhaps a brand new Instagram with 22 followers, all spammers? Ooohhh, that'll work GREAT. You're in good hands there. Sarcasm. I've seen people not only representing businesses poorly, with perhaps 1/30th of my reach, but who also never read or learned #4 below (this is a biggie) >>>

4) Someone checking in on your FaceBook “Like” Page is NOT marketing. Like pages themselves are not marketing. They're a joke and mostly a horrid disappointment unless you're Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga or Kim K. Personally, I now use FaceBook for its initial intended purpose: to keep up with IRL friends and follow groups I'm interested in. There are MUCH better avenues for social media promotion available. When you post to your “Like” page, roughly 5-10% of your “number of likes” will see the post unless you pay to promote it. A restaurant with 4,000 likes can still go out of business and indeed one I enjoyed patronizing just did in Wichita Falls. Unless you get SHARES on your FaceBook page or Like page, you are talking to the same 100-500-2500 people over and over again; if you use it as a “shout channel” over and over again for let's say new Real Estate listings, people WILL lose interest, unfollow or unlike/unfriend you.

*** INSTEAD: ***

1) Start slowly. I won't bore you with my social media history, but I initially picked something I LIKED (Twitter) because of CNN's Don Lemon. I saw the Iran Revolution being covered when no reporters could be there and the only “press” were kids running with cellphones and posting to Twitter. I signed up watching Don Lemon because I was fascinated. About 40 minutes later a “light” went on above my head and I thought “this is the greatest thing ever!” You might enjoy other platforms and it's important to pick one you WILL enjoy. Feel free to contact me if you're not sure what might be good for you. But start slow. You don't have to be a mogul in 20 minutes; you WON'T ANYWAY. So have FUN. There are things you should and shouldn't do; there are things that are a complete waste of time. Again, feel free to contact me and I'll save you some time.

2) Show some common manners, courtesy and respect. Do for others if they do for you. NO, you do not have to share/like/retweet everything on the planet for other people. Sadly, and I'll put it bluntly & honestly because that's how I've attained a reach of 1.8 MILLION … most are takers and won't do squat for you. Learn the nice people, and thank them when they help you. It's amazing how often they'll help you AGAIN, because they too are “seeking the nice people.” If someone shares your post, share theirs. If they like your Instagram pics, like THEIRS. It's basic common courtesy and that will go a long way to establishing “connections.”

3) If you don't have a sense of URGENCY … GET ONE. Learn it. 10-12 minutes of doing the right things occasionally will have great rewards.

4) Hire someone who, while putting you out to their LARGE ESTABLISHED NETWORK (and they'd BETTER have one or why & how are they offering you anything?!), TEACHES YOU what to do and to the point of annoyance, pressures you to do it. It's like having a fitness coach. Anyone who DOES NOT want to teach you isn't your friend, your ally, or consultant because they want to extort money on a monthly basis forever... to not do as much as YOU could if you just learned.

5) Most social media platforms have an excellent phone app version. You do NOT have to sit at a computer 5 hours a day liking pictures of cats to start getting your message out. What the phone apps afford is the ability for you to RESPOND to people quickly. That, boys and girls, is very important. It's essential. It's real life. If someone messages you, tweets you, shares a post … and you quickly THANK THEM in a timely manner as we all should have been taught .. lots and lots and lots and LOTS of other people SEE that and you are immediately removed from the sewer barrel plethora of non-caring, self absorbed twits on social media and instead elevated to “human.”

6) Be yourself. Should I type that 11 times? Be yourself. This is where I differ from many, many “experts” who don't have the reach I do. How did I get the reach? See the first words of this #6. Be yourself. Don't be a drama queen, but if you're having a bad day it's okay to vent a little. If you feel strongly about something, post it. Politics and religion, for example, are considered the 3rd rail in social media. You'll see things like this:

Don't for God's sake say anything real or defend a public official or put out a meme about something or other. Just stick with pictures of cats, nice weather and fluffies.”

