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I’ve just posted the announcement to the site itself, but in case you’re still following production updates for on this blog, be aware that a major update is on its way. I’m calling this ‘Version 3’ rather than beta3 as the ‘beta’ designation for websites is mostly meaningless these days. I can’t get in to any real detail about what will change, but suffice it to say, the site will be fundamentally different in many ways. It will continue to be a stock market simulation where you can buy and sell virtual shares to links, but things will be very different. In some ways, this is an attempt to recapture the simplicity and excitement that surrounded the initial beta release of the site, but it also designed to take advantage of the progression of social media that has occurred during the last year and a half. I think the new model is really cool and can’t wait to se what people think of it. I am well aware that the general consensus about beta 2 was that it was too complex and difficult. That won’t be the case this time. Things are vastly simpler. 

If you want to receive news about this update, or want to participate in the testing process, please follow Thotmarket on Twitter. Invitations to participate will only be issued through direct messages on Twitter.



One of the lines I like to use when discussing how media is changing these days is, “The internet is punishing inefficiency.” I’ve forgotten who I lifted that line from, but I now add the following chaser: “The economic downturn is accelerating that process.” There is no doubt that the ways in which people are consuming information are changing rapidly. Newspapers are reeling, the recording industry has succumbed to the inevitable, and TV providers are getting nervous. Likewise, the industries that rely on gaming consumer attention, namely Advertising and PR, are scrambling to understand what their jobs are anymore. Part of the problem they face is that they are chasing a moving target, and no one is sure where it is headed. 

I tweeted a few weeks ago, that I thought the challenge of deriving value form Twitter was largely a problem of managing the ‘Signal to Noise Ratio’. There’s a lot of useful content out there, but if it isn’t parsed from the firehose for you, it’s of little value. This of course is why we have a media in the first place. The role of writers and broadcasters has always been to parse the wide world of ideas and bring us the nuggets that we value for their news or entertainment value.

In the beginning, ideas were spread sideways. That is to say we communicated almost entirely by word-of-mouth, and memes reproduced via a cascade of parallel paths. The trouble with this method was that it was slow and prone to errror.

Next, technology made a top down model practical. As it became economically feasible for small groups to communicate with large groups using things like print and broadcasts. This was the birth of ‘media’ and it dealt with the speed and error problems and was tremendously useful. The problem with this model, however was that the masses were all largely subjected to the same set of information, regardless of individual need. This system also made public attention vulnerable to manipulation, a loophole that the marketing industries exploited for centuries. 

Then another technological advancement made it practical for anyone to communicate with everyone. This made it much easier customize sets of data and package them for small audiences. The problem became that firehose I mentioned a bit ago. Suddenly we were back to the beginning of this cycle again. At first there was a sideways model online whereby users relied on tools like email to move the stuff around. Then a top down model arose as publishers and broadcasters attempted to apply their skillset to the web.

Then, for the first time, the web started to try something new. Taking advantage of the technology, models for parsing information were attempted that allowed the masses to self-regulate the firehose. For the first time we tried allowing our peers to do the parsing, leaning on our collective wisdom, services like Digg and Reddit emerged to help tailor content to individual need. The shortcomings of these so-called ‘democratized content forums’ was that they created a disadvantage for individual’s whose content needs stray far from the average. 

About two years ago I speculated about what the next model would be. At the time I became enamored with the idea that so-called ‘prediction markets‘ might just be that next model (see also ‘Infotopia‘ for a good discussion of this). It turns out (current economic crises notwithstanding) that stock market mechanisms are extremely efficient tools for extracting wisdom from groups. This fascination of mine resulted in an experiment called which was my attempt to apply the model to news and information. I now beleive I miss-read the trends. The actual next model is that which is being popularized by Twitter.

The innovation that this micro-blogging model provides is that content is parsed by the collective wisdom of the group, much like the voting forums, but it is a group of my choosing. As a Twitter user, I manage my own mini-mob, and that mini-mob manages my content for me. 

Now, managing the mob is not an easy thing to do. At the moment the tools available to accomplish this on Twitter are crude and cumbersome. But, these will improve as Twitter improves itself, or someone comes along to build a better micro-blogging platorm. Much of the attention of Twitter appliction developers so far has been focussed on creating new tools to parse out content directly from Twitter. There are an ever-growing library of live-streaming, filtering, and searching interfaces for Twitter. These are welcome and valuable additions to the service, but I think they miss the mark a bit in terms of taking full advantage of this new form of media. By foccussing on the content of the tweets themselves, most do not directly factor in the parsing ability of individual people. I’m waiting for more sophisticated tools that will allow me to find new tweeple, based on expertise, interests and quality. I want these tools to also help me prune the herd of tweeps that aren’t holding their own. In essence, I want tools that will help me make my mob better than your mob. 

