Friday, June 18, 1999

Message Boards 101

by Lydia Vorsteveld (

"A talent is formed in stillness, a character in the world's torrent."
-- Goethe

When I first visited The Motley Fool, I was overwhelmed by the message boards -- such a deluge of information and opinions! I was also technically challenged. After three weeks I realized clicking on "threaded" would order posts by subject. Even after "threading," though, I grew confused when a post didn't refer to the previous post within the thread. Frequently I couldn't follow the discussion when the posts were sequential!

Between the italics and the glowing green links, I felt like one lost Fool. I'll confess I took refuge reading the fascinating bios and interviews. I thought I'd never be fully Foolish and follow the message boards, no matter what David Gardner said about everyone contributing to or at least following one board.

But I couldn't keep away from those posts. As I continued to lurk on the boards, I turned inward and read Motley Fool articles, investing books, and newspapers. Mostly I just thought about stuff. By reading board FAQs and practicing I learned how to navigate the boards. Before I knew it I had posted ten times, someone actually loved me, and I was hooked. I might never be a board denizen with thousands of posts or be loved by hundreds, but I find the message folders benefit me.

The message boards help me to invest, to formulate my thoughts, to listen and learn from other viewpoints -- and now I know what a tilde is (~). The boards are a place to fill the need to communicate, to find information, opinions, advice, support, recipes, a laugh, sometimes a cry... and for the extroverted, your own folder or "soapbox." Generally the boards are a courteous place. Although you will sometimes encounter rudeness, a more common danger is "screenburst" -- that's being caught by surprise by a particularly hilarious post while sipping a drink in front of your computer.

For quite a while, print, radio, and television have made communication a one-way information street. The message boards seem to have brought us back to the interaction of the bazaar, the town square, and the neighborhood pub. As with those colorful public places, the wide and varied personalities posting to the boards are what add spice to the Fool community and keep us interested. Maybe The Motley Fool has become addictive to so many because it provides content on which to reflect in the stillness and the boards on which to interact in the world's torrent. May our talents and characters be enhanced by being Fools!

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