Google Launches GChat "Talk Guru," an Automated Q&A Service

In the midst of all the Q&A fervor around Quora to Aardvark to Facebook Questions, Google has decided to get in on the act using Gchat.  The striking difference is that Google has completely automated the answers, instead of using a user-wiki system, i.e. waiting until your peers choose to respond with a particular gem of knowledge to a question.   At first glance, it looks like Google has integrated many of their various services, from translation and calculations to definitions to immediate web results, all within the confines of your instant messaging service.  

Now Gchat is my personal favorite IM platform for business or pleasure, and I am much less likely to go to a third-party site if I can get answers quickly on my phone or while in gmail.    Quora and Aardvark will remain useful for abstract or technical questions, and Facebook Questions seems like it will benefit queries of a personal nature, but Google Talk Guru could easily be the fastest and best alternative to questions about everything else!

This is how you get started:

Welcome to Google Talk Guru!

Get started! Send a chat invitation to

Google Talk Guru is an experimental service that allows people to get information like sports results, weather forecasts, definitions etc via chat. It works on many popular chat applications that support Google Talk.

To start using Google Talk Guru:

1. Sign into a chat client that supports Google Talk
2. Send a chat invitation to or click the "Invite myself to chat with Guru" link below.
3. Find guru in your contact list and send chat queries to guru using the examples below:

Sport scores: score arsenal
Weather: weather Nairobi
Calculate: 123 * 45
Currency: 120 KES to USD
Definition: define laptop
Translation: translate earth to French
Web result: web Mount Kenya
Help: help translate

© 2011 Google

Getting Nationwide MLS Listing Data

When it comes to building real estate websites, listings are kind of important. Just kind of. That is true whether you are an agent/broker trying to be relevant to buyers & sellers in your area or a serial entrepreneur trying to build the next national real estate portal with your own unique twist. I recently got a private question from someone on Quora asking how to get comprehensive MLS listings, so I thought I’d answer it publicly rather than privately.

Adding listings to an agent or broker website in one specific market is a known process – just sign up for IDX, hook it to your website, and away you go.

But for entrepreneurs looking to get nationwide listing inventory — well, it’s not so simple. For those of you in this situation, there are three primary options to consider:

  1. Direct from the source (agents and brokers) – . This is the route companies like Zillow and Trulia took in order to give them maximum long term flexibility. But it’s extremely time intensive and relationship heavy. You’ve got to win over the likes of ERA, Prudential, Weichert, and about a thousand other medium and large sized brokerages and convince them syndicating their listings to you is  a good idea. Or you can spend a boatload of money trying to reach 500,000 agents individually. Whichever route you take, you’ve got to be committed to the effort over the long run and put in the time to form real relationships with key stakeholders at a variety of organizations.
  2. Aggregate MLS feeds across the county – This route still requires that you aggregate hundreds of MLS feeds (there are roughly 900 MLS’) to get comprehensive. Plus, you’ll have to have a sponsoring real estate agent/broker in each market. Additionally, if you aggregate MLS feeds, you are bound by MLS rules that vary from MLS to MLS (making building your national site a pain in the rear).
  3. Use ListHub or Point2 – this will probably get you the greatest number of listings in the quickest amount of time. But it’s still not going to result in comprehensive coverage across the United States. Not all brokers/agents use one of those two syndication partners.

So, in short, there is no quick way to achieving comprehensive listing inventory around the country in a timely manner. Unfortunately for serial entrepreneurs, but fortunately for the Zillow’s of the world who have a considerable head start (they’ve been working on it since 2007), if you start now – you don’t really have a chance at having comprehensive listings within the next 2 years. Unless you want to pay a LOT of money to agents and brokers to get them.

Regardless of which route you take, you’ll have to build a XML import system that can handle multiple XML feeds and de-dupe listings that come from more than one source simultaneously. Hope this helps clarify that whole (non-existent) “nationwide listings data” thing.

If anyone else reading has alternatives, by all means, leave them in the comments.