There are several hundred discussion boards on the Motley Fool UK covering virtually every subject under the sun. As well as investing and personal finance there are boards for subjects such as current affairs, music and sports to name but a few. There's something for everyone. However, at first sight they can be somewhat daunting especially when you see some users whizzing around seemingly conducting a dozen conversations at once. But hopefully this guide will soon have you striding across the boards like a pro.
In order to read individual messages or post your own messages you need to be a registered user of our site. Registering is very quick and easy. If you ever forget your password, don't panic! We can send you a link that will let you set a new password.
Main Boards Page
Each discussion board sits in a folder. The main boards or folders page has a summary of all the main folders that are available, as well as some other links you may find useful. Most of the folders are self-explanatory but they each have an explanation of what you can find in them. Simply click on the folder title to see a list of discussion boards within that particular folder. The one exception is the "Sectors & General Shares" folder that, because of the number of boards within it, has a number of sub-folders for industry sector discussions, shares beginning with A, shares beginning with B etc.
If you can't find the board you are looking for you can use the search mechanism. Go to the bottom of any boards page and you'll see three boxes labelled "Epic", "Board Name" and "Author". If you know a company's EPIC code enter it in this box and you'll be taken direct to that board. You can enter part of the company name or topic you are after in Board Name box and this will return the closest matches. The author box allows you to view a user's profile by entering their username.
Reading The Boards
Once you've clicked on the name of the board you'll be taken to a list of the most recent messages. Each message has a number and shows you the title of the message, who wrote it and how many recommendations it has received. The recommendations system is a useful method for singling out which messages our community thinks are the most helpful and/or useful. If you like a message then simply click on the "Recommend it!" link in the top right hand corner of the page displaying that post. You can only recommend each message once and you can recommend up to 30 posts in a day.
You can also sort the list of messages various ways. You can click on "Author" or "Recs" near the top of the page to sort messages of this basis. You can also view the list on 'Threaded' or 'Unthreaded' mode. Threaded mode groups together replies to a particular post. Unthreaded mode lists them in chronological order. You'll see that replies to individual posts are marked "Re:" followed by the title of the initial message.
There are also some advanced viewing options. You can choose to hide a thread from your view using 'Ignore Thread' and 'Unignore Thread' by clicking on the greyed-out text or you can look at all the messages in a thread on one page using the 'Whole Thread' function. You can even choose between a serif and sans-serif font for the text of each message by using the button labelled 'Message Font' that sits near the top right of each message.
When viewing an individual message you don't have to return to the main list to view another one. You can simply click on "Prev" or "Next" (or use the < and > keys as shortcuts). You can also move to the next or previous thread as well.
Next to the recommend button you also see one marked "Report This Post". You can use this if you see a message that you think breaches our terms and conditions or that is taking liberties with our posting guidelines. It enables you to send an e-mail, with accompanying notes if you think it is necessary, to our board strollers who will then deal with the situation and take action if they think it is appropriate. In almost all cases it is better to use this feature rather than confronting someone on the boards. This feature has been instrumental in making our site one of the most pleasurable and respected discussion forums on the Internet.
Writing A Message
Before posting a message it's a good idea to make sure you've found the right board! If you look to the right-hand side of any message you'll see a box labelled "Announcements". This has links to useful information about the boards in general and will have a link to a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) post, if the board you're on has one. You could also look on our guide to Investing Discussion Boards.
To write a new message click "Post New" and a message box will appear. All you need to do to reply to another user's message is click, oddly enough, "Post Reply" and a reply box will appear. Once you've typed your message and click "Submit Message". However, you might want to use the "Preview Message" button first. This shows you how the post will appear and enables you to double-check what you have written.
You can also choose "Reply Later" if you don't want to reply straight away. You can access posts you have marked to reply later by clicking on "Favourites & Replies" just under the main tabs near the top of the page. This page also has a link called "Replies To Your Posts" making it easier to see if anyone has responded to any of your messages. Note that this only highlights instances where someone has clicked on "Post Reply" on your post. It won't include all the messages in a thread you have posted on.
Down the bottom of the post message page you'll see three check boxes. These enable you to format a post (see the paragraph below about <pre> tags for details), or to send a message by e-mail to the original author and/or the boards.
Styling Your Post
You can use bold and italic (even bold italic if you want to) in your message board posts. For example, using italics to quote a portion of a previous post when writing your reply is one of the general 'conventions' on our boards that way, people can easily tell what you're quoting and what is your reply.
So how do you do it? For you HTML gurus out there, just use the standard opening and closing HTML tags when you write your post. The rest of us will need that explained...
At the beginning of the text you want to enhance, type <b> for bold, and <i> for italic. At the end of the enhanced text, type </b> for bold, or </i> for italic, as appropriate (using both tags creates bold and italic text, of course). If you use bold and italic together make sure to "nest" them properly ie, <b><i> ... </i></b> or weird things might happen.
When using bold and italic in your posts please remember that, as in any good writing, a little bit of emphasis goes a long way.
Including a table
You can include a table in a post in two ways.
The first way is to use the "Table Data (fixed-width font, enter your own line breaks)" checkbox option (under the "Submit Message" button, at the foot of the reply editing box.
When using "Table Data" format, whatever you enter in the reply box will appear exactly as you enter it, and you have to enter your own line breaks (ie, press 'Enter' or 'Return' at the end of a line), or it will appear all as one line.
