Step 13: Make friends and influence Fools.
In May 1997, the world's greatest chess master, Garry Kasparov, was famously defeated in an historic six-game match. What made the duel so momentous was that the winning "player" wasn't human; it was a computer built by IBM, nicknamed Deep Blue. The final game wasn't even close: Using its 11.38 gigaflops of calculating power, it took Deep Blue less than one hour and only 19 moves to crush the reigning world champion.
So what exactly does the Deep Blue story have to do with you and your portfolio? Everything.
Deep Blue is how you beat the market
In the next day's paper the headlines blared, "Machine Beats Man!"
Machine beats man? That's not how we Fools saw it. You see, the machine didn't beat Kasparov. His real opponents were the dozens of IBM programmers who teamed up with the world’s top chess experts to program the machine that beat the man.
It took the collective intelligence of the world’s masters to beat the mighty Kasparov. Key difference.
Now imagine if investors pooled their collective brain power and funneled it into a stock-picking supercomputer. If it worked like Deep Blue, the result would be, well, mind-boggling. It would spit out better information, deeper insights, broader perspectives, and bigger profits than any single mom-and-pop investor, Wall Street analyst, or even an entire hedge-fund research team could get by going it alone.
That was exactly our thinking when we launched our own supercomputer called CAPS.
What everyone thinks about your stocks
Like Deep Blue, the CAPS database captures the collective insights and opinions of tens of thousands of individual investors (as well as more than 100 professional Wall Street firms). Want to find out instantly how a stadium full of people rate the stocks you own (or any of the roughly 5,000 rated companies on the service)? Find out right now -- it's free! Here's how it works:
- Members rate the stocks they own or follow, and predict whether they will outperform or underperform the market during a given time frame.
- The CAPS supercomputer then assigns a rating from one to five stars to each stock based on all of the opinions. But not every opinion carries equal weight. Accuracy counts.
- The proprietary CAPS algorithm takes into account each member's stock-picking ability when it assigns the star ratings. The more accurate your predictions, the more they influence the stock's rating.
When you log on to CAPS, you enter a world of interactive, community-based research from doctors, techies, homemakers, accountants, mall rats, and investment junkies of all shapes and sizes. It's a completely new model for stock research, and it's much more powerful than the opinion of one lone analyst. And the CAPS community is just one way to tap into the experiences, expertise, and insights of Fools.
The world's greatest investing water cooler
If you haven't yet spent some time hanging out on our discussion boards, you're missing a lot. Our discussion boards feature thousands of conversations on myriad topics. They've helped people pay off tens of thousands of dollars of debt, find great investments, raise money for the needy, quit smoking, survive the Internet bust of 2000, tile their kitchen floors, tar and feather the disgraced giant called Enron, get help with their stupid computers, and make it through the meltdown of 2008. Fools (emphasis on the plural) discovered a little upstart company called Iomega. And it was The Motley Fool community that launched a grassroots campaign that led to the passage of the SEC's "Regulation Full Disclosure" in 2000.
Come on in to strike up a conversation, chime in on one already in progress, or just listen in (or "lurk," as it's known among seasoned discussion board posters) -- all are welcome. Never again do you have to quote your portfolio, read your 10-Qs, check the stock charts, keep tabs on the news, and track your performance alone. This 24/7 sounding board means that no investor has to settle for solitude.
Of course, you're probably wondering …
Who are these people, anyway?
Sure, we're biased, but we think our community members are smart, opinionated, informed, generous, and helpful. Several have been on Jeopardy! (and won!). Many are doctors, lawyers, and teachers. You can learn a lot from them, and they from you. But you don't have to take our word for it. Here's how a Fool we know as Windowseat described her first impression of The Fool:
The Motley Fool was a revelation. I discovered that ordinary people, people who didn't have millions of dollars, people who studied the stock market on their own, could still invest small amounts of money. I found the message boards, and, purely by accident, discovered that the first rule of message boards was "Thou Shalt Not Write in All Caps."
THAT'S A GOOD RULE-OF-THUMB TO RE- … oops … remember. On the boards you'll also meet people like Tom Engle (we know him as TMF1000 on the boards), who discovered the Fool community back in 1995 and has been an active Fool -- with more than 20,000 posts under his belt -- since then:
The chat rooms, much like today's TMF discussion boards, introduced me to stocks I had never considered as investments before; it changed the ways I thought about building portfolios; it expanded my realm of research which eventually resulted in much wider circles of competence … All I had to do to learn it was to ask someone who knew, and those in the know were everywhere … I seldom buy a stock without first posting a page on the appropriate board about my target stock and carefully read the feedback. No matter how long I research a company, after I posted my research someone would provide additional facts that supported my thesis and/or additional risk factors I hadn't considered.
Since the first pioneering messages Motley Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner posted on the Internet frontier in 1993, more than 17 million posts have been written by the Windowseats, and TMF1000s, and all of the people who make up this diverse, globe-spanning community of Fools.
Hop on board(s)!
To get a sense of the community, skim the index of discussion boards, or head straight to one that focuses on a company you own. We've got discussion boards dedicated to individual companies -- Berkshire Hathaway, Apple, Disney, and General Electric, or whatever stock is in your portfolio. Check out some of the great conversations about more general topics, such as:
- Investing Beginners
- Retirement Investing
- Dividend Growth Investing
- The Foolish Collective
- Mutual Funds
- Tax Strategies
- Reading Financial Statements
- Turnarounds/Value Investing
- My Dumbest Investment
- Discount Brokers
- Bonds & Fixed Income Investments
As you poke around, you can designate boards as your "Favorites," and we'll park links to those boards on your "My Fool" page. You can also pick Fools you want to follow by making them "Favorite Fools," or place those who annoy you in a "penalty box," so you won't even see their posts. Get to know the people behind the posts by reading their profiles and interviews. (Our discussion board tutorial and FAQ covers the most frequent questions we get.)
You know more than you think
The Motley Fool isn't a magazine you buy to thumb through at the airport or a book that distills a set of rules that may or may not apply to you. The passive one-way/read-only relationship was never what the Fool was about.
From the very beginning, we've seen our customers not as "readers" or "subscribers," but as members of our Motley Fool community. As Deep Blue illustrated, millions of brains are better than one. Now, come join us and find out what millions of Fools can do.
Action: Ask your most burning money question. Click here, hit "Post New" (in the upper left corner) and fire away, Fool! This "Welcome, Fools!" discussion board is all yours. (We set it up just for folks like you making your way through this 13-step primer.) Ask that burning money question (really, no one will judge!) or answer someone else's. Tell us about the worst stock tip you ever received. Dish about your best money-saving secret. Just pop in and introduce yourself. It's a new Fools mixer (minus the awkward silences and crusty spinach dip). Welcome, Fool!