Horse shit. FaceBook and Twitter especially are full of those gladhanding nimrods; they're usually the type that “in real life,” would give you one single Tic-Tac. An absolute natural disaster can be occurring in their town (I've seen it myself on MY timeline) .. and nary a mention. It's happy rainbows and bunnies and “I have a new listing.” Loud buzzer. Fail. Be real or don't bother. People and their lives matter and if you care, they'll care about you. It's painfully simple and yet often ignored.

The Happy Conclusion, Drinks Available In The Lobby:

Friends, social media isn't pulling teeth. It can actually serve you well. It can and should be fun, it can make you new friends. It can be educational, a release and an inspiration, all while serving a purpose for you and introducing you and perhaps your product or service to the world. Skip the lightweights and phony types and get behind someone who will get behind YOU and show YOU how to effectively handle yet enjoy it.

I hope this helped give you an outline and some things for look for. Feel free to contact me directly with any questions. Cheers!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Droning On And On

Droning On And On ~ by Paul Roberts

Sometimes the right thing to do is blog about something that will help Realtors without your necessarily having an "interest in it." It's just the right thing to do. This is one of those posts. The “new” fad in Real Estate Photography seems to be the use of drone photography of properties. Here are my thoughts on the merits vs downfalls of using drones from various aspects. As an added bonus, if you read until the end, I'll give you a hint how you can get the shot ANYWAY … for FREE.

I consider myself a “new technology early adopter” in almost all respects. At the same time, I recognize fads, at least when I believe I see them, and I looked into drones TWO YEARS ago. I am friends with several photographers/videographers WORLDWIDE who are using drones to capture stunning images of downtown scenes, meadow landscapes, lakes, volcanoes, hard to reach river beds and other endless views and landmarks ~ they're truly stunning images. I have a bucket list of subjects I'd photograph should I opt to get one.

However, with Real Estate photography for clients, after careful analysis, I don't see their worth for the photographer, the Realtor or the client he/she is representing in order to SELL that property.

We have many “country club” properties here in Palm Springs & surrounding areas like Palm Desert, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells & La Quinta. Often these are in a “tract.” The Realtors won't use that word, LOL! Sorry … “community” or “country club.” They are cheek by jowl with other homes. Taking the right angle of the home to the property line, front & back, with well lit balanced interiors will show that home nicely. Now … let's say we shoot it with a drone. Pool, jacuzzi, backing on to a golf course fairway, lake on the fairway, nice interior that shows even in the exterior shot(s), blue sky reflecting in the bay window. Nice! Right? That'll work. Now put a camera 100-150 feet in the air, bother the neighbors, get a roof shot.

  • How will that be cropped
  • What's on the roof (leaves, palm fronds, dead rat, dismembered hobo skeleton from the 70s, dust, bugs, little Johnny's kite). Happy air-brushing.
  • How do you isolate that property to the seller? An arrow saying “this is the one I'm selling” ~ ?
  • What are HOA rules for flying a drone within grounds airspace? I'm guessing forbidden.
  • What are the neighbors doing? #SkinnyDipping Next door? Again with the airbrushing, and hopefully no lawsuit.
  • If a golfer misses a tee shot because you buzzed him/her, there'll be hell to pay :)
  • Neighbors won't want THEIR home included, especially if doing dishes in the kitchen naked. Many modern drones (as of this date June 14 2015) DO HAVE the resolution to show what's inside a neighbor home.

Further liability issues: There are TWO sets of batteries; one in the magic flying machine itself and another in the CONTROL unit. If either of those batteries run down (average flying life is 10-12 minutes at present) ~ and that thing gets “squirrelly,” it's going down. So is your reputation. What if it takes out a bay window? Straight into a neighbor's pool and electrocutes Mrs. Nesbitt?

