The Dilemma at Options for Rookies

A few days ago, when beginning a reply to [Here's the reply], I realized I had reached a turning point.

When responding, my goal is to move the questioner from a state of confusion to one of enlightenment.  That may be overstating my abilities, but it is the objective.

I'm trying to solve the reader's immediate problem and make it possible for the person asking the question to experience an 'aha moment' in which he/she now understands the answer.  I prefer not to provide a brief reply that offers only immediate gratification.  I'm hoping the reader can handle a similar situation the next time it appears.

I receive many words of appreciation, and the positive feedback is appreciated.

These loooong questions have become a problem.  They cannot be answered in a few minutes.  Look at the length of the aforementioned question:  It's a whole blog post by itself. 

As Options for Rookies grows in popularity, the number of comments and questions increases.  I love it and welcome every question.  But how can I find the time to reply when so many of the answers are complicated?  I must devote part of my work day towards earning an income.  And that's the dilemma.  My trading has become limited due the time devoted to the blog – and other writing.

I was told (very soon after I began this blog) that providing lengthy, detailed answers was going to get me into a pickle.  Well, it's happened. 

To date, I've replied to each question, whether it arrives via e-mail or through a blog comment (preferred method).  I no longer have the time to do justice to all.

One  solution is to reply to some questions and allow the others to go unanswered.  However, I owe a debt of gratitude to  each
of you as a treasured friend. 
I don't want to pass over your questions.

I don't know how to proceed.

ADDENDUM: Immediately after finishing this post (last week), another question arrived.  It was a good question about kite spreads and required more than one-half hour to reply.  I timed the reply (35 minutes) and came to a clear decision: The day is too short to reply to all questions.

***

After due deliberation, I believe I found a viable solution.  Your input is sought.  No final decision has been made.

I. Options for Rookies continues with one change: 

  • All comments are welcome
  • I will respond to questions, if a couple of sentences suffices
  • Unless I deem the question of general interest and convert it to it's own blog post, I will not reply to questions that cannot adequately be answered briefly
  • Some unanswered questions will be answered as described below

II. Begin a membership blog:

  • New, special content will be included in the membership blog

After many requests from readers, I'll be following live trades.  More details on this topic – Monday, Feb 8, 2010

I'll experiment with live interaction with members, if I can master the technology (Upstream)

                Q & A sessions

                Mini-lessons or short webinars

  • Video posts of unknown content.  I don't know what to include here
  • Answers to some questions from Options for Rookies
  • Answers to all questions from Options for Rookies, if not overloaded with questions on the new blog
  • No Google ads to get in the way.  In fact, no ads, period.  A cleaner look.

When asking for a subscription, it's important to me that readers believe it's a fair and reasonable request.  Please participate in this poll:




If site is started, I guarantee: fee will never increase for a subscriber




605

23 Responses to The Dilemma at Options for Rookies

  1. Anthony Haskew 02/05/2010 at 7:12 AM #

    Hi Mark,
    Firstly, a huge thank you for your invaluable advice. I read your post daily and you’ve greatly improved my knowledge of opening and more importantly, protecting, options positions.
    I haven’t posted a question or comment up to now because, frankly, it hasn’t been necessary. There’s volumes of useful information in the questions your loyal readers have asked in the past and your insightful responses to them.
    On the question of how your service should be offered in the future, I think you should do what feels right for you. Any commitment you can make to helping us out is greatly appreciated – no matter how big or small. For the majority of us the wisdom we’ve received from you will vastly outweigh what we’ll ever be able to offer in return.
    Cheers,
    Anthony.

  2. NK 02/05/2010 at 7:37 AM #

    Mark,
    I’ve been a follower of your blog ever since I came across across it. Although the idea of having to pay to read a blog doesn’t feel natural to me, it is only fair that you receive something back for the effort and knowledge that you pour into your responses.
    Perhaps a format like http://www.1option.com is suitable. Its more daily market commentary that a Q&A type blog, but he also runs a paid stock recommendation service. You could post live trades & other more specialised content on the membership site. On the Options for Rookies site, you can put up some general content or even a delayed feed of the paid area.
    Good luck!
    warmest regards,
    NK

  3. Mark Wolfinger 02/05/2010 at 7:46 AM #

    Cheers to you.
    Many thanks

  4. Mark Wolfinger 02/05/2010 at 7:52 AM #

    No decision has been made.
    This blog will not be diminished if I do go ahead with the change.
    I don’t believe in market commentary. To me it’s just someone taking a guess at why the market moved.
    As to a paid stock recommendation service – I always considered that to be a joke. If anyone knew where stocks were headed, why would they sell that information? He/she could sit back, trade the system, and make billions.
    But on top of that, I follow ZERO stocks and could never have anything useful to say about any stock, index, or market direction. That’s not to say others cannot provide useful insights, but I cannot.
    Thanks for the comment.

  5. Steve 02/05/2010 at 7:58 AM #

    Great idea Mark! You should be compensated for your work educating others.
    Like any other skill set, options trading is about the details. If you don’t understand a strategy thoroughly, you cannot trade it successfully.

