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Make-It-Yourself Prediction Widgets—A Commentary by Ian Ayres ’86

The following commentary was posted on newyorktimes.com on August 11, 2010.

Make-It-Yourself Prediction Widgets
By Ian Ayres ’86

http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/11/make-it-yourself-prediction-widgets/  

Wolfram Alpha has just launched a free Widget Builder that lets you easily create widgets to calculate all kinds of things – seamlessly integrating data from the Alpha server. (I’ve blogged before about the trove of name statistics that can be unearthed with an Alpha search.)

Now if you have a favorite regression result, you can create a pretty prediction widget and publish it to the web. (Just program in the estimated coefficients and let the user plug in the relevant X values.) I have a prediction tools page where I tried making some of the prediction widgets on my own with much less satisfying results.

What’s really cool about the Alpha widgets is that they can automatically populate some of the inputs based on their own data. For example, here’s a widget that calculates the (Merton-Samuelson) share of your portfolio that you should invest in stock. I’ve created an excel version of the same widget. But the Alpha version automatically plugs in the latest close for the CBOE’s volatility index (and in true Alpha fashion it shows you how the share value has varied over time).

(Hat tip: Marty Kane)