Stock Talk

Blogs, bulletin boards and news groups are already packed with trading tips and market hints from hordes of type-happy traders, but sorting the pearls from the piffle is a challenge. Stockgroup Information Systems Inc. president and CEO Marcus New is betting the company’s new Stockhouse websites can change all that.

“There’s one big fundamental problem with user-generated content, and that’s quality,” he says. “The problem is… that there’s a lot of stupid information; you have to do a lot of work.” and stock deliver reams of quotes, news bites and comments to 800,000 visitors a month, New says. Much of this comes through traditional channels such as news releases and quarterly reports. User-generated content can offer unique insights, New says, because Stockhouse members might gather valuable unreported information from conferences, conventions or meetings. But if there’s so much of it and it’s so broad, how do you know what’s useful and reliable?

New’s answer is part technology, part sociology. Mem­bers can post their news and comments, but postings are rated by the software and by other members. Posts are ranked mathematically based on the quality of the author’s portfolio. (Many members manage their portfolios through Stockhouse ser­vices.) Any member can rate the comments of any other, and the critiques are re­flected in yellow boxes that adorn each post on the site, with scores for clarity, credibility, usefulness and overall quality.

In theory the critical mob will promote the wise and banish the incompetents and frauds. The quality measure should become increasingly accurate as more members participate (provided the average critic is, indeed, trying to be helpful).

It’s hard to see the results yet, as most posters have zeros in all their scores. This is likely because the system is new and the crowd just hasn’t managed to rank everything yet. But it does leave you with a persistent question: is a post with a zero worthless, or has it just not been rated yet?

Guess there’s still some sifting to do.