This article was first posted on our blog on 07/10/2010. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.
We’re very excited to announce Adrian Harris who works for Intenet Brands as Senior Operations Manager – Internet Brands is the company which owns vBulletin, the most widely used forum software on the Internet. We asked him a few questions. This is the third in the series of interviews with commercial forum software developers, check out our interviews with Kier Darby and Matt Mecham too.
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule for us Adrian. Here is the interview,
So firstly – what’s up? Give us a quick bio.
It’s all up =D
I am 26, single, I like good food, motorcycles, the outdoors, people… it is starting to sound like an eharmony profile!
In all seriousness, I stumbled into forums about 6 years ago when I was researching an issue when I worked at Ford Motor Company (I was able to find an answer quicker on a forum, than I could from our engineers!). I kind of got hooked on the “community” and continued to participate, and interacted with some great people. I eventually was made a moderator, then a “super” moderator, and then an admin of the site. I met some great people, and loved the community (still do!), and in late 2007 the forum was purchased by Internet Brands.[more] I was fortunate enough to be offered a position in early 2008 to oversee all of Internet Brands auto communities… given it involved a move to the other side of the world (I was working in Melbourne, Australia at the time), and it would be a big jump from being an engineer, I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but thought I would jump at the opportunity. Fortunately that opportunity has worked out really well, and now I get to interact with over 70,000 great communities, not just 1!
How is life over at Internet Brands?
Its good – it is a relaxed, but focused environment. I don’t think I have worked in a place before where people are so passionate about what they do, nor a place that is so “fast-paced”.
We have stupid Friday shirt competitions (see below), but ultimately we are all here for a common goal, and as enjoyable as the job may be, we try not to let that get in the way of getting our job done.
What do you see in the future for vBulletin – what can we look forward to in vBulletin 5?
Well the forum “space” is evolving, we need to with it – I don’t want to get into specific features, but in general things that we feel will be important with vB5
- Interacting with other social spaces in a much improved fashion
- Enable interaction in a more social and rewarding fashion
Will vBulletin 5 be a complete rewrite? When can we expect to see it?
vB5 will not be a “complete rewrite” per se, a significant portion of the code will be refactored, however, there will be aspects of vB4 that will carry over. As for timing, that is completely unconfirmed.
Do you accept that mistakes were made with vBulletin 4? What will you do to make it up to your customers for these mistakes?
Could the release of vBulletin 4 gone better? Sure. Could our product be better today? Sure. I think it is fair to say that all software could be improved upon.
It is also fair to say that there has been a lot of commentary about vB4. Our obligation to our customers is to continue to build on vBulletin 4 and provide the best product we can. We have a number of features we have planned for vB 4 which we have shared with our customers here: http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/showthre … in-Part-II
We are also providing bug fixes to reported issues, and completing development updates at a much greater pace currently than we were earlier in vB4’s development cycle, we have expanded the development and the management team to further increase our ability to try to meet our customer requests and support our vision of where vBulletin should go.
What’s your favourite vBulletin modification?
I think either the post thank you modification or the Sub-Forum Manager plugin – both pretty simple, but effective in my opinion J
As we’re a promotion forum – how would you recommend new webmasters go about promoting their websites?
Well some of the “more conventional” marketing techniques for webmasters (if you will) that are still very effective, actively seeking out link exchanges with other similar and reputable websites to increase referral traffic and your search engine rank is always going to be valuable. Maintaining an active social media presence (facebook, twitter, youtube etc.) with appropriate referral links back to your website can be very beneficial as well. The biggest thing in my mind however is, content, content, content. We have found that the best way to build both search, referral and direct traffic is to have frequently updated and high quality content published on your site. I understand for newer webmasters that may not have a userbase to leverage to build that content it may be more difficult, but if you seek out a couple of professional, or semi-professional writers that can write relevant articles on a regular basis and upload them to your Content Management System it is a great way to attract users that might be interested in whatever topic you are discussing.
What impact will the growing popularity of social networking sites have on the usage of discussion forums?
They are both a competing entity, and an opportunity for further growth at the same time. It is definitely a tougher “marketplace” on the web, competing with users who have to buy a new tractor on Farmville, upload their photos of their trip to Spain to flickr, Facebook and Picasa, tell everyone via foursquare and Gowalla that they are at Starbucks, comment on Hugo Chávez’s twitter feed and watch the latest Ken Block video on youtube… when is someone going to have the time to even think about the topic that your forum is on, let alone post on it and visit on a frequent basis? I strongly hold the belief that forums need to adapt to the burgeoning social media entities and leverage them to provide enhanced exposure to your forum. Forum software offers a number of tools and optimization for SEO, why-not the same for SGO (social graph optimization) too?
Where do you feel vBulletin and Internet Brands will be in 10 years?
I think it is hard to tell. Ten years is a long time for the web and the Internet for a product or organization. However, I would venture it will be more intra-connected. What I mean is that there will be little differentiation as far devices go in terms of accessing content and services. We want both vBulletin and Internet Brands to be in the middle of that.
Now let’s ask a few questions about your newest competitor. Do you plan to update ImpEx for XenForo -> vBulletin conversion?
There are hundreds of forum software’s out there, we typically provide Impex support for those that have the greatest market need. If there is a need for a xenForo to vBulletin converter we certainly will provide it.
Recently you published some details about a lawsuit against XenForo. Why did you make the information regarding the lawsuit public, did publishing the information actually work to promote XF?
We made the information public so to inform our customers. We have made a concerted effort recently to be more transparent in how we interact with our customers, and sharing details such as these goes in part with this policy. I acknowledge that this attempt to be more open may expose us to being the recipients of a greater level of criticism in the court of public opinion, however we feel that ultimately that approach is in the best interests of our customers.
Many vBulletin users actually oppose the lawsuit. Do you think it’s actually bad for business?
I can understand the sentiment expressed by some of our users. It is difficult to comment on its affect on our business until an agreement or verdict is reached, and I think that myself, or anyone else forming an opinion before the court does would be jumping to conclusions.