The 8bc Scandal: Hex, Shrugs, and BleepBloop

Two new chipmusic communities appeared online quite recently: chipmusic.org and chipcoalition.com. It seems that they both went online as a reaction to the drama at at 8bitcollective – the largest chipmusic community for the past years.

Founder and admin Jose Torres designed his BleepBloop Gameboy USB cartridge which became a popular alternative to previous transfer-solutions. However, the code that Torres used for the project was identical to that of the GB Cart Flasher. GB Cart Flasher was developed by “two polish IT-students” in 2007/2008 (sourceforge, reinerziegler.de). It is a hardware+software solution to transfer data between Gameboy and hi-tech computers. But only information, no products for sale. Torres used the code, eventhough the original authors prohibited “any kind of commercial work” in their manual. He later published an explanation for why he didn’t do the code on the “simple microcontroller on the cartridge”. He didn’t have the time to write his “own version of the code” so now he would work on a “revision”.

In connection to this a number of threads concerning the issue were deleted and several well-regarded users were banned, such as low-gain and e.s.c who were admins, and kitsch-bent who supposedly did not receive his batch of cartridges for his vendor site. Several threads that concerned these bans were consequently deleted, or shrugged at by Torres. He has also been blamed for not delivering carts that were paid for. It’s not difficult to imagine the shitstorm that followed at 8bc after Torres’ behaviour. Especially considering that he had previously banned x|k for not shipping his Midines on time, introduced restrictive rules about selling products at 8bc, and deleted threads about the competing product Smartboy because they were using other people’s code (in fact, the same code that Torres used).

At best Torres did what he did due to valid private reasons that we are not aware of. At worst, he protected his plan to make a living off 8bc. In November he announced that he had quit university, turned 8bc into a corporation, and would work on it full-time. He brought in two new people (to manufacture cartridges) in an 8bc office that he was now renting. So now, 8bitcollective is both a corporation, and a community. Many 8bc-members are arguing to disregard of the drama to keep the community alive. They might even use the paypal donation button to help pay for the server fees. We can only wait and see what will come out of this.

One larger question here is if a community is doomed when it becomes large-scale and money gets into the picture. Maybe the 4chan-owner would agree, being $20,000 in debt but keeping 4chan ad-free. If you base a community on centralized control, there is a bigger risk of power abuse. Then again, maybe that’s better than the more “anonymous” control that’s going on elsewhere. You can be killed by Google, closed down by your ISP, cave into cease and desist letters, or have your Internet connection shut down altogether. In a way, there is something oldschool and refreshing with a non-anonymous censorship á la Torres. Atleast we know who did it (since admins like e.s.c and dotdummy were kind enough to talk to me).

The other question concerns authorship and licensing. Why didn’t anyone manage to get hold of the “two polish IT-students”? Would they care about it if they knew about it? If the GB Cart Flasher was properly licensed, would people have reacted differently to what Torres did, or would Torres have refrained from using the code? I am one of those who question the relevance of licenses, as for example with the current case of Voddler violating a GPL-license (who owns and defends a collectively produced GPL-software?).

And on a different note, can Torres claim ownership to 8bc? Just like with Piratebay, 8bc cannot only be described as founder+server+domain+brand. 8bc wouldn’t be much without songs, messages, memes, pictures and software that was made by others. That is probably not what Torres refers to when he says “this is my site“.

21 Responses to “The 8bc Scandal: Hex, Shrugs, and BleepBloop”

  1. peter Says:

    I can’t say i’ve been proud of either side of this particular debate, and seriously question my desire to contribute in either forum in 2010. At the end of the day can one be involved in the scene, and NOT have to deal with these things that are defiantly under the heading “unfun”.

  2. Matt Says:

    Nice to have a summary of what’s gone on that’s protected from Stalin-esque deletion…!

    Although sad (I was a low-level poster for nearly three years), the implosion of 8bc over Christmas was a fairly useful demonstration of what happens when a fairly niche community resource becomes too big, and as a result, too many different things to too many different people. For Torres, it was a career opportunity; for a whole group of musicians who uploaded but never posted it was a free hosting resource ala Rapidshare; for a bunch of scene kids weaned on 4chan it was just another internet hangout to repeat memes. Torres’ (very dubious) actions lit the touchpaper, but I think some sort of dramatic split was inevitable.

    To be honest, most of the ‘community’ as I enjoyed/remembered it seems intact over at chipmusic.org, so I don’t think it’s a big deal in the long term. And I agree with Peter – the debate became an unhelpful shouting match – but I think that too was inevitable given how unwieldy the site had become.

