Have you ever tried to guess how many sweets are in a jar or the weight of a cake? If you have, you probably didn’t come close. Yet, if a bunch of people all do the same thing, it turns out their collective result is likely to be far more accurate. That is the crux of crowd prediction.
Crowd wisdom – where people pool their abilities to create a collective insight - is not a new phenomenon. In 1906, statistician Francis Galton noted a crowd of 800 people at a country fair in Plymouth, Massachusetts, guessing the weight of a prize ox, got to within 1% of the true weight when all their guesses were combined and averaged.
Crowd prediction has been shown to be 30% more accurate than experts on a subject and companies are realising it can be used to forecast trends or changes in industry. Think investment bankers anticipating company profits or economists estimating the latest UK growth. It can be used to predict political, social and economic events - everything from who will win the next general election to which football team is likely to win the FA Cup.
One of the best things about forecasting future events is anyone from any walk of life can have a go, though it is well suited to people training to be analysts or with an interest in politics, maths or banking. It’s not dissimilar to betting and in a lot of forums people do bet on the outcome of future events for cash. Not all prediction websites are run like this though.
One such site, run by almanis, is an international platform, giving users all over the world the chance to make predictions, create narratives, or add comments to other people’s predictions. almanis gives users a points fund, rather than money, which they can stake against their predictions.
Points get added up and different leader boards show how insightful the different users are. Though it is predominantly a points-led system, there is a monthly prize fund which is shared between the most successful forecasters.
John Carver, executive vice-president of almanis, says: “You might be a maths student, you might be studying politics, you could be embarking on a business degree. Equally though, you might be a drama student who is interested in world events or an art student who likes to discuss new technological breakthroughs.
“The point is you you can come from any background and have an interest in any subject. You should play to your strengths and make predictions on things that are of interest to you.
“We aim to catch these diverse crowd voices from anyone who has an interest in anything and everything that matters. Together they form accurate predictions and real-time data which is then used by companies, governments or individuals.”
Is crowd prediction for me?
Forecasting can provide all the fun of betting without the risk of actually gambling away your money. But there is more to it than that because it helps you improve your analytical skills, which you can use with your study. It can form part of your CV and may even provide a gateway to future jobs. If you’re finishing university and can show potential employers a proven ability to predict it can really help your chances of getting the job.
Mr Carver says: “When someone begins forecasting the more they learn and improve their analytical skills and the more they improve their skills the more they are able to forecast.
“Students can incorporate questions and answers into coursework, improving the breadth and depth of their responses. Forecasting also helps them to make better decisions and can be extremely beneficial in finding work in some industries.”
Aside from the boost it can give to your degree, forecasting can also make you a bit of money. If you get a forecast right you get awarded points and you can go on to become a top forecaster, or supercog, as almanis describes them. Forecasters can be awarded badges of recognition for accurate predictions, referring new forecasters to the site or being endorsed for a comment, all of which translate to real prize money. The more effort you put in the more you will reap the rewards.
So, the next time you try and put the world to rights with a mate over a pint down the pub, think about putting your thoughts and opinions on a crowd prediction website instead. You might just be surprised at how accurate you really are.