One of the things I like to do when researching stocks online is to go to message boards and see what investors are posting about a particular company. If you've never been to the various stock message or "discussion" boards you're missing a real cybertreat.
The message boards, talk groups, user groups, discussion forums, etc. represent a quantum leap in communications. The free flow of information in the financial world is a radical idea. Big money insiders have traditionally held their cards close to the breast. It may not seem revolutionary that groups of investors (or anyone) can now share knowledge about any topic instantly, anonymously and widely, but the implications for the existing information distribution systems are profound. Expect to see a rapid shift in the way people access knowledge in the near future from TV and print to online services, networked databases and directly with each other.
With the advent of the Internet, new information can move equity values within minutes of release. Information access has always been the key to investing and now for the first time in history much of that information is available to the hoi polloi. Of course, it's not organized or user friendly and can be shockingly misleading, but what do you expect from a nascent techno-sociological zeitgeist?
Go to quote.yahoo.com and in the "get quotes" window enter AAPL, hit return and when the quote for Apple comes up look to the right side of the box under "more info". There you'll see a cluster of hyperlinks. Click on "Msgs". That will jump you to the Apple message board at Yahoo. Scroll down a bit and you'll see a list of the 40 most recent messages on the topic of Apples financial future. I use the term "on topic" lightly here, since most of the messages are irrelevant to the point of inanity. Thousands of posts, going back more than a year, linger just a hyperlink away.
The message boards take some patience to wade through. Often the noise to signal ratio on the Yahoo boards is rather high. I personally prefer the boards at techstocks.com which seem to attract a more knowledgeable crowd. Many posters are expressing some tangential viewpoint or slamming some other poor slob poster for their lame opinion. Apples Yahoo board is more vehement than most because of the religion and emotion that the Mac vs. Wintel conflict sparks. There are plenty of flamers from the Windows platform visiting to harass and just as many starry eyed evangelistas to fend them off.
What makes the message boards interesting is the links and offbeat news items that some posters pride themselves on being the first to post. For researching smaller companies like Adobe or Iomega, the stock boards are an invaluable one-stop hyperlink source for all the latest news, trends and gossip. Of course, you still have to do your homework. Any jerk can post misinformation s/he wants to propagate via the message board system.
But, with perseverance and a dose of rational discrimination you can almost always gather some new insight to any corporation's business by scrolling through a few dozen or more posts. It's often a good way to find out things that the company would rather you not know. The anonymous nature of posting makes it possible for disgruntled company employees to reveal a company's dirty linen such as pending lawsuits or packs of angry consumers languishing with product complaints. Just as commonly, good news is spilt like the proverbial beans by loose lips before the official announcement. Rumblings on the boards often precede any scrutiny by the press.
The message board is great for just plain comic relief, too. Here's a post I found on a yahoo board this year. "Informal studies at a local ISP shows that most hecklers on the Yahoo boards are prepubescent males often from single parent middle class homes vying for the attention, be it negative or positive, from anyone unwise enough to let themselves be offended. Often they're pretending to be Kull, The Slayer and that the boards are Ultima Online. (Mom wont buy them an account). There are other types of Board Hecklers too. There are the Classic Pissed-off Shorts who have fallen on their own swords. There are paranoid control freaks who imagine that their yammerings control the destiny of multi-billion dollar enterprises. There are the schizophrenics who wont take their medication. There are the Spam Artists hawking the latest net fraud. At times the boards can be rather trying of one's patience. Just remember what you as a rational investor and netizen are here for. It's certainly not to potty train the underclass of an entirely new medium..."
I would suggest that as a rule never take anyone's advice verbatim from a stock board without doing your "due diligence". Unless of course, it was my advice that I posted back in June 23 on the Apple message board at Yahoo under the alias of Austin777. If I may quote myself
"A new paradigm is emerging for Apple and it has nothing to do with stemming the windows onslaught. That market has been conceded years ago and discounted in the stock's price. The iMac is about tapping into that great sea of consumers who have yet to get into computers. Although it's hard for most netizens to imagine but your average American is afraid of the digital world. The Wintel monopoly has nothing to offer them except fulfillment of their worst techno nightmares. Americans want digital products with the reliability and user-friendliness comparable to their home stereo and TV. The potential for increased market share is huge. Remember Apple is a brand name comparable to Coca-Cola, in spite of the radical contraction of market share in the last few years. Finally, Apple has realized that it's true strength lies not in doing battle with the Wintel platform but in their ability to create markets where none existed previously."
Wes George writes about the financial side of being a Mac nut. Wes has followed Apple's finances for the last 7 years and comes to The Mac Observer every Monday to tell all about his opinions. He is, in his own words, "inordinately fond of money." If you would like to write Wes, make it nice. Someday you might own a company that has something to do with Apple, and Wes will probably still be writing for The Mac Observer...... On the other hand, Mr. George is known to love a rousing, hair-raising debate, so send him your worst!
Disclaimer: This column is for informational and entertainment purposes. While Mr. George may be sage indeed, his writings can not be construed as a solicitation to buy, nor an offering to sell any particular stock. As with any trading in the financial markets, you must use your own judgment to make the best trades that you can. Neither The Mac Observer nor Wes George may be held accountable for trading advice.