Friday, December 22, 2006

Look and Feel v5

As the holiday slowdown approaches, we've taken the opportunity to update our look and feel. We started with our new application Worthio, and decided we liked how that turned out so much we would propagate it to our prediction market application, now dubbed "Markets."

That said, over the last 9 months of its existence, Markets has become a pretty extensive application. We're able to use a single template for the entire application which helps a great deal with consistency, but there are likely little things we missed and may have even broken in the process of migrating to a new look. We test, but we'll never catch absolutely everything.

We heard from some of you as soon as we switched over today but we'd like to hear from others. What do you think? Like it? Dislike it? Find anything that doesn't seem to work right?

We're also going to be re-vamping the homepage and market directory. The homepage right now was our first iteration: it's functional, but it doesn't say much. We're going to make it much more informational: show a snapshot of how markets are doing vs. just saying what's new, for example. As for our market directory, it has become fairly useless - a listing of several hundred markets when we have powerful search, filtering, and tagging tools at our fingertips is pointless. If anyone has any suggestions as we work on this over the next couple weeks, please let us know.


It's no secret one of our favorite sites is We talk about them all the time, have links directly to their site from our markets so you can submit to the site easily, and impress people at parties with all the random knowledge we pick up on the site.

So we were honored and flattered to see that Alexis, the artistic genius behind Reddit's logo iterations, paid homage to Inkling today:

Even though Reddit was bought up by Conde Naste and those guys are probably living the high life, we appreciate them remembering the little people. :)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Inkling Presents at Yahoo's Prediction Market "Confab" and Additional Thoughts

A couple nights ago I was asked to give a 10 minute presentation as part of a Yahoo "mini-conference" on prediction markets. The event was held in a classroom on the Yahoo campus and I believe I heard close to 300 people showed up. Yahoo did a great job of putting it together. Unlike other conferences or large meetings I have spoken at in the past in my previous life as a consultant, I was actually told where I needed to be at a certain time, there were no snafus in the logistics and there was plenty of free food afterwards...So thank you David Pennock, Chris Plasser, and others from Yahoo for putting together a great event.

The agenda for the evening can be seen here. There is also a replay of the entire event on video.

In the 10 minutes I had, I mainly focused on what we had learned watching people try to run their own markets, both in the public space and among our client-base. Here were the top 5 reasons markets fail:

  • question bias
  • asking question with no verifiable outcome to cash out the market
  • market description is poor or confusing with lots of loopholes; outcomes are not well defined
  • timeframe is unrealistic
  • no information is available for traders to make a reasonable judgment

It was great to meet the people we hear so much about, including James Suroweicki himself, who gave away 75 books at the event and was a very down to earth, nice guy.

After the event, I also had an opportunity to meet many of our users and people who are currently running markets on Inkling, along with a few of our clients I had never actually met in person - an added bonus.

As I was thinking more about the conference on my flight back to Chicago, I was thinking about a particular question that was asked where time didn't warrant enough discussion. The question was in relation to running prediction markets in companies and who should participate in the markets that are set up.

In many of the scenarios presented at the conference and other case studies we've all read about, a market has usually been run as an experiment with a control group. And usually when we first talk to potential clients they want to run their markets in a similar fashion: invite a group of people from a particular division, set up a market for them, have them trade, and look at the results. Part of this is because you need to have people with knowledge of the market to make informed trading decisions. But it's also, I would argue, because that's how business is already structured: lets give this to the "product group" to play with, or the "finance division."

But this is constrictive to the confines of old organizational thinking. For one, the diversity of knowledge inherent across the entire employee base is lost. Prediction markets can be a catalyst to break down stovepipes and hierarchy to simply try and get the best answer possible. Second, Suroweicki said in one of his comments that prediction markets have moved too slowly in the corporate space. We completely agree. Running prediction markets at all is a good first step, but hopefully just a baby step towards a much larger role for prediction markets in the workplace.

All companies now have email as a productivity tool given to their employees, along with an internal portal, collaboration software, etc. Prediction market software should be as prevalent and an integral part of the business processes of any organization. Everyone in the company should be a trader. Everyone in the company should have the ability to run a market. It's why we rant and rave about our "do it yourself" model and stress so much about the usability of our software! This scares a lot of people because of what may be unearthed when people can ask any question they want, but I would encourage anyone to go back and listen to the excellent Microsoft presentation by Todd Proebsting at the confab where knowing that everyone thought a project was going to be late was scary, but also allowed them to actually address the problem and cut features to make the date. No one got fired, no one got yelled at; the problem was identified and the talented professionals there worked to fix it.

Management 101 says you tell your people to let you know about problems as early as possible before they become unmanageable. Risk mitigation is key to successful projects and that's exactly what one of the roles a robust marketplace should play for a company in addition to making forecasts: serve as an early warning indicator so problems can be solved before they become detrimental to the performance of the business.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, you have to be able to admit to and talk about the problem you have before you solve it. Isn't this also what companies need to be able to do more of as well to be more successful executing?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

We're Launching a New Product Soon

In the next few days Inkling will be launching our next product. We're not ready to spill the beans quite yet on exactly what it is, but we're pretty excited about it.

Since January we have been working on Inkling Markets pretty much non-stop 7 days a week at a continuous break-neck pace, first building the first version of the product, then implementing DIY markets, implementing Robin Hanson's market scoring rule, adding new features like threaded discussions, searching, and tagging, continuously iterating on our user-interface, and picking up many clients along the way, from very large corporations to a one-person startup. We also have several academics using Inkling as a research platform since they can easily run their own experiments and through our REST API have easy access to all their trade data.

But after living and breathing prediction markets for 11 months, we decided to start to spend some time on the weekends working on something new. It doesn't tie in to our prediction market product yet but we're pretty sure users of Markets will like it, along with a whole new audience.

Stay tuned!

Inkling to speak at prediction market conference at Yahoo

David Pennock, who heads up the Yahoo buzz game and prediction market research at Yahoo has set up a "mini conference" on prediction markets hosted on the Yahoo campus on December 13th. The event will be MC'd by The Wisdom of Crowds author James Surowiecki and is open to the public although the announcement says it's being held in a classroom so we're not sure how much room there will actually be. Maybe Yahoo has big classrooms. In any case we're looking forward to meeting the other speakers, most of whom we've had multiple telephone conversations with, and hopefully a few of our users too.

Here's the official announcement: on
Prediction markets: Tapping the wisdom of crowds

5:30-8:00pm Wed Dec 13, 2006
Yahoo! Headquarters, Building C, Classroom 5
701 First Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94089 USA

Join us for a public "how to" session on prediction markets moderated by
James Surowiecki, New Yorker columnist and best-selling author of "The
Wisdom of Crowds". Speakers from Google, HP, Microsoft, and Yahoo! will
describe how they are using prediction markets to aid corporate
forecasting and decision making. Other speakers include the developer of
Zocalo, an open source prediction market platform; the co-founder of, a Paul Graham yCombinator startup; and Robin Hanson,
the visionary economist and inventor whose pioneering work paved the
way. The event is open to the public and will emphasize practical
lessons and hands-on advice. After brief presentations from each
speaker, Surowiecki will open up the session for discussion with the
audience. is Yahoo! TechDev’s new open microconference series. Join
academic and industry experts from across the valley and the country as
they discuss the latest technologies and their applications and see for
yourself what’s next on the web. Attendance is free and open to the public.