And You Can Quote Me
The Week in Review -- October 9, 1998
by Jerry Thomas (email@example.com)
Message boards are the untapped potential of the Internet.
-- Tom Gardner
Munch munch munch munch munch. Munch. (Belch.)
-- David Gardner
Well, gee. If somebody put a gun to my head and asked me which of the lines above stood a better chance of appearing in some 21st century edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, I'm afraid I'd have to give the edge to Tom on this one. Sorry David, but Round One of the International Fool Sibling Profundity Challenge goes to Tom.
Okay, okay. To be fair to David, I plucked the least attractive statement he has ever made from the umpty-thousand he has contributed in his years of service to Fooldom. It comes from Wednesday's Fool Portfolio Report, and I promise you that in context, the line does serve its purpose. In case you haven't noticed, it's been a rough week in the stock market, and David's very munchy phrase is characteristic of a true long-term investor's sometimes twisted glee in refusing to be bothered by the inevitable setbacks that will come along from time to time. Remember Groucho Marx and his maddeningly unflappable demeanor in the most bizarre of circumstances? Very Foolish, that -- and that refusal to be perturbed drives those who insist we should be in a screaming panic absolutely nuts. So go read David's piece to divine the source of that crazy phrase. I'll wait.
Tom's statement was made months ago and has been on my mind ever since. It appeared in the February 1998 issue of Internet World magazine, and at first it struck me as odd. I mean, look at it up close. That which we call "the Internet" is actually a collage of communicative possibilities: email, Web pages, hypertext, RealAudio, streaming video, and on and on and on. Message boards are, by comparison, rather humdrum in this whiz-bang milieu of screaming innovation. (For a small taste of that innovation, check out the Fool's Portfolio Tracking feature, where you can create your own list of stocks to watch and track them against the S&P 500. Very snazzy stuff -- and technology you couldn't touch not so long ago.) So why single out the humble message board for special mention?
The answer to that question is not too hard to come by when you remember that The Motley Fool Online began with a couple of guys -- Tom and David -- posting messages on a few obscure message boards out there in some dank corner of cyberspace. Whatever we do, whether we conquer new worlds or put Fools on the Moon, those achievements will rest on those humble beginnings. There is something compelling about a thriving message board that draws you in and keeps you clicking.
I have spent hours scanning through hundreds of posts on an active board only to find myself annoyed when there are no more left to read. There is something powerful in this, in gathering people who have nothing in common except a single common interest -- perhaps a stock or an approach to investing. Message boards bond us together, as people have always bonded, but this time we are bonding across the boundaries of time and space. From two guys posting on a couple of boards a few years ago, we now have an enormous Community of investors numbering in the hundreds of thousands. That's powerful.
I'm a creature of that system myself. My association with The Fool began as just one more customer out there, one guy amid the thousands who were posting on the boards. That involvement with the Community became gradually more intense, to the point where today I'm on the Motley Fool staff, and trying to entice others to join that endless conversation. (A friend of mine calls it "charming propaganda." She's right!)
If you want some hint as to the range of people we're drawing into this whirlwind, check out the latest piece from Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible), another Fool who began as "just" a customer. He calls it "Generation $," and it profiles a number of teenage investors who are using these wacky new cyberspace tools to their great advantage. Teenagers! These kids are not just enriching themselves online, but have emerged as leaders in our Community of Fools.
Perhaps you find the prospect of joining this conversation a bit daunting. In that case, let me be your guide. I am always available via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and now I have a message board where I can talk to readers of these weekly Notes directly. It's called Cheeze-O-Rama, and you can find it on our Web boards in the Fool Cafe. If you have never dared to post a message in cyberspace before, this is a supportive and friendly place to ease into the process. It's also the place to go to discuss issues raised in this column -- like a couple of weeks ago, when I dared to scoff at the notion that pyramid-building civilizations might exist on Mars. Judging from my email, I gather that some folks out there hold a contrary opinion. That would have been a fun message board debate, yes?
A couple of quick notices: Nico Detourn (TMF Nico), yet another Community standout who now sports TMF stripes, contributed another one of her penetrating examinations of the online universe this week in a piece that poses the question, "America Online -- So Advanced, It's Backwards?" Also check out this week's primo Dueling Fools feature -- this time the bone of contention is Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB). Jeff Fischer (TMF Jeff) and Louis Corrigan (TMF Seymor) mix it up in the ring. It's educating, amusing, and enriching -- all at once!Until next week,