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/// A Sysop's Point of View
    -----------------------
    By Robert Niles


The hardest thing for a sysop is to make sure that the BBS does not 
just sit there and stagnate. If a BBS has no interaction of some kind 
between it's users it will unfortunately do do. Most sysops spend a 
considerable amount of time trying to keep the interest going. Getting 
new files, expanding the functions of the BBS, adding more "doors", 
whatever.

For myself, I give Ma Bell a fair amount of money and time to go out 
and seeking files of interest to my users. Each and every file has to 
be run, tested, checked for viruses, and then finally added to the
BBS for access by my users. This is imporant for various reasons.

It connects the users to the outside in a "physical" way, keeping 
themselves and their computers up to date. Of course users upload 
files, but not always as much as I figure they should. Maybe because 
of time restraints, lower speed modems, whatever. I'm sure they have 
their reasons, but the hardest thing for me to deal with is when I end 
up calling long distance and get a file that I later find that one of 
my users already had. I'm sure you can see the problem with this. It 
was money that could have been spent on something they don't already 
have.

It doesn't matter if the BBS is up to gather those who like hand 
crafts or build nuclear bombs... people like to communicate ideas. The  
message areas are the heart beat of any BBS. The transfer of these 
ideas is what brings people together. I've been on systems that talk 
about subjects from Electrical Engineering, to Labor and Marketing, to
Home Businesses, to Origami. The function of the sysop here is to make
these interesting enough to get users to chat about whatever the subject
is amongst themselves. To somehow get even the bashful "lurkers" to all 
of a sudden want to "say" whatever is on their mind. Actually this 
isn't always as easy as it seems. During lulling points, the sysop has 
to intervene, add something interesting and get things going again. 
The sysop has to answer questions (no user likes a sysop who doesn't 
reply), and interact with the "community" in which he/she created.

GAMES!! While this probably takes the least amount of time for the 
sysop, they are a great addition to the system. People like to get 
away and interact with one another playing a game of chess, or blow the 
previous caller out of space! These games, or "doors" often cost the 
sysop money...most of the time a small fee, but the more games you 
have, the more interesting the system becomes. Not all BBS's have 
games, nor are they required. Actually I've seen users at times get a 
little upset because they have a hard time logging on because the 
system was being heavily used for games. It's the sysop's call there, 
and what that might be depends on what he feels the function of the 
BBS to be.

Every potential sysop has to figure out what BBS program he/she will 
want to run. The best way would be to call BBS's in which various 
programs are run, then ask around. There are plenty of sysops who have 
already made up their mind, and are quite willing to tell you why they 
chose what they did. But no matter which one you use, it must be 
purchased.  Prices vary.  Free BBS systems are rare, so understand that 
sysops out there have had to pay to run that BBS program.  Users and 
future Sysops need to know and understand that every person has most 
likely placed alot of money in running a BBS.

Other things can be added. Internet/Usenet access, Encyclopedias, 
online newspapers (like USA Today), FidoNet, whatever.  A lot of times 
it's up to the Sysop's imagination and budget.

Users, remember always that you are a guest of the system in which you 
are calling. If you don't like a particular BBS, then don't call it. 
If you do, give the sysop a pat on the back by leaving him/her a 
message stating so. This is probably the most any sysop will get as 
far as appreciation. Remain active on the BBS you like. Get involved 
with the messages. Everyone loves to get "mail," but as always you must 
send some to get some. If you can get an answer from some of the other 
users instead of the sysop, do so. The sysop is often busy, and of 
course will answer any question you have if he/she can, but asking 
another user gets more people involved, and spreads the same 
information to a larger audience. If you have a file that the system 
doesn't have, and it seems to agree with the function of the BBS then 
upload it.  The sysop will appreciate it as well as the other users. 
Of course it takes time, but usually the time will be given back, and
at times a bit of extra time will be allotted to you.

Well that's it for this week. next week I'll talk a bit more about the 
things that make having a BBS enjoyable, and at times a headache. In 
the meantime, if you have any questions or experiences you would like 
to share drop me a line.