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Improving CAPS

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August 28, 2009 – Comments (24)

I'm writing this blog in response to fransgeraedtsblog posts about improving CAPS.  Recent posts from the CAPS community generally have identified some compelling ways (some old, some new) to make CAPS a more valuable service for all of us.  I want to touch on what I think are some of the more compelling ideas in this blog, with the hopes of getting some community feedback so that we can prioritize which enhancments to focus on first.

1.  Increasing the pool of stocks available for picking.   As most of you know, today stocks must meet our 1.50 share price and 100M market cap threshold to be elegible for rating.  Generally, I think this is a good threshold since we want to avoid some of the pumping and dumping associated with penny stocks, as well as some of the volatility with illiquid stocks that could skew CAPS stock picking away from finding compelling real world opportunities for all of us.  That said, there's nothing magical about our 1.50 share and 100M market cap thresholds.

I've tested a few concepts and here's the impact of different rule changes:

Drop 1.50 share price / 100M market cap and replace with 100k ave trading volume

*599 currently unratable stocks would be ratable, 585 currently ratable stocks would be unratable.

Net change to the ratable universe = +14

5k volume threshold & 100MM market cap remains in place

* 59 currently unratable stocks would be ratable, 866 currently ratable stocks would be unratable.


Net change to the ratable universe = -807

75k minimum daily trade volume only

* 715 newly ratable stocks and 541 newly unratable stocks

net change of +174

50k minimum daily trade volume only

* 875 newly ratable stocks and 498 newly unratable stocks

Net change of +377

 A ticker is ratable if it has (100K avg trading $$ volume) OR (5K avg trading $$ volume AND 100MM market cap

* 603 newly ratable stocks and 515 newly unratable stocks

Net change: +88

I'm not blown away by the impact of any of these changes at this 2000 foot view of the impact.  Still, it seems logical that dropping the share price and focusing on either trading volume solely or the combo of trading volume and market cap could be an improvement.  Let me know what you think:

 

2. Adding New Rankings:   As many of you know, we created some new ways of ranking CAPS members, that can be found on the Top Tens pages. You'll find lists that rank the best Outperform performance, Underperform Performance, as well as several lists that measure performance on absolute returns (i.e. removing the relative performance to our S&P benchmark). We need to do more to promote these new ranking measurements, perhaps profiling the top performers on the CAPS Members page. 

I'd also like to start tracking top performers by calendar year.  Who is the best performaing CAPS member in 2009???!!!

In his blog, Frans proposes that we consider new rankings based on what he calls Stock Picking, Macro, and Specialist categories.  I agree with Frans on all 3 of these opportunities, and also agree with him that a new Stock Picking ranking could be a real value add.  I'm going to re-name this the "Top Picks" ranking.  Here's what I propose:

* We make use of the Top Picks feature on all CAPS member scorecards to create a separate CAPS Member Rating on just your Top Picks.

* We restrict you to having no more than 25 Top Picks at any given time.

* You must have 7 Top Picks in order to receive a Top Picks rating.

The above is pretty consistent with Frans' proposals, here are some other proposals that Frans makes that I am on the fence about but would love additional input: 

* Require a 6 month holding period for top picks.

* Restrict top picks to stocks -- no ETFs or closed end funds.

* Restrict top picks to outperforms.

I appreciate any feedback I can get, as I would like to address one or both of these areas in the next 6 months.

In the short term, I can prevew for you that we will have *major* upgrade to our stock screener rolling out in the next few weeks.  And we are working on a top secret project we call WALL-E, that is kind of a cross between the Segway and Android.  :)  It is defintely something that will be of interest to anyone who wants to get more investing insights out of the CAPS and The Fool--and I hope you'll seen it in October.  WALL-E's coming. Prepare!

Have a great weekend Fools!

24 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On August 28, 2009 at 6:14 PM, TSIF (99.96) wrote:

Thank you Jake for considering change and innovations. I'm looking foward to Wall-E!

I think you will find that changes that leverage volume would be favorable on caps.  Finding a shill OB or PK stock might be slightly interesting on occasion, but overall is not worth the time and opens the quality of the players who pick them up for discussion/comments by purists. This is just a perception, and I'm hopefull doesn't lead to a side discussion that's not productive! :)

While I have your ear...ummm, eye......let me try one more item that has been grating on my since before I was a caps member..although I didn't understand the reason for it!

