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Author: sununu Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 24974  
Subject: Selling Message Boards Bad Idea Date: 2/20/2000 11:52 AM
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Dear 4site:

I agree with your argument that the Fool has taken a Wise turn by selling materials created on the message boards. Let me give the reasons why I too concur:

(1) The message boards are an ongoing discourse, where the experts, the non-experts, the smart, and the dull-witted all come together to make a contribution. One may ask how is it possible for the non-experts to be put on par with the doctoral students on the cutting edge of science? Clearly they are not on par, but they contribute nonetheless because investing is not about experts (the WISE) it is about analyzing the multifaceted and complex web of factors that goes into the matrix of a stock's growth prospects. Up till now, acting upon this principle has been the single most important contribution of the Fool. Seasoned investors know that great science or great products are often undermined by corrupt management, or foolhardy financial decisions, etc. and often these flaws are brought to light by the some retired "lowly" accountant in Pontiac Michigan, or a housewife who attends the shareholders meeting and reports that she didn't like the CEO's arrogant and unresponsive demeanor. These insights from the ranks of the plebian investors often turn out to be as important or even more important than the expert's scholarly evaluation of the science. In any case evaluation of a company's prospects is a confluence of insights and to suddenly abstract from the free flowing dialogue the more refined analysis and commercialize for it for the personal profit of the Fool's enterprise does not seem to be right. It's as if a director of an amateur choir were able to profit from his premier soprano without acknowledgement or reward to all the other contributing voices. I too find nothing wrong with the Fool competing with established research report enterprises but they should keep that part of their business separate from the commercial exploitation of the message boards.
(2) By identifying one or two persons from the boards as commercial writers for the Fool enterprise I believe that the quality of discourse will be eroded. There is a chill created when suddenly one person in the choir of voices is elevated to a professional distinction from within the collective enterprise. The psychology of cooperative contribution where the high and the low contribute to a positive outcome is undermined. Furthermore it creates a coterie of ordained analysts whose choices and views have a higher institutional status. Human nature is such that institutional trappings carry great weight, as the wise with their suits and titles know full well. Dangerously a subconscious weighting of analyses-apart from the actual worth of views-is introduced because of the institutional accreditation given by the owners of the Fool site. A coterie of wise within fooldom is the future price to pay.

Finally I think that it is an immoral practice. The why has already been stated: a cooperative process within which an expert voice may find its place is exploited for the private benefit of persons who merely provide the context for the process of discourse.

I think the Fool enterprise has taken a dangerous turn that will open the way for the introduction of more sinister ways of exploiting the contributions of its message boards. I will not spell out my fears because I hope that the Fools will study this practice and bring it to a quiet end. For disclosure purposes, lest someone think that I am venting against payments for research I subscribe to the following research products Bull Market, WSJ, Gilder, E-Harmon and once and a while the Fool Reports including the latest on Biotech.

Sununu
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