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Website Lets You Bet On Your Grades 204

Posted by samzenpus
from the 3:1-degrees dept.
crimeandpunishment writes "College students who expect to get good grades can get a good payoff, if they're willing to put their money where their mouse is. A website is taking wagers on grades from students at 36 American colleges. Students have to register, upload their schedule, and give the site access to official school records. The site, called Ultrinsic, then calculates odds and the students decide whether to place their bets. Ultrinsic's CEO Steven Woldf insists it's not online gambling, since these wagers involve skill. He says 'The students have 100 percent control over it, over how they do. Other people's stuff you bet on — your own stuff you invest in.'"
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Website Lets You Bet On Your Grades

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  • Skill? (Score:5, Funny)

    by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki.cox@net> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @08:23PM (#33223432)

    When the course list says, "Staff" instead of a professor, luck factors in heavily here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      Only to those who don't know how to play the grades game. You go to school to learn, so make sure you main focus is on that, but don't forget to play the grades game, too.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by morari (1080535)

        You go to school to buy a piece of paper to impress employers. Learning plays no factor in so-called modern education.

        • Re:Skill? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ergrthjuyt (1856764) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @09:40PM (#33223972)
          As someone who makes hiring decisions and interviews prospects, I'm going to call bullshit. There is still real value in education. I won't hire people who think they're hot shit but haven't gone to college to get the ignorance schooled out of them.

          Before I went to college for computer science, I knew everything. Then I learned otherwise. Now I owe my success to the skills I gained in college. You can't prove that with a piece of paper like a diploma, but there's some pretty damn good correlation, and I'll keep playing the odds with my hiring decisions, but thanks.

          Are large numbers of stupid people graduating who don't deserve their degrees? Yes. Has higher education, to some degree, become commoditized and devalued?

          Yes, but it does not follow that no learning occurs at universities.
          • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @10:13PM (#33224192)

            some people don't have the cash for degrees or don't want the loans.

            how about people who went to tech schools / on line?

            room and board is like $8000-$10000 a year now at some places.

            so what about people who did the job and did not go to big 4 year school? Why should they get passed over for a JOB?

            • by Lifyre (960576)

              He said nothing about what school you went to or how you got your degree. I can get a BS in many things from respectable online schools that are just as legit as actually being on campus. The only things that are sometimes hard to do are practical application but many programs offer ways to do that too. The Vet Tech school my wife is looking at lets her do her practicals at many local or at least relatively local practicing vets.

              But they got passed over because they obvious either are unqualified or they

              • I can get a BS in many things from respectable online schools that are just as legit as actually being on campus.

                Roflmao. I have attempted to try this myself. I got good grades (because I called the "instructors" on their bullshit), but found myself teaching the teacher and taking the teachers part in the online discussion, because all they did was cut and paste crappy discussion questions from past classes that didn't even pertain to what was being discussed. They would grade hard at the beginning of the class ( often counting things wrong that were not wrong, such as when a teacher tried to tell me that drivers and

            • by fishexe (168879)

              so what about people who did the job and did not go to big 4 year school? Why should they get passed over for a JOB?

              Because they type like you and still expect to be taken seriously?

          • Re:Skill? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by russotto (537200) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @10:18PM (#33224216) Journal

            You go to school to buy a piece of paper to impress employers. Learning plays no factor in so-called modern education.

            As someone who makes hiring decisions and interviews prospects, I'm going to call bullshit. There is still real value in education. I won't hire people who think they're hot shit but haven't gone to college to get the ignorance schooled out of them.

            As someone who makes hiring decisions, you've proven the OPs point.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by SirSlud (67381)

              +5 insightful for a complete lack of reading comprehension skills? Neato.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
                Groupthink is biased on this issue. A lot of the folks here (myself included) didn't go to University, but still work tech jobs. We're proof that the OP is right; Degrees aren't the be-all, end-all. There are people in the world, large quantities of them, being passed over for jobs they're more than capable of doing, purely because they don't have a few letters after their name. It's not even worth them applying, as people like ergrthjuyt above simply throw the applications in the shredder.

