Doctor Who Expanded

A product of pre-internet geek culture, CD/DVD mail exchanges (also called media exchanges) are small independent groups which distribute high quality copies of material on disc using the mail system.

Mail exchanges are surprisingly flexible and adaptable. They have been used for decades to distribute everything from coupons to VHS tapes. The current version uses digital media and the internet to help simplify things like sign-up and tracking chores.

How Mail Exchanges Work[]

  1. A CD or DVD is offered up by a group member.
  2. Those wanting the disc sign up for it in a time-limited poll.
  3. A mailing list is created from the poll results.
  4. The disc is then sent to the first person on the list.
  5. That person then has a limited amount of time (usually forty-eight hours) to copy it and send it on to the next person on the list.
  6. The progress of the disc is tracked to completion using a second poll.

For many years, the most popular platform for mail exchanges has been Yahoo! Groups. It provided many features which seemed almost tailor-made for running them. However, with the changeover to the so-called neo format for Groups (which began in August of 2013), many such features have been altered or removed to the point where some groups are starting to search for alternatives.

In order to avoid moochers, some exchanges use a round-robin technique. In such cases, each group member must supply a  distribution (or "distro" in mail exchange parlance) for the group in turn.

The Advantages of Mail Exchanges[]

  • They are inexpensive to participate in.
  • They use well-established technology.
  • They have a very short learning curve.
  • No credit card, PayPal account, or money order is required.
  • No high-speed internet connection is required.
  • You can pick and choose which distributions to participate in.
  • They use very little bandwidth.
  • The discs arrive in playable format, instead of requiring assembly.
  • Very little software knowledge is required.
  • Free versions exist for any software used.
  • They can easily be expanded to fit the number of members within the group.
  • If necessary, they can be divided into regional sub-groups.
  • Any money you do pay out is in your own local currency.
  • Multiple episodes of a series can be acquired without having to download each one individually.
  • It eases the burden on download sites.
  • It eases the burden on dubbers.
  • Improved editions can easily be created and distributed.
  • You can control elements like the quality of media used and burn speed.
  • Such groups generally fly under the radar.
  • Most materials required can be found in a dollar/pound store.
  • They don't expose your computer to the various risks of torrents.

The Disadvantages of Mail Exchanges[]

  • They require a certain amount of patience.
  • Unlike internet alternatives, they are not "free".
  • You do have to supply a valid mailing address to the group.
  • They tend to distribute relatively small numbers of copies.
  • Mail has been known to go missing.
  • Postage rates continue to rise.
  • Some postal services have started to phase out door-to-door service.
  • There are a lot of moving parts to them.
  • They require a constant supply of new material in order to  be successful.
  • They can attract moochers.
  • CD and DVD burners are no longer standard computer extras.
  • Mailing a disc internationally can be particularly expensive.
  • International mailings must clear customs.
  • The PAL/NTSC divide creates complications for international groups.

Doctor Who Fan Film/Audio Mail Exchanges[]

At least one Doctor Who fan film and audio mail exchange is known to exist. It takes the form of an unlisted sub-group of the revived version of the Yahoo! Group whofanvid. Sadly, Yahoo! began experiencing various problems (including a months-long worm scare and sign-up issues) shortly after its creation. As a result, the group has never really been used for its intended purpose.