Thursday, June 30, 2011


I think it was about two weeks ago. Remember? I told you how Google fired its CEO Eric Schmidt.
And I wrote Schmidt got fired because he underestimated the negative impact Facebook’s popularity would have on Google Ad revenue.
Remember? and Remember?
I told you Google’s new CEO (who is also one of the company’s founders) Larry Page was going to shift the company more toward Social Networking, so it could try to recapture revenue it lost to Facebook.
Remember? Do you?
Sure you do.

Well, just yesterday Google announced it was going into the Social Networking business...for the second time. I say the second time, because Google’s first social networking site called Buzz was a failure (I liked it).

Google calls its new service, Google+.

Google+ is very, very much like can upload photos, send messages, makes comments, select friends etc.

But there is one major difference between Facebook and Google+...

The difference is in Friend Management...With Google+, users easily share information with a specific, close circle of friends. Friends the user thinks would be most interested in seeing a photo or read a message. This circle might be immediate family members or people with a common hobby or sports team. “Once users sign up, they have a profile page with security settings that let them share or hide personal information, such as education or job descriptions. Contacts are suggested based on user e-mail accounts. Google’s idea is to easily allow users to create “close” circles of friends with common interests for sharing”. (Bloomberg)

In the beginning Google+ will only be available to a limited number of users. In fact participation in Google+ is by invitation only.

The question is how does Google pry loyal users from Facebook. Users that are accustomed to the layout and mechanics of a familiar, immensely popular social networking site.

But one thing is for sure...Google needs to try something. Recently, for the first time ever Facebook surpassed google for the most number of hits per day.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wifi @ the Registry of Deeds

The Middlesex North Registry of Deeds is Wifi ready. We strategically installed six
hotspots around the registry that allow guess users to connect to our wireless signal from anywhere in the registry.

The hotspots are located in...The Recording Counter; Customer Service; Outside the Research Room; Outside the Register’s office; In the Courthouse Foyer and one in the Basement (this was installed with the basement was opened to the public).

If you want to use the registry’s Wifi come to Customer Service and we will give you the User ID and Password.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

End-of-June recording stats

Historically, June 30 has always been one of the busiest days of the year at the registry of deeds. I believe that two factors contributed to that: for some businesses and for state and municipal governments, it is the end of the fiscal year and some funds must be spent during the FY; the second factor is that many "spring sales" are consummated on that date. Once the snow melts, people start aggressively shopping for homes and, given the lead time needed for a typical sale, the end of June is about when a closing would take place for an April or May purchase and sale agreement. Related to that is the end of school. Families with children might tend to defer moving into a new house might wait until school is out to physically move to a new home or new community.

But as I said, this is the case historically because it certainly has not been the case in the past few years since the real estate bubble burst and it doesn't seem like it will be the case this year. Our recordings-to-date for June when compared to the same period last year, paint a bleak picture. From June 1 thru June 27 of 2011, 373 deeds were recorded while at the same time in 2010, there were 499. That's a drop of 25%. The same holds true for mortgages. They went from 900 in June 2010 to 689 in June 2011, a drop of 23%. We hope that things pick up this week, but there is unfortunately no indication right now of that happening by the end of the week.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Foursquare is the hottest thing in social networking right now.
I know what you're thinking...What the heck is Foursquare?

First, investors are clamoring to give Foursquare founders, Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai money (not me). In fact, in June the company raised $20 million in venture financing.
That's not back for a company most people have never heard of.

Today the four year old company is valued at $600 million...(wow, I keep telling myself I've got to invent some techie thing).

OK, so that's the money part of Foursquare, but what is it?

Check out this statement directly from the company's website: Foursquare is a location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. By “checking in” via a smartphone app or SMS, users share their location with friends while collecting points and virtual badges.


OK, this is how I understand Foursquare works. Lets say you go to a restaurant, once you are there, you "check in"using a Foursquare App that locates your position through the phones GPS system. This allows your friends to know where you are, and join you if they want. Foursquare can even ping your friends and let them know immediately you are in the restaurant.
Now...While at the restaurant you are not sure what to eat, simply check what your Foursquare friends think is the best thing on the menu. And Foursquare gives "badges" and "points" to people who repeatedly "check in" at the same restaurant or "check in" at many venues in one day. You can watch your points and your friends points build up. Of course, all of these "location finders" can be limited by privacy settings within Foursquare itself.

So that's I understand it.

Still don't get it? Me neither...

