2009 Prediction Results

Before moving on to my predictions for 2010, I’ll take a look at how my predictions for 2009 worked out:

1: Usain Bolt sets 100m record at 9.62 (difficulty 0.7)

I was right that Bolt would break his own 100m record of 9.69, but he was faster than 9.60, which was the low end of my fallback (difficulty 0.5) range. I don’t feel too bad about missing this one.

2: Russia tones it down (difficulty 0.4)

I admitted at the time that this was subjective, but that “I don’t expect Russian military action to appear in many New York Times front-page headlines.” I’ll take credit.

It seems trivial in hindsight, but then most good predictions do.

3: Blagojevich cleared (difficulty 0.7)

The original prediction was that while Blago’s misbehavior was enough to ruin a political career (he was, in fact, impeached), it probably wasn’t enough to get a criminal conviction.

The trial is still going on, so I guess the original prediction missed. I haven’t been following the trial and don’t know much about either the evidence in the case or corruption law in general, but I’ll stick with it and guess that he will eventually be cleared.

4: Netflix starts to slip (difficulty 0.6)

I regretted this prediction almost as soon as I posted it; Netflix has a very good online-rental offering, so using them as “a proxy for best-of-breed physical media rental services” in comparison to iTunes-style digital distribution was a terrible, terrible choice.

I predicted a loss for Netflix by Q3; they continue to be consistently profitable, to the tune of $30 million per quarter.

Beyond my lousy choice of Netflix as a proxy for physical media, I think I was also expecting a much bigger push from AppleTV, which didn’t happen. I’m still a believer in the death of physical media, but this prediction was wrong on a great many levels.

5: New iPhone model from Apple (difficulty 0.3)

Nailed it in every detail: only major changes were faster processors and more RAM.

6: Microsoft continues to fade away (difficulty 0.3)

Another low-difficulty prediction. Microsoft closed on 2008-12-30 at 19.34, and now they’re trading at just under 30 (up 55%). Google moved from 303 to 590 (up 95%) and Apple went from 86 to 195 (up 126%). I made (a little bit of) money on this one; stock predictions aren’t supposed to be this easy.

7: Yahoo broken up and sold off (difficulty 0.4)

I missed this one. Instead of being bought by Microsoft, Yahoo just contracted to use Microsoft’s search service. I don’t entirely understand Yahoo’s strategy, but then I haven’t been paying much attention to them this year.

8: GM and Chrysler file for bankruptcy (difficulty 0.7)

Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 on 30 April, and GM followed suit on 1 June. My optimism that Obama wouldn’t bail them out wasn’t justified, but the predictions were solid.

9: Stock markets tread water (difficulty 1.0)

I predicted DJIA, Nasdaq, and S&P at 8600, 1700, and 880, respectively, which represented only a slight gain from a year ago. Right now they’re at 10471, 2190, and 1106, so they’ve done much better than I expected, to the tune of about 25%. According to my formula, this counts as a success with a difficulty just under 0.4—not completely trivial, but not much to brag about.

10: My own research output (difficulty 0.4)

Miserable failure on this; my productivity plummeted this year, and I won’t be submitting my thesis until next year. Sigh.

Final tally

So I hit four easy ones (2, 5, 6, and 9), missed two easy ones (7 and 10), hit one tougher one (8) but completely screwed up another (4), and missed two tough predictions but not very badly (1 and 3). Given the mix of difficulties, I don’t feel too bad hovering around 50% overall.