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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Social Networks and "You", the Investor

Time magazine recently ran its Person of the Year feature and it was "You". Time was trying to recognize all the ways that average folks are gaining their 15 minutes of fame, becoming instant pundits and sharing their opinions and lives with one another. Time also made a point of showing how the Internet has enabled much of this activity with web sites like MySpace and YouTube and the millions of blogs that have sprung up. The techies look at this ferment as one aspect of Web 2.0, where the Internet is evolving from being company and commerce driven to being more interactive in both technology and the kinds of bottom-up creativity that take the form of online sharing and collaboration, social networking sites, wikis, etc.

Some of us who are serious about investing are, shall we say, "of a certain age" and tend toward the conservative. We are not so likely to be embracing every new Internet fad that comes along. Nevertheless, if you are an investor and you are out there surfing the web and reading blogs (or writing your own) you may be more involved in the Web 2.0 phenomena than you may realize. And now we have a number of different ways to explore all this.

There is a new crop of web sites that aims to bring investors together to share ideas and stock recommendations. Users can comment on each others investing picks, ideas or strategies. Users who contribute stock picks or portfolios (real or virtual) are ranked based on their performance.

Taking a different approach, there are sites that allow users to rank news stories, articles and blog posts. The most highly ranked items tend to get plenty of readers, attention and traffic. And you can submit your comments in order to become part of the conversation. To further target specific communities, like investors, these sites often provide the ability to filter on particular subject matter so you can focus on business and investing and, if you desire, receive an RSS feed throughout the day, every day.

I have compiled a list of the sites that are currently involved in this movement (many thanks to the Wall Street Journal for bringing a few of them to my attention and for partially inspiring this post) - Users collaborate and share investing knowledge through blogs, discussion, and virtual trading. Users are ranked based on performance of their forecasts and trades in their virtual portfolio.

CAPS feature at - Make predictions on whether a stock will beat the S&P 500. Users are rated based on performance of their picks.

ClearStation - the grandaddy of these sites, ClearStation has featured user recommendations and discussion since the tech bubble was in full in swing. Now owned by E*Trade, they continue to support a community approach to investing, featuring user picks and ranking of users based on accuracy, personal portfolios and watchlists, ability to comment on articles and posts, etc. - Users 'tag' their favorite web sites, blogs, articles or posts. Their list of bookmarks is then viewable by all other users. Search for bookmarks using tag keywords. We feature the TradeRadarOperator tags (all related to investing) on each page of the site. - Users vote for the best articles and posts. We carry their RSS feed, filtered for topics related to business and investing, on The Daily News Page on - Users vote for the best articles and posts related to strictly business and investing. We carry their RSS feed on The Daily News Page on - Users issue ratings on stocks and earn a "reputation" or score based on how the stock performs. Site support forums and individual blogs - bills itself as a community for stock market investors to share investment ideas, exchange market research, and track peers' investment performance. Users can create networks, share tips and track each others investment performance. Users are rated based on performance of their picks and other users' feedback. - Now featured on the MarketWatch site, StockPickr offers a number of interesting features. See the portfolios of famous investors like Warren Buffet and George Soros. Make your own recommendations and subscribe to the recommendations of other users both professional and amateur. The site matches your portfolio with the thousands of hedge funds, mutual funds and other peer portfolios (DIY portfolios) that have a similar composition. It also allows you to network, research and discover new ideas in the financial market arena. - StockTickr is a free portfolio tracker with a twist: all watchlists are shared among all users who assign 'tags' to stocks to keep track of performance across categories. - Tailrank tracks and displays the conversation between blogs, highlighting the most discussed articles and posts. We carry their RSS feed, filtered for investment topics, on The Daily News Page on

(Note: These links are also available on the Investor Toolbox page at

The reason I categorize these sites as part of the Web 2.0, social networking movement is that the emphasis is very much on us, everyday investors, not experts. These sites aim to build an online community of people that want to discuss investing, stocks, business, the economy, etc. These sites hope to facilitate the dialog between you and me. They believe that you don't have to work on Wall Street to have a good idea about investing.

So try out a few of these sites. You may make new friends, find some interesting ideas and engage in good conversation. And maybe find a few new ways to profit.

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