ad info


Asiaweek TIMEASIA.com CNN.com
 > technology
 home
 intelligence
 web features
 magazine archive
 technology
 newsmap
 customer service
 subscribe
 TIMEASIA.COM
 CNN.COM
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia
  australasia
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 SHOWBIZ
 ASIA WEATHER
 ASIA TRAVEL

Other News
TIME.com
TIME Europe
FORTUNE.com
FORTUNE China
MONEY.com
Asiaweek Services
Contact Asiaweek
About Asiaweek
Media Kit
Get up to 3 months of Asiaweek free when you subscribe online!


AUGUST 11 , 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 31 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

Caveat Poster
Chatrooms can be helpful sources for stock tips, but they can also be gigantic rumor mills leading the unwary astray
By ASSIF SHAMEEN

Ten years ago, before the Internet became part of the vernacular, there were electronic bulletin boards that anyone with an acoustic coupler (forerunners of today's modems) could access. What struck me then about those crude public forums was the genuineness of the users. Almost everyone was a geek or aspired to geekhood, so the primary discussion topic was computers. Once in a while someone would post something about the wild swings on Wall Street and most visitors in the chatroom would ignore him as if he had a contagious disease.

That was before Nasdaq became hip and investment bankers discovered the nerds could be milked for billions of dollars. Now the Internet bristles with thousands of financial chatrooms where hundreds of thousands of small investors swap stock tips, rumors, investment advice and insults. And a lot of that trustworthy sincerity, that "insider" ambience, that marked the early boards is gone. Today, you have no clue if that anonymous chatter who just trashed your pet company has real knowledge or if he is a short-seller sowing doubt to stampede the novices into dumping their shares.

I don't spend much time on financial chat sites anymore. I consider them to be of dubious veracity and therefore of limited utility. They are more of an amusement than a primary source of information. Still, one of my favorite financial websites is clearstation.com. Along with news and investor tools, clearstation has an active forum. Whenever I log in to check the price of my sinking Nokia shares, clearstation.com alerts me to all the new postings on the company since I last visited. With one click, I can make a stock trade through E*Trade, which owns the site.

While waiting for clearstation to expand its coverage to Asia, I have lately been cruising some of the Southeast Asian financial chat sites. Singapore has several of them. The granddaddy is the Market Talk forum at POEMS (Phillips Online Electronic Mart System), the Internet platform of Singapore's Phillips Securities. Another is shareinvestor.com. U.S.-based stockhouse.com is testing its Singapore service and expanding throughout the region.

Several other U.S. portals are preparing to launch their own Asian financial chatrooms because they draw and keep traffic. But due to the unmoderated nature of the information being posted — it's difficult to hold anonymous posters accountable for the things they say — running chatrooms can be risky business. Recently, Singapore-based Aussino.com, an online retailer of lifestyle goods and lingerie, engaged in a very public spat with shareinvestor.com and one of its members, who alleged in a chatroom that two Aussino directors had received 250,000 free shares in the company. The Aussino chief executive denied the allegation and demanded an apology from shareinvestor.com, as well as the suspension of all discussions about the company on the site. Shareinvestor says its members have the right to express their opinion about any stock listed on any bourse, but they complied by removing Aussino. The e-tailer is threatening to sue anyway.

Not that chatrooms are dangerous and sinister places. Most of the sites I've visited seem to be populated by a handful of regulars, mostly middle-aged men who appear to be retired or semi-retired. With money in the bank and time on their hands, they are active retail traders and have plenty of energy to get each other riled up about the prospects of one stock or another. With online monikers such as Thinker, Warrior, Caution and Soros2, you know you are in good company, and many exchange messages like old friends. Everyone is a self-professed expert and each thinks that he knows more about the stock in question than everyone else.

Occasionally, however, some of the posters appear to be less than candid. I sometimes get the feeling that participants are being goaded into prolonging discussions (perhaps to increase the site's hits?). Often, there's a little too much cheerleading and not enough legitimate information being exchanged. That's a sign that you should move your cursor elsewhere. "You stay on a discussion site when you are convinced the participants are genuine and are not touting their own stocks or have some other hidden agenda," says veteran journalist Seah Chiang Nee, who spends several hours a day trolling chatrooms for investment tips.

The chance of less-than-sincere posters is significant enough that stockhouse.com recently issued an Investor Awareness Report to help identify chatroom scammers. The dotcom suggests users be wary of individuals who excessively post messages on a single stock, who use multiple identities or repeatedly attack other chatroom members. More warning signs, according to stockhouse: watch out for those who nearly always are the first to respond to company developments or who continuously hint at having inside information on upcoming corporate developments or unreleased news. And beware the poster who goes out of his way to find bad news about a company and makes a major case out of it.

Remember the words of Gordon Gekko, the fictional corporate raider of the movie Wall Street: "Information, my friend, is the most valuable commodity in the world. Now tell me something I don't know." To that, I add: Make sure it's the truth.

Write to Asiaweek at mail@web.asiaweek.com

Asiaweek Technology Home | Asiaweek.com Home

AsiaNow


Quick Scroll: More stories from Asiaweek, TIME and CNN

   LATEST HEADLINES:

WASHINGTON
U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

MANILA
Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

ALLAHABAD
Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

COLOMBO
Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

TOKYO
Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

BANGKOK
Thai party announces first coalition partner



TIME:

COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state



ASIAWEEK:

COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness


Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
 Search
  ASIAWEEK'S LATEST
Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?


  TECHNOLOGY
THIS WEEK
Cutting Edge: Point, shoot and print — digitally

ALSO IN ASIAWEEK

ASIAWEEK.com
Vol. 2 No. 5


COVER: Playing the Modern Game
Improve your golf game with better technology

Face Off: Audio recorders

Healthcare: Take care on websites for the unwell

Net Gains: Be wary of stock tips in chat rooms

E-vesting: The high cost of online trading

Asiaweek/CNN Tech Index: The Asiaweek/CNN basket of 40 companies

B2B: Learning the job online

Wired Exec: A Manila publisher at work and play

Asiaweek Technology Home

Asiaweek/CNN Internet Index: Track our Asian high-tech stocks

Back to the top   © 2000 Asiaweek. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.