Tech Appraisal: The Superguy Listserver Essay, Research Paper

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Technology Appraisal: The _Superguy_ Listserver

By Chris Meadows

MED 355: Cable Television and New Technology

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others. It has its jobs every bit good as its advantages, its

strengths every bit good as its failings. The ways in which it uses

engineering for composing and distribution for the most portion

contribute to its success, though the countries of storage and

information have room for betterment. However, this betterment

may non be executable. It remains to be seen precisely how long

_Superguy_ will go on to be, but chances would look to be

good for _Superguy_ to go on for a long, long clip to come.

Technology Appraisal: The _Superguy_ Listserver

MED 355: Cable Television and New Technology

November 7, 1994

In 1969, when the Advanced Research Projects Agency ( ARPA )

created the little computing machine web that would finally turn

into the Internet, no 1 could hold guessed what it would

become. From its low beginning as a bantam military research

web known as ARPAnet, the Internet has increased in volume

exponentially and is now turning at an estimated rate of 15 %

every month ( Engst & A ; Dickson, _Explorer Kit_ 23 ) .

Along with its size, the applications to which Internet lends

itself have besides grown. Once intended for sharing slightly

limited computing machine resources among research workers across the United

States, the Internet is now a planetary communicating web that

supports 1000s of Usenet treatment groups, Internet Relay

Chat talk service, informations retrieval systems such as World Wide Web ( WWW ) , Wide Area Information Search ( WAIS ) , and Gopher, FTP file

transportation protocol, Telnet remote entree to computing machines, electronic

mail that can make 100s of 1000s of people, and many

other maps. Internet has grown from a little military

web into a much larger commercial 1.

Many organisations and groups both big and little brand

extended usage of the Internet and associated services, for

communicating and other intents. One of these organisations,

and the focal point of this engineering appraisal, is the _Superguy_

Internet listserver.

_Superguy_ is a distribution web that was formed in 1987

to direct out humourous collaborative superhero fiction to

endorsers. A similar distribution system for humourous

science-fiction narratives ( known as SFStory ) already existed, and

Chris & # 8220 ; Creeper & # 8221 ; Wilcox felt it might be fun to make one based

on superheroes ( Burns, _Superguy FAQ_ ) .

The construct behind collaborative fiction such as _Superguy_

is that each author creates a set of characters and histories

the escapades of those characters in a series of narratives. These

narratives are all set in the same universe, so that characters in a

narrative being written by one writer may detect and respond to events

that another writer is depicting. Sometimes two or more writers

may work together on a narrative or on a series of narratives, in what

is termed a & # 8220 ; crossover. & # 8221 ;

Shortly after its beginning, _Superguy_ began to pull

writers and readers. With each new writer, the _Superguy_

universe grew and expanded. Against all outlooks, the

_Superguy_ listserv has lasted for over seven old ages and is still

traveling strong. Says writer Bill Dickson, & # 8220 ; Sing the inflow

of new authors & # 8211 ; we & # 8217 ; re acquiring a twosome every twelvemonth & # 8211 ; I would state

that it could likely maintain traveling for a good long clip, but I

wouldn & # 8217 ; t even guess a guess how long & # 8221 ; ( personal interview ) .

As an organisation, _Superguy_ consists of two

subgroups & # 8211 ; writers and readers & # 8211 ; and a distribution web tobring the two together. The figure of writers on the list has

remained more or less stable over the last seven old ages. Many

writers have come and gone, composing from one to several narrative

installments and so vanishing. However, a nucleus group of

about a twelve writers is responsible for the bulk of the

authorship, and many of these have been with the list from its


There is really no distinguishable concatenation of bid among the

_Superguy_ writers. None of the authors has any existent authorization

over any of the others, except where that author & # 8217 ; s ain characters

are concerned. However, there are two distinguishable subgroups of

writers, categorized by senior status.

One subgroup, jestingly referred to as the & # 8220 ; Old Farts, & # 8221 ; is

made up of those authors who have been with the _Superguy_

listserver for several old ages. Though they have no existent authorization

over the newer writers, the sentiments and advice of the Old Farts

are valued because of their acquaintance with _Superguy_ historyand traditions ( Burns, _Superguy FAQ_ ) . The other subgroup is

made up of the newer authors & # 8211 ; those who have started in the last

twosome of old ages. It is unsure at what point a newer writer

becomes an Old Fart.

