I got a nice letter from someone discussing how the BBS Documentary missed a subject. For the record, it missed it because I didn’t cover contemporary BBS issues, and the shooting for the film was done in 2004, so even if it had done contemporary issues, they would be contemporary issues from a half-decade ago.
The subject being discussed was Worldgroup software. Here’s some excerpts from the letter, stripped of identifying details for obvious reasons.
HI Jason, I saw the BBS Documentary and have used Textfiles as a resource for some of the material I have on my own BBS. There was something not mentioned in the movie, which should have been mentioned about the underground movements to bring WG BBS and its games back online. There are two camps which are divided. One is led by the majorbbs restoration project, which is called the legit ones. They are not gaining, but they are
very valuable to gain resources from. The other is the editors and hackers who understand the code and work with it make their own individual boards, mostly to host majormud, but some are starting to run full BBS systems again. This group has made allot of gains and has an extremely strong following with some boards having over 60 people logged in at one time.
I am one of those in the editing/hacking group who has a full running BBS, as well as a handful of others. I am helping on a daily basis now to help people set boards up and get them off the ground. These boards mostly sponsor majormud, farwest, tradewars as well as a few other games. Some of these boards are full ANSI and very graphical while others are plain stock look. However, each have their own personality based on who
plays on them and with the custom edits within their majormud. These boards are starting to turn into full running Free-BBS systems.
Unfortunately those on both sides of the aisle are split, with the people who want to keep everything stock are void of users or a following but have the software versus those who know how to edit and hack that have a very strong following and very strong user base. The same cannot be said for other BBS systems. Synchronet Wildcat, GAP, as well as many others have fallen by the wayside. To top this off the text game community itself is splitting due to the introduction of using GMUD to now handle software that was intended for use with WG.
In many aspects the WG BBS community has lost a lot due to METRO Entertainment’s failure to produce and live up to its promises to the majormud community. This has causes a quick collapse in so called Legit BBS’s. However, it created a spark which is igniting flames in the hackers’ community because they are moving forward with everything Metro and Worldgroupware has failed to produce and promise.
I can’t speak to the accuracy of this characterization, but I can say that the whole situation does interest me.
Naturally, a question that comes to mind is who the fuck cares? but that’s a question that comes from anyone observing something they don’t particularly care about. Since everyone involved in this is involved, basically, in BBS culture and outcroppings of that culture, it’s easy for someone not involved in said culture to wonder what the big huzzah is about and why any amount of this would have people at each other’s throats, or, as the case may be, emotionally disoriented over the actions of people who are basically the same.
Oh, but we’re so good at this, this quibbling over minor points, and turning them into distinct battles, and “camps”, and “parties”. I’ve seen it in many different places, and events, and so I think it’s just part of the territory, and perhaps it’s a landmine that an open heart and mind might be able to avoid. Or not.
We long passed the line where some people consider themselves keepers or at least big fans of the Legacy of certain pieces of software. The idea, perhaps strange if you’re thinking of these things as mere code, is that there is a mythos or honor or any of a dozen aspects of this software that should be kept alive, improved on, or at least not ruined by the march of time, commercialism, or obsolescence. I know that the default reaction by people when they see something important or influential in previous years presented in sequel or new version format is oh no, and this reaction has been justifiably earned many, many times. This is frequently the case with movies, but I’ve seen it happen with games, parks, logos, cars, and candy. We think of change as an assault, and we think of needless change as an insult. And yet, none of these things are “ours” in the sense of ownership. It’s an interesting situation.
So here we see a case where there are still active, commercial maintainers of software and another set of people who think this software is being wrongly trapped and maintained, like a hostage or an abused child. Matters have been taken into their own hands by some, while others feel they can’t legally or morally interfere, as much as they might not agree with the direction.
The problem is inherent, involved, and, ultimately, intractable. I watch from afar and observe the fireworks, and am glad, at least, that in some realms the BBS fire burns.
Categorised as: computer history
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