  3. 10k Says:

    @Peter: I am just wondering what you mean by “I can’t say i’ve been proud of either side of this particular debate, and seriously question my desire to contribute in either forum in 2010.”

    I get the impression that you are suggesting that using one of these forums is being anti-Jose in some way. I don’t personally feel this is the case. I still frequent 8bc and I am now happy to have a place to go for scene in-jokes and another place to go for interesting discussion of events and music. I cannot deny that Jose’s behavior quickened this sequence of events, however.

    I thought that the opening of these other communities would bring out more people that have been hiding in the woodwork because they were getting over the behavior of members and the spam on 8bc. I didn’t think that it was some kind of divide that would encourage members of the community I greatly respect to remove themselves from forums!

    …But wait! I now recall huge backlash when For The System launched while 8bc was still tolerable. *ponders*

  4. Jellica Says:

    Nice ads there now!

    Great news to all who enjoy our community! We’ve been getting some good feedback from a site called PokerListings for our work with the community. PokerListings is a website that focuses on providing in-depth content about poker and reviews for all the poker websites. The content team over there is working with a campaign to support social and gaming web projects and we thank them for all the help they are providing to us. If you’re new to our community, why not create an account and take part of all the good stuff?

  5. chipflip Says:

    hehe! and it’s even placed under testimonials…

    @peter: well, after all, it’s just internet forums. but why don’t you want to take part?

  6. peter Says:

    Yea exactly. I guess the problem occurs that we are really interested in making music on chip hardware (or minimally chip sounds). People don’t really have music or culture in common other than that, so why expect to find friends that way? It’s just that much more different than say a comedy forum, or a punk rock forum.

    The only reason i never got int FTS because it seemed to be populated by people whose sole commonality is that they hated 8bc. That may be an unfair generalization, but that’s why I remember avoiding it.

    Nowhere did I say is using a forum is anti-jose. If anything its anti-handling issues in a smart and effective manner. Jose didn’t help on his end, but I do not see the balkanization of online forums as anything but bad in the short term.

  7. peter Says:

    Also I think Matt summed it up pretty well, regarding sad feelings.

  8. Mono-licious Says:

    Adding to the article: In regards to supporting the server via donations, from what I remember reading on the forums on 8bc, that was no longer being accepted by people who ran 8bc for that sole purpose. Am I wrong here? Anyone? I repeatedly remember members asking “why” Jose was no longer allowing people to pay for the servers directly or something of that sort, to avoid any more conflict. In fact here’s one post in regards to it:

    http://8bitcollective.com/forums/viewtopic.php?pid=276018#p276018

    I remember seeing others.

    In regards to the authors apparently they more than likely no longer support those emails they have placed. I know over the years people tend to change and abandon emails and thus don’t/can’t check. I am one of those people for one. Which makes contacting the appropriate people rather difficult. Who knows. We may not ever know. Nonetheless, it doesn’t make it a right to use their stuff and make “profit” from it due to not being able to contact the appropriate people.

    Dead on in regards to site ownership though. A community ultimately as a whole dictates how a site ultimately runs, to an extent of course, and ultimately does dictate the progress/success/life of it has as well.

    Check out MySpace nowadays, for one example. Ever since it lost it’s ranking to Facebook (even prior), it has gone under many changes to replicate facebook to an extent, of course. People wanted something different. Myspace was unable to provide accordingly and people shifted. That isn’t to say myspace died. It just isn’t taken as serious (I know, serious may not be the correct word here, hahah) as it once use to be. Sure, you can label it as trend, but it’s still people speaking out by actions due to discontent with the way a website was being run.

    Anyway, since it was brought up here, I might as well address it:

    @Peter

    Unfortunately, you are correct. That is a rather unfair generalization based on little to no evidence, I may add, Peter. I know the site no longer exists in it’s original form, but I’ll address this since it was brought up:

    You forget or fail to mention that For The System was never about and never focused purely on “chip” or “8bit” or “pixel” culture. In fact, I don’t enjoy “most” chip! hah. I’d say I only enjoy about 10% of chip/8bit, possibly even less. So why would a site as such as FTS care so much, enough to supposedly “hate”, a site such as 8bc? Which use to consist of a rather productive community. In fact, I myself know a handful people there (or use to be there anyway, since things seem to be changing), and I’ve gotten along with members of 8bc on the forums and irc, even a few moderators! Think about that for a moment. Had you actually delved more and researched a bit, you may have known about all this, rather than make such assumptions in regards to affiliated members of said site.

