…about how I tried to solve the problem at REALTOR.com back when I was on the product team at Move (May ’06 to Dec ’06).
Back then, I took over a mapping initiative because I wanted to create an interface to that could aggregate and display the vast amount of data within the grasp of REALTOR.com, Move.com, moving.com, etc. within a simple mapping overlay. My first (and only) pass at the project involved working with the one engineer/architect at my disposal (a darn talented guy!) to develop a widget that was eventually implemented on each neighborhood detail page of REALTOR.com. (To see an example, scroll to the bottom of the Calabasas page).
The options boxes on this implementation are pretty limited in that they only include a few datasets (i.e. average home and rental price, number of listings and rentals and medium household income) at a few listing levels (i.e neighborhood, zip code, and school district), but you can imagine that if the data is batched in at a fine enough level (census blocks for example), then it is somewhat trivial to add any new dataset and aggregate the data up to any level (neighborhood/zipcode/city/school district/county/state) using this basic design.
The discussion about Zillow’s neighborhood aggregation got me thinking about this because I can tell that a ton of work went into developing their overlays, and yet they are just barely touching the surface of the data they could be providing… It seems to me they’ve over-emphasized the importance of their zindex-type data when, my educated guess, is that relevant consumers (i.e. potential buyers) are interested in so much more.
I’m not going to say that the overlays on the realtor.com neighborhood project are better implemented (they’re not), but I think the concept I put together was closer to providing information that would be relevant to home buyers, which, after all, is the group most likely to be looking for neighborhood information. In writing this, I feel a bit sad that it didn’t make sense for me to continue down the path of improving the overlay widget because until someone provides a much more slick way for consumers to filter and prioritize neighborhoods based on information that would matter most to them, I’m convinced some major innovation will come into this space.