Picture this: You've settled on a few companies that look poised to deliver big returns, but you'd love to find a few more stocks that will also outperform the market over the long term. The problem is, you're not sure how to go about it. You don't have the time to dig through all the information that's necessary to find new stock ideas, and you have nowhere to turn for help.

We've all been there, right? The good news is that we don't have to grudgingly settle for only those stocks that come across our radar screen. There are lots of websites and services out there that allow you to see what famous fund managers are investing in. But wouldn't it be great to have a look at stocks recommended by successful, ordinary investors?

Examplum gratia:
Let's say you're interested in three major Internet stocks: Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). Maybe you believe in paid search, or perhaps you want a full spectrum of companies with very different Internet strategies. To find out what thousands of your peers think of these stocks, you can visit CAPS, a free investment research tool. Here's what you will discover:


Total Bulls

Total Bears

All-Star Bulls

All-Star Bears

CAPS Rating*



















Data from Motley Fool CAPS, as of market close Sept. 15, 2006.

Looking at the data above, it should be obvious that Microsoft is a very closely followed stock. With that comes a wealth of information and opinion from your fellow investors. To date, 275 CAPS players have submitted their take on Microsoft in plain English, 242 of those arguing the bull case and the remaining 33 doing the bear.

For Google, you get 157 short commentaries, 68 in favor and 89 against the stock as a viable investment, and Yahoo! has inspired 67 opinion pieces. 61 of them support the stock, and the remaining six mostly don't like to see Yahoo! becoming a slow-growing possible value stock rather than the booming growth story it used to be.

OK, but how does that help me?
You can look through these comments one by one or sort them by how valuable the takes have been to other members of the community. When you see somebody writing exactly what you've been thinking, you can go to that player's profile and see what else your newfound soulmate likes, and why -- not to mention how right or wrong he or she's been proven by the market so far.

CAPS also gives you a handy summary of other stocks you're likely to love or hate based on your feelings for any company out there. If you're a Google fan, for example, you should be able to appreciate Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL) as well, and Google bashers are likely to give Apple the cold shoulder, too.

And if you're not very familiar with the prospects of any company you're guided toward, you'll probably find plenty of insight from the thousands of other investors who've already done their legwork and feel ready to share their findings with the world. 493 players have rated Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and 138 shared their opinions in writing -- and both Apple and Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) sport even higher tallies.

Sounds great! Where do I start?
If you'd like to see the CAPS beta service for yourself, you can follow this link to join the community. Have more questions? Check out this page. The Google page is here, the Yahoo! page is here, and Microsoft's page is here. (A free registration is required.) And if you disagree with these rankings or any of the others, you can add your ratings and pitches to CAPS alongside thousands of others. In fact, we encourage it. Because everyone's ideas help make the system smarter.

Microsoft and Intel are Motley Fool Inside Value selections, and Yahoo! is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Dell is both an Inside Value and Stock Advisor recommendation.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here, though he has rated most of them in CAPS with full commentary about his reasoning behind the picks. You can check out Anders' real-life holdings if you like, or if you prefer, his CAPS profile. The Motley Fool isinvestors writing for investors.