|Interviews One On One Dialogues With Forum Administrators, Forum Software Developers & Other Interesting People.|
Interview with Rikki Tissier
Rikki Tissier has been affiliated with the Invision Community for as long as there has been an Invision Community. Currently, he is (among other things) an IPS Forum Administrator and the developer of Vectura, IPS's soon to be released standalone webmail system. Rikki not only agreed very graciously to do this interview, but despite his busy schedule he managed to complete the questions in a matter of only a couple of hours. I guess that's no big thing for someone with 17,500 posts on the Invision Community Forums...
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm 22, and live in Essex, UK. I have a wonderful fiancée Bec, who I have been engaged to for nearly 4 years, and we've been together for 5 years. We don't live together yet, but close enough that it's only a few minutes travelling. I've lived in this area my whole life so I don't know any different, but I like the town I'm in.
As well as IPS work, I'm also an animation student at http://www.animationmentor.com working towards an "Advanced diploma in character animation". I'll finish that in Sept 2006 - an 18 month course in total!
What is your educational background?
I did my GCSE's and A-Levels at the same school/6th form and got fairly good results (except for economics... long story!). Those grades allowed me to go onto university at APU in Essex where I studied Multimedia Systems. That basically covered everything from web design, flash, programming, animation, sound & video editing and lots more! I graduated last April (2004) with a first class honours degree, an achievement I'm really proud of!
How did you become involved with IPB and how did you come to be on the IPS staff?
Way back when, I used to run a site with an old friend. At the time, Matt had released ikonboard 2 and had started ikonboard 3, but this is prior to JEG. We decided we wanted a forum for our site, so the other guy looked at a few and decided to install ikonboard.
A while later, we were looking for someone to write a small PHP script for us, and Stephen Ball (the IPFM guy) agreed to do it. For some reason or other I needed to talk to him about it, so I signed up on the ikonboard forum to send him a PM... and then got hooked.
Along with John Doyle, we had the idea of creating a site for ikonboard 3 that kept a database of skins available. Other sites existed that posted some skins in a forum, but we wanted something better - a proper database of skins, and a proper site dedicated to skinning. IBSkins.com was born!
At this point I could explain the whole Matt/Charles/JEG/split thing, but I won't bother since it's been covered so much. I obviously went to what is now IPS like most other people, and Charles and Matt asked me if I would be interested in making IBSkins the official skin site for their new software. I jumped at the chance, and a staff position came out of that. IBSkins eventually merged with other resource sites to become IBPlanet, and when IPS decided to cut IBPlanet loose, it changed and became Invisionize. I fully intend to claim it back one day! (kidding...) It's good to know that the project I and a few others worked on is now a thriving site in its own right.
Is it your fulltime job? If not, what is?
As mentioned, I am a student still but because of the unique way the course I'm doing operates, I set my own timetable. Officially I work for IPS part-time, but it tends to be that I work at home Monday - Friday, then spend the weekend working on my animation assignments. That's pretty fluid though, and depending on what I feel like doing that day, it changes. Some would call it the perfect schedule
You are the developer of IPV (Invision Power Vectura) which was recently announced.
-- How long has it been under development?
We spoke about developing a webmail client when I visited the US last summer, but it wasn't really put into motion until the beginning of this year. Originally it was a joint project with Stewart Campbell, so he must take some credit for the early planning, but unfortunately due to his uni/work commitments he wasn't really able to work on it to a huge extent. Actual work on it started in the spring, but as anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm not happy with it until the 3rd revision It's been through a couple of big changes so it's very different to what we started with.
-- What are the main features?
We want to use the first version to get a webmail client going with the basics: sending, receiving, folders, address book etc. The new ideas and innovation will start to appear in 1.1 when the base is solid. That's not to say there's not some nice bits and pieces in this version though!
-- What is the user interface like?
Some new webmail products are taking the route of trying to emulate a desktop application within a browser window, normally using AJAX to a large extent. Having used those, I decided I didn't want Vectura to be like that. They were normally slow, confusing and the desktop idea just didn't seem to work well. So, my target for Vectura was to keep the webmail feel, but to add some touches of a desktop application, including things like drag and drop.
-- How will this product benefit IPB users?
Vectura isn't a plugin for IPB in the same way that Gallery and Blog are. It's a standalone application that will have the ability to integrate with IPB. So it's not so much a question of how it will benefit IPB users but rather how it will benefit webmasters. E-mail is a technology that most users will use every day, so to have the ability to offer a site-branded email address to visitors will be a big plus and will keep users coming back.
It's not only aimed at webmasters - it'd also be useful for small to medium businesses who need staff to be able to access email from anywhere but don't need an enterprise-level solution.
-- When do you think it will be released?
We aren't speculating on release dates at this point, but we're hoping to begin beta testing in the new year!
What other projects are you currently working on?
As well as Vectura I'm also working on Nexus with Josh to get a design that we're happy to release with. It may be that the design we've developed for Nexus becomes standard for IPS products. I know Nexus testers have already seen the new look and the response was good, but I'm nervous about the public release! It's a fairly big change from what we have done in the past (it's still blue though!).
Tell us about the Invision Community members.
Where to start... We have such a variety of members, every type of interest, every race, every opinion. It really makes things interesting with everyone having their own take on a topic. Some come to post in depth discussion of particular subjects, some come to provide humour at the right moments. I think we have a perfect mix of people.
Are the IPS Community Forums difficult to manage?
Not to a huge extent, on the whole people are considerate and mature. As with any board there's the odd problem member or topic, but generally we don't have to do much more than move topics to another forum.
Just how busy do you guys get after a major release?
Very! I'm not an IPB tech so I couldn't tell you with authority how the volume of support requests increases, but I believe it's 3 to 4 times the normal load in the couple of weeks after a major release is made. The techs sometimes get some stick but they really do work hard for customers, and after a release there's barely time for them to breathe!
You currently have the second highest post count on the Invision Company Forums - do you think you’ll ever have the highest?
Not while that spammer hogging 1st place is around!
Kidding aside, I probably do have the highest when you remember that many of Matt's are due to the multi-mods he used for tracking bugs. My postcount scares me sometimes though, it's not something I'm proud of
Are online communitites an important part of the internet? Of life?
Definitely, I think so. In some respects they play a similar role to chat rooms and instant messages, but then they have a whole other level that chatrooms can't reach. Message boards are so versatile, we've seen people using them for so many different purposes, from a company intranet where internal communication is done through topics and forums, to a (real-life) community who can now communicate together in their online community too, and everything inbetween. And unlike chatrooms and IM's, it's always there to look back on! Without message boards I really think the internet would be a poorer place.
Tell us about your own community.
I haven't run my own board since IBSkins merged with IBPlanet several years ago. I wouldn't be able to dedicate the time or focus it would need along with the other things I have going.
How would you describe your moderation style?
Pretty liberal, but I come down hard on those that make it their duty to cause trouble. We have to have a stricter set of rules than most other sites do simply because we're a corporate forum and we can't have an 'anything goes' policy, but I interpret them with as much flexibility as possible. Providing people don't overstep the bounds of decency and maturity, I'm pretty happy to let it go. When it's clear someone is visiting to cause trouble or where the issue is serious enough that it's obviously only there to provoke, then I'm unforgiving - I'll ban them where someone else may just have given a warning. I have no time for people that are intent on wasting our time!
What are the most common administrative mistakes you see admins making?
Definitely the most common one, and I'm sure it has been mentioned hundreds of times before, is creating hundreds of forums when you have 2 members. It creates such a bad first impression having all these forums for every conceivable topic but with 99% of them empty. It won't inspire people to stay and get involved! The best way to start a forum is decide what your board will be about, then create a few specific forums around that subject. You can always add more later if you need to!
What are your thoughts on IPB 2.1?
Matt has done a fantastic job with 2.1. The new features have taken IPB from a product that covers the basics to one that can do everything we can imagine you'd want to do! Features such as RSS Import which let's your board automatically post RSS feeds as topics to your board are so innovative - IPB got featured on BBC Backstage for its innovate use of RSS feeds in that manner!
What would you like to see added or changed in the next version?
I'll let Matt and Brandon come up with the new features! I do think we've only just begun to explore the possibilities that AJAX offers, so I think future versions will see an increase in usability in that respect. I know many people would like an overhauled portal, so perhaps if Santa is in a good mood this year...
Please describe your typical weekday schedule? Weekend?
As mentioned above, my schedule is pretty flexible. Some days I don't feel like working until the afternoon, and I can do that, or I might want to have a day off of IPS bits and work on animation instead, and I can do that too. Having said that, I would like to get into a stricter schedule, so perhaps soon I will be forcing myself to do 9-5!
What is your ultimate career goal / dream job?
Although programming and design forms my job at the moment, I think the ultimate goal I could have, given my interests, is to land a job at Pixar or another major animation studio. Wherever I end up though, I just want to enjoy my job. I don't think I could stand a life working somewhere I don't enjoy just to pay the bills.
How do you see the internet in general changing over the next 5 to 10 years? What about online communities in particular?
10 years is hell of a long time. I don't know what the internet might be like in 2015, but whatever it's like I think we'll be looking back and laughing at the internet we got by with in 2005!
I'm not sure there'll be any major changes in the next 5 years. In my opinion it's difficult for the internet to progress much at the moment because of compatibility issues, so other than some improvements to what we have already, I can't see major changes happening quickly unless there's a wholesale change in usage habits. 10 years though? Perhaps there's more scope for change in that timespan. Whatever happens though, I don't think we'll have the science-fiction fantasy of virtual reality goggles!
What are your thoughts on blogging? Do you have a blog?
I do enjoy reading other peoples blogs, some around the net are really interesting and provide other perspectives on events that you might not get otherwise. I have my own blog which I mainly use to post my progress with my animation assignments. I find it difficult to blog about other things, I never know what to say in an interesting way that people will want to read! If you're interested in seeing my animation work, my blog is at the IPS forum. I love getting feedback, good or bad, on my animation work, it really helps me.
What are your favorite books? Movies? TV shows? Music? Games? Foods? Beverages?
Books: I'm not a massive reader even though I do enjoy it. A while ago I read Dan Brown's 3 novels (Digital Fortress, Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code) and they were fantastic, I can't wait for the next book in the Spring. I'm trying to decide whether to read Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia next.
TV: I'm an addict of Neighbours, an Australian soap shown every day in the UK. It's a student thing (though I'll still be watching it when I'm 50...). I also love Little Britain, it's a brilliant take on British stereotypes.
Music: Just recently I think I've become the worlds biggest Coldplay fan. Which is ironic - up until a few months ago I couldn't stand them. I currently have 10 Coldplay playlists in iTunes and 2 DVD's (I think I'm wearing them out). Other bands I like are: Athlete, Kaiser Chiefs, Keane, Franz Ferdinand, Ben Folds, Embrace, Jack Johnson, James Blunt, Jamiroquai, Jem, Killers, Scissor Sisters etc. I also enjoy some Dance music if I'm in the right mood.
Games: I'm not a big gamer. I really enjoyed Half Life 2 on the PC when it came out last year, and when I was in the US this summer the techs got me playing World of Warcraft a bit, but I haven't got into it in a big way. I did buy myself a PSP though, Lumines is the best puzzle game ever, and GTA:LCS is an amazing game given the platform.
Foods: I don't like eating (which is odd considering my belly). At home I eat because I have to, though when I go out you can't beat a good steak, medium-well with a pepper corn sauce and pub-style chips ( fries for the yanks )
Beverages: I drink excessive quantities of Coke. 'Nuff said.
What websites do you visit on a regular basis?
A large chunk of my time is spent at the IPS site/forum, but next to that I spend a lot of time reading the news at http://news.bbc.co.uk. Those 2 sites together probably account for 80% of my online reading. I also spend a few hours each week at animationmentor.com watching my lectures, reading comments on my work and seeing what other people have done.
What is the significance of your custom title, "I've got a new combine harvester"?
It's a line from a brilliant song by a group called the Wurzels called "The Combine Harvester". No seriously, it's brilliant. Really. Matt and I ran a campaign to get it back into the top 40 chart in the first week that downloads were included in the UK music chart.
We failed. I don't know why, it's a brilliant song. A work of art.
What do you do for fun and relaxation?
I prefer to snuggle up and watch TV than going out (I feel so old saying that...), whether that's here or at Becs. I've been to a load of concerts/festivals this year which has been great fun, you can't beat live music thumping through your body, it puts you on such a high. I've got tickets for Coldplay's gig at Earls Court in December, I can't wait!
What do you know now that you wish you’d known 10 years ago?
Last weeks lottery numbers...
What does the future hold for Rikki Tissier?
It's likely that sometime next year I'm going to be moving to the US to work at the IPS offices full-time. That's going to be an enormous move for me - I've never lived away from home, so it's going to be my first time living on my own, my first full-time job... and 3000 miles from my family! It's a scary thought.
Hi rikki, This post is several years old now. How has your perception changed after re-reading your post? Are you still in the states? Good luck with your animation career if you continued with it that is.
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