Archives for February 2005

Taxonomies and Tags

If you’re wondering what exactly are ‘tags’ and why they matter, see David Weinberger’s brief, excellent introductory essay: Taxonomies and Tags.

SocialPhysics: trying to create open source solutions to a siloized world

Harvard’s Berkman Center has recently launched SocialPhysics, a program with two main goals:

– Create a robust, multi-disciplinary, multi-constituency community for addressing, vetting and conducting experiments in such issues as privacy, authentication, reputation, transparency, trust building and information exchange.

Translation: a community (theoretically open to anyone, but in practice no doubt highly selective) of thoughtful people who can publicly discuss some of the relevant issues around social software.

– Develop a reusable, open source software framework based on the Eclipse Rich Client Platform that provides core services including: identity management, social network data models, authentication management, encryption, and privacy controls. On top of this framework we are also developing a demo app that provides identity management and social networking functions, tools to create peer-to-peer identity sharing and facilities to support communities of interest around emerging topics.

Translation: try to preserve some of the value created by systems such as LinkedIn, while letting the public (instead of individual companies) capture more of the consumer surplus. Hopefully they’ll build this around standards popularized by the blog world such as RSS, which already enable many of the features mentioned above and are already widely accepted.

Clay Shirky writes about SocialPhysics:

I’m generally skeptical of identity management — it has the same hollow ring as knowledge management — but since the focus here is on trust building, rather than simple transactions that treat trust as a binary condition or simple threshold, this will be worth watching.

Jon Stewart on blogging

Jon Stewart of the Daily Show has a lot to say about blogging– this is extremely funny, plus it includes some breaking scoops about some of the staff at the Daily Show.

via Danah Boyd

Profile of Albourne Village, for the alternative investment community

I recently had a conversation with Sam Lewis and Ashton Mayne of the Albourne Village. We are adding this profile of the Albourne Village to our Social Software Site Guide. A similar, but much more exclusive, site that I profiled a while ago is the Value Investors Club.

Albourne Village

February 15, 2005



Albourne Village is a completely free internet-based “knowledge economy” and virtual community for the alternative investment community. Among the noteable features of the site: hedge fund news; discussion around industry issues; jobs; and a directory of service providers in the industry.


Nearly 25,000 users in 118 countries. The Village is growing by 40-50 people a day.


Launched on Thanksgiving Day, 2000. Albourne seeded the community with 260 people: their clients, friends, and leading industry figures.


The CEO of Albourne Partners is Simon Ruddick. The “Mayor” of Albourne Village is Sam Lewis, and Ashton Mayne is responsible for its day-to-day activities.

Corporate Overview:

Albourne Partners is the world’s largest advisor to hedge fund investors. Albourne Village is a separate nonprofit entity run by an affiliate of Albourne Partners. Albourne Partners is named after Albourne, a small ancient village in Sussex county (England).

Albourne Partners advise hedge fund investors on due diligence; manager selection; strategy timing; portfolio construction; and risk management. The firm is based in London and has approximately 50 clients and 50 staff. Albourne is the due diligence adviser to Standard & Poor’s, and also works for family offices such as the Ed Bass Group and endowments such as the University of California. They advise 3 of the top 30 fund-of-funds.


Membership is completely free, and Albourne has no intention to change that. Albourne Partners believes that the marketing and name recognition benefits of running this unique online community are sufficient compensation to it. In addition, there are many informal benefits to them, e.g., passes to exclusive industry conferences. Anyone interested in alternative investments can be a resident, including students without previous work experience in the industry, although only sophisticated investors are allowed access to all areas of the site.


The Albourne Village is an unusual example of an online community successfully serving a busy, time-sensitive group: hedge fund investors and others interested in the sector. About ¼ of their members visit the site at least once a day, which is an extremely high usage rate vs. other online communities. About 85% of their members visit the site at least once per month. Much of that traffic is driven by members following up on news links in their daily newsletter.

The Albourne Village was listed in the Online Finance 40 in the March 2002 edition of Institutional Investor, and moved up to number 26 in the Online Finance 30 in the March 2003 international edition.

Albourne’s culture is friendly, with a dry sense of humor. , Their slogan is Don’t just join the Village, be the Village.” Part of the FAQ says, “The descriptions are of guidelines, not rules. It is envisaged that these guidelines will evolve over time. It is hoped that this will be as a result of a vibrant dialogue between those that we hope will come to care about such matters.”

The most-used features of the site are:

  • Village Pub – the “Bridge Inn” where Residents can accessing daily news, notice boards, question boards, and forums. Sample queries:

“I am looking for information on top European hedge funds by assets under management. Does anyone have any information (either Europe-wide or for individual countries) showing this, or know where it can be found?”

“We are looking for a software which could help us in selecting uncorrelated equities on the Nasdaq. Instead of comparing figures stock by stock in an Excel sheet, we would like to know which softwares exists allowing us to select for example "equities with a negative correlation" or stocks with a correlation coefficient of 2%.”

  • Library – current industry related literature, as well as research posted by other Residents wishing to sell their knowledge for Apples (more on Apples later)
  • Hedge Fund Mall — directory of hedge funds for perusal by accredited investors.
  • Job Centre – Anyone can post an industry related job vacancy or job wanted advertisement. One of the busiest parts of the site.
  • Business Centre — directory of service providers to hedge funds
  • Data Farm — includes Standard & Poor’s, MSCI, and HedgeFund Intelligence hedge fund indices. Also houses the Albourne Weather Forecast – a daily estimate of how conducive the prevailing underlying market environment is for a variety of hedge fund trading strategies.
  • Conference Centre – highlighting up and coming events
  • Village school — industry-related courses on offer

At the launch of the Village, every resident could communicate with every other resident. However, a few spammers made that openness unfeasible. Now people can opt at their discretion to be contactable. However, there is no easy way to search through the members’ database, so Albourne’s design is not as open to people directly reaching out to others as most online communities. You can view a member’s profile only by clicking on his user ID, if you see that that member has participated in the pub, is currently logged on the site, or has contributed some content to the site.

In general, it is very rare that Albourne has to delete someone’s comment in a chat room or delete a person’s account. Because Albourne targets a highly interlinked community of professionals, they do not attract many trolls.

A unique aspect of the Village’s design is the use of Apples. “The Apple is the internal currency used within the Village. It is fundamentally a medium of barter to encourage the free flowing exchange of information between the Village Residents.” You get 500 Apples upon admission to the Village, and can earn more by contributing content, commenting on others’ content, inviting new members to join, and also by giving money to charity. In practice, the only time that people actually pay cash for Apples is when they make a donation to the Village Church, and get Apples in return. The Albourne community has raised over $US350,000 since 2000. This is the rough equivalent of the feedback system used by Monster Networking.

You can spend Apples on purchasing content, the gift shop (T-shirts, etc.), or on charity.


One of the themes of successful online communities is the importance of focus and of exclusivity. Albourne’s tight focus allows it to provide high value to its members by serving their unique needs.

The Village is not exclusive at all; anyone can join. However, because it is only marketed to a small community, and because of the privacy controls, its relatively open doors do not reduce the value of the system.


If you have a serious interest in alternative investments, we recommend becoming a member. Contributing high-value content is probably the fastest way to meet people on the site.


David Teten’s research company for professional investors, Nitron Advisors, and his executive recruiting firm, Teten Recruiting, are members of Albourne’s Business Center.

How celebrities and business leaders tame their e-mail

Via Jack Vinson, USA Today writes on how celebrities and business leaders tame their e-mail.

On building bridges between different cultures

In response to our call for stories for our forthcoming book, Arash Farin shared a beautiful story about the value of building bridges between different cultures.

