TMI - Trading Advice For The Information Junkie

I've just got to read these before I go quietly insane

I've just got to read these before I go quietly insane

Too Much Information

According to Robert J. Moore CEO of RJ Metrics, in 2002 we created 23 exabytes of information, we now created that every 7 days. 23 Exabytes is 23 billion megabytes by the way, that's 23 million Terabytes.

Let that sink in for a moment, think about how much information you can store on your one terabyte hard drive. Can you picture just how much information you could fit on 23 1TB hardrives? Probably more information than you have between you and your nuclear family.

Now scale that up by ten to 230TB, probably your entire street could fit all their files on that, then by one hundred 2300 TB a decent sized London council could probably store all it's info on 2300 TB, then one thousand, then ten thousand, then one hundred thousand and then one million.

You’d need a very large four bedroom house with a garden and a garage to store one million one terabyte hard drives, now imagine a street with 23 of those houses in and that’s the sum total of information produced on planet earth in the year of 2002.

Today we produce that much information every seven days, so you’d need an entire village full of large houses to store that information on 1 terabyte hard drives and you’d need a few decent sized countries to store that information on paper.

Pretty much all of this information is of course on the internet and unless you live in China it's all freely available to you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and that; is a problem a big problem, because it's all completely and utterly useless to you.

When I say all, I clearly don't mean all, but when you think of 23,000,000 terabytes of information being produced every 2 days you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that not even close to 0.1% of that is of any use to you in any meaningful way..

This fact has a profound impact on anybody who’s trying to become a pro trader on Betfair, as the ability to sort useful information whilst ignoring the guff is a key skill to either have or obtain when trying to master sports trading.

Information Junkies

What is useful and what is not?

A by-product of these vast oceans of information being created every day of our lives is that we are much more likely to become information junkies, in fact unless you are already aware of this phenomenon or don’t use the internet (in which case you won’t be reading this and  I don’t know why I'm addressing you) then you almost definitely are some sort of information junkie.

An information junkie is predictably addicted to gathering useless information, the information junkie revels in gathering for gathering sake. Your typical information junkie will believe that there is a difference between the information they get, they will say things like;

"I like to catch up on serious news in the mornings, but then when I get home I just want to relax on Facebook."

Unfortunately these people I'm afraid are deluding themselves.

The definition of useful information is information that is being gathered for an actionable purpose. It requires processing and converting into action that directly results from the gathering of said information.

What that basically means is; if you are researching on the internet for an exam, or a job, or how to trade sports or how to perform a tracheotomy with a Biro and you then organise that information and act upon it, using the information to solve what ever problem you are facing, then that, can be defined as useful information.

If you are not a full time academic, extremely busy executive or diligent student then that type of information will represent a very small percentage of the information you gather on a daily, or even hourly basis.

Let's get this straight right now, watching or reading the news is not useful information, unless you are reading or watching about a serious incident in your area which is directly affecting you and you are going to use the information you gather in the news to help you or those around you. For instance in the London riots of 2013 it would have been useful to watch the news if you lived in Tottenham when the riots were happening on your doorstep.

Otherwise at best it's curiosity and at worst titillation, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that world issues like war in Syria or street kids in Brazil being murdered by police death squads aren't objectively important. But unless you are going to join the Red Cross or Red Crescent or some other such charity and go and help these people then it is subjectively useless information.

It sounds harsh, but if you start to look at information in this dispassionate way then it will stand you in good stead as a Betfair trader.

Potentially useful doesn't always mean useful

Don't assume either that just because the information you are gathering covers the first half of the equation of being linked to an actionable purpose. You can turn useful information into useless information by not acting upon it.

Nobody would know what Watergate was without Deep Throat speaking to the reporters and then they in turn deciding to report it to their editor who decided to print it in the newspaper. Nobody would know who Edward Snowden is, without him acting upon information that he had gathered.

In the same way if you finish reading this article and carry on wasting countless hours clicking on Facebook headlines and the like, then all this information is useless.

Information + Action = Useful Information + Outcome

and

Information - action = Useless information + more information - action.

Look at the two statements and contemplate them for a second, the first equation is a closed loop, you research all you can on a subject and then you act upon that research and there is an outcome, good or bad.

