Full Description of File
Effective Shareware distribution via the BBS
channel v1.1. This text describes ways to
get widespread BBS distribution for your
Shareware, and how to package it so that the
maximum number of Sysops post it, and people
Contents of the BBSTIP11.TXT file
Effective Shareware distribution via the BBS channel
Suggested BBS filename: BBSTIP11.ZIP
This text will describe ways to get widespread BBS distribution for
your Shareware, and how to package it so that the maximum number of
Sysops post it, and people download it.
This entire text is Copyright 1992 by Jay Caplan, ALL rights reserved
worldwide. Any specific software names used in this text are the
(registered) trademarks of specific companies. You are hereby given
permission to copy and distribute this text by any means, provided
that you do NOT alter it in ANY way, and that you distribute it in
its entirety. If this text is distributed as a compressed computer
file, I expressly forbid any files to be added to the original
compressed distribution file.
This text is based on my prepared remarks presented while on the
"Interacting with Distributors" panel at the 1992 Summer Shareware
Seminar, sponsored in part by the Association of Shareware
Professionals (ASP). I can be reached at my board, The Consultant BBS
at 718-837-3236, an ASP Approved BBS, or through Compuserve at
Getting widespread BBS distribution
The first thing to realize is that there are a number of key
distribution points. They are "feeder systems" for many BBSes, online
services, and even disk vendors. By getting your Shareware placed on
these feeder BBSes, you will get excellent distribution of your
Shareware. After placing your Shareware on these systems, you should
place it on other BBSes. Suggestions follow this listing.
Please note that the first 4 BBSes listed are ASP approved BBSes, and
hence will get any disks sent in the monthly ASP disk mailing.
Participation in the monthly ASP disk mailing is STRONGLY recommended!
Exec PC 414-789-4210
Bob Mahoney ASP Approved BBS with 250 lines.
PO Box 57 Running custom software.
Elm Grove, WI 53122
Canada Remote Systems 416-629-7000
Jud Newell ASP Approved BBS with 108 lines.
#D 1331 Crestlawn Dr Running PCBoard.
Mississauga, ON L4W 2P9
Channel 1 617-354-8873 and 617-354-3230
Tess Heder/Brian Miller ASP Approved BBS with 60 lines.
PO Box 338 Running PCBoard.
Cambridge, MA 02238
The Invention Factory 212-431-1194
Michael Sussell ASP Approved BBS with 44 lines.
321 Greenwich St Running PCBoard.
New York, NY 10013
Computer Connections 202-547-2008
Robert Blacher 202-547-3037 - uploads only
253 12th Street, SE Influential BBS with 4 lines.
Washington, DC 20003 Running PCBoard.
Compuserve - place your Shareware in appropriate forums. Suggested
forums include ZiffNet/PBS (GO ZNT:PBS) and IBMAPP. To get a FREE
Compuserve starter kit, with a $15 usage credit, call 800-848-8199 (or
614-457-0822) and ask for operator 162. This offer is courtesy of the
After getting your Shareware to the BBSes above, then you should work
on getting it to other BBSes. One logical strategy is to make sure
that your Shareware is placed on one or more large, multi-node BBSes
in every significant media market, or better yet, every state.
Computer Shopper Magazine has a national BBS listing by state (the
list is published every other month).
There are 2 other major national BBS lists (both updated at least
1) USBBS - USBBSxx.ZIP, where xx = version number
2) THELIST - BBSmmddv.ZIP, where mm = month, dd = day, v = A or B
You can get the USBBS file from Computer Connections BBS (listed
above) and THELIST from PDSLO BBS at 516-938-6722.
There are communications programs designed for automating online
actions. Robocomm is one well known Shareware program. With Robocomm,
you can automate the uploading of your Shareware to numerous BBSes.
You can get Robocomm from its customer support board, Group One BBS at
312-752-1258. On other BBSes, look for it with a file mask of ROBO*.*.
At the least, you should make sure that you get your Shareware placed
on the five feeder BBSes mentioned above, even if you have to mail it
Packaging your Shareware (and other tips)
The following guidelines should be followed:
1) Include a file named FILE_ID.DIZ - this is an ASCII text file, and
can contain up to 10 lines of 45 characters each. The first line of
this file should include the program name and version, and the
following lines should provide a coherent description of your
program. If your application requires more than one compressed file
to distribute, then your FILE_ID.DIZ descriptions should indicate
which part of the set they are.
When a compressed file containing FILE_ID.DIZ is uploaded to
PCBoard based BBSes (the most popular), the description contained
in the file will REPLACE the description provided by the uploader.
