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MindMyHouse News 26 August 2006

by Susan Holtham, 26th August 2006

Check out this 13th edition of MindMyHouse News for all of the following: our new sitter wanted adverts from France to England and Australia to Detroit and Florida (USA); your responses to our plans to become an Internet portal for all things house sitting; what’s up at AOL? Our members who use its email browser start having all sorts of delivery problems; blink and you missed it – where has that sitter wanted advert gone?; a little lapse in our usual vigilant monitoring of the site has some embarrassing results; and finally, our experience of flat swapping the Digsville way – we are sold on this great way to get free accommodation and make new friends!

Posted in: MindMyHouse News2006

Dear MindMyHousies,
Hello from your exhausted but happy team here at MindMyHouse. We have just returned from a wonderful (and very immersive) ten-day flat-swapping holiday in sunny Edinburgh, Scotland. Due to limited Internet access in that time, it may have seemed that we were ignoring your requests for customer service. Sorry about that!

We learnt three big lessons while on holiday in Scotland: The first is to always pack a raincoat and warm clothes for any trip to Scotland – even in the middle of summer.

The second is to be vigilant with our daily monitoring of the site’s fresh content – even if we may have felt we deserved a holiday from this love-job of ours. The third is that flat-swapping is great!

Check out this 13th edition of MindMyHouse News for all of the following: our new sitter wanted adverts from France to England and Australia to Detroit and Florida (USA); your responses to our plans to become an Internet portal for all things house sitting; what’s up at AOL? Our members who use its email browser start having all sorts of delivery problems; blink and you missed it – where has that sitter wanted advert gone?; a little lapse in our usual vigilant monitoring of the site has some embarrassing results; and finally, our experience of flat swapping the Digsville way – we are sold on this great way to get free accommodation and make new friends!

Attention house sitters – your services are required here!

(To contact these home owners you need to login to your account area first.)

Quiet chateau town in central France for three months this northern winter
Three cats need your loving attention in this quiet chateau town in central France this northern winter. The house is 400 years old (don’t let that put you off) but comfortable with central heating and high-speed Internet access. This could be your chance to improve your high school French!

A month of relaxation in a quiet seaside town on Australia’s NSW coast
There’s not much to do here except play golf, walk on the surf beach, relax by the lake and enjoy your own self-contained accommodation. Sound like hard work?

Stay in a 17th century traditional stone farmhouse in Somerset, England (comes with a flock of sheep!) this September
You can visit the famous Roman town of Bath from here or just enjoy wandering the attached 60 acres of wetlands, woodlands and ponds with the three resident elderly dogs.

Resident management couple sought for paid, long-term position (with accommodation of course) in sunny Florida
Experienced and committed couple sought to manage this 20-unit condo-hotel overlooking Melbourne harbour, Florida.

Ten months in historic Detroit neighbourhood (no pets!)
You may be just in time to apply for this chance to live rent-free in a comfortable spacious home in a historic Detroit neighbourhood.

Poll results are in on your opinions of our Internet portal idea

Last month, we invited you to tell us what you think of our latest hare-brained scheme to develop our site by becoming an Internet portal for all things house sitting. The overwhelming answer (at 74%) to our proposal is YES! A huge thanks must go to David W from the USA who wrote to me at length with his considered opinions on the idea.

I do think at this point it’s a good idea to add the caveat that if we’ve rolled out this new feature you will be able to search our competitors’ databases of online adverts through a page on our site but you will have no more access to the contact details contained within them than you usually do. What we are offering with this facility is simply a quicker way to search – saving you the time you would otherwise spend visiting our competitors’ sites individually. I hope this fact hasn’t tempered your enthusiasm for our portal idea!

What’s up at AOL? Our members who use its email browser start having all sorts of delivery problems

It seems that something is on the fritz at AOL. We have had a rash of complaints this past month from our members who use their email browser. It seems that our system-generated registration emails no longer have any hope of reaching these members (which means that their accounts are never activated unless they write to me personally and I can activate their accounts for them). Our system-generated email alerts are similarly being repelled from the inbox of every AOL email user, and most alarmingly, AOL users are writing to me asking why I have been ignoring their previous requests for customer support! (Short answer: sorry your previous emails never arrived.) Oh dear, AOL are a bit notorious for having a system that most service providers find hard to support but things at the AOL camp seem to be taking a sharp downward turn of late. Thing is, our AOL members who subscribe to this e-newsletter will most probably not receive it…

It’s easy to change the email address you use with your MindMyHouse membership.