The second equation illustrates what happens when you don't or can't act upon information, the information becomes useless and you simply gather more information as there is no outcome, no point to gathering but the gathering itself.

You see this phenomenon within all sorts of people but especially people who are really into conspiracy theories or alien hunting. Some of these people gather huge libraries of information on subjects ranging from secret moon landings to aliens causing 911.                                                                                                                                                             They call it research and evidence, but what it is in fact, is tomes of useless information.

The hardcore information junkies aren't dealing with potentially useful information they like to deal in info that will never be of any use because it's unactionable;

Just exactly what are you going to do about this ground breaking evidence that exposes the Illuminati, vaccine/911 conspiracy or KK's VPL? Most probably try and tell me about it so that like a heroin junkie who wants you to be as messed up as him, you have a fellow information junkie to indulge your habit with.

A true info junkie like's to break bad and partake in the electronic equivalent of crystal meth, Buzzfeed, or the heroin of the Daily Mail gossip pages or the marijuana of Twitter or maybe it's the opium of a conspiracy site;

okay, okay I'm going too far with the drug references, I think you get the point by now.

Every website that you go to on the internet is designed to keep you there; even this one, which in itself isn't a bad thing if like on this site the information is potentially useful information which you subsequently act upon and derive an outcome based on the information received.

Call me legion for I am many

Call me legion for I am many

But when it’s a site like Buzzfeed or Facebook or any one of the millions of less popular, but equally addictive sites that are designed to keep you in a loop of collecting useless information you are in trouble.

Because those sites will hamper your ability to concentrate, which in turn hamper’s your ability to research which will have a negative impact on your Betfair trading or any time you have to do something constructive that involves using the internet.

Oh please oh please oh please, just gimme just one more click

It goes like this; it’s Saturday morning and after your shower and breakfast you have a read of the sports section of the newspaper and catch up on some upcoming events that you’re thinking of trading in. 

This is the first point of information gathering and it’s fine because you need to find out what is going on with certain teams and what key people within those teams are saying so that you can glean what they’re thinking, which in turn is going to help you make your trades.

You get distracted by a couple of the non sporting stories in the paper and spend fifteen or twenty minutes gathering information that is of no use, but of high interest to you and so it starts.

Then you turn on your computer, you click on your web browser and immediately go to check your emails, there is nothing important there but you have notifications from Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, so you click onto Facebook… UH OH!!

Suddenly it’s 1:45 football kick off is in an hour and a quarter and all you've done is catch up on what your friends are going to be doing on the weekend, comment on various postings and pictures they've put up, watched various cat/silly dance/amazing art videos and contemplated masturbating.

On top of this you've checked your emails about fifty or sixty times flicked around Instagram and checked out various fashion faux pas/camel toe fails/skateboarding mash-ups on Buzzfeed.

You remember that you needed to check out what Wolverhampton Wanderers’ form is like at the moment because you’re contemplating laying Manchester City when they meet in the cup in a couple of days time, so you spend five minutes researching this, but find that you can’t really make a decision.

After staring at various stats for ten or fifteen minutes you can't really remember why you thought Wolves could beat City so you flick back to Facebook for another 45 minutes.

It's now 2:45 and you decide you want to trade in a Premier League football game, you are sure there was a particular bet you were thinking of, but can't remember, so you login to soccerstats and flick through various teams.

The problem is now you can't focus on anything for longer than 30 seconds, so you decide to trade on instinct.

So you login to Betfair

Chelsea seem like a value lay against Southampton away at 1.27.

Chelsea are 3-0 up in the first 25 minutes

Shit...

Sound familiar?

This scenario is familiar to a lot of people; in fact I’d say it was familiar to the lion share of people who use the internet daily, which in the Western world is just about everybody.

The websites might be different and the day of the week and time of day that you do it may be different, but you will take part in some similar scenario that I described above, possibly, probably, every day.

Ultimately the more we do this, the less our capacity to concentrate and not just on the internet, but on anything; when was the last time you read a book?. 