There are few makings necessary to go a _Superguy_

writer. Anyone who wishes to may subject a narrative at any clip. It

is recommended, nevertheless, that manque writers read enough of the

_Superguy_ archives to understand how best to compose in the

puting before they begin ( Burns ) .

The _Superguy_ listserver soon has over 120 subscribed

readers ( Olson, personal correspondence ) . The list of references

includes persons from many states around the universe,

including Australia, Canada, China, Germany, the Netherlands,

South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Additionally, there are an

unknown figure of other readers worldwide who read _Superguy_ via

its Usenet reverberation, bit.listserv.superguy.

_Superguy_ & # 8217 ; s primary agencies of distribution is through itsInternet electronic mail listserver, whose reference is

superguy @ A listserver & # 8217 ; s map is to

distribute electronic mail to all the references on its endorser

list. Therefore, when a author sends a narrative to the _Superguy_

listserver, that narrative is so automatically sent to all those

readers and other writers who are endorsers. Anyone who wishes

to may subscribe to the _Superguy_ listserver.

The primary intent of the _Superguy_ organisation is to

distribute narratives from the authors to the readers. This serves

the dual intent of supplying the authors with a ready audience

and supplying the readers with free, entertaining narratives.

In theory, _Superguy_ is similar to printed media in some of

these respects. Its episodic format lends itself particularly to a

comparing to comic books. However, unlike most amusing books,

_Superguy_ is a free publication. Readers do non hold to pay to

have it ( except for their normal Internet service suppliers & # 8217 ;

fees ) , nor are the authors paid for composing it. Furthermore, writers of printed media typically can non have the sort of

instant reader response that is possible through the Internet.

However, _Superguy_ does run under some restraints. In

order to travel through the listserver, all _Superguy_ narratives must

be in ASCII text format, which means they can non incorporate particular

arranging characters ( such as underlining or italics ) or

illustrations. In add-on, the narratives must be written and sent

in episodic format, as complete narratives are far excessively big for

email distribution. This episodic format can take to confusion

if a sufficient length of clip base on ballss between episodes.

In order to map, _Superguy_ requires three things.

First, a method of distribution for its narratives. This demand is

served by the _Superguy_ Internet listserver, which is presently

in its 3rd embodiment. Without a manner to acquire the narratives from

their writers to the readers, _Superguy_ would non be able to

carry through its intent.

Second, _Superguy_ demands to keep the figure of readers ithas, while at the same clip go oning attract new 1s.

Fortunately, it has had a instead successful path record in this

country, holding over 120 known endorsers. If non for the readers,

so _Superguy_ would hold no ground for bing.

Third, _Superguy_ must hold some agencies of pulling in new

authors, every bit good as maintaining the 1s it has. Each new author

brings a alone position to the _Superguy_ existence, and

without adequate writers to compose the narratives, _Superguy_ could

stagnate and dice. While the readers are the 1s for whom the

narratives are written, it is the writers who keep _Superguy_ traveling.

The _Superguy_ listserver is an branch of the Internet,

and as such is a really technological entity. The usage of this

engineering begins with the originative procedure. Because the narratives

will be distributed over a computing machine web, it is necessary to

usage a computing machine to compose the narratives themselves. Typically,

_Superguy_ narratives are composed on a personal computing machine or

mainframe word processor and so uploaded to the Internet.

Computers are arguably the most efficient tool for authorship.

Using a word processor allows an sum of flexibleness in redacting

that is far beyond the traditional pen and paper or typewriter

methods of authorship, enabling correcting or changing what is being

written with

far less attempt than making the same for typed or

written stuff. Using computing machines in this manner has typically

worked rather good for _Superguy_ .

Equally shortly as the narrative installment has been written, the following

measure is to direct it to the readers on the list. This is done by

utilizing electronic mail, or electronic mail, to direct it to the _Superguy_

listserver. Through the listserver, the narrative is emailed to

endorsers around the universe, geting in their electronic

letter boxs normally within proceedingss.

