Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Some Recent Email Changes

A couple changes we've made to New Market Alerts sent via email:

First, we started putting the title of the market in the subject of the email.

Second and more importantly, we received complaints every once in awhile from people being inundated by new market alerts. This would happen when someone would launch many markets in rapid succession and all of the sudden user's email boxes are filled with a dozen new market alerts.

To address this we created a "digest" email that monitors new markets created over a period of time. All markets created within a window are included in a single email. So now you may get a New Market Alert with a single market listed or 6 markets listed. We hope this is a good compromise for those who want to be notified of new markets but don't want to be getting too many emails from the marketplace(s) they're participating in.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pop!Tech Markets Launches

After having attended the Pop!Tech conference a few times ourselves in the past, we were thrilled with the opportunity to work with the folks at Pop!Tech to launch Pop!Tech Markets.

Pop!Tech is a renowned ideas summit and social innovation network dedicated to accelerating the positive impact of world-changing people and ideas. The organization is known for its visionary Pop!Tech conferences, engaging media productions, and the innovative social change programs that it fosters worldwide.

Nate and I will be attending this year's conference in picturesque Camden, Maine, so if there are any Inkling regulars from our public marketplace or corporate users attending, come find us!

Here's a bit more about this year's conference:

Taking place October 22 – 25 in the seaside village of Camden, Maine, this year's event will chart the core scarcities humans and organizations will encounter this century – and how a wealth of new innovations, bottom-up approaches to collaboration and insights into collective wisdom might hold the keys to addressing the challenges that lie ahead. Now in its 12th year, the Pop!Tech conference is a remarkable gathering of more than 600 thought leaders, influencers and social change agents – from the worlds of science, technology, business, social innovation, the arts, philanthropy and more – that each fall explores the new ideas, technologies and forces of change shaping our future.

Pop!Tech '08 will focus on the rapidly-changing 21st century dynamics of systems based on scarcity and abundance. Many different domains will be explored, from the social web to population growth and energy consumption, from truly sustainable business models to politics and peacemaking. Every topic will be examined through an array of lenses – including the new ethics, economic realities, risks and possibilities in a world defined by dramatic scarcities and abundances. An eclectic group of world-class visionaries will help drive the discussion, including:

Malcolm Gladwell – pop sociologist and journalist. Author of #1 best sellers The Tipping Point and Blink, Gladwell will preview and discuss the themes in his forthcoming book The Outliers – an examination of what separates extraordinary and average people.

Clay Shirky - Internet analyst. An adjunct professor in NYU's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program and author of the recent hit book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations, Shirky will discuss the potential that’s been unlocked by mass adoption of social media.

Gary Slutkin, M.D. – epidemiologist and anti-violence innovator. Dr. Slutkin will share a breakthrough approach he’s developed to help eradicate violence: treating it like an epidemic. Based at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Slutkin is founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention’s anti-violence program, CeaseFire, which has helped reduce shootings in inner city Chicago neighborhoods by as much as 75%. Previously, at the World Health Organization, he helped Uganda become the first country in Africa to reverse its AIDS epidemic.

Laurie Garrett – global health expert. The only journalist to ever win a Peabody, Polk and Pulitzer (while at Newsday and NPR), Garrett is an acknowledged expert in public health, newly emerging and re-emerging diseases – and their effects on foreign policy and national security. At Pop!Tech she will discuss the current state of global public health and why it’s not working.

Stephen Badylak, D.V.M., Ph.D. and M.D. – regenerative medicine expert. Last year Dr. Badylak shocked the medical world when a remarkable powder he helped develop – culled from pig bladders and containing multiple growth factors that are effective in humans – led two patients to entirely re-grow severed fingertips in just six weeks. At Pop!Tech, Dr. Badylak will detail his work to help Iraqi war veterans re-grow body parts lost in battle.

Suzanne Seggerman – serious games expert. President and co-founder of Games 4 Change, a non-profit advancing the use of video games as tools for social change, Seggerman will survey the burgeoning serious games movement – which uses game technology to address the most serious issues of our day: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, poverty, global warming and the genocide in Darfur.

Bill Bishop – journalist and author. In The Big Sort, Bishop marshals mountains of original data to illustrate how Americans have sorted themselves into homogonous communities nationwide, becoming culturally and politically divided. At Pop!Tech, he will discuss what this polarization means for our economy, culture and democracy moving forward.

