Prediction market news: HSX, Nadex, Predictalot, mailing lists, & EC’10

Some prediction market related news:

  1. The Hollywood Stock Exchange is the latest example of life imitating art imitating life. The venerable HSX, the second oldest play-money prediction market (and oldest that anyone has actually heard of) is getting real. You’ll soon be able bet real money on box office returns and deposit your winnings in First Life. The move has been a long time coming — Cantor Fitzgerald purchased HSX in 2001 with the explicit goal of converting it into a real-money exchange — but Cantor was decimated in the September 11 WTC attacks, and the road to regulatory approval has been slow. The real HSX will of course say goodbye to the virtual specialist and the opening weekend adjust, two facets of the game that make it fun to play, but that create significant amounts of (virtual) wealth out of thin air. The Cantor Gaming group is engaged in other interesting initiatives. They are taking over a sportsbook in Las Vegas and turning it into more of a derivatives exchange with live in-game betting, a step toward my dream of a geek-friendly casino. Interestingly, another company called Veriana Networks is close to launching a competing Hollywood derivatives market called the Trend Exchange.
  2. I’ve recently seen ads in the elevator in my building for Nadex, the new incarnation of HedgeStreet that was acquired, redesigned, and rebranded as the North American Derivatives Exchange. I haven’t checked in on the market since the rebranding — in fact I can’t remember if my HedgeStreet account transfered over. I wonder how widespread their ad campaign is and how Nadex is doing?
  3. Predictalot update: 50,000 people have logged in and 11,000 have made at least one prediction.* They’ve made 91,000 total predictions of 5,500 different kinds. We’ve been written up in NYTimes, VentureBeat, L’Atelier (“C’est ce que fait Yahoo!, avec Predictalot.”), and Wired. People are saying everything from “wicked fun”, “great idea”, and “love the game” to “disaster”. Either way, people care. It’s been a ton of fun and its popularity has wildly surpassed my expectations. The final four is this weekend. Then not much time to get in as many improvements as we can before the World Cup.
  4. If you’re not aware, there is a new prediction market mailing list that strives to be open, transparent, objective, and independent under some simple ground rules. I encourage you to join it. I abandoned the old PM list owned by John Maloney for a number of reasons. The old list clearly operates in a payola style — sponsors of Maloney’s events receive prominent billing. That might be ok, except Maloney bills his list and his events as open, non-profit affairs, yet he charges quite a bit and is evasive about financial details (actually he says he doesn’t keep records). Over the years, Maloney has asked me/Yahoo! to sponsor his events several times, occasionally berating me when the answer is no. He’s made some questionable wikipedia edits to highlight his group. Still, I’ve gone to some of his events and find that very good people go there and give interesting talks, and Maloney is very reasonable and personable face to face. My final straw came when Maloney censored me on his list for criticizing him, admittedly in a snarky way.** So I joined with Emile, Bo, Forrest, Justin, Jed, Adam, and others to start afresh.
  5. The 2010 ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce to be held June 7-11 at Harvard features at least six papers on prediction markets:
    • L. Jian and R. Sami, Aggregation and Manipulation in Prediction Markets: Effects of Trading Mechanism and Information Distribution
    • K. Iyer, R. Johari and C. Moallemi, Information Aggregation in Smooth Markets
    • A. Othman, D. Pennock, D. Reeves and T. Sandholm, A Practical Liquidity-Sensitive Automated Market Maker
    • S. Goel, D. Reeves, D. Watts and D. Pennock, Prediction Without Markets
    • A. Othman and T. Sandholm, Automated Market-Making in the Large: The Gates Hillman Prediction Market
    • Y. Chen and J. Wortman Vaughan, A New Understanding of Prediction Markets Via No-Regret Learning

* I believe one in five logged in users placing a prediction is actually a high conversion rate for a prediction market and a testament to our user interface design. Mike Speiser told me that Bix had a tough time converting their users — who loved to vote — into traders in their American Idol prediction market, one reason why they abandoned the experiment.
** The exchange went like this: Maloney’s assistant Jennifer Hewitt announced that “Crowdcast, the leading provider of prediction market solutions for collective forecasting” was joining Maloney’s latest event. Emile asked “leading… Based on what metric, exactly?”. Then I quipped “leading recent contributor to John Maloney”, which Maloney censored. In Maloney’s defense, the “leading provider” language actually came from Crowdcast’s own website (their meta description tag) and so it appears in the snippet when you search for “crowdcast” in Google.

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