Whether you change the dollar limit or keep it the same, the threshholds have  been a cause of embarassment for CAPs and those who support CAPS in other board forums.  The issue is that once a stock drops below pick threshhold the rating system (number of stars) is NOT accurate.  Unfortuantely, the combination of players who left CAPs with the pick open, or who are holding the pick open either in hopes of salvaging the accuracy down the line,  clash with anyone who might downthumb it to average out the rating. This leaves stocks frozen with their rating, good or bad.

An example of this, (and there are many), is Britannia Bulk Holdings (BBLKF.PK).  When it went BK under me, I wasn't a caps player, but I was also confused when people said it must recover, it's a five star caps!  It did rebound to $0.42 one day, for some unknown reason back in April and I cashed out. It sits at 0.09 and still at 5 stars. Even Tenmiles is holding it open.  Stocks such as this are a laughingstock when other boards see the rating of 5 stars applied to a bankrupt stock or one heavily in the gutter because at one time it was pickable, but no longer is.

Even your staff writers are writing up non-pickable stocks from time to time as from this example yesterday.  You can see the type of comments it generates.

I have also, in the past received my "reward" for answering MF surveys. The reward is the 5 best performing stocks and the 5 worst. I did an analysis one day on the two lists and ALL were either non-pickable or mutual funds.  Best performance/worst performance apparently are multiplied when you're a penny stock. These stocks also show up on the caps home page as "today's hottest stocks".  Of the top 5 today, three are not pickalbe and are lead by a stock that went from $0.04 to a whopping $0.07.  I really like having may attention called to that useful section!!!! :)

A suggestion would be to null out the star rating with some sort of banner or other rating indicating it's in the bull pen, (or the doghouse!).   If it resurfaces back to pick range, then it could start getting rated again. It should also be nulled out of contention for "best/worse" ratings, especially if it is a sub $0.20 stock.

I do like the idea of a tiny board or tinies in some format, but not mixed with the playable stocks....  Just my $0.02 worth!

It sounds like you have  a lot of ideas, and a lot of things going on, but I am hoping that star/Caps rating on non-pickable stocks will get on your radar at some point!  How we are perceived outside the CAPS community is very important to some of us! :)

Thanks!
TSIF 

 

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#2) On August 28, 2009 at 7:19 PM, hall9999 (99.12) wrote:

  Regarding the diferent rule change suggestions I think the minimum dollar amount volume is probably the best.  I wouldn't be too concerned about the net change in any of your scenarios.  All that matters is that stocks that aren't worth our time are replaced with stocks that have some kind of potential.  Also, I wouldn't be too eager to increase the universe of ratable stocks too much since TMF already has a tough enough time managing what's available now.

  The new rankings idea is one that I've been hoping to see implemented for quite a while.  I'd like to see a few more time frames in addition to the calendar year ranking.  Perhaps 3 or 6 months and 3 or 5 years.

 

"A suggestion would be to null out the star rating with some sort of banner or other rating indicating it's in the bull pen, (or the doghouse!).   If it resurfaces back to pick range, then it could start getting rated again. It should also be nulled out of contention for "best/worse" ratings, especially if it is a sub $0.20 stock."

  I'll second that TSIF.  

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#3) On August 28, 2009 at 7:22 PM, BravoBevo (99.97) wrote:

Nice proposal that I'd like to see implemented. Responding to the 3 open items:

* Require a 6 month holding period for top picks. Yes, as to a holding period longer than the current 1 week, but I'm indifferent whether it is 6 month or 4 months or 9 months or 1 year.

* Restrict top picks to stocks -- no ETFs or closed end funds. I am ambivalent about this. For right now, I'll let others vote and decide.

 * Restrict top picks to outperforms No, I am not in favor of this restriction. Underperforms should be allowed. As I had previously mentioned within an AllStarPortfolio discussion, there are some folks who are better at selecting underperforms (80% or 90% of their total scores come from underperform picks) while others are better at selecting outperforms. Why limit the universe rather than learning the strengths of all CAPS participants?

+1 rec for soliciting our feedback. 

