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Tips on Starting Your Own BBS
Written by Pazuzu - November 11, 1993
(C) Copyright 1993 Digital News Associates

Most people, after they've been calling  out for a while, eventually come  to
the decision that  they should start  their own BBS.   The allure of  running
your own board is very strong - you dream of the immense power you'll have to
delete anyone on a whim, to  create your own virtual city on-line  for people
to call into and live  for a few minutes (or  hours) each day.  However,  few
people realize the immense amount of time it takes to set up, configure,  and
run a BBS.  Having been a SysOp for a number of years, I feel I am  qualified
to give a few tips on how to create a successful BBS. 

There are a  lot of things  one must consider  when starting a  system - what
software to run,  what to name  the system, what  types of files  and message
areas to have and so  on and so on.   One of the most important  things about
your system is the name.  If you have a lame name, people are going to  think
your system  is lame  (unless you're  a CdC  site...).   Try to avoid generic
names. There  are probably  about 50,000  bulletin board  systems in the U.S.
alone, and I think about 80% of them have very generic names.  You should  of
course choose a name that is reflective in some way of your system's  content
- a good reason  why my system is  named "DnA Systems, Inc.".   Anything with
"Dark" in it is OUT.   In my 11 or so years  of modeming I have seen so  many
"Dark Realm"s, "Dark World"s,  etc, to make me  want to vomit.   BE ORIGINAL!
Or at least try.  Also try to avoid using names of famous BBS's of the  past.
Especially Cemetary  Gates.   Cemetary Gates  was a  HUGE board  back in  the
mid-80's to early-90's.   EVERYONE who has  been out here  for any length  of
time has heard of it and we're  all sick of everyone copying its name.   This
also includes adding a "II" to the end of the name like "The Drop Site II" or
"Louder Than Bombs II" - this is even worse than just copying the name. 

Of course, you must  also decide what software  to run.  The  sheer number of
BBS packages available today is insane and  it can be very hard to pick  one.
You must first  consider what features  you require and  then find out  which
softwares have those features.  Configurability is also a big issue. You want
to be able to make the BBS look and function the exact way you want it to and
you don't want to spend six  years doing so. Networking support is  also very
important - if you want to  join WWiVNet (goD forbid!), running a  forum hack
would  be  very  stupid.   It  would  be  totally impossible to go over every
package available,  but I  shall try  to cover  the major  ones, at least for
MS-DOS systems anyhow.

There are basically  three "families" of  BBS software out  there - The  WWiV
hacks  and  work-a-likes,  Forum  hacks   (1,000's  of  them),  and   PCBoard
/ RBBS / Wildcat work-a-likes. 

The  WWiV  hacks/work-a-likes  are  quite  numerous.  There is of course WWiV
itself (DO NOT  run WWiV), then  there's Telegard, TAG,  Renegade, Dominions,
and Synchronet. NO, Synchronet IS NOT  a WWiV hack (I HAVE the  source.), but
it looks a lot like it. Telegard and Renegade are quite similar (well,  since
Renegade is a  Telegard hack I  wonder why?). They  add a menu  editor to the
system so you can make the BBS do whatever you like whenever whatever key  is
pressed. Dominions  is a  Telegard hack  with not  very much  changed. I  run
Renegade  and  like  it  a  lot.  It  does  basically everything, and you can
configure it to look like whatever you want. Synchronet costs quite a bit  of
money so you'll probably want to stay away from that unless you can pirate it
from somewhere.

The Forum hacks are extremely numerous and they all look the same in the end.
Included are: Vision, Vision/2, VisionX, Liquid (bugs, bugs, bugs), Oblivion,
Celerity (or CELERY as I like to call it), and about 100,000,000 more that  I
can't think of right now. There are LOTS. There isn't much to distinguish one
from the other, except the bug level.  Liquid is by far the worst I've  seen.
Stay away from it unless you  are a hardcore masochist. Setting up  Fido-type
nets (such as CyberCrime and DnANeT) on forum hacks is notoriously tricky, so
you may want to avoid them if you plan on being in any fido-type nets.

The PCBoard/Wildcat/RBBS/Etc  family are  utterly hideous  and most  people I
know won't  even CALL  a board  running them.  The message  base operation on
these abominations is utterly horrid  and the person that invented  it should
be flogged. Avoid these softwares like the plague.

After you pick a software, you've got to configure it to the way you want it.
DO NOT  run a  BBS "out-of-the-box".  It looks  really lame,  and people will
notice right off that you haven't  spent any time setting up your  system and
aren't likely to call very often. It  can be very difficult to set up  a BBS,
but the time spent is well worth it. You've got to change prompts and  menus,
set up  logon and  newuser info  files, create  message and  file areas,  and
things like that.

You've also got to come up with  a "hook" - something that makes your  system
different  from  the  billion  other  systems  out there. Mine is the unusual
combination  of  phreak/hack/virus/etc,  conspiracy/legal/political info, and
the occult. It's  an unusual combo  that many people  like, and keep  calling
for. It's also one  a lot of people  have imitated. One I've  never seen done
is pirated software  and good phreak/hack  stuff, without the  board becoming
involved in the  0.1 second warezzzzz  set. I'd like  to see someone  pull it

The issue of nets is a big one  these days - it seems EVERY system is  in one
net or the other. The big problem  with nets is that some systems get  onto a
net, then become "a netnode". There's nothing to the system but the net. This
is something you want  to avoid. If people  are calling your system  only for
the net, you've got some changes to  make. Now, I'm not knocking nets -  they
can be great - I'm on 4 of  'em myself. But choose them carefully and DO  NOT
allow yourself to become a slave of the net. Most nets these days are of  the
Fido-standard variety - a complicated subject for most people. There isn't  a
single doc file in existence that attempts to help the fido novice understand
how to set up and run on a fido-type net. Until now, that is. Read my article
on the subject  in this issue  of DnA BEFORE  you set yourself  up on one  of
these nets. I am SICK of SysOps who can't figure out how to run their mailer,
who make the net coordinator set it up for them, then GO DOWN when  something
weird happens with  their mailer or  echo processor. My  article will explain
all you need to know. 

Once you get your board up, you've  got to advertise. This is usually in  the
form of posts on boards you call, or  on a net. There is a great rule  that N
Sult once told me (you may know him as D-Tox of ACiD, he's long gone  now...)
*BECOME*  THAT  QUALITY.  This  is  a  great  rule  to live by. Always try to
advertise your  system on  systems of  a quality  YOU'D like  your system  to
achieve, then people will  think you are, and  hence your system will  become
that quality. So, if you want your system to be the next big name in the  p/h
world, advertising it on your local clone of the "Streetfighter II BBS"  (WHY

Well, once you've got your system up, advertised it, and got people  calling,
you're pretty much set. Running the system on a day-to-day basis isn't as bad
as most people make it out to be. Sure, you've got to validate new users (and
delete the idiots), make sure  posts are of sufficient quality  and on-topic,
make sure files  get uploaded to  the right directories  (WHY THE HELL  DO SO
so on. 

Good luck to you.

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