In this way, the author and the BBS Sysop can be assured that the
program will be properly and consistently described.
(Some text in the above 2 paragraphs was excerpted from the PCBoard
documentation. Note: at the seminar, I said to use up to 8 lines.
Well, 8 lines is the current PCBoard default. As it turns out, the
PCBoard configuration is *ignored* when pulling a file description
from the FILE_ID.DIZ. So it IS safe to use up to 10 lines.)
2) You should provide a CLEAR description of WHAT YOUR PROGRAM IS and
WHAT IT DOES at the BEGINNING of your documentation!
Some authors mistakenly go into why they wrote a program, or
describe its functions, without ever explaining what their program
does! This is a BIG mistake. I've deleted a number of uploads to my
board because of incoherent or missing documentation.
Direct your documentation toward the new user. I've seen updates of
programs where the author assumes that you are familiar with it
from a previous release, and fail to explain what their program is
NEVER ASSUME THE USER HAS ANY PRIOR KNOWLEDGE ABOUT YOUR PROGRAM!
3) Your documentation should clearly state the program version number
and release date.
This will make it easier for BBS Sysops, disk vendors, end users,
and all involved to maintain the latest version of your program(s).
You should follow the convention of setting the dates of all files
in your application to the release date, and setting the file
timestamps to the version number.
4) Your documentation should clearly state what the intended BBS
filename should be.
This will insure consistent product naming among the tens of
thousands of BBSes and online services. There are a number of times
when this can be in doubt. These include: disks sent to BBSes that
are meant for disk vendors, files renamed by end users, or files
obtained from Compuserve, which has a 6 character filename limit.
A good rule of thumb is to make the first 6 characters of the
filename significant (and mnemonic), and reserve the last 2
characters (out of 8) for the version number. If your application
will be distributed in multiple parts, the filename for each part
should be distinctive within the first 6 characters. This is so it
can be uploaded to Compuserve and retain separate filenames for
5) If you are a member of the ASP, you should clearly state that in
your documentation, especially in FILE_ID.DIZ.
6) Include documentation in PLAIN ASCII TEXT file format.
Many, if not most BBSes, have the capability to allow callers to
read text files inside of compressed files, while the caller is
online! Many callers will use this capability to determine if the
file will suit their purposes. Remember, you want to encourage the
downloading of your Shareware. You should include documentation in
plain ASCII text format no matter what kind of application you
have. I've seen a number of Shareware Windows applications that did
not. That is a mistake.
7) Most BBSes prefer, and many only accept, .ZIP format compressed
This is what you should distribute. Please do NOT imbed self-
extracting compressed files inside of .ZIP files. All responsible
Sysops and disk vendors scan the software they receive for viruses,
and many virus-scanning programs will not look inside of self-
8) Arrange with one or more BBSes to be authorized distribution sites
for your Shareware, where users can get the latest version of your
software, and get online support from you.
A number of people don't subscribe to Compuserve, so a BBS outlet
is needed. Remember, you want to make it easy for people to get
and use your Shareware.
It's important for users to be able to download your Shareware from
a source they can trust. For myself, and for my BBS, I always
prefer to get Shareware directly from the author, from the author's
own BBS, or from a BBS the author has uploaded it to. For any
Shareware that is going to be evaluated in a Fortune 1000
environment, I would INSIST on getting it first or second hand. You
should make this possible.
Providing technical support for your application(s) on one or more
BBSes is STRONGLY recommended! Its an easy and low cost method for
you to answer questions and provide fixes and updates. It allows
you to satisfy your user's tech support questions, and to do so at
your convenience. You will find that the users of your applications
will tend to answer a number of the support questions posted on the
BBS, so you'll even get some volunteer help with tech support!
So, to reiterate, it is quite important that you designate one or
more BBSes as official distribution sites for your Shareware, where
you will upload updates and support it. Of course, you can always
set up your own BBS.
9) If you run a BBS, then its IN YOUR INTEREST to facilitate and
encourage the downloading of your Shareware. Callers should be able
to download your Shareware through any high speed lines you may
10) When sending disks through the mail, please make sure you use
proper packaging. For 5 1/4" disks, you should use the sturdy
cardboard mailers designed for sending them. Do NOT send them
unprotected in flimsy envelopes. I have received 5 1/4" floppies in
flimsy envelopes that were damaged and unreadable. Don't be
penny-wise and pound-foolish - use proper disk mailers. One source
for floppy disk mailers (and floppies) is MEI/Micro Center at