                So, even if the
          • Re:Skill? (Score:5, Informative)

            by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @11:17PM (#33224580) Homepage

            I went into college knowing a lot, and also knowing that there was more out there I didn't know. During college, I increased the first quantity.

            The most important skills I learned, in order:

            1. Proper (or even merely acceptable) use of formal language can impress people.
            2. Impressing people is an easy way to cut through bureaucracy and get a face-to-face talk with the people making decisions.
            3. Those people are hidden at all levels of the bureaucracy.

            I suppose I also learned how to win a programming contest. That accomplishment, more or less by itself, got me my last job interview.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by chaboud (231590)

            I think what he's saying (or at least what I'm saying now) is that you don't necessarily have to have met a very high standard to receive a degree from a number of programs. Similarly, those without degrees can, in fact, be hot shit.

            The absolute best and brightest programmers I've worked with have been decorated as follows:

            - GED, dropped out of college.
            - Almost finished college.
            - BS Math.
            - BA Music.
            - PhD Econ, PhD Physics.

            That's from brightest down. That's right, the most rock-star coder (and Director/VP/

            • by tehcyder (746570)

              That's right, the most rock-star coder (and Director/VP/CTO) that I've worked with was a double drop-out.

              And Bill Gates, a college dropout, became the richest man in the world, so therefore any formal education is just going to make you poor, so isn't it great that I failed high school and, although currently working at McDonalds, fully expect to be the CEO of my own billion dollar company very very soon.

          • As someone who makes hiring decisions and interviews prospects, I'm going to call bullshit.

            (Deleted stuff)

            Are large numbers of stupid people graduating who don't deserve their degrees? Yes. Has higher education, to some degree, become commoditized and devalued?

            Yes, but it does not follow that no learning occurs at universities.

            By your own admission, it does follow that you have a challenging job because you have to look for people like yourself among devalued degrees and undeserving candidates. Your personal experience at university is the minority case.

            Anyway, you work in HR, so if you're not ineffectual or full of buzz-word rubbish, have a cookie.

            I have both taught in university and worked in a university administration. I've been offered bribes by students to pass them. I've seen the laziness and cheating that is "group work".

          • by Abstrackt (609015)

            Going to college makes a person no more educated than going to a garage makes them a car.

            One of my classmates literally paid his way through school, he bought all the assignments. At the end of the day, we have the same degree. How does learning to cheat yourself factor into a successful career?

          • I won't hire people who think they're hot shit but haven't gone to college to get the ignorance schooled out of them. .

            Talk about bullshit. Yeah, you're management all right.

            So you will hire people who are humble and have practical experience? That is inferred from your statement, however I somehow seriously doubt that is the case. In the last ten years I have seen companies fall over themselves to hire college graduates who think they're hot shit and have no practical knowledge or experience. The employee is clearly useless, and has to have their hand held and trained by someone with practical experience, then the trainer

        • Re:Skill? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by euphemistic (1850880) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @09:44PM (#33224002)
          Speak for yourself. Some of us actually took a lot of pleasure in getting a higher education and used it as a step to further self-development rather than just to land a higher-paying job. That part was just gravy. Having been in "the real world" of cubicles for a while now, I'm looking more and more forward to enrolling into a post-grad degree.

          But this is from the perspective of somebody who went into University pursuing interests in the first place. And I'm glad I did. Maybe you'd have been happier if you did the same thing.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Radres (776901)

            I would mod you up if I could. Far too many people go to school with the idea that anything that they could learn that isn't directly applicable to what they perceive as being their dream job isn't worth learning. In actuality, learning new and different things exposes you to the possibility of pursuing a career doing something truly exciting.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by twidarkling (1537077)

          I... I'm gonna call bullshit. Depending on your institution, teacher, and personal disposition, you may or may not learn the curriculum. But that's still different than learning nothing. If nothing else, you need to learn how to give the professor what he or she wants to see. That involves reading people. Some profs like sycophants, some like contrarians, some like big words being used, some value class participation. You need to learn how to give people what they want, how they want it, and in how obvious

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Colonel Korn (1258968)

          You go to school to buy a piece of paper to impress employers. Learning plays no factor in so-called modern education.