Yusef Kassim and I met as students at the University of Pennsylvania. I came from a Persian-Jewish background, and Yusef’s parents immigrated to America from Sierra Leone. Yusef is African-American, and his parents are Christian, although his grandparents are Muslim. Since I was very involved in Jewish causes for the three years I lived in NY, I’d often take Yusef with me to various Jewish events, Shabbat dinners, fundraisers, etc. Yusef had expressed an innate desire to learn more about Judaism, its various traditions, and its rituals with respect to major milestones, including Bar Mitzvahs and marriage. I was happy to oblige and invite Yusef to any events I could.

Yusef came to grow with and really appreciate the Jewish faith over time, and I was please to have a good friend learn more about its customs and emphasis on strong family values. One of the people I introduced Yusef to was Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a renowned and outspoken rabbi, whom I had met while studying abroad at Oxford University. Shmuley had subsequently moved to Englewood, NJ, and frequently invited guests to his house on Friday nights. On one occasion, I also introduced Yusef to Mark Gerson, co-cofounder of the Gerson Lehrman Group, and they immediately hit it off.

At the time, Gerson Lehrman was a fairly small organization, probably with fewer than 10 employees, and felt more like a startup. Although Yusef was working at Goldman Sachs at the time, he and Mark developed a good friendship, often times leading to offers of employment from Mark. Yusef was also highly regarded at Goldman Sachs, and Mark immediately recognized that Goldman Sachs was seen as a great breeding ground for top talent and future executives. [Editor’s note: Arash worked there too, so this is not exactly an objective comment…]

Eventually, Yusef decided to leave Goldman Sachs and join Mark’s team; at the time Yusef was among the first few Gerson Lehrman employees, affording him the opportunity to help shape the company’s strategy. Not surprisingly, Yusef thrived at Gerson Lehrman, was promoted a number of times, as is now one of the firm’s most prominent Vice Presidents. Today, Yusef and I constantly discuss issues related to the Jewish faith and he has many Jewish friends; never could I have predicted the events which transpired as a result of my friendship with him, but I was more than happy to expose a good friend to Jewish ideas, and couldn’t be more pleased with how things ended up, especially in terms of Yusef’s career and the opportunities he was able to take advantage of, given his unique talents.

Centrality, new journal about relationship capital

Via Stowe Boyd, I just read about the launch of Centrality, the “relationship capital journal”, sponsored by Visible Path. Contributors are Stowe, Antony Brydon, Suw Charman, and Stanley Wasserman.

One noteworthy comment from Ray Lane, buried in the body of an interview with him:

We’ve looked at some of the early small companies that are using Visible Path, today. And usage starts high and then drops off. And it drops off because they’re too small to use it effectively. Their relationship base is not big enough for the sales teams that are trying to exploit it.

This is one of the reasons that revenues in this space are not as easy to come by as most of the players had hoped (from all that I’m hearing through the grapevine). As I wrote earlier, implementing relationship capital management software can require significant cultural change.

What's love worth? $100K.

Money Magazine reports that a happy marriage is worth $100k /year.

After 2 years of marriage, I can only say this is a ridiculously low estimate of the value of a spouse.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

What's new from Microsoft Research's Social Computing Group

Bernard Moon writes on Microsoft Research’s Social Computing Group:

There’s a lot brewing in Microsoft’s Social Computing Group—including a new paradigm for email and a social networking environment that could ‘Wallop’ the competition. “

I’ve been waiting impatiently for Microsoft to make some more significant moves in the social software space. There are plenty of companies which could be bought for a nominal amount of cash. Numerous companies in this space (e.g., Bloglines—-oops, they’ve already been bought by AskJeeves) could be available for a not-too-large price.

The merger of all social software

Oren Rossen of Huminity (an Israeli social networking platform) posted a very helpful graphic showing his view of the evolution of social software. Just like humans think we’re more evolved than chimpanzees (although I periodically see evidence otherwise), he places Huminity as the logical culmination of the technology’s development. Essentially, he is trying to include all possible functionality under the Huminity name (IM, blog, FOAF, etc.), which strangely enough is also exactly what Myspace, OpenBC, and others are trying to do.