As I've been making some intial outreach into different communities and friends about this documentary, some common questions have begun to arise. If you've got similar questions brewing, hopefully I can answer them here. As more questions become common, I'll answer them as well. I'll also update if the answer changes over time.

This project is a little too large, isn't it?
There's too much to cover, too many people, too much to do....

While I agree that this is potentially a monumental amount of work and research and filming to do, I feel I'm up to it. I'm focusing on getting as much information about BBSes that I can, while at the same time starting this site and generally reaching out to everyone related to BBSes that I can find. I'm on several mailing lists, I will be attending as many conferences and gatherings related to computer history as I can, and most importantly, I will be building a staff of volunteers to assist me. I want people who are interested in this project to take a hand in it and not just wait around for the final product.

This project is a little too small, isn't it?
I don't think this is daunting at all! What's the big whoop?

I understand if you think there isn't much to BBSes at all, but if you really sit back and look at the whole story, I think you'll find the whole subject almost epic in nature. BBSes touched many corners of society; they were put up by churches, clubs, companies, government agencies, cults, hackers, writers, and just plain citizens who wanted to try something fun. The Internet existed at the same time as BBSes, but it was very limited in scope (compared, for example, to the home-grown BBS network known as FidoNet, which was worldwide and used by many thousands of people by the year 1985). BBSes snuck just outside the eye of the mainstream, but they got the interest of an awful lot of people regardless, and I personally believe the story of the BBS is the story of the human being's relationship to computers, a relationship that is still growing and both exciting and terrifying.

There's a lot of story and history to tell about. And it will be a lot of work.

How Could This Be At All Compelling?
Is this going to be hours of people dialing modems?

The challenge of any documentary is to make itself compelling and interesting to a non-involved audience. A movie like The Thin Blue Line (1988) does a very effective job of drawing you into a story of justice gone wrong in a Texas Courtroom in 1976. If the director, Errol Morris, had made his documentary a series of re-enactments of the courtroom proceedings followed by copies of the newsreels of the time, he wouldn't have a tenth of the interest his work generated. Instead, he chose to tell the story in a way that has won huge acclaim, and in fact resulted in the release of a man from 11 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit.

While I doubt I'll be getting anyone out of death row, I do intend to have this documentary be interesting to folks who didn't use a modem, and to help show that it wasn't all just about dialing in, and typing a few messages. While I will not be doing any recreations of past events (I hold the belief they're somewhat cheesy) I do want the viewer to feel like they've gotten a glimpse of the magic of the BBS if they missed the boat, and to relive the magic if they were a part of it. This is a challenge; and I promise you it'll be something worth sitting through.

Are You Going to Get Some Sort of Funding?
Looking for funding from all the usual places? Corporate Sponsors?

Right now, I am using out-of-pocket expenses. I could see doing one of these donation systems if people think what I am doing is worth supporting as filming goes on, but I'm not fond of the idea of asking for money without having something (a demo reel, 15 minutes finished) to show for it, so this isn't something I'm thinking of right now.

I might make the rounds of all the classic "funding" entities (PBS, iFilm, and the like) to see what the forms are and what all the processes are, but again, that isn't the current focus. The focus is getting the research together and making the contacts with folks.

With very few exceptions, the idea of corporate sponsorship makes my skin crawl. If you pin me down and make me think it through, I could see some situations where I would have some sort of corporate entity available for support, but the demands I would have for complete creative control will probably turn most companies off, anyway.

What if I think you're missing something?
You can't tell the story of BBSes without this guy I knew...

I agree with you totally; you very likely know someone or something about the story of BBSes that I will want to try to put into the documentary. Please mail me with your suggestions and ideas, and I will put them into the mix.

That was easy, wasn't it?

What Do You Forsee the Final Product Looking Like?
Will I see your documentary online? On a DVD? At the movies?

It's a little early to tell how the documentary will be released; I'm one of those folks who wants the final product of such an undertaking to be worthy of the effort it recieved. This means that I will want the most people to see it as I possibly can, and I will want the experience of watching the documentary to be as enjoyable and convenient as possible.

There are currently four ways to see documentaries right now: At a movie theatre (as part of a festival, or by themselves), on television (in the form of PBS, Sundance Channel, Public-Access Cable, or The WB (just kidding)), on some sort of rental or purchased media (like a DVD, Video CD, or Videotape) or online.

All of these ways have different advantages and disadvantages. Some are very easy to get your work on, and some are very difficult. Some give you lots of flexibility and help your recoup the costs of making the documentary. Others reach wider or smaller audiences. It's a massively weird set of possibilities. And I don't know which is the best.

If I had to choose, I'd choose a combination of DVD and Online, with a couple showings at movie theatres so we could have some fun events around it (or have it at an already-existing event). What I want is for people to have access to the most results of this documentary project, with the most options available to them to get the information THEY want out of it, not what I've decided to cut down out of hundreds of hours and spoon-feed them. And the best way to ensure that is data, data, data. Online and on a DVD, you'll have the option of looking over all the data I've collected for the documentary, and so I'll be looking into those options first.

In a few years (when the project will hopefully be finished), I expect the cost of DVDs (or the next thing after DVDs) will have reduced enough to make it affordable for folks like myself. I'll keep an eye out.

What's the Catch?
Why you? What do you get out of it?

I started textfiles.com in 1998 as a way to preserve the old textfiles from BBSes of the 1980's when I found that there wasn't an enormous amount of effort being put into doing so elsewhere. I expanded the goals of textfiles.com to include textfiles from the 1990's when I decided that I had spent enough time designing tools for collecting that they might as well be aimed at the BBS-like work of today.

A little side idea (what if I listed every BBS there ever was?) quickly grew into bbslist.textfiles.com, which is now listing over 82,000 BBSes from the 1970's onward. This got the attention of a lot of "old school" 1980's era sysops who started telling me stories of their times on BBSes. I decided one day that these stories needed to be saved; and this BBS documentary was created.

I don't do this for money, I don't do this for self-aggrandizement other than the feeling of a job well done and a history covered. I went to school for film (Emerson College, class of 1992) and never used my degree, instead moving directly into computers. I see this as an opportunity to use my years of study in film, as well as a way to tell a story that hasn't been properly told up to this point. I think this work is important and that's what drives me. And I thank you for listening to what I have to say.

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