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            Effective Shareware distribution via the BBS channel
                      Version: 1.2  Released: 08/10/92
                         BBS filename: BBSTIP12.ZIP
   This text will describe ways to get widespread BBS distribution for
   your Shareware, and how to package it so that the maximum number of
   Sysops post it, and people download it.
   This entire text is Copyright 1992 by Jay Caplan, ALL rights reserved
   worldwide. All product names referenced herein are trademarks of
   their respective companies. You are hereby given permission to copy,
   distribute, and publish this text by any means, provided that you do
   NOT alter it in ANY way, and that you distribute and/or publish it in
   its entirety. If this text is distributed as a compressed computer
   file, I expressly forbid any files to be added to the original
   compressed distribution file.
   This text is based on my prepared remarks presented while on the
   "Interacting with Distributors" panel at the 1992 Summer Shareware
   Seminar, sponsored in part by the Association of Shareware
   Professionals (ASP). I can be reached at my board, The Consultant BBS
   at 718-837-3236, an ASP Approved BBS, or through Compuserve at
                    Getting widespread BBS distribution
   The first thing to realize is that there are several BBSes that serve
   as key distribution points. They are "feeder systems" for many other
   BBSes, online services, and disk vendors. By getting your Shareware
   placed on these Feeder BBSes, it will get excellent distribution.
   After sending your Shareware to these systems, you should place it on
   other BBSes. Suggestions follow the Feeder BBS listing below.
   Please note that the first 4 BBSes listed are ASP approved BBSes, and
   hence will get any disks sent in the monthly ASP disk mailing.
   Participation in the monthly ASP disk mailing is STRONGLY recommended!
   Feeder BBSes
   Exec PC                          414-789-4210
   Bob Mahoney                      ASP Approved BBS with 250 lines.
   PO Box 57                        Running custom software.
   Elm Grove, WI 53122
                                   Page 1
   Canada Remote Systems            416-629-7000
   Jud Newell                       ASP Approved BBS with 201 lines.
   #D 1331 Crestlawn Dr             Running PCBoard.
   Mississauga, ON L4W 2P9
   Channel 1                        617-354-8873 and 617-354-3230
   Tess Heder/Brian Miller          ASP Approved BBS with 80 lines.
   PO Box 338                       Running PCBoard.
   Cambridge, MA 02238
   The Invention Factory            212-431-1194 - registration only
   Michael Sussell                  ASP Approved BBS with 44 lines.
   321 Greenwich St                 Running PCBoard.
   New York, NY 10013
   Computer Connections             202-547-2008
   Robert Blacher                   202-547-3037 - uploads only
   253 12th Street, SE              Influential BBS with 4 lines.
   Washington, DC 20003             Running PCBoard.
   Compuserve - place your Shareware in appropriate forums. IBMNET hosts
   several forums with popular download libraries; enter "GO IBMNET" to
   get there. You can also mail your Shareware to the Sysop of IBMNET,
   Don Watkins, at the following address:
                             Compuserve IBMNET
                             Don Watkins
                             749 Parkside Drive
                             Santa Rosa, CA 95404
   Ziffnet, hosted on Compuserve with its own monthly $2.50 charge, also
   has forums with popular download libraries, including the Public Brand
   Software forum (GO ZNT:PBS) and PC-Magazine's Utilities/Tips forum
   (GO ZNT:TIPS). Note: the "ZNT:" prefix can be dropped once in Ziffnet.
   To get a FREE Compuserve starter kit, with a $15 usage credit, call
   800-848-8199 (or 614-457-0822) and ask for operator 162. This offer is
   courtesy of the ASP.
                                   Page 2
                                Other BBSes
   After getting your Shareware to the Feeder BBSes, then you should work
   on sending it to other BBSes. One logical strategy is to make sure
   that your Shareware is placed on one or more large, multi-node BBSes
   in every significant media market, or better yet, every state.
   Computer Shopper Magazine has a national BBS listing by state (the
   list is published every other month).
   There are 2 other major national BBS lists:
   1) USBBS    - USBBSxxx.ZIP, where xxx = version number
               - updated monthly
               - available from Computer Connections BBS listed before
   2) THELIST  - BBSmmyyp.ZIP, where mmyy = month and year, p = A,B,C,D,E
               - updated every Monday morning (A = 1st one, E = 5th one)
               - available from the House of Files BBS at 516-938-6722
   There are communications programs designed for automating online
   actions. Robocomm is one well known Shareware program. With Robocomm,
   you can automate the uploading of your Shareware to numerous BBSes.
   You can get Robocomm from its customer support board, Group One BBS at
   312-752-1258. On other BBSes, look for it with a file mask of ROBO*.*.
   At the least, you should make sure that you get your Shareware placed
   on the five Feeder BBSes listed previously, and Compuserve, even if
   you have to mail it to them.
                 Packaging your Shareware (and other tips)
   The following guidelines should be followed:
   1) Include a file INSIDE of your compressed distribution file named
      FILE_ID.DIZ - this is an ASCII text file, and can contain up to 10
      lines of 45 characters each. The FIRST line of this file should
      always include the PROGRAM NAME and VERSION. The following lines
      should provide a coherent description of your program, stating its
      purpose and features.
      When a compressed file containing FILE_ID.DIZ is uploaded to
      PCBoard based BBSes (the most popular) and some others, the
      description contained in the file will REPLACE the description
      provided by the uploader. In this way, the author can be assured
      that the program will be properly and consistently described.
