How to get the most out of a BBS

Whether you're a neophyte BBSer or a hardened Cyberspace astronaut, it wouldn't hurt to know some handy tips on BBSing in general. This disscussion is divided into several parts which will tackle each aspect of BBSing.


When you log in as a new user, and remember you do this only ONCE, first impressions matter a LOT! So, you must at least appear to be a responsible, law abiding, and educated individual. The first thing that a board asks you is certain baseline information. Try to answer these questions as efficiently and as neatly as possible. Try to understand what is being asked for and use correct punctuation and capitalizations. If a specific format is being asked for, follow this strictly. When asked "Where are you calling from?", don't answer "Home" or "Office", when you know very well that what is being asked for is a geopolitical name.

When you enter your address or country, don't answer "qc" or "u.p. diliman" or "phil.", this gives the sysop the impression that you're lazy or ill educated or was poorly brought up, or all of the above. You could at least capitalize these proper names, or avoided the use of abbreviations since space is available. This is definitely a bad start. Remember, you will have to do this only ONCE in that particular BBS, so make it count. The next is your password. PLEASE TRY TO REMEMBER OR RECORD YOUR PASSWORD. This gives a VERY POOR first-impression. It indicates that you don't care very much about that particular board such that thinking of a memorable password was too much trouble. One good rule of thumb... think of your password BEFORE you attempt to log into a BBS for the first time then write it in the phone directory of the comm software you're using so that when the password is asked, it has already been recorded. It is a big hassle for a sysop to look up your password in the userbase, also it is poor security procedure to do so. Why should a sysop reveal the password to you since the most reliable way to prove that you were indeed the person who logged on previously is via the password system? In my case, I just delete the account of a user who forgets his password. This is safe and provides a small punishment to those who lose their passwords.

Next is the questionnaire. You may wonder why questionnaires at times duplicate questions already asked, such as birthdays, telephone numbers, and addresses. This is because the data file containing the answers in the preliminary database is different from that of the questionnaire. In the questionnaire, TAKE ABSOLUTE CARE in what you answer and how you answer. Personally, I dislike people who write or as responses. These users I don't upgrade. The point is, the sysop is allowing the user access into his board, letting him look into the files and read the messages. Some also provide information about themselves. In effect, the sysop is trusting you to use his expensive and time consuming system, what is the user giving back in exchange? How will the sysop know that you are trustworthy if you don't give information about yourself? Consider this as a trade...tell me about yourself and I'll let you use my system. Answer truthfully and neatly. This gives the sysop a hint in what kind of person you are. Capitalize and punctuate correctly. Avoid non standard abbreviations. Be as detailed as space allows. Example, if you're someone who owns his own business, say a hardware shop, and you happen to live upstairs from it, why would you answer: "Occupation: Businessman, Employer: Self-employed, Office Address: Home." This is an extremely vague response from such answers, one word to descibe you would be... "Bum." But this is a far cry from what you really are. Try to impress the sysop without straying from the truth! From the same example answer like this: "Occupation: Hardware Shop Proprietor, Employer: The Hardest Hardware Store, Office Address: 300 Tandang Sora Ave, QC." Many boards require that you be upgraded before you get to enter messages, download files, play games, in other words... to get to use the juiciest functions of the board. Don't expect the sysop to check his logs everyday to see if there are new users and then just upgrade them just like that. SEND A MESSAGE informing him that you are a new user, whether it is required or not. Try to make some small talk and not just leave a message saying..."Upgrade please." Complimenting a sysop on his board and perhaps even leaving further information about you and how he can verify you helps immensely. To help you with your future relationship with the sysop of a particular board, it is best to have an idea of what a sysop is thinking of when he finds a new user who just logged on the board. The plague of BBSes anywhere in the world is the Fake User aka The Multiple Account User. When a new user logs on, a sysop always has in his mind the question, "Is this guy for real?", "Is this his real name?" If you're an old hand at BBSing and have been entering messages in the echomail areas of other BBSes, then all you need to do is leave the name of a sysop who knows you and a little information on how to prove you are really who you say you are. If however, you're a true blue neophyte, then the only way is to make your questionnaire and your introductory message as impressive as possible. The sysop may grant you preliminary or probationary access, and at this level you have to prove your character. How to do this? Enter messages, participate in the discussions in every message area possible, upload files if possible although it is not a must. DON'T EVER USE MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS! It is easy to get caught, don't underestimate the trickiness of sysops. Sysops have techniques to catch fake users, and once caught, your name is endorsed to the other boards and you'll find great difficulty in finding a DECENT board who will accept you. I use a call back verifier to check if you really exist before upgrading you one level.