    However, I can confirm that “backlash” that was brought up. FTS did infact receive a huge flood of trolls from 8bc since day 1. I have posts, emails, and ips to prove it… witnesses as well. I actually left a good chunk of them, simply for amusement. They were kinda funny at times. Why let it go to a waste? Right? Make the most of it. :D

    I realize you were never quite fond of either TDS or perhaps me in general… and, judging from your comment in regards to FTS, anything I may been involved in (web/music project wise) that you may know of, Peter. I assure you however:

    Anything I do personally, is in no way affiliated with any members or artists in regards to TDS and the now defunct FTS. I am my own person and they are their own people. See it for yourself No way related. Whatsoever. They are actually quite open, non-judgmental (for the most part, I can’t speak for Tyler/Dispyz/Stagediver hahaha! zing! RAEG.) and lovely group of people. Feel free to actually delve/lurk around, I am serious here, before trashing them based on rumors you may have heard. I ask/offer this, since you are simply adding more to the fire in regards to “rumours” based on no evidence, from what I can see and know. (You yourself admitted that it “may” be a unfair generalization, so why spread it more when you are not certain on a comment? Make sense?).

    Thanks. :)

  9. jikoo Says:

    Hello everybody, Thank you very much for this interesting work ! I was suprised by Google about the killed account !!! :( And thanks a lot for first good links. 8-bit comunnity is more and more large !

    Just an info : I change the URL of Woolyss website. Now, the good way is :

    http://woolyss.com/chipmusic.php

    or http://woolyss.com/

    Cheers. ;)

  10. Johan Says:

    It should be easy to find those Polish guys, they have names, right? I think they are on LinkedIn. Would be interesting to know if anyone even bothered to contact them.

  11. chipflip Says:

    johan: i’ve not managed to find any names of those polish dudes. quite strange. maybe they don’t have names. but other people have tried to find them and get in touch. but apparently they didn’t even manage to get hold of jeff frouuhweweine.

  12. Johan Says:

    The SourceForge project owner is Sylwester Madej. And he also exists on LinkedIn…

  13. Johan Says:

    There, sent him a Facebook message.

  14. chipflip Says:

    thank god for the kotlinski family

  15. Johan Says:

    Re: gameboy flasher

    Hi,

    Yes, I am aware of that fact. I have published this code as GPL so what they do is illegal, if they have changed this software (and they have!) and they are not redistributing source code. Other problem is that code for device was writen by my friend and I don’t think that he agreed to use it for commercial purposes. To sum up, I am not going to make any legal steps aganist them although it would be nice if they would inform about the authors, because it is nice part of my CV. Thanx for info.

    Regards,
    Sylwester Madej

  16. Monochrome Says:

    Interesting turn of events. I hadn’t even thought about trying Facebook, since I don’t use it.

    Judging from that response, I’m guessing even Sylwester Madej has yet to contact his friend about it either. Huh.

  17. Семь восьмибитных-09 Says:

    […] 8bitcollective.org на новосозданный chipmusic.org (см. подробности тут). Короче, выбирать было из чего, и кто-то непременно […]

  18. Raz1r Says:

    Hey man, thanks for the writeup. I left the community at the height of the drama and ended up never knowing what happened, having left voluntarily for a number of reasons (namely, starting a career, the drama, and influx of meme-spewing fakechip artists).

    My bullshit detector exploded the day I heard low-gain got banned, as he was a friend I knew had only the best in mind for the community. Seeing e.s.c. go only reinforced my previous suspicions that Jose had an ulterior motive to ultimately monetize the site to an extent that wasn’t necessary.

    Anyways, thanks for the ch00nz, love you guys. Y’all were a serious hallmark of my teenage years. Thanks for Thai brides, ASS2ASS, long-island iced teas, gearwhoring and the neverending arguments over which gameboy sounds better.

    -Raz1r

  19. GeekParty - Low-Gain Interview, Part 3: The Dark Side of the Chipmusic Scene Says:

    […] to several sources, including the chip scene blog ChipFlip. In fact, ChipFlip has a post titled “The 8bc Scandal: Hex, Shrugs, and BleepBloop” that verifies a lot of the things Logan told me about Torres’ USB cartridge woes. There was a […]

  20. GeekParty - Low-Gain Interview, Part 4: Low-Gain’s 8-bit Collective Ban Says:

    […] isn’t the only person to feel this way. Chip scene blog ChipFlip posted an article called “The 8bc Scandal: Hex, Shrugs, and BleepBoop,” which explains the controversy surrounding Jose and 8-bit Collective. Here’s an excerpt: In […]

  21. suihfuisadfasd Says:

    ASS2ASS, what a boring name

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