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BBS documentary author tries to raise funds work full-time on computer history
November 8, 2009 11:51 PM   Subscribe

Mefi's own Jason Scott (jscott) wants to raise $25,000 using waxy's Kickstarter to work full-time on computer history. He made BBS documentary (previously), founded the Archive Team, and owns textfiles.com (previously) and, yes, sockington. So far, 237 people have pledged $20,340. On Nov. 4, Jason did a 5-hours, non-stop Scottathon. Apparently, fundraising ain't easy.

Texfiles.com is quite a resource, with a wide range of topics: sex (mefi), drugs (mefi), the Vietnam War (mefi), koalas (mefi), Applesoft BASIC (mefi), and, obviously, the "Golden Ages" of BBSes (mefi). Jason has already written quite a bit on computer history, including IBM manuals, retrocomputing, the DAK catalog and Computer Shopper. He's also given many talks: nostalgics don't want to miss Apple II Pirate Lore; youger nostalgics may enjoy the Super Jason Scott Presentation 64. He's working on a documentary about Text Adventures, GET LAMP.
posted by Monday, stony Monday (38 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh hell yeah I'm in. Donated.
posted by andromache at 12:12 AM on November 9, 2009


As soon as the paycheck clears, there is money headed this man's way. You go jscott. I would love to have this information preserved for the future.

Also, other than cash, I might have access to or know people who have access to some of the older and odder things a University keeps in Surplus, or some off the early days of usenet fandom on the rec.alt. system. Please, let us know how we can help out!
posted by strixus at 12:24 AM on November 9, 2009


PS, Need More Pennycat!
posted by strixus at 12:25 AM on November 9, 2009


I can't tell you how much I support what you're doing, Jason. Godspeed.
posted by flatluigi at 12:35 AM on November 9, 2009


What project am I funding if I donate? I spent some time perusing the links but could not get an answer to this question.

I love the stuff jscott's done though. If you're asking to donate to show my appreciation for that, I'm game.. Just a little confused here.
posted by cj_ at 1:16 AM on November 9, 2009


A busy man:

I've been backing up Geocities since April. It's not going away.
posted by jscott at 10:36 AM on October 25


geociti.es - not live yet though.
posted by selton at 1:41 AM on November 9, 2009


Seems like fundraising is not all that hard for this guy... Over 5 years I have only managed to raise US$15 for my thingy.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:43 AM on November 9, 2009


heh. Two people separately donated $1337.

This is a good thing, and good for internet peoples backing it.
posted by taz at 2:03 AM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Seems like fundraising is not all that hard for this guy... Over 5 years I have only managed to raise US$15 for my thingy.
Have you tried kickstarter? Seems like it works pretty well.

I kind of wish I had a thing to fund.
posted by delmoi at 2:11 AM on November 9, 2009


I think you might want to send a note to the mods to fix your links; the 'Super Jason Scott Presentation 64' and 'GET LAMP' links both point nowhere.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:49 AM on November 9, 2009


Oh, thanks Rhomboid. I just did that.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:30 AM on November 9, 2009


You know, you'd think that sockington bit would get old pretty quickly... but no, no, it's holding up. P.S. $$$$!!!
posted by cavalier at 5:35 AM on November 9, 2009


You know, you'd think that sockington bit would get old pretty quickly... but no, no, it's holding up.

Whatever else happens in my day, sockington ensures that I will smile at least two or three times.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:53 AM on November 9, 2009


Jason, considering it took us four months to raise $10,000 from 160 people, you should give yourself and kickstarter a pat on the back for your efforts. One thing I would say is perhaps your goal is actually too low.

You want to stop working every single day and focus on one thing. Great! But is $25,000 enough to actually do this for very long? I would have asked for a realistically high number showing your worth, like $100,000. Then, once you'd raised $20,000 take it public. The hard thing now is that for all of the public notice this thread gives you it is to only raise another $5,000.

Good luck though. I will be definitely looking into kickstarter.
posted by parmanparman at 6:17 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, the fundraising I am referring to at the beginning of my post is the Kiva Metafilter Team, which you can find through Metatalk.
posted by parmanparman at 6:19 AM on November 9, 2009


Then, once you'd raised $20,000 take it public. The hard thing now is that for all of the public notice this thread gives you it is to only raise another $5,000.

Kickstarter only funds you if you hit your goal though, which encourages people to make their goals realistic. You can go over your goal but if you're under you get nothing.

I opted to fund this a while ago. I hope geociti.es goes live soon.

Also I fixed the links.
posted by jessamyn at 6:56 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Kickstarter only funds you if you hit your goal though, which encourages people to make their goals realistic. You can go over your goal but if you're under you get nothing.