As you gain greater skill in BBSing, you tend to ignore the Bulletins area. DON'T! Never remove the "Bulletin" from Bulletin Board System! When entering a BBS for the first time, read ALL BULLETINS! You may have questions regarding BBS policies and services that are answerable by the bulletins. You can usually judge the skill and love for the craft of a sysop by the quality and quantity of his bulletins. It isn't easy to make a bulletin... it is time consuming and draining. In the classier BBSes, bulletins are updated at a regular basis, thus don't forget to recheck the bulletins after some time, there may be something new and interesting.


In the course of my sysoping, I've noted that many users download OMR packets but rarely if ever respond. Many users are thus just readers and not message writers. This practice should be discouraged. Message areas are also known as message conferences. A conference, implying a dynamic interchange of ideas. If users just read messages, then who'll write the messages? If you're just shy, don't be! Feel free to interrupt any message thread, butting in is the name of the game in BBSing! A lively message writer also gets to be popular. Many of the more prominent names in BBSing started out this way. If you wish to respond to a question or butt in a discussion or even ask a question yourself, DO NOT HESITATE! Do it! So now you're writing messages like crazy, how do you write messages? For one thing, there are numerous idiosyncracies when writing BBS messages, example... abbreviations: BTW (by the way), IMO (in my opinion), IMHO (in my honest opinion), TNX (thanks), BCNU (be seeing you). There are also characters called Smileys. These are characters viewed by tilting your head to the left. Example, if you tilt your head to the left, you'll see a smiling face in the following :-). Other smileys are as follows: B- ) :-( :-> :-P etc... Usually a smiling face is made after a joke or something sarcastic, or an "alaska". You can also at times write down expressions of laughter like hahaha, hehehe, teehee, hyuk hyuk, hee hee, etc. One very important thing... WRITING IN ALL CAPITALS IS LIKE SHOUTING! So unless you wish to make a point... DON'T USE ALL CAPS! The world language in BBSing is ENGLISH. For international echomail, you have to speak in english, grammatically correct english. For local areas or RP only areas, tagalog or taglish is allowed. Don't write coded messags in echomail areas, in the same way, don't enter messages in foreign languages or local dialects. Perhaps a short expression or a word or two would be ok, but not for the entirety. One interesting thing about message writing is quoting. Let me explain, when you become an accomplished message writer, you may not be able to keep track of all the messages you've sent or responded to such that when you read a message you would need a reminder of what was being discussed, that's where quoting comes in. Before you answer a message, you can quote some of the original text to remind the receiver what you're responding to. Many beginners make the mistake of quoting EVERYTHING. Don't do this! It is very irritating and space consuming. Quote just enough to remind the receiver of the gist of what you were discussing. Also, don't quote taglines (unless this is what you're talking about), origin lines, already quoted lines (unless you think these are essential). Before you embark on message writing, familiarize yourself with the controls and commands of the text editor a sysop is using.

In particular, find out how they quote messages. The easier editors to use are full screen editors, but may seem slow in < 2400 bps modems. Even so, these are the best choice. Echomail message areas contain messages that are sent to other BBSes,in many cases around the world. To keep the traffic organized, each echo usually has a moderator. It is his job to make the rules for each echo. The rules differ for each echo depending on the moderator, but most areas have the following common rules:
- No profanity or swear words
- No off topic messages. Keep within the subject matter of the particular area
- No promotion of illegal operations and practices

It is a good practice to familiarize yourself with each areas rules before writing a questionable message (with graphic characters, advertisements, etc.). The echo rules are usually posted at least once a month, so just search for this message to keep safe. When writing opinions or arguments, three words should be foremost in your mind... TACT, DIPLOMACY, and TRUTH! TACT - Always make your messages tactful. Even if you haven't seen the other person or other people, they are alive and have feelings to hurt. If you wish to reprimand or criticize someone, you may, but always be tactful. With tact comes humility. Be humble at all times, if proven to be wrong, accept it with dignity, and always keep a cool head. DIPLOMACY - When writing messages that can potentially cause conflict with the receiver or another user, remember to keep it diplomatic. Even if they criticize or reprimand someone, your message shouldn't produce anger, but instead encourage the target to apologize and or refrain from doing it again. TRUTH - When making arguments, are the facts that support your message true? Be ready to back up whatever sources you have, because some people ask for them during hot debates! If you're not sure about something, then be sure to state this.