  6. Mark Wolfinger 02/05/2010 at 8:05 AM #

    I appreciate the comment

  7. Patrick 02/05/2010 at 8:19 AM #

    Hey Mark,
    I’m a relatively new reader of OFR but not to the market. Just one world of thought here (teaching rookies).
    Wouldn’t the best option be to maintain the free site for those who want or need the what OFR has to offer, and build a more advanced site with a group that shares your passions and talents to provide a more mature membership service.
    Having two educational platforms (sibling sites) would allow for the production of more tools across a wider spectrum with an upgrade path that is obvious while still maintaining the principle of teaching those that are just starting out.
    I don’t believe that one man can do it all and even if you could, why? You could spend less time as editor than as writer, improve your scale of answers, help educate and promote up and coming trading writers, gain greater brand awareness, ensure survivability of both blogs, all while developing deeper trust and a more complete education for your readers.
    I know this is a little outside your comfort sphere but it wouldn’t have to change so rapidly and you’d have more time for yourself once this type of organization was up and running.
    You have the skills and knowledge to pull something like this off but most importantly you have the respect that it would take to accomplish this, mine included.
    Whatever you do I, along with many others, appreciate whatever efforts you produce. Thank you.

  8. Mark Wolfinger 02/05/2010 at 8:52 AM #

    Patrick,
    Thanks for taking the time for this thoughtful reply.
    I intend to maintain OFR – no matter what else happens.
    If I continue to devote the necessary time to maintain the high quality of this blog, I will not be able to run another site.
    With less time available for trading, I’m looking for a modest income source. Perhaps the membership site is not the best method for accomplishing that.
    I feel an obligation to my readership and will not alienate them. If this is a no-go, I’ll look for an alternative. For now, I’m still collecting votes – knowing that the vast majority ignores polls.
    Thanks for the encouragement.

  9. B 02/05/2010 at 11:25 AM #

    I like Patrick’s thoughts. I’m a little surprised at how few people are willing to pay but I think that would change once it’s clearer how extensive the online help might be. Since you’ve developed a group of readers that find you articulate and more trustworthy that most option writers, this seems like a great opportunity for you to share some of the heavy lifting with some of your colleagues to develop a sort of mentoring or mentoring-lite pay site that would help guide a community of mutually supportive options students. At least one of the CBOE video lecturers has such a site but the price of admission, at around 6k, is more than I can afford. On the other hand, an effective mentoring website would be worth far more than the cost of a couple of bid-ask spreads per month.

  10. Mark Wolfinger 02/05/2010 at 12:03 PM #

    B,
    I’m keeping an open mind. Promise.
    One possible problem: If readers believe this to be a traditional ‘mentoring’ blog, then suddenly I will have people expecting me to give each of them private (or the equivalent) mentoring lessons in exchange for the nominal fee. If I agree to reply to all questions, someone may send dozens per day.
    I understand unwillingness to pay. Most consider the Internet to be ‘free.’ Although many sites are worth the fees, some people expect the Internet to be free. Forever.
    When the plumber comes to my house, he gets an enormous fee. He can do something I can’t do. Well, I have options education to share. How do I ask for a payment when I’ve been offering OFR as a free site for 20 months?
    Then there’s this: I would continue OFR – almost as is. Why pay for additional content if this content is all you need? Maybe I should look at unwillingness to pay as a vote of confidence that OFR is ‘perfect’ that and there’s no need to pay to for ‘more.’
    Thanks for input.

  11. Larry 02/05/2010 at 12:30 PM #

    Mark, IMHO the $20 per month is still a bargain. Be careful about any guarantee of never raising the rate. Your time and knowledge are valuable resources and from what I’ve seen so far on the site you have gone WAY beyond what someone should expect in a free service. Consider me someone who would be happy to sign up for $20 but you need to be clear you will provide for that and not get trapped into becoming someone’s personal options mentor. Maybe you could offer to spend a block of time to people who really want that at either an hourly or fixed rate beyond the monthly $20.
    Looking forward to seeing where this goes.
    Larry

  12. B 02/05/2010 at 12:49 PM #

    Free vs higher (too high) subscriber expections: Charles Kirk has gradually moved much of his work behind a pay wall over the past several years. Maybe he has some ideas for you on how to make it work. I think the bottom line for traders is detailing to them what they can expect (and the limits to amount of personal help from you), and that the money they pay for site access can come back many fold if they do the work.

  13. Mark Wolfinger 02/05/2010 at 1:09 PM #

    Larry,
    1) I do offer my services at $150/hour, but don’t go out of my way to let that be known.
    2) I am comfortable with a guarantee not to raise rates for charter subscribers. I’m not 30 years old, so this is not a 30 year guarantee.
    3) I’m not looking to make a pile from this. Just enough to compensate for some of my time – especially with my having less time to trade.
    4) I’m also interested to see where this goes. There is no rush to finalize the decision.
    The discussion has been very helpful

  14. Mark Wolfinger 02/05/2010 at 1:15 PM #

    Charles offers a valuable service with his free blog.
    Behind the wall is a totally different type of content.
    I’m looking at adding new content covering the same basic area: options education.
    If it weren’t for the fact that questions take so much of my time, I’d have no problem opening the membership site. That would allow readers to visit one or both. It’s those darned long answers that cause the problem.
    I’m looking for a solution to that difficulty. I don’t want to take that away from current readers, but don’t know how to avoid it. The rest just falls into place.

