Friday, August 08, 2008


A few months ago, (early Jan, to be precise) I found out - quite by accident - that I own shares in a publicly-traded company. It turns out that I didn't open any of the letters from Standard Life when they demutualised. I have a pension scheme with them that I was enrolled in against my better judgement a long time ago, and now I own a few hundred shares in the company.

I've never watched share-values before, but since this discovery, I've been keeping an eye on them, and the effect that they've been having on me goes somewhat beyond the fluctuations in their value. None of this was expected or wished for. It's an intrusion.

Prior to this, my moods had their own tracker-index - technology. For some reason, whenever the low cards were being dealt to me in other parts of my life, my PC / PDA / websites went through a rocky period. A virus got through, an expensive piece of kit (one whose purchase was opposed by the wife, and the warranty was waived to keep the price down) packed up. This always happened at the same time as a big business-project that I'd been working on collapsed spectacularly and embarrassingly.

So the month that I had to spend all day explaining why I wasn't going to deliver on the grandiose personal commitments that I'd made to customers (all of them deserving types, naturally), I also had to spend all night using the old Windows 3.11 PC (dug out of the attic) to surf the support forums (over a dial-up, natch) looking for answers on motherboard / soundcard / OS / router incompatibilities on the shiny new XP box.

You know the sort of thing. The coincidence was so uncanny that it made me adopt all of those biases that economists warn you against. Biases of the post hoc ergo propter hoc variety. And it's made me over-invest in computer hardware. Now, I don't only think... "must be careful not to lose those files and contacts", it's also "must make sure that I don't get all depressed." There's a lot more riding on it than my PC.

But I digress. Since I got the shares, all of my technology has been working fine. Everything I buy installs perfectly and doesn't slow anything else down. But I still have those offline ups-and-down like anyone else does. And now they track - almost perfectly, the list price of Standard Life. My shares add up to about £1,000 on a good day, but there have been plenty of not-so-good ones. The little widget on my screen is green on days that I've got loads done, and red on days that dreams have turned to ashes.

But simply watching the dynamics of how they go up and down - and me wondering what makes them change - has been fascinating. I want to learn more, without actually buying any shares myself.

Has anyone seen a good web-based share-dealing game that mimics the market? I'm going to try this one unless someone tells me there's a better option. One where you can start off with - say - a 1000 points - and muck around with them? I reckon it would be very instructive. From what I can see, it lets you compete against people who you know, so if anyone is interested - let me know?

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