FOOLISH FOUR PORTFOLIO

<FOOLISH FOUR PORTFOLIO>

Ode to Message Boards
Where any Fool can write for the world to read

by Ann Coleman (TMF AnnC)

RESTON, VA (August 2, 1999) -- My e-mail is amazing. Some of the letters I get make me think I should just turn this space over to my readers. Others ask questions that I am sure many, many people wonder about and would benefit from reading the answer to.

If you are starting to get suspicious, you're right -- I'm wimping out. But only partly. The e-mail link above now goes to our Dow Investing/Foolish Four message board, where I will happily respond. Of course, anyone can still e-mail me directly. That is my address up there, and AnnC@fool.com works, too. You can e-mail just about anyone here using "first name last initial"@fool.com, although we are running out of last initials for Davids and Toms. (Seven Toms at last count!) For some reason, this company attracts guys with those names.

But conducting a dialog in public via the message boards is by far the most appropriate way to handle most questions and comments that I get. Not only do other people get the benefit of your thoughts and the answers to your questions, but it promotes a more open dialogue than a one-on-one conversation can ever do. That's one of the wonders of this online medium.

Of course, there is also the 24-hour-per-day problem. Shifting much of the dialogue to our message boards is more efficient for yours truly -- no doubt about it. Is my overdeveloped sense of guilt showing? Well, it's still a good idea, even if it does benefit me.

For those of you who haven't visited our message boards, they are a combination marketplace of ideas, sidewalk cafe, and open schoolroom. I think that one reason some people hesitate to visit the messages boards is that, frankly, message boards have a bad reputation. Flame wars, bad language, personal abuse... yep, we've seen it all on other sites, but we do our best to keep the Fool boards free from that.

Unlike some areas of the Web, we monitor our boards closely to prevent... shall we say... excesses. Every message has a button that lets readers report it as an especially good post (candidates for our Post of the Day) or an especially bad post that will be deleted if it violates our Foolish Rules.

We also keep the howling hordes in line with the Favorite Fool/Penalty Box buttons. Yep, if someone on the boards is being especially annoying, you can send them into time out, and their posts will automatically be skipped when you read the boards. The idea isn't to stifle expression but to allow more freedom of expression for those who wish to conduct a civil discourse in a time and culture when such a thing is increasingly difficult to find.

That's why I am comfortable with shifting much of the dialogue that I maintain with you to the message boards. The efforts we have expended to keep these boards clean and civil have resulted in a place where anyone can feel free to post and get a respectful answer and often a multiplicity of answers that are both thought-provoking and fun.

So here's the pitch: If you haven't checked out our message board, give it a try. Click here and you can read the posts immediately. To post yourself, you will need to register a screen name. Click Register to register a name and get your password. Your screen name doesn't have to be clever. Plain old regular names work just fine.

There are a lot of reasons to register besides just being able to post on the message boards, by the way. Once registered, you can set up your own portfolios and personalize your favorite features and message boards.

OK. This didn't start out to be an ad for our message boards. Sorry about that. But the community there really is worth a visit, and sharing your thoughts and questions with the community instead of one person is almost always better for all concerned. Of course, I will be checking the board daily and answering questions -- and learning from all of you, as usual.

Fool on and prosper!

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08/02/99 Close
Stock  Change   Last
--------------------
CAT  -   1/16  58.56
JPM  -1  3/8   126.50
MMM  +1  1/4   89.19
IP   +   3/8   51.38


                  Day    Month   Year   History
        FOOL-4   +0.24%   0.24%  23.20%  25.03%
        DJIA     -0.09%  -0.09%  16.74%  16.27%
        S&P 500  -0.05%  -0.05%   8.62%   8.88%
        NASDAQ   -0.56%  -0.56%  19.65%  21.29%

    Rec'd   #  Security     In At       Now    Change

 12/24/98   24 Caterpillar  43.08     58.56    35.94%
 12/24/98   14 3M            73.57     89.19    21.23%
 12/24/98    9 JP Morgan    105.51    126.50    19.89%
 12/24/98   22 Int'l Paper   43.55     51.38    17.97%


    Rec'd   #  Security     In At     Value    Change

 12/24/98   24 Caterpillar 1034.00   1405.50   $371.50
 12/24/98   14 3M          1030.00   1248.63   $218.63
 12/24/98    9 JP Morgan    949.62   1138.50   $188.88
 12/24/98   22 Int'l Paper  958.12   1130.25   $172.13

              Dividends Received      $49.99
                             Cash     $28.26
                            TOTAL   $5001.13