ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Out There —

Well, it’s amazing what a difference a day or two can make. On the weekend I was jamming through hundreds of packages, preparing my project to go out into the world. I mailed them out on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and some more today.

(By the way, all US autographed copies are out, internationals are about to go out, multi-packs of DVDs that were ordered are going out.)

By yesterday, DVDs that I mailed out Sunday had started to arrive in people’s homes. Some likely smiled and shoved the box on the to-do pile, while others started watching, and mailing me.

Only a few have really mailed me so far; I think there’s a lot to digest and there’s a ton to watch, so naturally folks are just trying to get through the DVDs as best they can. The general consensus seems to be pleasant surprise that it flows well, and delight that it’s done.

All well and good, a pleasant start to the shipping of the documentary.

And then I got slashdotted.

Slashdotting has happened to me a half dozen times or more over the past few years; it has definitely reduced its pure crashing stampede of power, but it is still very, very breathtaking to watch that jump in interest. As it was, I had spent a long time with the websites preparing them for just such a contingency, with the use of a hosting provider named dreamhost who handled the load just fine.

In a slashdot story, comments are rated by moderators from -1 to 5, with -1 basically meaning “troll or off-topic”. Whenever I read those stories that mention me, I always make a point of going right down to the bare metal, the full “show me the whole box” approach. You get a real insight into the dark reaches of the human mind if you do so. You also get all those immediate emotional responses that come from people who have ripped away any sense of decency or politeness. Sometimes (just sometimes), it’s good to hear these things.

One of the messages bothered me because it was character assassination claiming I’d posted the story of my documentary under another name to “astroturf”, along with a nice additional hulk of opinion about my egomaniac personality and dominance of conversations. You go, girl. I refuted the “I posted it” part (it was a gentleman named abcbooze, who contacted me after the posting to apologize if it brought too much traffic) but you really can’t refute the egomaniac part; I like me, I’m my biggest fan, I hang out with myself all the time.

The rest of the messages that weren’t of a nostalgic nature (that is, actually directed at the documentary itself) fell into three general camps: Holy crap it’s fifty bucks, Holy Crap it’s five and a half hours long, where can I download it for free.

I answered these general concerns as best I could in one or two messages, because otherwise you’re running around playing whack-a-mole. At some point, maybe I’ll write essays on the thinking behind all these choices I made, since that would be fun. But not now.

See, the slashdotting caused a Boing-Boinging, which is a little smaller but still very significant, and a very interesting set of people read boingboing; I was also a guest columnist on that site for a while, before they got out of that habit.

And the Slashdotting and the BoingBoinging caused a lot of orders.

A lot.

Of orders.

Enough, in fact, that the DVD pressing is now paid for.

That’s a lot of orders.

And more are coming by the hour; people are hearing about the project, spreading the word, reading about it and making decisions to buy a copy, and I appreciate that very, very much.

This is a digital age, one I have taken advantage of by shooting this on digital video, editing off a hard drive, distributing with a DVD medium that is digital, and including a box that was designed in a computer. This is all great and convenient and good, but it also means that for some people, downloading a copy is the same as owning it by buying it from me.

I won’t go too much into this rather dreary “please pay for it” stuff because when I read it from the other side, as a customer, it turns me off. I don’t see how it wouldn’t do the same for others.

The entire documentary is Creative Commons Attribute Sharealike 2.0 Licensed. This means a lot of things, but basically is means that when you buy a copy, you can do whatever you want with it. An awful lot. And whatever you do or make with it, you have to also allow your creation to be the same way. Why did I do this? Because treating my customers/audience like moronic criminals is not what intelligent beings do. I am not a company, I am a person. When I see creators wave their little flaming sword of copyright at people, poking their own audience in the side with it, it’s a breathtaking level of lame. I do not wish to be lame.

What I am saying, in other words, is that not only have I made it easy to copy the documentary, I’ve made it something I’m basically encouraging with the license. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to sell the copies I am having shipped to my home and mailing out, obviously, but on the other side, in the long run, I would rather people watched these documentaries than have me chasing down children and running through their piggy banks for dimes because they learned about Fidonet.

At some point, I’ll go into the full meaning of what I’ve done with this licensing, because I think it’s important. But not today.

No, today, I had to call the DVD plant and tell them, before the truckload (and it is a truckload) of BBS Documentary boxes were sent out via freight, to send me ANOTHER few hundred copies via two-day air. They should be arriving on Friday, and all these new orders will be immediately filled. I do NOT want people waiting for these if I can help it.

At worst, people who order for a few days next week might have to wait a week for their DVD, which I think is the edge of tolerance. After the truck arrives, of course, I will be literally buried in these things, thousands of them. I promise to get a picture of that. And at that point, ordering a copy gets that copy shipped out that day. And ever onward.

So it has been a very lucrative day for me, and I guess this is the beginning of “the payoff”, where 4 years of work come back to wash over me.

I just wonder what sort of flotsam is going to come with it.


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6 Comments

  1. tomhiggins says:

    Got mine today. I am happy as a clam I preordered it and happier still you are doing well with them. The CCL thing, this is just amazing. My hat goes off to you and a great work.

    Ive watched disc one already, now to hunker down and watch the rest.

    -tom

  2. circletheory says:

    Hey Jason,

    Do you have a list of names you’ve already shipped the DVD’s to? I’d like to check and see if I’ve got mine shipped and I’d like to guage at when I’d be getting my copy. :) If not, I guess I’ll have to continuosly check my mail everyday (which is a hard task when you live in my crappy apartment).

    Looking forward to seeing it soon!
    mike

  3. Jason Scott says:

    Mike, to put up customer lists would be a pretty blatant violation of privacy. If you mail me privately, though, I’ll check you against the list and verify.

  4. Just got mine in the mail today too! It looks great and I can’t wait to watch it, Jason.

  5. Tom Smith says:

    Can’t wait for my copy to wing it’s merry way over the atlantic and reach the UK :)
    Jason, Have you done the whole phoneing people up thing yet? Did you get any interesting replies? I can just imagine someone checking their voicemail and finding a message from you on there… :)

  6. Jason Scott says:

    Most of all the calls have been made… one or two overseas calls have been made. People generally enjoyed the call and it was a good idea to do it. I like trying to do a little extra for people. Respecting the audience is what I’m about.