Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Show and hide categories of questions

A couple notable feature enhancements were released yesterday:

First, you can now hide and show categories from the list of questions and Inkling will remember your preferences automatically. For example if you ONLY like to see questions related to your department vs. another, or one topic vs. another, you can switch them on and off. And every time you log out those preferences will be saved. Just click on the category names to toggle them.

We've also made some minor changes to the trading interface:

  • Your available to trade has been moved directly above the trading interface;
  • When you are trading in a possible answer your previous activity is now also shown so you don't have to remember what you've done or refer back to your dashboard;
  • If there is background information, it's now one click away from the trading interface in addition to its inclusion at the bottom of the screen;
  • Avatars are now included for each creator

The character count for questions has also been increased - we got some feedback that the need to spell out corporate acronyms required more characters. :)

Finally, we're heavily leaning towards removing the confirmation step from the trading interface. It served its purpose at one point but seems redundant and somewhat burdensome now. The text box to accept a trading rationale would simply move back a step to the trading screen. Any input one way or the other? Going once...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Meeting their numbers

As a small business, we're regularly being pitched by the "small business" segment of much larger companies. Their tactics range from simple emails announcing a new product release, to incessant phone calls urging us to get back to them as soon as possible because their VP is going to be in Chicago and he needs to meet with us. My favorite is the "we spoke several weeks ago and you were quite interested in following up on outsourcing all your development to us." Sorry, I don't know you.

Recently I've noticed an uptick in the blatant "help me meet my numbers" or the crazy car salesman-esque "it's the end of the quarter and my management's gone nuts - call me back before they come to their senses!" There is no pitch about the product or any kind of argument about why I need whatever is being sold. It's simply - "I'm really trying to meet my numbers, can you help me out?"

I got this one today from a Cisco WebEx guy:

I've never spoken to this person before. I don't even think he's one of the guys who has left 25+ messages on my voicemail over the last year. Does this type of sales psychology actually work?

Persistence at 17 - trading a cell phone for a porsche

Great story of a 17 year old kid putting in 2 years of bartering to turn a cell phone into a porsche. If you want to hear a similar tale that kind of started this type of behavior on the internet there's the guy that traded a paperclip for a house.

I love hearing about folks sticking through with things that require some hard work over a long period of time. Because, more often than not, that's how it's going to be.

Friday, July 09, 2010

New and improved: stats page for each question

With the release of our new stats page a few weeks ago, we introduced the concept of an "Inkling expert" - someone that had traded in the right direction on several questions in any given topic. Building on this concept and a few others we've been talking about internally, we've released a new stats page for individual questions.

In thinking about how to enhance what was previously just a leaderboard, we thought about the additional signals we'd like to give people to provide further context of what's going on in the market. We already deliver a probabilistic forecast, rationale about why people are trading the way they are, and long form additional context in the form of discussion threads. But we felt it would be useful if the "decider" who has to do something with this information, had more insights at their disposal to enhance what's delivered with each question.

With that goal in mind, with this first iteration of new stats there are three main pieces of information we're conveying. First is an improved earnings leaderboard for the individual question. You can see how much money people who have ever expressed an opinion have made or lost. This means rewarding people for their participation in individual questions is now a click away.

Second, and perhaps most useful, is a breakdown of how strongly people feel about their opinions. We show that strength of opinion by amount of money spent and also by percentage of portfolio spent. Clicking on the magnifying glass next to each person's name lets you view their individual trades.

What's interesting about this view is you can clearly see who the outliers are. And if there are no outliers and the trading is spread across a lot of people, that's a pretty strong signal alongside the probability of that being the correct answer or not. Similarly, you can see if the answer has been dominated by one or two traders in which case you know the results may be skewed.

In this same view we allow you to filter by the experts in that question category. For example, if we're looking at the results of "How many banks will fail in the U.S. in 2010?" you can select a view only showing the people who have proven to be experts in Finance. Again, the name of the game here is looking for signals about the trading activity and enabling easy follow-up work to query the experts or at least report on their activity separately.

Finally we're providing conversion data for use of the trading widget. If you put our trading widget somewhere on your internal portal (or on the Internet somewhere,) you can now track where it was used, how many people have used it, and if they converted to full users.

Stats for all questions can be seen by administrators. Stats for their respective questions can be seen by individual question makers.

Feedback on those we've showed this to already has been really positive which is encouraging. If you have other ideas for what we should be including for these kinds of stats, let us know.

A couple other things:

For administrators: when you send announcements, the full announcement will now appear in the email alert vs. just a snippet. Also, we've added the quick trade option to everyone's dashboards so you can trade directly from there.