Aerial shots, especially if it's a very large property, are indeed nice, and dramatic. Since I believe “dramatic but accurate” PROPER photographs (not computer generated layered litho nonsense) sells homes, drones might have their place. I'd make the rule of thumb 5 acres. If the property is 5 acres or larger, and therefore you can operate the drone WITIN the property lines, and there isn't a noise or neighbor privacy factor, then go ahead. Battery failure and the other concerns outlined above wouldn't be an issue. But what to do with properties smaller than 5 acres? How many properties that large are you realistically going to list? The answer, folks, is free and the images are good. It's called Google Earth. Believe it or not, the Google Earth app for your PHONE is often a better, more “tweakable” one than Google Earth on a computer. As long as you DO NOT REMOVE the Google Earth watermark / logo from the image, and CREDIT Google Earth for that image, you can use one. After searching for the address and perhaps putting the “street view little golden man” icon on the street if necessary, you're “right there.” By placing two fingers on the screen you can not only rotate the angle (go higher); you can swivel around to show front, back, side view of the home/property and position it just how you like it. You will not have exposure control since you're using an existing library image of the property taken by Google. On average the clarity & sky conditions are quite good but you may not get a perfect blue sky. However, it will show layout, bushes, landscaping, the home, the pool, golf course, even the street if you want it as a reference.

Problem solved. I would say in 80% of the cases an aerial won't do much to promote the property; in fact you're probably taking away “visual value” because all you'll effectively show is how close the neighbors and the dumpsters are, and a dirty roof. I'd recommend letting clients assess that for themselves in PERSON when you show it. Let the fantastic, natural interior/exterior ground level shots show the beauty & appeal of the home. After all, that's how you'll see it when you're living there, unless you're 200 feet tall.

The bottom line is this: Good photos, an aggressive agent, longer hours open houses, advertising including social media and “sense of urgency” sell homes. Not cutesy sales pitches about “I'll photograph it with a drone.” If you're approached by an agent who offers “cutting edge” 50 year old remote control plane technology to “get” your listing, ask “How many have you actually SOLD using drone photography.” Giggle and wait for the long pause. I have no aversion to providing equipment & photography (and charging a LOT accordingly) to help Realtors sell a home. I just don't believe in risky gimmicks that afford little or no return. You shouldn't either.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Singing: "I've Looked At Clouds From Both Sides Now"

This relatively short blog will be about YOUR DATA, clouds and their value to some, and some general backup tips & suggestions. First, some important background because it relates to the tips.

Some Background:

I was actually a latecomer to “PCs,” after getting my first used laptop and then an upright as a peripheral for my Palm Pilot. I was a Palm freak, loved tweaking and hacking the operating system, ran hacks and TWO hack managers, and pretty much lived by it. My first was the 505, and later a Tungsten T3. I still miss it for its spreadsheet ability, Agendus calendar, customized icons within calendar, excellent search function, TealScript (which allowed you to personalize graffiti) and many other programs. Sadly, with the attempt to combine with a phone (The Treo) and some awful OS (operating system) “advances,” ~ Palm died a slow death.

Once I had the used laptop 2 weeks (motherboard fried) and I got a decent upright, I was “away for slates” as they say in England. I wanted to learn everything I could about the Windows OS and in a short time was able to do simple programming like plugins for photography, “FiltersetP” used for adblocking in the Firefox Browser (for a long time the most downloaded script in Firefox history, finally beaten by of all things a silly theme! Haha!) and being a daily branch build tester for Firefox starting with version 0.80 (prior to the first public release “1.0PR”). That all meant I had files. A LOT of files. A lot of VALUABLE files, at least to me .. and backup became very important to me very fast. It's common sense, but VERY FEW people back up correctly or often enough. These are the folks that cry on FaceBook or to their friends about “OMG my hard drive crashed and I've lost everything!” Well … DUH. You're an idiot.

Once I started into digital photography, things really got “backup crazy.” I not only didn't want to lose any photos, but I now had a responsibility to clients to not lose THEIR stuff. The reason my 3 Nikon bodies have TWO SD Card slots is NOT to assign one for video or another purpose .. it's because I can set them for BACKUP and take each photo twice. If I'm halfway through a wedding or 2-3 homes in a day and that card fails .. no worries, there's a SPARE.

