June 13, 2005
I knew when the documentary hit the streets, I'd have to hit the ground running. I didn't realize the running would then continue and I'd never be able to stop any time soon. It's now been a couple weeks of release, and I am over here going in a thousand different directions, handling many related documentary issues, working harder than I think I've worked on anything in my life.

The documentary itself? I split the effort across years; I definitely was working every night for a good number of months, but the effort was progressive and I could stop and go to sleep and then wake up, and keep working. There were pre-orders out there initiating me to keep the pace going, but it wasn't a relentless torrent of needs. Now it is.

A lot of this is because I chose to do the distribution myself. There's pros and cons to this, mostly pros; I know the stuff is going out, is being treated well, and it's easier to handle custom or specific requests by folks (autographs, included greeting cards, and so on). A couple orders were skipped from the pre-orders because I transcribed them wrong, and a few people who got pre-orders that were hand-assembled got missing discs. In all cases, I did my best to make up for those screwups.

An aside about customer service: sometimes I can't believe what passes for treating people who give you money with respect. I recognize that for some people the $50 documentary is an impulse buy, but for others, it's a walk-outside-for-a-while, bring-it-up-with-your-spouse-for-discussion investment. I am not being superlative; I have recieved letters indicating it was a bit of a hardship to pay this money, and some people had to save up for it, as others might save up for a new stereo or TV. For that kind of personal cost, people deserve and should get the best response from me they can get. If they are missing pieces, they get the pieces sent. If they need a question about shipping answered, I answer immediately or tell them I need to find out... and then tell them as soon as I can. Anything else is unacceptable, to me or to the people who are buying this documentary.

I have recieved a good amount of online attention at this point; articles in Wired News, BoingBoing, Creative Commons Weblog, and a bunch of other places. I've had some interesting mails come out of these articles, including a lot of corrections on the data on the website, and additional information.

With each wave of publicity and exposure, a new wave of people hear about this documentary for the first time. I can imagine their reaction, which would have been mine: an open-mouthed, stumbling walk towards this unbelievable pile of personal history, presented in a professional package and ready to bring home immediately. This was the reaction I had when I found out about the Mindcandy Demo DVD, which was a personal inspiration for this project. There's so many projects like this out there for us, and getting the word out is tough. A bunch of online high-profile sites was relatively easy; it is going to be difficult for me to go in further directions. But I am trying.

I appear on Christopher Lydon's Open Source Radio this upcoming tuesday, talking about a side archiving project I'm involved in. It doesn't tell people about the documentary, but it does let them know who I am. I'll be doing a few more appearances during the year, including at:

The Deviant Art Summit



So yes, my days are full, full of packing and shipping, of labelling and sorting, of getting yelled at by the post office, and recieving dozens of letters, thank yous and insights and wishes and dreams.

It is a very nice life I live.

June 6, 2005

The manifest/tracking information had indicated that my "appointment" to meet my freight was at 6pm on Monday. Imagine my surprise (and my choice of clothing) when in fact it was 10am. The FedEx guy came to my front door and behind him, a semi was blocking the road outside my house:

It seemed to make a lot more sense to pull into my side street instead of blocking a major commuter road, so he pulled up near the driveway, and opened the truck to reveal three pallets of BBS documentary DVDs.

I made a few desperate calls out to friends to maybe help, but the 10am time meant that basically everyone had a job or a previous engagement, so there I was staring at a couple hundred boxes of DVD sets in the driveway.

2 very energetic hours later, I had loaded these hundreds of boxes into the basement, ready to go into the eventual office I've set up in my attic for shipping and tracking orders.

I think we're now officially at the end of "production" and completely in the "sale" and "publicity" phase of the BBS Documentary. With 4,000 copies of this thing in my basement, I think the motivation is there to tell as many people as possible about this project, and get them out the door. Here's the physical side to the theoretical arguments I've made about creative commons and what people look for in a product. If I sell a lot, this pile gets smaller. If I do not, it stays like it is and I have a new roommate.