When using "Table Data" format always preview your post before submitting it, as it's very easy to forget a line break, which can mess everything up completely. Omitting a line break also often pushes the right-hand margin of the post way outside the browser window, which will affect the whole thread view, as well as the individual post.
The second way is to put <pre> </pre> tags around just the text you want to be formatted exactly as you lay it out. Again, you have to enter your own line breaks.
Using <pre> </pre> tags has the advantage that the rest of your post appears in the regular post font, which is easier to read than the "Table Data" or <pre> font.
If you have a large table that you wish to include in a message it may be easiest to create it in a spreadsheet like Excel. Save the table as a tab-delimited text file and then open it in a text-only application like Notepad. You can then copy and paste the table straight into a post, and use <pre> </pre> so that your figures remain correctly lined up when you submit the post.
Including a link to another webpage
You can include a link to another website, or another page on our site. For example, http://www.Fool.co.uk - just enter it as you're writing your post. That's it! There's no need to add any HTML tags or special codes - our discussion boards system will automatically convert anything that looks like a web address into a link when you preview or submit your message. (But please do use ‘Preview’ to make sure, just in case!).
Fancy conducting a quick straw poll of the prevailing opinion on a board? Simply click on "Create Poll" and write a message in the normal way. You can choose up to five options for people to reply to. Each user can only vote once in a poll and you can revisit the poll at any time to see the latest vote count. Here are some guidelines on what constitutes a good poll.
If you want to experiment with any of these options then you can use the Test discussion board.
Customising The Boards
Near the top of the screen, under the main tabs, you see a link called "Customise". This takes you to a page that conveniently lists your favourite message boards. Obviously, if this is your first time here, that page will not have any favourites on it.
There are several 'customisable' options:
- Favourite Boards -- Click here to add boards to your Favourites list. You can add a favourite board by typing in a ticker symbol or by manually choosing it from our list. However, the easiest way to add a board to your Favourites list is when you're actually reading through the board. You'll always see a little red heart next to the boardname on each message board . Click it to add it to your Favourites - a 'tick' will then appear in the heart. Remember that you can always access your Favourites by clicking on "Favourites & Replies". Any new posts on your favourite boards will also appear on My Fool, allowing to you to keep track of several boards in one glance rather than having to check each board individually for new posts.
- Favourite Fools -- Do you have some favourite friends on the boards, perhaps someone whose posts you love to read? Add them to your Favourite Fools and you'll always be able to see their most recent posts. This way, each night, you can see what all of your friends are writing in just a click or two. If you find some posters too much to bear you can use the same page to select them as Ignored Fools. Then, if you turn your Penalty Box on, you won't be able to see what they've said. Hopefully, you won't need this facility though.
- Display Settings -- This group of options allows you to determine how the boards are set up for you.
- How many Boards or Messages are shown on each page? -- This just refers to the number of items that show up on each page. Will you see 10 messages per page or 85? The default is 20, but you can set it as high as 99 per page. The fewer per page, the faster it goes.
- How should the Boards be sorted? -- You can sort each board alphabetically by name. This is most common. You can also sort it by ticker symbol and get the tickers in alphabetical order. Sorting by last date allows you to see which boards have had the most recent activity. Finally, sorting by total will always show you the most populated boards in each area.
- How should the Messages be sorted? -- This is one of our most useful and flexible features. You can sort by Unthreaded, Threaded, or Author.
- Change Your Password -- This one is pretty self-explanatory. If, for some reason, you want to change your password, this is where you go. Submit your change and we'll fire off an e-mail to confirm it with you. Pretty easy.
User Profile Pages
Every Fool user has a profile page. You can see someone's profile page by clicking on their name in a post they've made, or by searching for their username using the "Author" search box at the bottom right of a discussion board page.
When you view someone's profile page you'll see two tabs - Activity and Info.
- The Activity tab shows someone's recent activity on the boards. It also includes a Boards Stats & Trivia box on the right hand side.
- The Info tab shows whatever information the user has chosen to enter about themselves, divided into various sections It may also include a box that shows their Favourite Fools (if they've got any) and their "Interview" (if they've done one).
When you view your own profile page, you'll see a third tab
- The Following tab shows recent activity of the Fools that you're following. This helps you follow what your Favourite Fools are up to.
If you want to change some information in your profile, just use the "Edit" link at the top right of the section concerned. Where there's some more information you could add to a section, you'll see "You still have N items you can fill in" at the bottom of it.
Next to the author's name, you may notice some little icons. These are Lucky Charms, a badge of sorts. These badges are based on the number of posts someone has made in our forum.
||One star for 50 posts
||Two stars for 250 posts
||Three stars for 500 posts
||A big red star for 1000 posts
||A big gold star for 5000 posts
||A big funky green star for 20,000 posts
||Trophy for the 50 most loved Fools
||Crown for the top 50 Rec-to-Post ratio
||New poster - appears for 60 days following someone's first post
||A balloon bouquet to celebrate your Foolish anniversary
These charms are guides to help new users identify the longest standing and most respected posters in our community. But they are also just meant to be a little bit of fun. If you click on the 'Best Of' link when viewing a discussion board page you can see lists of the 50 most recommended and loved Fools. You can also see lists of the most recommended posts and busiest boards, both of which have extensive customisation options to help you scour the boards as quickly as possibly for the best and most active areas of the community.