For almost 6 years I put everything on “The Jesus Drive,” a 256GB SeaGate external hard drive. Still I wondered “what if THAT breaks?” … so I put everything on multiple DVDs. I kept a notebook of 40-50 disks, each 4.3GB, in case the external took a dump. It is still working great, to SeaGate's immense credit .. but recently I purchased 2 1-Terabyte drives (1056 GB each) from Western Digital. They're called “My Passport” Drives .. $60 from Amazon. I formatted them in FAT32 (as opposed to the stock NTFS, which gave me problems in Linux) .. and then mirrored (simply copied over) the entire Seagate contents of around 80GB to both of them. Oila .. 3 externals of backup, all the same, so I could start cutting up the DVDs.

I'm convinced that external hard drives are still the way to go because of cost & privacy. I still don't fully trust ANY cloud for complete security of personal information or in my case, photographs ~ expecially those that might not be watermarked. How could anyone trust internet storage 100%? But the problem is … if all 3 externals are under one roof and there's a burglary, fire, earthquake, flood, etc etc .. you could still lose everything; in my case every digital photo I've ever taken, programs, backup settings, files, folders, etc etc.

EVERYONE has stuff they don't want to lose. It's not just businesses that can suffer tragic, irretrievable loss of “files.” They're no longer “files” if it's your grandchildren, favorite MP3s of songs, that scanned love letter from High School, etc. No matter what you use a computer for, what you put on it has value to YOU.

So get yourself a COUPLE of external hard drives, set up a folder hierarchy (I use subject matter and then yearly folders within them). Initially you can start with “Documents” and “Photos” and then years within those. You might have “cellpics” within “Photos,” or “scans” or “receipts” .. however it works best for you. But get those files ON THERE and do it ASAP, because there might not BE a tomorrow.

You will put your files on BOTH hard drives, in case one of THOSE fails. I had a problem in the SECOND WEEK with the 2nd Passport I ordered .. I suspect it was due to the NTFS formatting. That's when I decided to format BOTH in FAT32, and RE-IMPORT (mirror) the Seagate all over again. It took about 90 minutes for each transfer but I haven't had a glitch since.

NOW … if you want to take the next step, moving to the cloud, and feel comfortable about the information you're PUTTING on the cloud … here's my experience and some suggestions.

I won't name them all but I've auditioned (actually TRIED either on laptop OR my Android phone) … 7 clouds. SEVEN. Google Drive (which comes with a Gmail address) was one of the very first. It's still up there as a favorite, albeit a little clunky at times. You can only upload folders from the Google Crhome browser, and it's Android counterpart is “OK,” but not fantastic (and I'm a HUGE Google fan). Ubuntu (the Linux folks) offered “Ubuntu One” for a while, but I thought that was invasive and kind of “pestering” so I avoided it. Good thing I did … a year later they emailed everyone to say “we're discontinuing our cloud service so get your files off.” Lovely. Thank God I hadn't invested time putting stuff THERE. I initially was only going to use a cloud for CELLPHONE pics backup, and there are a couple of cellphone dedicated Android apps that will handle that but you can't access the uploaded files from a laptop. They also have relatively small data limits.

NOPE .. that wasn't going to do; I wanted something I could access from laptop and/or cellphone, and for several reasons I “dropped DropBox” despite it coming “stock” on my Galaxy Note 3. I had installed and used it extensively on my Galaxy S3, was awarded 52GB for a limited time, and when that wasn't extended I decided I could do better. Boy did I .. and you can too.

The WINNER, in my humble opinion, is … (drumroll) … Microsoft OneDrive. This after, again, trying out 7 clouds. Not only is their WEB interface terrific .. they passed the Android test. I had pretty much decided on “Copy Cloud” and promoted it to friends .. but their Android app was horrific. It would often say “you have no files.” So, after changing my PANTS, I'd look on the laptop and there they were, no problem. They just didn't appear on my phone app. Well folks, that is probably EXACTLY where you'll need them to appear .. you're out and about, perhaps out of town or state or country .. and need something, and “no files” is the last thing you want to see. MS OneDrive has not glitched ONCE on laptop or my phone, and I'm “committing” to it. By that I mean I'm going to use the 15GB they gave me, the additional 15GB they award you when you turn on “camera roll” backup on your phone, but I'll be purchasing extra space. And that's where things get really good.