Kelly Dobson – roboticist. Dobson is a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at the MIT Media Lab developing a method of personal, societal, and psychoanalytical engagement termed “Machine Therapy.” At Pop!Tech she will examine the changing relationship between people and machines and exhibit robots she’s developed with “expressive engaging behaviors, strength of character, negotiative egos and neurotic propensities.”

Matt Mason – former pirate radio dj. Author of The Pirate’s Dilemma: How Youth Culture Reinvented Capitalism, Mason is a noted London pirate radio and club dj who will address the economic value of digital piracy.

Chandler Burr – The New York Times fragrance critic. A global scent expert, Burr’s recent book The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris & New York juxtaposes a year behind the scenes at Hermes – shadowing the creation of legendary perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena’s new scent – with a year inside Coty, with Sarah Jessica Parker, as she directed the making of her perfume "Lovely." At Pop!Tech, Burr will lead an interactive tutorial, with actual perfumes and scent raw materials, on the science, business, technology and global geography of scent.

Jay Parkinson, M.D. – Web 2.0 personal care physician. Dr. Parkinson is a founder of Hello Health, a groundbreaking, 21st century healthcare practice, and Chief Imagineer of Myca, developer of an online platform enabling doctors to see and receive client updates and communicate via email, IM, video and SMS. At Pop!Tech he will share how he’s helping doctors become entrepreneurs – utilizing today’s most powerful communications tools – to the benefit of both patients and healthcare providers.

Feeds for Discussion Threads

We now have RSS feeds for discussion threads in individual markets. Just click on the RSS icon next to any Discussion header in a market to track all comments made.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Grass Roots Data vs. Formal Data

I had the pleasure of presenting today at the A.C. Nielsen market research conference at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Along with one of our consumer product company clients, we presented an overview of prediction markets, how they are being used in companies, and the results of some experimentation we did with them. Good questions during our talk, good conversations with academics and market research practitioners. A productive day all around.

What I wanted to focus this post on however was a moment during the first plenary session I found quite interesting:

The session was led by Pete Rose from Yankelovich who reviewed the major findings of their Monitor report, the " longest-running, most in-depth study of consumer value and lifestyle trends." It was fascinating to sit in a room of market research practitioners and students as they clamored for new information and guidance on how they should interpret the latest U.S. financial crunch in the context of how to market their products. In fact at the conclusion of Pete's excellent presentation, the first questioner asked how the research data we had just been presented changes because of the events of the last two weeks on Wall Street and in Congress. In other words, if I'm a market researcher at a luxury hotel or fancy car company, should I be quaking in my boots? And vice versa, if I'm a market researcher at a budget hotel company, should I be ramping up the marketing budget?

In response, Pete, as a market researcher firmly planted in an empirical research methodology, gave a vague answer and told everyone to wait for their next report to come out for more details. No problem, but wearing my prediction market hat I had a simple thought: why not augment this traditional methodology with a constant stream of questions posed in a prediction market? Grass roots data vs. formal data. We talk about this all the time in other contexts, but for market researchers, is such an approach blasphemy?

Exploring this thought further, let's say we did work for a budget hotel company. We could first identify what the levers are that drive our business. Business travel patterns. Gas prices. Stock market performance. Competitive activity. Then we could recruit people who have insight in to these factors and ask them to participate in an ongoing prediction marketplace. These aren't necessarily just hotel goers, they could be economists, wall street traders, bankers, and professionals from the energy industry. We could run a survey with this same group of people, but how would we know to run it until after the fact? We would have to be conducting surveys on a weekly basis - an expensive proposition. In contrast, a prediction market could be running 24/7 and serve as the early warning indicator that allows our hotel company to be more proactive in light of the changing levers that positively or negatively affect our business. We could even ask this group about the performance metrics we care about directly: "What will our occupancy rate be in Q3?" Even if the market prices didn't provide a clear signal of change we should be aware of, we may see outliers among the traders or be able to gather qualitative data in the discussions accompanying the questions, leading us to follow up with more detailed research or additional questions in the marketplace.

Formal market research reports will always have their value, but why not supplement them with ongoing mechanisms like prediction markets. They may be unconventional but could also serve as a more timely indicator of what's coming down the road, giving us precious time to act.