But, today 10 million people are registered Foursquare users... so someone is getting it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Massachusetts Deeds Indexing Standards - some background

During the 1990s registries of deeds across the country increasingly converted their index creation, storage and presentation to computers that ran various land management software applications. As registry users became comfortable with this new technology, they began demanding that land data be entered into these computers in a standard way. Early on, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia all adopted deed indexing standards and vendors of land management applications whose territories were nationwide carried these standards to other jurisdictions including Massachusetts.

Guided by the work of other states, the Massachusetts Registers of Deeds Association set out to draft standards for the Commonwealth. The first version of the standards went into effect on January 1, 2000. Since then, there have been several updates.

From time to time in the coming weeks, I'll do occasional blog posts giving some of the history and background of various aspects of the standards.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Robo-Signing and the Salem Registry of Deeds

Essex South Register of Deeds John O'Brien has done some great work rooting out flawed or fraudulent documents created as part of the "robo-signing" practice by some major national lenders. In this context, robo-signing refers to the practice of any number of employees of the lender (or its subsidiary corporate agent) signing an authorized individual's name to a document without any apparent legal authority to execute such a signature. A woman named Linda Green has become the poster child of this practice. She was the authorized signatory for one company, yet dozens of other employees scattered around the country routinely signed her name to documents that often recited that Green was signing based on her "personal knowledge of the facts stated therein." Register O'Brien is in possession of about 20 variants of Green's signature on documents already recorded in Essex South.

Believing that these documents bear fraudulent signatures and are therefor void, O'Brien has instructed his staff to refuse to record any document purportedly executed by Linda Green or any one of two dozen other individuals whose names have been identified as robo-signers. O'Brien returns the original document to the sender with a proposed affidavit whereby the sender would certify under the penalties of perjury that the document proffered for recording contained a valid signature. Thus far, no affidavits have been sent back, only re-executed documents signed by other authorized individuals.

This matter was discussed at length at the Registers of Deeds Association meeting held earlier this week in Worcester. Although the group took no position on the issue, there was a valuable discussion. My own view is that this registry will not (for now) reject any documents for robo-signing reasons. While I don't doubt that some documents were signed by individuals other than the one purportedly signing, I also believe the law of agency is complex, particularly in the areas of actual and implied authority and of ratification. This causes me to question my ability to make an ironclad determination of fraud and its legal consequences, and without such a determination, I believe it important to err on the side of recording the document and let those who rely upon it in the future do so for whatever value they ascribe to it. In the meantime, I commend John O'Brien for tackling this issue so aggressively. Robo-signing fraud carries with it huge implications to home ownership, title insurance, and many other areas of real estate law. By pushing this issue, O'Brien sets himself up as a test case that would ultimately result in legislative or judicial clarification of the consequences of robo-signing, an outcome that would be beneficial to us all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

iPad 2 for Her

My wife's birthday is coming right up (no need to sing) and I've got a great idea for a gift...a new iPad 2. I think I'll, I mean she'll love it. I, ah, she can use it to browse the Internet, watch movies, take pictures and answer my, her email.
Its funny though, when I decided to buy a tablet for my, I mean her...I never even considered anything other than the Apple iPad.
And, apparently I'm not the only one that thinks this way... the iPad totally, dominates the tablet market.
How totally? In the 3rd quarter of 2010 Apple's iPad represented 93% of all tablet sales. I'd say that's "totally" dominating the market, won't you?
Since the iPad spectacular release, experts have been predicting Apple would eventually lose ground to other tablets, like Motorola's Xoom, Blackberry's Playbook and Acer's Iconia....but it hasn't. People are iPad me, I mean my wife.
According to analyst Rodman and Renshaw, iPad sales projections for the June quarter range from 8 million to 11 million. That's a lot of iPads.
So isn't it obvious why I decided to buy myself, I mean my wife an iPad.
Happy Birthday Dear.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Electronic Recording Update

I attended a meeting of the Massachusetts Registers of Deeds Association today in Worcester. Electronic recording was one of the topics of discussion. We've been recording electronically recorded documents in Lowell since 2005 and now 23% of our daily document intake is handled electronically.

(For those unfamiliar with this method, the customer scans the original document and uploads it to a secure website along with data about the document. The customer then transmits this electronic package of data and document image to the registry where it is quickly recorded. All fees are paid through electronic bank transfers).

The other registries of deeds in Massachusetts currently doing electronic recording besides Lowell are Plymouth, Hamden, Middlesex South and Norfolk. All report excellent results with widespread acceptance of the technology by members of the local conveyancing bar.

