July 4, 2010 5:35 PM   Subscribe

BBS Documentary is now online to watch for free. Watch all 8 heartwarming, hilarious parts of (mefite) Jason Scott's doc here, under a Creative Commons license! (long long ago previously)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur (34 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Ah the joys of re-dialing constantly trying to get into a single line BBS so I could put in my moves for TradeWars for that day.
posted by PenDevil at 6:13 PM on July 4, 2010

Damn, I'm getting old. I actually probably know a bunch of the people/boards in this doc.

posted by loquacious at 6:13 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Jason Scott is also putting the finishing touches on a documentary about interactive fiction, called GET LAMP, available for preorder.
posted by zabuni at 6:14 PM on July 4, 2010

Between the BBS Documentary, Sockington, his blog, and the promising GET LAMP, I would definitely have to say very nice things about Jason Scott if anybody asked.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:28 PM on July 4, 2010

Anybody else losing sync around twenty minutes in? Or is it just me?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:38 PM on July 4, 2010

Anybody else losing sync around twenty minutes in? Or is it just me?

It's not just you.
posted by jedicus at 6:50 PM on July 4, 2010

All hail jscott. All love jscott. March.

There are days that I would really like to connect to websites by just ATDT'ing their number from memory. Hmm.
posted by cavalier at 6:52 PM on July 4, 2010

I appreciate the link (a few people were mailing me today asking about obscure BBS history, more than usual, so that's how I noticed), but VideoSift has banner ads on top of my content. I'd prefer people watch it on or Google Video or even torrent it from The Pirate Bay (three and a half years of seeding and counting).

Or, you know, ordering it.
posted by jscott at 6:58 PM on July 4, 2010 [11 favorites]

Whoops, I linked to the collection of full interviews I've been uploading to the site instead of the full episodes some other soul uploaded.
posted by jscott at 7:02 PM on July 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

Or, you know, ordering it.

Waiting for Get Lamp to drop so I can get 'em both ;)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:02 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Heh. Your stated preference is noted. I watched the torrent, myself. I used the videosift link here for easy interface for the mefite masses. Getting broad exposure is the point of going CC, right?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:17 PM on July 4, 2010

That's not the reason I went CC. Actually wrote a big essay about it.
posted by jscott at 7:23 PM on July 4, 2010 [5 favorites]

i remember when the switch at the other end my phone line would ignore ATS11=45. 46 would work occasionally but 48 was the fastest I could dial. then Ontario went 100% digital. still have my Hayes Smartmodem 1200 in a box somewhere. good times.
posted by spish at 8:21 PM on July 4, 2010

> The GET LAMP film is Spoiler Free - watch with no worries (Bonus features with spoilers will be clearly marked)

jscott is a man who cares. That is attention to detail above and beyond the call of duty.
posted by ardgedee at 8:23 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

jscott, that's a great essay on why one should use Creative Commons. Congrats on taking that step. Also, I am a customer and bought your documentary.

A few weeks ago, I suggested MeFi offer Creative Commons as an option (not the default, an option) for posts made on MeFi, and it got totally blown away. MeFi is apparently not a Creative Commons friendly group of people. There was a lot of rationales on why it wouldn't work, but it's all BS, Creative Commons works and is widely used and would work fine at MeFi. Anyway, I've licensed my MeFi posts as CC and encourage others to do the same. And encourage Matt, cortex, jessamyn etc. to read your essay.
posted by stbalbach at 9:10 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Recently previously.

Thanks for the videos, jscott, my wife and I just finished watching the whole bunch yesterday, we both really enjoyed it and it sparked some really cool discussions for us.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:30 PM on July 4, 2010

jscott, from what I know of CC, it's not set in stone, you can add additional changes to it on a per case basis. But in its off the shelf form, it is "fast law", because most content that uses it just needs a simple off the shelf license - blog posts (like MeFi), weekend pictures, the kind of stuff that is Copyright by default, but which you don't mind sharing with others to use, without needing to go through the legal hurdles of normal Copyright licensing, but still protecting your rights (attribution, non-commercial). It's "fast law" because a lot of digital content is "fast content" (fast as in "fast food").