We have here, in box form, a dream I first considered back in the summer of 2001 and which I strove to accomplish in the ensuing years; it is, in other words, a dream come true.

Now let's see how many people share/want this dream as well.

June 2, 2005
The big payoff happens early next week. There are a couple hundred people who are getting copies of the documentary, gratis. These people range from a number of sources, and they all deserve copies.

Anyone who was interviewed gets a free copy. I think that's pretty logical. So there's 205 going out right there. Some interviewees pre-ordered, which was very kind, and they got two copies instead of the one they ordered.

Anyone whose music I used (under a creative commons license) is entitled to a free copy. They wrote this stuff, and down I came and used it in the production. They deserve a copy of a work that plays their music.

There are about 5 ANSI artists who contributed artwork that is on the packaging. They come from all over the world, and they get one for themselves. For some of them, I may be the first professionally published version of their ANSIs.

A number of people contributed translations of the subtitles. Not all were used, but they're all getting copies.

And some people, my biggest regret, were scheduled and set up for interviews and various problems and accidents made it so I never actually showed up, leaving them at the altar. They get some too.

I mention this because even a one-man operation like this documentary might seem still touches a lot of lives and still requires a lot of help from many people to come to fruition. It's not much, but I want these folks to have their own piece of this thing that came to be.

June 1, 2005

Here we are, wading into the deep waters of the selling phase of the documentary, and I'm doing my best to put the same work into this part as I did in making it in the first place.

Hundreds of DVD boxes have gone out; I'd put pictures up but they'd look about the same as the pictures from previous entries; big stacks of DVDs packaged into white boxes with labels on top. A few people have ordered 2 or more, and they get larger white boxes. One person ordered 20! He gets a very large box indeed.

The faces of the workers at the Fort Point South Station post office location now visibly sink when I come in with my death pile of the night. Sometimes, I've been able to get things together enough to have pre-printed internet postage on them (you have to drop off all your pre-paid boxes the same day you buy the postage, so everything has to be in perfect sync to do this). But often, I just come in with a stack of 50, maybe for the second or third time that day, and I take my number, smiling. And they call the numbers one by one, glancing at each other, wondering who's going to get Jason this time. If I'm feeling frisky, I start to pretend to get up after each number just to watch them shrink back in horror. But usually I'm called pretty quickly and then I'm drafted in doing some of the process with them, like stamping everything "Air Mail" or the like. Yes, even at the post office, I'm working.

Throughout the past week, I've been getting reports from people getting copies. Some are in other countries, so the whole customs thing is working out for me. Some are down the street or a couple towns over.

Cross your fingers for me, but so far, I haven't gotten a response along the line of "holy crap, it's crap, no I mean really crap, this is crap". Instead, people are telling me that it was just what they were hoping it would be. Never trust excerpts from letters by a guy selling the item being talked about, but here's some excerpts:

"My buddy Mark and I sat with a few cocktails and watched the entire set over the last couple of days. Nice work! That was awesome stuff. I think you got just the right tone; appreciative but not overly-reverent, and interested (and interesting) without being gushy."

"The BBS documentary is FANTASTIC! I spent all weekend watching every vid while coding and I'm still coding and watching it again! The production and package quality is Amazing. I am very very very impressed."

"Solid for sure. I never thought a documentary episode about compression, of all things, could bring tears to my eyes."

"Doing video production work for many years, I also thought you did a real good job with the technical aspects of the video. You can tell it's well done when the technical construction of the video doesn't distract from the content of the piece. I've watched many videos that had a great topic and storyline, but the technical execution is so poor that you spend your time distracted by the jump cuts, poor transitions, etc. This one, however sounded good, interviews looked good, the video was clear, there was just enough cutaways of historic clips/screenshots/etc to keep the flow nice and keep the interest of the viewer."

"What good memories! I loved the documentary! I watched all three DVD's in three evenings. Kept me glued to the TV like I haven't been in a long time. Good work, bravo!!"

