Who are these people?

Some feedback from a contributor

7610986228_f113e13b07_bThis posting is principally about spammers on Yahoo Finance’s message board. To get started, however, we will first look at some feedback that my blog got recently.

Generally, I have received lots of feed back on this blog, and I have received a fair amount of contributions via PayPal, but January month marks the first time that I received a contribution with an enclosed feedback (I did not know you could enclose comments to PayPal payments, but, evidently, you can.)

This event was so unusual that I want to mark it by quoting some of the comment from Sid in California.

“I just stumbled upon your blog as I was searching for articles … Co-incidentally, I found an article on your blog about another idea that I was researching about … Sheer coincidence! I find your blog posts – especially your choice of words – thought provoking and lucid. I agree with your sentiment that good content should be paid for, and this blog is no exception! Cheers!”

Thanks Sid! I appreciate the contribution and the feedback.

On a related note, it is interesting to note that contributions from California outweighs contributions from the rest of the world by a very healthy margin. Also, individuals who download the extermely useful wdfme.exe fix continues to be the least likely to contribute (+250 downloads to date — almost all by cheapskates!) Go figure.

Another type of feedback — a spammer in action

I strive for transparency and honesty on this blog, so in the interest of these traits, I hasten to add some not so positive feedback from Varmajava, a frequent Yahoo poster (I apologize in advance for the grammar. Varmajava appears to have some problems with the English language):

I have read your response to Hweb and visited your blog. All I understood is you are not a seasoned trader..you talked a lot about hurricane, politics and other stuff. I saw you bashing MTSL and only MTSL throughout the whole blog. Are you a paid basher? or uninformed guy who is not a seasoned trader but build a blog aimed to beg for donations! how much did you get in donations (for bashing MTSL)?

Interesting, I think. If you check out Varmajava’s postings, you will note that Varmajava falls into the third category of Yahoo Finance Message Board spammers, posting what I referred to as agenda-bearing postings in my Yahoo Finance Message Board spam taxonomy posting. As such, Varmajava’s postings rarely, if ever, apply any real or substantive data, and mostly demonstrate exceptionally poor command of the English language, a poor grasp of facts and data, and extreme combative behavior, mostly reverting to abusive ad hominem attacks on anyone on the message board.

Here is a random selection of headers from Varmajava’s many junk postings (I apologize, again, for the grammar, and, also, I apologize for the crude language — I simply report the facts I don’t make them):

DR.SCHITTY A**HOLE. THIS IS YOUR POPULARITY. LOOK

it’s a weired day

what a piece of CRAP is SCLL.PK?

buyout? who is going to buy this POS? Do you buy Sh*t?

When will this Dumb guy move up?

Fed up with this stupid stock

What a piece of CRAP?

SOMETHING FISHY WITH EARNINGS

Fire the management. They lost the credibility

You are on Fu*in IGNORE YO

In case you are wondering, no, I did not alter a word… You simply could not make this stuff up! By the way, just for clarity, although these are headings, they are pretty much identical to the actual postings — basically an infinite stream of vomit.

We know very little about Varmajava, except that he or she is Indian, but that probably doesn’t matter. The earliest sign of his or her postings was a relentless spam drive for StemCells Inc. in 2004, a company that in 2011 had $1.2 million in revenue and had accumulated a staggering -$332.6 million in retained earnings (yes, that is negative $332.6 million,) and have achieved negative income of between $20 and $30 million per year for the last five years. Not exactly a stellar investment recommendation by any measure.

Breadcrumbs

Hansel-and-gretel-rackhamI am always amazed of how prolific Yahoo Finance message board spammers who post agenda-bearing postings are. In fact, my amazement of their activity is only outdone by my astonishment as to how often and consistently this class of spammers are wrong in predictions that they make about share price developments.

Looking, for instance, at another frequent spammer on the Yahoo Finance message boards, a fellow using the handle thegunnerab, or Gunner, for short, we see similar prolific postings, many of which, in line with the characteristics of spammers of his kind, consist of abusive ad hominem attacks and, crucially, are just plain wrong about most things.

Attack, attack….