I’ve already covered this topic in detail in edition three of MindMyHouse News which you can read at the following link:
http://mindmyhouse.com/community/?p=56

Blink and you missed it – where has that sitter wanted advert gone?

We have had a few emails from house sitter members who want to know where that interesting sitter wanted advert they have received an email alert about has disappeared to. Unfortunately these adverts can come and go at an alarming rate – the record for the advert published on our site for the shortest time is about four hours! It seems that MindMyHouse has become a victim of its own success – because the response to some sitter wanted adverts can be so quick and overwhelming our home owner members are choosing to hide or delete their advert in record time. This can be frustrating for our house sitter members we know! My only advice is – don’t delay in responding to sitter wanted adverts as they are posted to our site.

A little lapse in our usual vigilant monitoring of the site has some embarrassing results

A number of you wrote to us alerting us to two recent sitter wanted adverts posted on MindMyHouse that were obviously an inappropriate use of our site. Can we say that we are sorry that you all had to receive an email alert in your inbox telling you about these particular adverts. Please be assured that we have removed the offending adverts and deleted the home owner’s membership from our database. (Seems he was an Irish lonely heart looking for a young Eastern European beauty to move in with him.)

We usually monitor the website for around 12 hours each day, closely screening all of the new adverts, comments and images posted to the site. Unfortunately these particular adverts slipped in under our surveillance net as we were in Edinburgh, Scotland (on a lovely 10-day flat-swapping holiday) and had limited Internet access. It just goes to show that we can’t take our eye off the ball for a day when providing a service such as ours! Apologies from us here at MindMyHouse again for any distress caused by this inappropriate use of our site. We have resumed our normal vigilant monitoring of the site and will continue to do so!

Our experience of flat swapping the Digsville way – we are sold on this great way to get free accommodation!

We fancied a week in Edinburgh, Scotland this summer during festival time when one of Europe’s most beautiful cities is at its most vibrant. Trouble is, one million other good folk tend to have the same idea and the city is packed to the rafters with every church, attic and park jammed with expensive (!) temporary accommodation. So how did we manage to get our own bright, airy and fully furnished flat in inner city Edinburgh for ten days during festival time for free? The answer is simple: we found a lovely resident French couple who fancied some time away from their hometown during the hectic festival season to swap flats with. We never met our swappers (unfortunately) but we had such an immersive and wonderful local experience of their city due to the simple fact that we had our own place in which to inhabit. I cannot speak too highly of the flat-swapping experience! (I tend to think we got the better deal as we could watch the nightly fireworks over the castle from their bedroom window. The view from ours – our noisy neighbours’ feet and legs – was less enjoyable I’m sure.)

If you are sick of waiting for that elusive sitter wanted advert that never materialises and want to explore the home exchange option for your dream trip away, then visit our partner site, Digsville. It’s free to contact home owners on Digsville with your proposals but it’s a very good idea to join the site and create your own online profile. Note that MindMyHousies are entitled to a discounted full membership of only US$35 per year. When you join simply type in the code ‘MindMyHouse’ into the relevant field and away you go! (You too may have a perfect stranger sending you their house keys in the mail.)

Happy house sitting (or best of luck with your sitters!)
Susan Holtham
aka the team at MindMyHouse

About the author: Susan Holtham

Susan Holtham

The editor at MindMyHouse is a fun gal, intrepid traveller (in a former life), holder of three passports and enthusiastic house sitter. A book editor by trade, she did a three-year stint with Lonely Planet Publications at the start of her career. During her time at LP she shepherded many titles through the production process. Baaaa-aaaa-aaaaaa! Now that two gorgeous little girls call her mummy she's a very busy woman tending to their needs and to the occasional cries for help from among our 5000+ membership. No really, she's always keen to help!