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Friday, September 24, 1999

The Language of Message Boards

By ropaul@execpc.com

Like many Fools on the message boards, I am guilty of falling into the common message board time wasters: carrying discussions past their useful life; stupid personal attacks and one-upmanship; asking questions that have already been answered a million times without attempting a quick search or reading the board FAQ; attempting to answer questions that I really don't know enough about; and posts that probably aren't of much general interest and would be better sent via e-mail. I try to minimize these things, but, hey, this is supposed to be fun too, so I don't think we're supposed to agonize over it.

With this as background, I hope I can save myself from coming off as overly critical or pompous when I say that there are a few generic post "templates" (enter your stock here) that just drive me nuts. My commitment to the boards is often tested by these occasional -- but always irritating -- instances of content-free posting. So with full knowledge of the risks herein, I offer the following list of Message Board patience testers. Each is paired with a common statement one might hear in everyday life -- one that I believe delivers equivalent content:

Patience Tester #1: I bought XYZ last year at $16, so I'm pretty pleased. Wish I'd sold it at $50, but I'm hanging on. I still think it's a good company. I'm also keeping an eye on GHI, JKL, MNO, PQR, and STU.

Equivalent Content: I used to take my shower in the evening, but lately I've been taking it in the morning, as soon as I get up. I like this better. Most mornings I also read the paper. I enjoy the morning. Afternoon and evening are OK too.

Patience Tester #2: (ON THE XYZ BOARD) I love this stock. I am long on XYZ!! Go XYZ!!!

Equivalent Content: (ON THE UFO BOARD) I believe in UFOs. Can't tell you why. Just do. I'm with you guys.

Patience Tester #3: If you don't think this company will do well, please find another board! We don't need any shorts or bears here! You suck!

Equivalent Content: I am the boss! How dare you question my decisions! Don't you want to work here? Get out of my large office!

Patience Tester #4: I'm thinking about buying XYZ. What does everybody think?

Equivalent Content: I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. How did I get here? Somebody please help me.

Patience Tester # 5: (ON THE XYZ BOARD) Just bought some XYZ! What does everybody think?

Equivalent Content: (ON THE LIBERTARIAN BOARD) Anybody here resent government intrusion into our daily lives?

Patience Tester #6: (ON THE XYZ BOARD) XYZ sucks! You people are all morons and you will lose all your money!

Equivalent Content: (AT A HARLEY GATHERING) Harleys suck! You people all wear panty hose when you should be wearing helmets! I hope you get hit by a truck!

Patience Tester #7: I think this stock will hit $32 by the end of the year, $28 at the lowest. What does everyone else think? Look for it to really take off next summer IMHO [In my humble opinion].

Equivalent Content: Farmer's Almanac says December 31 will be cold this year with a high temperature of only 22 degrees, but no precipitation. Does this sound right? Look for a scorcher next summer, IMHO.

Patience Tester #8: (ON THE XYZ BOARD) I tried XYZ's product for a while, but not for long! It sucks! You should all sell!

Equivalent Content: The other day, I blindly reached into a big bucket containing thousands of marbles and I pulled out a white one. I hate white. The rest of the marbles are probably white too.

Additions to the list?

Any chance The Fool could institute an artificially intelligent board sweeper that would go through and automagically eliminate posts matching these templates? Even better! The program would act immediately on messages as they are typed in, and do so without the poster's knowledge:

Subject: Mindless Rant
Author: IHateXYZ

Author types: XYZ sucks! You people are all morons and you will lose all your money!

Sweeper Engine transparently substitutes: I forgot to put on my underwear today. I feel really stupid. My e-mail address is ...


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