BRational recently moved to the Washington, D.C., metro area after living for 20 years in Austin, Texas. He is an engineer by training and likes the fact that people can meet and interact online and be judged by the quality of their thought. Known and revered for his strong grasp of the wireless telecommunications market, he has become a cornerstone of our Qualcomm and Nokia boards here at the Fool. Though he posts on only a handful of boards, it's clear from his nomination and strong showing in the voting that he is greatly valued by his fellow members.

Check out BRational's most recommended posts.

Interview with BRational

How did you first stumble across the Fool and what kept you coming back?
I used to post on the CNBC message boards. Those turned wildly chaotic with impostors and all sorts of silly nonsense. I have actually relayed this story in a post titled Appreciation to TMF.

Big or small, everyone has done something they are very proud of. Tell us about your proudest moments, greatest achievements, or special talents.  
I am proud of the times that I have been able to inspire or encourage, in some small way, a young person to follow her dreams and her talents -- in spite of various obstacles, real or often imagined.

What technical enhancement for the Fool's discussion boards would you like to see the most?
I find that the Fool's discussion boards are largely best in class in terms of features and ease of navigation. What is lacking, though, is the ability to post graphs and, more generally, any graphics or pictures.

I would also like to be able to access the discussion board from a wireless device. Last time I tried the Fool's URL on my Sprint.PCS wireless Web, it was not reachable. Fool posts would be great reading while waiting in an airport lounge, or at a Metro train station, or just when you get bored at a meeting.

I think recommendations are an excellent feature -- please keep it.

Have you gotten together in person with any of the friends you've met at the Fool? What was it like to put faces and voices to online nicknames and personalities?
I have met one fellow poster in person, though we "knew" one another from another board.  It was eerie to meet the real person, and a genuine friendship developed between us. It became awkward, though, to continue interacting on the boards, because that is essentially a communal many-to-many medium, which is not well-suited to one-on-one interaction.

Do you have a favorite Fool moment or story from the boards?  
TMF boards have provided me with many good moments and with a true sense of community. Rather than any one moment or story, it is the continuity and collective consciousness that the TMF boards provide that I have really come to appreciate.

What's the best post you've ever made? Why?
I don't know that I can pick a "best" post ever. However, there is a series of posts over the past two years that discusses the future prospects of the wireless Internet and the demand for so-called third generation (3G) wireless services.

Wondrous Wireless: Services, Devices and Systems

What Kind of Animal Is Data?

Wireless Data Business Models

Differentiated Hedging 

Put on your CEO goggles for a minute and look into the future of the Fool Community. Will we still be posting on discussion boards in five years? How do you see our peer-to-peer interaction developing?
I think discussion boards have not been sufficiently recognized as the "killer app" that I believe they are. For many adults who have come to the Web later in life (theirs and the Web's), discussion boards have turned out to be one of the main activities enabled by the new technology. I think discussion boards have become the virtual cafés in cyberspace, and to many people provide much of what the village plaza or café on the square used to provide (before we all moved to the suburbs). But the phenomenon is not limited to adults, because I see my teenage kids posting on community boards dealing with online games and similar special interests. 

There are two related issues that I see regarding what makes a certain board tick: (1) open vs. private, and (2) size. Boards that are too large (too many posters) may become unwieldy and lose focus/personality. Too small and they get boring rapidly. There is a critical mass phenomenon at play.  There is also the need to refresh the membership periodically -- boards consisting only of regulars are difficult to sustain.

In five years, I think there will still be room for discussion boards, both of the specialized and the salon varieties. TMF seems to have capitalized quite well on this trend: People first "meet" in a specialized forum (e.g., a particular stock), then realize they would like to discuss other topics as well -- hence the migration to a salon-type social board. A good example of that is the Land of Sisu board at TMF, which was established by Nokia board regulars in the aftermath of the events of 9/11, to discuss those events, international politics, and various other pub-type topics.

However, discussion boards are becoming only one of several possible media for interaction among members of a virtual community. Supporting communication environments, such as chat rooms (text-based as well as voice), are increasingly needed, to separate the chit-chat from more "archival" posting (i.e., items that are worth returning to).