The real trading secrets - why trading forums suck

The answer to this question is quite simple, but let me answer it by posing yet another question. (And why not? But that's not yet the question I meant to pose ...)

Here is the question I meant to pose: do you expect an accomplished trader to hang out on a trading forum? Why would he? He has nothing or not much to learn from it and is likely to be mightily annoyed by the silly posturing of losers desperately trying to impress their peers. Meaning, other losers.

Traders trade and when they are done with it they just enjoy their lives or sometimes help aspiring traders. Losers, on the other hand, spend their time on trading forums looking for a sympathetic crowd to feel better about themselves.

And that indeed is a major problem with trading forums: the people they attract are not the ones you are likely to learn much from, but largely newbies desperate to learn and "accomplished" losers desperate to "teach" them.

That's a pretty "explosive mixture" that can only produce more losers, which obviously is what most forum owners truly want for with the growing ranks of losers, especially those homegrown and so more loyal to the forum, this can mean only one thing and a good one too: even more business, more advertisers clamoring for advertising spots impressed by the number of forum members. And the dumber the members are, the easier it is to sell them something. That's a recipe for a perfect business destined to grow by bounds and leaps. I have known this for years. If only I could stand losers and fools better, I would have been very rich by now.

Yes, that's the problem with trading forums: the people who hang out on them. Since this crowd is unlikely to include truly accomplished traders, those you will end up learning from will probably do more damage to your trading career than the damage you would have done to it yourself. You will simply compound your bad habits with theirs and thus end up spending more time on unlearning them all.

The crowd in question consists of two types of losers: too lazy or too stupid to ever get what trading is about and a more sophisticated, ego-driven type that may even be able to master a few basic things about trading, but lacks mental introspection and fortitude to become really good at it. The latter kind is the one that really drives the forums. Have you ever noticed those overachievers with thousands of posts to their names? Yes, that's the kind we are talking about here, the "noisy" type. You might have even been impressed by some of them for a while until you finally figured out that they have precious little to share about trading. In fact, it's quite likely they are such sore losers that they have to compensate for it by desperately trying to impress others with their trading "acumen" and "insight." And desperate they really are producing a never ending stream of posts, often of questionable quality, but it's the amount that matters as most forums only display the number of posts but fail to measure their quality in any meaningful way.

Well, there might be some who don't fit this sore profile, but that's a rare phenomenon, in my opinion. It's rare and bound to become rarer in time for when the fellow like that reaches a certain high number of posts (usually 1000), he is likely to develop an unshaken belief that he has become a trading expert, perhaps even a guru of sorts, and that everything he will post from now on will be greeted with acclaim by the growing ranks of his feeble-minded followers that can only be getting more and more feeble-minded as a result of that.

And there is one more, equally or perhaps even more dangerous, thing that the "noisy" loser introduces to a trading forum once he has reached the "expert" status. In his own or his gullible followers mind, that is. Once this happens, the expert often starts acting as if he owned the forum, a clear sign of an entitlement problem, not so uncommon among this type. One manifestation of it is lecturing new non-conforming members on how they should think or act.

I once watched an example of this on the last trading forum I ever frequented if only very briefly. One of those heavyweight "noisies" with 6000 posts under his belt and a handle likely to induce a vomit or two among those more sensitive to pretentiousness was lecturing a newbie with perhaps 10 posts who was incensed about something. I was not entirely unsympathetic to the newbie cause, but decided to avoid getting into a wrestling match with his lecturer. As they say, if you wrestle a pig, you get dirty and only the pig enjoys it. But I quit that forum right afterwards. I had no doubt this was a kind of environment I was better off to avoid.

What I am talking about in a broader sense here is the power struggle, in this case between the dark forces of noise and the newcomers who may even have original ideas and new ways of doing things, but if they fail to conform to the standards of high priests of noise, they will be made unwelcome. Since original thinkers don't tend to conform too well, if at all, the mediocrities win. This pattern is hardly native only to the trading forums, it exist in various, more or less insidious forms, in most workplaces. It's really a public secret that not all people in high positions are the best or the brightest, but quite often the "safest" ones, the ones that guarantee that the status quo will continue unchallenged. Now, while this maybe okay in places like Academia, where they can do a relatively little damage, learning from people like that on trading forums is bound to be disastrous to your trading career or at least a waste of time. In any competitive field, learning from mediocrities is your worst choice. But it's exactly people like that that dominate trading forums.

