On Smart Communities and StockTwits
The word “smart” is tossed around a little too much these days when describing products. To me, smart doesn’t mean added features or greater technology, but more intelligent – more evolved. I have always thought of the internet as a smarter place – a network of millions of people interconnected creating and consuming knowledge. As the social web expands we will witness this intelligence as smart communities form and work together to solve problems.
Recently, I have had the pleasure of witnessing a smart community at work while interning at StockTwits. StockTwits is a twitter based network of traders, investors, as well as journalists who get together and share ideas with one main problem to solve: make money in the financial markets. Based on my observations, they do a superior job than any other such community.
But what makes StockTwits smart?
Being on Stocktwits is like having a team of thousands of part-time analysts working for you by your side. While you won’t always get the help you need, for the most part if you’re looking at a stock or have an idea, there are people willing to help or people who have already shared some ideas on the subject. In a game where you are competing against other traders, this is a huge advantage. Abnormal Returns refers to it as a “social Bloomberg” and he’s spot on. Its a interconnected “human-computer” comprising of many brains and their respective knowledge and information. In a time where some in the financial industry are relying on artificial intelligence, Stocktwits brings actual intelligence. The real-time aspect of Twitter allows it to be quick enough to compete.
A Socially Evolved Community
The web has places of light and places of extreme darkness as well. I like spending time in places where people build each other up, say encouraging things to each other. I like spending time in places where people pass along tips and recommendations about people they like, books they like, music they like, food they like, restaurants they like. Positive things.
StockTwits is a “light” place, and I believe that makes it smarter. Every day while watching the stream, I am amazed by how helfpul, friendly, transparent, humble, and accountable people are. In a financial world where many of these qualities don’t exist, a community founded on such principles has a distinct advantages as it helps strengthen the bonds and the appropriately identify and position the hubs within the network. This all helps create order. A “dark” community which lacks these characteristics decends towards chaos (e.g. Yahoo Message Boards, CNBC, Wall Street).
A Market for Ideas
I have said in the past that if you have read the Cluetrain Manifesto, and believe “markets are conversations, then Twitter is the exchange. In the financial world, StockTwits is the exchange for a market in ideas. It is a well-designed market that quite efficiently allocates the best traders to the most amount of people. Twitter gives each member a transparent track record of their ability and StockTwits and the community itself go to great lengths to ensure that the best ideas and the best idea-generators flow to the top. This is important to a smart community, as it truly beneficial in solving the problem at hand. Each day I am amazed at the talent oozing through the stream, as the community is quick to ensure that talent is noticed through tweets and retweets, thus increasing its collective chance for survival.
As Twitter evolves, I am excited to see what other smart communities pop up. There are a lot of problems out there that need to be solved and those who form smart communities would be smart to model StockTwits.