Now let the truth be known... why did you ever start BBSing? I'm sure most if not all you answered "Files!". I admit, I started the same way, and only later discovered the message areas and found them to be even more addicting. Sysops usually prefer users to frequent the message areas rather than the files. One, downloading of files takes more time and decreases the number of users who can log on in a day. Two, file downloading is the chief reason why users are tempted to create multiple accounts, so that they can download more files. And three, posted files occupy the bulk of hard disk space in a BBS. Secondly, File vampirism can be seen as a sign of rudeness. Say you hold a party, stock up on food, all the guests come, then just eat and run, hardly saying a word. What would you do? You'd probably never hold a party again would you? That's one of the impressions you can give a sysop when you suck up files and leave.

So if you're a file hog, you may find out later that your access level or download limit has been lowered a tad. How do you prevent this from happening? First method is simply by frequenting the message areas. Participate in the converences. Sysops usually disregard a user's file vampire reputation if he is a frequent message participator. But you ask, reading and writing messages are time consuming and would take a bulk out of my online time which I need for the files I want to download? Then use an Offline Mail Reader and download your messages, answer them while you're offline and upload your replies. The second method would be uploading. Uploading would be a good way to get into a sysop's good graces but be careful...DO NOT UPLOAD VIRUS INFECTED FILES, you may be blacklisted from the net as a result. Also don't upload files that the sysop already has, a simple search operation will suffice in checking this. Uploading duplicate files is a waste of time and disk space, so avoid this at all costs. When uploading, don't forget to describe your uploads. Make it as detailed as possible, it gives a good impression to the sysop. A busy sysop may just delete the file you uploaded if it has no description. Third, if you're really into downloading files, the best solution is to get a hi speed modem. Most sysops ignore file vampires who have hi speeders since they don't take much time from other users who would want to log in.

A good tip when doing file transfers is to use only Zmodem. At the present, no protocol is significantly better than Zmodem. It is the most reliable, easy to use, and has crash recovery. Many other protocols have enhancements that Zmodem doesn't have like duplex operation, games, chat modes, but none are as easy to use and as universally accepted as Zmodem. The use of any other protocol, especially one that is older or more primitive than Zmodem is foolish.

Now, what if you want to download this really neat but BIG FILE, such that your download limit can't handle it. You can do one or more of several methods...First, you can request the sysop for an increased access. If it works, but it is pretty arrogant for a user to request for more access when he doesn't deserve it. However, if you feel you've proven your character, you post messages, you help other people with their problems, you upload a lot of useful files, then I suppose you may stick your neck out and request for it. After all, the worst thing that can happen is that your sysop will just ignore your request...or is it? Second, is to use the time bank. Most classy boards have a time bank facility. This little dingo enables you to deposit time and sometimes even kilobytes that you don't use in a particular session so that you may withdraw them later. So you can just invest your time and kilobytes in a span of a few days and just withraw them in one session and download that precious file. One word of warning though...if you happen to lose your carrier while downloading that long file, depending on the BBS, you invariably lose the time and kilobytes that you withrawed! So be vewy carefull, make sure you have a clean line before attempting this. Third, is simply to buy a high speed modem. Most BBSes have an increased download limit for high speed users. Also, many sysops don't mind file vampirism very much when they use high speeders.


At some point in BBS'ing, you'll find this certain little option in the menu leading you to the Live Games area. These are mostly text or ANSI games thus, compared to the Super VGA PC games they're not much... or are they. With live games, you get to play against a real live flesh and blood opponent with human reactions and strategies. The most popular of it's kind is the multi player interstellar / trading genre. Some of the most notable games of this type are Barren Realm Elite or BRE, Tradewars 1000 or 2001 and Interstellar Annhilator. In this other world, the sky's the limit. Anything is possible. The only purpose in life is to rip the hearts out of your fellow players. But no matter how many times you get killed, NEVER LOSE YOUR TEMPER. Or at least don't lose your temper unreasonably. It's all right to send insulting messages to your opponent when he takes 1000 regions of your territory. But refrain from the use of really offensive and profane language. Also, when sending taunts or insults, use only the door's message sending facility. Example, for BRE, there is also a message echo because of it's popularity. It is best not to send insults through this. Completely suspend your disbelief when playing these games but get back to reality once you're out of the game. If you know who your opponent really is, despite the use of an alias, it doesn't really matter. Don't get mad at him just because he plays well and trashes your forces. In other words, don't be a poor or sore loser.


BBSing is a highly addictive hobby. It is very demanding both for the user and the sysop. But it won't keep flourishing if there are no users. So, invite more of your friends, give them these tips on how to enjoy BBSing and keep in touch!