"First there was the TV generation whose minds where moulded by the most popular shows of the time, they eventually programmed their brains to focus in half an hour slots.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Next there was the MTV generation they had attention spans of around 3 and a half minutes as they programmed their brains to concentrate for 3 minutes and 31 seconds the average length of a music video.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Then came the YouTube generation, they programmed their brains to concentrate in 90 second lumps of time as this represented the average length of the most popular videos on the site.                                                                                                                                                                           After that, the Facebook generation, brains that focus for twenty seconds at a time. This represents the attention time required to view the most popular content on the site and to like it.                                                                                                                                                                       Now we have 7 second long Vine Videos; an alien visiting Earth wouldn't take much convincing that we are setting ourselves some kind of insane challenge to see just how short we can render the human attention span."

We are becoming a nation of confused multitaskers, constantly flicking our attention onto the next update, constantly checking our phones, virtual statuses....

Stop!

When you present the brain with a chance to get little endorphins hits as you search information that’s pleasing to you the brain grabs this chance with two metaphorical hands as it is getting pleasure for little or no effort.

This is why people who say they’re addicted to porn often can’t have sex with their partners, because the brain would rather have the body sit almost completely still whilst deriving sexual pleasure, than actually having to work to achieve the same state.

The only solution is to stop; but how?

Trade Deficit

Imagine if you did 10 push ups every morning for the next 5 years; what do you imagine would happen? That's right, you would get very good at doing 10 push ups, now imagine your discomfort if after 5 years I enter the room and shout; "Drop and give me twenty!". 

If you want to be a great sports trader on Betfair, then you have to live by the maxim,

No research, No trade.

In order to research efficiently, you have to use the internet and unless you use it properly then you could be putting your bankroll in jeopardy.

Popular websites like Buzzfeed, Twitter or Facebook and many more besides, are designed in such a way that they can put you in a trance-like state caused by looking for and collecting useless information. 

This leads to a negative feedback loop whereby the brain is deriving pleasure from collecting information without having to work at processing it.

Unfortunately the ‘hit’ from watching someone fall off a skateboard, reading about a celebrity's backside or staring at Jeniffer Lawrence's camel toe is fleeting at best. So the only solution if you want another fleeting endorphin hit is to search for more easy to process, meaningless information.

The useful information you obtain while researching your trades has to be retained and actively processed, in other words you have to make real-time rational judgements based on the information you are gathering. 

Put even simpler, you have to work at your research information gathering and you don’t have to when browsing cat videos.

So researching will seem boring and futile and you will shy away from any real quality research, or even worse you’ll find it difficult to process the information in any meaningful way so will give up on any research beyond who is playing who.

If this happens your brain is much more likely to send you signals to stop researching and just ‘quickly check’ Facebook instead, before you know it that quick check turns into two hours of mindless clicking. If you carry on like this, then I have sobering news for you, you will never be a quality sports trader.

Research is viewed by the brain as work; which it is and Facebook is viewed as fun; which is debatable. 

The Use and Abuse Of The Addictive Personality

Make that with 6 sugars to go.

Make that with 6 sugars to go.

It always makes me smile to myself when I hear things like; 

“I need to steer clear of that because I've got an addictive personality.” 

Or 

“He/She has such an addictive personality.”

The fact is, just like the celebrity disease of sex addiction, we've all got addictive personalities to some degree or another and sites like I've mentioned above are designed to take advantage of your natural predilection to become addicted to something. 

The way the term addictive personality is used in modern society, is to describe a person’s propensity to get addicted to any given thing once exposed to that thing once or twice.

However this definition is somewhat misleading, because it leads us into thinking that one person is more susceptible to becoming addicted to anything over another.

The thinking being if John has a more addictive personality than Jane, then he will become addicted to things like drugs, alcohol and all the things you can get addicted to and Jane won’t. This is dangerous baloney thinking.

Now I would never argue against the fact that if you gave two people each a cigarette who had never smoked before, then you very well may get one of them who is hooked after the very first puff and another who will simply walk away; never to smoke again.

But the reason isn't to do with one person’s personality being more addictive than another’s, it’s to do with exposure and taste.

