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Wednesday, June 9, 1999

Message Boards: No More Excuses

by Selena Maranjian

Every now and then I stop and ask myself, "How could it be that some people have never meandered into The Motley Fool's message boards?" Usually, I'm dumbfounded, perplexed, confounded, flummoxed... you get the idea. But sometimes, I must admit to myself that there are a few reasons that people probably would give. With that in mind, I prepared a list of the main objections that I could think of, and I proceeded to shoot them down. See if any of the following ring true for you.

Ten Excuses for Avoiding TMF Message Boards -- Shot Down

1) "I've been to other message boards on other websites. I'm not impressed."

Our boards are very different. We've got a bunch of full-time Fool staffers strolling around, joining in on the conversations. We have posting guidelines that we expect participants to respect. Imagine that someone violates a rule, by calling someone else a "$#@%^YT$" or posting an irrelevant message titled "GET RICH QUIK!" (sic). If we don't catch it immediately and remove it, any reader, like you, can flag it for us simply by clicking on the good/bad post button. We'll remove it pronto. Because of this nifty system, you'll encounter few truly ugly or obnoxious posts. They're usually whisked away before you ever get to them.

2) "I'm shy and I don't want to be seen. I'm afraid to enter the message boards."

No one will ever know you're reading through our message boards unless you post a message. You can spend 24 hours a day on them, and no one will know you're there. This is called "lurking" and more people lurk than post, actually. Of course, we hope you'll jump in and participate at some point, but you never have to.

3) "It's a chatroom, right? I don't want to chat and I've heard scary things about chat rooms."

Our message boards are not chat rooms. Internet chats occur in real-time. The people conversing are doing so at the same time, at that very moment. And they usually only converse one sentence at a time. Message boards are a very different beast. They're more like bulletin boards, where people can post a message that's a single sentence, or many paragraphs. The boards are organized by topic, and lots of messages accumulate and remain there. So you can check in once a week and see what new posts have been made. Discussion "threads" evolve, with many people addressing a topic, offering their point of view.

4) "I don't know how to use the boards."

It's really quite simple. Go to the main message board page, at: http://boards.fool.com. Wind your way down into the boards of interest to you and just read. When you're all the way in a board, reading an actual post, you'll see buttons that say "Prev" and "Next." They'll take you to the previous or next message. Right under the tab bar up top, you'll see the name of the board you're in, and also the name of the group of boards that the board is in. Click on the board's name and you'll see a section of all the posts in the board. That's pretty much all you need to know. But to learn about some other bells and whistles, including personalization features, check out this explanation.

5) "I can't find the message boards."

Remember -- from pretty much anywhere in Fooldom, you can just click on the "Messages" tab up top. Once you find a board you like and want to return to, simply click on the bright red heart that appears on any of its posts and the board will be added to your list of favorite boards.

6) "I don't know where to start."

Some ideas: Start at the main message board page at http://boards.fool.com and explore the various categories, like "Investors' Roundtable" and "Books We're Talking About." Click on "Top 25" in the tab structure up top and you'll see our most active boards, as well as the most recent interviews. Looking for a particular board? Scroll down and you can type in a ticker symbol, company name, or board name, then click "Find."

7) "I'm not convinced of the value of message boards."

Well, if you're buying a car and read through our Buying and Maintaining a Car board, you can learn some tricks that may save you a lot of money. Same with our How to Negotiate Anything board. Thinking of buying some shares of Costco or Johnson & Johnson? A visit to their message boards might confirm your decision, or might offer some cautions for you to think about. Do you like the writing of some Fool staffers? Well, you can interact with them or at least read some more of their thoughts -- on the message boards. For example, among many other places, Dale Wettlaufer can be found hanging out and explaining things on the Boring Stocks board and Warren Gump is frequently found answering questions on the Reading Financial Statements board and in his own Gumpster's Grove.

8) "You can't trust information you read online."

Exactimundo. Never take what you read as gospel truth. It might be innocently off the mark a little, or it might be the thoughts of someone with an agenda. But -- it might also be solid information from someone who works at a company you're interested in investing in, or from an astute fellow investor. What matters is simply that you glean some food for thought and perhaps a lead for further research. Also, after a while you'll develop a feel for who's thoughtful and reasonable, and who's a few sandwiches short of a picnic. We've even got a handy "Ignore" button that you can click, to make an annoying person's posts disappear for you.

9) "You don't know who the authors of the posts really are."

Know that anyone with a "TMF" prefix, like TMF Braden or TMF Jedi, is a Fool staffer. And keep in mind that the great majority of people who post on our boards are not weirdos, out to swindle the unsuspecting. They're upright sincere investors like yourself. You can even read profiles of and interviews with many of them. These will give you a good idea as to whether they seem like an interesting and credible source of information. The message boards are not unlike a cocktail party, where you don't know many people you meet, but after spending a little time with them, you get a good impression.

10) "I don't know what's there and don't think anything would be of interest to me."

Well, we've got individual message boards for a few thousand companies. And several hundred other boards. Let me list just a few of the many topics being discussed out there: Ask a Foolish Question, Spreadsheet Advice, Healthcare Industry, Oil and Gas Industry, Drip Investing, Initial Public Offerings, Investment Clubs, My Dumbest Investment, Socially Responsible Investing, Ask The Headhunter, Buying and Maintaining a Home, Credit Cards, Gardening, Travel, Health and Nutrition, Help with this Stupid Computer, Discount Brokers, Tax Strategies, Paying for College, College Fools, Retired Fools, Pet Lovers, Women & Investing, Parents and Expecting Parents, Recipes/Cooking, General Electric, Home Depot, AT&T... and there are many, many more.

I hope that I've convinced you to give the message boards a try. You've really got nothing to lose and a lot to gain. And for the absolute (and unlikely) worst-case scenario...

"If we do not find anything very pleasant,
at least we shall find something new."
-- Voltaire

~*~

[This has been another installment of Selena's Fribbles. If you're a glutton for the absurd, check out her archive.]


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