As more registries deploy electronic recording, the volume of recordings submitted to those offices already using the technology is bound to increase.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Orders of Notice increasing

I checked the number of Orders of Notice (the document that starts the foreclosure process) that were recorded so far this month and compared it to the same time last year. In the first three weeks of June 2011, we have recorded 43 Orders of Notice district-wide. For the same time in 2010, we only recorded 24. That's a 79% increase. The troubled properties are scattered throughout the district. Lowell has 21 of the 43 while Billerica has 6 and Dracut has 5. The mortgages being foreclosed are also of variable duration although most came near the end of the housing bubble (of the 43, 9 were from 2005, 10 from 2006 and 10 from 2007) while only a total of 7 of the 43 were from 2008 or more recently.

A dramatic rise in foreclosures is certainly not good news, so we'll keep close watch on this category in the coming weeks.

Friday, June 17, 2011

June 17, 1775: Battle of Bunker Hill

On this day in 1775, British troops stormed colonial fortifications on Breed's Hill in Charleston, Massachusetts, seeking to expel the local militia from that strategic high ground that overlooked the city of Boston. The colonial troops were dug in and well led and so the first two British assaults failed with heavy casualties. The third British assault captured the hilltop but only after the colonists had expended all of their ammunition. The unwounded militia fled across Charlestown Neck and reformed in Cambridge. Given the length of the engagement and the high casualties received, the British did not pursue but withdrew into Boston where they remained until March of 1776 when they departed Boston for good (on Evacuation Day!).

While the confrontation at Lexington and Concord in April 1775 had resulted in casualties on both sides, many in England and in the southern colonies dismissed that engagement as an unfortunate and unintended mistake, believing that reconciliation was still possible. But after Bunker Hill, with its high casualties, attitudes hardened in favor of a protracted war and any hope of a rapidly negotiated peace ended.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bruins win Stanley Cup

Last night the Boston Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in 39 years by defeating the Vancouver Canucks, 4-0, in game seven of the finals. The Bruins victory was a rarity in several respects: only twice before has a visiting hockey team won a game seven (last night's game was played in Vancouver) and never before had a hockey team won three game sevens en route to a Stanley Cup victory. In this series, the home team had won each of the first six games so that also weighed against Boston. But Boston seemed to have more energy, to be better conditioned. When the third period began, I thought to myself, here comes the desperate all-out attack by Vancouver but the Canucks never gained any momentum and so the Bruins prevailed. Nationally, much of the media attention today is focused on the post-game rioting in Vancouver and not the game itself. Here in Boston, however, it's all about the Bruins and their great accomplishment.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Speak and Search

Google is looking for a faster way to it is turning to a system that allows people to search using voice activation. In other words... you speak and google goes.

Now I love Google, not just as a search engine but as a company, too. I like the company's business philosophy and approach to "open" information. Google provides the public so many services and it provides them for free. There is Google Chat, Google Docs, Google Books, Google Buzz, Wiki's etc...

But honestly, I don't know about this voice thing.

Unfortunately, I have not come across any voice activating computer software that is 100% reliable. And I have tried a few. On my iPhone I've used Say Where and Dragon Software, both are very good, but not perfect. With Dragon Software I find myself speaking like this... "I-like-this-new-Dragon-software", slowly and deliberately.

Google tried voice activated search before. And of course, I had to give it a try. I kept it for several months, but ultimately didn't think it was very good, so I deleted it from my phone.

But now, according to Alan Eustace, senior vice president of knowledge at Google, this software is a smarter. "Google demonstrated that the search engine understands the difference between Worcester, Mass and Wooster College, words that sound the same but are spelled differently (New York Times).

If Google's new software truly is as smart as Google believes...perhaps it will change search forever.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mid-Month stats for June

Well almost mid-month. Comparing documents recorded from June 1 through June 13, 2011 with documents recorded during the same period in 2010, we gain further evidence that "malaise" is an appropriate word to use to describe the local housing market. The number of deeds recorded during that thirteen day period dropped 14% from 194 in 2010 to 166 in 2011. Mortgages were down about the same - 16% - sliding from 353 to 296. There was good news with foreclosure deeds because they were also down from 28 to 13, a decline of 54%. Orders on notice were up substantially, however, rising from 17 to 29, a jump of 70%. If this document type continues to be up through the balance of the month, it would be the clearest signal yet that we are facing a new wave of foreclosures with their auctions hitting late in the summer or early in the fall.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chair Lift @ Lowell Superior Courthouse Removed

Late last week contractors removed the handicapped chair lift at the Lowell Superior Courthouse. The lift has been in place making the upper floors of the courthouse accessible for the 17 years I have been here and longer. It is no longer needed now that the new elevator is operational.

This morning is the first time I got a good look at the 120 year old marble staircase without the lift. Although marred by the holes needed to mount the lift, its beauty is still obvious.

Below are pictures showing the mounting holes on both the side of the staircase and the floor, as well as the stunning marble staircase side and striking wood and metal handrail.