"Well you've done a terrific job with what you've put together. To ask for a sequel at this time does seem to be a bit much to ask, especially with all the work and effort you've gone through to put together this set. What can I say though, I'm tremendously excited that somebody's finally done this and I'm already screaming "MORE, MORE!!!" :-)"

There's a few dozen more like that. You can imagine how good it feels for me to know that people are coming home or getting into work, finding a nice package with "BIS Productions" on the label, opening it, and finding a glittering DVD box with a big logo on it, inside of which is a massive set of films about bulletin boards. It is what I would have wanted to find myself on the internet and ordered without a moment's thought.

Watching the first episode of Motorcycle Mania (the documentary that started the shooting star of Jesse James of Monster Garage) got me re-interested in the documentary form, but it was another project which got me thinking that I could do it myself.

That was a project called Mindcandy, which is a top-quality work by the members of the demo group Hornet. It contains full-quality versions of old PC "demos", which are basically homegrown pieces of software that do incredible tricks with graphics and sound in real-time. Be rest assured, the way that some people heard about my project and went "MUST HAVE NOW", I did the same with this project.

I started interacting with the creators, and helped get them mentioned on Slashdot, which helped sell a few. After talking with them, I got inspired to think I could maybe do a DVD project myself.

In fact, I used the same DVD production house they did, Bullseye Disc. Curtis, Shelby and Dawn of Bullseye have been dealing with me for over a year as I put this project together, talking wildly about doing a three DVD-9 set with 8-panel digipak, which, trust me, is like walking into a car dealership and going "yeah, give me the Saturn V Rocket". They informed me, helped me make decisions, took my money and in return let me take literately business days of their time with a thousand insane details. They took it all in stride and in fact the final product is even better than what my initial plans were. That's good work, right there.

Jim "Trixter" Leonard of Hornet helped with the DVD itself by answering all of my nail-biting questions on formats and interlace and region encoding (or lack of). He also went over the episodes with a fine tooth comb and helped me clear out a ton of weirdness and errors; for this he earned the nickname "The Eye of Doom" and has a credit in the production notes as a result. He wasn't the only one helping me on all these levels, either, let me be clear.

So you see how one project inspires another and then inspires another. I hope, down the line, that someone will see this documentary and go "Wow, I bet I could do that, and better." and some subject, some narrative story out there will come into being where before it might not have. They'll contact me, I'll tell them everything I know, and they'll go to the next level. That's how it works in the world. Inspiration, improvement, innovation.

Would I like to sell a million of these? You bet. Is that the overriding reason I did this? No. I did this because I saw a dearth of information, a lack of story being told of the human side of the bulletin board system and the unique social aspects of it, and I thought I could put together a film or set of films that would tell that story and fill an incredibly huge void. That void is now filled. People can, at least, go "yeah, it was like in the BBS documentary, but there was this part and this story as well." This way, people can tell more of what's going on without getting trapped up in trying to explain what a BBS was in the first place.

Similarly, I do not think it should stop with my film being the end-all be-all of this story: I hope there are BBS documentaries to come, told by others with other points of view (you can't make a documentary and not edit in a point of view) and which will take the body of knowledge even further. There's a lot of material in this story, far beyond anything I could have done with my five and a half hours.

If you bought this documentary already, and you think it's good, please spread the word about it. What I see out there in many cases is skepticism that this thing could be at all worth watching, and as people are finding out, it is worth watching. The more people who know, the better to getting this project out to the folks who didn't know it was done and who will be floored and delighted such a DVD set exists.

More soon.

May 27, 2005
It has been quite a full week. The first of many involving this project from the more enjoyable "it's done" side than the previous "I'm almost done, I promise" side. It is really a great feeling to have this sort of a project under one's belt, finished, the efforts complete and the big situation being to get as many people aware of the DVD being for sale as possible.


I have autographed until I was sick of my own name, I have declared in hundreds of custom forms that my DVD box is not a biological weapon, and I have put together massive boxes of multiple orders that people were kind enough to put down some big money for.

