Hop on Boards!
Rule Breaker Conversations

by Selena Maranjian (SelenaM@fool.com)

ALEXANDRIA, VA (July 1, 1999) -- We writers of various Fool portfolio reports have occasionally been criticized for focusing on the portfolios' daily progress when we all know that it's the long-term results that matter. In response, I shall not once refer to today's Rule Breaker Portfolio performance in this piece. I shall instead focus on the subject at hand... the virtues of online communities.

After discovering recently that too many of our readers had yet to venture onto our message boards, I've taken some action. I first wrote a Fribble on why everyone should at least try our boards. Then I penned one shooting down ten excuses people might have for not trying them (wanting to remain anonymous, being unsure of how to use them, etc.).

In one more attempt to get more people to give the boards a shot, I shall dedicate this article to our boards. We'll visit the board for each Rule Breaker Portfolio holding and see what's shaking there. [Note: If you've never understood what our boards are, they're simply places where readers can post messages on all kinds of subjects -- such as specific stocks and various investing topics and approaches. The messages remain there and anyone can read them and, if they wish, reply to them. No one will know you're there unless you post a note. And even then they'll only know information you provide about yourself. So don't be afraid.]

Before I continue, permit me to describe one of the strangest (but delightfully so) things I've seen in Fooldom in a long time. A few days ago, I headed to our "Folly in Alabama" board (we've got boards for each state) in order to ask whether our syndicated weekly newspaper feature was running in the Birmingham Post-Herald. (Turns out it is -- phew! And if you'd like to see it in your local paper, give the editor a jingle and let her know.)

Well, what I happened to see there took me by surprise. From its first post in April of 1997 through March of 1999, there had only been 32 posts. Then, in April, a reader named SamGuss appeared and began trying to bring the board to life, even rallying help in creating a "Bama Fools" website. He was meeting with success when the unexpected happened. A bunch of strangers all descended on the board at once, announcing that they were a group of friends who'd met online and were taking a cross-country tour through all the 50 states -- electronically. The tour guide, kingsfool, explained that they were sharing cramped quarters in a virtual Winnebago and were starting their trip in the Folly in Alabama board, heading next (alphabetically) to Folly in Alaska.

What a great (albeit wacky) idea!

I've been watching this tour unfold now... in each state visited so far, the group has invited anyone to join them. They began with representatives from Wisconsin, Nebraska, Hawaii, and elsewhere. They've generally picked up one or more people from each board they've visited. They've also asked about local food specialties, for recommendations of local companies to research as possible investments ("Stock Trek," they call it), and about the sites to see. All of a sudden, someone in Alabama who'd been meaning to visit Hawaii was able to take advantage of meeting someone from Hawaii and get some information.

Enough about this grand tour, though. I do invite you, if this tickles your fancy, to drop in on the tour. Last time I checked, they were in the vicinity of Delaware and were hitting about five states per week.

Okay. Back to Rule Breaking. (But note -- the grand cybertour is also breaking rules -- who says you can't meet people from all over the country and learn about their home states without leaving your chair?)

Below is a list of our holdings. Clicking on each will take you right into its message board. Remember that throughout our boards, you'll discover that some will be more to your liking than others. My aforementioned Fribbles cover this ground -- check them out for a full briefing on the nature of boards. Also of interest might be a Fribble on the Donner Party and electronic communities penned back in 1996.

Rule Breaker Message Boards

Amgen On the Amgen board, people are discussing some of the company's legal challenges, the recent drop-off in biotech valuations, and the advantages of NESP over Epogen, among other things. The atmosphere is very congenial and denizens include some physicians.

Amazon.com This is a very active board, with a mix of friendly and argumentative participants, both bullish and bearish on the company's prospects. Recent topics addressed have included the nature of financial journalism, the ubiquity of auctions, potential problems for the company, and consumer behavior.

America Online Another yakkity-yakkity board. Here folks have been discussing AOL entering the PC business, its investment in China.com, rumors of what companies AOL might snap up next, and whether AOL's stock price is a bubble about to burst -- or a bargain.

Caterpillar The Caterpillar board is fairly busy (for a less high-profile company). It's frequented by a bunch of jokesters trading quips They're also discussing physics (ground pressure and load transfer passed through tires), radio controlled Caterpillar excavator toys, and more.

Chevron This is a somewhat quiet board, but folks here have been discussing Chevron's shareholder rights plan, its Y2K readiness, a California refinery fire, and merger speculation, among other topics.

DuPont Folks here are musing about subjects such as the Conoco spin-off and its tax consequences, the size of DuPont's short-term debt load, the drop in world demand for polyester, and research and development into life sciences.

eBay On this board, Fools are dissecting recent articles on eBay in Wired News and Business 2.0. One reader recently wrote of a bad eBay experience and solicited advice on how to deal with it. Much advice was offered. eBay's recent acquisitions and expected earnings growth are also under discussion.

