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Money Talks: Wikis for Investment and Finance

Money Talks: Wikis for Investment and Finance

Would you trust your investment assets to the wisdom of the crowd? Hey, it might not be any crazier than investing in stocks in the first place. Wikis focusing on investing range from educational sites for learning how the finance world works to market analytical wikis that boast safeguards against obvious pushes and scams.

By Vivian Wagner
08/18/08 4:00 AM PT

Wikis are sprouting up everywhere, so it's not surprising that the world of investing, finance, business and money management is getting in on the act.

If you're looking for stock tips, industry analysis, information about how to start a home business, or advice about paying off credit card debt, you might turn to one of these money-related wikis to benefit from the wisdom of the digital crowd.

On the Market

One of these sites, Wikinvest, was founded in 2006 and launched in 2007 as a one-stop shop for all things related to stocks, bonds and other investments. It also features innovative analytical tools that are at least on par with more traditional, non-wiki investing sites.

"It's an investment research portal," Wikinvest's cofounder and co-CEO Mike Sha told LinuxInsider. "At the heart of our portal is that you can get a lot of information from the community."

Wikinvest has thousands of contributors and offers analysis of individual stocks, including "bulls" and "bears" ratings from contributors, as well as articles and information about industries and trends.

Wikinvest is highly interactive, with features like stock charts that can be annotated by contributors with explanations for up and down ticks in the prices of stocks. The site also provides matrices of information culled from public records sources, including Security and Exchange Commission filings and company data, which can be sorted and filtered by users.

Features like this take Wikinvest away from the older, static model of personal finance articles, analysis and ratings and into the wikified world of constant evolution and editing.

"There's been user-generated content in investing for a long time, but it's been in the form of discussion boards," Sha said. "With discussion boards, things tend to fall off the bottom of the page, and there's little incentive to make a really good post. Our site gives people a platform where they can share their knowledge."

Wikinvest's editorial staff keeps an eye out for blatant stock pushing or other misuses of the board, and the structure of the site itself, with its clear division between objective and opinionated material, helps to guard against that.

"We've put in mechanisms to help prevent stuff like that," Sha noted regarding unscrupulous material. "People are encouraged to build a long-term reputation on the site."

The reliability of the material on the site, as with all wikis, relies on the editing and intelligence of the users themselves, and Sha said that the nature of the wiki tends to weed out good from bad contributors.

"There's a natural selection process at work," Sha said. "The only people who bother to spend a lot of time writing are the people who actually know something about the topic."

Homegrown Personal Finance Wiki

The Web is also becoming populated by smaller finance-related wikis. One of these is The Finwikian, which was started by a 22-year-old woman who goes by the moniker "Mrs. Micah," studied English in college, and has aspirations to become a librarian. The Finwikian is an outgrowth of her own blog, MrsMicah.com, and it allows people to post, catalog and comment on personal finance blogs. So far, over a 100 people have contributed information to the blog, and the site typically gets a few hundred hits a day.

"I was frustrated that the personal finance blogosphere didn't really have a center spot," she told LinuxInsider. "The best we had was pfblogs.org, which is great but not as easy to use. You can click through the blogs from it, but it's hard to find out much about the blog."

She began her site using the skills that she had developed in her part-time work at libraries.

"I like to catalog things," she told LinuxInsider. "So I began putting together a catalog of personal finance blogs with listings by topic. I came up with a framework that I hoped would make it easier for readers to find out the main theme of a blog. I gave the opportunity for people to list their main topics, give a summary of their blog's purpose and their views, and even link to their best posts. I hoped that this would be useful for readers to find blogs which fit what they were looking for and that bloggers would be willing to participate because it was free advertising."

She has plans to make her site more of a comprehensive reference guide for personal finance information.

"Now that the former part is doing well, I'd like to get more personal finance information itself on the site," she said. "Sort of a stage two. What are index funds? What is a 401(k)?"

Mrs. Micah sees her site as unique, offering visitors a way to navigate the sometimes confusing waters of Internet finance information.

"I think it's currently unique for its focus on the blogosphere, for both bloggers and readers," she noted. "There are lots of great finance facts in Wikipedia, for example, but nothing I've seen about personal finance blogs. Accumulating finance information is only one of The Finwikian's goals, the main goal being to link people to sites which will provide them a more daily dose if they subscribe."

Why do people visit sites like The Finwikian?

"People like to have a voice, and they like flexibility," Mrs. Micah asserted. "Nothing is static on a wiki. You can add your own blog listing or point-of-view to a topic. Then readers like to be able to find information quickly. I hope people like this one because it helps them find useful information, even if that's not on the wiki itself."

How to Make Money, How to Give It Away

Some wikis, like Wired.com's How-To Wiki, are general how-to wikis that offer a smattering of financial and business advice. While focusing mainly on techie-oriented topics, like how to hot-wire a car or how to run Windows on a Mac, Wired.com's How-To Wiki also has entries on how to get started on eBay, how to make money from Web content, and how to give money to charities.

The wiki started in 2007, and its editor, Michael Calore, sees it as a natural addition to the site. So far, it has about 500 entries, and in the great wiki tradition, it's always expanding.

"We were thinking we wanted more community interaction on the site, and we thought the wiki was the best way to do that," Calore told LinuxInsider. "Web sites used to be places you'd go and read. Now they're places you go and participate."


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