The downtown post office depot I used for the previous big mailing is open until midnight on weeknights. I went down at 8pm with 3 international packages, to see if I'd done them right. I'd done them right. I then went home and did it another hundred times, and then took this huge stack of boxes back to the post office... at 11:40pm. Needless to say, I got a nice lecture from the post office person, who was about as pleased to see me walking in with a rolling cart of boxes as most individuals would be to see their car sink into a lake. But they rallied again, opening three simultaneous windows for me and getting through them in about 20 minutes.

Orders have come in from Norway, Sweden, Japan, China, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, France, England, Croatia, Germany, and another bunch beyond that. And now they're on their way. Air Mail, by the way.

More and more people are finding out about this project, and I am pleased about that because there is a DVD to send them immediately upon recieving their order. It's a great feeling to see the message come in that someone has ordered, reach over, and fill a mailer, ready to go out to them that night or the next morning. I'm going to try and focus on good customer service and responsiveness, like any decent place that sells a product should.

I am open to press interviews, articles, film festivals, reviewers, anyone who wants a piece of the BBS Documentary Guy. I am

I was recently mentioned on Slashdot and Boing Boing, and this drove a lot of hits (and orders) to the site. Hello, everyone!

Since some people are coming in new and wonder what the deal is, let me put these statements in:

  • The documentary has not "sold out". There are thousands of copies coming.
  • You can request an autographed copy. Or not.
  • It is 8 episodes and bonus footage, not one long documentary.

The rest of this documentary site has more details. If you feel the site should have more details on a given subject, don't hesitate to write me.

I've already started getting responses from people who have seen the documentary and I hope to add a review section soon. Generally, people who pre-ordered the work based on my pitches and descriptions have been very pleased, and some have gone the BBS Iditarod and watched all the episodes straight through. Like a person selling high-octane fuel, I must suggest against this approach. Regardless, people are now telling me that we have a winner, and my happiness is unparalleled about this. All I can say is, if you like it, spread the word.

May 23, 2005
The vast majority of the DVDs have shipped! Hundreds went out on Sunday, and another hundred went out today. I will post conclusively when every last single pre-order is out the door, but I'm expecting most of them to be done within the day.

The remaining orders are:

Autographed copies (because there's an additional packing step)

Orders of more than 1 (special boxes)

Foreign/Overseas orders (forms, forms, forms)

Assembling the final packages was a lot of work; even though I'd assembled everything as far as I could previously, the last disk required not making the slipcovers and putting the case in until just before packing. This was an enormous amount of time required to put these together, but it does mean that people will be getting their DVDs up to a week before they would have if I'd just waited for the truck to come with the pre-assembled pieces.

I spent basically all Friday and Saturday packing all these boxes, verifying addresses, getting things sorted, and generally preparing for the onslaught of mail. The dining room was used for assembling the packages, and then the kitchen became the shipping depot, with stacks of packaged, labelled DVDs ready to go:

There is a post office in Boston that is open 24 hours and is staffed on Sundays, and so I showed up with my many, many boxes and gave them big, soulful eyes. They lent me a mailing cart and with the help of my friend Charlie, we sent out a car-load's worth of these things:

Surprisingly, the post office took this guy showing up with an insane amount of boxes in stride, and the two nice ladies who were manning the desk initiated a two-part load-balanced stamping operation, which slammed through the stuff in about 15 minutes:

Finally, here I am with the reciepts for an enormous amount of mailed-out packages:

Quite a trip. Like I said, another bunch went out today, more go out tomorrow, and the "odd" pre-orders (multiples and other issues) are going out around this time as well. It turns out I have to fill out an enormous amount of forms for shipping overseas, and this will delay people, but not by much and I expect to have the whole thing cleared this week.

It was definitely worth all the effort, because some of you have waited seven months, and a week makes a difference; be aware, if you get a box for your pre-order, the director assembled, packed and shipped it himself.

I suspect one or two of you got two copies for the price of one. Congratulations.

