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Online San Diego

From the May 23, 1997 ComputorEdge (Issue 1521)

By Jim Trageser

This column is nothing if not a place for folks from San Diego's online community to kvetch about the state of San Diego's cyberspace. Kelly Witt ( wrote in recently about the decline of the BBS system; some of Kelly's comments follow, with my thoughts after:

I was very dismayed to find out this evening that one of San Diego's premier BBSs will be going down in the near future. Robert Eddy, of The Brewery BBS, announced that due to a lack of interest, he will taking down his board; a board which has been up since the '80s.

Why am I telling you this? I am bringing this to your attention because Robert Eddy's BBS is not the first casualty of the Surf the Net' craze. Where once sysops had 50-plus callers a day, it is now more common to see maybe 50 a week. What is happening to our beloved BBS systems? Once the pioneer of telecommunications for the Average Joe, the BBS has now fallen victim to the AOLs and Netscapes of the Web.'

Don't get me wrong, the Internet has opened up doors which were never thought to exist. However, I feel that the Internet is overrated. Nothing can replace the intimacy and camaraderie found on a local BBS. The Internet itself, in my opinion, has been reduced to a collection of fluff' Web pages mixed in with a plethora of advertising and actual useful information. ...

In the March 27 issue, you reported that many sysops feel cautiously optimistic' about the future of BBSs. While that may be so, I don't think sysops should settle for just surviving.' I would much rather hear that BBSs are well and thriving! As my example about Robert shows, even the well-establish sysops are calling it quits. Can we turn this around? I sure hope so!

My suggestion would be to go back to promoting BBSs through listings and reviews (thank you for throwing in a BBS in Online San Diego now and then). Perhaps ComputorEdge would like to consider printing a feature article on the decline of local BBS use. With some effort, I think we can win back some of those Netheads'!

Regular readers know that I certainly share many of Kelly's concerns. I do think, however, that the dial-up BBS has seen its zenith – more even that the slick graphics provided by html>, I think it's the ability to surf millions of sites with only one phone call that explains the popularity of the World Wide Web. Those bulletin boards that not only survive but thrive will be those whose sysops recognize that reality and adapt their systems accordingly. Within the past few weeks, I've reviewed several BBSs that had both dial-up and Web options – those boards will survive.

A BBS need not be a dial-up site; but a good BBS is more than a simple Web site. A BBS should offer local and netted conversation groups, a file bank, online games – all the things that can help create a sense of place. It is that sense of place that keeps people coming back, and it's those repeat visitors who eventually become the regulars that transform a BBS from a phone number or URL into a community.

Obviously, what defines a BBS is not dependent on the outdated technology with which we are familiar, as proven by the new software packages that allow a sysop to make a BBS' features available via a Web site.

Will BBSs survive? Absolutely but just as they'll have to adapt and evolve to meet the demands of an increasingly sophisticated market, so will those of us who have been around for awhile have to allow our expectations to adapt as well.