Equally shortly as the mail has been received, endorsers will utilize

their electronic mail plans to read the narrative. They so have the

option of utilizing electronic mail to answer to it, supplying the

writer with remarks and suggestions refering his narrative. Other than the chief _Superguy_ listserver, there are two

other, smaller electronic mail listservers, called _Superpen_ and

_Superchat_ , that are used for communicating among the writers.

This communicating typically includes the treatment of upcoming

plot lines, plotting, proficient affairs, and other administrative

concern holding to make with composing _Superguy_ narratives. Unlike

_Superguy_ , which is a public listserver, _Superpen_ and

_Superchat_ are private, limited to the writers merely ( though

_Superchat_ will be opened to all readers who wish to subscribe

every bit shortly as its decision maker decides that it is ready ) .

The electronic mail systems Superguy utilizations have therefore far

worked rather good and expeditiously. Using electronic mail, it is possible

to direct a message quickly, efficaciously, to one individual or to many

people, and be moderately certain that they will have it.

This fleet signifier of communicating allows for much greater

productiveness, both in planning narratives and in directing them out.

Printed media is agonizingly slow in comparing.

Another agency of distribution for _Superguy_ , beyond the

listserv, is Netnews, besides known as Usenet News. Netnews shops

points on a distant site instead than in the user & # 8217 ; s ain directory,

which allows the reader to take a expression at this stuff without

hazard of holding his electronic mail waiting line fill up with it.

The _Superguy_ listserv is echoed to a Usenet newsgroup,

bit.listserv.superguy. This means that all of the narratives which

are sent through _Superguy_ besides become available on this

newsgroup. This increases the listserv & # 8217 ; s possible audience by

leting people who can non or make non wish to subscribe to the

listserver to read _Superguy_ via netnews.

However, the newsgroup bit.listserv.superguy has a comparatively

little circulation & # 8211 ; that is, it is non widely available.

Therefore, in the hope of pulling more readers, selected

_Superguy_ narratives are reposted to the newsgroup

rec.arts.comics.creative. This newsgroup, like the _Superguy_

listserv, exists for the intent of administering humoroussuperhero fiction. Unlike _Superguy_ , nevertheless, it has no individual

puting and no email opposite number. Because there are many more

non-_Superguy_ narratives posted here than _Superguy_ narratives, it is

unsure how effectual this is for conveying in new readers.

Over the last seven old ages of authorship, _Superguy_ has built up

a immense history, inclusive of around 30 Ms & # 8217 ; worth of

narratives. All this back-story can be rather confounding to new

readers. For this ground, _Superguy_ & # 8217 ; s complete archives have

been made available for transportation through the information

retrieval protocols known as Gopher and FTP.

Gopher, so called because it allows one to & # 8220 ; travel fer & # 8221 ; files, is

a plan developed by the University of Minnesota to let

seeking for and obtaining information through a system of

bill of fare. The information is downloaded to local memory and

displayed on the user & # 8217 ; s screen. Gopher features a hunt

protocol known as Veronica.

FTP, which stands for File Transfer Protocol, is anothermethod of obtaining information. However, this information is

downloaded straight to the user & # 8217 ; s disc instead than being

displayed on the user & # 8217 ; s screen, and so can be examined subsequently.

FTP & # 8217 ; s hunt protocol is called Archie and is non as

user-friendly as Veronica.

_Superguy_ & # 8217 ; s archives are stored at a site in Norway,

addressed for Gopher entree, or for FTP. The files are arranged in & # 8220 ; digest & # 8221 ;

signifier, in chronologically-sorted groups of five to ten narrative

installments each, and index files are located in the same

directory. Besides in this directory is the _History of the

Superguy Altiverse_ , a synopsized version of Superguy & # 8217 ; s history

to day of the month, and a directory incorporating _Superguy_ & # 8220 ; Trade

Ether-Backs & # 8221 ; ( TEBs ) , aggregations of episodes that, together, do

up an full narrative. These TEBs can be rather utile for readers

who wish to understand how _Superguy_ plants.

Another _Superguy_ mention beginning is the _Superguy HomePage_ on the World Wide Web. The World Wide Web is an

information storage medium that allows the show, on some

computing machines, of different founts of text and in writing images. In

some respects it is similar to Gopher, except that it is non

limited to exposing bill of fares. Certain words in the papers are

highlighted, and choosing them with the pointer will take to

other paperss.