          I assume you majored in popsicle stick collection, then. In the sciences, a college education is absolutely necessary and conveys an enormous body of information. Looking at recent hires in my organization, GPA and the number of relevant courses completed correlates quite well with job performance. I'm confident that's due to a causative mechanism. Why hire people who'd need a year of background training before they can understand the job-specific training, especially when you don't know whether they'll

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by phantomfive (622387)

          You go to school to buy a piece of paper to impress employers. Learning plays no factor in so-called modern education.

          I'm sorry your college career sucked so much. What a waste of time.

          People who want to learn in college have no problem doing so. If you don't get anything from it, it's because you suck as much as anything else. Seriously, if you're going to sit through hours of a biology class or a math class, why not take the time to learn something? If you sit there ignoring the professor and surfing facebook that's your own stupid fault.

        • Re:Skill? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @11:24PM (#33224614)
          Just because you dropped out of college doesn't mean that it's worthless.

          I'm not saying it's absolutely crucial for everyone to attend college, but it's mandatory for certain professions. For example, a mechanical engineer will have to know calculus, physics, and a lot of design principals. Are you seriously suggesting that this can be taught on the job? If so, you clearly don't know what you're talking about. There is a lot of stuff that you need to know before you can actually do certain jobs, just because you don't have one of these jobs doesn't mean no one else does either.

          I find that most people that rail against college are one of two types of people:
          1. People that dropped out of college because they weren't smart enough or because they couldn't manage their time properly.
          2. People with a job that doesn't require any college education.

          The first type of person is just bitter that they couldn't handle it, the second type of person is too short sighted to see that there are jobs that require more book learning than theirs. They assume that because they learned how to wire a house on the job that an engineer can learn how to build a bridge on the job.
        • by tehcyder (746570)

          You go to school to buy a piece of paper to impress employers. Learning plays no factor in so-called modern education.

          People who say things like this generally got poor grades at college but think they're fucking geniuses.

        • by pehrs (690959)

          You go to school to buy a piece of paper to impress employers. Learning plays no factor in so-called modern education.

          And I assume you visit your local witch doctor when you need medical care...?

        • by bkaul01 (619795)

          While there are some fields (computer programming being one of the few) that can be readily learned outside of formal education, there are many more that really can't. I certainly wouldn't want to ride in an airplane that had been designed by people who hadn't learned what's taught in accredited engineering programs, for example... Just because you can go get a business degree without learning anything doesn't mean that learning isn't the goal of modern education in general.

          Further, if you're just looking

    • Or when the professor takes a leave of abscence, the course is a "deversity" requirement, and the new surprise instructor is an admitted feminist who talks openly about her personal problems and hates young men. Yes, this happened to me, and I recieved a 17 (as in 17%) on the first exam of the semester, which was short-answer and essay based. I expected a B or a C, as it was not my best subject, but I was a good student. Due to numerous complaints, the part-time instructor was not asked to return. My money
    • by fishexe (168879)

      When the course list says, "Staff" instead of a professor, luck factors in heavily here.

      I would say the opposite. If you get a professor, they have tenure and don't give a shit if students appeal grades. If you get academic staff, they have to grade you as accurately and objectively as they possibly can, because if they mess up their job is potentially on the line.

  • On one hand this feels wrong, on the other I think I would have got a motivation boost back in university if this were around then. I also kind of like the idea for potentially rewarding students for pushing themselves academically. I'm torn.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm more torn as to the idea that I make the "safe" bet that I get a B and then I get an A. If this means I 'lose' the bet, what'll I do?

      If I know that I'll be getting an A, but if I bomb my final I'll get a B BUT also gain $200, I might bomb my final for the strict purpose of winning the bet. This is due to the fact that immediate pleasure, ie $200 right at the end, is far more desirable by most people then some ambiguous future benefit due to having an A over a B.

