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Yes, I couldn’t resist offering ‘Fascinating’ as my response to a question I received on Facebook about my thoughts on Spock. Beyond the trekkie humor, there is a lot that is fascinating about Spock.

Spock is one of the newer social network sites. It scrapes the web to build profiles of people. There are other sites that have done similar things, but perhaps less effectively. What makes Spock interesting is the way relevance of information is determined. People can go in and vote on how relevant pieces of information, such as tags, websites, photographs, and so, are. There is some secret ranking based on these votes; how useful the votes were and how much they agree with other people voting.

All of this ties nicely back to the symposium on reputation economies that I attended recently. Users have some control over their reputations. Star Wars Kid and Dog Poop Girl could vote on certain information about them not being relevant. It might not be enough to stem the tide, but for smaller reputational events, it could have significance.

One aspect that seems to be missing from Spock is context. A recent quote that my daughter put up about me illustrates this. We have great fun around our family dining room table. Discussions range from the profound to the quirky; often providing a wonderful mix of both. Mairead has attributed a quote, “Well, the barbie princess had a long, hard day at work...” to me. I do not remember having said that, but it does sound like something that might have come up around our dinner table.

That quote is not relevant to the persona that I present as a political activist or as financial services technologist. Yet it is very relevant to my persona as a father with a strange sense of humor. Since most people looking at my Spock page will be looking at me in terms of my political activism or my work with technology and financial services, it is tempting to remove the quote. Yet it is relevant in one context, and I would hate to damage my daughter’s ‘Spock Power’ by removing something that is relevant to her context but not the context of a majority of visitors.

A friend of mine who wrote me asking for my thoughts about Spock said,

I’ve got some rather mixed thoughts these days of putting too much info online, but wondering if it's necessary for business. I've had some other soc. network invites too that I'm hesitant to get involved with--just don't know if it's necessary or important to join them.

One of my first thoughts is from Tom Friedman’s comment about everything being possible on the Internet and the question is, will you do it, or will someone else do it to you. In my friend’s case, there are already three different entries about her. One points to her LinkedIn page. Another points to a biography at a conference site. I do believe that my friend should get on Spock, as well as some other social network sites, and take a more active role in attempting to manage her reputation. Reputation management is important for business, and my sense is that Spock may become an important aggregator.

So, I continue to explore Spock. I attempt to connect with contacts via Spock. I even try to boost my Spock Power a little bit, and am envious of friends, and even my daughter, who have much better Spock Power. Live long, and prosper.

Technical Trading in Second Life Stocks

The recent discussions about exchanges and trading strategies in Second Life has prompted me to explore a little bit more some of these ideas. At the first public class of the Investment Education Team, there was a discussion about price earnings ratios. It was noted that stocks in Second Life seem to trade with little correspondence to these ratios. With banks and exchanges paying as much as 44% interest per annum, it means that any stock with a Price Earnings ratio higher than three needs to be less riskier than the banks or exchanges, to justify such a ratio, and that just isn’t all that likely.

So, it may be useful to move from fundamental analysis to technical analysis of the stocks in Second Life. Three exchanges, SLCapex, ACE and VSTEX provide in a format that makes it easy to do some of this analysis. A fourth exchange, ISE provides some similar data, but in a different enough format so that I haven’t gone out and added it to my mix of data.

Specifically, using the data feeds they provide, you can build your own data store and ticker plant. I wrote a little bit about that here. Now that I have a good store of data, I can start analyzing some underlying trends.

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A New Christmas Tradition

Tradition has always been important to me and with our move this year, some of our traditions are changing. Traditions around Christmas can be especially challenging. I hate shopping. I hate the consumerism that detracts from the season. I hate the consumerism that adds to the problems our world faces. Instead of buying some other plastic object shipped in from China, are there things that we can do, locally, that is more meaningful.

Recently, our new neighbor gave us a clipping for Alpaca Hill Farm. They are about six miles up the road from us and are open from 10 to 5 every Saturdays in December before Christmas. (They are also open by appointment). We figured we would drive up, see the alpacas and head on to our next adventures. With my two oldest daughters being accomplished ‘fiber artists’, (that is a great phrase to describe all the wonderful things they do talking fleeces from various animals and turning it into special clothing), I hoped we might have something that the whole family could enjoy.