My suggestion for MeFi to "support free culture" is not some ideological absolutism that joe clark is apparently trying to frame - that's a rhetorical trick and logical fallacy. Some content it makes sense to copyleft, some content not. Some people like the idea of sharing, some people don't, it's often a personality trait, like how some people get angry when you lean against their car and some people don't care. Joe appears to be in the "get off my lawn" camp and no doubt will find inconsistencies in free culture, but I doubt will come up with a better solution.
posted by stbalbach at 11:34 PM on July 4, 2010

jscott, for clarity, I really should have said "access," not "exposure," because I meant to not misunderstand your rationale (which I had actually seen) but rather simplify it. --But I don't think we happen to agree and I'm not here to have a debate with you about CC, content value, documentary distribution &c.

Also! I just plain didn't know was streaming video now at acceptable quality. I wanted to put up a one-click link, and I'm in a shitty internet vacation location, where I was charmed by your doc. So, accept my apologies for putting an uneccessarily crufty link up in my enthusiasm.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:02 AM on July 5, 2010

Yeah, no harm here, ambrosia. It's clear what you're trying to do here, and I'm totally for it. I just hate banner scoops and where there's an alternate I prefer those. You didn't know of's improvements... now you do. I got some nice letters and orders today. No complaints.

I call CC fast law not in terms of speed but quality. It is short term filling but unhealthy in the long term. That's what my essay is about. But there are better places for that discussion, and CC has been good to me, personally.
posted by jscott at 1:13 AM on July 5, 2010

Awesome! I was there at H2K2 where some of the interviews were filmed and my Apple ][ can be seen occasionally in the background.
posted by Venadium at 2:06 AM on July 5, 2010

Just thought I'd provide the meat of jscott's essay for those who don't have time to read the whole thing:
Just because I have Creative Commons licensed this documentary does not mean I don’t like getting paid for it.

I hope that’s clear. What I’ve done is say “I’m not going to be a jerk-nut and threaten and insinuate and treat you like scum and tell you what you can and can’t do with the DVDs once you buy them.” In another way I’m saying “I realize that some people will not buy them and watch them anyway… oh well! I am happy they are seeing it. I hope they might still consider paying for it, but hope is what it is.”

I’ve seen people say “He wants us to torrent it, he wants us to copy it and give it away.” Well, no. I don’t want that; I want people to buy it and show it to whoever they want and blow a copy to a friend who wants to see one of the episodes but probably wouldn’t buy it anyway, or to take it to a friend’s house and play it for a dozen people. I want people to discuss the stuff in it, remember the good times with BBSes, generally think about that history and maybe consider writing down their own or making their own documentary. That’s what I want.
Which is well said, and I hope a lot of people buy it.
posted by languagehat at 8:07 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hey... I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this BBS documentary set... it's awesome that it's available to stream now, so it'll reach an even wider audience. Looking forward to your next project!
posted by ph00dz at 8:15 AM on July 5, 2010

My suggestion for MeFi to "support free culture" is not some ideological absolutism that joe clark is apparently trying to frame

Honestly, stbalbach, if you want to have more conversation about mefi and CC, maybe head back over to the actual thread about it and kick things back up in there, and if you want to argue with/about joeclark's comments there do it there as well. I realize it's sort of tangentially topical, but only just and you're (indirectly, jason directly) invoking joe in a conversation he's not present for and painting a really one-sided picture of our response to the CC question here and that's not a great direction to take this.
posted by cortex at 8:38 AM on July 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Agreed, cortex. Not the place. I'll happily discuss the production, though.

Though I'm not worried that joe won't show up sooner our later to pay his respects.
posted by jscott at 9:05 AM on July 5, 2010

Mod note: comment removed - bringing other mefites who are not in this conversation into it just to take potshots totally 100% not okay. MetaTalk is your option
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2010

It's always a trip, thinking back to the BBS days. It was my first online experience, and it was how I met my first real friends -- people I'm still friends with today. Back then, it was basically a way to meet other kids who didn't fit in at their schools. In that sense, it was kinda like our Facebook, although there was definitely a strong MeFi-like discussion element.

The weird part -- the super weird part -- is that all the modern-day equivalents are on the actual internet. In other words, all the crap these kids say is (potentially) readable by the entire planet, forever and all of eternity. My god. I can't imagine what it would be like if my 14-year-old BBS rantings were available for all to see in year 2010.