Then begins the inevitable fun of returned/misaddressed packages, bounced checks, chargebacks, and all the rest of the fun that comes with mailing out "stuff" into the world at large. Oh, and the reviews. Did I mention the reviews!

Stay tuned.

May 17, 2005

This arrived today:

So here's the best part. Only discs 2 and 3 arrived. Disc 1 is supposed to arrive tomorrow. It's like Zeno's Paradox, except with DVDs. As was explained to me by my friendly printing elves, the duplication of the three discs are three separate projects, and the assembly is a fourth. I have been sent the outcome of the first two, and hopefully the third is on its way, and then it's a race; can Jason assemble and mail these out before the truck arrives with unbelievable amounts of discs?

It's not like there's not a lot to do, since I have to be assembling the packages, putting the labels on the boxes, and so on. It's just really insane that there's that one annoying step.

They look great, though, hard to argue with that.

So, I didn't call the people who asked for a call yet because they do NOT get a call until the packages are dropped off at the post office. (In case some of the people reading this are wondering why they didn't get a call yet).

May 16, 2005

So I woke up to the Fedex guy ringing my doorbell and found that he had 11 boxes for me.

9 of them are DVD cases and 2 are slipcovers. Just so we're all clear, I am still waiting on the actual DVDs to arrive, which is supposed to happen this week.

Goodness, there's a lot of them. I'm in the process of autographing the copies I said I would autograph, to match them with labels and then wait for the DVDs to show so that I can pop them in and mail these things out.

Unfortunately, some boxes arrived damaged... but luckily, not enough to affect pre-orders. I am working this all out with the shippers, and the reason this happened is because I've been monkey-wrenching my printer's procedures to force a drop shipment of DVDs and cases so I could assemble them myself, faster than their people who are assigned to the job. So they basically sent me a bunch of boxes of boxes in a weird way and Fedex was a tad rough with them, and so now I have to go file a claim with Fedex.

I only bring this up because it's an interesting insight into "The Process". I'm sure for people who do this sort of work all day, it's all part of the job; it's "oh, this box got dinged, we do procedure X Y Z and we're back in business." But of course this is all the first time through for me so I go bugnuts. I actually made the mistake of calling the printers before a time-out period, and I ended up having to call back about an hour later so they could see I was Bruce Banner again.

"The Process" is usually hidden from people because a person with an item to provide wants to make their customer/audience feel like it's all magic, all going on behind the scenes and you don't have to worry your nice little head about this headache or that headache. Since I don't mind my life serving as a warning to others, I've tried to be transparent about the whole thing as I've gone. I expect to do a post-mortem discussion/essay about what went well and what didn't, and I hope people use that to some degree in their own projects. Rest assured, "The Process" has a lot of ups and downs and what the list in your head might have as a single item, like "get copies of the DVD" or "send it to the printer", turns out to be 20 little steps that all require attention before that one single step is really "done".

So here we are with this special shipment has already filled my dining room with boxes.

I can assure you it is quite surreal to stare down hundreds of copies of your "product", when that product was nothing but a dream a while earlier, a goal or plan that you had ideas about but nothing more. To go from sitting in my old apartment going "I'm going to make a movie!" to standing near an open box with dozens of "the movie" looking expectantly back... it's quite a feeling.

And I ordered a lot more than just these. Someone asked me recently if they'd "missed the boat", that I'd made the same amount of DVDs to match the number of pre-orders and after that, they were "done" and there wouldn't be any more. Let me be the first to assure everyone... I HAVE PLENTY. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. Plenty for everyone. And if I sell out, I will make more.

My goal had always been to tell the story of the BBS as best I could, or, if I hadn't told some parts as well as people liked, inspire them to improve upon the foundation I'd set up. To that end, after spending years making this mini-series, I intend to do my best to get it to as many people as possible. And if, once you've seen this documentary, feel you want to, tell as many people about it as you think can stand the news. I'll ensure I have copies ready for them.

