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Author: TMFBreakerDave Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Supernova Phoenix 1
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Subject: Re: NetflixPrize Ratings system? Date: 10/20/2006 2:12 AM
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Wherever someone can find money to be made by falsely influencing the actions of others, it will happen.

There are also many very profitable and attractive opportunities where people make money by TRULY influencing the actions of others, and this form of activity is far more sustainable, prevalent, and powerful than its opposite... and than most people realize. Personal case in point for me: The Motley Fool business model, and our financial results. That's private though -- let's be more public about it. So take CAPS, too. I freely share lots of my ideas on CAPS. I see my colleagues at the Fool do the same, and I see our community going nuts over CAPS with the same motivation. We do so because we genuinely enjoy teaching, sharing, and learning from each other; we also enjoy taking a stand, being accountable, and encouraging you to follow our long-term records. We're all about that; it's in our nature. Sure, there may be people who are ill-natured, ill-motivated, or just gambling on CAPS. There are also kids who cheat on the SAT test. But my belief is that the vast majority of people are well-motivated, well-intended, and do not cheat on their SATs -- and I'm not talking here about "50%" of the population. I believe I'm describing 99 out of 100 human beings -- 99% of CAPS participants too, as I have previously written.

And the 99% just flat-out drowns out the tiny minority. Pass your eyes down a CAPS page where 938 people have picked a stock, read their pitches, and see whether you don't see what I'm seeing. We are gauging our ratings off of thousands of people, 11,000 rated players now by this weekend, only a tiny minority of which may be trying to game any system, as opposed to being systemic about winning the game.

Step away from CAPS for a sec, and let's observe a similar point: Given the negative headlines that sell newspapers and drive TV news viewing, you'd be excused for thinking we live in a horrible world. You'd be excused for thinking, if you saw our nightly news in Washington DC, that people must be getting murdered all the time all around Washington and, geez, what a dystopia. Really, you would conclude the same were you to watch just about any local TV news in any big city in America.

But if you drew those conclusions and never left your house out of fear, how sadly were you misled. An amazing number of people are shocked, by the same token, to discover that there is far more suicide than homicide in America. But, it's true. Suicide doesn't make headlines.

One can certainly always find something bad if one looks hard enough. And were one then to conclude that the world -- or here, CAPS -- was broadly bad, based on that evidence, I think one would have missed the forest for the trees. To return to the pull quote that started me off, there are many really good motivations around "TRULY influencing the actions of others." Some cynicism is always healthy, but I believe the very unharsh reality is that most systems premised on human enterprise and human cooperation are pretty powerful good things. They work... whether we're talking eBay or Wikipedia or CAPS. Sure, the occasional person may try to hype some silly stock in CAPS, or type something blatantly false into Wikipedia, or fail to deliver the auctioned product over eBay. But again, if those occasional outcomes cause you to think that eBay, Wikipedia, or CAPS don't work, well... I couldn't disagree more. you checked any of these sites out, lately? :)

I wrote longer on this topic than I meant to. It's not one that preoccupies me about CAPS, because I think we have it mostly licked for various reasons most of you understand and that I've previously laid out. I guess I'm just spilling extra (cyber)ink because I think well-intended activity is far more prevalent in our society than its opposite, but we grow numb to that, surrounded by constant multimedia broadcasting of bad things....

Foolishly,

David
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