Addiction = Taste + Exposure

I'm assuming if you are reading this, then you are probably not a crystal meth or crack addict, unless you are an extremely highly functioning one. But let's for now assume that you are not.

What if I decided that Breaking Bad was the way to go and gave you a free hit of meth every morning.

Maybe on morning one you decide you don't like the taste of meth-amphetamine and decline when I offer you some on the second morning, so instead I give you crack. However the next morning you decline my offer of a crack pipe claiming you didn't really like it.

I carry on every morning till I find something you like the taste of, let say for argument's sake your poison is chocolate brownies, so discovering this I feed you chocolate brownies every morning. It wouldn't take long before you were completely addicted to chocolate brownies and were eating them all day instead of just in the mornings.

At which point after taking them away from you for a while I would start charging you £10 a brownie (hey I'm playing the evil drug dealer here, I've got to make money!)

Clearly in this bizarre little scenario we are assuming that I am some kind of chocolate brownie overlord and I have a monopoly; the breaking of which is punishable by death, over the world's chocolate brownie supply.

Taste is not a tangible thing that can be measured and it definitely isn't confined to the feedback loop between your taste buds and your brain. We can acquire tastes and we can lose them, we are constantly developing and changing our tastes from early childhood through to later adulthood.

If you gave  our two people smoking for the first time; let’s call them John and Jane and you gave them another hundred things they had also not done before.Then I guarantee if Jane walked away from the cigarette and John became addicted, Jane would become addicted to as many things as John in the long run.

John might walk away from a certain type of computer game, but get addicted to another, Jane might be come addicted to Facebook, whereas with John it’s checking his phone every five minutes.

John and Jane Addiction Chart

The numbers on the left represent the amount of times each subject was exposed to the drug before becoming addicted

We can see from the above chart that John in red got hooked on crystal meth soon after trying it, but needed more than 100 chocolate brownies before turning into a brownie junkie. Whereas Jane needed to smoke almost an entire carton of duty free cigarettes before she was hooked and we can see that they have a similar weakness for Facebook and Buzzfeed and their smart phones.

The larger the list of activities you expose John and Jane to, the more likely that you’d get an even split of predilections and addictions. 

This is because addiction; i.e. the ability to completely immerse yourself in an activity or activities at the cost of anything else, even food or sleep, is a massive evolutionary advantage when it comes to building the kind of societies that the human animal has managed to build over the last 60 millennia or so.

Imagine if Einstein couldn't get addicted to his work, or Darwin just couldn't be bothered to finish off On The Origin Of The Species. History is littered with achievers in varying fields that became addicted to their work and that drove them on to finish it.

What determines whether or not we get addicted to something will depend on our taste, do you like the feeling of what a cigarette does to you the first time enough to ignore the coughing and the horrible after taste? Yes? Then you'll become addicted if you carry on smoking, which you are more likely to because of course you have the taste for it.

So we've all got the potential to become addicted to something.

Hence when offering someone a drink, the saying;

What's your poison?

Most of you will use one or more of Facebook, Twitter, Google + or one of the other myriad of social media and/or news aggregate sites that spring up daily.

If you are in the rare percentile of people who don’t use any of these things then you may be a regular user on a forum, or maybe you use a combination of all these things and your time on the web is spent updating and being updated.

This is an abuse of your addictive personality, you’re using it to achieve mindless tasks that ultimately don’t satisfy you, so you do more in order to get more satisfied but you don’t so you do more.

The correct way to use your addictive personality is to do what a good student at school or university does when studying for exams, they isolate themselves, cutting off all stimuli apart from what is necessary to learning the information they need to pass those exams.

Note. Students who listen to music whilst studying are unconsciously linking the music to a high state of concentration and the actual content they are gathering, are risking not doing so well if they can’t listen to music in the exam (which as far as I'm aware, you can't) they are likely to struggle to recall the information they acquired or recreate the levels of  concentration they had whilst studying.

Time To Purge

The first thing you need to do is to clear your computer desktop of all extraneous distractions; you don’t need them, REPEAT AFTER ME; “I don’t need to know what’s going on, on Facebook more than once a week MAX!!!”

Repeat that ten times, then repeat ten times more, swap Facebook for whatever internet based information addiction you’re partial to if you need to; but please do it.