      Hopefully, the way the system works is tha

      • by pspahn (1175617)

        Anyhow, this just means I'd have put into a ton of cake classes for extra money and to fulfill core requirements. Sup Phil 100, Math 100, Eng 100, etc. Little too late for me though.

        If it is worth it to you to pay money for the class that will teach you nothing, just so you can get a good grade and win your bet, well, you will probably lose in the end. I've just enrolled at Regis University, and at $350-$450/credit hour I most certainly would prefer to avoid the remedial classes. $1050 for a class just to win a bet, well I still had to pay for the class and didn't even learn anything.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by turkeydance (1266624)
      the NCAA won't allow this. THEY will control all gambling about colleges. (old Outer Limits intro) students actually rewarded with MONEY for doing good while IN college? OMG
  • Is it proper for a school to, or appear to, allow a third party automated access to student records where this third party is not playing a role in providing education services.

    • by Moridin42 (219670)

      When the student must explicitly permit it, yeah sure, why not?

    • It is proper for the school to allow access to anyone the student permits.
  • In other words... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mldi (1598123) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @08:25PM (#33223452)
    Who's the best at cheating?

    Now cheating pays two-fold.
  • Smart (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pwnies (1034518) <j@jjcm.org> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @08:26PM (#33223454) Homepage Journal
    If the "grade insurance" option isn't used much, it looks like a good way to get college kids to work. Direct monetary benefit was one of the reasons my GPA shot up my Junior and Senior year (I had a job that payed me more for better grades).
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      My school offered something similar. Students who entered with a high enough average were given a scholarship, based on their admittance average. Anywhere from $1500 to $3500 a year. Tuition was around $4000 a year. You got to keep the scholarship in each successive year, but only if you maintained an 8.0/10.0 average. Even though the monetary incentive was there, most people still didn't get their scholarship in the second year. I think it's because the scale was so screwed up. A+ = 10, A = 9, A- = 8
      • by shermo (1284310)

        I think it's because the scale was so screwed up. If you got 1 B mark in any of yor courses, to bring your average up to an 8, you would have to get an A in 2 courses

        Yes, this is how averages work!

        I doubt it was supposed to be 'easy' since there's money on the line. If everyone was supposed to get the scholarship, then it ceases being a scholarship and instead becomes a welfare system.

        I'm sure there are a number of people here who would easily have met the 8/10 requirement.

  • Assuming you reach your potential then -- if you are graded to a normal distribution -- it comes down to the luck of who is in your class as to where you end up.
  • Fine (Score:2, Insightful)

    by earthforce_1 (454968)

    Bet $1Billion you will get an F, then don't show up for the exam. For that kind of sum I won't bother repeating the year - in fact, I won't bother even going back to school.

    • Re:Fine (Score:5, Funny)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @08:47PM (#33223604) Journal

      I bet $1 Billion you didn't RTFA.

    • by Moridin42 (219670)

      Right.. because if you go to the track, you can put money that the horse with the highest odds of winning comes in last.

      Oh wait.. you can't.

    • by vux984 (928602)

      Bet $1Billion you will get an F, then don't show up for the exam.

      Gee, I wonder what they've set the odds on someone betting they'd get an F and then going and getting an F.

      If it were me I'd make it 1:1.

      On second thought... if you really thought this was clever I'll set the payout odds at 1:10. (That's right 1:10 not 10:1 -- so if you are dumb enough to place that bet I'll keep 90% of your cash if you win, and all of it if you manage to lose.)

      • by AuMatar (183847)

        Odds are given as win ratios. So 1:10 means you get paid your initial bet plus 10%. I'm assuming you used this service in your probability class.

        • by vux984 (928602)

          Odds are given as win ratios. So 1:10 means you get paid your initial bet plus 10%. I'm assuming you used this service in your probability class.

          Lol. Quite Right. Not sure where my head was just now. I actually did well in statistics. :)

      • Gee, I wonder what they've set the odds on someone betting they'd get an F and then going and getting an F.

        If it were me I'd make it 1:1.

        On second thought... if you really thought this was clever I'll set the payout odds at 1:10. (That's right 1:10 not 10:1 -- so if you are dumb enough to place that bet I'll keep 90% of your cash if you win, and all of it if you manage to lose.)

        With 1:10 odds, a bet of $100 would yield a $110 payout.

    • Re:Fine (Score:4, Funny)

      by e4g4 (533831) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @08:52PM (#33223644)
      You're absolutely right. I'm sure they didn't think of that massive loophole before putting this site together...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
        "We have calculated the probability of you flunking your class or better to be 1, therefore your odds are 1:1. Thank you for your investment of $1b minus a transaction fee of 1%; You can expect your "winnings" of $0.99b to be deposited into your account at the end of your course.

        We hoped you enjoyed studying Media and Advertising!"
    • by hipp5 (1635263)

      Bet $1Billion you will get an F, then don't show up for the exam. For that kind of sum I won't bother repeating the year - in fact, I won't bother even going back to school.

      That was my first thought, until I RTFA. They have capped bets. The limit increases the more you use the system, but I doubt it ever increases to the point where a single statistical anomaly (aka a forced F) would bankrupt them.

  • Ultrinsic's CEO Steven Woldf insists it's not online gambling, since these wagers involve skill. He says 'The students have 100 percent control over it, over how they do. Other people's stuff you bet on — your own stuff you invest in.'"

    Real gambling involves skill too. I know an amateur who is very good at poker, and he can make money with it (not alot, but when you regularly come out ahead, that's skill).

    This is gambling. Whether or not it's ok is another question, but the fact that this guy s

    • by julesh (229690)

      Real gambling involves skill too.

      So does investing in the stock market, but that isn't considered gambling by most people. What's the difference? Where do you draw the line?

    • by profplump (309017)

      Many people would say that poker isn't gambling either, specifically because you can be "good" at it, and because you can throw a hand. I dare you to be "good" at Keno or "throw" a spin of roulette. Even if you don't agree with that definition you probably shouldn't use poker as an example of what is or is not gambling unless you want your argument to be overshadowed by the comparison.

  • If this does go forward, how long will it be before we hear about their new Academic History Database, now available to employers for a hefty annual subscription or by a per usage fee.

    • by profplump (309017)

      Employers that care about grade already ask for grades, sometimes even requiring applicants to provide official transcripts at their own cost. There's no reason employers would pay for such a service when they can get it for free.

      That's not to say that this information won't be sold, just that the particular business model you propose is unlikely.

  • Easiest way to make a sure buck ever: just convince the professor to fix your grades and give him/her part of the profit.

    You don't even have to be that pernicious-- just ask the professor how many points you'd have to lose to get a sure B or C, and then ensure you get a B or C.

    Bet enough and you won't even care what grades you decide to give yourself since you won't have to work.

    • You don't even have to be that pernicious-- just ask the professor how many points you'd have to lose to get a sure B or C, and then ensure you get a B or C.

      Pretty sure you are wagering against "B or better" and not "B- to B+", otherwise someone with good grades could wager heavily against getting and F get good odds and 'take a dive' for a huge payout.

      Still, profs are human too, and can be bribed like anyone else. I would guess that you are wagering against you total GPA though.
  • 21 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @08:45PM (#33223586)
    Game the system. If there are not betting limits, heres what you do.

    1. Attend college on list for a few semesters, fail most classes, but not enough to get kicked out.
    2. Bet double your accumulated tuition cost, and then overload on your mickey mouse degree classes.
    3. No xxxxxxxx step, just straight profit
    • by hipp5 (1635263)

      Game the system. If there are not betting limits, heres what you do. 1. Attend college on list for a few semesters, fail most classes, but not enough to get kicked out. 2. Bet double your accumulated tuition cost, and then overload on your mickey mouse degree classes. 3. No xxxxxxxx step, just straight profit

      If you RTFA you'd see that they have limits on your bets. You can't bet enough to make it worthwhile to flush your tuition down the drain or to throw a few semesters.

