The Week in Review -- July 16, 1999

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  7/9 Close 7/16 Close Change %Change
DJIA 11,193.70 11,209.84 +16.14 +0.14
S&P 500 1,403.28 1,418.78 +16.55 +1.18
Nasdaq 2,793.07 2,864.48 +71.41 +2.56

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The Inner Limits
by Jerry Thomas (

Greetings, Fools.

I don't know if you're old enough to remember The Outer Limits, the famous old television series which in the 1960s occupied more or less the same position in the zeitgeist as The X Files enjoys today. Each week the program began with a flat voice greeting viewers with the same menacing introduction:

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, we will control all that you see and hear...

Pretty scary stuff, for 1962 anyway. I doubt these words would have the same impact now as they did then. For one thing, they are less true: with the advent of interactive technology, it is no longer "we" who control what you see and hear, but you. With that mouse in your hand, you are the one who decides what image is to appear on your screen, and what happens to it while it's there. It is entirely up to you to decide whether you want to keep reading these Notes, or check out the Fool Home Page, or to move on to something else altogether. So while a generation ago an announcer could conjure a paranoid nightmare by simply noting that the broadcaster held all the strings, today the situation is precisely reversed. If anyone should be scared, it should be the guys running the show.

Of course, your place in the information food chain is no better now than it was 40 years ago if you do not actively control the resources at hand. The "outer" limits that ruled the old media have been replaced by new inner limits: your experience of the medium is only as good as the choices you make while engaged in it. In order to make sense of it all, you need to take steps to organize the hundreds of thousands of bits of information streaming to you every time you click. That information needs to be sorted according to your own needs and your own personality. Fortunately, The Motley Fool has a few tools that can help you do that.

First, check out The Motley Fool Direct. This one is as easy as it gets. Click that link, enter your e-mail address into the field, and you can have many of The Motley Fool's regular features sent directly to you daily. Just check off the boxes next to the names of the features you want to see, and wham -- you're done. Two minutes, tops. You can even arrange to have the feature you're reading, "Notes from a Fool," sent to you every week.

Next, pay a fast visit to the My Portfolio page. In three minutes flat, you have the Fool set to track all of your favorite stocks. Once you've made this connection, you'll be able to click the My Portfolio tab from virtually anywhere in Fooldom to bring up a big one-page display with information on all the stocks you've chosen to follow. Believe me, instant access is a very cool thing.

Last, and most comprehensive, there's My Fool. This is the Master Control Panel that puts you in command of your entire online experience. You can customize this page to organize all of your favorite links: your favorite Fool features, your favorite message boards, and even your favorite stocks. From this page it's easy to navigate to anywhere in Fooldom, and it only takes a few minutes to set up. Do it now and you'll have it ready the next time you log on.

Okay. Enough of the hard sell. Far more interesting to me is the aggregate effect that hundreds of thousands of Internet users like you are having on the nature of communications itself. The nature of the mass media is shifting to a remarkable new balance. Instead of a privileged few speaking ex cathedra to the teeming millions, we are now witnessing a real collaboration between those who manage the information channel and those who use it. The line between producer and consumer is blurring -- and the result is that our readers are building Fooldom as much as anyone on the Fool payroll. In fact, many Fool staffers, including yours truly, began their association with the Fool as customers ourselves. Check out this week's Fool feature on Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX), for example: it collects opinions not only from Motley Fool staff writers, but also contributions made by Community members on our message boards.

There are two features this week that especially resonate with the themes I emphasize today. The first is Tuesday's Foolish Workshop report by Ben Goldman, which takes a deep look at your tolerance for risk as an investor. Remember that no two investors are alike -- each of us comes to the game with different goals and objectives. Your own analysis of your relationship with risk can be a key factor in deciding how you invest, and in deciding what information is most worthy of your attention as you sort through the piles of data available to you online. Second, there's Monday's Fool on the Hill commentary by Fool Bill Barker. This piece reviews the new book by Worth magazine writer Derrick Niederman, The Inner Game of Investing. "A winning strategy that works for one type of person," writes Bill, "may very likely be completely unhelpful for somebody of a different psychological profile." In other words, it literally pays to get to know yourself, Fool. The limits that hinder you as an investor are very likely to be found inside you. Especially these days, when the information pyramid is turned upside down.

The most basic of all Fool tenets is that you, as an individual, are the one person best suited to seeing to your own financial needs. Ultimately, the aim of this whole Motley Fool experiment is to create an environment suited to meeting those needs, both as an investor and as a human being. Whatever work we do to achieve these ends must, of necessity, be a collaboration with you. We at the Fool can build the resources, create the space, and provide the forum for you to prosper, but it is up to you to fill that space, use those tools, and contribute to that conversation.

Remember, we aren't controlling this transmission. You are.

Until next week,
Fool on!


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