Don’t be afraid to say you don’t have the data

I recently started using Apple’s Dashboard widget for tracking stock prices. I don’t day trade or anything like that, but every now and then I like to glance at the prices of the stocks I own and see how things are going. Actually, I’m mostly curious about how certain news stories and events affect stock prices.

Events that affect stock prices are happening all the time, and they can cause a stock to go up and down quite a bit during the day. Maybe at 10 AM some broker publishes an upgraded opinion of company XYZ and at 11:30 AM company XYZ drops an unfortunate press release. That could easily cause a big drop in the price between 10 AM and noon. Because of this, it is important to have the price of a stock that reflects its value from some time in the past minute or two if you want to either day trade (not me) or watch for significant events during the day.

Apple’s stock tracking Dashboard widget has a problem with displaying up-to-the-minute information. The problem is that when you bring up Dashboard, the widget displays the last information it downloaded even if that information is very old – and it doesn’t indicate that the information is old. Say I open Dashboard at 10 AM and company XYZ’s stock is at +1.25. If I open Dashboard again at 2 PM, it’ll say the price from 10 AM until it is able to get the new price from Quote.com. Since I’m just glancing at the prices, it has about 3 seconds to make that network connection and pull the data successfully, which it usually can’t pull off in that amount of time (lame in its own right). Occassionally I have to wait 10 seconds to 10 minutes to get an updated price! Now I don’t care that much if it takes some time to get the right price, but I can’t use the widget any more because I never know when I’m supposed to wait for the updated price and when it is right. Half the time I end up going to Yahoo finance to verify the price on the widget anyway, so now I just skip the widget and go straight to Yahoo.

What needs to happen is when Dashboard gets pulled up, the widget should check the last time it pulled data. If it was more than a minute ago, it should display N/A for the prices until it gets new data. Until this happens it is pretty much useless. It might as well only show closing prices from the previous day.

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3 Responses to Don’t be afraid to say you don’t have the data

  1. Chris says:

    John Gruber posted a hack for the Weather widget that puts the last-updated time just under the city name[1]. Something like that could probably be applied to the Stock widget too, to great effect.

    [1] http://daringfireball.net/2005/06/weather_widget_hacking

  2. David says:

    Try iStock http://www.infinite-loop.dk/ only a small ($12) amount to pay for a valuable tool.

  3. Rupert says:

    yeah, I’ve hacked the widget to use google finance as they seem to have bandwidth coming out their @$$.

    http://www.macworld.com/weblogs/macosxhints/2006/06/stockfix/index.php

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