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MindMyHouse News 22 April 2007

by Susan Holtham, 23rd April 2007

Check out this seventeenth edition of MindMyHouse News for all of the following: walking the walk – our house sitting adventures in Auckland; when is an advert not an advert? When it’s a listing of course!; hall of shame – the latest fraudster who tried to use our site for no good; introducing approvals – why your pesky editor will be vetting your sitter wanted listings before they go live; and finally: when you really want to swap your house – ditch us for Digsville!

Posted in: MindMyHouse News2007

Dear MindMyHousies,
Apologies for the more than two-month wait for this latest edition of our little community newsletter. Finally after three months of playing with our kids and enjoying time spent in the bosom of extended family we have arrived in our very own pavlova paradise DownUnder – Wellington, New Zealand of course! This country is as clean as it is reputed to be with beautiful air and delicious fresh water. With only four million other people to share it with we are feeling very fortunate to have been able to escape our ‘submarine-style’ lives in West London for all of this. Phew!

We are still paying loads of rent but our current flat is only four times bigger than our last. We can see the sea from the windows! We still have nothing – I’m writing this from an improvised office in the dining room made up of a trestle table, a pile of books, a lamp with no socket and yoga ball. But enough about me!

The good news: We have been house sitting! Yes, your intrepid website owners had a wonderful experience house sitting up in the exotic Polynesian city of Auckland. The bad news: For those who were concerned about Teddy (we had left him in the overhead locker on an Air New Zealand flight from Brisbane to Auckland), unfortunately we have been permanently separated (sob!)

Now that we are upside-down, my regular weather reports will be very out-of-step with the experiences of the majority of our members, who live in the northern hemisphere. Oh well, that’s life on a big planet! Now that we have landed in our new home, please be assured that our usual high standards of prompt, courteous customer service have been resumed!

Check out this seventeenth edition of MindMyHouse News for all of the following:
walking the walk – our house sitting adventures in Auckland; when is an advert not an advert? When it’s a listing of course!; hall of shame – the latest fraudster who tried to use our site for no good; introducing approvals – why your pesky editor will be vetting your sitter wanted listings before they go live; and finally: when you really want to swap your house – ditch us for Digsville!

Walking the walk – our house sitting adventures in Auckland

The opportunity to house sit for two weeks up in exotic Auckland came quite out of nowhere (well, via my very organised sister). But given that it coincided with our time in a smaller town just south of there we thought ‘let’s!’ The whole experience was just wonderful. How sweet it is to so fully occupy someone else’s space for a time. While our home owners attended a wedding in the Carribean, we drove their very funky Jeep (black with a zip-off roof and roll bars) around the beaches and up the volcanic craters of Auckland (there’s more than one of each in every suburb it seems). It’s hard to describe just why it is so good to house sit rather than settle for the usual tourist accommodation but then I think some of you may know what I’m talking about! We left the 1920s Art Deco house (and the Jeep) cleaner than when we found them and some nice breakfast in the fridge (as per our advice to house sitters). The home owners seemed to be pleased with the whole experience too – a first for them I think – mission accomplished!

Content blocking software: When is an advert not an advert? When it’s a listing of course!

Does it seem as if crucial parts of our site are missing or simply don’t work for you? Are you going batty because you can’t seem to find a way to see the full version of our listings or can’t find the link to create your own listing? No our site isn’t broken – you may be among the small percentage of our members who are unable to see the correct version of our website due to some pesky software that you have installed on your computer.

If you have ‘content blocking’, ‘ad blocking’ or ‘anti-spyware’ software that filters content (this usually comes bundled with your anti-virus package) installed on your computer, it could be removing certain keywords, links or even whole pages from the MindMyHouse website. In particular, the products listed below are known to strip out content around the word ‘advert’, irregardless of which web browser you are using.

Content blocking software:

  • Norton Internet Security
  • Outpost plugin by Agnitum
  • Spybot
  • Ad-aware by Lavasoft

To see the correct version of MindMyHouse with all of its functionality intact you will need to either turn this content blocking software off or edit your preferences to add the website mindmyhouse2.localhost:8888 to the list of sites exempt from content and ad blocking.

