NORTHVILLE, MI (Oct. 28, 1999) -- Unless you're visiting the Fool for the first time, or perhaps suffered a month-long power outage in your biodome, you've no doubt noticed our new and improved message boards. Unlike the Rocky films, which diminish in value with each new release, our latest version of the Fool boards (version 2.9 -- please tell me there won't be a Rocky 5.9) sports a fresh new look and is replete with nifty features that improve functionality.

We're going to talk a bit tonight about the new boards and their attributes, as they tie in nicely with our first official Drip Port Community Contest (DPCC)!

When you log into our message boards, you'll notice right off that we've added several new ways to organize and sort through messages. At the click of a mouse, you can now look directly at the posts of all your Favorite Fools; another click will take you to all the Replies to Your Posts; and you may also go right to those posts that you've Marked for Later Reply. This last feature is useful when you're reading through several posts and want to finish the thread in order to take in the entire conversation before posting, or maybe read the other replies to see if a question has already been answered before you reply. Just click Reply Later and those messages will be stowed away for easy access when you're ready.

Thank your lucky stars! When reading messages from fellow Fools, you'll notice some of them have red or yellow stars next to their names, much like those your kindergarten teacher affixed to your forehead after special achievements. These stars, which we call "Lucky Charms," are merit badges identifying Fools who have contributed much to our community. Run your cursor over the stars and you'll see how many posts that Fool has contributed to our forum. Fifty posts is all it takes to earn your first star. Get to postin', Fools!

Finally, we have what I consider to be the most significant improvement to the message exchange system to date, the Recommended Posts feature. This is a dramatic enhancement of the "Good Post" alert we used in the past. All registered Fools can recommend posts to fellow community members -- it's incredibly easy. If you're reading through messages and you see one that is simply superb, one you wish to advocate to other Fools, just click Recommend It! at the top of the page (right next to the "PREV" and "NEXT" buttons). Each recommendation a post receives will be counted and displayed to the right of the author.

Recommended Posts are a great way to sort messages. You can look at the top-recommended posts of all the folders, just your favorite folders, a specific subcategory (International Fools, for example), or an individual folder or ticker symbol. None of us has the time to read every folder. By sorting via "Recommended Posts," Fools can see the cream of the crop, the head of the class, the best of the breed -- right away.

You can also use the new "Advanced Search" feature (right next to the green "Go" button near the top) to sort the most-recommended posts within a date range. This is especially helpful when you've been away for a few days or wish to review the recent history of a message board.

This brings us back to the DPCC! Our first contest is going to incorporate the "Recommended Post" feature and encourage us all, if we aren't already, to take full advantage of the improved boards. Beginning November 1, 1999, at 12:00 a.m. EST and running through midnight, November 30, 1999, the Fool who has garnered the most recommendations on the Drip Investing -- Companies and/or Drip Investing -- The Basics message boards will be crowned The Big Drip of the month and win a one-year subscription to the Motley Fool Monthly magazine! This extremely Foolish magazine features the highlights of along with spiffy new content, all rolled into a sleek and stylish monthly magazine.

It couldn't be more appropriate that you, the community, will determine the winner of the first Drip Port Community Contest by recommending those posts that will benefit the community most. So post away, dear Fools, and be sure to recommend any gems you run across along the way.

It occurs to me that as impossible as it seems, there are some of you out there that have yet to visit our message boards. Gasp! Shocking, but true. I imagine you have an excuse or two, but you should know that we're prepared for them. In fact, a few months back, the always Foolish Selena Maranjian penned a Fribble in which she lists the Top Ten Excuses for Avoiding TMF Message Boards -- Shot Down. Give this a quick read and I'll see you on the boards!

Drip on, Fools!