The more things change, the more they remain the same.
A lot has changed since I joined the Fool a dozen years ago. Back then, our villains were greedy brokers, incompetent mutual fund managers, and the talking heads on CNBC. We facetiously called them Wise -- with a capital W -- to poke fun at how they thought they knew it all. Touting the good and burying the bad, they thought they were beyond reproach.
We called them out. Often.
We're on chummier terms these days. Some would argue that we walk in those same villainous shoes. Broker ads adorn some of our website pages. We have a newsletter devoted to mutual fund investing. And if you flick on CNBC these days, the talking head you see, picking apart the market, may very well be one of my fellow Fools.
Is it time to call ourselves out? Has the Fool grown Wise over the years?
Not exactly. See, we're still calling people out. We're still holding the pros accountable as we thrust their words and actions right back at them. The difference now is that our megaphone is a little louder. We can take those that stray -- whether it's a crooked CEO, a misrepresenting money manager, or an overpriced stock -- and shout about it from a taller rooftop. If you need proof, come join me for a tour of Motley Fool CAPS.
Tracking the field
If you're not familiar with our community-driven stock rating service, you're in for a treat. Tens of thousands of your fellow investors are submitting ratings on 4,441 public companies. I'm there -- currently rated 3,558 out of 28,304 players -- and loving it.
It's about more than just the ratings. Many participants are sharing why they are bullish or bearish on their picks. CAPS can also massage the data to help you discover stocks you may like based on your ratings and others who share your perspectives. Yes, it's a lot like the recommendation service at Netflix
However, some of the more popular players aren't folks like you and me. We are tracking more than 120 Wall Street professionals. When someone like Jim Cramer makes a bearish call on Embarq
Wachovia -- currently leading the pack among analysts -- issued favorable recommendations on Texas Roadhouse
As you can imagine, peeling away the curtain isn't going to sit well with some analysts, particularly those who aren't doing so hot. Some have voiced their displeasure over being singled out. One even argued about how our restrictive criteria -- we only include stocks trading for at least $1.50 with a $100 million market cap or greater -- omitted some public picks. Maybe it's just me, but I would think twice before talking up illiquid penny stocks on a nationally televised stage.
Some beefs are legitimate. We refined our criteria after one Wall Street celebrity pointed out that some of the attributed picks weren't exactly ringing endorsements. We audited the calls, found them to be vague, and adjusted the picks accordingly. It didn't alter the overall performance by much, but it's important to note that we too are human and not beyond accountability.
Up to the challenge
Tracking the pros is not always about calling out Wall Street pretenders. That's way down on the list of priorities. With enough players to fill most basketball arenas and closing in on a few ballparks, sprinkling in the ballyhooed stock pickers is being done to make CAPS smarter.
You know how you get better flicks recommended through Netflix or Blockbuster
CAPS launched just a few months ago. It is going to evolve. Analysts will probably continue to argue that it's not right that we're absorbing their calls like sponges and then squeezing them for community consumption. However, that's the plan. We want to duplicate the experience of Joe Investor as he hears these pros praise and diss different public companies. CAPS members can then evaluate the calls, and potentially latch on to a great professional stock picker that they may have never heard of otherwise.
The poor performers will bellyache. It's perfectly natural. There is a perfect solution to this. In fact, it was posed by one of the dozens of firms we are tracking. The request was made to have the company manage its own entry. It was granted. We'll keep an eye on it, just to make sure that it doesn't get sloppy, but it's an interesting development.
So if you're one of the more than 120 market mavens being tracked, the gauntlet has been tossed. The keys are jingling, and you have every incentive to grab them and take the wheel if you feel you can do a better job of representing yourself than our own eyes and ears.
It's all about accountability. It's all about getting it right. It's all about coming together as a community and walking away as a smarter investing community.
This is why we fight, Fool.
Want to match stock-picking wits with me and more than 28,000 other investors? Give Motley Fool CAPS a spin and let us know what you think. Netflix is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter recommendation.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is always up for a good game. He does own shares of Netflix. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.