Here is some examples of Gunner’s attacks (again, I apologize in advance for the language. I don’t write this stuff, I simply quote it):

We should put rmm on ingore… He is a useless POS, he has nothing else to do nor friends to talk to.

It seems you were not breast fed as a baby…. Nothing can fix that, unless you can talk to your …

You have no friends to talk to? You are one sick individual…

Get a life loser.

Dummy

You are truly the Biggest idiot I met on Yahoo MB.

I really hope and wish for your husband that you look amazing….You have nothing else to offer, no brains whatsoever.

Again, you just could not make this stuff up. Perhaps Gunner himself said it best when he in a posting on January 11th, 2013, wrote that its “… amazing how some people can’t take down days well. They have to insult others to calm themselves.”

Being wrong… again and again….

With respect to Gunner’s predictions of the per share price movements (he consistently purports to be a successful investor or — probably more appropriately, trader,) his track-record, as we can understand it from his postings, is, at best, spotty in both the long and the short run. With respect to CKSW, ClickSoftware’s equity, for instance, on February 5th, 2013, he happily exclaimed “We are bouncing back !! The market likes what Click has to offer.” This exclamation was almost immediately followed by general weakening of CKSW’s per share price, bottoming out $8, or so, a mere 10 days later.

His long-term predictions are not any better. In early December of 2010, for instance, he was severely down on ClickSoftware and CKSW (whereas he is now severely up — more about this bipolar behavior below,) categorizing CKSW as a “losing stock.” CKSW, which at the time of Gunner’s negative posting was trading at a price of $6.50 per share, or so, would subsequently go on an unparalleled and consistent tear, maxing out at $13, or so, in March of 2012, almost doubling in value.

Likewise, on March 12th, 2008, Gunner announced proudly that he was the owner of 200,000 shares of Jacada Ltd, equal to one percent of the total equity, at a price point of $3.35 or more per share and announcing that there were special things happening and, in particular, that a per share price of $8 was imminent. Throughout the next month, while Jacada’s per share price was steadily falling, Gunner would aggressively tout the equity, insinuating again and again that he had special information and a special relationship with the company’s Chairman of the Board of Directors and that great things were in the works. Finally, on June 17th, 2008, he abruptly announced that he had liquidated his position, now evidently 260,000 shares, after which he went silent. Jacada Ltd’s equity would never see a per share price of $8, but, rather, would go on to lose almost all is value, reaching the sub-$1 level in 2010 when the company introduced a one-for-four split, temporarily raising the per share price to $4, only for the per share price to hit $1 again in 2012.

Bipolar?

As I alluded to in the above, Gunner seamlessly changes between opposite positions on stocks as well as any issue. For ClickSoftware, for instance, he was for a long time a vocal advocate for getting rid of the company’s CEO — whom, by the way, he kept claiming that he has met and whom he refers to by his first name, Moshe — because, and I paraphrase here, he was old and decrepit, steering the ClickSoftware ship full speed towards the biggest iceberg around. Now, years later, when the CEO is, factually, even older and, I guess, more decrepit, Gunner appears to think that the he is a borderline genius, steering the ship into safe — and presumably profitable — harbor.

By the way, for what it is worth, I have invested a not insignificant amount of money in CKSW in the past (something that you can read more about here) and, in spite of this, I have never met the CEO, Dr. BenBassat, and would never think of claiming familiarity with him.

On that note, the attack on the CEO is vintage Gunner, who seems to know exactly what needs to be done for any company he comes into contact with. Again, you just can’t make this stuff up.

It may be an oversimplification to consider Gunner to be bipolar, since he may also, in fact, be schizophrenic, appearing to be confused about the states of his alter-egos. In some cases, for instance, he announces proudly that works in and have always worked in software companies, while, in other cases, he proudly announces that he invests for a living.

