Thursday, March 05, 2009

Open Source Prediction Markets - $1,295 prize

The guys at Thoughbot; are running a new marketplace about how popular some open source projects are going to be. They are using for a metric the number of people watching each project on Github;.;

This was a great idea! :)

And for those savvy Inkling traders who are also developers, Thoughtbot is offering a free training class (worth $1,295) to the top trader on Friday.


An impetus for the marketplace was to get help in choosing open source projects to use for certain tasks. This is a problem that follows developers no matter where they work, whether large enterprises or small 1 person shops. We don't want to reinvent the wheel so we look for open source projects or off the shelf software that we can integrate and help with our jobs.

I won't go into too much developer speak, but many of us are faced with this decision of "Should I buy/use X or Y or Z?". If I choose X, does something better already exist out there, or will exist in the near future. And will X continue to be supported?

Too often we choose things that become obsolete.


So here might be a good example that we can all relate to.

About 5 years ago, I was doing some moonlighting and building an auction site for construction equipment. I had carte blanche in choosing how to build the thing. This was in my Java days. So I picked what I thought was going to be a strong framework of the future: Keel.

I won't go into the nitty gritty details of the technology, but for background, Keel was a bit more like a meta framework that wrapped together other frameworks and projects. Things like: database persistence, scheduling, security, MVC.

Anyways, it sounded like it would save me oodles of time from having to wrap all this stuff together myself.

And Keel was getting tons of press. It was mentioned in so many technology magazines and blogs. This was going to be awesome.

And then it wasn't.

5 years later, and the site just says "Keelframework has been deprecated."

The auction site definitely had other business issues during it's execution, but it wasn't helped that even a year or so after it was built, the framework was dying out, and developers didn't want to work inside this obsolete project that wasn't getting maintained anymore.

That was a FAIL in choosing a technology. If I had a prediction market back then that said something like "The keel framework has 30% chance of still being maintained in 2 years" or some proxy for it's health (like github watchers), I would have stayed away and hopefully have found something with a bit more life to it.

For example, 2 years after this project I was faced with the same type of decision. Which technology should we use to build Inkling? I chose Ruby on Rails. And so far, this was a very good choice compared to the one I made with Keel.

In fact, it's the lessons I learned with Keel, that actually gave me confidence that Rails was a different thing altogether. I now knew some warning signs to look for.


Now I'm not saying prediction markets are going to solve this 100%. None of these prediction markets are saying "you have 100% chance of succeeding with this". But we give you some level of confidence though of what your chances might be. Use them as another weapon to fight obsolescence.

It's definitely a good way to get the opinion of other folks that have been down this road before and have lessons to share when they place their trades or share their comments in the market discussion.

If the authentication project in Github only has a 30% chance of having a ton of watchers in a few months compared to other authentication projects, you might want to think pretty hard about that decision.

You don't want a "your framework is deprecated" message staring you in the face.

And Coming Soon...

For all the folks that like using multiple Inkling sites, we are releasing a site switcher soon to make it much easier to trade in multiple different Inkling sites you have going on. For example "" is always fun, but it should be easy to switch back to the one you have at work and other great ones out there.

Also you'll have the ability to clone markets from one marketplace to another. So if you see someone already asking some great question, a couple clicks and you can publish the same market into your marketplace.

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