Contents | < Browse | Browse >

===========================================================================
                               PiggyBacking
  James Burton                                   James@Snark.apana.org.au
===========================================================================

Riding on the clone's back.
---------------------------

For too long the Amiga world has been riding on the back of other
organisations.  Amiga shops were Amiga shops only because they sold Amiga
hardware and software, fair enough you might think - but they also sell
clone software and hardware.  While there is nothing intrinsically wrong
with a shop doing this, shops are small businesses after all and it is
difficult for small businesses to survive in this cutthroat industry, it
seems to me that there is plenty wrong with it.  The complaint I am making
is that the shops are FORCED to sell clone equipment because they cannot
make enough money to survive by only selling Amiga equipment.  Shops are
not the only place where we can see this problem.  Just look at what has
been happening in magazines.  Only in Britain are there enough magazines
solely devoted to the Amiga to support the needs of that country.  In
Australia we only have one magazine that is sorely in need of competition,
and that survives mostly because of it's sister magazine which is PC based.
I understand that the same problem exists in the U.S.  Even in the
supposedly good old days around 1990 companies like Electronic Arts - an
Amiga company through and through still felt it necessary to make money
from the world of clones.  Nowadays of course they have dropped most of
their Amiga lines.  How many of you remember the days before AmiNet?  Do
you remember ftp'ing to ab20.larc.nasa.gov?  Do you remember that the best
way to get Amiga programs was to go to your local usergroup and copy a few
Fish discs?  Or maybe to concatenate and uudecode the pieces that came
through on the newsgroup comp.binaries.amiga, if all the pieces appeared. 
To me these are all exaples of how NOT to run the Amiga community.  By
relying on mechanisms put in place for other communities, and by leaving
problems up to others - it is on this that I believe we can place the blame
fairly and squarely.  The blame for what?  The blame for the Amiga's
seeming lack of success.  Despite almost all the odds being in the Amiga's
favour, technical superiority, far better prices, more interesting software
etc., we still got so close to extinction that it is not funny.  We must
never get that close to disaster again.  Let's think ahead, look at the
long term prosperity and find the energy and self confidence to boost the
Amiga community up so far it won't come down for another ten years if at
all.

Backbone
--------

So far I have only told you half the story.  I conveniently left out the
best part until now to make a point.  The point that needs to be made is
that we as Amiga users have already been standing on our own.  We have
enough backbone to carry us forward.  It's just that the backbone we have
only has 1 or 2 instances and needs much development.  Think about what
Urban Mueller and the AmiNet crew have done, and Fred Fish before them. 
These are examples of how Amiga people have used their creativity and
skills to build their own organisational structure.  To put it plainly -
the Amiga would be nothing without Fred Fish.  There would be a few BBSs
around the world doing their best to find non-commercial Amiga programs and
for the rest of their applications users would rely on expensive commercial
programs.  Fred Fish collected and made available an enourmous library of
public domain, freely redistributable and shareware programs.   He
distributed Eric Schwartz's award winning animations.  He essentially
created the drive for the public network scene we have today.  He also
single handedly kept the prices of commercial software right down. 

Around 1991 when FTP became feasible for more than a few universities in
North America, the floppy disc based distribution system that Fred set up
started to wear out.  Authors of various freebie products started uploading
their material directly to ab20.larc.nasa.gov.  This rendered Tad Guy's
work on comp.binaries.amiga less popular as well.  It was then that Urban
Mueller and the AmiNet crew stepped in.  They set up (again like Fred an
Amiga first) the best public distribution network in the world.  Today it
is still the envy of users of other platforms.  Info-mac is just not the
same somehow.  Most of the Microsoft archives are commercial.  Only the
Amiga crowd have done it right.  lets hear the important keywords again;
PUBLIC, WORLD-WIDE, AMIGA SPECIFIC.  It seems to me that it is all about
the self confidence to see a problem, work out an innovative solution, and
implement it properly the first time around.  You'll wince when I say it,
but Apple does this regularly.  They created eWorld - their online service
(nice idea, pity about the implementation).  But they are brave enough to
try.

Actually there are many other efforts at collaboration currently happening
in the Amiga community.  Everything from Amiga Report, the UNIX port crews
(Linux and NetBSD), the AmigaOS Replacement Project just to mention a few.
But the problem with these is that they are small fragmented pieces of
order in a large sea of chaos.  What we as the Amiga community really need
to do is to create our own backbone.  Why not start our own international
online service?  Why not start our own international chain of Amiga shops?
But we still need glue to stick these pieces together no matter how large
the pieces are.  We need a structure to make these seemingly impossible
tasks quite possible.  This is where the International Amiga Society comes
into the picture.  What other platform has a single unified international
user group?  Answer: none.  This will be an Amiga first again (all these
Amiga firsts are getting boring).  The International Amiga Society (IAS for
short) is an attempt to band together Amiga users everywhere into a single
organisation.  It will not work if we fragment or follow self interest.  It
will not work properly unless we all join in.  But knowing the history, the
story of Amiga people it will definately work.

