|This is long....but I think most of us can relate !! |
Courtesy of Bob Davis' The Napeague Letter
If you were foolish enough to read the Raging Bull, Silicon Investor, Yahoo or BOBZ chatboards as part of your research into small stocks, you have been witness, to a greater or lesser degree, to the promo dance being performed on these boards. The participants cover the whole spectrum of education, income, investment savvy, politeness and net worth, and, at one point or another, they exhibit every single human emotion possible. What other forum is there, where people from all walks of life and from all corners of the country - even the globe - can come together and join in a more-or-less-common cause? The spelling is always horrendous and the language is often peppered with dirty words. Most posters don't know the difference between "your" and "you're" and think that the plural of company is "company's" - some even go so far as to write "two house's"... Hey, it's all for your exclusive entertainment!
It is not necessarily true, of course, that the common cause is the promotion of a small company's stock - ulterior motives are the bread-and-butter of these threads and "making money investing" is really not the point of what is going on. If you left the board feeling snowed by the stock's excited supporters, count to 10, ignore what you read and do some real research. If you left confused, learn from your waste of time and don't try to do research on the boards again. And if you left depressed - because the stock is no good or because you ran across some bad karma - stay away from the stock: these people, if there are more than one or two, have good reasons to be cranky.
The cast of characters on these boards is fairly predictable:
The Ringmaster. He always welcomes new participants and uses "good to see you" a lot to demonstrate his authority on the thread. If he has a big ego he will simply post "JK is here", presuming that everyone will be all aquiver with excitement when he shows up. He will endlessly remind people of all the virtues of the company in question, in the most general terms possible and always leaving out any negatives. The Ringmaster is extremely territorial - when a less authoritative poster presents some new bit of useful information or link, the Ringmaster will try to be the first to comment on it, politely... but he will quickly add some wrinkle to discredit the info or to top it.
If the thread is active enough and has enough regulars, the Ringmaster will often undertake a "share count" with the regulars - which invariably shows that they bought up 2 or 3 times the company's float. Also, the Ringmaster will orchestrate company visits, calls to the CEO, product evaluations, trips to company locations and questions to be presented at the Annual Meeting. The Ringmaster is a very good scout master....
Some Ringmasters actually send regular private e-mails to their disciples, and will simply post "E-mail out". This is a great attention-getting device, good for the ego - however, the e-mails are usually empty fluff. Be that as it may, the anointed are grateful for the crumbs thrown their way and take comfort in the knowledge that they are part of the "inner circle".
If the stock is a dog, the Ringmaster will always go down with the ship, rejecting and denying all negative evidence, in order to continue to have his ego fed by the stock's supporters. In the rarest of cases, the Ringmaster will change his mind and admit that he no longer likes the stock - subjecting himself to the most vile and personal invective possible. He will make his exit soon after, in search of another stock to be the guru of. On the chatboards, one is not supposed to have an open mind - one is supposed to be a faithful "long term investor", and the only virtue is stubborn blind faith.
The Sycophants are the Ringmaster's fan club. They compete for the Ringmaster's approval, doing a lot of web surfing to come up with the most obscure bits of related info possible. They will also post all the time why they love the stock and why it will go to 10 or 100 - always round numbers - and what they will do when they retire from the profits on the stock. They are also endlessly lying about buying the dips and adding after chart break-downs, trying to get other mullets to follow their lead. Often, they simply inform the Ringmaster how much they added to their positions, and wait for the "attaboy!". Often, a turn of phrase such as "on the trail", or "ready for the explosion" will become part of the thread's folklore after being introduced by one of the regulars. It adds to the sense of community.
The Sycophants are like a Hallellujah Chorus for the CEO as well, reminding each other how great the management is and how conscientiously it is looking out for shareholders' interests. Half the time, the management and insiders use these fools to line their own pockets, selling into rallies. All the while, everybody blames the market makers for everything, from cancer to low graduation rates in our schools.
The Apprentice is the second banana of the show, a younger investor who likes the stock, likes the Ringmaster, has access to management and is ready to step in and take the baton if the leader's spot becomes vacant. He is learning how to gain credibility, how to flex his muscles, how to feed off the leftovers. If he is not anointed after a while, he loses interest and discovers his own "wonder stock" in due course, disappearing for good.
The Seldom-Seen Guru is typically a newsletter writer or influential investor who has recommended the stock, often with new information in his missives, derived from his access to management. He typically has real capital to invest and uses it to gain influence. He is usually a good stock-picker too, otherwise he'd be out of business. Many of these characters have been shut down by the SEC in recent months, for overplaying their hand and playing both sides of the street - paid subscribers and compensation for stock promotion, at the same time (it's called "double dipping" and it is illegal).
