Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Seeing A Show (or a 10K) From A Different Perspective.

One of the great things about the internet is that it allows you to get a ton of information and communicate with people that you normally wouldn't- this blog is a perfect example of that. At what point in history could a lanky kid from the foothills of Appalachia, with a degree in general studies, and a geeky interest in investing so readily get in touch with other investors!? The following post is yet another example of that... read long enough and this does actually get to investment stuff. :)

A few months ago, I was scouring around YouTube for videos of my favorite band: mewithoutYou. I saw that there was a person who had recorded a lot of shows at a venue in Cleveland called The Grog Shop; coincidentally, the user had also recorded one of mewithoutYou's songs at one of the shows that I was at a few years ago in Cleveland. After having a few drinks, I decided to message them through YouTube, asking if they had recorded a song called "C-Minor." One of the reasons I wanted to see it, was that Aaron Weiss (the band's singer) had changed some of the lyrics of the song and I remembered the performance being great.

A few emails and weeks later, the following was posted:

Needless to say, when I saw this, I got pretty excited. One thing that I didn't expect, is that I found it interesting that my own recollection of the song was a bit skewed from what actually happened. I was standing to the far left of the camera and remember the band playing the song a little bit tighter and not going off key at any point in the song (those little imperfections though, truly are some of the great things about live performances)... I also vividly remember Weiss and the crowd both being much more animated after he changed the lyrics of the song by saying "I just found out last night, that she got married this past Saturday." As I recalled, there were a bunch of people that moaned "ooooohhhhh...." as if to say, "Wow man... that's really fucked up... You must be pretty torn up." I was actually one of them- because, when going through a bunch of his lyrics, it seems like the one girl he loved wasn't with him.

I then remembered his response being "I kn-ooo--w!" Exclaimed in the sort of way that was as if he was implying "Yeah, finding out really sucked for me... I feel mournful about it, but, it's funny, because that's just how life is..." all while self deprecatingly taking a laugh at himself.

When watching the video, it became apparent rather quickly that my perception of what went on was exceptionally wrong... In the video, the crowd seemed to be kind of dumbfounded with a delayed response and he, the singer, saying "I know" in a manner that was quite different than I recollect; almost on the verge of just shrugging off some serious depression...

Now, I refer you to this video:

Jeff Tweedy (currently of Wilco and formerly, one of my favorites: Uncle Tupelo) talks at a show about the evils of recording live music- that the videos alter your memory of the show and such. Even hinting at the narcissism that they can entail by "proving" that you were there.

But here is the thing: I and some friends drove over 4 hours to see that mewithoutYou show and I altered the memory on my own! The recording actually got me closer to the truth, and that is the point. Do I really want to have a false perception of what happened in my life or would I rather know the truth? As bad as it can sometimes be, I always hope that I go with truth.

Anyway, I think that this is really valuable for looking at investments in several ways:

*It is really easy to fool yourself into remembering something one way, when it was clearly happening another. I don't know why I wanted to or why I created the memory to be a certain way, but I did. It could be for any variety of reasons; maybe I was thinking about some girl, maybe I was in a different mood because I generally drink when I am at shows and I hadn't had a drink that night, maybe the 4+ hour drive messed with me... Regardless, I was wrong.

*It is really easy to talk to people on the internet and get stuff that makes up the community that is the internet a lot better. This above example of a video of a show is a great example. I messaged "deftonium" on YouTube simply to say something to the effect of "hey, here is this thing that you probably took a video of that I think is great. Please put it up!"

*It might be worthwhile to occasionally re-scan all the 10Ks that you read on a company or re-listent to conference calls to see if there is something that you missed. Personally, I re-read/re-listen to stuff all of the time, just to challenge myself to find something that may alter my thesis.

*From a societal stand point there are a lot of concerns that should probably arise from biases that we create internally- whether intentional or not. When companies get robots to write news stories about financial matters to cater to certain audiences there are problems to come... What if I get a story that appeals to a preconceived bias that I likely have, when all I really wanted was to get something that was factual so that I would have correct information? After all, investing is all about making money, not about confirming incorrect beliefs. Certainly, there should be ethical concerns for the publisher of such catered stories as well- what if people lose money based on an article they read, that they took as fact? The investor should have done more homework, but, there is a certain expectation for factual information from a publisher; after all, that is why all publications will publish retractions and such- it's a trust thing! What if an investor makes money because of something getting confirmed to them, but the facts were actually different, and they think their hypothesis was right? That could be very disastrous in the future for them as well as they might invest based on some sort of variation of the confirmation or survivorship bias.

Forbes and the like aren't the only ones to blame either. Google is doing the same thing whenever they throw ads at us based on our emails, phone calls, apps we download, websites we visit, or blogs that we write/read...

It isn't that I have much of a solution for this observation as I simply feel that it is something that we should all try to stand guard against. Regardless, here's to changing memories.

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