Part One: Tweet Market Basics
By jipkin, May 2018
Tweet markets! So easy to learn. So difficult to master. Simple, yet deep. Home to degenerates, data nerds, and some of the liveliest discussion boards on PredictIt.
These weekly markets are PI’s bread and butter, trading well over a million shares cumulatively each week. This guide introduces these beautiful markets, reveals a little about how they work, and outlines some basic strategies to try.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is a tweet market?
There are four tweet markets currently on PI, one for each of these accounts: @realDonaldTrump, @POTUS, @VP, and @WhiteHouse.
Each market asks its users to predict the answer to a straightforward question: in one week, how many times will this twitter account tweet?
Traders are presented a linked market of (generally) seven contracts spanning a range. For example, the @realDonaldTrump market (Trump Tweets, or TT, or RDT) might ask traders to decide among contracts ranging from 34 or fewer to 65 or more, with contracts between covering 5-tweet ranges (35-39, 40-44, etc). Know the lingo here – the lowest contract is usually labeled B1, and the highest B7. The “B” stands for “Bracket”. Only one contract can win at the end of the week – but several will likely take turns leading the pack until that happens!
If it seems insane to be able to predict one week out how many times an account will tweet – well, yeah, it’s hard. Fortunately you don’t have to be able to do that to make money – but we’ll get to that later, in Part Two.
How do tweet markets resolve?
The number one rule of PI is, as always, READ THE RULES. The rules for tweet markets are straightforward. All of them run from noon on their start day to noon on the same day of the week one week later. At the moment of market closure, PI simply opens the twitter page for the account in question, hovers their mouse over the tweet count, and records the number of tweets listed there. From that number, they subtract the starting number listed in the rules.
So how do I keep track of how many tweets have been sent?
Well, you can always open the account’s page (for example, http://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump) and get the tweet count and subtract the starting number from it. This is how we did it basically the first few months of these markets.
Fortunately, a PI user (Abe Simpson) made a simple website that will keep track of the count for you, and it is almost always accurate. Bookmark http://www.picount.com !
Do retweets count?
Do deletions make the count go down?
Do deletions happen?
Yes – sometimes several at once. But infrequently. With most accounts tweets are only deleted if there’s a mistake with them.
If an account retweets itself, does that count?
Yup – that makes the count go up (until or unless they delete it later).
If a retweeted tweet gets deleted, does the count go down?
Is the count ever different for different users?
Very rarely, but it has happened that people on the West coast will see a deletion before people on the East coast do. PI is East coast. It’s also occurred recent that the East coast saw deletions the West coast didn’t. The West coast’s count ended up being correct.
How do I know when one of the accounts tweets?
Well, you can follow them, and ask twitter (in the mobile app) to send you a notification when they tweet. You can keep an eye on picount.com. You can run a script that scrapes the twitter webpages for each account and gets the current tweet count. The fastest way is to use the twitter API and pair it with your notification system of choice. If you’re not a coder, don’t worry – most other people in the market aren’t either. And most of the money won isn’t won by being the fastest – but by being the smartest.
So far we’ve covered everything you need to know to play – the accounts, the contracts, the count, and the tweets. But if you start from this point you’ll be starting from scratch (like we all did at the beginning of 2017) without a clue how to actually predict things. So let’s break down these markets in a little bit more detail.
What’s going to happen to the value of my shares?
As you might have guessed by now, the simple rules for tweet markets produce straightforward dynamics. If the account is quiet or silent, contracts spanning the lower end of the range increase in value. If the account is especially active, contracts spanning the higher end of the range increase in value (while the lower end decreases).
Know where in the week you are
How silence and activity affect prices depends heavily on the day of the week – big swings are more common near the end of the week as two or three contracts break ahead of the rest of the field. Meanwhile the early week is usually just gentle sloshing (5-10c swings – still profitable!) as people jockey for positions.
The basic way a tweet market plays out goes something like this. On opening day and the next, traders suss out their predictions for what the account will be tweeting about in the coming week, how active the account will be, and so forth. Offers are made, met, and adjusted as people settle into their positions.
Mid-week (two-four days in) is where shifts begin to happen as predicted activity happens or doesn’t, as new developments come to light, and so forth. Usually a 5-tweet-wide contract in the middle of the range will see 30c+ at this point.
Late-week (five-seven days in) is where the real action happens. Big swings, big volume as bouts of silence and activity become more and more meaningful.