Is it less realistic to ask for $100,000 than $25,000? I think given the strength of Jason's previous projects, $25,000 is not realistic enough. It seems like more of a test of the capability of Kickstarter as a medium than as a way to value Jason's worth as a project facilitator and information gatherer. $25,000 is such an arbitrary number that I am under the impression it was picked up out of mid-air rather than even thought about prior to the creation of the fundraising project.
posted by parmanparman at 7:39 AM on November 9, 2009


Throughout all this, I had a day job - computer administration. It paid well, but I paid for it with my health ...

I chose $25000 because that would remove, summarily, any living costs and basic needs I would have while I was working on my projects. The money will go to keeping me floating while I do these projects; If more than this amount comes in, I will not consider this profit, but a mandate to keep going on projects further. My rough estimate is that $25k will keep me going for at least 3-4 months, and probably longer. That's full-time, constant work on saving computer history, speaking, and presenting.


I guess, like cj_, I'm not exactly sure what I'd be donating to, but I think it's the 3-4 month sabbatical? I guess my next question would be how much savings does Mr. Scott have? I don't think full disclosure is necessary, but if he's sitting on a $1M trust fund or something (which is obviously doubtful), that would factor in my decision.

I'm still considering the value of the historical work done. The whole Geocities thing seems a bit trivial.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:09 AM on November 9, 2009


I'm guessing he based it on his cost of living.
posted by Decimask at 8:14 AM on November 9, 2009


jscott, please consider my donation a late payment for the excellent BBS series. Next week on Hoarders...
posted by acro at 8:31 AM on November 9, 2009


I'm still considering the value of the historical work done. The whole Geocities thing seems a bit trivial.

It doesn't seem that way to me, and I'm surprised it seems that way to you. Geocities is the essence of "history from below" for the web. It's exactly the kind of thing that should get preserved and so often doesn't, on the web and in the physical world.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:32 AM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


> I'm still considering the value of the historical work done. The whole Geocities thing seems a bit trivial.

I'm reminded of an account of the conservation of Victorian books (penny dreadfuls?) that included ads to defray costs. Some libraries removed the ad pages to conserve shelf space. In the fullness of time it turned out that the ads were the most interesting part of most of them.

Or, you never know what you've got 'til it's gone.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:54 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


A couple of weeks ago Jason Scott talked to one of my classes (via Skype) about his projects, the fundraiser, and all sorts of arcane computer history. I have to say, he was really awesome, my students found his passion and depth of knowledge inspiring and motivating, and I think the fact that he's been able to raise this much money in such a short period of time is pretty amazing. I'm really glad somebody is thinking (and doing something!) about what will happen to all the ephemera that is the internet.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:04 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm still considering the value of the historical work done. The whole Geocities thing seems a bit trivial.

I disagree. I think this effort will enrich future scholarship and help teach younger or newer users of computers the history and context of the technology that has become a focal point of our lives. For example, I'm in my mid-20s and I didn't really know the term BBS before reading about it here, and jscott's post on ANSI art finally gave a name to a dying medium I dimly remembered from playing Nintendo.

I started reading some of the old .txt files that he's has archived from the 80s and 90s, and while they're not as historically significant as, say, that post about the first message transmitted over the ARPANET, there's valuable stuff there.

Just knowing what people were reading and sharing and writing at this time is significant. Iin the thread on language death a few weeks ago, one commenter noted that the simple fact that there are more than 20 words in American English for breasts shows how fraught the female body is in our country, and it indicates that one must be careful when discussing nudity or sex here. Check out the text files on Sex and Sexuality on jscott's .txt file directory--I'll bet there's lots that can be learned about the culture that produced these.

From the Internet section, this 1990 guide for new internet users is a primary document that tells us about the state of computing at the time: the authors of the file appended both their full names and physical addresses; the document's pagination indicates that it was intended to be printed out; the largest unit of memory mentioned is a megabyte.

This one, a paper on a 1991 survey of librarians' internet use, taught me that 93% of librarians surveyed used the Internet for work-related activities, and only 11% used it for leisure. The document also uses the terms "BITNET" and "Internet" interchangeably; as I understand it the words stopped being synonyms when the Web came along a year or two later. Also, it contains the term "knowbot," which is just a terrific bit of archaic tech slang.

Anyway, these were the first two I clicked on. There's all kinds of stuff there, and it's probably not all scintillating or unique, but having been frustrated by link rot, and having learned some stuff in the few minutes I spent with these documents, I'd say even this kind of "trivial" stuff is worth archiving.

