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                   Association of Online Professionals
                        Frequently Asked Questions

The following are the questions that have been raised about AOP, the professional association for system operators and their responses as prepared by the AOP staff.

If this information does not answer your specific question, please contact AOP in one of the following ways:

   Voice:     202-265-1266
   CIS:       70631,266
              Also, AOP messages and files are carried in the
              IBMBBS Forum on Compuserve.  Type "Go IBMBBS".
   AOL:       Go AOP
              Also, AOP messages and files are carried in the
              "BBS Corner".  Type keyword "BBS".
   InterNet:  Address mail to ""
   Slow Mail: 1818 Wyoming Ave. NW, Washington, DC  20009

We are in the processing of setting up newsgroups and echoes on the major communication networks, and the AOP BBS will be up (though only open to association members) shortly.

Q: Where can I get basic information and/or an application for membership? A: There should be a file called "AOP.ZIP" where you found this faq. It

  contains information and an application.

Q: Since AOP is doing legislative and public policy work on behalf of

  system operators, how does it differ from the EFF.

A: EFF is a fine organization, and we plan to work with them on issues

  where our interests coincide.  But there are three major differences in
  the two.  First and foremost is that AOP is a professional association
  whose focus is on delivering services to members.  EFF is primarily an
  education and lobbying organization.  Different structures, goals and
  agendas.  In addition to its public policy work, AOP will deliver a
  slate of services, from resource guides and discounts to certification
  programs.  Second, EFF has a **lot** of ground to cover.  They do not
  focus exclusively on the needs of sysops, as AOP does.  Third, its 
  broader focus means that sometimes EFF focuses considerable time and
  resources on issues of little direct importance to sysops.  AOP focuses
  **only** on the needs of our industry.

Q: There have been other efforts at associations for sysops. Why is AOP

  succeeding where others have not?

A: We had some advantages not available to the other efforts. The timing

  is right -- and even critical -- today.  We have the benefit of
  experience in starting and managing an association.  We have a full-time
  executive director managing the association, so we are not reliant on
  volunteers who have other commitments (like running their own companies
  and systems!) to meet.  And we started off with strong support from
  companies like Hayes and from leading sysops nationwide.

Q: Why does AOP charge dues at the level it does? A: Because it is not possible to do the job without funding. Lobbying takes

  money.  So does providing the kind of services that sysops need --like
  reliable legal advice and interpretation. . .discounts on product and
  services. . .and so does running a BBS.  We rely on a little bit of money
  from each member to pay for the staff and resources we need to do the 
  job.  And we take pride that AOP's dues are far below those of many
  other professional associations.

Q: But shouldn't the companies who make a living pay to support this? A: They do. But there are two issues involved. The first is that companies

  pay more ($5,000 per year, for companies with more than $1 million in
  annual sales) in dues.  For this, they will get some services needed
  only by companies.  And they get to demonstrate a commitment to the
  well-being of our industry and the professional sysop community.
  But they are also looking for sysops to show that they are responsible
  enough to act in their own best interests.  Frankly, some previous
  efforts at association have failed because sysops simply didn't join
  or get involved.  If we are to be credible in asking companies for
  money. . .or in expecting Congress and the media to take us seriously
  . . .we must show that we are willing to work together as a profession.

Q: But doesn't it make sense for sysops to wait three or four months

  before joining, to see if AOP continues to grow?

A: Sure, that's a prudent approach. And it's time to send your check!

  You see, AOP did not begin at ONE BBSCON this year.  By that time, we
  were already a going concern. . .duly incorporated in Washington, DC
  and actively tracking legislative issues.  We have been operating for
  almost five months now. . .getting organized. . .lining up support. . .
  soliciting corporate donations. . .and keeping an eye on Congress.
  We've already done our job.  Now it is your turn.

Q: Why is it so important for me to join? Isn't that the job of the bigger,

  more profitable BBS systems?

A: Two goals are critical. The first is that we show we are professionals.

  And the hallmark of a professional is a willingness to shoulder the
  responsibilities of our industry as well as ourselves.  Unless we can
  show that, we'll be viewed as anarchists and pornographers (but only
  for as long as it takes to pass laws to put us under FCC control or out
  of business).  The second goal, equally critical, is to get to 1,000
  members as quickly as possible.  At that level we will still need strong
  financial support from our corporate partners.  But at least we will have
  sufficient numbers to be credible as an association.  And to do that, we
  need you as a member.  Today.

Q: Why haven't I seen this information on my network or the InterNet? A: Because we are still sorting out the rules. Some members have been

  to send our information along their networks for fear they will be
  "flamed" for "advertising" AOP. We are slowly getting sysops to
  understand that this is not a commercial ad, and it is beginning to
  get out on the networks.  But any assistance will be appreciated.

Q: I've just sent my application, but this is important to me and I want

  to do everything else I can.  What more can I do?

A: Three ideas come to mind. First, become an advocate for AOP. Tell

  other sysops that you are joining and why.  Spread the files to every
  BBS you frequent, and along the networks.  And make sure it is discussed
  by your local user groups and regional sysop organizations.
  Second, check your vendors to see if they are supporting AOP.  If they
  are not (and a few are still waiting to see what **you** do), let them
  know clearly that you expect them to support the sysop community by
  supporting AOP.
  Finally, be as active as you can.  Not everyone will want to join 
  committees or be active on our forums and BBS.  But it is important for
  use to work together as well as pay dues.  There are still plenty of
  open positions for sysops who want to make a difference.
  End of AOP.FAQ File #1
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