The Week in Review -- September 17, 1999

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  9/10 Close 9/17 Close Change %Change
DJIA 11,028.43 10,803.63 -224.80 -2.04
S&P 500 1,351.66 1,335.42 -16.24 -1.20
Nasdaq 2,886.96 2,869.64 -17.32 -0.60

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Two Parts, One Whole
by Jerry Thomas (TMF Cheeze)

Greetings, Fools.

To hear some people tell it, there are two Motley Fools out there. There's the content side of Fooldom, the part that contains all of our staff-generated material: the News reports, our portfolios, and all of our specials and features. Then there's that other side of The Motley Fool, the Community, built by the hundreds of thousands of registered users in the deep conversation of our message boards. People generally seem to be drawn to one side or the other, for whatever reason preferring this side to that one, or vice versa. All too often, in ignoring the part that is not their first love, people miss half of what we have to offer. That's a shame.

I suppose that most of the people who are reading these Notes belong to the group that tends to be drawn more to the content side of Fooldom, this item being staff-generated material and all. It's not hard to understand the attraction; after all, our writers have earned their places on our staff for good reason: they produce material that is worth reading. I took particular pleasure, for example, in Wednesday's Fool on the Hill commentary by Louis Corrigan (TMF Seymor), in which Louis banters with Money Magazine's Joe Nocera, a Wise journalist who � surprise! � is willing to admit an error or two. Then there are the daily portfolio reports, like Tuesday's Rule Breaker from David Gardner, "Weapons Against Chaos," which explores the tranquility that comes with the acceptance of short term stock market volatility in a long-term portfolio. The portfolios are a favorite feature of mine, one of many. The point is, there is a lot of worthy material there, and a reader might spend his entire time in Fooldom without ever venturing beyond the Fool's staff-generated content.

Again, that's a shame, because as much as we want you to read what we write, it's only one side of what we offer. Keep in mind that even as there are many who prefer the content, there are also thousands of Fools out there who are totally entranced by our message boards, enjoying the richness that comes in the interplay of a wide range of opinions, and who are yet impoverished because they spend almost no time with the staff-generated features at all. So why do so many people stick only to one side of things or the other?

My guess is that the reluctance to move beyond the content side of Fooldom has its origins in the habits we bring to this new medium from our traditional, offline reading. We forget that the Internet is not a magazine or a book; we overlook its interactive nature. Remember that online, when we read an article or a feature, we can talk back to it. Note that virtually every piece of online content on the Fool website is linked to a message board where you can talk to the person who produced it, or with other people who have read the same item you have. This function adds a new dimension to the written word, and brings a richness and depth to the text that no "dead tree" publication can ever achieve. To engage that potential does, however, require some effort. If you never make use of the tool, if you never bother to click the links, you might as well shut off your computer and continue with the old way of doing things, reading stuff off of paper, like they did way back in the 20th century.

Meanwhile, those who stick to the Community side of Fooldom get so hooked on the interactivity, they forget to relax and let someone else to the driving for a while. A conversation online can be as compelling as any human conversation has ever been. Believe me, I know as much as anybody how addicting the message boards can be.

Thing is, the perception that there is any real division between Content and Community is mistaken. The lines between the two are really artificial, and they are not nearly as sharply drawn as you might think. Many of our Fool writers (including yours truly) began our Foolish careers as ordinary readers, contributing to the message boards just as anyone else might. Check out this week's Dueling Fools feature about VISX, Inc. (Nasdaq: VISX) for a fast example � the two writers of this piece, Barbara Eisner Bayer (TMF Venus) and Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible) were both tapped to join the Fool staff from the ranks of our customers. In fact, if you were to take the time to learn your way around our message boards, you might be surprised at the level of contribution that is taking place there. I am often pleased to note that there are quite a few members contributing to those boards � perhaps dozens � who happen to be doing my job better than I am � and for no other reward than the pleasure of making the Community stronger. That doesn't say a lot for the security of my paycheck, but it does say a great deal about human nature and the joy of contribution.

Moreover, much of our content is produced not by Fool staff, but by the members of our Community. Please become acquainted with our Fribbles page, where you will find thoughtful little essays produced by contributors the world over. Check out Wednesday's Fribble, "To Love a Fool," and you will find a close-up view of what it's like to live with someone who really understands this joy of contribution. Thursday's Fribble, "Pre-Fool Foolishness," is well worth your attention, too. Then there's the Post of the Day feature, which every day brings you an outstanding contribution from one of the thousands of readers engaged in the conversations of our message boards. For a good sample of that, try Wednesday's Post of the Day from BruceBrown from our Dell Computer (Nasdaq: DELL) message board.

There's some other stuff you should check out this weekend. First, all this week we've been running The Best of the Fool, which includes some of the finest bits we've turned out in the more than five years we've been online. Also, this week the Boring Portfolio announced its purchase of Costco Wholesale (Nasdaq: COST) � for Dale Wettlaufer's commentary on the reasons behind the trade, check out Monday's Boring Report. Finally, be sure to set your alarm clocks early Monday morning, as Fool co-Poobahs Tom and David Gardner will be co-hosting CNBC's Squawk Box. Check our press release for details.

Until then, I'll see you on the message boards.

Fool on!



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