Note: I would recommend ditching facebook alltogether it’s probably the biggest single waste of time in the developed world. You are quite litteraly clicking yuor life away on Facebook.

Once you've done this, I want you to delete shortcuts that take you to these sites or put them in an appropriately named folder, if you need to get to them that badly you can go through the program menu or open up the folder.

Clear your desktop of general clutter, don’t just drop files on your desktop unless it’s for a reason and you move or delete that file within a few minutes. Now let’s get to work on your web browser.

Delete all social media website bookmarks, it sounds draconian, but if you want to remove all possible obstacles from you making money on betfair, follow all of this advice.

Make new bookmarks and only have those bookmarks pertaining to Betfair or research sites, this will mean that any time you get on the internet you’re going to be focussed on getting only the information you need to make you a better trader.

Now repeat steps on your phone!

You’re now going to be tempted into Betfair related searches rather than social media related searches, cat videos will lose their appeal and finding out what the goal average in the first half of Italian league games will increase tenfold in its appeal.

If you’re sitting there reading this thinking; “This isn't me; I'm nowhere near as bad as the person he’s describing.” Then I challenge you to prove that to yourself; get yourself a couple of those hand counter things, the type that door staff use to count the amount of people going into a venue.

Make sure these clickers are with you every time there’s a potential for you to get on the net and that includes going round to friend’s places and of course any time you check the internet on your phone.

Make sure the clickers are different colours, use one to count how many times you’re doing non related trading searches and one for when you do. Don’t just click for your searches, click it for when friends show you pointless updates. You could take this experiment to the Nth degree by getting another clicker to measure how many times one link leads you to another and so on.

Maybe swap the clickers for a notebook and some coloured pens, but do this for a week and I'm pretty sure you’ll be shocked at the ratio of crap to relevant material you’re looking at on the web. By following the steps above you have a chance of reducing and maybe even reversing that trend.

Using Your Naturally Addictive Personality

Imagine what an expert on any given field you could become if you put as much time and effort into that instead of Facebook or Twitter, it’s harder to get into goal averages and player ratings and such, but it’s a damn sight more rewarding.

A chef friend of mine once told me that you can get yourself to like any food just by eating it seven times. After seven times you go from hating it to not minding it and eventually to liking it.

There are probably a few factors at play here, not least cognitive dissonance whereby the brain accepts you must like the food or why would you keep eating it? But the point is it illustrates that we can adjust our tastes consciously.

So the trick is to become addicted to research sporting events and markets in order to gain an edge on your fellow traders on Betfair. You do that by repeating the action until it feels normal. Also if you are doing it right, you will create a positive feedback association between researching your trades and winning money, this will strengthen your addiction.

The last piece of advice I would give to all you sports traders out there, is to start meditating, remember meditation is a test of will and it will train you into focussing on one (boring) thing at a time and will teach you how to ignore distractions.

Summary

  • As much information as was created in the year of 2002 is now being created every 7 days. A whopping 23,000,000 Terabytes and it is all useless.

  • Information in itself is not useful it only has potential to be useful in either a positive or negative way. The information only becomes useful once you act upon it and use it to solve whatever challenge you are facing.

  • You can turn useful information into useless information by not acting on it.

  • Sites like Buzzfeed and Facebook are the electronic equivalent of class A drugs and should be avoided at all costs. The upshot of abusing these sites is that your capacity to concentrate on one thing at a time for a useful amount of time will be greatly diminished and will lead to you neglecting researching your trades.

  • Everyone has a base level potential for addiction, what you get addicted to will be determined by your tastes and what you are exposed to.

  • Like a recovering alcoholic or drug addict you must take away immediate temptation by deleting all short cuts to social media sites on  your computer desktop, tablet and phone. Replace them with trading related short cuts.

  • Get addicted to researching your markets using repetition and positive feedback loops.

  • Meditate in order to train your brain to concentrate on one thing at a time for extended periods and to make you better at ignoring distractions.

What about you, do you have any techniques for staying focussed? If so don't keep them to yourself go to the comments section below and tell me about it.

  Until next time, good luck and happy trading

The Zen Trader