The IAS
-------

Currently the IAS consists of a group of dedicated people who want to build
this backbone slowly but surely.  We have some small and simple ideas to
start with and then we can build up to larger ideas that might perhaps
require funding at a later stage.  The first priority is to find out who is
in, and who is out.  Once we have built a database of all Amiga usergroups,
then we have access to every Amiga user worldwide.  What can we do with
that?  Well thousands of things.  It gives us a lot of power as a group. 
If we can use that power for the good of the community, rather than letting
it dissipate then we will have really achieved something.  Perhaps one of
the most important things to use that power for is to influence the new
owner of the Amiga, Amiga Technologies.  This is of course a very new
company, and they are very much still finding their feet, let alone forging
ahead with new products (as many people expect them to be doing).  But no
matter what they are going to turn out to be like, they are a company
nonetheless, just like Commodore was.  And it is because they are a normal
company that we should worry about whether they will survive.  At crucial
points there may be things that we, as an organised userbase can do to help
the company.

As an example, although you should remember that we have many many ideas
that could very easily be implemented with the IAS fully operating, lets
look at the problem of name brand recognition.  Name brand recognition
means that the name of a particular manufacturer is known casually to
everybody in the marketplace.  It is a serious goal for large companies.  
It is very hard to sell a product when your market has never heard of the
manuacturer.  So in attacking for example the U.S.  market, Amiga
Technologies will be very concerned that any advertising or promotion they
do will fall on deaf ears, because nobody has heard of the company.  What
better project for a group of hundreds of thousands of American Amiga
users?  The IAS would coordinate teams of Amiga users to distribute
stickers, posters, press releases, magazine adverts, local paper adverts,
and anything else that's cheap, but time consuming.  Even a letter writing
campaign to the editors of major newspapers like the New York Times.  
Anything is possible, with the correct coordination.  With such a
gargantuan effort on their side, Amiga Technologies could afford to try a
small advertising campaign, nowhere near the size of DIGITAL, Microsoft or
Apple's recent campaigns but significant nonetheless.

We need you
-----------

Of course the first thing that each of you must do is to register with the
IAS.  This costs no money and has many benefits.  If you are a member of a
usergroup then get a spokesperson from that usergroup to register the
group.  The same goes for dealerships, developer companies, suppliers and
any other Amiga related organisation, or organisation that uses Amigas.  
Once we have a complete database then we can move forward like never
before.  We (The IAS) plan to set up activities and projects that we could
only dream of up until now.  We will inject more excitement into the
computing world than it has ever known before.  So to make this work we
really need you.  We need you for your ideas, we need you for your
organising skills, we especially need creative people who can do graphics,
write programs, collect information to put on web pages, but most of all we
need your energy, enthusiasm and commitment.  Just to give you an idea of
what we are planning, here is our schedule:

    (1) launch IAS (October 5 1995)
        - this happened on the 5th of october
    (2) create database giving access to ALL amiga users around the world
        - we are currently still trying to provoke people to register
    (3) start small projects
        - Workbench snap of the month competition
        - Anthology of funny Amiga stories (talk to
          johan@artworks.apana.org.au)

    (4) build a large strong community
        - the Amiga has always had a community feeling, we need to
          encourage that feeling to grow by scheduling regular events
        - The Jay Miner awards (person who has done the most for Amiga this
          year...)
        - Annual Amiga cultural festival (latest mod music technology,
          latest video hardware, live presentations by Amiga artists)
        - Monthly IRC meetings for all members
        - Internet radio Amiga (gloabl radio station)
        - eventually Amiga T.V., VR-chat system
        - theme weeks (first week of each month has a theme, a good time to
          release relevant products, hold conferences, other events.)
        - hall of Amiga fame (Fred Fish, Dave Haynie, Dale Larson, RJ
          Mical, ...)

    (5) start large projects
        - large software or hardware development projects
        - development support structure (not just software and hardware)
        - Name Brand Recognition campaign

As you can see there are no times on the schedule, that is because we don't
yet have many people who can make these ideas into reality.  If you have
ideas we would be delighted to hear from you, and to help you set yourself
up to implement them.  Please feel free to ask questions or to discuss
anything with us.  A registration form is included below.  The contact
email address is IAS-Queries@ArtWorks.apana.org.au

+-------------------------------------------------------------------------+

             IAS - Internation Amiga Society Registration Form 
             to be sent to IAS-Register@ArtWorks.apana.org.au
             or by mail to the address

The International Amiga Society
P.O. Box 201
Kingsbury 3083
Victoria, Australia

Full Name : __________________________________________________________

Commonly used Nickname : _____________________________________________

Address : ____________________________________________________________

          ____________________________________________________________

          ____________________________________________________________

Country : _______________

Organisation/Company : _______________________________________________

                       _______________________________________________

                       _______________________________________________

Email Addresses : ____________________________________________________

WWW Page : ___________________________________________________________

+-------------------------------------------------------------------------+