Benefits of OneDrive:
  • Wonderful, simple interface (I despise “tiles” so I elect for list view)
  • Changeable Sort Order (when you pick yours, select options again and click “remember”)
  • FANTASTIC SEARCH ABILITY. OMG, I can find any house I've ever photographed! Awesome!
  • Price (more on this below)
  • OUTSTANDING Android app … which to me is 70% of the “WOW” factor of MS OneDrive.
Rather than futzing about with getting “500MB for a friend that signs up,” just pay 'em. Presently, 100GB is $1.99/month. Twice that, 200GB, is correspondingly $3.99/month. But go with the Terabyte (1000GB) .. and it's $6.99/month. That's the deal right there. I will never fill that up, because there are many files I won't be PUTTING up (celebrity photos, etc) again for security reasons. If they're not hacked in a year, I might change my mind. But that Microsoft OneDrive cloud combined with 3 external drives makes me comfortable about the safety of my data. Lest anyone think “Paul is nuts and going overboard,” let me say .. I've NEVER lost a file to data loss. Not one file. Not one damn thing. Ever. I'd rather be over the top with backup than “sorry.” Believe me, that's the attitude you should take as well.

I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you one little annoyance you'll encounter. If you're like me and have 11 years of “stuff” all organized in folders & subfolders & years & shoe size (the last one's a joke) .. that's terrific. But there is a 1000 FILE LIMIT upload at a time. You can't just drag the whole kit & caboodle into the browser upload window and go to lunch. So for example if I've got 65 shots of a Realtor's house in the MLS folder, and the same 65 in the “watermarked for web” folder … that's 132 files. The shots and the 2 folders. So 6 of those would be 792. Close to the 1000 limit already, huh? So don't attempt to upload more than a few at a time. Don't fret, you'll hopefully only lhave to do this ONCE and it's DONE. Theoretically, “forever,” unless you didn't like your cloud or something catastrophic happened to it online. Subsequent incremental backups will take a mere fraction of the time; it's the initial “OMG there's a lot of crap” which might seem daunting. Which is why 1) you STILL keep your external hard drives, and 2) be very picky about what cloud you use. I went through the pain in the a** of deleting all my files from DropBox, emptying the TRASH, and closing the account. I did the same with CopyCloud. So MS OneDrive was my 3rd “investment,” the 7th cloud I'd looked at, and the one I'm finally happy with. I hope you're just as happy.

Remember also that whatever your “internet connection speed” is … and “TW” lie about THAT constantly and forever … DOWN isn't the same as UP. Your download speed is one thing .. upload is dramatically less in 95% of cases. If you have Verizon FIOS, apparently they're the only ones who have same speed up AND down (you'll recall their commercial about the other guys not being fast, but rather “half fast” and the guy's wife doing a “half fast job of uploading the kids' photos). So bear that in mind; it will seem intolerably slow migrating a ton of files to the cloud but again, it should be a one time “deal.”

Hope this helps not only in convincing you to back up your stuff, but that using a cloud while keeping privacy in mind should help many of you access files on your phone without keeping them there using up space. Keeping 2-3 external drives in your home and 80% of their information on a cloud should protect you from data loss. Cheers.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Today We Honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr...

Today, January 19th 2015, we observe Dr.  Martin Luther King Jr  day in the U. S. and beyond. Sadly, for some it is just and only that ... a passive "observation."

When I was 8 years old, in grade school in Orange County California, we were told to paint a picture of someone very important in our lives. I painted Dr. King. The TEACHER, who apparently was concerned & confused, called my parents to say "Paul painted a picture of a colored man."  Wow.

