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& Steven Samblis

Thursday, December 14, 2017

 

Message Boards 101

 

Message boards… can you trust them?

The short answer… no.

However… you can get some useful information from message boards, but be careful. There is a ton of information available, but you will need to sift through it and do your own follow up (Due Diligence or “DD”, i.e. research) on the information. There is a abundance of misinformation on message boards, posted by anonymous posters using an alias to identify themselves (anonymous alias… if that isn’t a recipe for deception we don’t know what is ! ), so you need to be extremely careful about using or relying on any of this information unless you do your DD on the info first. These boards are loaded with “experts” and stock guru’s that make a determined effort to make you believe they know what they are talking about. After just a few minutes on any message board you will be able to spot the pontificators by their all-knowing attitude and excessive number of posts on any given subject.   However, even they can provide some useful information once in a while, and that is why its so important to do your research. As the saying goes… even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

If you follow any message boards regularly you will start to recognize the aliases used frequently. Some posters are prolific posters, posting several thousands of posts yearly, while some post less often. On most message boards there is a function that allows for the reader to view the poster’s vital statistics, such as creation date (more on that in a minute), number of messages to date, if they moderate any other forums, and any personal information they wanted to share. Take special note of the alias creation date, as this could alert you to potential creditability issues. Not to say a newly created alias is a bad thing, however it could be a person who’s reputation is less then stellar, trying to disguise or shed an old image. Doing so would give the appearance that they are new and have an unbiased opinion on issues, when in fact they could be attempting to influence other new members with the same old tired information (or misinformation) they wore out using their old alias.  Always remember… you never know who you are really dealing with, and you never know what their hidden agenda may be.

Pumpers, and bashers. Make no mistake about it… everyone on a message board has an agenda. Some are owners of the stock and want to see it increase in value, while others do not own the stock, or, are shorting the stock, and want to see the value go down. And then some just hate something about the stock or company and live to see it destroyed. Perhaps they lost money at one time on the stock, or perhaps worked for the company at one time and felt they were wronged somehow. Pumpers say good things about the stock, while bashers say bad things about the stock (How to spot a Basher). Pumping, in our opinion, is somewhat harmless, and in fact can point out facts that could rightfully influence you to become invested in the company.   An intended result of a pumper’s action is to increase the value of the stock. When the value of a stock increases, investors are rewarded. This is a good thing. However on the other hand, bashers attempt to devalue the stock, causing most investors to lose value in their investment. Unless an investor is short in the stock, this is a bad thing for most involved, certainly the company. Pumpers will inflate the value of the info they are providing, while bashers will flat out lie and distort info.   Take a few minutes to view this short video on the damaging effects of bashing on companies and stockholders. You will quickly understand the negative effects of bashing, and why the practice is so despised by most all involved.

Another insidious action on message boards is censorship. Message boards are primarily run by people called “MOD’s” or moderators. There are also “Admin’s” or Administrators who oversee the MOD’s. Both have oversight and control of what you see, and what you don’t see. It’s the MOD’s that primarily control the minute by minute (and day to day) review of the posted messages. They monitor the message for any violations of the “Terms of Service” (a long legal document that describes the rules for using the message service). These TOS’s as they are called, are fairly standard across all message boards. Most TOS’s use what’s called boiler-plate language, i.e. much of the rules stated are standardized. Of course monitoring posted messages for vulgarity and personal character assassinations is a much needed service, as some posters just can’t be civil when discussing issues in a public forum.  

However… there is a common practice (on some boards) by some MOD’s (and supported by some Admin’s) of censoring messages that are not favorable to the message board’s cause, or perhaps the MOD’s personal opinions. Message that don’t conform to the MOD’s personal opinions, be they pro or con the stock/company… are summarily deleted.   You can determine if this practice is happening by viewing the message numbers (usually situated to the left of the header line) for any gaps.   Look for any missing numbers in sequence to the surrounding numbers to see if any messages have been deleted. Now… all you can determine by missing numbers are that messages have been deleted… you cannot tell WHY they were deleted. Perhaps they were deleted because they contained violations of the TOS and were rightfully deleted.   You can get a sense of the tolerance for TOS violations on each board by reading the other messages on the board. If you see other violations in messages that are visible, then its likely that the TOS is not strictly adhered to, and the likelihood of the missing messages having been deleted as a result of a TOS violation has been greatly reduced.   What’s left is a fairly accurate assumption that the message was deleted as a result of someone not wanting you to see the information contained within the message. That… is censorship plain and simple. Its an attempt to withhold information from you, with the arrogant attitude that the deleting person can make judgments about what you can and do see in order for you to make prudent investment decisions. This… we believe is the most insidious action any message board can practice. Insidious because it is so subtle at times, unless you specifically suspect this may be happening and are aware of how to spot the practice, you will not even know its happening. If you don’t check for this when you initially start following the board, or you don’t monitor this frequently, you will unknowingly become influenced by the MOD’s and/or Admin’s personal positions and opinions.

Private Messages… or PM’s as they are called. Depending on the message board you follow, there may be PM’s allowed, while other boards you need to be a paying member to be able to use PM’s.   PM’s can be a double-edge sword as they say. Using PM’s posters can carry on conversations out of the view of others.   While this is useful at times for discussing off-topic subjects with another poster, the use of PM’s by others could be deceptive. There could be collusion between one or more posters to plot something that you may not be aware. Their out-of-view discussions could be nothing for you to be concerned with… or maybe not. That’s the point, you never know what is being discussed behind your back. In the case of bashers, they could be conspiring to join forces to start a rumor, or join forces to spread lies about the company.   A PM could be sent to you in order to lure you in to believing they look to you for advice, or lure you in to support their cause, or lure you in to gain your confidence in order to learn personal information about you. Overall point here being… use PM’s VERY CAREFULLY… and remember that others are likely using them between others out of your view. Also, don't believe "private" messages are strictly private.  If you PM another user, that user could copy and paste your private message into a public post.  So, don't say anything in a "private" message that you would be embarrassed by if it went public.  The closest analogy we can think of to explain PM messages is… office workers that you eat lunch with everyday, and then they meet without you to discus YOU!  Things you said in private, thinking you were speaking in confidence, were now being repeated to others behind your back.  That would be a real disappointing wouldn’t it ?

So, that about does it. As you become more experienced using message boards you will become more aware of how to use the information contained within them, without getting burned in the process. Never lose sight of this article’s beginning advice… never trust anyone, and always do you research on any information you might find interesting. Consider it useless and inaccurate information until such time that you have validated it.