__ Tips on Starting Your Own BBS Written by Pazuzu - November 11, 1993 (C) Copyright 1993 Digital News Associates ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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 off.
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…) - NEVER ADVERTISE YOUR SYSTEM ON A SYSTEM OF LESS QUALITY - ELSE YOU WILL *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 THE FUCK DOES EVERY SINGLE GOD DAMNED NPA HAVE ONE OF THESE???) is a bad move.
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 MANY PEOPLE FIND IT SO DIFFICULT TO UPLOAD THINGS TO THE RIGHT SPOT???), and so on.
Good luck to you.