Some roll their eyes at today's holiday. Some don't want to acknowledge it at all. Some groan at the very thought of "Black History Month." They have, can and will continue to bask in their own ignorance. However, here's what I find REALLY troubling: Two grand juries in two different states didn't return an indictment in the deaths of two Black men at the hands of the police. In Eric Garner's case in New York,  the Coroner ruled his death a homicide. KILLED by an illegal choke hold and allowed to die on the street with no assistance at all. This for actually being a good citizen who broke up a fight but had a handful of non taxed cigarettes.

Is there no outrage? Should there be? Or is that only confined to "uppity Blacks" to use a racist term? Sure, thousands of people of all colors have marched & demonstrated of late, thankfully. Ferguson, New York and beyond. But not enough... because nothing is CHANGING. And here, now, we celebrate the life and contributions of a great man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

So to get back to the "really troubling part" for me: seeing peoples' long parade(s) of social media posts & memes from Twitter to Instagram to Facebook as if to pay "proper lip service."

They feel better.
For one day.

Tomorrow they will look down passing "someone" while walking on a street. They will lock their door when "someone" crosses a street. They will change the channel discussing race relations. They will not only not paint a picture, they will not see the picture and question a child who does. They will look around their workplace and their government and never question the mathematical imbalance. They will remain friends with someone so horridly racist that they use the "N word."

We need to do better than lip service, America. It's time. It's BEEN time.

Today would also have been my Dad's 89th birthday. That day the teacher called? He said to my Mother: "What the hell is their problem? I'll burn the damn school down."

This MLK dream goes far beyond "Black and White." Don't hate on people who probably work harder than you but need some paperwork including a driver's license. Two people who love each other want to commit to a lifetime and get married because they LOVE EACH OTHER. Is that going to strain your 3rd marriage!? If so, you have issues. Get over it and grow up. Don't be hypocritical "living in a dream." ACT the dream. Speak up, because Civil rights today for someone else become YOUR civil rights tomorrow.

I guess it's just how you're raced. I mean raised.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

FaceBook Apps On Your Droid ~ Convenience, Contact, Bloat & Privacy

Intro / Background:

I don't blog often but feel I should explain some of the new FaceBook app strategies and subsequent required permissions for their installation & use, which have some people “freaked.” Also discussed will be overall space use vs benefits and a suggestion that works for me. As a Real Estate photographer in Palm Springs CA, staying in contact using several mediums is important but I also value privacy AND efficiency.

When I was a child I remember my Dad and I getting into the elevator at Sears in Del Amo Mall, Torrance. The “Pet Rock” craze was in full swing, and the 2nd floor was where the elusive pets could be found & purchased. My Dad overheard people on the lift talking about them, and said in an overt “loud whisper,” ~ “I hear you can get little sweaters for them.” THREE people wheeled around and said “WHERE?!?!” My Dad and I almost collapsed with laughter.

Fads come and go. I hope you're sitting down, but FaceBook is a fad and it will probably be the equivalent of “Atari” or “Pet Rock” in 5-10 years. While it's here, people lately have pretty much forgotten the days of yore when they checked FB on a COMPUTER browser. Now it MUST be on their phone. I mean for God's sake, if you miss a lolcat or even worse don't know IMMEDIATELY that Mrs. Nesbitt commented on your checkin at “The Osso Buco Palace” or recommended a Greek endive vinaigrette … all will be lost! There would simply be no use in carrying on. I know precisely ONE person who has built several business around “FaceBook Networking,” and that's Amy Akins. I'll provide a link to her Vintage Junque Like Page below. Amy has taken FaceBook to levels seldom seen, and I marvel almost daily at her use of it. I think she could run General Motors from FB. MOST people just don't need that level of “on top of it,” unless of course they're just plain addicted. In contrast, FB often just gives me a depression headache after 5 minutes, but yet I'm a Google Plus / Pinterest / Instagram freak. To each their own.

Permissions, What They Are, and Why They Sound Scary:

When you install an app it needs functionality, and therefore access, to some of your phone's processes. Messenger, for example, now has an icon of a “telephone,” and you can make CALLS within that application to people you message. For THAT reason it needs “phone dialer permission.” You can also have it replace your standard texting/messaging application .. so oila, it needs “to be able to read and send texts.” There is nothing Satanic about these permissions, but starting about 3 months ago (and more recently for the out of touch) there has been a plethora of fear mongering and handwringing anxiety about whether installing “Messenger” violates your privacy.

Personally, part of my love / hate relationship (mostly the former) with FaceBook is it's incredible battery usage, bloating footprint on the phone, and use of RAM resources. As of today the FaceBook app install is 39.4MB .. which when installed becomes close to 90MB. That would be fine (although it rivals the entire Chrome browser in installed size). Unfortunately it continues to bloat with “data,” which is NOT stored in a clearable cache. You can clear the data and sign in again (basically emulating a fresh install) but that fragments data / app footprint and could result in slowness or freezing. So best to uninstall / reinstall, and I found myself doing it once a week. Within 48 hours it was back to almost 200MB. This is IMO crazy for a single application. Pages Manager isn't much better, 60MB, but I understand folks like Amy needing a proper Like Page Manager to control/edit/manage not one but perhaps several like pages.

Along comes FaceBook Messenger, which in Facebook's view will soon be the ONLY way to send/receive messages from FB friends. Messaging will in all likelihood be removed from the FaceBook app proper. This to me is a GOOD thing for 2 reasons. 1) Removing messaging from the FB app itself would reduce its size and probably data storage, make it leaner/meaner, and probably quicker. 2) Most of us who want immediate notification of a FB message have had Messenger in addition to the FB app for a while. It also yields other benefits.

For months I had all 3: FaceBook, Pages Manager, and Messenger. At a cost of 300MB footprint and almost 15% (FIFTEEN PERCENT!) of available RAM being taken up at ALL times while the phone was on. No wonder folks are having shorter battery life. In another blog soon I'll discuss services that can be reset to factory and turned OFF to make your battery last about 20% longer. I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, with an outstanding battery .. and I can see the difference plainly when these apps are not installed.

So what to do?

Personally I've given the “permissions” and KEPT FaceBook Messenger, at a cost of only 36MB installed with instant messaging notification from FB friends. I've UNINSTALLED (for now, I often vacillate and reinstall if I'm using it more often) the FaceBook app and Pages Manager apps. In doing so, I freed up 13% of RAM, plus 260MB+ of space, and all my other apps run better. I don't care how much “free space” you have. I have 32GB, and 23.5GB still free. I still don't want bloat where I don't need it. Instead I have a simple bookmark for FaceBook and use the web version on my phone. Getting back to the pet rock and FaceBook on our computer .. you know, it wouldn't kill most of us to spend 30 minutes in the morning and/or evening on a computer viewing FaceBook. There's nothing in stone saying you HAVE TO check it on your phone every 5 minutes. The possible exception are people like Amy who use it as a daily tool .. and so I recommend you allow the Messenger permissions so you don't miss an important contact.

MANY APPS require permissions that seem intrusive or weird. Get a QR Code Reader and it will want camera permission. That doesn't mean it's taking underwear selfies for you while you're asleep. It needs the camera to view and decode the QR codes. So it is with Messenger; if you're allowed to make a phone call from within the app, it's going to need the phone. You have to allow that. Permissions are not selective, it's an all or nothing YES or NO. If that bothers you, no Messenger for you :-) But bear this in mind .. posting an Instagram pic from home with your GPS & “tagging” on just gave away WHERE YOU LIVE. That is only one example of a far greater security risk than the chance the esteemed and brilliant Mr. Zuckerberg is listening to you ordering a pizza. As for content of your messages, THAT is where you control your privacy. I have never trusted ANY messaging service, Twitter, FB or otherwise, in transmitting personal data right down to a phone number or home address. NO ONE knows where that text is “stored or looked at” on a server. However, Messenger requiring permissions to do its job is NOT a security “threat” in my opinion.