Another characteristics of Gunner may be an inability to tell the truth or — even worse — distinguish between what is real and what is not real. For instance the 200,000 shares he claimed to have secured before March 12th, 2008, exceeded the full trading volume between February 1st, 2008, and March 12th, 2008, of 193,400 shares, and his sale of 260,000 shares in the period before June 17th, 2008, exceeded the total trading volume between June 1st, 2008, and June 16th, 2008, of 255,800 shares. Likewise, I find it hard to believe that company insiders would, indeed, have shared with him confidential information — something that he frequently eludes to in his postings — in particular since even the most cursory check would reveal that he was blabbering non-stop about this type of information on Yahoo Finance’s message boards:

“Great Q is coming
by thegunnerab • Apr 28, 2008 12:08 PM Flag

My friend that works at ALVR informed me that the Q1 numbers will be better than expected.

Their business is booming in Europe and Africa.

The Gunner”

… Or, speaking about Click Software:

“Q1 Results

I’m hearing that their Q1 bookings are not progressing as well as they hoped.
I hope they can make up the difference in the next 3 weeks…
Other wise it won’t be pretty.

BTW, I’m getting the same feedback from other software companies as well.

The Gunner”

Let’s go sleuthing

So, who are these people really? As with Varmajava, we don’t really know who Gunner is, since he is hiding behind a handle. This obfuscation is, of course, by design. The point being that when you are going to go around spewing bile on anyone who has a different opinion than yourself, it is probably advisable to not leave your calling card.

This raised an interesting question in my mind…. How easy is it really to track these people down?

Years ago when I first stared noticing Gunner’s relentless attacks, I did look at his Yahoo profile, which contained what I guess was a picture of himself, taken at a sporting event, from which I gathered that he is a bald or balding or bald, rotund individual who is prone to wearing loud shirts and, generally, looks like he is about to have a coronary — I am a little fuzzy on the details, since he has since then apparently taken the picture and profile down (well, at least I can’t find them.)) Moreover, over the years I have formed the view that he speaks some level of Hebrew, primarily because of insults that he spits out in Hebrew (from watching Gunner spewing insults on Yahoo Finance’s message board I learned, for instance, that Kelev in Hebrew means dog, as in “shut up, you Kelev.”)

But besides that, the track, as they say, was cold. In fact, when other posters on Yahoo Finance’s message board asked Gunner who he was and what his handle, thegunnerab, meant, he would not answer. But then things changed, the Internet evolved, Twitter emerged and, presto, new avenues of sleuthing opened themselves up.

In September of 2012 a Twitter account emerged from the Internet nebula. Having the handle @thegunnerab, it featured a relatively limited number of tweets and — aha! — a picture of a bald gentleman in what is probably best characterized as a domineering pose. And — aha, again! — the tweets from @gunnerab related mostly to investment and trading and — yes! — mapped nicely with Gunner’s postings on Yahoo Finance’s message boards.

I hasten to say, yes, all this could be a coincidence…. However, bear with me, there is more….

@thegunnerab’s twitter profile indicates that the twitter account holder’s name is Aric Best, which would, I guess, explain the ab suffix.

Additional Internet sleuthing of Aric Best takes us to a subdivision in Irvine, California, in Orange County, where we find records for “Best Systems Solutions Inc,” an apparently one-person corporation with a 52 year old President named Aric Best — pointing to property records for a standard suburban residential dwelling, sold for $413,000 in 1998 (courtesy of Trulia here.) We also — Eureka! — find a photo of a rotund, bald gentleman attending an USC Shoah Foundation Institute event.

Moreover, if we go to LinkedIn, we find an entry for Aric Best in Irvine, California, listing his profession (since January 2012) as Chief Investment Officer of Best Holdings, Inc. in the Financial Services industry, with a profile picture that, as far as I can tell, is identical to the profile picture found on the @gunnerab Twitter account.

According to the LinkedIn profile, Aric Best was a sales person working for BluePhoenix Solutions from January of 2009 through December of 2011 and responsible for sales in South America. BluePhoenix Solutions is an Israeli software company — aha! — which during the period that Mr. Best was there, the company’s 2009, 2010, and 2011 fiscal years, encountered significant difficulties with annual revenues declining from $77.8 million to $39 million, or so, and cumulative losses for the period exceeding $75 million.

In late 2011, at about the time that Mr. Best — voluntarily or involuntary — … ahemmmm… transitioned from software sales representative in BluePhoenix to … ahemmmm…. self employed Chief Investment Officer, the company announced that it was selling its AppBuilder division to Magic Software, another software company, and was undertaking cost-cuttings, which, as we know is code for reduction in force, rightsizing, or just canning people. Not exactly a promising background for our all-knowing spammer friend.

