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Open Source Finance Message Board › What Next?

What Next?

Marc J.
Walnut Creek, CA
Post #: 21
Many thanks to everyone who attended last Thursday's meetup. I especially want to thank those who reached out to me after the Meetup to discuss working together on projects!

My sense of the meeting was that people found the content interesting but that I did not adequately invite participation. I chose to discuss a project that had limited opportunities for community involvement because I wanted to cover something different than I addressed at the December Bay Area R User Group.

Now the question is where to go from here. I'd like to offer a straw man and get your input.

In February, I propose to discuss Public Sector Credit Framework - an open source budget simulation tool that can be used to rate national and state governments. I used this tool to conclude that the State of California should be rated AAA rather than A- (as the major rating agencies now do). This project has a very long unfulfilled wish list, so there are several opportunities to contribute to the project or create adjacent standalone project that would be beneficial.

After February, I suggest that we cover topics aside from government finance with presentations from other group members and guest speakers. Suggestions are welcome!

I was incredibly fortunate that Margit offered Kaggle's space - which turned out to be well sized for the number of people who showed up. On the other hand, I stopped publicizing when I realized we couldn't get a bigger space; so a bigger turnout may have been possible. If anyone on the list can suggest spaces, I welcome that. I am very open to meeting in the South Bay since several members are from there. I am also open to providing a web conferencing alternative if the next venue has good wireless internet. If we do conferencing, it would be essential for phone participants to remain on mute, since background noise could disrupt the meeting.

Finally, I provided food but didn't advertise it. Between people flaking and not being hungry, I ended up spending a lot of money on uneaten pizza. I hope people at Kaggle enjoyed the extensive leftovers! Since I am bootstrapping, I can't afford to provide food on an ongoing basis. I am open to suggestions about finding a company willing to provide food in exchange for something, not having food at all or asking for donations to cover food service costs.

Ok enough from me. I anxiously await suggestions from the group.
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 1
Looking forward to hearing about Public Sector Credit Framework next month.

If you’re interested in expanding the scope to other topics, then perhaps solicit suggestions from people at the next meeting (in addition to any mentioned in this thread.) Once you have a list of topics, you could have people give presentations on them and then have members vote on the best ones. The topics with the highest number of votes could then be turned into projects in which the members could brainstorm to hack a solution. Subsequent meetups would then be about people discussing progress made or issues that they’re grappling with. Experts could also be brought in to present on these issues.

If you are looking for topics, I’d like to suggest one related to measuring the corporate governance of small, currently unrated, public companies. (I can elaborate on this idea if there is interest.)

Regarding logistics, I think a San Francisco venue with web conferencing capabilities would be good. I’ve heard that free meetup events typically have a 50% flake rate. In my experience, charging a small fee ($5-10) discourages no-shows and helps cover the cost of the meeting space, food, and drinks. Food and drinks are not expected, but are nice to have.
A former member
Post #: 2
If, by food and drinks, you mean pizza and coke, I don't endorse food and drinks. A small fee would be OK with me, but not a large one. The South Bay is 75-100 miles for me, each way. While I do have a few meetings there, I can only have so many.

Rating companies could possibly be OK, but the devil is in the details. If, for example, one proposes to use stochastic probability to do the ratings, I would be be opposed. Many small companies would love it, if it helped them win investment. Perhaps there could be a program to which they could subscribe that would help them get a better rating and ratings would apply only to subscribers. A simple numerical rating seems unfair, too.

What if a company objected to its rating? Market research corporations do some similar things, but they are treated as press and often have good attorneys. I believe that, under California law, a Meetup group is regarded as an association, hence all members are liable for the actions of every other member. A non profit corporation might give some immunity, but then there are those expensive attorneys. Perhaps pro bono work, if this were seen as in the public interest.

What if the company were Enron? The ab initio nature of Enron's fraud included favorable laws (economic "rent seeking"), tight control by a handful of people, and multiple sets of books. I think there were some people who were highly suspicious of Enron, but their complaints were ignored, for example, because those who received the complaints didn't want to believe they were true.
A former member
Post #: 3
Marc, I'm saddened to hear about you loss on pizza, etc. I don't consider pizza to be food, although it sometimes can taste good. If I eat pizza, it is only the best pizza, in a small amount, or it is the case that I must eat something else suffer dire consequences.

Communications are an ongoing problem.

The South Bay is a long way for me, so I go there sparingly.

I've pulled up the site of PSCF and will try to review it.
Is there any open source software for credibility analysis?
Marc J.
Walnut Creek, CA
Post #: 25
I really appreciate this feedback (including Andy's on a separate thread) and look forward to more.

A few days ago, I learned about a large, ambitious open source finance project called opengamma. They are venture capital funded and I gather that VCs are looking at funding other such projects. I have invited opengamma to present at the Meetup and will reach out to others as I find them.

I agree that we should ideally have the next Meetup in SF and provide a remote connection. We'll need to find a space and I welcome any ideas about how we can find one.

At this early stage, I would rather try to attract as many people as possible, so I will try to keep it free and ask for donations to cover the cost of refreshments - which I will limit to soft drinks and chips. If we find corporate sponsors for future meetings - who may want to use us a recruitment channel - we can ask them to pay for food. I will deal with the "flake factor" by increasing the ratio of Meetup slots to room capacity. Last time, I used 3:2. Next time, I will try 3:1.

I will respond more fully next week and look forward to any additional feedback before then.
Kathy L.
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 1
Hi Marc,

The suggestions that you and others have made sound good.

Other meetings could also talk about the open source projects you and I had found:
Quantopian: https://www.quantopia...­

Another meeting topic might be to actually use your framework and go through what people might think different predictions/time series should be added to the model.
And yet another meeting might be on open government/finance/city data and how to find it/manage it in open ways (what tools exist, do they work, what else is needed, etc.).

Will let you know if I think of meeting location ideas.

- Kathy
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