Nine Lives

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Today the Slope of Hope turns nine years old. Nine. Years.

As some of you may recall, I wrote my first post on March 29 2005 from the Ritz in Cancun, Mexico. I had sold Prophet just two months earlier, and I had taken my wife and children on vacation. I remember Joe Montana took the elevator with us and counseled us to enjoy our kids since “they grow up fast.” As much of a cliche as that is, it certainly is true.

The blog would have never come to life were it not for my wife’s incessant prodding. I finally relented, creating my first entry on Blogspot with the moniker Technically Speaking (I didn’t dream up the name Slope of Hope until some time later; when, precisely, I don’t recall). I also do not recall how many posts have been done over the years, but it’s something like 17,000.

As I’m sitting here, reflecting on what to say, I am awash in ignorance. I’ve already mentioned in the same breath two things I don’t know (when I dreamed up the name and how precisely many posts comprise Slope). I do recall why I was so reluctant to start it in the first place: I considered blogs a fad, and I wasn’t sure who on earth would want to read my stuff anyway. I was wrong on both counts.

But I’ll hasten to add something else I don’t know: how many blogs have been actively running for nine solid years. And although I don’t offer up a precise definition of “active”, I can tell you that this largely one-man-shop has been cranking out a new post every hour or two for a long, long time. I imagine the Nine Year Club is a pretty small one.

Hey, news flash! I think I’ve found the magical date when the blog was christened Slope of Hope – evidently, it was July 22, 2007. That’s fitting, I suppose, since at that time the market was creaking its way to a very important top. But I digress. Back to my reminiscing……..

This blog started off as a way to give blogging a try and has ended up largely taking over my life. For 365 days a year, Slope is always on my mind. I am always wanting to keep things fresh and active, and during the rare occasions that I’m traveling, I worry about the blog giving off any hint of staleness. I suppose in the back of my mind, I live in fear that Slopers will wander off en masse in case I don’t keep slapping new stuff onto the site. That’s how one winds up with 17,000 posts (or whatever the number is).

One of my (countless) hang-ups is numbers, so since today is our ninth birthday, I’m going to lay out ten aspects of our history – nine for the past, and the tenth in honor of the year forthcoming. I’m going to lean toward the positive, with seven of these events being good highlights, and three of them being bad. Oh, and if you think I’d ever title this post, or even a sub-section, with something as hackneyed as “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, you must be new here. So let’s begin:

Highlights

Our Own Comments System – While it may seem trivial, the comments system is the heart and soul of the blog. There are certainly blogs with much bigger folllowings than Slope, but nobody has as engaged an audience. Can you imagine establishing a friendship with someone you met on Yahoo Finance? I didn’t think so. But Slopers have formed deep, lasting friendships all over the world. There’s something about the community here that connects people, and I’d like to think our built-from-the-ground-up comments system has a lot to do with it. There’s a social fabric to Slope that isn’t found in many other places on the web.

Global Invitations – I can’t tell you how many kind invitations I’ve received to visit Slopers all over the world. I’ve received dozens of gifts, ranging from fine French wines to coffee beans grown on the plantation of a reader – – – to say nothing of the custom-made Slope M&Ms sent by Tony R. down in Mexico. I distinctly remember being “stuck” in Paris in the summer of 2011 when Eyjafjallajokull erupted. Even though I was in a foreign land, a local Sloper (named Nico) said he’d be happy to drive me down to Madrid if I wanted to get a flight back to the United States. In a way, the sun never sets on the Slope empire. I feel that I have friends everywhere.

The Thrill of the Financial Crisis – I don’t think anyone enjoyed the financial crisis of 2008 as much as I did (OK, John Paulson probably edges me out, but still…………..) We were watching history in the making, tick by tick, day by day. It was a blast. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss that feeling. It was exciting. I hope something like it comes back. Maybe even bigger and badder.

SocialTrade – I wanted to create “the Pinterest of charting”, and I succeeded. SocialTrade hasn’t caught on the way I hoped, but it’s got a steady following on Slope, so I content myself with that. It’s a cool little product. You may not realize this, but the world of active, sophisticated traders is surprisingly minute – – it always has been – – so it’s not easy to come up with any product that reaches anything more than a minuscule following.

Slopefest – I mentioned earlier how tightly-integrated the community is here on the blog. This was taken to a whole new level with Slopefests, which are organized events in which readers of the blog actually get together – in the flesh! – and have a great time. There’s another one coming up in Las Vegas – the 7th one, I think – and I hope to be there. Dutch deserves special recognition for these.

Five-Star Generals – There are a few folks who are on Slope even more than I am. These are the stalwarts – the hardcores – the heroes – of the blog. They keep the comments section active, they offer knowledge and aid to others, and they create and promote the culture. Everyone in the comments section has some kind of military “rank”, based on their participation, but if you see any five star generals out there, you know that they’re something special. To them I am deeply grateful.

Slope Plus – After many years of doing the blog, supported only by the penny-by-penny income from selling ad spaces, I finally created a “premium” version of the blog, Slope Plus. The success of this offering has been heartening to me, and I hope people continue to sign up and support my hard work (and get plenty of cool, extra, and hopefully profitable content) as time goes on.

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The Lowlights

Inter-Sloper Clashes – A close community is going to create friction, and from time to time, there are fights. The culture of the blog is so civil that these occurances are few and far between, but they do happen, and sometimes one (or both) parties storm off, never to return. It’s human nature, I suppose.

The Long Haul – The past nine years certainly haven’t been the straight-line-down that a permabear likes to see, but honestly, March 2005 to August 2010 weren’t so bad, in spite of plenty of ups and downs. But from September 2010 to, well, just about now, the market has been a big, fat, ugly drag for equity bears. A vicious, unrelenting Federal Reserve has made a living hell for anyone who dares to short the market. We “all” know it’ll end badly someday. But no one knows when that “someday” is ever going to come.

Trolls – I can’t have a list of lowlights without mentioning trolls. Slope has had its share of hateful sociopaths over the years, and I’m not just talking about one lunatic in particular. There have been some real whack-jobs out there. My hunch is that the vast, vast, vast majority of my readers range from either wonderful to simply harmless, but there’s always going to be a few bozos at the far left end of the tail that get their kicks out of denigrating my hard work. I’m not sure what drives them – – jealousy? sexual obsession? undiagnosed mental illness? – – but a handful of nuts are always going to linger out there, fouling the Earth by their presence.

So as we began out tenth year (my God……..tenth year), what are my hopes for Slope? Well, in many ways, more of the same……..more great posts, more Slope+ subscribers, and continued strength and dynamism in the comments stream. But I’d also like something that none of us can invoke ourselves – – for a new unraveling to begin. Because there’s one thing I can promise you here: you’ll have front-row seats.

Thank you.