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No. of Recommendations: 150
People seem to think that it's a coincidence that The Motley Fool recently began charging a fee for these Discussion Boards at the same time it started getting stingy with the Recommendations. It is NOT a coincidence...

A little history:

When the Motley Fool first introduced the Recommendation system a few years back, each Rec was hand coded by a small software shop (RecFactory.com, of Mountain View, CA) under contract to TMF. These Recs were expensive, but they were of the highest quality and hey, the economy was booming, the Fool was full of itself, and nobody was worrying about spending a few bucks in the mad scramble for internet "eyeballs."

At first the Rec system was seen as a minor enhancement to the Discussion Boards - the powers that be at TMF vastly underestimated how popular they would become. Fools positively loved Recs - they loved giving them, they loved receiving them. Soon half the Fools on these boards were swinging for the fences every time they posted, hoping to garner as many Recs as possible. Others discovered that they could go over to, say, the AMD board and simply write "Intel sucks," and get 27 Recs. The cost of all these Recs was getting prohibitive. Something had to be done.

So the order went out to put the job of Rec manufacturing out for competitive bidding. Naturally, the Fool first contacted Microsoft, which made sense as they supplied the server software for the Fool Boards. Microsoft came in with a competitive bid (about 1/10 the cost of the current Recs) but insisted on some licensing restrictions which would have required the license for each Rec to be renewed after a year. The Fool decided to pass. Oracle claimed they could supply Recs for approx. 1/25 the current cost, as well as double the speed with posts could be recommended, but they also insisted that the "Recommend it" link be replaced with a tiny picture of Larry Ellison. Again the Fool took a pass. (Apple, interestingly, was not considered, and the Fool was pretty sure their Recs would not be compatible with the TMF server software.)

In the end the job went to a Korean firm, Rec Ho Hee, which did the actual coding of the Recs in mainland China. These new offshore Recs were quietly introduced to the boards almost two years ago. But though the cost per rec was dramatically reduced, the new Recs were of much lower quality, and it was found that it took approx. 2.7 of the new Recs to achieve the same level of Recommending as just one of the old ones. Rec inflation continued unabated, and the problem was soon almost as bad as before. TMF was hemorrhaging money and Fools were Rec-ing their Fool heads off like never before.

(RecFactory.com, BTW, filed Chapter 11 in April, 2000.)

TMF considered eliminating Recs altogether, but a little market research showed that they would have a major revolt on their hands if they tried that. The only alternative was to charge a fee for the Discussion Boards. It was determined that $30 per year would cover the cost of the recs made by the average Fool, so that was set as the price.

But then they got a surprise. Once people actually started to sign up, the Fool discovered, to its horror, that the very same ones who were ponying up the $30 were the most Rec-happy members, who accounted for 87.4% of all Recs given. Suddenly they realized that charging a fee was not going to be enough. To remain solvent, they were going to have to charge a fee AND limit the number of Recs and individual could give in a day. It was the only way.

So, you can see how it came to this. I'm sure it was not a decision that was made lightly, but it was the only decision they could make and still stay in business. So try to be understanding and, those of you who are sticking around, try to spend your Recs wisely. They don't grow on trees, you know.
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