The _Superguy Home Page_ contains chiefly mention

stuff refering to narratives in the _Superguy_ existence.

Included are profiles of some of the major heroes and scoundrels,

writers, and series, every bit good as the _Superguy Frequently-Asked

Questions List_ ( FAQ for short ) , which is intended to react to

any inquiries new readers might hold about the _Superguy_

listserv ; the _History of the Superguy Altiverse_ file ; and links

to the archives on Gopher and to the bit.listserv.superguy

newsgroup. This stuff besides includes images ( which some

computing machines are non capable of exposing ) . The _Home Page_ is agood technological invention for those people who are able to

usage it, but the necessary tools to derive entree to the World Wide

Webs are non present on all sites, and some users do non even cognize

what the World Wide Web is.

The handiness of these archives and mention stuffs

enables new readers to larn the history of _Superguy_ up to the

present twenty-four hours, and acquire a feel for the scene and the characters.

It is a valuable resource, except that the agencies in which the

files are stored makes mentioning to them slightly hard. The

files are non sorted except chronologically, intending that all the

different narratives are assorted in together, in the order in which

they were sent out. Even with the indexing which is included on

the site, picking out single episodes can be time-consuming.

Possible ways to repair this job might include change overing

the _Superguy_ archives to a format compatible with WWW, for

inclusion on the _Superguy Home Page_ . However, this is really

impractical, for such transition requires a great trade of clip and attempt, and to change over 30 Ms of text files is a

next-to-impossible undertaking. Even change overing a few plot lines would

be excessively great of a undertaking to be attempted lightly.

Another solution might be to roll up more plot lines into

trade ether-backs. TEBs contain complete narratives and extinguish

much of the clip involved in seeking through the index files.

By doing it easier for new readers to read these narratives, it

becomes more likely that those readers will be interested plenty

to go regular _Superguy_ endorsers. This seems like a more

executable thought, but whether it will really go on is unsure ;

many of the writers do non look to hold the clip or disposition

to set trade ether-backs together.

Another job with _Superguy_ is that the Frequently-Asked

Questions list is distributed merely twice per twelvemonth, and is non

presently available from any beginning save the _Home Page_ . This

limited handiness tends to get the better of the intent of a

Frequently-Asked Questions list, which is to supply replies toquestions that often come up and therefore prevent those

inquiries from being asked of people on the _Superguy_ list.

These inquiries can barely be answered by an absent FAQ.

An obvious solution would be to post the FAQ lists more than

twice per twelvemonth. However, this is non really executable, due to

the size of the FAQs. Because of their comprehensive nature,

they are instead big and unmanageable. To post them more frequently

would be to set an unneeded strain on net resources.

Another, better possibility would be to make a mini-FAQ

incorporating pertinent inside informations about _Superguy_ and information on

where to happen the FAQ, and direct that out more often. If the

FAQ were made available via FTP or Gopher, this would besides

increase the easiness with which people could obtain it. This would

be a slightly more practical solution to that job.

A concluding Internet resource used by _Superguy_ writers is

Internet Relay Chat ( IRC ) . Internet Relay Chat allows Internet

users to & # 8220 ; talk & # 8221 ; straight with other Internet users, one on one or

in a treatment with 20 people or more, by typing bids

into a keyboard. The ability to pass on within seconds is

rather valuable for plotting and organizing plot lines in which

two or more writers collaborate. Its lone existent disadvantage is

that messages are sometimes prone to being delayed for several

proceedingss or cut off wholly. In add-on, there is no warrant

that any peculiar person will be on IRC at a given clip.

Despite these defects, Internet Relay Chat works

extremely good for the intent to which _Superguy_ writers put

it & # 8211 ; narrative plotting, treatment, or idle chatting among friends.

IRC helps writers make more efficient usage of their clip.

The _Superguy_ listserver is an organisation like many

others. It has its jobs every bit good as its advantages, its

strengths every bit good as its failings. The ways in which it uses

engineering for composing and distribution for the most portion

contribute to its success, though the countries of storage and

information have room for betterment. However, this improvementmay non be executable. It remains to be seen precisely how long

_Superguy_ will go on to be, but chances would look to be

good for _Superguy_ to go on for a long, long clip to come.