Running a BBS
, i.e. being the SysOp
of the BBS, was a funny and time consuming experience. First you had to have a phone line, a computer and a modem to run your BBS on; then you needed a lot of startup time to customize the software and spread the news to your friends and neighbours; then you were the one in charge for educating your users, opening and closing accounts and everything else related to the everyday life of a BBS of old.
Why would you want to become a SysOp? because you wanted to run a community of friends and amateurs, you wanted to give them a place to meet and to learn, and there was nothing like the internet and you felt computers and modems were changing everyone's lives and wanted to be a part of that movement.
My BBS was the hub of a thriving local techie community, made me know a girlfriend and most of the people I am still in contact with, and years after we pulled the cord we still have an active mailing list and a couple of web sites to stay in touch with each other. It was very easy to get to friendly terms with the users of your BBS, as every new user first contacted the SysOp to have their account approved, and we often had dinner together or went to the movies together just to see the faces of those newbies who were so active in those local forums.
This experience is probably lost forever; your internet users don't spend much time thinking about how to get in touch with the ones behind the web site they're surfing, and tend to behave as if everything they get is simply due or they will go to some other place. Also, web users usually come from a very large and dispersed geographical background, so it's not as easy to arrange meetings and social pizzas (though, as mkb politely points out, not impossible at all).
I miss my BBS.
I recommend visiting the BBS, underground BBS scene and The Search for a Good Old Fashioned BBS for more BBS nostalgia.