In an attempt to avoid this problem, we recently replaced every mention of the word ‘advert’ in the navigational areas of our site with the word ‘listing’. Unfortunately, these content blocking products can be very indiscriminate in the kinds of havoc they wreak in different websites, so they are still hampering the experience of using our site for a small number of our members.

Hall of shame – the latest fraudster who tried to use our site for no good

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have another ne’er-do-well who thinks he can fool you with his very dubious grasp of English into sending him buckets of cash. Sorry – not this time! This character thought he could advertise his four fictitious London properties simultaneously saying ‘you will very like this house’. (This is where the sound of the ‘wrong answer’ buzzer should spring to mind.) Luckily we were on hand to delete his adverts, cancel his membership, ban him from the site and send him a nasty email.

As per our advice in the last edition of MindMyHouse News, if you feel like wasting a criminal’s time you can write to him at the following email addresses with a scam of your own.

wallerchar@hotmail.com
jane.as@tiscali.co.uk
wallerchas@hotmail.co.uk

Introducing approvals – why your pesky editor will be vetting your sitter wanted listings before they go live

You may have noticed that some of our home owner members have been a little…erm… creative in the kinds of things they try to accomplish through our system of sitter wanted listings. Recently we have had a few such dubious attempts to gain the attention of our 5000-strong membership. These have included a house sitting couple seeking a long term rent-paying housemate for their place in the UK. Then there was the journalist who thought he would try to make contact with those five of our house sitter members who live in Wisconsin, USA, by blasting out a message to our entire membership. Many of you will remember the Irish lonely heart who was soliciting replies only from ‘beautiful Eastern European women under 30′ (ooops that one snuck in under our surveillance net while we were on holiday in Scotland). Just these past few days I’ve had to write to at least ten of our members who were not impressed with one man’s recent attempts to sell puppies via a sitter wanted listing (was he one of those reprehensible backyard dog breeders?)

The upshot of all of this is that we have decided to introduce a level of permissions to the system so that home owners will no longer be able to post a sitter wanted listing live to the site until I’ve personally vetted it. This is a shame as we think that our home owners probably enjoyed being able to post their listing to the site instantly and without a pesky editor approving their contribution. However, we think this loss of power is probably a small trade-off to prevent the abuse of our sitter wanted listing system. Every time a new listing is posted to the site, an automatic process is triggered that sends out an email alert to nearly all of our 5000-strong membership over a 24-hour period. And if the listing is not appropriate or welcome – that’s a lot of peeved MindMyHousies! Ouch. Please be assured that in the future we will be vetting our sitter wanted listings before you get your alerts (and not after).

When you really want to swap your house – ditch us for Digsville!

We’ve noticed that a few of our members have been posting ‘house swap’ listings to our site. We have tolerated these as we guess that some of our members may be interested in responding to them. However, by trying to find a house swapping partner through us you are doing the equivalent of ‘whistling in the wind’ because MindMyHouse has been built and designed specifically to bring home owners and house sitters together. If you visit a purpose-built house swapping website you will quickly see in comparison that our site doesn’t have the functionality to support house swapping listings.

If you are at all curious about home exchanging why not visit our friends at http://www.digsville.com? The site has a real buzz to it and has a large member base who are all keen on house swapping. All the information you could ever require on the practice is there for you. Best of all, it’s FREE to search the listings on Digsville and FREE to contact home owners with a home exchange proposition. Note however, that home exchanging is all about mutuality, so to be successful as a home swapper it’s a good idea to invest in Digsville’s annual subscription and create your own online member profile to showcase your home and location (with photos of course!). As a MindMyHouse member you are entitled to a US$10 discount on the full membership fee of US$45 by typing ‘MindMyHouse’ into the ‘Invitation Code’ field when you join online. You are guaranteed to have a much more satisfying experience finding house swapping partners through Digsville than through us – we promise!

We would be interested in hearing what our members think of this whole issue. Is there is a place on MindMyHouse for house swapping adverts? Are you interested in reading about house swapping propositions among your other house sitting assignment alerts? Or should we selectively discourage the publishing of such adverts from our site? All opinions are welcome!

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!