I am going to spend a lot time talking to folks about this work. I will be speaking to a lot of people in hallways, on stages, on radio and wherever else they'll let me talk. I expect to have some heated arguments and I know I'll continue to get the interesting mix of accolades and put-downs I've gotten so far.

It's going to be quite fun to do so. Because this is a solid, sizeable "thing". At five and a half hours of episodes, I would hope I'd covered an awful lot. There's a range of emotions and situations and statements and stories in there, far greater than I would have imagined. And now they're protected for the forseeable future, soon to blossom on screens and laptops around the world. Good stuff.

May 12, 2005
Letter from my printers:

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 11:50:35 -0700
To: 'Jason Scott'
Subject: Scheduling delays ...

Hey Jason - Wanted to let you know that current capacity 
is causing delays for DVD production.

Here's the latest scheduling information that we have - 
looks like the replication of the discs is now scheduled to 
be complete tue/wed of next week (5/17-18) - once that's 
completed - the discs get forwarded to the assembly 
queue, and the manual assembly and final pack-out scheduling 
would have the first discs probably shipping-out the end of
next week.

Now, I can request that the plant ship you about 500 each
of the BULK discs and 500 each of the DVD-Digi's and Slipcases,
and you could assemble them yourselves - I would, of course,
back-out the assembly costs that we have in our pricing 
for those 500...

Sending bulk items to you would get you materials at least 
a few days before you would receive the assembled first batch.

Let me know if you're interested in this option, 
and I'll see what the plant says.

None of this would be as problematic or concerning for me, if I hadn't implied, committed, and otherwise promised people this whole thing would be going out the door in December of 2004. It has been very troubling for me how much I misjudged. This is a small delay but it has been on top of a dozen small delays. For this, I apologize to everyone who has ordered it, for my incredible delay in finally shipping.

It's real, it's actual; I've shown one or two episodes to groups of folks, so it's not vaporware or anything, but man, what an annoying time delay. I've learned a lot about DVD production, mostly that it is expensive and time-intensive. Now I know why they say a film is going to DVD and then everyone sits on their hands for 3 months.

A bunch of people, upon finding out that I was willing to autograph these, have asked me to autograph their copy. I have no problems doing this at all, so don't be afraid to ask.

I've been working on the website, with a few new subpages going live soon, allowing you to download music from the films, get an introduction to BBSes, and so on.

May 10, 2005
1000 packing boxes arrived this past week. These are what the DVD sets will be going into to be mailed out. $800 worth of packing boxes looks like this:

The printing company has told me that, barring the standard "unforseen circumstances", I should see the first 500 DVD box sets show up at my home anytime from this Thursday to next Monday. I have paid for next-day air and will pay for Saturday Delivery if necessary. It all comes down to when the boxes are ready to go. I have stressed the importance of quick turnaround on my printer, have no fear.

Once they arrive, I kick into high gear, signing the ones with autograph requests, packing up the boxes, and preparing the whole thing for a series of quick shipments out the door. I have no plans to really sleep until all of the back orders have shipped.

Once all the kind, kind folks who ordered a copy get sent their purchased copies, I start sending out free copies to everyone who was interviewed. After that, I send them out to the press and to a number of film festivals (hey, why not). And then I wait with held breath as the world learns once more about the BBS.

May 3, 2005
I recieved the last check disc in the shower.

Actually, I was showering when FedEx arrived with a stack of check discs of the first DVD of the set, which close-watching fans know was the remaining disc to go through the approval process. As was proven by Disc 3, submitting a dual-layer DVD instead of a couple of DLT tapes was the trick, and the whole thing came out working just as I had both expected and hoped.

So that's it, the final piece of the puzzle has been locked into place and the printing has begun! I am paying to have a subset of the discs shipped to my house so I can get them out to people absolutely as soon as possible.

Watch this space for the updates in the adventures of a filmmaker who has spent 4 years making a film and watching it encounter the Real World.

NEWS ARCHIVE (01/2003-04/2005)
NEWS ARCHIVE (08/2001-10/2002)