Happy messaging, thanks for the Osso Buco Palace checkin, I'll be in the grey raincoat & sunglasses. As Jason Bourne put it so well … “Get some rest, Pam. You look tired.” ;-p

Amy's Like Page on FaceBook:

My Like Page on FaceBook:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Paul Roberts on Real Estate Photography ~ Logic, Purpose & Goals

I'm Paul Roberts, a published Palm Springs photographer with 32 years experience offering unmatched magazine quality photography of Real Estate, portraits, weddings, events, pets and concerts in Palm Springs California + many other cities in Southern California .. and incomparable DIGITAL EDITING anywhere in the world. Photography and RESULTS are passions of mine. My realistic Social Media reach of 1.8 to 2.2 million will also help you sell that property!

92.8% of homes I photographed have $OLD ~ regardless of price point. I am proud of my 32 years experience as a photographer and my 7 years right here in the Coachella Valley offering magazine quality photography of Real Estate in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Los Angeles and beyond.

FOUR SALES TEAMS which used me enjoyed their BEST YEAR EVER - Artsy in a magazine is one thing - I'd rather help you actually $ell homes. I'm succeeding. So are the Realtors using me for photography and subsequent social media promotion of their listings. In the last 30 days, THREE homes offered by two different agents sold in ONE WEEK or less. Now ~ can your "hard to reach but expensive" photographer do THAT for you? Methinks not.

The Bad News: I know the truth. Despite the advertised appeal of "making millions by next Wednesday," true real estate professionals know it takes hard work, diligence, patience, a plan, and expenses. Just a few: MLS Boards, stationery, stamps, added car insurance, gasoline, vehicle wear & tear, desk rental, clothing, dry cleaning, client meals & entertainment, phone, advertising, E & O insurance, etc. Not easy, but potentially tremendous rewards.

The Good News: I understand where you're coming from. ANY reduced expense is good sense, especially in a slow market. California has had many "up periods," only a few "lows," but lows strike hard. Competing to sell aged listings to fewer people who have the money or financing is hard work. However: REGARDLESS of the sales price of ANY home, the first impression of a property is often an agent's website! 5 years ago, 84% of buyers rely on the internet to find a home. Some reports indicate that's now risen to 94%. Shots taken from a car or bathroom sink taps won’t do, and neither will offbalance lighting, unbalanced color, lack of room detail, composure and/or framing, or horrid "photoshop created faux images" that look more like drawings than the actual home PEOPLE ARE PAYING MONEY FOR. Worse, if you provide no photo the MLS takes it -- we all know how THEY turn out, plus I’m told the agent is charged. So if your listed home is $100K or $10M photos .. accurate, realistic looking HONEST ones ... COUNT.

It is essential to convey space, warmth, liveability and natural lighting to those searching for a home. You're a professional; the photos should reflect that. I give a naturally lit feel to the home rather than "dark & artsy," or even worse "overly bright fake-glowy-litho," without the ugly tungsten cast, giving people you haven't even met reason to contact you. Average site time is 30 minutes, then 5+ HOURS of expert 3-phase, PER FRAME editing (no "batch" editing), including: cropping, color correction, barrel, pincushion, wide angle & perspective correction, denoising, detail sharpening and removal of private information such as diplomas, photos, etc. I have written my OWN plug-ins to address anomalies of architectural photography including precise perspective correction, shadow lightening, etc. No charge for Master CD, extra photos, editing or mileage. I look forward to helping you sell your homes and understand your needs and cost concerns.

Don't spend $50K or more on a great car for bragging rights going to a sales meeting. Spend a couple of hundred on photos which will SELL your listed home. That's the goal. That's why you're hired. That's why you're hiring ME. That's the job for both of us. I will help you.

By the way, this shot ~ as with ALL my photography ~ is a REAL PHOTOGRAPH. It's not 16 exposures taken on a tripod and then mixed together in "post processing." That's because I know what an f-stop & shutter exposure is. There's no "faux trickery" with my stuff. No layering, no paintbucket skies & swimming pools, no "lithograph" effects with glowy fake skylines and overly textured surfaces. My job is to show the home accurately. Otherwise you could use crayons. Thanks for reading and talk to you soon :-)