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October 27, 2005


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This is interesting and I agree. I think it is important to clarify a particular point.

Your analysis seems spot on, to me, only after payoffs are taken into account. So, in the Miers case, if a correct prediction on some particular date adds 10 to a senator's political capital, but an incorrect prediction will cost the senator 1000, then the senator has to obviously weigh his or her options more carefully. The decision maker cannot only look to the odds. (Understanding of course that an initial 55% negative position on Miers could turn to a 95% negative positive quickly).

Paul Gowder

That's a really interesting idea -- but I'm not sure what it means. Pundits have an incentive to make accurate predictions from whatever source derived. One data point that a pundit might use to make a prediction is the result of some information aggregating market, and then presumably that prediction (to the extent it is seen as meaningful) will be fed back into that market. But why do we need tradesports.com or any other market to do this? If I get on TV and make an argument (totally unhinged from any market) that X will happen, and the argument is persuasive, others will follow with similar arguments, and the same cascade-looking effect will follow, non?

(And, of course, one must avoid the genetic fallacy in all of this.)

Cory Hojka

Concerning evidence of cascades, I think that one approach allowing us to measure a "cascade" effect would be to use blogs. For example, with the former Miers nomination we would find all the blog entries that discuss Miers. Then we examine them to see whether people are speaking positively or negatively about Miers (and perhaps quantify it even further by noting what basis they use to make their remarks, such as judicial qualification, cronyism, etc.). Next, since bloggers tend to link to others who they find persuasive, we could create a flowchart showing the links between all these different bloggers over time. Such a flowchart might indicate interesting patterns that could provide evidence of a cascade.

For example: Blogger A says he hates Miers because of her haircut. Bloggers B and C agree, make some comments of their own, and link back to A. Then some more bloggers jump on the bandwagon and link to A, B, and C. Etc.

Of course, there are going to be problems with trying to determine if this situation is actually a cascade. Bloggers may not always post links to others that have influenced them. Also, it may be somewhat of a judgment call what are comments consisting of the Blogger's own insight versus what came from being influenced by others.

Nonetheless, in situations where people are analyzing something where they can obtain very little meaningful information at the time (i.e, the Miers nomination, certain aspects of the build-up to the Iraq war, etc.), then I think that if such a situation occurs, and potentially other types of patterns too, that this would suggest evidence for the cascade theory.


using blogs is an interesting idea, but you'll quickly run into google bombs. for instance, google 'failure' right now and see what you get. is there a reliable way of gathering evidence?

Cory Hojka

The analysis of blogs would probably take some careful considerations. I would assume that google bombs have some type of structure that is, at some point, recognizable. Thus, even if Google is initially misled by the tactics, at the time of analysis where we are looking at a past event we could probably detect and eliminate these fake blogs. In addition, we'd be looking for data that I think would stand out independent of the google bombs. There's probably no interest, at least currently, for a google bomb to represent what a cascade might look like. So even if we have misleading data in the analysis, the cascade effect might stand out as a separate and distinguishable pattern.

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