The BBS is up!

The JCGD Bulletin Board System is now fully operational! To log on, set your telecommunications software for 8 bits, no parity, and 1 stop bit. The BBS telephone number is (415) 848-1996. Your ID number and password are written on the inside front cover of this issue. When the BBS answers, it will first ask you for your ID number. Enter your ID number and a carriage return. Then it will ask you for your password. Enter your password and a carriage return. This is a private BBS, not open to the general public, so you must use this ID number and password to log on.

Once you are on the BBS, you will find it fairly simple to navigate through the system. At any prompt you can type "?" to get help. I will warn you, though, that the standards of human engineering are not high. A given letter-command will mean completely different things in different contexts. I use the "?" heavily.

Because this is a single-line BBS, your call is limited to 30 minutes duration. We do anticipate that, for the first week or two, the BBS will be swamped with all the new users trying out the system, so don’t be disappointed if you keep getting a busy signal.

There are four major sections of the BBS: the bulletin boards, the mail system, the voting system, and the uploading/downloading area ("SuperTac"). The mail system is a handy way to submit articles to the Journal. The voting system will allow us to take quick polls on a variety of subjects. The SuperTac area makes it possible for people to move non-text files through the BBS.

You will spend most of your time in the bulletin boards. These are the areas for public discussion of topics of the day. There are 11 boards covering a variety of topics, from specific areas of game design to business issues.

Follow the ongoing discussions in the boards and make your contributions. We do have some rules and restrictions. First, the software will not allow you to post messages longer than 4K characters. This is an entirely reasonable restriction; if you can’t say your piece in 4K, perhaps you’d better edit it. Remember, other people are paying money for connect time to read it!

The more important rules concern the tenor of your comments. This is a BBS for professional computer game designers. Its function is to advance the profession. We will not tolerate unprofessional behavior on this board. Flaming (posting angry messages) is forbidden. We encourage disagreement; we applaud eloquence; we respect forcefulness; but we require gentlemanliness.

There is another area, a rather touchy one: rumors and ugly truths. This board can provide a valuable community service by allowing developers to share information on the mistakes and foibles of publishers. At its best, such a function creates a climate of openness that encourages participants in the marketplace to trust each other. It will make it easier for developers to trust honest publishers. It will also serve to drive out of the marketplace those shadier publishers who create an atmosphere of distrust all out of proportion to their numbers or size.

There is a downside to the operation of a rumor mill: it is too easy to crucify the innocent through rumors. If our board helps such wild rumors spread faster and wilder, then we have done a disservice to the community.

How are we to balance the need for information against the need for reliability? The responsibility for making this difficult judgment must lie with the person reporting the information. We, the operators of the BBS, accept no responsibility for anything said on the board. The board is a medium of communication not under our immediate control.

We do have guidelines for users to consider in posting a message containing information damaging to the interests of any other party. Any information that you present must come from your direct experience or that of a close colleague. No fair telling stories about what happened to a friend of a friend. Also, remember that there are laws against slander and you can be held legally liable for the statements that you make on the board.

The BBS has a group of moderators whose task it is to police the boards, but we don’t expect to need their services often. We think that the community is mature enough to handle the responsibility. We hope that you will log onto the BBS soon and participate in the discussions there.