One Sysops Opinion
I have run an RBBS since Nov. 1,1983. I held off security for 8
months before being forced to go to a tight validation and registration system for users. Since the system is run as a public service at my company, I have had to defend the system to management for two years as a result of the jerks that abuse it. I don't mind the downloaders who use the system for nothing else. Many people have nothing to upload, not being able to afford to call long distance to many systems and many don't feel knowledgeable or secure enough yet to engage in talks with more experienced people. My users cover a wide range of experience levels from professionals to young kids with new machines from Christmas. Some make even me (10 yrs professional experience with micros) feel stupid, while some make me feel old. The only ones I mind are the destructors, who feel my system is a plaything for their experiments. Yet with time, patience, and some long phone conversations, even some of them have turned into responsible hackers. Those few kids alone, who have become some of my best users, have made all the problems worthwhile, since they are the ones who are interested and eager enough to become the SYSOPS of next week or next year. You will never get rid of all of the jerks. So concentrate on the successful users, let's not give up in disgust because of a few whose actions seem all out of proportion to their numbers.
I think many of the Sysops around should have taken more time
before they set up their BBS's to decide exactly why they were setting them up. Let's be honest. There are a few Sysops out there who think of themselves as liÿttle tin gods who love to play benevolent dictator. These are usually easily recognizable by the profound and pompous pronouncements they love to make in their welcome screens or bulletins. I think these people run their boards to give them an audience for their pomposity which they can't find elsewhere.
Then there are the Sysops who are shocked and bewildered that
someone would actually try to damage their systems. They react with beligerant threats, warnings, and espousals of dire punishments that should be meted out to offenders. These are the people who ignore vandalism on subways, crime in the street, problems in the schools etc. because it doesn't touch them personally. But when it does, whew, watch out for the righteous wrath of the offended.
COME ON FRIENDS. Knock it off. You knew, or should have known
what you were doing when you set up your BBS. You were throwing your house open to the public when you gave out the number. You were extending an open invitation to the public to come in and play. Why are you shocked that there are idiots loose in the world? Were you idealistic enough to think that everyone had your high ethical standards, or were you just naive? Recognize that some people have no morals and take the appropriate precautions. You lock your house when you leave it unattended don't you, yet do you abandon your house and live in the bushes because someone broke into it? Do you ban all visitors because one person abused your hospitality?
As for this idea that people should treat you and your system
nicely because you out of the goodness of your heart are allowing them to use your equipment, again, COME ON. Face reality. The jerks don't care. When I log onto your system, I don't know you from Adam. You are just a name on the welcome screen, no different from any other Sysop. How affectionate or caring do you feel about the faceless nameless operator you talk to on the phone? Most of your users know you only as a disembodied presence who leave notes and does other mysterious things somewhere on the other end of a modem line. If you are the kind of person who needs strokes to feel good, if you get your feelings hurt easily, if you get depressed when you feel someone doesn't like youÿ, then you shouldn't be running a board. Leave it to those of us who are a bit more thick skinned. If you don't want your hospitality abused, your system crashed, and your passwords violated, then either stay out of the game or set up a private board for your friends only, no strangers allowed.
Now that I have sounded off about the ISP (I'm So Pitiful) club,
let me take note of a few of the positives, and YES there are some. First off, there is the often spoken of feeling of providing a much needed service to a very special community of very special people, computer hackers (using the term in its old sense). You are in touch with and have your finger on the pulse of the next wave of human progress. As a Sysop, you are on the crest of that wave, you're one of the people making it happen.
Your system is the catalyst that is providing the means for
information to spread and ferment into new ideas. The programs and patches and bits and pieces of information your board contains are the very fuel of this movement. The Freeware and Shareware and such, that is only possible through your boards, is the force that is driving the software industry where WE want it to go. They must provide what WE want ultimately or WE will provide it for ourselves and leave them to die like dinosaurs.
You and your board are the places where the young people get
their true exposure to computers in the real world. Sure their schools teach them how to turn machines on and off, but it is your board and the people and software on it that show them the real wonders of computers. All of those kids who want to crash your board or snuff your files are the troublemakers, the smart-ass kids who think they can do anything. Those are the smart little punks who have the tenacity to try those things that they know they shouldn't, to do the impossible things that you know can't be done. If your only concern is to have a nice neat well mannered board where everyone does the expected thing in just the right way, then lock them out and you will have a nice neat, well-mannered and boring board that neatly follows all the proper guidelines and customs. Or, alternately, you could try talking with the little monsters. Most of the ones I have spent time working with on the phone or in person, have turned out to be pretty smart little devils once I got past the hard shell. Sure it's hard and frustrating, and time-consuming. Try getting them on your side for a change instead of against you. Form a users group for kids under 16. Offer a standing reward of $5 for a new way to crack your system. Then you are more likely to find a Trojan Horse on your system because the kid calls up and tells you that he uploaded it and not because you found it the hard way.
Get them to let you onto their local pirate boards. You don't
have to participate or pirate software or engage in unlawful activities, you don't even have to condone their activities, but keep in mind that if you try to stop it, you will never know when it starts up again. Find out what there concerns are. Find out what they are doing and how they are doing it. You might be shocked to discover that they aren't as bad as you imagine. You might even remember when you were young and think about the things that you did. Instead, find the ones who lead this kind of thing. They are the sharpest of the bunch. They are the leaders and shakers of that world. Those are the ones you have to win over to your side. You can't lecture and throw your weight around, it doesn't work. Challenge them, lead them. Show them that there are better ways. Help them set up a better board, help them conquer their computer problems. The first time I advertised on my board about a kid's users group,(no adults allowed, strictly for them), the first ones to flock to it were the "troublemakers". They were the ones who ended up leading it and once they had the responsibility and had to deal with the same problems you as a Sysop deal with, suddenly they began to see where I was coming from.
Those kids and troublemakers are the Sysops of tomorrow. They are
the ones who will drive the computer revolution to where it must go. You can't beat 'em and you sure don't want to join 'em, but you can sure be the one who helps guide them to where they need to go.
Think about it, the next time you have to delete an obscene
message the likes of which YOU of course never scrawled on a wall when you were a kid. And when you get those ten new disks of software from your old buddy in Idaho or California, feel smug that You got them and not the kid down the street. (The same one you blasted because he never uploads anything.) To a lot of people out there, YOU are the source of software for them and for a long while, the stuff they write will not be worth uploading until they become a lot sharper programmer. They are the students and are not yet ready to teach. Of course you could ignore the students and make it all neat and tidy