Anyway, (and this is where my inner-grumpy old man comes out) I don't really think there will ever be a substitute for BBSing. It existed in the only window in time when it actually could exist. Specifically, I'm speaking about how local it all was. You eventually met all the BBSers in your AC, because calling out of your AC cost MONEY -- money that you, as a teenager, clearly didn't have.

One thing I'm curious about -- I was local to 314 AC. There were a shit-ton of BBSes in St. Louis in the early-90s. At it's 1994 peak, I believe that the Fire Escape BBS List typically had 400-500 active BBSes. Was this normal? Or was St. Louis a particularly active city for BBSing?

It's amusing to think about an Bizarro-world alternate history timeline where St. Louis, as an early frontrunner in online communication, built a dynamic technology INDUSTRY on this foundation, ultimately stealing the thunder from Silicon Valley. Hehehehe. Fun to think about.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:32 AM on July 5, 2010

218 here... yeah, the area code thing was interesting because sometimes you'd stumble on a new BBS number! in your area code but it would end up being in another city and long distance.
posted by starman at 1:14 PM on July 5, 2010

St. Louis actually did have more than a lot of cities - the culture of engineering there (and being the center of Fidonet's construction) seemed to encourage a lot of BBS creation.
posted by jscott at 2:36 PM on July 5, 2010

Between the BBS Documentary, Sockington, his blog, and the promising GET LAMP, I would definitely have to say very nice things about Jason Scott if anybody asked.

I convinced a friend of mine who was on the (nominally) secret MacArthur Prize nominating committee to put Jason Scott forward a few years ago, unfortunately without success.
posted by atrazine at 5:56 PM on July 5, 2010

It was wonderful to see Wayne Bell show up in the documentary - I had a WWIV BBS when I was in jr high, and having the C++ (sort of) source code to tinker with probably has a lot to do with me being a programmer today.

I think I disabled the check that would stop you from running a WWIV BBS as a door program within a WWIV BBS.

I sort of expected more on WWIV, but I guess it might just have been unusually popular where I grew up.
posted by kevin is... at 1:52 PM on July 6, 2010

I sort of expected more on WWIV

The way I've put it over the years is "It's a movie about skiing, not about specific ski trails". The experiences of WWIV versus PC-Board versus RBBS and so on were shared, and I went for the sort of things they all shared. Otherwise it'd have been many hours longer.
posted by jscott at 2:20 PM on July 6, 2010

Holy shit! Put me down as another software engineer who cut his teeth modding the WWIV 4.23 source. Funny thing was that I mostly did it to impress my friends -- making my BBS look different than everybody else's.

Technically, I started out in the third grade writing AppleBasic, and then had a brief stop in QbasicLand. But modding WWIV was my first experience writing code that was actually used by other people.

I did have a weird life as a young adult, including a few years where I swore off technology and didn't have a computer at all. But when I went back to school for my CS degree, I took to it like a fish to water.

So yes, thank you Wayne Bell. I'm pretty sure I cribbed my copy of the source from my friend who did actually pay for it. I'd be happy to pay you the $80 I owe you, as that experience ultimately led to a rewarding and lucrative career in the software industry.

And I do hope that you eventually learned to give your variables descriptive names. Naming all your ints i, i2, and i3, and all your strings s, s1, and s2 is really no way to go.

posted by Afroblanco at 12:11 AM on July 8, 2010

And I do hope that you eventually learned to give your variables descriptive names. Naming all your ints i, i2, and i3, and all your strings s, s1, and s2 is really no way to go. ;)

I know you're being all clever but I can't quite let this stand.

WWIV was written when Wayne was very, very young, not even out of his teens. In the over 20 years since that time, his skills had increased to the point of being able to purchase a very large and comfortable house (where I interviewed him) in California in the early 2000s.

He "learned".
posted by jscott at 12:04 PM on July 9, 2010

Haha -- right on. No, I didn't mean to bust on Wayne. That comment was, more than anything else, nostalgia bait for anyone else who spent time hacking WWIV. I remember those nights hacking away at his source and trying to remember what s1 and s2 were supposed to be. And of course, I was a novice at the time, too, so I didn't actually know it was a bad practice to name variables like that.

Anyway, As stated above, I have nothing but kind things to say about Mr. Bell. He's indirectly responsible for my career.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:13 PM on July 9, 2010

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