Tom Glocer, CEO of Reuters, stands in front of Media Futures at the Open Data Conference in NY
And so, what does exhibitionism have to do with Wall Street? How does the voyueristic behavior of 20-somethings relate to the commission decisions of hedge fund masters of the universe? Traditionally, very little. Or at least we weren't aware of these connections. Now, however, the advent of personal surveillance technologies has begun to popularize processes that up until now have been unavailable to individuals.
This resonates with a comment that Reuters CEO Tom Glocer made at the Open Data Conference. It was the night before the conference, over dinner, that Glocer gave his perspective on the evolution of "open data" in the context of financial services.
He told a story about the transformation of individual data points into market data. Surprisingly, he didn't start with a traditional financial services firm, like Reuters, but rather with an individual Schwab customer. This retail trader, by virtue of her decision as to what to buy or sell and at what price, is the most granular actor in the price discovery machine. As Glocer told the story, the online retail investor was the proverbial butterfly flapping its wings in Hawaii causing hurricanes in China. Her only action was to trade a stock in her 401K account online; but unbeknownst to her, Schwab took this trading data, along with that of all of the other individual retail investors, and established a higher level trend. This process reverberated up through larger institutional brokers like Goldman Sachs and ultimately exchanges like the NYSE. At each step up in aggregation and abstraction, significant economic value was extracted. Although this individual's behavior is too volatile in and of itself to offer much in the way of trend analysis, this does not mean that her behavior is worthless.
This is the foundation of Wall Street 2.0: the individual data producer is beginning to wake up to the economic value she is creating. This economic value had in the past been appropriated by those aggregating up the data from above. Our electronic behavior, whether it be querying a search engine, clicking on an ad, checking out a stock, or trading a share, is generating value for other people that are in a position to aggregate and sell this information to institutions, who in turn transform it into some other form that ends up getting sold back to individuals. Alchemy... to... Arbitrage. This is nothing new. What is new, however, is the extent to which our behavioral trails are no longer hidden, but are instead now available to us via various modes of personal Attention services, also known as myware. This is the window that Open Data flows through:
Open data is to media what open source is to technology. Open data is an approach to content creation that explicitly recognizes the value of implicit user data. The internet is the first medium to give a voice to the attention that people pay to it. Successful open data companies listen for and amplify the rich data that their audiences produce.