There are some tools like this now. Mr Tweet comes to mind, as does Kevin Rose’s new pet WeFollow. These are good starts but leave a lot to be desired. For example, WeFollow is very comprehensive, but relies solely on the number of followers a Twitter user has to rank the list in each category. I think that this metric is a terrible measure of the quality of users for two reasons. Firstly, it’s too easy to game the system and run up that number without regard for merit. Secondly, it confuses quality with popularity skewing attention toward the center. That’s the same problem that Digg has, as I’ve already described. What is needed, is a more useful metric to measure, compare and match users up with each other. What does that look like? Well, I have at least one idea and will be posting much more about that in the future. 

So where does this all leave marketers? In many respects they are having the rug pulled out from beneath their feet. The top-down loopholes are becoming less and less effective. In many ways, they are being treated like the uninvited intruder in the new media party, trying to butt into the conversation and unable to do anything but annoy the consumer partygoers. Is all hope lost? Hardly. I think that with creative thinking, a firm understanding about what is actually happening, and a healthy respect for what consumers actually want, that industry will improve right along with the media. Speaking as a consumer, I don’t mind if marketers participate in the conversation I’m crafting for myself online as long as their actions provide value to me. If they don’t my mob will take care of it.

What with all the turmoil in the real markets, my thought have drifted back to my original web baby ThotMarket. I’ve mostly kept my hands off of the site for about 6 months, leaving numerous updates and additions partially complete. I’m well aware that the market mechanism introduced in beta 2 was not the resounding success that I had hoped for, even if it did resolve the inflation problems from beta 1. I’m going to take some time to contemplate what a revised market system might look like, but in the mean time, I’m going to make some comparatively minor improvements and additions. I’ll address some annoying bugs, and deploy a modified Custom Index system, as well as the discussion forum. There is also quite a bit of moderation that I want to catch up on, mostly to make sure that exiting thots are correctly categorized. I’m also thinking about making a ThotMarket iphone application, as I’ve been burning up the Bloomberg app on my phone checking the dow’s ups and downs every few hours.

Things have been pretty low key on thotmarket these last couple of weeks as a number of things have been happening behind the scenes. First of all, development continues on some new features that I think will start to address some of the larger problems with the site (more below). Secondly, several projects have commenced that will bear directly on traffic to the site. But most importantly, work has begun on the next phase in the thot-universe. While I can’t discuss exactly what that is, I plan to continue to use this blog to document information about all things thot. the new project builds on much of what thotmarket has done, and will support it in several interesting ways. 

So, my attention has been spread a little wider than in earlier weeks, resulting in a slowdown on thotmarket development. That in combination with some persisting weaknesses in the site model have resulted in a slowdown of traffic, although we seem to have leveled off at a base amount of activity. This is way less activity than is needed to support a really great user experience since it exacerbates the liquidity problems that are the main problem in beta 2. 

So what’s happening now? Well, the discussion forum is going to be launched as soon as it is ready. I’ve been promising this thing for weeks, but it will happen. I’m about 90% done coding the thing. The delay has not been one of development complexity, I just haven’t dedicated the time that I need to get it out the door as quickly as I should. Some have asked, why write a proprietary forum app when there are plenty of off-the-shelf forums out there for the picking. The simple answer is that I want the forum to be fully integrated into the market application. That is, I want a seamless authentication process, I want people tobe able to embed thot tickers into their posts, etc. Most inportantly, I want to do something interesting with the forum that may address some of the problems on the rest of the site as well.

What does that mean? Well, a user sent me a messge a while back that I think describes one of the main problems in beta 2. That is, the site consists of a bunch of unemployed people trading stocks. That is, since the only way to make money is to make a profit on trade, the analogy to the real world markets suffers, and so does the experience. It seems to me that the discussion forum is a perfect mechanism to allow people to ‘earn and income’. So, I’ve designed a system that will reward users for messages that they post to the forum. Hacking one of the off-the-shelf forum apps to do all this didn’t sound any fun, so I started from scratch. Granted the forum interface probably won’t be as feature-filled as those on many other sites, but that sort of polish will come with time. It is beta afterall. 