Click image to enlarge

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mortgage robo-signers & Sarah Palin

My colleague in Salem, John O'Brien (the register of deeds for Essex South) is conducting an on-going investigation of so-called "robo-signers" from large national lenders. These gigantic mortgage granting entities invest certain employees with the authority to sign on behalf of the corporation. When the wave of mortgage foreclosures became a flood, it became more and more difficult for these designated signers to keep pace with all the paperwork that needed their signatures. Rather than authorize additional employees to sign, other employees began forging the signatures of the designated individuals. One such designated individual had the name "Linda Green."

If you were to walk into John O'Brien's office, he has a poster-sized printout on an easel. It bears the signature of Linda Green - and nine other distinctly different variants of the very same signature. Clearly other people were signing as Linda Green.

While I try to sort out all the legal consequences of these forged signatures, John O'Brien continues to find them in the unlikeliest of places - including in the chain of title of the Arizona mansion recently purchased by Sarah Palin. Here's O'Brien's press release on this matter:

Massachusetts Register of Deeds John O'Brien and Forensic Mortgage Fraud Examiner Marie McDonnell find former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is victim of potential mortgage fraud; expert says chain of title to new Arizona home clouded by robo-signers.

In what is an ironic twist of fate today Register of Deeds John O'Brien and nationally renowned mortgage fraud examiner Marie McDonnell, President of McDonnell Property Analytics, Inc., announce that former Alaska Governor and Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin is an unwitting victim of mortgage fraud and has purchased a home in Arizona that contains flaws in the chain of title.

Register O'Brien said, “If fundamental property principles still matter in this country, Sarah Palin may have legal issues that could affect the ownership of her home. Through no fault of her own, Sarah Palin has become a victim like thousands of others across the country that have the same problem with their chain of title. I feel bad for Governor Palin and all the homeowners who have been victimized by this scheme, it just goes to show you that no one is immune from this type of fraud and irresponsible behavior that these banks participated in.”

Marie McDonnell added, “Sarah Palin’s chain of title has been swept up into the eye of the ‘perfect storm’ where robo-signer Linda Green’s fraudulent Deed of Release on behalf of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. is eclipsed by robo-signer Deborah Brignac’s fraudulent foreclosure documents. Brignac, a Vice President of California Reconveyance Company (a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase Bank), assigned the homeowner’s Deed of Trust to JPMorgan Chase Bank in her capacity as a Vice President of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”); in the same breath, Brignac executed a document appointing California Reconveyance Company (her real employer) as Substitute Trustee in her alleged capacity as a Vice President of JPMorgan Chase.”

Sound confusing? McDonnell explained, “This is a shell game where Brignac purports to be Vice President of three (3) different entities so that she can manufacture the paperwork necessary for JPMorgan Chase Bank to hijack the mortgage and then foreclose on the property. This is an excellent example of how MERS is being used by its Members to perpetrate a fraud. I have laid out a timeline that illustrates the defects in Sara Palin’s chain of title which shows that it is seriously, if not fatally impaired.” McDonnell whose firm performed the extensive forensic analysis.

O'Brien, who recently announced that he found 6047 fraudulent Linda Green documents recorded in the Essex Southern District Registry of Deeds which had 22 different variations of a Linda Green signature has been the National Leader in blowing the whistle on banks such as Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo for their business practices. O’Brien said “These banks have participated in a national epidemic of fraud that has clouded or damaged the chain of title of hundreds of thousands of American homeowners all across the country”. O’Brien further said “Sadly, Sarah Palin’s misfortune will however, hopefully shine the national spotlight on this issue. Given her position in the country, I am sure that she will use her influence to stand up for homeowners and their property rights”.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Robosigning - the good kind

The term "robosigning" was much in the news during the past year. It was used to describe the practice by employees at several large national lenders of signing foreclosure-related affidavits, purportedly based on "personal knowledge" of the person signing, when in fact the person signing was in a remote office, with no personal knowledge of the facts stated in the affidavit.

A story in today's Herald informs us that Robosigning has now emerged in a different (and more acceptable) context. Citizens Bank is experimenting at some of its Massachusetts branches with a type of electro-mechanical device that allows a customer sitting in one place who is communicating with a bank employee at a distant location via teleconferencing, to apply a "wet" signature to a document at that distant location through the use of technology. When it comes time to sign, the customer uses a stylus and an electronic pad to sign, but that signature is automatically imprinted on the underlying document which is physically at that remote location.

