Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Investment advice from the masses

I'm addicted to Wikipedia. I can kill several hours reading through topics like Balkan history on the site. The idea behind wikis is simple, anyone can post and edit articles, and hopefully the best, most accurate and timely information is produced. Now, would I want to get my investment advice from a wiki (free WSJ Digg link)?

Wikinvest itself doesn't report on companies or markets, or even make recommendations about stocks. Its contributors do all of that, writing and editing reams of information about businesses and market trends, and posting earnings data and stock charts that include attempts to explain price moves.

Articles fall into several categories: company profiles, which try to be neutral; bullish and bearish outlooks about those companies; and concepts, which tend to focus on market trends.


The site bases its operation on the theory that a large group of people analyzing a particular situation will, in general, do better than any particular analyst or even a relatively small group of analysts. Contributors to Wikinvest can reveal as much as they want about themselves, or nothing at all.


A recent visit to the site found a total of nearly 400 contributors, who, according to descriptions of themselves that they post on Wikinvest, range from professional money managers and equity research analysts to college students and self-proclaimed beginning investors.
Looking at Wikinvest, I'll say that it's nicely laid out and easy to navigate. I like that it categorizes articles into companies and concepts, so you can get to articles on say, sub prime, very easily under the concept section. I would never use this site for primary research, but I could see reading it for ideas that I would then research independently. As the site's founders say:
Moreover, Mike Sha, Mr. Conrad's partner, says "most people would never place real money on what JohnInvestor23 says he's buying." Mr. Sha says the point of Wikinvest is to "provide the rationale for thinking about an investment you're going to make," not to provide the buy or sell advice itself.
Finally, the story does point out the potential abuse of Wikinvest in pump and dump schemes (which is a problem with any anonymous information available on the Internet).