Absolutely, a better structure for local "Top Voices" is in order. But right now, I don't think there is quite enough traffic from either consumers or local RE pros. There are many pros, but not many in one concentrated geographical area. A general answer is better than no answer. The consumer posters here expect quick replies. I have just answered a question about modular homes in Mississippi. I have never even been to MS. But I do have extensive knowledge about manufactured/modular homes (many REALTORs do not) applicable to any state which is pertinent to the consumer. Would you stop me from answering simply because I am not in the geographical area? In the question I answered I did state that I was not a REALTOR in MS. As long as such information is disclosed (if relevant), I don't see it as a problem. I think the objective of you question is sound, but the imposition of any such restriction could deny the consumer some valuable information....
I DO definitely want to see relevant area questions answered appropriately by a local agent but when they are not responding here or an area is not represented yet, I don't want to discourage out-of-area agents from providing interesting experiences or relevant information or terms. I think it is imperative to have prompt responses to keep non-agent interests peaked on Trulia (but I do think solo-shot solicitation with no educational value or staged responses should be handled accordingly).
THe policing on this forum seems to be up to par as far as I am concerned. So people take liberties with down-thumbing, but if it is a good response, I don't put much weight into it.
Sometimes that is the only way GREAT questions get revived is by someone from out-of-the-area bringing something back to front and center on the National Boards. You never know what someone might bring to the table and/or spark an idea in another.
Since best is subjective in the eyes of only the poster, and positives reflect the community at large, I tend to weigh heavier on democaratics than subjectivity. i.e. A poster could dislike an excellent answer that really was the "best", plus so many don't choose a best. For that reason, I place more value on thumbs up. I do a lot of thumbs up for a lot of different people. The more consumers see that we use it, rather than not voting, the more they will follow the lead. The more consumers vote, the better. The larger the pool of voters, the more accurate and democratic the vote will be. Consumers and newcomers will use the vote, if they see others voting. I have read JR's post that he thinks it is like prom queen. The larger the pool of readers and contributers, the more objective, democratic, and valid the vote will be. It's an evolution. I vote often. I vote TU often, not at all if I think it doesn't have value, and rarely use the TD. I reserve that for extremes.
As far as Top Voices in an "area". Absolutely, a local with 2 bests and 10 usefuls should weigh in strongly over the non-local with 10x the stats. If the choice is blank vs. out of area, then out of area is better. It shows the consumer and the Pros how it works.
Have any of you encouraged fellow agents or customers to visit Trulia. I have, and in follow up conversations have found they were asking questions showing their unfamiliarity. I think the newness creates a temporary need to rely on non-local support. But, by all means, local support is king.
While local support is King for referral and direct contact, there is a wealth of information on the national level. I have learned MUCH from Pros in other areas. If the consumer ended up in only their local area, they might miss a wealth of knowledge on general discussions. I see tremendous value for all of us in exposing and encouraging customer exposure to the Voices at large.
For example....I am in NJ. Maybe there aren't any posts on the dangers of overpricing on NJ board. But, on the national board there are fantastic threads that discuss overpricing. How many times have all of us struggeled with getting a seller to understand that we are really looking out for their best interests when they think they are losing out if they lower the price. I want my sellers to see those posts. It helps validate the credibility.
Having customers read many of the posts from across the country that rise to the top aids all of us as agents, brokers and our industry with credibility, image and professionalism.
So, for the purpose of referral....local is King. But, I would not want consumers to log on to one state and then never find their way to the national boards, and miss the value there.
This question has been discussed and debated many times. We all agree with what you are saying, but Trulia already provides the facility for the customers to go and see the Top Voices in their area - if you go to Top Voice, and select the location, you will see the top voice of your location.
However, your question askes if the top voice in an area or state should be limited to peopel doing business in that area? Personally, I don't know if that will provide the best information for the consumers.
When a home seller or buyer signs up with Trulia, they can select general location or they can select their specific location. If you go and read their questions, a lot of questions are very generic even though the person is from a specific location - I just answered a question about how to measure SF in a room and/or a house. There are questions about whethere a first time buyers should go to a realtor or mortgage broker first.
There are also great answers from realtors in other areas. One recent one is question about getting pre-sale inspection. Question is from NJ, I am from CA and I asnwered, Jim from CA also answered, and I really like Jim's solution, and I think Bridgette from FL also learned something there. Some of solutions might be something you want to bring to your own local board to consider doiong. If you would limit people just answering the questions in their own area, then you won't get a wealth of knowledge.
However, I don't go in and answer a question like 'What do you think of the Market in Upstate New York?", that would be silly of me to do so.
Dedication to Trulia forum also counts a lot. I can go on other boards to get my name out there, but I like this forum so far, and I have been spending most of my time here.
Trulia is young, as times go by, there will be a lot of participants, buyers, sellers, real estate pros, and we won't even have time to answer out of area questions - I have found that i can only answer certain questions now so I am very picky on what I answer; then you will natually flush out the non local experts on location specific questions
I also think the generic count is helpful for two reasons. First, by comparing it to the thumbs ups as Jim has done in his formula: http://www.trulia.com/voices/Using_Trulia/Not_a_question_Mor
But it is also helpful because if you see someone with a bunch of answers and yet you have never read any of their posts, they might be the ones answering the questions that no one else is answering (and the one question consumer doesn't usually vote). That is why it is good to be able to go to their profile and read their responses. You can easily see if they are spamming or helping.
When I see that a question hasn't been answered, I might respond with only a sentence or two which are mostly disclaimers and give them a link to a website that might help them. I'll spend a lot of time researching in order to direct them to the right place. Someone might have a question about real estate taxes but not know that this is handled at the county level and the best way to search would be by putting in the county, the word "assessor" and ".gov". Another situation was knowing to enter the state they were from "community property" and "law".
So please, instead of discouraging the count or restricting the location, everyone try to do a couple of "random acts of kindness" that won't get you a thumbs up or a thumbs down. And Trulia, get rid of the conspiracy SPAMMERS (like the Nina, Vivar & Salim) faster when they are flagged.
Just my thoughts, back to what I was really searching for.