Wednesday, 17 March 2004

The Prediction Market

Jim Dunnigan's Strategy Page is probably the best single source on the Internet for Miscellaneous Military Matters. In many ways, it's the Military equivalent of Aviation Week and Space Technology ( known by the cognoscenti and literati as Aviation Leak).

It's now running (in Beta Test until the beginning of May) a Prediction market. Essentially, you can bet on certain events happening, like Bush being re-elected ( currently 20 Pro, 55 Con ), by buying shares, either pro- or con-. Note that it's in Beta Test, with Test data. Some of which is obviously bogus, as test data usually is.

A swift digression: it's customary to have test data in computer systems being of the right format ( form) but with obviously incorrect values. For example, a client named Michael Mouse, another named Donald Duck, both living in 221B Baker Street, Gotham City, Trantor. Databases are often filled during development with names like Anne O'Namus, Sue Donim, Norm D. Ploom, Clarke Kent, James T Kirk ( of 1701 Enterprise Street), and so on.

The reason for this is simple: you want to make absolutely, positively sure that all test data has been flushed from the system before it goes into operation ( goes "live" ). Should some accidentally remain ( which happens, take my word for it ), you really want to detect the problem as soon as possible. I've acted as an Expert Witness in one case where the data hadn't been flushed, and the data wasn't obviously fake. This caused massive problems in the accounts system, legal obligations to pay GST ( VAT by any other name ) for fictitious purchases, and a mess in general. Live data from and English site had been used to test one in Australia, and I happened to recognise the area codes of the phone numbers as being of the Newbury, Berkshire area, near where I was born. A few checks on the UK Yellow Pages showed that the Company names matched those of firms in that area of the UK, and that no fraud was being perpetrated, merely incompetence on the part of the system's maker.

Hence my preference for "Consolidated Widget Corporation", "Interstellar Master Traders", "Amalgamated Conglobulations Incorporated", "Bourke and Hare Funeral Directors" , "Elizabeth Borden Axes" and other such company names in test data. They stick out like the proverbial sore thumbs if seen on a General Ledger report.

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