  15. Jesse 02/05/2010 at 5:24 PM #

    I think I’m a minority in your group as I trade only Hong Kong’s stock options (I’m a HK resident living in HK), therefore I’m not interested in your US live trades. If I were trading US stock options, I’ll definitely like to follow your live trades and interaction.

  16. Don 02/05/2010 at 7:59 PM #

    Hi Mark,
    Glad to see that you are doing better. You know that I am a long-time fan of your books and your writing and have seen the blog develop and grow. I understand the amount of time that a blog takes without anwsering any questions. WHen you add that too the time spent, well you said it, there is no time to trade.
    As you also observed, the internet is often expected to be fre, and truthfully, I would not pay for 95% of the information that is provided. You however, haver proven to give, much, much more of your time than could be reasonably expected.
    Your question opens up an interesting paradigm. Can you possibly continue as your are? That answer is clear-no. People will view these pages forever for free, does that meet your needs? THis information and your experience is invaluable, and you should charge for it. As you blog grows and new people come in the are going to ask the same reasonable questions, do you want to spend your day, responding to this, then again 6 months from now, then again, 12 months from now? Is that fair to you? There is so much information on this blog already that would keep people, who were really serious about trading, busy for a year!
    Live trades and a paid site would be useful, not becuase of the profit potential, but becuase, seeing the effects of the market on the Greeks and on traders psychology, in live time would be INVALUABLE experience that cannot be got through paper trading- this would work even if it was one lot.
    Whatever you choose, this site has turned 50K in losses, to nuetral and now, finally some small consisitent gains as I follow the good insight that is provided her.
    Don

  17. Anthony V 02/06/2010 at 7:16 AM #

    Mark, Great blog and I am really glad I found it. In the last month I have read your book and followed the blog daily (OK, twice a day) it has been invaluable to me as I incorporate IC into my overall trading strategy. I think that payment for what you offer is not out of the question. However it sounds to me like many people do not utilize the sidebar links to previous discussions about the various topics. Every question is unique but many are similar. Your strategy is consistant (from what I have read) therefore people need to be courteous and try to find past blog posts to answer their questions. This is probably my favorite part of the blog! Good Luck whatever you decide and thank you for your efforts.

  18. Mark Wolfinger 02/06/2010 at 8:12 AM #

    Thanks for sharing

  19. Mark Wolfinger 02/06/2010 at 8:14 AM #

    Thank you.
    It’s natural to ask first and not bother to do the research.
    But doing the quick research would eliminate much of the duplication.
    Thanks

  20. Andy 02/06/2010 at 2:27 PM #

    Mark,
    Just a few observations. When I visited the blog sites of the other writers from ‘expiring monthly’ I was surprised most of their content was subscription based (and it wasn’t just a nominal fee). I wonder how successful a subscription blog site could truly be when they are up against other pay sites like the WSJ, fool.com, etc.
    I feel that you, though, are in a unique position. Ironically, because your blog and mentoring HAVE been free, you’ve gained at least one loyal follower who would subscribe to your site. But then, obviously, you would lose future potential readers because of that fee. And, perhaps, that may go against your personal belief about alienating rookies.
    Another possibility is to simply have a ‘donate’ feature where regular readers could donate via paypal, and new readers wouldn’t be turned off by ‘another pay site’. Or, perhaps what you were originally intending, keep your daily blog as public access and reserve the ‘extra features’ for pay subscribers.

  21. Mark Wolfinger 02/06/2010 at 2:51 PM #

    Andy,
    You raise all the issues as to why this is a dilemma.
    ‘Donate’ feels’ the same as begging for money. I just cannot do that.
    Your comment about losing potential readers makes me reiterate:
    a) I would main OFR as is – except for not answering questions that require lengthy replies.
    Most readers do not ask questions and would be unaffected.
    I would still publish the best questions as regular blog posts, as I do now.
    The vast majority lose nothing.
    b) The question is whether to open the membership blog. That blog would include trade management, answers to readers questions (but I would not allow anyone to post many questions and use me as his/her private instructor), and some interactive communication. Plus ??
    Yes, the original purpose is the major consideration. Daily blog will remain in the public domain.

  22. rick forno 02/07/2010 at 9:33 AM #

    Hi Mark –
    While I appreciate your situation, my congratulations on having this “good problem” for your site.
    I voted in favor of a membership site, at least as an option for those who wish to participate in it. With the exception of one objective research firm, the most valuable and insightful financial resource sites for me are private blogs (ie Charles Kirk) and NOT mainstream sites (ie TSCM).
    Looking to get back into options trading it will be nice to have ‘direct access’ to expertise and moreso, through a membership site, perhap see a strong sense of shared community develop among fellow likeminded investors/traders.
    Whatever you decide, I remain a strong and loyal supporter!

  23. Mark Wolfinger 02/07/2010 at 9:49 AM #

    I appreciate he support.
    Thank you