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#4) On August 28, 2009 at 7:51 PM, Tastylunch (29.40) wrote:

I strongly agree with TSIF & hall9999  Re:

"A suggestion would be to null out the star rating with some sort of banner or other rating indicating it's in the bull pen, (or the doghouse!).   If it resurfaces back to pick range, then it could start getting rated again. It should also be nulled out of contention for "best/worse" ratings, especially if it is a sub $0.20 stock."

I am also strongly in favor of the 50k volume threshold. I think the CAPS community will find a lot more use out a rating on a Lehman Brothers (which still trades believe it or not) than on WorldVest. MarketCap and stock price is not reflective of value at all really. As hall said " All that matters is that stocks that aren't worth our time are replaced with stocks that have some kind of potential". 

As fars the topick thing goes I agree with BravoBevo

although ETFs would not bother me if included.

Also if you do the toppick based off the current system(the dollar sign) you'll have to have some system to keep people honest since you can turn it off and on very easily.

My other concern is that these other games could divert intelligence away from CAPS central making it more opaque and less intelligent depending on how it's handled

I'd also like to start tracking top performers by calendar year.  Who is the best performaing CAPS member in 2009???!!!

Yes yes yes! That would be awesome! Especially if the players gets a 1yr CAPS rating their member page.

I would make one very big change to what you proposesd though I'd make it rolling year (a yoy result basically) . Jan1 is pretty arbitrart and the results will be skewed by calendar resets (YTD retruns in Feburary aren't as interestingas Feb to Feb imho).

BravoBevo

+1 rec for soliciting our feedback. 

+1 to that, Thanks Jake.

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#5) On August 28, 2009 at 8:19 PM, awallejr (77.67) wrote:

WALL-E owns ;P

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#6) On August 28, 2009 at 9:24 PM, TMFHelical (99.12) wrote:

Jake,

I've not played much 'follow the leader' in CAPS.  Annual leaders would be nice, but 'best ideas' rankings don't interest me all too much.  

That said, I would like to see some sector rankings.  I'd like to know who are the highest rated players in certain sectors or industries.  Sure this is selfish, as I play a (mostly) single sector oriented CAPS port, but I do think there is value in knowing who makes the best call (and best 'bullish only' calls) in a narrow band like a sector or industry.

TMFHelical 

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#7) On August 28, 2009 at 9:50 PM, portefeuille (99.66) wrote:

#6

some "sector champions" (from here)

 

Metals and Mining

foolsmethrice 4,359.78

mgiv 3,358.31

translator999 2,507.12 

andreylikesmtl 2,069.64

tempttempt 1,921.84

number1cramerfan 1,511.29

 

Biotechnology

portefeuille 2,284.33 

zzlangerhans 1,978.81

usubanas 1,454.60

 

Semiconductors and Semiconductor Equipment

jogafra 1,047.50

 

 

Capital Markets

bravobevo 1,733.02

 

Oil, Gas and Consumable Fuels

tmfeldrehad 2,006.45

baseballdude 1,993.32

foolsmethrice 1,856.76

venividiveci 1,565.55 

bravobevo 1,422.67

 

Commercial Banks

fransgeraedts 1,609.42

hdgf1 1,583.30

ooji 1,559.27

econosurfer 1,544.49

ahedgefund 1,408.25

 

Thrifts and Mortgage Finance

d1david 1,756.66 

abitare 1,470.76


Hotels, Restaurants and Leisure

bravobevo 1,768.40

 

What they do have is "Top Members in Tag" but that is more or less useless.


 

 

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#8) On August 28, 2009 at 10:21 PM, NOTvuffett (< 20) wrote:

CAPS obviously not meant as a stock trading game but as a way of using a community to rate a stock.  But this has dubious utility as others have said here unless it is in the right range.  However, it is a great forum to hear what other, and probably smarter, people know about something.

As far as what should be rateable, all you need to do is look at PALG.OB as an example- that piece of crap should never have been in CAPS.  But a respectable $50M company with temporary cash flow problems I was interested in was not rateable.

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#9) On August 29, 2009 at 1:08 PM, JakilaTheHun (99.93) wrote:

I've got a date here in a bit, but I'll offer what I believe the simplest way to improve the ratability issue.  I think we should just treat the major exchange stocks and the .OB/.PK stocks with completely different criteria.  Major exchange stocks tend not to be pump-and-dump anyway.  It's really the .OBs and .PKs where you find that, so here's how I would change it:

(1) All major exchange stocks (NYSE, Nasdaq, AMEX) with a market cap of $10 Million, a price above $1, and either a "volume" or "average daily volume" of 1K+ are ratable.  