Excite@Home This is a hopping board, with a few flame wars breaking out here and there. Despite that, there's much enlightening discussion as well, on topics such as AT&T's operation in Portland, FCC Commissioner Powell's recent remarks, and whether free access will kill ISPs.

Goodyear Goodyear board participants are discussing dividends, the Foolish Four, preferred stock, earnings expectations, Goodyear's annual report, "run flat" tires, and more.

Iomega On the Iomega board, you'll find discussions on topics such as Dreamcast, Clik! viewers, paradigm shifts and whether Iomega is dead, and digital cameras.

Starbucks Starbucks board inhabitants are mulling over yesterday's earnings jolt, the new Joe magazine, staff shortages, how to make a proper Caramel Macchiato, a recent article on the company's Internet prospects, and a bunch of other things. The company is often referred to as *$ on the board. For more on the fallout after Starbucks' earnings warning, check out today's Fool on the Hill column by Dale Wettlaufer.

Trump This fairly quiet board is home to conversations on whether the Fools should cover their short position, on competition for Trump casinos, gaming licenses, offshore gambling, and more.

(Oof. Almost done!)

3dfx 3dfx posters are discussing, among many other topics, whether the company is being innovative enough, geometry acceleration, and where the stock price might be in five years.

And of course, there's always our Rule Breaker Portfolio message board, where you'll continually stumble upon people discussing whether certain companies are Rule Breakers and talking about topics introduced in recent Rule Breaker Portfolio reports -- such as the psychology of investing.

So there you have it. A quick introduction to some of our many message boards, and an invitation to explore them. Or more of them, if you're already familiar with a board or two. And if you're new to message boards, do check out the Fribbles linked to earlier. They'll give you a much better idea of the breadth of boards available (on gardening and golf, for example!) and of how to use the boards.



07/01/99 Close

Stock  Change    Bid 
AMGN    ---      60.88
AMZN  -2 3/4    122.38
AOL   +1 5/8    112.00
ATHM  +1         54.94
CAT   +1 3/16    61.19
CHV   +1 1/4     96.31
DD    +1 1/2     69.75
DJT   -  1/16     4.50
EBAY  -1 11/32  149.66
GT    -  5/8     58.19
IOM   -  1/8      4.81
SBUX  -10 5/8    26.94
TDFX  -  1/8     15.50

             Day     Month  Year   History   Annualized 
      R-BREAKER  -0.62%  -0.62%  27.85% 1183.25   68.28%
        S&P:     +0.59%   0.59%  12.92%  215.51%   26.41%
        NASDAQ:  +0.75%   0.75%  23.42%  275.77%   30.99%

    Rec'd    #  Security     In At       Now      Change
   8/5/94  2200 AmOnline       0.91    112.00   12223.27%
   9/9/97  1320 Amazon.com     6.58    122.38    1760.02%
  5/17/95  1960 Iomega Cor     1.28      4.81     275.86%
  12/4/98   900 Excite@Hom    28.04     54.94      95.92%
  2/26/99   300 eBay         100.53    149.66      48.87%
  4/30/97 -1170*Trump*         8.47      4.50      46.86%
 12/16/98   580 Amgen         42.88     60.88      41.98%
  2/23/99   300 Caterpilla    46.96     61.19      30.29%
  2/23/99   180 Chevron       79.17     96.31      21.65%
  2/23/99   290 Goodyear T    48.72     58.19      19.44%
  2/20/98   260 DuPont        58.84     69.75      18.53%
   7/2/98   470 Starbucks     27.95     26.94      -3.64%
   1/8/98   425 3Dfx          25.67     15.50     -39.61%

    Rec'd    #  Security     In At     Value      Change
   8/5/94  2200 AmOnline    1999.47 246400.00  $244400.53
   9/9/97  1320 Amazon.com  8684.60 161535.00  $152850.40
  12/4/98   900 Excite@Hom 25236.13  49443.75   $24207.62
  2/26/99   300 eBay       30158.00  44896.88   $14738.88
 12/16/98   580 Amgen      24867.50  35307.50   $10440.00
  5/17/95  1960 Iomega Cor  2509.60   9432.50    $6922.90
  4/30/97 -1170*Trump*     -9908.50  -5265.00    $4643.50
  2/23/99   300 Caterpilla 14089.25  18356.25    $4267.00
  2/23/99   180 Chevron    14250.50  17336.25    $3085.75
  2/20/98   260 DuPont     15299.43  18135.00    $2835.57
  2/23/99   290 Goodyear T 14127.38  16874.38    $2747.00
   7/2/98   470 Starbucks  13138.63  12660.63    -$478.00
   1/8/98   425 3Dfx       10908.63   6587.50   -$4321.13

                              CASH   $9924.87
                             TOTAL $641625.50
Note: The Rule Breaker Portfolio was launched on August 5, 1994, with $50,000. Additional cash is never added, all transactions are shared and explained publicly before being made, and returns are compared daily to the S&P 500 (including dividends in the yearly, historic and annualized returns). For a history of all transactions, please click here.


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