ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Software’s Marked Failure —

The previous entry talked about how well things have gone with, but there are a few exceptions. Obviously, they have not had a major detriment on the site’s function, but they’re worth noting because they’re part of what contributes to my contentions about people, and conflicts within.

The “Make it Pay” episode of the BBS Documentary is missing one little chapter that I couldn’t find a way to portray without doing backflips in the narrative. In the 1992-1998 period, people started buying the rights and intellectual property of commercial bulletin board software, often speculatively and almost always to personal and financial detriment. The real peak of this activity was around 1996, by my observations. People usually bought the rights for somewhere in the range of $10k, and then waited around for the payoff.

When I was filming the documentary, some of them thought this was the payoff.

So there was a situation where there was money, serious (to individual investor) money being passed around, with BBS software. And where there’s money, there’s transactions and agreements/contracts, and where there’s agreements/contracts, there’s the potential for endless fire of death. And a few people burned in the fire of death, and some of them contacted me hoping that my documentary would highlight their product, which of course wasn’t their product, just one they bought.

But this isn’t about that set of folks.

No, at some point I had an entry in that described a software package. This package had been around in various incarnations and some incarnations were not even the same package but the name was generic enough that it still got around a bunch. I had the usual smattering of information, along with some old copies of the thing that had been distributed around.

At some point, someone wrote in with a paragraph of information. I recall it being generic and declarative from one of the people who’d bought rights, along the line of stating it was a good program and those were good times. I dropped it in.

Some months later, actually, many months later, a second person wrote in, furious about the first person.

Turned out they’d had a little business together. This business included buying this program. As far as I could tell, the business then changed core competency from purchasing rights to the program to making no money with the program. Eventually, the business ended.

But, apparently, one guy sued the other. The second guy had sued the first, that is. He demanded I put in a second paragraph, and by a second paragraph, I mean a collection of ranty self-obsessed paragraphs. Naturally I obliged. More is more, after all. I also notified the first guy about the new paragraphs.

First guy wrote me and said he was sorry he ever brought the thing up. Second guy went ballistic I’d mailed the first guy. Demanded to know why I’d not notified him upon the posting of the first guy’s paragraph way back when. We’ll leave the logic of that argument hanging.

Actually, we’ll leave most of that argument hanging, because things went downhill quickly. It turned out the lawsuit was still underway, with a years-in-the-making fight still going on over perceived lost revenue, running of the company, what efforts were where, and whether the first guy had somehow flushed the second guy out of some percentage of zero, which I believe is zero.

I’ve encountered this template before. I call it the fuckwit-dupe matrix. In this matrix, a fuckwit and a dupe get together on a project. The fuckwit is often the energy/promotion and the dupe is either the money or the effort. Together, they launch on an outing but stuff is kept kind of handshake-based because it’s usually not a big deal. The fuckwit talks all pie in the sky as if you are currently eating said pie and dupe is happy to have an environment to achieve his dreams.

This shaky foundation will last until things go south, or even more bizarrely, if success rains down. Then the already-fatally-flawed relationship becomes even more an issue, and by an issue, I mean a hands-in-face-get-off-me raging battle over scraps or piles. And it can never end because the two sides both want it to end, but in their favor: fuckwit with a vault of cash and dupe with being totally washed clean of the thing with no attachments.

Here’s some free advice, loving audience: Someone who is unnecessarily “up” about the project and prospects of your shared endeavor is someone who will be unnecessaily “down” and “completely ass-nut insane” if the shared endeavor encounters failure or lack of traction. Choose wisely and sign contracts. Even when you’re buddies. Especially when you’re buddies.

So the little battle waged in my mailbox, watching the two interacting, and finally, fuckwit went far enough to imply that I, by putting up these paragraphs, had made myself legally liable within the context of the lawsuit/settlement’s success.

Well, that did it. I removed the entry completely, blanking it out and hiding off the text. (I never delete anything completely, just make it non-browsable). I said “Yeah, so I blanked out all your insane shit.”

First guy again mailed me, going “Thank you.”
Second guy mailed me and said “Great, and when this lawsuit is settled you can put up the real story.”

I explained, patiently, that no, I was not going to put up the real story, that the page was going to be blank until both parties were dead, and then I’d put everything back. That’s my current plan. Until then, all individuals involved can swallow Draino.

So sometimes, an entry is blank for a reason, and I am reminded that, in the fields of happiness I traipse through in my daily life, there’s the occasional landmine of dumbassery to send me skyward.

DEAR GUY THIS IS ABOUT: I am not interested in any further mail from you and I will turn any further mails into a filesystem delete function test case. Eat a rock.

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