Quants aren’t like regular people. Neither are algorithms.

“Everyone there was a “Quant.” No one cared what the underlying company represented by a given stock actually did. Apple or General Motors, CAT or IBM… Everything boiled down to a set of statistical observations that, when assembled into the proper algorithm, delivered a portfolio that beats the market.”

I just love the title of that conference: Alpha Generation – Using News Sentiment Data
via Diigo http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2012/09/28/1183391/as-the-only-person-in-the-room-who-has-apparently-never-written-a-line-of-computer-code/

FT Alphaville expands chat sessions

This is nice, and another example of how mainstream media embrace social media: the Financial Times runs a number of blogs, and one of their major blogs is FT Alphaville (about all things markets). It’s a very classical blog, but they also have a daily chat session and a kind of virtual club where members gather and have discussions about finance and economics. That club is called the Long Room and was inspired by a famous restaurant in the City of London that was a favorite haunt of financial pundits and market movers during the 1980s. I posted about it on PBS MediaShift.

Today FT Alphaville launched an extension of the daily chat session: Macro Live. This will be “a freewheeling real-time conversation — but will instead focus on key US economic indicators and other significant news releases that are expected to affect both the markets and the broader economy.”

Just have a look at the transcript of the Macro Live about the decision by the Federal Reserve to pump an extra $600 billion into the American economy. The great advantage of chat is that it actually can only be a conversation. It’s a serious but informal and sometimes real funny exchange of information, ideas and questions. It’s a great opportunity to bring members of the newspaper community together. Of course, and rather important for financial news, it’s extremely fast.

Of course it would be nice to do this in a 3D virtual environment, but 1) text chat works very well and 2) for now these virtual environments present awkward trade-offs between graphical sophistication and technological and organizational challenges. I mean that in order to have a real 3D virtual environment, one needs decent hardware, solutions for firewalls and enough capacity to accommodate larger groups. Or one has to settle for a much less sophisticated environment.

I really hope we’ll soon see some compelling 3D environments accessible in a browser, in order to enhance those great chat experiences!

Making sense of our streams, in real time

How do we make sense of the streams of information on social networks? It’s easy to get overwhelmed and difficult to tell a good story about what happens on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. I’m a strong believer in virtual worlds as islands in those streams, where we can gather, and make time for thoughtful discussions. But even then we could make good use of tools to tell stories about what happens ‘out there’.

Josh Stearns on Groundswell has a great post about The New Curators: Weaving Stories from the Social Web.

Josh discusses Slices of Boulder, which seeks to aggregate and curate local information streams. The project is a collaboration between the Digital Media Test Kitchen at the University of Boulder and Eqentia.

Another tool, or rather a platform, is Swift River, built by the folks behind Ushahidi. It was designed with crisis situations in mind. The developers describe it as a “platform that helps people make sense of a lot of information in a short amount of time.” On their blog they try to clarify the concept as being an open source Yahoo Pipes for any SMS, Twitter, Email, and JSON/ATOM/XML/RSS feed, soon video and audio as well.

Storify finally is as Josh explains “based on two panes: 1) Navigating various content feeds (i.e. a Twitter search, a Facebook stream, as well as content from YouTube, Flickr and more) and 2) A blank stream where you can drag and drop elements from those streams to build your story.” It is simple, but compelling.

Storify demo from Burt Herman on Vimeo.

To be honest, Storify is the only tool mentioned here I actually experimented with (I’ll try the others out as well). Have a look at my post about Second Life in a browser and two stories on my financial blog (the blogposts are in Dutch, the tweets in English): one post about the US GDP report of last Friday and another one about Nouriel Roubini being pessimistic about the growth prospects (a social media discussion in which he does not hesitate to call a participant “an idiot”).

Storify (find an invite code at TechCrunch) actually helps you to discover stories.  It makes it easy to combine social media streams, and by doing that you stumble upon unexpected stuff (such as the angry outbursts of Roubini) and you can make that discovery process visible.

On Zombie Journalism Mandy Jenkins explains ten ways journalists (and bloggers of course) can use Storify: gathering reactions on breaking news, combining past content with newer information and social streams, showing your own quests on Twitter, Facebook etc, or organizing your own live tweets from a conference.

Robin Good is following up the fast expanding universe of real time curation tools on his blog. He also prepared a mindmap about all this: