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Old 09-14-2005, 05:53 PM
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Default Interview with Corey Chapman - YaBB Project Leader
Corey Chapman, AKA crackers8, is the Project Manager of YaBB (Yet another Bulletin Board). For background information, read the Interview with Zef Hemel, Jeff Lewis, and Corey Chapman conducted by Open Tech Support back in November '01. Of course, we also did a TAZ Interview with Zef Hemel a few months back. Corey has taken up the reins, and YaBB 2 will soon be released. Let's see if we can find out why Corey is so excited about it and in the process get to know Corey on a more personal level as well.

==========================

Can you give us a brief bio?

I turned 24 in July. I was born near St. Louis, Missouri, where I lived most of my life. I recently moved to South Carolina for my first post-college job with Ring Container Technologies. I’ve been the Project Leader for YaBB for 4 years, while also running a business on the side (XIMinc). My hobbies include web programming, swimming, rollerblading, listening to music, collecting things, and doing crazy things like mountain biking or parasailing. I’m also one of those guys that carries his camera practically everywhere.


What is your educational background?

I gained most of my knowledge from the people I have worked with in clubs and extracurricular activities through my 18 years in school. I also owe a lot to my co-op with Anheuser-Busch and my internship with a financial planning company.

I graduated in 2004 with a BS in Engineering Management and a Minor in Computer Science from the University of Missouri – Rolla. I hope to be fortunate enough to live near a school some day that I like enough to get a Masters degree at while still working full time. In what? I don’t know.


What do you consider as your accomplishments up to this point?

I like to call myself a modern-day “renaissance man” because I’m always joining clubs – social, service, academic – whatever I can get my hands on. And I like to learn and do a little of everything. I even played the clarinet in band for 7 ½ years.

My biggest accomplishments include getting on the Internet 10 years ago and having the ability to teach myself any computer language I put myself up to. That and my club experiences allowed me to be successful in joining the wonderful YaBB team with Zef Hemel and Jeff Lewis 5 years ago.

I’ve also developed a very neat system for my current job. It is written in MS Access (the first large database I’ve made with it and the first time I’ve experienced Visual Basic). It allows you to put in production numbers, shipments, inventory, scrap and downtime information, and other things. It then has all sorts of fancy scripting giving it some intelligence, and you can get reports of anything you want. If only I could sell it!


Any failures you want to tell us about?

I don’t like to admit to failures! I’d say my biggest failure is letting the YaBB project get so far behind over the years. It hurts me to see what people think about it today, considering it was one of the greatest projects on the Internet at one time. But personal life comes first. I guess I’ve “woken up” recently with regards to YaBB and found more time to devote to it again.


What are your favorite books? Movies? TV shows? Music? Games? Foods? Beverages?

I read like a bookworm when I was young, but I don’t read much any more. A couple good books I’ve read recently are Good to Great and First, Break All the Rules. Those were required reading in my current job. They teach a lot about what makes people happy, what people expect in their jobs, and how to run a great business. Sounds boring, but they’re not bad.

Don’t even get me on the subject of movies or games. I have around 100 DVDs, 30 miscellaneous consoles’ games, and 30 Xbox games. I am never one for picking favorites! I love a little of everything. Same goes for food. I eat everything – the first thing on the menu is what I choose. I do have some favorite shows though: King of Queens, King of the Hill, the Simpsons, American Dad, Everybody Loves Raymond, the Drew Carey Show, Charmed, Stargate SG-1, South Park, Chappelle’s Show, Family Guy…. I have way too much music too. I have to listen to it at all times. I like everything – rap, alternative, rock, hip-hop, techno, swing…. Some of my favorites are Linkin Park, Lil’ Jon, Mike Jones, 3 Doors Down, Blink 182, Eminem, 50 Cent, Deftones, Korn, Usher, Nelly, Simple Plan, and Good Charlotte.


What do you do for fun and relaxation?

Woe is the working life. I don’t get to that often. I spend my evenings working on YaBB and running my personal business, Xnull Internet Media, Inc. (XIMinc). That’s often fun, but not always.

I do try to turn on the T.V. now and then. On a rare occasion, I’ll go out to the swimming pool. On the weekend, I devote my time to my girlfriend (we live 2 hours apart). We’ll rollerblade, picnic, take a walk, go bowling, play Xbox, go camping or hiking, whatever floats our boat. I’m a “people-watcher” so I go to malls a lot and window shop to see what new things exist, what I can spend money on, and what type of people there are in the world. You can see every walk of life in a mall. I also like to do things I’ve never done before – I recently parasailed over the Atlantic, camped in the mountains, and rode the “sky flier” (a free fall rope swing up a few hundred feet).


What is the significance of your usename, crackers8?

Ah, I knew that was lurking in your head! Until college, few people called me by a nickname. A best friend called me "Crackers" randomly a few times in Junior High School. About that time, I got introduced to the Internet, so I decided it was a great Internet handle. Since then, I've stuck to it. I put an "8" on the end because Crackers (and variants) is usually taken. Sometimes it's crackers888, crackers_8, or Krackers8. I always use the same number now, because I can reverse it and say, "I ate crackers!" And no, it has nothing to do with "being a cracker."


What is your fulltime job?

I currently work for Ring Container Technologies, which is a company that designs and manufactures plastic containers. They hired me straight out of college and moved me halfway across the country to their South Carolina facility. I started last summer as a Management Trainee. I was promoted to Quality Manager of my plant this year.

My job involves making sure the plant is GMP, AIB, and NFPA compliant. This means making sure the rule “it didn’t happen if it isn’t documented” is well followed. I have to see that maintenance keeps equipment up to snuff, pest control is in order, procedures and forms exist for everything we do, operators do their jobs well, quality procedures are followed, inspections are completed on process parameters and quality of the containers themselves, etc. It would take me pages to list everything I do. A better position title would be “Alphabet Soup Cook.”


What other projects and/or ventures are you involved in?

During college I was working on all kinds of projects – most of which remain unreleased. I designed a WinAmp skin for my university (the only one that exists) which became popular at the time. I was working on a PHP chat application too. I also wrote a mIRC interface, a set of scripts for it, and an artificial intelligence script (a.k.a. an IRC bot). I just dabbled on all sorts of ventures that never got anywhere.

I was working on a big project with someone in California that would eventually lead to a full-time job for both of us and a huge advancement for the YaBB project. It was a community system designed with free and pay portions that allowed people to create private communities of any sort to better the world. Things like teen sex, abuse, and job stress – anything imaginable. A YaBB forum would be integrated as part of each community. Much more advanced in theory than anything that exists today. The key part was that the web communities interacted with an IRC program that used a popular 3-D engine. Users could not only chat, but they could move their 3-D characters around in virtual 3-D worlds and interact with the people in that community. They could explore worlds, play games in these worlds, and even give objects to other members in that world. Unfortunately, both of our personal lives got in the way, and we both got new jobs last year. I don’t know if we’ll ever get a chance to start this up again.


What is the role of a project leader as compared to a developer?

YaBB has always had an unstructured team, because we allow people to come and go as they please and contribute as much as they can. This is part of the reason the project has slacked. I call myself the “YaBB Project Leader” simply because that’s what I was told when Zef passed it to Jeff, and Jeff passed it to me. Basically it means I am in charge of the big things: dealing with legal issues, recruiting team members, promoting YaBB as a figure head, making sure the website is kept up to snuff, maintaining and paying for the domain and website hosting, directing the future of the project, collaborating the developers’ efforts, answering emails sent in through the website, keeping after copyright violations and licenses, and pushing out the actual releases. I dig in deeper and work on code, templates, graphics, and many other things too, of course. But none of this could be done without the help of the other team members.

We also have a Project Administrator position, which (besides me) includes Juvenall Wilson and Tim Ceuppens. This position involves more big-picture things, mainly administration of the Community forum. Tim has gotten busy with school, but he usually is our webmaster guru. Juvenall is our Support Team leader. He makes sure our boards are moderated and the proper members on our community retain support titles on the forum and help answer questions people have. We are trying to structure the team a bit more right now, but that often falls apart after a while as everyone gets older.

The developers typically do the grunt work of writing the forum code. Sometimes they’ll get involved in moderation of the Community forum, recruiting team members, or helping with support. Although developers come and go, we’ve been blessed with them having the ability to democratically choose good features to implement and fix bugs that have been reported quite quickly. We use CVS for our code repository, so this makes things pretty easy for them I think.


What advice can you give people just getting into programming?

First: know if you enjoy it. I have seen too many people in my Computer Science classes or on the YaBB team who just didn’t have a knack for programming and didn’t enjoy it.

Second, don’t get frustrated. You’ll make silly mistakes ALL of your life – I still forget a semicolon or make typos. Keep at it, and take a nap when you start making a lot of mistakes. A fresh mind and persistence are key.

Third, pick something you enjoy. I know a lot of languages, but I only “really” know the ones I keep at. I really enjoy web programming, so I focus on writing things in Perl, PHP, and XHTML. Just like a job, you shouldn’t be doing it if you weren’t designed to do it.


When you develop forum software are you designing it for yourself or for the end users?

Hands down for the end user. This is what YaBB is all about. We have a modding community at www.boardmod.org. Random people create mods to fix things, add features, remove features, or anything else someone may request. The development team then evaluates those features and chooses the ones that are most popular and most necessary to add as default. YaBB tends to not be bloated like other systems in my opinion.

As far as my personal agenda? I do volunteer my time to develop websites for volunteer groups (like www.moarkcki.org), but I don’t have any personal forums. I do not strive to make YaBB do what I need it to do because I don’t have any extraordinary needs. I want it to do what everyone else wants it to do. Of course, there are limits because I’m not going to allow it to become a PHP project, nor will I agree with useless features or changes. The only reason I or any of the developers are involved in YaBB is because we enjoy the project, we want to gain experience from it, and we want to help share our talents to better the world.


Can you run through the history of YaBB for us?

You can see the full history of YaBB at http://www.yabbforum.com/history.php. I try to update that page as necessary or improve upon it. You can also see the archive of YaBB versions at http://www.yabbforum.com/archives.php.

Basically, Zef Hemel wrote his own “BBS” script in 2000 after having trouble finding one that met his needs and his price (free). Since he didn’t have any money, he knew he couldn’t charge for his software. This led him to writing YaBB. He released the code, not expecting much from it.... He was joined by Andy Tomaka (then a UBB “hacker”) and Matt Mecham (the creator of Ikonboard and Invision Power Services). YaBB soon became #1 on the CGI-Resource Index.

Jeff Lewis (now of Lewis Media and SMF) joined the team and greatly advanced the abilities and popularity of YaBB. This was still early in the project’s life. I had been using YaBB for my underground group’s website at the time. I fixed a lot of bugs and added features to suit my needs. The team accepted my code as the basis for YaBB 1 Final. Later, I worked with Darya Misse (the great NewsPro “hacker”) to create YaBB 1 Gold.

By this time, Zef had moved onto other projects and named Jeff as Project Leader. About this time, EZboard tried to buy YaBB from Jeff and I, even though we explained that no one person really owned YaBB; thankfully that deal fell apart on their end. Jeff soon left to start YaBB SE (now SMF) and named me Project Leader. During the last few years, starting just before Zef left, we began YaBB 2. This project restarted about 4 times with brand new code, leading it in new directions. Eventually SP2 came about and became so big that we decided to call it YaBB 2 just to have a new release number. Now we are working on the brand new code under the name YaBB 3, but it is halted until YaBB 2 matures.

During all this time, all sorts of new systems appeared, mainly in PHP and MySQL. YaBB remained in Perl and flat file, so it kept a large member base for those that couldn’t use PHP or SQL. As you can see, the project has been in a lull for a couple years now. We’ve woken up though – YaBB is back and better than ever!


What do you think makes YaBB better than the competition?

It’s difficult to define what “better” means. Each system has advantages and disadvantages. Many also have different target audiences. For example, YaBB is currently aimed at Perl-lovers, those without PHP support on their hosting account, or those without MySQL databases. In the future we’ll still retain some of that focus, but also appeal to the other crowds. It is really up to each webmaster to choose the system that has the features he or she desires most. No one system can work best for every website.

I personally think YaBB has an appeal to those that don’t want a very complex system but still want fairly advanced features. I find YaBB easy to use and get lost when navigating forums using other systems. I think we also listen to our users very well. A lot of projects tend to add as many features as they can and in the way they want. They don’t add what users yearn for specifically.


You seem to be very excited about YaBB 2. Can you tell us about it in some detail?

First, let me say that YaBB 2 is not the end all of forums. It does not support MySQL, it is not written in object-oriented Perl, and it does not have all of the innovative features I’d like.

With my disappointments out of the way, let me tell you what it does have. YaBB 2 was optimized greatly by reducing file openings up to 70% in some areas. Instead of “opening, reading, closing, opening, reading, closing, opening, writing, closing” the same file for one page, all actions necessary are completed with a file before it is closed. Quite tricky. The team has also embraced hashes instead of storing data plainly in the files. This way Perl can “include” or “require” a file and use the variables contained within right away; no more arrays in those cases. And finally, more “summary” files exist so the large data files don’t have to be opened for a page that only displays totals or basic information. This is where SQL databases have their advantages.

Another focus is security. YaBB has had the common “Cross-Site Scripting” vulnerabilities that have plagued every forum system. We’ve also had a few releases with some poor data filtering. The team has tried to be very quick in solving these. However, with YaBB 2, we can say we have security in mind. Ron, one of the developers, found a group of hackers that went around to hundreds of YaBBs trying to exploit any vulnerability they could. They agreed to give him some ideas on how to make it more robust. This resulted in “the Guardian.” YaBB 2 has all sorts of flooding protections on many functions, better banning, proxy blocking, referrer blocking, dereferring on external links, harvester blocking, and even protection against many types of attacks that can’t possibly affect YaBB!

Probably the most visible changes in YaBB 2 are the other features. Templating is still easy, but you can now change a few new template files or the CSS from within the Admin Center to modify the main shell (the old “template.html” of YaBB 1), the board index, the message index, and the display of topics. No more digging in code. We’ve also improved the actual layout greatly and made it XHTML compliant; previous versions had very sloppy and broken HTML. Now members can even choose from any template that forum has to offer, and they can choose to see the forum in their native language, despite what the forum’s default language is. And to make installation easier, we have a wizard executable that does all of the work for you after you upload the files – including converting your YaBB 1 files!

Additionally, we’ve added the most requested features like: polls, more membergroup options, board/category access controls, favorite topics, integrated help system, "multi-admin" topic and message index controls, membergroup colors, template editors, live preview while typing a post, support of foreign (multibyte) characters, better search engine indexing, split and splice topics, board-level topic notification, collapsible categories, global announcements, file attachments, recycle bin, post color-picker, member pre-registration, advanced smilies, hidden topics, and sessions. This brings YaBB 2 up to par with the other forum systems.

I’m even more excited about some possible innovative features we plan to add to the “2” line in the future. Those are secret


How do you feel when a new version is released and your members start downloading it?

When I release a new version of YaBB, I place announcements on key sites like the Admin Zone, the Forum Insider, BoardMod, and our development site for YaBB 2. I then immediately open a new browser tab for all of those and the downloads page so I can watch. It's usually way past my bed time on a release night by the time we get it out. In the morning I'll make myself a bit late for work and watch it some more.

It makes me very happy to see people's comments and see the download counter rise. I like to compare each release's count with the download count of previous versions. It's a hearty pat on the back to the entire development team when people we don't know start downloading software we made together and praise it. It's like, "Hey, we made something awesome."

I'm actually a bit dissappointed with the amount of downloads of YaBB 2.0 Pre-Release and the few comments, but it has only been 2 days. I am going to prepare a celebration party for myself on the night of YaBB 2.0's release - maybe some wine and a nice meal.


What future changes do you expect in forum software development?

Electronic communication has evolved in so many ways and directions. It was just text-based communication from the shell when the Internet was merely a research project or a government tool. Then some of us got to experience telnet BBS on 2400bps modems. Around that time, we got email. Then the WWW changed things – threaded BBS was created with a chat history. This evolved into the “forum.”

Something has got to change. The complaint I hear time and time again is “forum systems all look alike.” We all have similar features and a similar look. Sure we have proprietary or innovative features now and then, but nothing dramatic has come out.

My brain isn’t powerful enough to figure out what to do with forums next. Maybe forums aren’t the answer at all and 3-D chat is. Who knows. I think Google is onto something with their GMail interface though. IPB is following this with their use of AJAX too. I think tools like that will make things much faster, smarter, less stressful on servers, and lower bandwidth.

I have some thoughts about opening up the forum systems though. Similar to Google’s GTalk, GAIM, or Trillian. We should be able to chat on forums from any system without getting confused with each new type of software used on each website. We shouldn’t have to register on every single forum we use. We should be able to search one forum and find data on another forum. We should share ideas with each other more often, and maybe even merge systems together. I don’t know how it can be done, but it’s just a silly thought in my head. Most importantly, someone needs to come up with a genius idea on the forum layout so it’s not so standard and boring!


What is your opinion on the open source vs. proprietary software debate in general? What about forum software specifically?

I’m going to keep my comments brief to spare you a novel. Back in the day, proprietary meant you’d make more money. Sometimes that’s still the case, but more often than not, people want something that works without having to worry about who it was made by and if it’s compatible.

I’ve seen almost nothing but good results with Open Source. More people tend to get involved with a variety of knowledge and experience. You usually don’t have to pay them either! It also means the software will be tested on more systems than can be done within the walls of a programming room. I think it’s produced some great things like Firefox and many web scripts such as forums.

I hoped I’d see an end to proprietary forum systems soon, but it looks like that won’t come for a long while if ever. In this particular market, I think Open Source is definitely an advantage when trying to produce a great system. Besides, who would want to pay for something when so many talented people are willing to devote spare time to creating the same thing with only the satisfaction that they helped someone and learned along the way?


How do you see the Internet in general changing over the next 5 to 10 years? What about online communities in particular?

Honestly? My visions scare me. If Bill Gates is right in The Road Ahead, everything will have a computer in it. Our coffeepot will be run by the computer. We won’t have to go to stores any more. I think it is both awesome and the main factor as to why America is so “fat.” I think the Internet provides great tools for networking with people, providing information for research, and for communicating in general. It has truly shrunk the world. There is something big happening with the merger of IM systems, games, video, audio chat, and VOIP. This will begin to change online communication. Hopefully this will spill over into forums with some sort of integration, and online communities will have these same great tools.


Tell us about the YaBB Community.

It is great. People are so helpful there. Support questions are answered by random new visitors and our support team, usually in 5 minutes to at most 2 days. People ask why our forum is currently only 34,000 posts; it’s because we get so many that we have to prune it frequently. Our International community is excellent too. I don’t see many software projects with a large base of non-English users and supporters. Even greater than that is we make friends with random people from around the world. Not everything at http://www.yabbforum.com/community/ is a discussion about YaBB….


What are the most common technical and administrative mistakes you see new admins making?

A lot of forums start out with way too many boards and categories. They think dividing things up will make moderation and topic searching easier. It only creates a big page with a lot of wasted bits and bytes that frustrates people. Another thing is not really caring about the subject. I see so many forums that have been abandoned because the administrator wasn’t devoted. Or he/she was, but had nothing to contribute to the topics! And lastly, some admins act like they own the content of all the posts and the people visiting the forum. They lay down the iron fist and don’t show compassion to visitors. I will stop visiting a forum usually if a moderator or administrator was rude to me.


Tell us something about yourself that we don't already know.

I was also a member of a bowling league for a couple years! What a nerd! I can’t do any neat tricks like bending a finger backwards. And… I weigh about 150 pounds and stand a striking 5 foot 11 inches high. I’m such a huge guy. Hah!


What does the future hold for Corey Chapman?

I’m always adding to the list of things I wish to accomplish. This includes bringing YaBB back to life. Right now that is one of my main focuses. I also hope to bring my facility with Ring Container to the top of the company and set a standard to get the container industry regulated by the government. I’ll also continue to be highly involved in community service. Oh, and I’ve parasailed now, so I have to figure out what’s next. Probably sky diving….
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Old 09-14-2005, 06:08 PM
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Thank you for the interview, The Sandman. It was a pleasure. And I apologize to everyone that actually reads through the entire thing! I have trouble being brief sometimes, especially when it's a topic I have a lot of interest in. As always, it is a pleasure to participate in the Admin Zone discussions.
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Old 09-14-2005, 06:14 PM
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LOL - it certainly is the definitive Corey Chapman interview. Thanks for taking the time to participate!
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Old 09-14-2005, 11:43 PM
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Nice read, I have recently got involed with the YaBB community and it has been very helpfull for me and it's great to be able to help others. I think it woudl be great to have all forum software to be able to interact with each other as Corey has described.

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Old 09-15-2005, 01:36 PM
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Well done Corey, Sandman. This was a very good read. :-)
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Old 09-16-2005, 07:42 AM
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Detailed, informative, and thoughtful. Great interview.
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Old 09-17-2005, 07:45 PM
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Sandman and Corey - Thanks so much for the informative interview. I've implemented several YaBB forums over time and enjoy knowing more about those involved with the evolution of the product. It's especially nice to get a brief snapshot of the "real" lifestyle of one of the key players - I guess my lifestyle isn't quite so totally out of balance afterall, though I do envy Corey's much smarter inclusion of "non-work" activities in his routine. Thanks for helping to bring a better perspective of the "human" side of this business into the equation!
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Old 09-21-2005, 11:15 AM
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As a user of YaBB and member of the YaBB Forum I've often benefitted from Corey's knowledge and willingness to help anyone. It's nice to read an interview with this very intelligent young man.

As an added bonus to reading this interview I've found THIS forum and have already registered and read a lot of good tips here about Administering a community Forum.

So thank you Corey and The Sandman, this was indeed a great read
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Old 09-21-2005, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by shanda
As a user of YaBB and member of the YaBB Forum I've often benefitted from Corey's knowledge and willingness to help anyone. It's nice to read an interview with this very intelligent young man.

As an added bonus to reading this interview I've found THIS forum and have already registered and read a lot of good tips here about Administering a community Forum.

So thank you Corey and The Sandman, this was indeed a great read
Thank you!
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Old 11-08-2005, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by The Sandman
Thank you!
Thanks for the comments, guys. Maybe we can get some YaBB developer interviews up here soon so you don't have to rely on my biased words
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Old 11-08-2005, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by crackers8
Thanks for the comments, guys. Maybe we can get some YaBB developer interviews up here soon so you don't have to rely on my biased words
Have them contact me if they're interested and I'll make it so.
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