“Is there some help out there?”

Oct 9, 2009  |  Michael Wurzer

Here’s an email I received today from a member of the Board of one of our MLS customers:

Hi Michael,

I believe you are involved with the Data Standards group at NAR, right? We are still struggling with some definitions and wondering if there is anything published by the data standards group on things that have already been agreed on at the NAR level. Do you have anything like that? Yesterday we struggled with “Single Family Detached” home for over an hour. Is there some help out there?

Thanks, and look forward to seeing you in San Diego.

I typically discuss data standards in relation to MLSs wanting to share data or regionalize, but this is a good example of an MLS simply wanting an easier way to get the data right. I pointed this customer to the RETS schema, but also had to say that it wasn’t user-friendly and didn’t say anything very specific about her question.

From my perspective, a broker asking for a definitive data definition to be published at the national level isn’t too much to ask. I would really like to be able to respond, Yes!, here’s a link to the data dictionary we’ve been working on for the last many years and the definition you’re looking for is on row 28 (or whatever). Wouldn’t that be great? Let’s make it happen.

7 Responses to ““Is there some help out there?””

  1. Rob Overman says:

    I whole-heartedly agree! It feels like the community is not only ready for this to happen but also willing to MAKE it happen. This should be a primary goal for 2010. Let’s take a set of ALL the fields we can think of and create a glossary for the most commonly used. Maybe we can’t solve every issue, but we can make data exchange easier for many and certainly make it easier for the MLS to collaborate with other MLS’s and vendors.

  2. Hi Mike,

    It sounds like they, like most of us, just need to review and start implementing the Revision 1.5 set of StandardNames (circa 2004):
    http://rets.org/files/retsdatadictionary200408.xls

    There are a *lot* of field names and recommended enumeration values already in that list (900+ in 500+ fields). The other documents can be found here in the 1.5 DTD section:
    http://rets.org/documentation

    -Matt

  3. mwurzer says:

    I agree those are a good start, but I’m not sure that data dictionary link references agreed upon standard names. I see it’s listed under 1.x and scanning it I don’t know if it’s consistent with the DTD. Do you know the status of that document? Even the basic question asked above about property sub-types doesn’t appear to be answered by the document.

  4. mwurzer says:

    Rob, we just need a work space on the web somewhere. I’m hoping the Confluence tool is released by RESO soon, which is the logical place for collecting and publishing the dictionary. If we’re going to work from the spreadsheet Matt linked, cool. Let’s get it published to a work space and have at it.

  5. Well, the document is stored as DTD StandardNames as has that as a column; I would certainly say it was intended for this purpose. Arguably, it’s ironic that Schema was developed independently of this (already documented) structure, since most of it is already there.

    RETS Schema’s “master list” is theoretically better than the 1.x dictionary because it was vetted by more people, but is definitely not as concisely documented (although Steve Clarke’s flattenized version would be close).

    I agree, though, it’s time to stop speculating and just start trying.

    -Matt

  6. paul says:

    Wow. This has been very difficult to write.

    Rather than rant or start in on a screed, I’ll limit myself to a couple of observations:

    1. If the people would like some help, I’ll offer a little of my time to see if I can help them. If they have a better definition, I’d be happy to include it in the schema when I get some time.

    2. I have been working on a different view of the information than either spreadsheet or schema. Mike suggested a listing input form as a ‘natural’ way to view things. That is what I’m attempting. I’ve skipped a few contentious areas with repeating elements but have a fairly substantial start on both names with definitions and logical groupings similar to that of a listing input form. Help would be welcomed.

    3. Rob is correct in stating that this is a useful goal for 2010 but will require much greater commitment from the community.

    4. Schema attribute and element names are derived directly from the standard names of 1.5 and 1.7. Stating anything else is not correct. As necessary, with the participation of experts in the data from both MLS and vendors, names and definitions have been corrected in the schema to be closer to that of the participants.

    5. It seems like the exercise of creating the schema has caused a significant mental roadblock in many a person’s mind. Since there seems to be very little chance that an epiphany will occur soon, we can and should adjust the representation to resolve things like Room and Participant back to a ‘flat’ view. This might entail reapplying the limitations of a single listing agent, loss of teams or other similar changes, but if that results in greater adoption then we should exploit that to move interoperability forward.

    6. This process, setting names and definitions, can be very contentious. Each party believes that they have the one true representation of the information, and, in a local context, they are correct. Agreeing and setting those names and definitions, if the goal is adoption and not rightness-of-cause, can make the process take more time than expected. Many people feel very passionate about their data.

    7. mgsmith has published his work on standard names and COVE is working on a different view of the names. Hopefully, we can reconcile these efforts within the Schema WG. It would be nice if any other efforts participate and contribute to these rather than starting out on a different direction.

    p

  7. mwurzer says:

    Paul, I completely agree with your point 7 and that’s exactly the point of this post and the last several I’ve made on this topic.

    Regarding point 2, let me know how we can help, because I do think using listing input forms is a good idea. I also don’t think representing the schema as a listing input form requires elimination repeating elements. For example, even though our system handles an unlimited number of rooms, the printable version just lists what will fit on the form. That’s a limitation of the form and shouldn’t require a limitation of the system or schema.

    I don’t think adoption has been frustrated by schema except in the difficulty of presenting, sharing and communicating it. Schema is fine for the ultimate presentation used by developers. We just need that transformation that makes it easy to share and communicate schema on the open web so we can get broad and deep participation from MLS staff, brokers and agents already working on these issues.

    Lastly, regarding the help you offered in 1, is there a definition for single family or single family detached in the schema? I couldn’t find it and, yes, i did look as best I could.