Monthly Archives: December 2014

Trading Rooms – Ideas, tech and thoughts about sharing

I started to think there could be a downside to my rather monastic approach to trading based simply on the fact that listening to the voices in my head isn’t particularly productive. I posted something on this before but then struggled to execute anything on it since I didn’t see a way of making it work technically

As I’m currently working in an office the social part of the job is actually quite good fun and so parking off in splendid isolation has started to feel somewhat uncomfortable. Having people around also lends itself to accountability and since I’ve a slightly lazy disposition accountability is actually useful for me.

A longer term ambition actually includes taking the ‘online’ model associated with other businesses described in books like ‘The Year without Pants’ (about WordPress), ‘Rework’ (about Basecamp) and ‘Lean Startup’ (about Bootstrapping web startups) to apply them to trading or a group of traders.

I’ve spent some time in/around/with various groups and trading collectives and my impression is that the ‘community’ of traders that are active seems to be quite small here in Europe/UK. Of course America is bonkers and timezones present some challenges so I’m going to expound on ideas mainly focused on UK/EU and related regions.

One very clear conclusion I’ve come to already.

Text only chat like forums, blog posts and even what’s provided in Tradingview’s chat (there’s quite a lot of features here) isn’t good enough for the purpose and open to way too much abuse. Typing anything you like (and trolling) is very easy and without penalty whereas verbalizing abuse or making trolling type remarks aloud is a completely different proposition. There’s a self policing element here ’cause you immediately sound like a whiny six year old when you open your mouth.

So what are my technical criteria?

  • Voice based
  • Everyone can talk/contribute
  • Free

Text is too slow and as I’ve pointed out above – open to too much anarchy. There’s a social barrier to verbal abuse that’s a great leveler. If lots of people hear someone getting picked on there’s generally a move to even up the debate or at least calm it down without some sort of ‘moderator’ class having to exert the ban hammer – which is a form of escalation/bullying in its own right.

Everyone should have the ability to contribute/talk and ask questions. This is really how a community builds, evolves and ultimately sustains itself. I’ve been in a few environments where it’s effectively one person’s show and I’d suggest that eventually these will all die out sooner or later. The ‘guru’ model works for teaching but not really in a live, fast moving environment – it also turns the whole experience into a TV like ‘passive’ experience for those in the room. They feel like they’re involved in something but unless they take the reigns they’re really not. It just becomes entertainment

Since I’m proposing everyone has the ability to contribute the subscription model has to die.

Charging anything from £50 to £100 per month for what amounts to maybe 30 minutes of useful/actionable information per day is somewhat ludicrous. All the rest is mostly banter, fucking about and existential arguments. Raise the bar by dumping the entry price sounds counter-intuitive but I think it would encourage more engagement since participants would be vested in having the community succeed overall.

More important than the technical side is the ‘social’ rules and norms required.

  • Common beliefs / trading approach
  • Invite and moderation by consensus
  • Active participation is encouraged
  • Anonymity

It’s very hard to hold a group together without a common reference point. With traders it would need to be driven by a consensus around how to ‘see/trade’ the market otherwise there’s a fairly large risk of a decent into ‘who’s methodology is best’ type arguing. If you want to get into that dead-end then go back to TradingView’s text chat and fill yer boots

Invitation/moderation by consensus basically means its not open to everyone who sticks their head in the door automatically. Unless all participants are operating at a more evolved level than the vast majority of the internet (unlikely) then some checks and balances are inevitable. That said a light touch approach should be entirely possible.

Active participation is something that can be artificially encouraged but is mainly on the shoulders of individual members. If no-one speaks up then it’s going to get very boring very quickly. There should be no free lunch if (as I’ve seen elsewhere) where 10% of participants consistently carry the whole venture. Everyone should be happy to throw ideas into the mix and this really depends on the culture driven by the members. No-one wants to add to a debate where they’re worried about getting chewed up.

Anonymity as a requirement is something I’ve struggled with. I haven’t got any issues with this myself but what I have seen is that unless it’s a feature you don’t get the critical mass of participants required for the effort to be self sustaining. There’s no way around this at the moment and this is why some of the tools available aren’t acceptable.

So there are some tools out there but you can quickly rule most of them out: –

  • Skype – no anonymity, not scale-able enough, people don’t engage with it enough since it’s linked into their other (non trading) activity. It seems to be too ‘personal’
  • Google+ no anonymity, not scale-able with voice, screen share resolution is pants, no participant controls, limited time allowed, someone has to initiate an ‘event’ and Google+ text posts are so bloody hard to use/search and curate in any functional way I just want to shout at the screen…
  • Omnovia, GoToMeeting, Webex – seriously too costly, one presenter only, not collaborative, why do you actually need live screen share? (I’ll come back to this point)
  • Slack – what GoogleWave tried to be (and failed) and it’s quite ‘real time’ but hasn’t any VOIP functionality so… what’s the point?

What have I seen work?

You’ll laugh but the tool I’ve seen which meets these requirements is…

Teamspeak 3

Yes, that geeky gamer VOIP app from MMORPG’s actually fulfills all these requirements very well indeed. Since you’re not in the business of selling on goods/services the annual server cost is zero for less than 32 participants. You could still scale this up and not have to worry about paying for more users either – although I’m still trying to get my head around how their licensing works.

I’ve seen this work very well off the back of the Bitcoin trading community which has effectively splintered from TradingView. Finally, I mentioned live screen sharing above so here’s two reasons why I don’t think it’s mandatory.

  1. Someone else’s screen is just a massive distraction – it’s no telly, ok? Rather concentrate on your own view of the world and your own trades/analysis and then share them with a link to something visual. The internet is drowning in free screen-capture clients 😉
  2. If it’s a trade idea it should be communicable in a static chart. If you have to explain it live then break off and use something else temporarily if you have to.

I don’t think live screen sharing is a requirement for day-to-day operation (teaching, yes but I’m not addressing that) so there you go. This is what I personally think works, what doesn’t work and how I suggest people go about it if they’re interested.