Horizontal vs Vertical Blogging


I’ve been mulling these excellent thoughts from Dr. Brett’s Traderfeed re: how we the quant analysis blogosphere should be organizing our thoughts:

In the academic world, where much writing occurs in professional journals, there is a tradition of continuity. One is expected to acknowledge past research and scholarship in an area and situate one’s own thinking vis a vis past contributions. This creates a vertical dimension to professional dialogue: topics don’t mushroom horizontally unless they also connect to past work and further knowledge cumulatively…

…In the trading world, there are few examples of vertical integration. It is rare indeed for writers of blogs or articles to comment on each other’s work, let alone advance their thinking in a cumulative fashion. Topics and articles mushroom horizontally–more commentators, more topics bring more eyeballs to the site for advertising dollars–but the crucial conceptual integration of the material is missing.


Obviously there is huge benefit to horizontal dialogue: a lot of ideas get put on the table in a short span of time. But therein also lays the problem: those ideas are rarely collectively assessed, and debunked or expanded upon. In a horizontal dialogue, fact and nonsense take on equal weight.

So random thought for the day: should we the quant analysis blogosphere be taking a more vertical approach to blogging?

A rather large barrier to consider: repurcussions.

There’s a certain quid pro quo amongst us quant bloggers (and we’re a pretty small bunch). Our blogging success depends in large part on the others giving our work a thumbs up and driving eyeballs our way. That’s the people-power that makes this medium so powerful, but I think it also makes it dangerous to critique others’ work.

In the past, I’ve taken the very passive-aggressive anonymous approach to critiquing (examples here, here, and here), unless it was a mega-site I consider to be more about making money than sharing ideas (examples here and here).

But really (CXO Advisory’s excellent debunkings aside) how often do we the quant analysis blogosphere have the very open and accountable vertical dialogue Dr. Brett envisions?

So do we need to become more vertical?

Hell, I don’t know. These are all just random thoughts. But I’d like to hear my quantitative cohorts’ thoughts. Hey, maybe someone will write a follow on piece responding to my response to Dr. Brett. Wow, that would be so…vertical.

Happy Trading,


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14 Responses to “Horizontal vs Vertical Blogging”

  1. 1 david varadi

    nice post……brett is absolutely right, continuity and integration create progress…..you bring up a key point also–the incentive to critique is missing. I would also add that the incentive to collaborate is also missing, since many of us compete to build the better mousetrap. Unfortunately the businessworld rests on the pursuit of money, and the pursuit of the truth is a tertiary goal.

    In reality, collaboration could help us all succeed, as better research would produce better products/services/investment management. In my opinion none of us has or ever will have the resources to make the markets any more efficient in lieu of sharing information. But im sure im in the minority on that one!!!!

    as for critique……a little lively debate could be entertaining for readers. as long as we all wear 16-ounce gloves.


  2. The more opinions and dialogue on a specific subject, the better (e.g. the flurry of activity surrounding RSI(2)). That’s why I’m a huge fan of open-source software. Other people suggest improvements, find bugs, etc. and the benefits accrue to everyone, including me.

    Though I never stated it as such, the vertical component is the main purpose behind FOSS Trading. The code and data are there, so you can replicate the results in the post… even though most of my posts have been replications of other bloggers’ work. I suspect posting more wouldn’t hurt either… ;-)

  3. It’s really all about adaptive learning . . sharing alterate pespectives and knowledge bases. The trick is not to let your ego get in the way of achieving trading excellence and success while trying to develop a trading plan than provides a comfort level for capital deployment and risk exposure. A willingness to share ideas and question pre-conceptions should be Job 1. And, respect of others’ viewpoints, even when at odds with your own, says a lot (to me). Bottom line, you never know when your long-held trading beliefs are going to be challenged for the better and an entirely new trading mindset will emerge. Can’t we all just get along?