What this simply means is that you really should not insist on learning through trading forums. Forums, just like many things on the Internet should only be used as tools, and thus used as needed, and not as some sort of learning centers which they certainly are not despite some appearances to the contrary that often deceive newbies. Of course, there are some forums dedicated to learning a certain thing, but those are different. They are highly specialized, usually run by a single person that markets his trading methods or something of this sort. I plan to have a forum like that for my KING clients at some point. Still, I suspect that most of the time they will be hearing from me to shut up and trade.

What's really sad about the "noisy" type is that the forum is the worst place for them to be. What the "noisy" loser needs most is some time for introspection, a bit more time for practicing real trading, or perhaps even some time for a break from trading to gather his thoughts and re-evaluate his progress, but that also means a break from trading forums and the distraction they create. Unfortunately, that's not what most of them would ever consider. They are now so addicted to forums that they lose a broader perspective, become unable to self-reflect on what they are doing and where it's taking them.

And it's for this reason that forums may not only be useless, but, what's even worse, be detrimental to your trading career. Your trading career may easily be sidetracked by them and you may end up quitting it instead of quitting wasting your time on the forums. Or, as I like to call it, you may end up being "outforumed." And isn't it the most pitiful way of ending one's trading career?

I was once a "noisy" poster on one very popular trading forum, having climbed above 1000 posts within a year or so. I would not call myself a "noisy" loser as I was making some money trading even back then (7 or so years ago), but I noticed that my progress as a trader stagnated and I was feeling better about myself because of the posts that I kept churning out than because of trading or studying trading. I realized quickly that if I continued on this path, it would be a sure path to self-destruction as a trader. And so I quit, and never showed up on this forum again. Since then, I have made maybe 20 posts on some other trading forum which I have not visited for years since the last post I made over there and, frankly, I really don't miss trading forums one bit now. In fact, they kind of bore me these days. The very thought of them. Instead of being "outforumed," I safely "outgrowned" them.

There are forums that I do check out from time to time. For instance, being a Sierra Chart user, I do check out the Sierra Chart support forum from time to time, but not more often than just a few times a year. Same with the Bracket Trader forum, that I have not visited for years. Since I don't update these applications very often (maybe once every two years), I also don't need to be particularly concerned about what's going on on these forums and so that leaves me more time for things I consider much more important to my trading career. But the forums like the support forum for Sierra Chart users are specialized forums that I mentioned before. They are okay and hardly dangerous in any way to your trading career as opposed to the general purpose non-focused forums that are like giant malls where you are likely to waste a lot of time and money and then feel hangover when the excitement of browsing (or shopping) is over.

Some people might insist that perusing trading forums is like doing a homework. I am afraid that these people are really not totally honest with themselves. It's really a lame a excuse for wasting your time. If you really want to check out a trading forum, it's better to do this without this kind of silly rationalization. Doing homework usually boils down to gathering information or solving a problem and these days you can do it faster and better by firing Google than by wading through tons of posts on some trading forum. Using Google is also a more authoritative, more reliable way to get what you are after than just asking a question on a single forum. The latter way is likely to result in more biased answers, usually from the "noisy" losers and too many of these fellows, as I observed earlier, are really nothing more than pretentious blowhards.

In fact, one of the really creative ways to use them (and the forums they frequent) is by acting in a contrarian way, meaning doing the opposite of what the pretentious fools are recommending you should be doing. And that's also about the only useful way I can think of that a serious trader or student of trading will probably find when it comes to benefiting from trading forums. In other words, through using their "fools bias" to make better, more educated decisions.

The moral of this article is this: don't take trading forums as a source of insight or reliable information. Use them for basic information if you need it, but don't take their opinions on anything seriously enough to commit your money to it. Sometimes, the best way is not just to ignore this opinion, but even to fade it, which in trading parlance means acting against it, being a contrarian.

The same applies to virtually all other forums. It's easy to get addicted to them, their information is not often very reliable, and they have pretty much the same problems as trading forums in many other respects too, although the trading forums have these problems quite a bit more accentuated. Trading forums are truly among the worst forums of all, even though some are a bit better than others.