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First off, I should confess I don't have much competence or inclination towards the topic of this StackExchange, quantitative finance. For that, I apologize in advance if my questions are of an obtuse nature. I only know what I know of your field vaguely, from friends who went to Wall Street after college. Still, I'm curious as to what will make this sort of site work, as in StackOverflow, or fail, as in various others.

Anyway, to the point: I can think of 2 major reasons why this site might fail, and I'm interested in seeing evangelists' answers as to why this site will overcome these obstacles.

  1. A lack of communitarian spirit. In most jobs, there is a distinct lag between effort expended and reward received. This seems to me distinctly not the case in the financial industry; in a world of high-frequency trading and million-dollar bonuses, time is money, lot's of it. Why would anyone dally here or give non-trivial information that you couldn't find in standard textbook, for instance? I have never seen non-trivial financial information given for free; one either has to subscribe to someone's paid newsletter or buy some obsequious software. I've never come across research on financial topics on SSRN that is free to access, either. I don't get the impression information is given for free in your industry; is that wrong?

  2. NDAs and lawyering. I read a blog by an independent quant blogger who has described the lengths his former employer went to to prevent him from using very basic methods on his own, claiming them as their intellectual property. As he portrays it, employers have alot of power to mire traders in discovery and lawsuits even when the law is not entirely on their side. Why would anybody competent risk triggering such a quagmire by say, mistakenly divulging some essential part of their firm's strategy on this site?

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    $\begingroup$ I read interesting and tradeable free research on SSRN all the time... I actually have trouble keeping up with all of it. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Chance Feb 19 '11 at 5:57
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I don't view these as concerns.

There is an active area of academia dedicated to the subject matter, and our hope is to engage that community as part of this effort. Academics tend to be more open than professionals. But the professional community also has journals, conferences, and other ways that it shares information. In general, there is plenty of non-proprietary information that can be shared on a site like this.

Lastly, we have clear evidence from the success of other forums on quantitative finance, especially Wilmott, that this should be possible.

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Take a look at the top answers. None of these are private, yet the community has definitely found them useful. No one has to give away his secret sauce to help-out other quants.

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