And as another reason to preserve this history, and hopefully make us all a little more computer literate in the process, consider the call to tech support I overheard from an adjacent cubicle as I was writing this comment: "You mean it doesn't work because I've been using the InTRAnet password when trying to log on to the InTERnet? Wait, those are different things?"

The history of computing should be taught in grade school.
posted by andromache at 10:14 AM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


Great idea, and I hope it's wildly successful. BBS the Documentary was brilliant, can't wait for GET LAMP. In a perfect world, I'd have more money than Paris Hilton and could be a Patron of the Lost Computer Arts.
posted by Otis at 12:07 PM on November 9, 2009


jscott's post on ANSI art finally gave a name to a dying medium I dimly remembered from playing Nintendo.

Fwuh? Ansi and Nintendo? I ran an "art BBS" in junior high and early high school and even I'm a little confused about what you're talking about there.
posted by mike_bling at 1:42 PM on November 9, 2009


Hello, everyone. It has been a delight to see so many links/reading/donations as a result of this thread.

parmanparman, your opinion is a minority one. The most criticism I have received, after the general criticism of doing anything like this at all, is that $25k is way too much, that I could easily live on that for a year/longer time, and then a wild amount of speculation about my finances/life/savings/personality/sideburns. The way that Kickstarter works, the fact that $100k is not what I actually need at this point, my results of studying several hundred kickstarter funding rounds to see what made sense in what time... it all pointed to this being the most realistic amount for what I was seeking.

Without submitting to some political candidate-level financial disclosure, I do not have very much at all in the way of savings outside of a 401(k) from my old job, and obviously a whole lot of ebay-able material I do not wish to ebay. In January of this year, I started collapsing a lot of recurring costs and charges that have reduced my monthly expenses, but monthly expenses do remain. Do I think $25k can keep me alive/functioning/doing what I do for longer than 4 months? I do indeed, but I wanted a guaranteed, no-terrible-unexpected-things length of time so I didn't show up in late January 2010 acting like $25k never happened. There's a lot of trust going on here, on both sides.

Along that line, without a question this sabbatical funding thing is very odd to some people - it literally says "Here is all sorts of stuff I've done, this will allow me to do it full time for a while and make a go at possibly doing it full-time for a very long time". There's a list of projects, scattered among my weblog and referenced in both my backer statements and my interviews and stuff, of things I've been working on, some of which need just a small push to completion. Stuff that, I am happy to say, is of very big interest to some and not at all to others. In return, people get updates from me and access to stuff I've finished, a little while before others. For some people that's awesome. For others that is very vague and no amount of flowery language by myself and others is going to convince them otherwise.

Geocities is a good example. I get fan mail about archive team and the geocities project. Other people go "Archive.org already did this" or "who cares" or "good riddance, let it die". I'd rather just dupe Geocities than go into ecclesiastical ratholes over whether this is a good idea at all. I'll finish the project and for people who are happy it was done, they'll enjoy it. Others will find the joy elsewhere.

I will make clear that I don't think this fundraising drive would be at all successful if I wasn't able to point to 10+ years of projects and activities. Otherwise it'd be just some guy demanding things with nothing to back it up. All I can do is say "I did this, help me do more." I don't know entirely what comes out the other end, but it'll be historical, that I can assure.

Thanks again for the boost.
posted by jscott at 2:48 PM on November 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


Jason does interesting work and will occasionally indulge in vituperation. He’s been modded heavily here before.
posted by joeclark at 2:53 PM on November 9, 2009


Jason,

Consider my contribution as a thank you for The Works, and as an apology for finding away around the ratio system.
posted by bh at 4:05 PM on November 9, 2009


In the interests of full disclosure: jscott has has exactly two comments deleted from MeFi.
posted by jessamyn at 4:10 PM on November 9, 2009


Amateur.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:29 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have loved textfiles.com for a long. Can't help out a ton, but I threw some his way.

*massive cyber hugs*
posted by rubah at 6:34 PM on November 9, 2009


I'm in my mid-20s and I didn't really know the term BBS before reading about it here

You.
Lawn.
Off.
posted by empath at 6:39 PM on November 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Also, someone needs to do an Anarchist Cookbook fpp.
posted by empath at 6:40 PM on November 9, 2009


awesome, thanks for posting this. go jason!
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:52 PM on November 9, 2009


Indeed, Jessamyn. And one was 750 words long and all about me. He was heavily modded.
posted by joeclark at 2:45 PM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Update: it looks like Jason made it.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:17 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jason has written an entry about the fundraising on his weblog.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:27 PM on November 26, 2009


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