                                   Page 3
      Try to compose your FILE_ID.DIZ in a modular fashion, with the most
      important information near the top. Although the FILE_ID.DIZ file
      can accommodate up to 10 lines, the description CAN GET TRUNCATED
      by the Sysop (or perhaps by software on the BBS). However, my
      observation has been that most BBSes that use FILE_ID.DIZ will use
      the entire file.
      If your application requires more than one compressed file to
      distribute, do NOT repeat the same FILE_ID.DIZ description for each
      of the other compressed files in the set. Either you should further
      elaborate on your program, or just state the program name and
      version. Include a notation that indicates which part of the set
      the compressed file is, like "(1 of 2)" or "[1/2]".
      (Note: at the seminar, I said to use up to 8 lines. While 8 lines
      is the current PCBoard default for file descriptions provided by
      uploaders, the PCBoard configuration is IGNORED when FILE_ID.DIZ
      is processed. So, 10 lines may be used. Some 3rd party FILE_ID.DIZ
      processors used by BBSes will even allow more than 10 lines.)
   2) If you are a member of the ASP, you should prominently state that
      in your documentation, and in the FILE_ID.DIZ file.
   3) You should provide a CLEAR description of WHAT YOUR PROGRAM IS and
      WHAT IT DOES at the BEGINNING of your documentation!
      Some authors mistakenly start out by telling the story of how they
      came to write their program, or they go into describing their
      program's functions, without first telling the user the purpose of
      their program!
      Always direct your documentation toward the new user. NEVER assume
      that the user has any prior knowledge about your program!
   4) Include documentation in PLAIN ASCII TEXT file format.
      Many BBSes have the capability to allow callers to read text files
      inside of compressed files, while the caller is online! Many
      callers will use this capability to determine if the file will suit
      their needs. You should include documentation in plain ASCII text
      format no matter what kind of application you have.
   5) Your documentation should clearly state the program version number
      and release date.
      This will make it easier for BBS Sysops, disk vendors, end users,
      and all involved to maintain the latest version of your program(s).
      You should follow the convention of setting the dates of all files
      the release date, and setting the timestamps to the version number.
                                   Page 4
   6) Your documentation should clearly state what you want the BBS
      filename to be.
      This will help insure consistent product naming among the tens of
      thousands of BBSes, and online services. There are a number of
      times when this can be in doubt. These include: disks sent to BBSes
      that are meant for disk vendors, files renamed by end users, or
      files obtained from Compuserve, which has a 6 character filename
   7) Naming your distribution file: a good rule of thumb is to make the
      first 6 characters of the filename significant and mnemonic, and
      reserve the last 2 characters (out of 8) for the version number.
      This is so it can be uploaded to Compuserve, which limits filenames
      to 6 characters. If your application will be distributed in
      multiple files, the filename for each one should be unique within
      the first 6 characters.
   8) You should limit the size of your distribution files to no more
      than 360k. This gives the average BBS caller enough time to
      download each file, and it will allow you to distribute the same
      files to disk vendors on 360k disks.
      What are the practical limits on BBS file size? Well, most callers
      have at least a 2400 bps modem. Most BBSes give callers 30-60
      minutes per day. At 2400 bps, using Ymodem or Zmodem, a caller can
      download files at around 230 chars/sec. In 30 minutes, a 2400 bps
      caller could download approximately 414k.
   9) Most BBSes prefer, and many only accept, .ZIP format compressed
      This is what you should distribute. Please do NOT imbed self-
      extracting compressed files inside of .ZIP files. All responsible
      Sysops and disk vendors scan the software they receive for viruses,
      and many virus-scanning programs will not scan executables inside
      of self-extracting files.
  10) Arrange with one or more BBSes to be authorized distribution sites
      for your Shareware, where users can get the latest version of your
      software, and get online support from you. These BBSes should be
      clearly noted in your documentation.
      It's important for users to be able to download your Shareware from
      a source they can trust. This means from the author's own BBS, or
      from a BBS or online service that the author has placed their
      Shareware on. I'm not going to introduce programs into my company's
      computers from an unknown source. You should make it possible for
      users to get your Shareware from a known reliable source.
                                   Page 5
      Providing technical support for your application(s) on one or more
      BBSes is STRONGLY recommended! It's an easy and low cost method for
      you to answer questions and provide fixes and updates. It allows
      you to satisfy your user's tech support questions, and to do so at
      your convenience. You'll find that the users of your application(s)
      will tend to answer a number of the support questions posted.
      In order to avoid long-distance phone charges, you should make
      arrangements with local BBSes. If this is not possible, Dan Linton,
      Sysop of Software Creations BBS, has indicated that he would be
      happy to arrange to have his BBS serve as an official distribution
      site. Dan runs a 33 node ASP Approved BBS in Clinton, MA at
      508-365-2359. You can also contact him on Compuserve at 73230,3254.
  11) If you run a BBS, then it's IN YOUR INTEREST to encourage the
      downloading of your Shareware. Callers should be able to download
      your Shareware through any high speed lines you may have.
  12) When sending disks through the mail, please make sure you use
      proper packaging. For 5 1/4" disks, you should use the sturdy
      cardboard mailers designed for sending them. Do NOT send them
      unprotected in flimsy envelopes. I have received 5 1/4" floppies in
      flimsy envelopes that were damaged and unreadable. Don't be
      penny-wise and pound-foolish; use proper disk mailers. One source
      for floppy disk mailers (and floppies) is MEI/Micro Center at
                                   Page 6

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