A quick review show that — aha-aha! — over the years Gunner has commented multiple times on AppBuilder, Magic Software, and BluePhoenix Solutions.

Okay, okay… This is all just circumstantial, and in all probability Gunner, @thegunnerab, Mr. Best in Irvine California, Mr. Best who attended the USC Shoah Foundation Institute event, and Mr. Best who worked for BluePhoenix Solutions during the period where the company was hemorrhaging cash have nothing to do with each other. As an experiment, however, it is interesting to note how quickly you can trawl through information — breadcrumbs, if you like — on the Internet and form a view — right or wrong — of who hides behind a given handle.

This ability to track people down may prove critical for the Internet’s future, for what I have noted over the last years is that the anonymity granted by the Internet is causing people to act more and more irresponsibly and rudely, because they think — incorrectly — that their true identities are hidden. Eric D. Snider may have set it best on his blog, when he wrote:

“I hate anonymity. If it were up to me, the only way anyone would be able to comment anywhere on the Internet would be with their full, real name. Online nicknames are silly. When they’re used so the person can remain anonymous and thus unaccountable, they’re insidious. You want to say something out loud, in public? Then put your name on it. Own up to it. Otherwise, be quiet. There are situations where anonymity is justifiable, but they’re rare …”

In fact, I prefer to think that there is no connection, because the alternative, that Gunner, a pontificating, all-knowing, gale spewing spammer on Yahoo Finance message boards is simply a software sales representative who worked for a company whose sales dropped 50% during the time that he was there, who may or may not have been laid off, who does not appear to have much basis for evaluating the performance of CEOs, and who, at 52 years of age, is old enough that he ought to know better than to spew uninformed evil on public message boards is simply too depressing to bear.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong again

Being wrong is endemic for spammers on Yahoo Finance message board, which, of course, raises the question as to how they continue to post/spam (I assume, naturally, that the spammers actually do invest once in a while and that their investment are in line with the postings, i.e. non-money winning.)

A frequent poster on the Yahoo Finance Message board for MER Telemanagement Solutions goes by the handle racheljl1212. As it was the case with the thegunnerab handle, penetrating the veil on this identity is remarkably easy, leading us to the conclusion — right or wrong — that racheljl1212 is a woman who works and lives in Manhattan’s Upper East Side neighborhood and may be a speech therapist.

racheljl1212’s postings are spam, but they fall into another category than the spams of thegunnerab or Varmajava, namely the category of idiotic declarative statements. As I wrote in my spam taxonomy posting:

The second category, idiotic declarative statements, is made up from postings that have no substantial purpose except to express joy, schadenfreude, excitement, or glee, and, here, as it was the case with the information-seeking postings, the issue with the postings in this category is that they clutter the posting boards and stifles the discourse.

This category of spam, too, qualify more as a nuisance than as spam.

racheljl1212’s postings are not characterized by the ad hominem attacks of, for instance, thegunnerab’s postings, but they demonstrate the same poor command of the English language and a near 100% ability to be wrong in their predictions (expressed as exclamations, such as “$5.50 by close!”)

As it was the case with thegunnerab, I do, by the way, hope that, in fact, racheljl1212 is not the alter ego of the Manhattan based speech therapist, since the thought of a speech therapist having as horrible command of the English language as does racheljl1212 makes me almost want to cry.

Let’s look at some of racheljl1212’s recent predictions on the Yahoo Finance message board for MER Telemanagement Solutions’ per share price at close:

  • January 24th, 2013, prediction: $5 — market closed at $4.29 — a 14% error
  • February 6th, 2013, prediction: $5 — market closed at $4.65 — an 8% error
  • February 13th, 2013, prediction: $5.5 — market closed at $4.88 — an 11% error
  • February 15th, 2013, prediction: $5.7 — market closed at $4.90 — a 14% error
  • February 22nd, 2013, prediction: $5.15 — market closed at $4.66 — a 10% error

And so on and on and on….

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