(2) .OB/.PK stocks must have a market cap of at least $500 million, a price above $2, and a "volume" above 10K to be ratable.  

 

There are a few issues.  It looks like the Fool's stats for "Avr Daily Volume" aren't necessarily accurate.   A lot of legitimate .OBs have low volume, but almost all the trash stocks have an extremely low volume.  My proposal would probably elminate a few of the legitimate .PKs (such as Volkswagen), but I see it as difficult to come up with a criteria that perfectly screens the trash from the non-trash.  The only consistent thing is that the trash stocks are almost always .OB or .PK.  

Since the major exchange stocks have to meet certain criteria to be traded on those exchanges to begin with, they tend to be much more legitimate.  In essence, I think you can use the NYSE and Nasdaq as "junk screeners".  

 

Also, unlike many, I do think there should be a minimum price.  The problem is that when you get into penny stocks (even if they are legitimate), you end up with skewed results that aren't necessarily realistic.  For instance, if you buy 1000 shares of a 4 cent stock and the price rises to 6 cents; that would not be a 50% gain in real life in all probability.  Transaction fees would eat away at that gain.  Staying above $1 prevents people from starting profiles solely to green thumb penny stocks and take advantage of a slight price bump.  

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#10) On August 29, 2009 at 4:01 PM, tonylogan1 (28.24) wrote:

Jakila... if you buy 10 shares of a $4.00 stock your transaction fees will be equally hazardous... but I digress...

Jake... I don't want to let the "ignore" feature get totally off your radar... Too many of the top performers decide to leave shortly after demonstrating success due to inability to ignore what is likely a VERY small number of people.

p.s. On the volume issue, I would much prefer to see volume multiplied by stock price as the cutoff. I don't want to see a $10,000 or lower transaction result in 100+ CAPS points.

Example: WHPM.OB... each time that thing actually makes a trade it is about $200.00 of real money that is making the stock move. It is silly.

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#11) On August 29, 2009 at 4:23 PM, rexlove (99.57) wrote:

Sounds like some great ideas. I've been asking for some changes to make this game more realistic. A major gripe of mine is the ability to red-thumb (or short) pink sheet or OTC stocks. This is not realistic in the real world. I think some of the top ten players wouldn't be up there if this was implemented.  

I like the idea of a minimum volume threshold. I think the idea of a minimum price is bad especially when you consider the current market where we have seen some major companies drop under a dollar. If you want to set a minimum dollar value - maybe set it for the .PK and .OB stocks.  

If you do implement some change here in the rules - I think we may need a new ranking to show scores/performance since the rule change. I'm sure this would have a major impact on the ratings.

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#12) On August 29, 2009 at 5:03 PM, Tastylunch (29.40) wrote:

rexlove

A major gripe of mine is the ability to red-thumb (or short) pink sheet or OTC stocks. This is not realistic in the real world.

This is false. I short pink sheets and OTC stocks occasionally in real life. So does Everydayinvestor.

You just need to know what brokers/clearing houses to use. It is certainly not as easy as it is to do in CAPS as there are usually very very few shares avilable and some stocks are completely unshortable.

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#13) On August 29, 2009 at 5:14 PM, JakilaTheHun (99.93) wrote:

Jakila... if you buy 10 shares of a $4.00 stock your transaction fees will be equally hazardous... but I digress...

The difference being that you could buy in bulk amounts and the transaction fees wouldn't be that bad with a $4 stock.  Your normally can't easily buy a 4 cent stock with an Internet discount broker or if you can, you're paying on a per share basis.  You're normally likely to incur at least a 4 cent per share charge.  Admittedly, I'm no expert on this, but I doubt anyone is really going to earn 50% on a 2 cent rise on a 4 cent stock no matter how many shares they buy.  

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#14) On August 29, 2009 at 7:32 PM, TMFJake (29.52) wrote:

Thanks for all the great responses.  It looks like there's a consensus for both a volume filter for rating stocks as well as a "Top Stocks" alternative ranking system.  But the votes are still coming in. :)

@TSIF: Great point about the problems with stocks retaining their rating after that have become unratable. We should, at the very least, call attention in some way to this "doghouse" status.

I'll also check into why the penny stocks aren't filtered out of the Hot Stocks list on the CAPS home page.  They are on most other lists, including the market movers modules.

@TastyLunch:  Love the suggestion to make the "calendar year top Fool" a rolling 12 month measurement.  Regarding gaming the Top Pick, we would only score your performance in the Top Picks rating for the period in which you'd designated a pick as such; therefore you couldn't simply designate your biggest winners as top picks to game the system.

@TMFHelical and Portefeuille:  I would like to do more sector and industry focused work.  Do you think a higher profile and more robust rating system for sector and industry leaders would be of interest?  Or perhaps group portfolio projects like the AllStarPortfolio or TigerPack initiatves?

Portefuille, the current Top Members in a tag is calculated off a player's score in the tag.  There's a minimum pick requirement I believe, and then we display the top ranked players by score.  I'd hardly call the current ranking useless, but I agree that a mix of qualitative and quantitative ranking would improve on the autogenerate list.

@JakilaTheHun:  Post back about the date. :)  Chewing on your other proposals.  I'll post the details of what we plan to do before we lock in on an approach to get final feedback.

@tonylogan1:  We've protyped the "Ignore" feature, and will likely roll it out this year...

Again, thanks all for the feedback.  I wait to see what else comes in and then post some tentative conclusions on next steps for more feedback.

Finally, I don't want to over hype anything, but WALL-E will change the way many of you think about your investments. WALL-E is coming.  I hope your ready.

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#15) On August 29, 2009 at 9:22 PM, vanamonde (99.97) wrote:

When it comes to Top Picks or other alternative rankings, I would greatly appreciate an easy way to find players who can consistently and over time get their picks right. Rankings right now can heavily reward just a one-time flash of genius or simple luck.

Calling a bottom in March and going all 200 green with a random set of financials and commodities would probably equal 80+ accuracy and some 10000 points by today. The same, although on smaller scale, was true for one-time sector calls in bubbling/imploding dry bulk, oil, solar, real estate or finance, to name a few. I do respect the points and accuracy earned in such a way, but one stunningly good call six months back is not as impressive as finding value in any market and any time.

Pushing the mandatory holding time to six monts addresses minibubbles, but the Top Pick list might still be topped by one-time calls on market or a sector. To avoid this, maybe it would be possible to integrate a mandatory activity criteria into this, such as "x new picks in a rolling n-month period"? This still allows plays in a specific sector, but players would need to provide opinions on the sector over time (zzlangerhans and biotech would be a good example). And if this does not fly for the Top Pick list, would you consider adding an "active and accurate" screener to top ten lists?

On minimum price and penny stocks, I would just point out that a screener on price change over the last 4 weeks yields 20 stocks with returns over 1,000%. The highest, at least according to my broker, has returns of 49,900%. Some of these 20 have seen trading volume in millions of shares and many thousands of dollars. In my view the current system provides a reasonably good filter against such volatility, although the $1.5/100M threshold could maybe be somewhat less.

Cheers,

.vanamonde

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#16) On August 29, 2009 at 11:34 PM, streetflame (30.14) wrote:

"You're normally likely to incur at least a 4 cent per share charge.  Admittedly, I'm no expert on this, but I doubt anyone is really going to earn 50% on a 2 cent rise on a 4 cent stock no matter how many shares they buy."

Wrong, or you're using a really bad broker.  I've bought shares as low as $0.06 on Ameritrade without any per share charge, just the standard $10 per trade (my trades in tiny companies have only been about $1000 but the same would apply to a much larger trade). However about 20% of OTC microcaps require broker phone assistance, which is $45 a trade.  Too expensive for me considering the low volumes.

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#17) On August 29, 2009 at 11:53 PM, streetflame (30.14) wrote:

A lot of the negativity towards .OBs and .PKs on this site is just mindless.  People seem to base their feelings for thousands of stocks on a few pump and dump scams (which CAPS is really great at identifying).  A lot of people throw around false "facts" like: you can't buy them without gigantic fees, or you can't possibly short them, or you can't make money in them through "investing skill".

The point of CAPS is to expose the truth, right? So instead of being scared of microcap stocks let's learn the truth about them by rating them and talking about them.

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#18) On August 30, 2009 at 11:31 AM, JakilaTheHun (99.93) wrote:

The point of CAPS is to expose the truth, right? So instead of being scared of microcap stocks let's learn the truth about them by rating them and talking about them.

And the truth is that you can't buy most low-volume .OB and .PK stocks for the going CAPS rate.  My second biggest gainer in CAPS history was on a stock called Piedmont Office Trust (POFR.PK).  It's a completely legitimate company and I believed the stock was very undervalued at $2 (which it briefly sold for). 

10 days later, the price jumped to $9.  I ended my pick and collected the +345 points.  

Was part of this the result of good analysis on my part?  Yes.

Was this realistic?  Not really. 

In reality, the stock trades with virtually no volume so the price spikes are rather dramatic.  It's possible that the $2 price point was the result of an extremely small, negotiated sale.  The $2 price was also a post-trade price.  If I had tried to buy at that rate in real life, I would not have succeeded.  Same deal with the $9 sale price. 

The low volume of the .OB and .PK stocks allow people to take advantage of arbitrage opportunities that wouldn't necessarily be available in real life.  Whereas, almost all the major exchange stocks (even ones with fairly low volume) have steadier pricing. 

Too many people here on CAPS just use these "easy" stocks to game their score and accuracy, when the "deals" they get on CAPS wouldn't necessarily be available in real life.  And if they are available in real life, it's for extremely small trades.  

I actually wouldn't have a problem with these low-volume .OB and .PK stocks being "ratable" if people could not collect points or accuracy from them.  This is essentially EverydayInvestor's idea of allowing people to make picks on them as a public service. 

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#19) On August 30, 2009 at 12:59 PM, streetflame (30.14) wrote:

One way to discourage getting in on unrepresentative trades is to require limit orders.  Ameritrade will not let you execute market orders on any OTC stock, so if CAPS did the same it would reflect reality.

Even if the trade is not at an open market price, CAPS is still getting some valuable information.  "I think POFR.PK is a buy at $2."  So we assume you may think POFR.PK is a weak buy at $3, or a hold at $4, which could be open market prices in the future. 

"And the truth is that you can't buy most low-volume .OB and .PK stocks for the going CAPS rate."

It depends how you define low-volume.  But that is not the truth for the large majority of OTC stocks I have researched and traded.

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#20) On August 30, 2009 at 1:26 PM, streetflame (30.14) wrote:

TMFJake: Note that while "trading volume" has a plurality, the two more liberal policies "MicroCAPS" and "anything goes" together have a majority. I think "anything goes" has acted as a spoiler and with ranked voting or a head to head competition "MicroCAPS" would win.

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#21) On August 30, 2009 at 10:18 PM, TMFJake (29.52) wrote:

TMFJake: Note that while "trading volume" has a plurality, the two more liberal policies "MicroCAPS" and "anything goes" together have a majority.


Good point, I'll repost the poll on Monday, along with some conclusions I'm drawing from the feedback so far.  Thanks!

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#22) On August 31, 2009 at 3:52 AM, tonylogan1 (28.24) wrote:

Jakila - streetflame summed it up.

I've never had a problem buying big blocks for under 10 dollars commission.

Admittingly I dont buy 4 cent stocks too often... Last cheap purchase was WAMUQ at 5 cents to bring down my cost basis. (its up to 14 cents or so, which is a triple so far)

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#23) On August 31, 2009 at 7:28 AM, TMFBabo (100.00) wrote:

If the volume requirement is the option that wins, is there still a chance that MicroCAPS will happen? I might even spend more time on MicroCAPS than on regular CAPS.  It sounds like whatever filter is established, many legitimate micro caps will still be blocked.  I'm hoping MicroCAPS is still a possibility in the future.

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#24) On September 05, 2009 at 8:17 PM, d1david (29.32) wrote:

i just saw this blog entry after tasty just pointed it out in response to my recent blog entry...

one more catagory for the top 10 would be top 10 "stock picking only" --it would calculate the outperform/underperform picks of ONLY stocks... no closed end funds, no etfs...  

This shouldn't be to hard to implement, and it would be an easy way to weed out the "general market timers" that use ultras to bolster thier score to keep up with others who do the same..

---

by the way, i like the top 25 pick idea 

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