Lessons from the Trollbox
For anyone who doesn't know, a 'Trollbox' is the chat box that sits on the fringes of a trading screen. The one I cut my teeth in was Poloniex, where I began this little learning adventure. What goes on in the Trollbox is what you would generally expect from any chatroom on the internet, populated primarily by teenage to middle aged males, however I would argue that cryptocurrency trollboxes are a different animal because they have the added distinction of throwing money into the mix.
As a regular Johnny-Come-Lately to the digital currency scene (nearing one year since I bought my first BTC), I had zero experience trading and I was fairly comfortable with the idea of simply buying, mining, and holding bitcoin... until I started to learn about Ethereum.
After listening to all of the podcasts from "The Ether Review" with Arthur Falls, and most of the Devcon Presentations, I was thoroughly intrigued. Given what was being produced in this space and what I knew about cryptocurrencies, I felt quite confident in the long term viability of Ethereum and its network. The only place that Ethereum could be acquired without investing in some high-end graphics cards was in a cryptocurrency exchange.
After some research, I learned that Poloniex was where all the cool kids were slanging their Ether. Back in the day (read: early January), one Ether could be had for right around one American dollar, what we would all recognize now as an absolute steal. I figured I would be bold and buy as much as I could afford with a general 'investment' budget I had been saving up. I did not know where this road would bring me.
I created my account, logged in, figured out what my bitcoin address was, then made that first deposit. While waiting for the confirmations to come in, I noticed the stream of names and words flowing across the beloved 'Trollbox'. So I began talking. Almost immediately, the 'learning' feedback loop began. Trading can be exciting and fun. Arguing and joking with like minds while trading can be damn near addictive.
So, what were those lessons? Here's a list of the most important lessons I learned in the Trollbox:
1) You Know Nothing and Will Be Reminded Regularly
Regardless of how much homework you've done on a topic, or how many hours of content you've 'caffeined' your way through, someone in the Trollbox knows more than you do and will tell you so bluntly. Even if this person demonstrates that they haven't done any research with each sentence formed next to their name, this does not matter. You will be openly accused of being an idiot, moron, or worse: a shill.
A number of my initial arguments/disagreements in the Box were over the value and long-term potential of Ethereum. I can honestly say that I could not wrap my head around some of the denouncements I was seeing. 'It's a scamcoin/shitcoin/pump-and-dump-scheme/etc' was most common. Or 'Its a pre-mined get-rich-quick scheme for the developers!'; 'Vitalik is an alien!'.
My confusion over this may have had more to do with the fact that I was new in cryptocurrency and hadn't seen how some of the games that coins of the recent past had played out in the market. Auroracoin and Litecoin were constantly compared to Ethereum due to their rapid ascent and even more rapid fall from very high prices and market caps. Still, the amount of actual work and promising projects that were being worked on in the Ethereum network only made this fight more confusing. Like the Chewbacca Defense, none of this made sense. Until I had a revelation...
2) Most Trolls Are Lying
If you took a rough sample of comments that stream through the Trollbox every day, the majority would easily be a troll making a claim within this general formula: 'Coin X will increase/decrease in value by Y amount within the next N timeframe'. Obviously, all of these prognosticators aren't from the future, nor are they gazing into a Palantir getting their trading tips from Sauron about PIGGYcoin's inevitable rise in the next two hours. In actuality, the vast majority of these trolls are attempting to wage psychological warfare on their fellow trolls in order to improve a vested position they have taken on said coin.
It actually took me a while to first realize and then understand this, despite all evidence and warnings that it should have been obvious. I certainly knew it was happening with the 'obvious' trolls, but I never really did the math to realize that even the more 'respected' trolls in the trollbox were likely engaging in similar behavior. Even if on a subliminal basis, it happens and I can personally attest to this. One of my more powerful revelations came after I noticed myself being pulled towards telling the trollbox that something was going to go up right after I bought it. Other times, the draw towards talking up a coin after I had made a bad bet that had me sweating. Fortunately, I actively avoid this type of behavior now out of principle. I'm still accused of being a shill on a regular basis by a few nemeses, but trollers gonna troll. What can you do? Everything you sentence you read in the trollbox has a good possibility of being a lie.
3) When In the Trollbox, Speak Troll
The Crypto-Trollbox has a language of its own, which will seem both foreign and familiar to anyone who has been in a chatroom before. However, the variable of money in this environment adds more tension than a casual discussion about blocksizes in Reddit.
Learning to engage in this environment takes time, because there is an entire language of phrases and acronyms to pick up on to truly understand what is being said. FOMO, FUD, ICO, PND, rekt, moon, and even all of the different coin acronyms. On top of that, you have to read with the knowledge that everything is colored through the lens of money and self-preservation. Being able to understand this language makes the art of learning that much more fluid and intuitive.
4) Emotions Will Get You Killed
While this is a common statement in any trading environment, I've found it to be painfully accurate while trading cryptocurrencies. I would venture to guess that there is strong emotional attachment that can come from trading something that is simultaneously a technology and a currency/commodity. This is even more pronounced when the technology is viewed as a revolutionary one. This sort of emotional attachment makes the perceived valuation of the currency similar to the way people develop affinities towards sports teams. Regardless of ups and downs, they cling to them like a security blanket and respond violently when someone challenges their faith.
I admittedly held this position with Ethereum for a number of months up until the crash from its all-time-high at 0.037. The rise to these levels made it easier to convince myself that my subjective valuation was correct and it created a feedback loop that resulted in a loss of some profits when I should have seen that it was bound to correct. I could have saved myself some more profits from trading objectively without emotion. Again, I count this as part of my tuition.
5) Bring Some Thick Skin
Trading while trolling can be a dangerous game. Probably almost as bad as driving while trading (I may have done this once or twice). Why you ask? Well the antagonism is strong. After a few months of observing 'troll' behavior in its natural habitat, I realized that trolling could be placed on a Venn Diagram as the area where antagonism and dishonesty meet.
Often times, this antagonism comes as a result of disagreements. Other times, its just a mix of boredom a lack of slaps to the back of the head for rudeness. There have been occasions where I would spend precious minutes arguing with one of these antagonistic trolls only to realize that I had completely forgotten I had positions open that were actively moving against me. Touche, Mr. Troll. You've won this round.
Bottom Line: Never let the trolls see you sweat, especially if you should be watching the charts.
6) Spouses Don't Like When You Trade Cryptocurrency
The title says it all. My wife hates when I'm on the computer now!
So whats the moral of this lesson? Or more appropriately, the tl;dr? I'm not entirely sure, to be honest other than saying I've learned a lot from trading in this market. I feel confident that anyone that is in the cryptocurrency space this early in the game will likely be thanked by their grandchildren for hooking them up with some financial stability in the years to come. The trollbox has sharpened my objective analysis of Bitcoin, Ethereum and many other technologies in this space. It has also introduced me to a number of upcoming technologies which has given me great opportunities for profit and staying ahead of the technological curve.
Learning on the ground floor of something as amazing as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and (happy to say now) Steemit, has served me quite well in the short year I've been playing this game. If you like money and learning, I would recommend trying a bit of trading. You may even get better at fighting with trolls!