The Guru will try to preserve his mystique by not posting very frequently, but he will make an appearance from time to time - mostly when the stock is rising - to remind people that the stock is his "creation", more or less. The regulars will usually do their utmost to drown him out, accusing him of being a fair-weather friend and of not pushing (or buying) the stock hard enough. If such an investor were to show up in filings as a seller or as one who is removing restrictions off his Rule 144 stock, all #### breaks loose. The smaller holders start raising a ruckus and run around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to scare the Guru into holding on to his stock; this never works. Often, one of the super-macho bullies on the thread will offer to buy the whole block at a quarter of its market price, without explaining why he thinks the stock might be worth so little.
The Hired Bashers are, along with the gurus, the only pros on the chatboards. They are thorough, methodical, informed and very active. Since they often get paid by market makers who want to drive the stock down - and since they get paid by the number of responses they generate to their own posts - they are provocative, a lot like the schoolyard bully. They accuse the regulars of being blind, naive, led around by the nose by management... and all manner of other sins.
On most boards, anyone who posts more than once with critical information is accused of being a basher and interrogated as to his motives, compensation and sanity. Invariably, the basher hides behind a desire to "provide a public service".
Bashers always hide behind their handles and never use their real names. As a result, their handles are twisted into every conceivable alliteration to insult him: "residuum" can become "residumb" or "rectum", for example.
The Stink-Bombers - Every company that has had an up-an-down history has made a few enemies - either people who lost a lot of money on the stock or who were offended by management. These unpaid bashers take a gleeful pleasure in every bit of adverse news, every dip, every critical comment, every low-volume day. They also toss insulting and fabricated posts, often very personal in nature, in the middle of the room for maximum effect. They love the hatred and the insults that come soon after, as sure as the sun rising in the east.
The Flame-Throwers are not bashers, in the sense of persistently criticizing the company or the stock, but they like to show up like masked guerillas and foul up the place with short, inflammatory, nonfactual posts whose sole purpose is to get a rise out of the regulars. Typical language is: "watch it tank now", "time to head for the exits", "the last one out the door, turn out the lights", "I'm so glad I sold much higher" etc. These guys are part of the entertainment, like the dancing girls in Vegas, but uglier.
The Drifters are not a rock group, they are a set of wishy-washy space cadets with small positions who wander in and out, depending on whether they are surfing the web or whether their bosses gave them some time off from work. They are looking for info, advice, support, comfort and so on. Once in a while they establish a rapport with the regulars by talking about skydiving or fishing or stamp-collecting, but they are wallpaper, adding nothing to the information base in the thread.
A drifter will sometimes have a funny handle and will try to force a pun connected to his moniker on the regulars: "seatofthepants", for example, is always "sittin' puckered" (even though no one is laughing at the joke), and "ladyinthehouse" will be meekly looking for "pretty news".
The Plebes are benevolent small investors who are making their first forays onto the chatboards. They
are unsure of themselves and try to be brief; they are more likely to be asking questions than making
statements. They are the dullest part of the tableau, the peons. Their posts are usually ignored by the
regulars. There are numerous Plebes who don't even post, and they are referred to as Lurkers - that's
the great, unseen audience. You might be part of it.
The Court Jester is a foolish, uneducated working stiff, trying to make something of himself but ending up the object of everyone's mockery. He may not understand investing, or he may be a terrible speller, or he may be kissing up to different factions at different times - but he will look foolish no matter what he does. All the while, he tries to make a little money in the stock, with his limited resources. He is abused mercilessly, and his handle is used to rub his face in his own humiliation. For example, "Marty Dorf", a fool who actually uses his own unfortunate name, became "Farting Dork".
The Enemy, the Darth Vader of every thread, is the market maker. The paranoid culture of the chatboards feels that MM's are in the business of shorting good stocks - a foolish strategy, as anyone can figure out. No one has been able to establish how they make money by doing this and eventually losing their asses, but that doesn't prevent every thread from having a long article posted regularly about MM strategies and how they hurt investors. It has not occurred to the regulars that the MM's are nothing more than businessmen trying to make a buck. It wouldn't fit their own culture.
The CEO - Every CEO of a small company watches his company's chatboards like a hawk. Many CEO's of bulletin board companies are stock promoters at heart, and they feel they are smart enough to post or to have people post their e-mail without regard to legal liability. What they're doing of course, is outright manipulation - and, once in a while, they actually get their wrists slapped by the SEC. They hate to read the posts and not get in the fray. Predictably, they are incapable of uttering anything that is even slightly negative about their own company. Their e-mail contacts post the CEO's responses as if they were badges of honor, and they are rewarded with kudos and encouragement from the other members of the fan club. They lap up the pronouncements from Mount Olympus as if they were gospel, and they never doubt either the content or the CEO's motives.
The chatboard tragi-comedy is ready to unfold, any time you care to drop in. You may not make money on your microcaps, but you can always enjoy the show for free...