In many ways I’ve grown to view the forum as a significant component of the thotmarket ecosystem. I’ve even considered spinning it off as a separate sister site that works together with the stock market component. After all, thotmarket is all about using market systems to help distribute ideas and information and that is a bigger than just a stock market game. In any case we will launch the forum modestly and see how it goes.

In any case, I’m so grateful for all the feedback folks have been sending, and I’m excited to start rolling out the next phases of my plan for world domination. More on that later.


Today marks the one-month mark, since beta 2 launched, and what nicer way to celebrate it than to reveal a big nasty bug. If you visited the site today, you may have noticed that the order of the thots on the main list was a little strange. Things had largely revered to the way they were a month ago. Without going into detail, the month rollover caused a problem with the time element of the ranking algorithm. I’ve corrected it, but there are other bugs lurking about as some of you have reported. Thank you. This is the main purpose of the beta period, to shake out issues like this before we go big time.  

So, I haven’t been very active with thotmarket this last week, because of demands form my day job (as if you care), but lookie what happened while I was out. There was a nice feature on MoBuzz TV, and it has resulted in a very nice bump in traffic to the site. In case you don’t know, MoBuzz is a great tech industry news Video Podcast. You should be checking it out daily. Here is the feature on thatmarket from a couple of days ago. Man, I can’t believe this happened on Tuesday and I didn’t find out about it until today. I’m normally totally plugged in, for better and worse, but this week just was a crazy one. In any case, I’ll take it.    In other news, I’m still working on the forum. It should have been up a week ago, but the aforementioned day job took care of that. Hopefully it will be only a few days longer before it goes up. 

As has been discussed in the comments section of several recent blog posts, I’ve added a new number that can be used to value and compare thots by. This is called ‘book value’ which can be found on the thot detail page just under Market Capitalization. This number represents the amount of money that a thot has saved up for long-term use. It is initially set at IPO by the first controlling user as the ‘initial investment’. Thots will dip into this fund if trading has dried up, to prop up their revenue and subsequently buy back their own shares. The book value can increase if any dividends are issued on shares that the thot itself owns. I need to beef up documentation on the site about this element, but in the mean time, I’ve added a list that orders thots by book value.

I am working on the discussion forum. It will be posted within the next couple of days. I could have gotten one up sooner if I just used something like phpbb, but I want an application that will integrate more seamlessly with the overall app. For example, I don’t want to require a separate log-in for the forum. Thanks for all the feedback!

You can now display an avatar with some of your content on ThotMarket. At the moment an avatar is displayed with your comments, and your user profile page, but there will be more use of it at a later date. I have yet to update the documentation on the site with instructions for creating one, but if you;d like to get a head start, you’ll need to head over to Gravatars and upload your mug there. As long as the email address that you provide gravatars is the same as the one you have entered into your ThotMarket account, your avatar will show up on the site. You can edit your email address from the link on your ThotMarket account summary page. Just a reminder, providing your email address to ThotMarket is not, by itself, permission for ThotMarket to start spamming you with emails. Only people who opt-in to receiving solicitations will get them. Also, ThotMarket wont sell your email (or give them away either) to anyone else so they can do it. Aside from avatars, the email only serves the purpose of allowing you to recover your account information if you forget your password or something. 

I’ve made a slight change to the thot buyback function. Previously a thot would start attempting to buy back some of its shares (using revenue) only if the market cap was below $500. It would also spend all of whatever revenue it had on hand to do the buybacks. This has changed. All thots that have any revenue will attempt to buy back shares now, but they will only spend a fraction of the revenue they have on hand. There is a sliding scale to determine the amount of revenue that will be spent on buybacks (the rate decreases as revenue increases). This accomplishes two things: First, it eliminates a weakness in the previous system that might have left some thots stranded on the market indefinitely. These were thots with a high market cap and little trading. Now such thots will start to convert revenue into holdings eventually. If those holdings don’t sell, the thot will start forcing the trading price down to entice investors, or lead to de-listing (eventually). Second, it prevents thots from blowing all of whatever revenue they have on trading. Reserving some revenue for dividends. There were numerous situations when thots with modest pending dividends essentially canceled the entire dividend in favor of buying back shares. I’ve seen that there is some confusion about all this, as some thot controllers wonder why the dividend they created (by posting comments) went away (or got smaller). The reason is, that the thot is using some of that money to buy back shares rather than issue a dividend. That is why it says ‘tentative’ dividend pending.