      • by cosm (1072588)
        Who RTFA? And plus, my "if" justifies my outrageous claim! And sensationalist "ifs" get more mod points here anyways. Just look at the post regarding the wikileaks stuff regarding civilian name disclosure. This statement is being made in in a half joking, half serious manner, btw.
      • by fishexe (168879)

        Game the system. If there are not betting limits, heres what you do. 1. Attend college on list for a few semesters, fail most classes, but not enough to get kicked out. 2. Bet double your accumulated tuition cost, and then overload on your mickey mouse degree classes. 3. No xxxxxxxx step, just straight profit

        If you RTFA you'd see that they have limits on your bets. You can't bet enough to make it worthwhile to flush your tuition down the drain or to throw a few semesters.

        Who says your tuition was flushed down the drain? You're allowed to learn all the material, just pretend you don't for the exam.

    • by dcollins (135727)

      "Game the system. If there are not [sic] betting limits, heres [sic] what you do..."

      FTA: "The student decides how much to wager up to a cap that starts at $25 and increases with use."

      • by cosm (1072588)

        "Game the system. If there are not [sic] betting limits, heres [sic] what you do..."

        FTA: "The student decides how much to wager up to a cap that starts at $25 and increases with use."

        On that note, I still didn't read the full article, but could a progressive system work for this grade casino? Mathematicians?

        • by dcollins (135727)

          Short answer: No.

          Long answer: Technically "not enough information", because the article doesn't specify details on what "increases with use" means. The company does not release details on its exact algorithm. But presumably, like any casino or insurance company, their calculations don't allow for any such thing.

          Pithy answer: As I overheard the pizzeria guy say to the bum tonight asking for a free slice, "Yeah sure, sure -- 'cuz I'm in business to just give stuff away."

    • by swillden (191260)

      2. Bet double your accumulated tuition cost, and then overload on your mickey mouse degree classes.

      Did you miss the part where you have to submit your schedule as well as your transcripts? Unless their system sucks, it'll notice that you're taking mickey mouse crap and give you bad odds so that you won't make much.

    • 2. Bet double your accumulated tuition cost, and then overload on your mickey mouse degree classes.

      ...why stop at double?

  • FTFA:

    'The students have 100 percent control over it, over how they do. Other people's stuff you bet on -- your own stuff you invest in.'

    Of course, if you happen to take a class with a teacher that NEVER gives A's, then it doesn't matter HOW good you are (unless you're the second coming of Dykstra?), and yes, I had a few of those in Undergrad (for required classes).

  • Will this end up like the mob with blackmail and people taking a dive?

    will the site pay professors to lower grades to get out having to make pay outs?

    with the colleges put a stop to this?

  • Why not just have students pay a scaling subscription fee? You pay your $50/mo (or $25, or $200, whatever) and if you get an A they pay for a percentage of your tuition based on your subscription rate.
  • The site also allows professors to take the other side of the bet.

  • ... if the professors look like this [en.ce.cn].
  • Nonsense (Score:3, Informative)

    by b4upoo (166390) on Wednesday August 11, 2010 @10:48PM (#33224392)

    Obviously the prejudice of a professor can play heavily upon grades. Most of us have seen it in action. Sometimes it's the old guy who gives great grades to pretty girls and hates anyone on the football team. The next time around may be the opposite. Perhaps only the football team gets a break on grades. The point being that it is flat out bonkers to think that the student is the only one in charge of his grades.

    • by julesh (229690)

      Obviously the prejudice of a professor can play heavily upon grades. Most of us have seen it in action. Sometimes it's the old guy who gives great grades to pretty girls and hates anyone on the football team. The next time around may be the opposite. Perhaps only the football team gets a break on grades. The point being that it is flat out bonkers to think that the student is the only one in charge of his grades

      At my school, papers and exams were anonymized before grading. Is this not standard practice?

      • It is at our university (Birmingham, UK). How anonymous they actually are varies strongly as a function of class size.

  • Can you sell yourself short?

    Actually, the whole thing smells of insider trading.

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