How this Brisbane start up is disrupting the prediction industry
Everyone is entitled to their predictions
It is the same entitlement boat as opinions.
But, most of the time, opinions are held to account. Not so with predictions.
Because of the future nature of predictions, too often they are forgotten. Swept over by time, bumped to the end of the news cycle, by more predictions, overlapping.
Whether it’s sports, politics or tomorrow’s weather, the hamster wheel forever turns.
Our hope for a reliable forecast of the future turns us into insatiable consumers. On and on it goes. New predictions swept away by new predictions.
As Ben Lee prophesised, “we’re all in this together.” Then together, we all created this industry.
Welcome to the prediction industry
It’s what Freakonomics and Phil Tetlock, research psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania, call the prediction industry.
We all peddle this industry. Fascinated by the future. Glued to gurus who might have the edge on what tomorrow brings.
It’s easy to be a guru if you’re not held to account. Because only a small percentage of predictions are followed up or discussed.
Accountability and Romanian jails
The prediction industry flourishes because there are no consequences.
Steve Levitt from Freakanomics explains:
"When there are big rewards to people who make predictions and get them right, and there are zero punishments for people who make bad predictions because they’re immediately forgotten, then economists would predict that’s a recipe for getting people to make predictions all the time."
Stephen Dubner adds, "because the incentives are all encouraging you to make predictions."
In Romania, if a fortune teller fails to successfully predict the future, they pay a fine to the states. Get it wrong too many times, and it means jail time.
So by Romanian law, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would have been in trouble when he said this in 2007:
“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.”
But what if there were consequences. What if there was actual accountability?
A new world where predictions are documented and accounted for. It's a new website called Resurfacr - which collates and follows up predictions.
I interviewed Resurfacr founder Giulio Saggin.
Edward Crossin: What’s your background and how did you get involved with this concept?
Giulio Saggin: I've had a 25+ year career in news (photographer) and the idea came to me after listening to sports commentators, especially, make all sorts of predictions, many of which I knew would never be followed up.
I thought the best way to hold predictions accountable would be to build a website where they could be uploaded, with a reminder facility. Invariably people forget predictions, so a reminder facility was essential.
Edward: What is Resurfacr?
Giulio: It's the website where you can upload predictions of any sort - ones you've heard/read, or your own - and be reminded when their outcomes are due. You can also rate the 'correctness' of predictions (some are open to conjecture) and leave comments, good or bad.
Edward: Why did you launch?
Giulio: I wanted to get the site 'out there' in case someone else was sitting on the idea as well.
Edward: Tell us about the process from idea to execution?
Giulio: Got the idea, sat on it for a while, then went about building and fine tuning the website.
While all this was happening I spent close to a year scouring the internet for predictions of all sorts, from around the world. I wanted at least 1,000 predictions for the launch and, by the time the site launched, I'd found over two thousand predictions.
Resurfacr now has over 3,100 predictions. Once the content was there, some more fine tuning and audience testing was done, and the site was officially launched at the start of November 2015.
Edward: Where would you like Resurfacr to be in three years?
Giulio: As the website to go to when it comes to predictions. It's not a social media site in the form of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but it would be nice to see dialogues happening via the comment and rating facility on each prediction. Also, earning some revenue would be nice.
Edward: Do you want to monetise the website?
Giulio: For the time being, advertising is being used (minimally) on the site, so it doesn't intrude on the experience.
Advertising is only visible to people visiting the site. Once you sign up to the site, the advertising disappears.
In time, paid memberships with added benefits might be another option that can be looked at, but not while the site is getting on its feet.
Edward: How does Resurfacr use social media channels?
Giulio: Twitter is the main social media platform that is used, with tweets of predictions sent via TweetDeck every few hours, 24/7. The tweets all have a visual component i.e. screen grab of the prediction. Facebook is also used and posts all have the same visual component as tweets.
Take the witch out of craft
This new website is the crystal ball of truth. It keeps the prediction gurus honest.
For the Romanians, it could mean avoiding jail time.
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