Alpacas, originally uploaded by Aldon.

Indeed, we all had a great time. Alpacas are gentle animals and we all enjoyed petting them, as well as looking at various rovings, yarn, garments and other gifts. The biggest problem was everyone wanted things from the store ‘Right Now!’ and weren’t interested in the delayed gratification of Christmas. I finally got everyone out of the store so I could get the appropriate gifts.

Soft warm rovings, yarn and garments, grown locally are good not only in that there is much less carbon pumped into the atmosphere for their creation and transportation, but also, hopefully everyone will enjoy wearing such products and it will be easier for me to leave the heat down in the house.

It looks like visiting Alpaca Hill Farm is the sort of Christmas tradition I hope to make a regular part of the holiday season.

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Analysis of Second Life Exchanges

People have asked me my thoughts on the World Stock Exchange notecard, and particularly, section 3 where they claim

The WSE has over 95% market share and we ask that users express caution when dealing with the recent start-up exchanges as they are operating basic websites and trading platforms with extremely limited functionality compared to that offered by the WSE.

People have questioned how this 95% market share is calculated, and I must admit, I have no idea. So, I thought I would do a little digging into data available from the different exchanges. The International Stock Exchange (ISE) appears to provide the most detailed data, which can be aggregated. The Virtual Stock Exchange (VSTEX) provides detailed aggregated data. None of the other exchanges provide this sort of data in any readily accessible manner.

As a side comment, this calls into question the claims of extremely limited functionality that the WSE provides. Another key part of functionality that I rely on is the datafeeds that VSTEX, Ancapistan Capital Exchange (ACE), and Second Life Capital Exchange (SLCapEx) provide.

By taking this data, making projections out of data from ACE and adding in data from a recent report by SLCapEx, a fairly detailed picture emerges.

Over the past month, over 30 million Linden Dollars worth of stock exchanged hands. Approximately 41% was on the SLCapex, 38% on WSE, 10% on ACE, 6% on ISE and 5% on VSTEX.

At least from my experience and the data I’ve seen, WSE’s claim do not appear to bear up under scrutiny. That said, we would all be better off if all of the exchanges provided much better details about their historic volumes as well as historic data about deposits and withdrawals from the exchanges.

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Second Life Deadpool

Yesterday, I wrote about the Second Life Exchange Commission and the Investment Education Team in Second Life. Both groups have an interest in how trading in Second Life is viewed. Today, I received a note in Second Life from the World Stock Exchange (WSE) about what it going on there, and yesterday the Second Life Capital Exchange (SLCapEx) issued a report announcing that they had surpassed WSE in volume.

The WSE notecard talked about Ginko Financial, Midas Bank and Merlin Investment Bank, all companies that have joined the Second Life Deadpool. Perhaps we need to track the Second Life Deadpool similar to how TechCrunch tracks the technology firm deadpool.

Currently, there are forty-seven companies listed on WSE. When I started trading there, it was around seventy. Between the two dozen that have disappeared from WSE, and another half dozen at SLCapEx, the Second Life Deadpool has plenty of members. This shouldn’t be too surprising. As the TechCrunch deadpool shows, technology companies constantly come and go. In a place like Second Life where the barriers to entry are even less and the potentials for fraud are even greater, the deadpool can get crowded pretty quickly.

This should be a reminder to potential investors. Investing in Second Life companies is highly risky. The WSE notecard tries to remind people this, as has the IET training. Yet WSE goes too far, I believe in stressing the ‘fictional’ aspects of their services and the Linden Dollar. Perhaps there are some exceptions to the companies list, but by and far, these are real companies selling real goods and services. The Linden Dollars that they earn and the Linden Dollars deposited at the Second Life banks can easily be converted into U.S. Dollars. One person I spoke with who lost a fair amount of Linden Dollars when Ginko Financial collapsed had been saving that money to pay for their trip to the Second Life Community Convention. There was nothing fictional about this person or their dashed desires to travel to Chicago.

So, as trading continues to grow in Second Life, so will the Second Life Deadpool. Hopefully investors will become more savvy and invest in companies and exchanges where they are least likely to see their investments end up in said deadpool.

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