The crew of developers and writers behind Presterity.org aims to document the Trump administration. Also, local financial advisers predict the Dow Jones industrial average will rise modestly in 2017; and Expedia wires up users to monitor emotions as they book travel.
Jan Miksovsky was worried about how citizens will be able to keep up with the Donald Trump administration.
So, in a bout of entrepreneurial spirit, he helped build a tool to address the matter.
The longtime Seattle software engineer, who spent 16 years at Microsoft before founding two Seattle startups, helped gather the crew of developers and writers behind Presterity.org, a web portal pitched as a Wikipedia-like chronicle of the Trump administration.
The aim isn’t nonpartisan.
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“We’d like to create what you might call a reference desk for people to try to resist the damages of the Trump administration,” Miksovsky said.
Miksovsky, like many in the generally socially liberal technology industry, opposed Trump, supporting Hillary Clinton in the general election. But this is his first foray into nonelection-season politics, he said.
His inspiration was the chaos of the news cycle during the election, in which revelations about hacked emails competed for attention with news reports analyzing candidates’ policy positions, not to mention Trump’s own tweets.
“If the political campaign was any guide, I think it will just be a lot of alarming news on a daily basis,” he said.
“I was concerned as a citizen that it was going to be very very hard to keep up with it and make sense of it all.”
Presterity.org went live on Thursday.
A table of contents lists issue areas from foreign policy — which links to timelines detailing Trump’s previous comments on specific countries — to a breakdown of news relating to executive departments.
Unlike Wikipedia, Presterity isn’t a free-for-all open to anyone who wants to edit or submit revisions.
The site is currently curated by about 30 volunteers, a combination of writers and technologists.
The idea is for that group to grow, and to field news-article submissions and other tips from readers.
“Our goal is not to present a complete, balanced picture,” Miksovsky said. “Whereas Wikipedia might need to be positive in some ways with regard to Trump, our own project believes Trump does that fine just by himself.”
The goal is to remain grounded in the facts of the new administration’s actions, however, rather than derogatory opinion for its own sake.
“There’s a lot of discussion in the news media about the post-Truth era, or fake news. There’s this sense that facts don’t matter,” Miksovsky said. “We reject that outright. We are really focused on documenting the facts.”
— Matt Day: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stock pickers see modest rise in Dow
If you believe in the wisdom of crowds — at least a crowd of stockbrokers — you may want to know that the 10 who gathered Thursday for the long-running annual stock-picking contest at Seattle’s Metropolitan Grill on average predict the Dow Jones industrial average will end 2017 at 20,977, up 6.6 percent from Dec. 30.
Of course these are folks who manage money at brokerage firms, which means they are perennial optimists and are going to favor investing in the stock market rather than in Peruvian llama ranching.
Still, their collective wisdom points to a performance that’s only half as good as 2016’s 13.4 percent rise in the Dow.
Toss out the one bear predicting 19,000 and the one super-bull forecasting Dow 23,000, and the rest were clustered within a couple percentage points of that 20,977 guesstimate.
Why were most of them not more optimistic on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration?
“There are a lot of expectations that are built into the market” for tax cuts, deregulation and other pro-business moves in the Republican president’s agenda, contest coordinator and Morgan Stanley financial adviser Joel Ferrell told the group. “The market is already anticipating that … If we wind up with a 5 to 7 percent increase this year, that’d be great.”
Mary Ann Heeren, of RBC Wealth Management, sounded the same theme: “There could be disappointment, given all the expectations.”
The biggest bull, Matt Kelleher of UBS, wasn’t deterred from his 23,000 forecast:
“Lower corporate taxes and higher interest rates coupled with some regulatory relief will send markets higher,” he wrote in his entry.
The group’s annual ritual, which serves to raise a bit of money for the winner’s designated charity, also involves choosing a basket of three Northwest stocks for the coming year.
Popular picks included Nike, which was beaten down by more than 20 percent last year, and Seattle Genetics, also clobbered by investors in December when the Food and Drug Administration suspended enrollment in one cancer-drug trial after several deaths. (The biotech company’s co-founder and CEO, Clay Siegall, was the event’s lunch speaker.)
Kris Olsen, of RBC, the overall winner of the 2016 contest, picked those two, as well as Expedia, for his 2017 entry.
Other picks ranged from lesser-known names like Red Lion Hotels and Fortive to regional stalwarts Starbucks and Weyerhaeuser.
Olsen had perhaps the most volatile outlook for this year: “Expect the Dow to correct to 18,800 in 1st quarter, then advance 15 percent from there as effects of tax law changes and other fiscal stimulus drive corporate profits second half,” he predicted.
— Rami Grunbaum: email@example.com
Expedia wires up users for analysis
Expedia has opened a “usability lab” in London, like two others it operates in Bellevue and Singapore, to analyze the emotions of people as they book travel on its website, reports Bloomberg News.
To do so, Expedia’s researchers wire test subjects with electrodes, track eye movements and scrutinize their subjects through one-way glass.
The lab is an important component in Bellevue-based Expedia’s efforts to stay ahead of a growing raft of competitors, from Priceline’s Booking.com to China’s Ctrip to Airbnb and TripAdvisor, which are increasingly morphing into full-service travel booking sites. And then there’s behemoth Google, which may one day dominate travel searches through its digital assistant.
“The lab allows us to see how people emotionally engage with the site,” said Gary Morrison, Expedia’s senior vice president of retail and brand.
Research subjects in the lab are hooked up to sensors for electromyography — technology that records minute muscle movements, in this case the muscles in faces.
These tiny facial movements in turn let Expedia’s researchers detect emotional responses, even when the subjects themselves might not be conscious of them.
Eye tracking allows researchers to see exactly what the subjects are looking at when they experience these emotions. Researchers observing the subjects will also intervene to ask explicit questions about what’s motivating certain emotions as they book travel.
Expedia is hoping the lab will help it find ways to reduce the stress and frustration associated with making online bookings.
A survey its U.K. branch conducted found that more than 75 percent of people considered purchasing a holiday online as stressful as a bad day at the office, being stuck in traffic or arguing with a loved one.
Insights from its usability labs led the company to develop its Scratchpad feature, which automatically saves users’ travel searches as they go along, Morrison said.
Researchers had been surprised to learn how many different flight options users searched before booking — an average of 48 — and how often consumers were resorting to paper and pencil to keep track of searches.
Experiments in its usability labs also showed that consumers responded most positively to photographs of hotel rooms depicting attractive vistas out the rooms’ windows rather than those that focused on the bed.
The usability labs are just one aspect of a technological push Expedia has made under Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi, who boosted the company’s overall spending on technology from $130 million, when he took over in 2005, to $750 million in 2015.
The company has ramped up the number of engineers it employs and now conducts more than 1,000 A/B tests per year to figure out the best tweaks to make to its websites and mobile apps.
— Bloomberg News