Tuesday’s blog entry described the background of Morningstar.com’s recent reaffirmation of its ban on honest posting on valuation-related topics at the Vanguard Diehards discussion board.
Here is the text of the e-mail sent to me on Monday morning by Morningstar Casey:
Additional violations will result in the closure of your posting account.
Your removed post:
Rob’s and JWR’s active investing strategy using Shiller’s PE10 should have been fairly debated at the time, but wasn’t.
Thanks for saying that. Russ. I think you have it exactly right. The key is permitting all points of view to be discussed. Here’s a passage from the book The Wisdom of Crowds that made a big impression on me:
Mackay was right about the extremes of collective behavior: there are times–think of a riot, or a stock-market bubble—when aggregating individual decisions produces a collective decision that is utterly irrational. The stories of these kinds of mistakes are negative proofs of this book’s argument, underscoring the importance to good decision making of diversity and independence by demonstrating what happens when they’re missing. Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise. An intelligent group, especially when confronted with cognition problems, does not ask its members to modify their positions in order to let the group reach a decision everyone can be happy with. Instead, it figures out how to use mechanisms–like market prices, or intelligent voting systems–to aggregate and produce collective judgments that represent not what any one person in the group thinks but rather, in some sense what they all think.
Petro is right, by the way, that I’ve never shot down any Germans and that I do indeed sometimes record those RobCasts in my pajamas!
I sent the following response to Morningstar Casey:
I would be grateful if you would explain to me how I could go about posting without being “inflammatory.”
As I believe you know (if you do not, I am obviously happy to point you to the Post Archives showing this beyond any reasonable doubt whatsoever) my NAME is inflammatory among a group of posters who have been following me around the internet for over seven years now to destroy any discussion board that permits honest posting on safe withdrawal rates or related investing topics (pretty much any topic relating to the effect of valuations on long-term returns). I am the person who discovered the analytical
errors in the Old School safe withdrawal rate (SWR) studies. I obviously cannot change that. And I obviously would not want to change it if I could. That discovery has led to many exciting follow-up insights in the years since.
The published rules of the Morningstar.com site PERMIT honest posting on SWRs and on all valuation-related topics. The published rules PROHIBIT the tactics that have been employed by the abusive posters to block honest posting on these important topics at your discussion boards. Can you please advise those of us who would like to help our fellow community members learn about these topics as to how to proceed in
the face of the outrageous behavior that has caused this problem and
that continues to this day?
I received a response from Morningstar Darrin:
Your account has been banned and your post removed. You were previously banned under the username “Hocus”. We do not allow banned users to return under different names.
I sent this response:
Thanks for your response.
The earlier ban was obviously inappropriate. I never put forward a single abusive post even though the Goon posters put forward THOUSANDS of abusive posts (many of which attacked me in very personal and defamatory ways and in ways that have done serious damage to my internet business) in an effort to have honest posting on safe withdrawal rates and other important investing topics prohibited at the board. As you know, there were hundreds of community members who expressed a desire that honest posting be permitted:
We are living through an economic crisis today as a result of the dangerous investing advice that has been promoted (however inadvertently) by The Stock-Selling Industry for many years. I believe that we all should be working together to bring this crisis to an end
by getting the word out to middle-class investors about what the academic research has been telling us about stock investing (that valuations affect long-term returns) for close to 30 years now.
My aim is obviously to help Morningstar’s investing boards to become as successful as possible and to help my friends at the Morningstar boards to learn more about the realities of stock investing. I am your friend, not your enemy, Darrin. If there comes a time when you are open to working out solutions to the problems that have plagued the Vanguard Diehards board for a good number of years now (both at times when I was participating in the discussions and at times when I was not), I hope that you will contact me in an effort to work out positive and constructive and life-affirming steps.
Your boards have great potential. They would be greatly enhanced with more reasonable site administration efforts (the published rules are fine as they are, the problem is on the enforcement side). Both things are so, in my sincere assessment.