Ask any Fool what they consider to be the best feature of and they're likely to tell you it's our discussion boards. (Though, really, wouldn't it be cool if the answer was my columns? Yeah, I know, wishful thinking.)

There's a good reason, of course. Participating in the vibrant and well-informed community has the effect of creating better investors. We know because more than a few of us writers -- including yours truly -- jumped from the boards to the staff.

It was on the boards that many of us sharpened our craft; even my most experienced colleagues. Take Motley Fool Inside Value chief Philip Durell, for example. Once known as admiraltroll, he helped found the now wildly popular Foolish Collective discussion board, where groupthink has successfully uncovered more than a few fine stock market bargains.

You never know what you'll learn on the boards. Until, that is, you spend a little time skimming through posts. Here's a sampling of what you've been missing if you've yet to participate in the Foolish community:

At the Foolish Collective, jackcrow provides an excellent overview of the essentials of stock valuation. My favorite excerpt from the post: Two things seem to drive valuation more than any other: "Market Sentiment" and "Fundamental Value." The two relate to form a price range.

Couldn't have said it better, jackcrow.

And for real estate mavens, there's this piece from Reitnut on valuing Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), which appeared, naturally, at the REITs discussion board. My favorite excerpt: ...REITs are "hybrid" investments, i.e., they are stocks as well as real estate, and are operating businesses. Accordingly, while we certainly need to value REITs' real estate assets, we also need to recognize that REIT organizations are capable of both creating and destroying value for their shareholders, and these tendencies should be considered carefully when buying -- and valuing -- REIT stocks. Ignoring these issues, I would submit, would be like trying to mate a pit bull with a Tasmanian devil. It's just not a good idea.

Tossing the funny in with the educational -- now that's Foolish!

Finally, here's a gem from royinstl posted to the Credit Cards board. My favorite excerpt: ...My son had an auto accident and had to charge the deductible on a credit card. Months later, I showed him how to get his free credit report and what was the first thing I saw -- a 60 day late on the card. I did not yell...I let him learn by it...His 8% card went up to 26%. I did not bail him out. He owes around $900. He finally got a six-month 0% card on his own and was able to transfer the balance to that card.

Way to go, Roy. Hopefully your son will learn the lesson well and not get himself into $45,000 worth of debt, as I did.

Have you something Foolish to share? Take a free trial to the discussion boards today and, to sweeten the pot, we'll contribute $0.02 to our Foolanthropy charities for every post you make. It's an easy way to learn and give at the same time.

Brrrrr! It's cold out there! Warm up with this related Foolishness:

Don't let that Christmas bonus go to waste. Let it do some good instead. Get involved with our ninth annual Foolanthropy campaign and you can help make the world a better place. Everything you need to know is at .

Fool contributor Tim Beyers will be contributing to Foolanthropy charities for the sixth-straight year. Join him, won't you? Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile . The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy .