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It's definitely time for a CAP Beta Feedback FAQ. We're getting a ton of posts now, and thank you for all the great words we're reading and all the excellent suggestions and thoughts you're sharing. Many of the suggestions are somewhat repetitive, which is only natural since hundreds of new participants are joining every day now. You're giving us your "Day One" impressions and questions, and we appreciate it. But also, in deference to those who've already been through their first day, we wanted to write up this quick FAQ and use it as our quick answer to the repetitive kinds of questions asked, and also as a reference doc that people could check out prior to posting to this board or emailing the CAPS team. Also, be sure to always check out the Help tab within CAPS for general questions. Thanks for all your beta-testing, and keeps those bug reports, first impressions, second impressions, and constructive criticism (and wild praise) coming. We so much appreciate it all!


CAPS Official FAQ – Updated as of October 30, 2006


Quick Table of Contents:

General Questions -

(1) “How do I actually use CAPS? What are the range of possible applications?”
(2) “Why isn't CAPS a traditional portfolio-modeled game with each person given a designated amount of cash to invest?”
(3) “How does the data updating process work within CAPS?”
(4) “Your results are all short-term -- this is just a day trader's game, eh?”
(5) “But how can I take this seriously? It's not real money!”
(6) “Some of the best participants seem to be day traders or market-timers. What's the deal: Is CAPS teaching UnFoolish strategies?”
(7) “How can you be scoring me for a 5-year pick I made after 5 days?!”
(8) “How does the accuracy ranking methodology work?”
(9) “Let me guess: CAPS was designed from the start to be a for-pay service, right? Come on, guys -- admit this. You're going to yank this all back at some point and say, "Pay!"”
(10) “Is CAPS an acronym? What does it stand for?”
(11) “I am completely addicted to CAPS...."

Specific Questions and Concerns -

(1) "My ticker isn't pickable."
(2) "My post has a typo, OR I clicked the wrong button!"
(3) "It's 10:15AM Eastern but my pick is still Pending..."
(4) “I'd like to be able to pick a ticker more than once."
(5) "Does CAPS include dividends?"
(6) "I'm getting killed! I'm way down!"
(7) "No fair! I just joined, others are already way ahead!"
(8) "How is my Player Rating calculated, again?"
(9) "Your [pick your favorite] feature could be improved!"


General Questions -

(1) “How do I actually use CAPS? What are the range of possible applications?”

We hope one or more clear benefits to CAPS are already evident to you. For instance, we track all Wall Street predictions, we track Jim Cramer (always wanted to know how worthwhile those TV show call are, eh?), etc. Or, alternatively, how about watching and following on a regular basis the real-time actions being taken by the highest-rated participants on the service -- could you ever have done something like that in quite this way, before this CAPSized world? If you are looking for more ways to use the service, or benefits that CAPS can offer you, here are some informative posts from your fellow customers:

Here is David Gardner's "It's a Swiss Army knife for investors" post describing a range of applications on CAPS:

Here is Michael Sarill's "Beginner's Guide to CAPS":

(Yes, Michael realizes he spelled beginner wrong in the first paragraph.)

(2) “Why isn't CAPS a traditional portfolio-modeled game with each person given a designated amount of cash to invest?”

Here is David Gardner's classic "you are an analyst not an investor" explanation:

Here is Michael Sarill's explanation:

(3) “How does the data updating process work within CAPS? Some numbers seem out of synchronization.”

Our daily stock feed comes from Yahoo Finance. This daily change information can be located in the following areas:

a) Under the “Today (Change)” Column in the scorecard view of player's pick lists.

b) On ticker pages, in the header of the right-hand column that
reads: “XXX is $42.56, up $0.11 (+0.26%)” with either a green or red background.

In these instances, stock information is updated as frequently as you refresh your page, according to our Yahoo feed. However, the data from Yahoo is delayed roughly 20 minutes. So, the daily stock change information is always a bit behind, but should always catch up.

This daily feed information within CAPS, in turn, doesn't perfectly synchronize with the score tabulations that influence player ratings. Score calculations – and therefore, Stock Gain and S&P Gain calculations - happen according to a cycle of roughly 30 minutes. Notice that as you continually refresh your page, the Today (Change) column continually updates from our feed (although, remember, 20 minutes delayed from the actual quotes), while the Stock Gain, S&P Gain, and Score Columns will not update accordingly. They catch up according to a designated cycle. When this calculation cycle happens, your player rating will adjust accordingly based on the score change and accuracy change.

Therefore, we understand that certain data may appear out of synchronization with itself, and also out of synchronization with the actual market. However, with time, everything should update accurately and with appropriate precision.

We hope to optimize this experience with time - and also do a better job of communicating these points within CAPS.

(4) “Your results are all short-term -- this is just a day trader's game, eh?”

LoneIguana's Thoughts:

David G Assessment:

(5) “But how can I take this seriously? It's not real money!”

That is true, although many people are entering their real portfolios so in lots of ways it's an expression of real money. And in other ways it's not, sure, but we actually see great value in people picking stocks to Underperform, adding to our community intelligence, even though they don't short stocks in real life! Do you ever think, "That stock is going down," and you wind up being right, but you don't short stocks or buy puts? Through CAPS, many Fools who can't be bothered to short stocks are sharing their insights into stocks they think will lose. It's not real money, but when you are operating in a publicly accountable forum, your currency is your reputation, and you'd be surprised how much that counts for many of us. If you've been following our CAPS Beta discussion board, you know that the most consistent feedback we've gotten is that people actually check more -- and in a sense CARE more (their words!) -- about their CAPS portfolio than their real-money portfolio. That may sound bizarre until you remember that every action you take in CAPS is permanent, archived, rated, ranked, and scored, both for posterity, and against your peers.

(6) “ Some of the best participants seem to be day traders or market-timers -- people piling up picks! Of course, a lot of people trying that are also doing quite poorly, too. But anyway, what's the deal: Is CAPS teaching UnFoolish strategies?”

CAPS is not "designed" to "train" anyone in "Foolish strategies."

CAPS is a living record of your investment choices.

You may choose lots of stocks and jump in and out. And you may be an All-Star at that, or you may be a bum.

You may choose very few stocks, and almost never end any pick. And you may be an All-Star at that, or you may be a bum.

CAPS is a meeting place for many different minds and approaches. We would hate it to be anything less. I love the fishbowl aspect of it, and already in our top ten you have many different styles emerging. And every single strategy and approach has been rewarded by those practicing it well. And our community intelligence is richer for it.

(7) “How can you be scoring me for a 5-year pick I made after 5 days?!”

The same way the National Football League scores its 60-minute game one second at a time, even though we all know the game only ends after the fourth quarter. Of course, often the best sign that you're going to win after the fourth quarter is if you have a nice halftime lead. And the way you achieved that halftime lead, by the way, may well have begun by running back the game's opening kickoff for a touchdown. Sticking with sports for one more analogy, the team that scores first in Major League Baseball wins two out of three times. As you can see, scoring you from the first minute is not only more fun, but it can be quite telling. Of course, we're the first to agree that allowing more time to pass leads to more rationality and a better chance that smart choices will be rewarded. (At least, that's what we keep telling ourselves looking at our losers....)

(8) “How does the accuracy ranking methodology work?”

Todd Etter's Explanation:

(9) “Let me guess: CAPS was designed from the start to be a for-pay service, right? Come on, guys -- admit this. You're going to yank this all back at some point and say, "Pay!"”

If you've been following our CAPS Beta Feedback board you will know of our assertion that the experience you're getting today on CAPS is being built to remain free, ad infinitum (emphasis on the "ad" part...), and in fact we're only continuing to add more free features as we speak, and will be for a while. When pressed, we would say it's likely that at some point in future we may end up offering premium services around/outside of CAPS – or laying over top of it. But by no means are we planning on yanking back your CAPS and telling you, "Now you gotta pay!" Emphatically not. If we see valuable ways to create new information or tools or experiences on CAPS, we are a business that likely would not endeavor to build them for free. We like profits, just as all shareholders do! (Keep in mind, for-pay services only ever work if people value them enough to pay for them. If people don't, they disappear.) To return to the main point, the CAPS you're enjoying today will (a) remain free, and (b) get even better.

(10) “Is CAPS an acronym? What does it stand for?”

(11) “I am completely addicted to CAPS...."

No problem. Join the club:

And our favorite CAPS casualty, BreakerDan:

We the designers and programmers and CAPS team are more addicted than anyone else, we assure you! David Gardner's whole guiding design principle has been to invent and design an application that he himself would become extremely, happily, enrichingly, gladly, tell-your-friends-about-it-ly, I'm-using-it-at-work-ily ADDICTIVE experience. Is that such a very bad thing? We don't think so! We're trying to design something of deep relevance that is deep fun. We think that's a really good thing. In fact, use our logic: When your fantasy football team wins, you get to brag at other people around the office or online, which no one really likes you for, anyway. And then, what... maybe you win a hundred bucks?

When your stocks win, though, you retire early.

Where do you want to be spending your time?

Welcome to CAPS! Pull up a chair and stay a decade or two. (By the way, we predict you'll still be having fun with CAPS even in early retirement -- and mid-retirement -- and late retirement -- and.....) :)

Specific Questions and Concerns

(1) "My ticker isn't pickable, or isn't working. Why not? What should I do?"

First, double-check that the stock you're trying to pick is traded on the U.S. markets, has a stock price of $1.50 or higher, and has a market capitalization of $100 million or higher. If it does not, it is not presently pickable in CAPS. If it does, please let us know by e-mailing (no need to post it here). We will add it into the system for you. While our system does indeed recognize thousands of pickable tickers, it is not 100% airtight. So just e-mail your desired ticker to and we'll get to it. Thank you. Also, while we don't currently support international exchanges, we hope to in the future. As for those who may be disappointed that we don't allow microcap picks at present in CAPS, this was spoken to here:

(2) "My post has a typo, OR I clicked the wrong button on my pick, OR I made some other error – please correct it!"

Sorry, but if you clicked the wrong button -- like you shorted your favorite stock -- we can't prove that either way, and it wouldn't be fair to everyone else in the Fool Community if we changed your pick. Hey, we'd like to change some of ours, too! ;) So our best advice is just to be careful. No rush, right? Click the right things, double-check your work, hit the PREVIEW button for your posts, etc. You can end any misclicked picks 7 days later, anyway. Quick story for ya: One of us once meant to short GM and hit "Outperform" instead. It went up about 20%! Sometimes mistakes can even be your best friend!

(3) "It's 10:15AM Eastern, the market's been open 45 minutes, but my pick is still Pending, and/or some of the market or ratings data looks a little funky, or flat-out wrong."

If you wait till about 10:45AM ET each morning, about 75 minutes after the market is open, all system data and pending picks should be resolved and working. Through much of 2006, in the alpha and early beta of CAPS, we have had various syncing problems that have caused what you see in the early trading to look a bit wacky. In the vast majority of these circumstances, if you wait till 10:45, it'll resolve itself. So try that, and if it's not resolved by then, e-mail us at And yes indeed, we are working to remove this bug altogether -- it happens much less today than it did 3 months ago. You could ask anyone. We will do a better job communicating this on the site as well.

(4) “I'd like to be able to pick a ticker more than once -- maybe 'buy in thirds,' you know, or go short-term Underperform for a stock that I have a nice compounding long-term Outperform that I don't want to discard."

We hear you. We are likely going to allow two picks per ticker. But that's still a way's off. Here is some reading on the subject, in the meantime:

(5) "Does CAPS include dividends?"

At present, we do not, with the only exception being special/unusual/large dividends, not regular quarterly dividends. In the very short-term, we plan to have regular dividends factored into CAPS, though we will not make retroactive adjustments. The process for running this and monitoring this across thousands of companies is very complex, and we are hard at work herding its cats.

(6) "Yeah, but I'm getting killed! I'm way down!"

Patience, fellow Fool. Here's some solace given to one member:

Just strive for continuous improvement. Take today -- whatever today's rating is -- and make it your benchmark to better in the weeks ahead. Remember that the game of investing is won over the long term, as is the game of CAPS.

(7) "No fair! I just joined, others are already way ahead! How can I ever catch up?"

Patience, grasshopper. You wouldn't respect a system that awarded "Top Fool" to someone who just showed up, right? Excellence must be demonstrated over time. Also, there are already thousands of players playing, so we suggest you not focus so much on "winning" (i.e. being the #1 player of all) -- although we would never dissuade anyone from trying -- but instead set a more attainable goal, at least in the short term. For instance, as a newbie, the All-Star class (Player Ratings 80 and higher, which earns you a charm) is doable before long. Then how about trying to reach the top decile -- earn a Player Rating of 90+? Et cetera. Short-term rewards are possible, and fun, and we'll also have contests and all sorts of other ways to compete. CAPS greatness, though, will play out over the LONG term. And part of that will come down to doggedness!

(8) "How is my Player Rating calculated, again?"

This may seem like a really big question to answer, so why would it be all the way down here in the FAQ? Simple. Because most people aren't asking that frequently, since it's already up there on the site. If you want to learn more about Player Ratings -- or a lot of other CAPS features -- use the Help section of CAPS, which is its own tab on the upper-right of every CAPS page. Read and learn about Score and Accuracy. Let us know if our explanations aren't clear enough for you. And check out the other features in Help, like the full audio interview with David Gardner explaining CAPS. Etc. Also, please note that whenever you click the question-mark icon in someone's Stats section, it gives a fairly clear explanation once again of how we arrived at that Rating.

(9) "Your [pick your favorite] feature could be improved!"

We totally agree. We're working on it. CAPS is in a beta phase in which we are rapidly tweaking, adding features we have in our blueprints, listening to your feedback and fixing, etc. In many cases, we know we are suboptimal, but let us know anyway as you may have an even better improvement in mind than the improvements we're probably already working on. CAPS is a work in progress, and will be... for years. It's fun to be actively working on additional features and development, many things that we think you'll love that we can't talk about yet!

(9a) Specifically, avatars -- those pictures we select from to represent ourselves -- could be significantly improved: Give me more of them, and/or allow me to upload my photo!
If you were at all worried that more and varied avatars were NOT in our plans, fear not! OF COURSE we are planning on going there. At present, it's not a big priority, though, compared with many other features we have in development, as well as other things that matter too like ensuring site stability and squashing bugs, for instance.

(9b) Specifically, what about having watchlists?

We'll add those in the near term, yes. We agree that CAPS could be a really innovative and wonderful watchlisting tool.

(9c) Specifically, what about that mouseover hover snapshot thingie?

You betcha. It'll eventually be on virtually all tickers on every page.

====================================== ======================================

Please note, in closing, that CAPS, like life, is a work in progress. So is this FAQ, in fact. Let's all strive for continuous improvement.

Fool on!

The CAPS Team
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