The Good, Bad & Ugly of Online Investor Commentary

Have you ever found yourselfboth pleased and irked at something you read? I had that reaction to thisWashington Post article by Barry Ritholtz, Hey Investment Cranks: TheInternet Never Forgets. “AsTheodore Sturgeon famously observed, 90 percent of science fiction is crap, butthen again 90 percent of everything is crap,” writes Ritholtz. “In the world ofonline investment opinions, Sturgeon was an optimist.”

The rest of the articleoutlines the fall of the traditional media “gatekeepers” and the rise ofindependent investor commentary online, but in very disparaging terms. He thengoes on to ding various professional market pundits for their incorrectpredictions online that live on in the never-forgetting Internet as testamentto how wrong they actually were.

None of this is entirelyincorrect, of course, but I think Ritholtz is missing a larger point. Yes, youcannot trust everything you read on the Interwebs – this is a truth anyeducated person recognizes now, investor or not. But opening the floodgates ofinvestor opinion via social media and Internet publishing is nothing short of ademocratic revolution. The online dialogue and opinions you find amonginvestors shouldn’t be evaluated as a static gospel truth to be proven true orfalse. Rather its value lies in its dynamism: these are live exchanges ofideas, investors actively working out their perspectives together. It’s amessy, glorious and – above all - productive process happening in a fullytransparent sphere. I can’t think of a more amazing contribution to the publicinvesting process, and to call it “90% crap” is a cheap shot. (Ritholtz himselfcame to prominence as one of the early financial bloggers, a beneficiary ofthis same leveling of the financial-media playing field.)

So much for what irked meabout the article. What really pleased me about it was Ritholtz’s reminder ofhow central Internet commentary has become – and continues to be – forinvestors everywhere. Even if most of it can be dismissed as crap, thatvaluable 10% sliver is an irreplaceable step in the investing process. TheInternet has engendered in all of us a super-useful skill: skepticism. If youvet what you read online carefully, you can find a tremendous amount of usefulinformation fast, accelerate your research, and get educated with greater speedand thoroughness than ever before possible.

That’s why we’re soexcited about the next wave of our online community, which is rapidly shapingup for a public unveiling this fall. Thanks to our acquisition of TraderOS last spring, we’regearing up to unify a previously fragmented trading experience for anunprecedented combination of research, transparent real-time collaboration andtrading power. It’ll leapfrog social investing forward in a big way, buildingon what’s great about this revolution while refining the imperfections ofprevious models of online collaboration.

Watch this space for moreinfo soon!

Be Good,

Don Montanaro

CEO, TradeKing Group

Don on Twitter

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