I'm reminded of a past trip to Monticello, the estate of Thomas Jefferson. Our third president had devised a mechanical copying machine which consisted of one pen for him to grip that was attached to an arm and another pen attached to a parallel arm that would automatically mimic the writing motions of the person gripping the first pen. By this device, Jefferson would automatically produce an exact copy of all his written correspondence. Like so much of today's technology, people who came long before us came up with the idea; we just have the means of better executing those ideas. In this case, folks applying for bank loans can use the same technological concept as was employed by Jefferson centuries ago.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Lowell Superior Courthouse Elevator Dedicated to Denise Lawrence

Several weeks ago a plaque was installed at the Middlesex Superior Courthouse in Lowell (home of the Registry of Deeds) dedicating the new elevator. The plaque pictured below reads as follows:

Dedicated to the memory of
Denise Lawrence

A determined advocate for people with
disabilities, who successfully advocated
for access improvements
at the Lowell Superior Court

A dedication ceremony is being scheduled for the near future.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The iCloud

Yesterday when I wrote about Apple's World Wide Developer's Conference I really didn't anticipate the new iCloud would be steal the show. Cloud networking is really nothing new. Google has been involved with it for a number of years. But Apple knows how to sell a produce like no one else...hence the iCloud will be huge.
In case you missed it...iCloud will integrate all of your music, photos, videos, Apps, documents etc seamlessly with all of your Apple devices. Example: Lets say I'm walking down the street and Barack Obama calls to me, "hey, Tony how are you doing". I go over to the Commander-in-Chief and take a picture of him with my "iPhone". When I go home and tell my wife I met the Prez and she doesn't believe me, I pull out my "iPad" and show her the picture. Pretty cool.

Here is Steve Jobs explaining the iCloud

Monday, June 06, 2011

Apple's WWDC @ 1:00 Today

Today is a big day for Apple CEO Steve Jobs will give the keynote speech at the Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference or WWDC as it is known. The word is Apple executives think some today's announcements are going to create much discussion in the technology world.

Here are some of the rumored innovations Jobs is expected to talk about today (most deal with the iPhone and iPad):

  • The introduction of Widgets to the iPhone and iPad
  • Automatic music streaming
  • A remote storage service called, what else...iCloud
  • A simply yet comprehensive Twitter integration
  • A better voice recognition system
If you are interested you can follow the goings on at WWDC by following this link.

Friday, June 03, 2011

May recording statistics (official)

This past Tuesday (May 31) I put up a preliminary report on recording stats for May 2011. Tuesday turned out to be a busy day, however, so the stats I posted in the morning understate the actual figures which are as follows:

For the entire district, the number of deeds recorded in May 2011 (424) were down 19% from May 2010 (525). The number of mortgages recorded were down 15% (743 in May 2011 to 874 in May 2010). The number of foreclosure deeds were down 23% (a good thing! - 44 in May 2011 v 57 in May 2010). The number of orders of notice were down 8% (71 in May 2011 v 77 in May 2010)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The day after the tornado

Yesterday afternoon the Springfield area was pummeled by a tornado. Four people were killed and more than 200 buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged., the website of the Springfield Republican newspaper has extensive coverage.

The weather here in Greater Lowell turned ominous but dangerous conditions never materialized. It all began for us at 8:30 in the morning when an otherwise pleasant morning saw a 15-minute cloudburst with much lightning. The rest of the day was partly cloudy but a persistent wind strongly suggested the coming storm. By 4:30 pm, the sky was dark and threatening. Once I got home fifteen minutes later, I remained glued to the television for the next few hours, following the storms as they sped from west to east across the state. Fortunately, we dodged the worst of it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Eric Schmidt's Infamous Mistake

I first heard of Eric Schmidt several years ago when I listen to him during a panel discussion on technology. I was impressed...He was clever, bright and the CEO of of the biggest search engine in the world, Google.

But in an interview conducted last week Schmidt admitted he "screwed up" (those are his words, not mine). The powerful, effective CEO totally under estimated Facebook.

When Facebook was just a budding upstart with a meager 20 million users Schmidt examined whether Facebook might someday pose advertising competition for the search engine giant. He concluded no.

Today Facebook has 500 million users and is attracting online advertisers like honey does bees. Five years ago many of these online advertisers would have given their money to Google, Schmidt's company.

How bad was Schmidt's "screw up" (those are his words not mine) bad that it essential led to his firing. Schmdit has been replaced by Google founder Larry Page.

Since taking management control of Google, Page is making a huge effort to turn more of the companies attention to social networking. A move executives hope will correct Schmidt's gaffe and help Google regain the upper hand in the online advertising world.

But don't feel bad for poor, unemployed Eric Schmidt...his estimated wealth is $7 billion. Not bad for a guy that "scre... , well, you know.