  4. After watching the debate between Woodshedder and a bunch of yahoos, I’d say that people’s egos would get in the way. I believe in an open critique model where people can challenge ideas but not people – not sure that is possible on the internet. I remember I wrote up a long critique of the mutual fund business, and this guy tried to critique me, but then failed to actually respond, in any real meaningful way, to my response. After that I lost interest – that is, debate is interesting and important, but can only happen in what I call a “challenge friendly environment”.

  5. 5 MDan

    So why isn’t Coke sharing its recipe in order to sustain progress in the fizzy drinks industry?

    • 6 marketsci

      RE to mdan: big difference – I’m not competing w/ anyone w/ a blog (and I hope no one feels they’re competing with me). Even if we were, none of us are sharing secret sauce, just ideas and concepts that will hopefully make us all collectively better. michael

  6. DV and BZB said it very well.
    Although Damian is also correct in that there is not much to keep a debate or critique on the internet from degrading into a Lord of the Flies situation, unless it is primarily the quant bloggers providing the bulk of the critiques…but then is that just an echo chamber?

    I can say for sure that everyone on Michael’s blogroll is certainly capable of debate/critique sans ad hominems.

    MDan, for an example of how this could work, take a look at CSS Analytics recent post about Relative Strength and Donchian Channel breakouts…lots to work with in that post, yet the secret sauce could vary significantly across quants.

  7. 8 sn

    Blogsphere is about sharing ideas where personalities to large degree are irrelevant. So blogsphere was never supposed to drive the progress which often depends on fashion, i.e. some name

    • 9 marketsci

      RE to sn: I agree, but that still doesn’t resolve the downside of a horizontal dialogue without independent assessment: fact and nonsense take on equal weight. michael

  8. An idea to encourage more “vertical” blogging and collaborating, building on each other. What about a group project and/or competition.

    Not sure what it would look like, I have not really thought about it but if a group of quant analysis blogs decided to all do a series of blog posts over the course of a month or so on a common topic or objective?

    Like just as an example (and one I have been thinking about lately): how about looking at using market breadth indicators like advance decline data as market timing mechanisms. There is so much to try and think about, it would be cool if many quant blogs all were looking at it at the same time with some blogs (like yourself) trying to keep it all somehow coherent and directed with blog posts feeding off of each others over time with a specific goal.

  9. 11 Blue cat

    There is vertical/academic work in this area. CXO reviews a lot of it — as you point out.

    There are a couple of issues here: peer review and building on others’ work. Blogging doesn’t lend itself to peer review. Peer review occurs before an academic article is published. In the blogging world one publishes whatever one likes without any sort of prior review. People may comment afterward, though.

    Building on others’ work does occur in this field–although not as much as it might. Michael, you added DV(2) to your state-of-the-market. That’s an example of building on David’s work.

    What may be lacking from most blog entries is a literature review. When you (or anyone else) writes a blog piece with what seems like a new idea, do you look to see whether anyone else has done anything similar in the past — and if so, how it worked out? Probably not, or at least not very much. That’s what vertical progress is all about. It’s acknowledging and evaluating predecessor ideas before discussing your new contribution.

    • I find the slant of the thinking behind the comments about building on others work flawed. It suggests that there is some scientific or engineered research going on here. There is not. The only argument I can see in favor is simply to nod one’s head to the efforts of others, ie. courtesy.

      In that light, I’m not entirely sure what peer review would achieve either; IMHO, nothing whatsoever. Blogs posts are by their nature subjective and lightly tested at best and can only be regarding as exercises in hot air production. If some people find that hot air useful then good for them. But to seek to elevate the exercise up to the level of scientific research with all of the associated methodological rigor prior to and post publication is really quite ludicrous.

      • 13 MarketSci

        RE: “Blog posts…can only be regarding [sic] as exercises in hot air production.”

        …says the guy reading a blog post. Oh the irony.

  1. 1 Indicators and Edges: The Introduction | System Trading with Woodshedder

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