Three basic kinds of tweet markets
There are three basic kind of price dynamics tweet markets can have. If the market thinks early on the tweet count will be less than the range provided by PI, the lowest bracket (X or fewer) will jump out to an early lead. I call these “B1 weeks”. For instance – if you know that Mike Pence is going on vacation the entire next week and that he doesn’t tweet much on vacation, it’s a pretty easy decision to buy B1 – 29 or fewer when PI opens the new market. B1 weeks are usually boring – except when unexpected activity comes along to save the day and push the final tweet count somewhere into a higher bracket. In these weeks, expect to be facing decisions like “Do I really want to buy this bracket at 60c?” two or three days in.
The second kind of market is the opposite – a “B7 week”. Here the market is convinced, based on early activity, a poor range choice by PI, or expected activity, that the account will overshoot the range and therefore land in B7 (X or higher). These can be exciting and profitable weeks – if the market is wrong and the real count doesn’t get there, or just barely gets there. They can also be some of the most boring if the market is right and B7 wins early.
The third kind, and the most common, is a week where the market isn’t sure where in the range the final count will land. Sometimes B1 or B7 might see 30c early on, but neither runs away with it. The price distribution generally starts out broader, then begins narrowing as the week passes. For these weeks, the best positions are made mid-week and the most profits are made late-week.
Each tweet market is its own special snowflake
Are you shocked to learn that the particularities of @realDonaldTrump tweeting are different than those of @VP tweeting? While there are certain basic rules that affect all tweet markets (silence makes the low brackets go higher, big activity makes the higher brackets go higher), it’s very important to learn that each market has its own nuances. Let’s explore them:
@realDonaldTrump, Trump Tweets, RDT
Ah. Hello, Mr. President. How the hell am I supposed to predict your tweets?
Well there are two broad classes of tweets that appear on @realDonaldTrump. Trump tweets (those are the ones you read about in the news – think “WITCH HUNT”) make up the bulk of the feed while staff tweets (“It was great meeting the teacher of the year”) make up the rest.
The President tweets in the morning, usually while watching Fox and Friends on DVR. Matthew Gertz (https://twitter.com/MattGertz) does a great job breaking down where each tweet comes from; if you have cable and don’t mind the mental rot, you can probably watch along with the President and get a good sense for what stories he’s likely to tweet or not.
During the day, Dan Scavino takes over and will occasionally tweet photos and summaries of his events – maybe a cabinet meeting or a clip from a speech.
Trump can tweet himself (or, more typically, order Scavino to tweet something) any time during the day, but this is less common.
In the evenings, Trump can be either silent, tweet a few times while watching TV or to make a point, or, rarely, go on a rampage.
Trump tends not to go on retweet sprees (except when he does). He tends to tweet every morning (except when he doesn’t). And he tweets every single day (except when he goes silent for two or three).
Predicting Trump isn’t easy. But it’s not impossible either. Below I’ve listed everything I think about when I am trying to forecast his tweets:
What kind of mood is he in?
From his recent tweets, statements to the media, interviews, and speeches, does he seem agitated? Is something really bothering him? Are there news reports that he’s more or less agitated about than normal? He’s always a little agitated, but when he’s really agitated (particularly when he feels he’s being unfairly treated) he will spend more time on the topic bothering him, often returning to it day after day.
How much has he been tweeting lately?
This is probably the most important thing to develop a feel for. The market is extremely sensitive to recency – if he is coming off a hugely busy week then next week’s market is going to biased towards the high end of the range. I can’t stress how important it is to understand this point – it can be very profitable betting against a market assuming that things will keep going the way they’ve been going. And even if that strategy isn’t wise, it’s always good to have a feel for why the market is pricing itself the way it is.
Is there a major event on the near-term horizon?
Trump tends not to shitpost as much when he’s dealing with something he perceives to be a major event. A state dinner, a hurricane, a crisis. Of course – this isn’t always true! (For instance, while he was relatively quiet and playing the cheerleader role during Hurricane Harvey, he shitposted quite a bit during the time when he was supposed to be doing something about the after-effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico).
Negative stories about Trump, particularly Trump-Russia stories, usually provoke small reactions. But occasionally a huge one will result in a short-term period of silence as he figures out the best way to react to it.
What does he seem like he’s trying to accomplish with his tweets?
Trump views his tweets as his gateway to his fanbase. He certainly can and does use it to vent and to impulsively share his thoughts. But often he selects stories he knows will resonate with his base. Even when venting impulsively, he will select language that indicates he is only talking to his base. He’s always, to some extent, trying to signal to them how to feel. For market purposes, I pay attention to when he starts firing off tweets about jobs doing well (and the media not telling you about it) or some other metric of progress he digs up. These “agenda-setters” are his attempt to force the conversation in one way or the other. When he’s in agenda-setting mode, he’s often more measured and controlled and less likely to begin a long emotional rant after. If he’s firing off WITCH HUNT after WITCH HUNT then it might be time to buckle up.
Where is he spending the weekend and what is he doing?
The weekend is exactly mid-week for the @realDonaldTrump market, and a lot of positions are made or broken then. Trump is known for his epic Saturday tweetstorms – but he’s also known for his weekend golfing habits. Pay attention to where he will be spending the weekend (in DC or Mar-A-Lago or Bedminster), what the weather will be like there, if he has any events going on, and so forth. Golf doesn’t mean no tweets that day – but it does give you a solid four-hour reprieve (watch out for the time spent in the car to and from though!). Mar-a-Lago typically means more tweets than DC, but it’s not a hard and fast rule.
How many topics has he covered?
In any given tweeting sesh, the President is going to hit maybe three or four broad topics. Jobs, immigration, witch hunt, North Korea, whatever. By the time he’s changed the subject at least twice, be on the alert that he’s probably looking to wind things down. Of course, on some occasions he’ll just tweet everything on TV for three hours, interspersed with random book promotions.
Know the sked
Though the schedule and agenda are most important for the other tweet markets, you’re still going to want to have a solid handle on what Trump is up to (officially) and, especially, when he has to be places or do things. Knowing his official schedule will give you insight into possible staff tweets, and knowing if he has an early-morning flight that interrupts his tweeting hours can be invaluable.
@POTUS, POTUS Tweets, PT
Oh god this market. Welcome to Scavino’s funhouse of pain.
The @POTUS account is run by Dan Scavino the former Trump caddy turned golf course manager turned White House social media director. The dude is described by those in-the-know as a mini-Trump in disposition and opinion, and he’s who Trump calls on when Trump wants to dictate a tweet or two, particularly during the daytime.
Fundamentally, Scavino likes patterns and then likes changing them once you get comfortable. During his time running the account, @POTUS has done the following:
-Retweeted every single RDT, including the crazy ones, while putting out original content occasionally.
-Retweeted only the non-crazy RDTs, while putting out original content occasionally.
-Completely stopped retweeting RDTs, while also putting out original content occasionally.
-Switched completely to retweeting other accounts with zero original content.
-Gone silent Friday through Monday.
-Gone on retweet sprees (four or five minimum) starting at 11pm or later every single workday.
-Gone on retweet sprees at any time of the day.
-Stopped the late-night sprees altogether.
-Gone virtually silent.
-Tweeted 50+ times during each State of the Union address.
Currently, as of May 2018, @POTUS is retweeting virtually every single @WhiteHouse and @VP tweet, except for the times that he doesn’t, and including the times that he waits 12 hours then randomly catches up on ones that he missed.
@POTUS is always the lowest-volume tweet market because of its volatility. But it can still be profitable, particularly for those that happen to react first to a retweet spree.
@VP, VP Tweets, VPT
Ah, VPT. This used to be one of the best markets on PredictIt. The Vice President’s former press secretary was an energizer bunny when it came to tweeting. Every single speech Mike Pence gave? There were tweets. Live tweets. The game was outstanding – figure out when he was delivering a speech, then play the tweets as they happened. Sometimes they’d be delayed. Sometimes they’d be low energy. Sometimes they’d stop and start. Sometimes they’d come fast and furious and not let up, blowing up bracket after bracket.
But those days are gone now. Or are they? After months of the pattern described in the following strikethrough text, the Vice President has returned to live-tweeting speeches and generally tweeting with a much higher energy level. It remains to be seen how long this lasts – so know that both this mode and a lighter mode exist. And, in any case, the same rules that applied back when he tweeted like crazy still apply now. Let’s review the basics of VPT:
KNOW. THE. SKED.
VPT is a fundamentally agenda-drive account. Giving a speech? That’s a guaranteed 5-7 tweets (“Going to X to talk about Y” “Tune in to hear me talk about Y” < 3 video recaps > “Great to talk about Y at X” “Shout out to the first responders whom I shook hands with at the airport!”). If he’s live-tweeting, that’s an extra 4-10 tweets. A holiday, particularly a Jewish or Christian one? Tweet. A great jobs report? Tweet(s).
The best players all have learned to research Mike Pence’s schedule as well as anyone can. We get the public schedules directly from the White House press office, we use complicated twitter searches to know when a new thing in the distant future is announced, we sign up for google alerts. You don’t have to do all that by any means – but if you find yourself getting addicted, you’ll want to start putting the work in. Eventually, it becomes second nature.
Know what topics he really likes tweeting about
Israel. Space. Venezuela. Obamacare sucking. VPT will tweet more about these topics than others (including the Tax bill, the economy, etc). Why? Just the way it is. Of course, the market can sometimes overreact to these things, so bear that in mind.
Keep an eye on the news
You’re probably doing that anyway if you’ve found your way to PredictIt and then to this guide. But Pence and his team behave logically and responsively to the news. If there’s a major story, expect them to pause, put together a statement, and tweet it out. If there’s a major tragedy, watch them wait until Trump has commented before they jump in. If something terrible happens (the congressional baseball shooting, for example), they will cease all planned tweets for that day.
Don’t be too complacent
Just because the account is predictable doesn’t mean it can’t do crazy stuff. When Paul Ryan retired, we got a random six-part tweetstorm about it. Two brackets that were sure bets were obliterated. On a recent week, he needed 15 tweets in one day to cause the favorite bracket to lose. The schedule was light. Nevertheless, the tweets were not. This doesn’t mean you should always play the long shot, but it does mean you should be wary of the expensive “sure thing”.
@WhiteHouse, White House Tweets, WHT
The new kid on the block! After much begging, PI surprised us by adding this account in early 2018 (it ended up replacing the void left by a canceled second VPT market).
Here’s what you need to know:
Yeah, the schedule
Like VPT, WHT is an agenda-driven account. Know what Trump is up to that day. Is he giving speeches? Is a cabinet appointee due for a confirmation hearing? Is a piece of legislation being signed? A meeting being held? And pay attention to what happened in prior days: often this account likes to recap past bill signings, memoranda, announcements, etc.
Pay attention to the statements the White House puts out
The White House publishes a steady stream of propaganda on their website that they subsequently tweet out. For instance, the 1600 daily comes every day. The West Wing Reads come Monday through Thursday. And during the day, occasionally you’ll get a piece about some random topic (border wall, jobs, whatever) that will then be tweeted about two-three times.
Is there a recurring agenda item the account is trying to draw attention to?
During the early days of the WHT market, the account would not stop tweeting about Opioids. Every day, two tweets asking people to share their story about opioids (by going to a website and submitting a text or video). This went on for weeks, until finally they were done collecting stories and the opioid memorial opened on the Mall. Then we got a tweet for every cabinet member that visited the memorial. Basically, WHT was addicted to opioids.
Still, this is a basic pattern that bears watching. When they start tweeting about a topic, they don’t stop until they feel they’ve sufficiently beaten it to death, or it becomes pointless (for instance, they tweeted about Pompeo three times a day for a week until he was confirmed). This account is used as an agenda-setter, and they doggedly pursue that agenda.
Make sure you follow the accounts that WHT likes to retweet
These include @realDonaldTrump (for staff tweets), @FLOTUS, @PressSec, and basically the entire cabinet and a few Republicans in Congress.
Don’t get suckered by early week pace
Because this is a Thursday-Thursday market, and because Thursdays can be busy, it’s not uncommon to have a really hot start. B7 can become inflated, especially so if Friday continues to be busy. Yet the weekend is typically slower, and there’s no guarantee the weekdays of the coming week will deliver the needed volume to reach the high brackets. Just don’t buy expensive B7 on Thursday if you don’t have to, ok?
Know the time of day
This seems… obvious. Yet you can make some decent money just by knowing when the account tends to have lulls (the mornings, the late afternoons) and when it is busy (lunch time, the early evening).
It can still tweet after West Wing Reads comes out
Most weekdays, the West Wing Reads (WWR) tweet is the final one of the day. Except when it isn’t. Watch how much fun the market has when bonus material comes later in the evening – big reactions, big swings, and hopefully some profit for your trading.
Well once you’ve digested all these pointers, it’s time to actually, like, trade. In Part Two, I discuss basic trading strategies, styles, market patterns and so on.