Interview: Jeff Lewis (Co-Founder SMF And Now Project Phoenix)

Part 1 of 2: Past, Present, Future

1. Not many people know you as the developer of YaBB SE or SMF, can you provide a bit more information about your self personally?

I'm a 34 old programmer, have been working with PHP for approximately ten years now from in house applications to forums to customer relationship management software. Previous to PHP, I was heavily into Perl and Visual Basic abefore that for a job creating desktop applications.

2. A lot of people talk about inspiration as a reason behind why they start something. What is your reason or inspiration for beginning on a project title Yet Another Bulletin Board?

I was working with Perl in my day job and needed a forum for a site I was working on. I started to spend a lot of time over at YaBB answering questions, doing support and from there I just kept going. From doing support, to development, to project management. Going from YaBB Perl to a PHP version was seen as a challenge, a fun little project for Joseph and I so we got together one weekend and got it going.

3. Why did YaBB SE go to SMF?

YaBB SE was a PHP port straight from the Perl version with the exception of us adding MySQL support where the Perl version was purely flat file storage at the time. As we were working on YaBB SE in it's current state and working towards a version 2, a developer named [Unknown] was working on his own little code base he called his "Secret Project". After some discussion, we decided to use that as the new code base and scrapped the code for YaBB SE2 aong with the name as we decided to move forward with a new beginning.

4. When going from YaBB SE to SMF did you find any hindrances that slowed down the process?

The transition from YaBB SE to SMF was a very smooth one. We basically were just going with a new name and launched a new site look along with it. We had the same team and same users so it was pretty seamless.

5. I have read many threads and blogs on the downfall of SMF. Readers may think the same thing, can you provide a little information on the happenings with the SMF project?

I think SMF has lost it's way. Not everyone feels the same way mind you, but that is my personal opinion. It feels as though it went from a fun place to be where people could learn and contribute to one that seems to have a very tense environment. Naturally, I feel there is a lot more to it than that but for now I will leave it at that.

6. You made a website, SMF-Friends, could you give our readers a bit of details behind the creation of this site?

I actually didn't create the website but it was other SMF Friends Redone and Eren who put the site together. It was done quickly one day when the current SMF Team locked some team members and friends out of the site. They wanted to put a place up where people affected by this issue could freely discuss what had been going on without fear of retribution.

7. There has been quite a bit of information or rumors floating around that SMF project is in trouble and may be on the verge of shut down. Many have not read the most recent blog in regards to the SMF project so could you give a short version of the happenings?

Pretty certain that SMF is not in any danger of shut down. While it is going through some issues at the moment I can't see it closing down anytme soon. There is still a development and support team in place that are working towards release of version two and I'm now hearing rumours of a good deal of version three worked on as well. Version two is in the works for a few years now so hopefully they can push that out sometime in the near future. There are currently ongoing discussions between the friends and the team as well to see if they can come to some sort of an agreement.

8. Would you say SMF is a dead project? Why or why not?

I don't think it's a dead project but I certainly think it's a project in trouble. Granted that it's still there and will be for a long time, it's development has been extremely slow.

9. What is the goal for SMF-Friends in this dire moment of the SMF project?

At the moment the goal for the SMF Friends was to try to get SMF back on track, the track it was meant to be on.

10. Where is the SMF project heading in regards to a death or rebirth?

SMF has been in an extremely slow development cycle. It's been wokring on version 2 for a few years now and when you fall behind like that your users will find new software to use. Several forum packages are evolving and innovating while SMF is a bit anchored in the past.

11. Once the community has obtained the SMF project again, what are the goals and plans?

The community I don't think will have SMF. I have heard there are some rumblings of an NPO but the general consensus is that it will remain as is for now.

12. Knowing the dire situation that the SMF project is in, where do you see it in say a couple of years?

I imagine SMF will still remain there, I don't think it will go anywhere at all. Even old YaBB Perl is still there after all of these years.

13. As many have seen, the dedication and support from SMF-Friends is beyond recognition. Do you plan to bring back old team members and possibly new team members from the SMF-Friends group?

We have a very large collection of old SMF team members including the founders of the project and some of the main developers on board.

14. Since Project Phoenix has been announced, what is your hopes and goals for this project?

I really want to see "Project Phoenix" go where we didn't get to take SMF. Our original plans got off to a great start but in the end we didn't get to finish it. So we have unfinished work to clean up and I hope we can do that by offering a very flexible core on to which various different modules can be used. So not just a forum, not just a CMS, or a gallery, but anything that can use a solid core. As for the organization side of things, it will be fantastic to see it as a proper NPO where that can be fully directed by its members.

15. Do you see any controversy rearing its ugly head when Project Phoenix goes into active status from the SMF community? If so what controversy do you foresee?

I'm sure something will come up but what it will be I don't know. Maybe claims of copying our origins or maybe claims of trying to "steal" users. I'm not overly concerned in the end because the two pieces of software are going to be very different and while there is some crossover in user base the same thing can be said about most web software.

16. What will make Project Phoenix different than other forum software?

Well, "Project Phoenix" isn't necessarily forum software. It's aim is to be a core that contains the functions needed to run web applications. I'd love to see a forum module on release of the core but it's still too early to tell what we'll have at launch.

17. Will you be giving time into the development or do you plan to sit back unless needed?

I definitely plan to get my hands dirty. I've been looking to get involved in a project again for a few months now and it's hard not to get involved with a fantastic group of people which is what we've collected. To what extent I'm not sure yet but I will certainly be looking to cause some trouble.

18. What are the main features that you want to see in Project Phoenix?

It's hard to list a feature set as I feel most feature sets will be contained in the modules themselves but I'd really like to see the core be extremely flexible without compromising for both security and scalability. There are some exceptionally talented people there having some fairly in depth discussions on various aspects so hopefully over these last seven or more years we've all learned from our previous experience.

19. Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about getting into development of forums or addons?

Read all that you can. There are so many things to keep an eye out for when developing for anything other than your personal site. There are plenty of resources out there dealing with things like caching, security, database optimization and more.

20. Can you tell us something that not everyone knows about you?

I'm a huge MMO fan and have spent far too many hours in them over the last few years. I have spent a lot of time setting up guild sites and things like that using SMF and phpBB as a base so I look forward to creating something people can use that can help them with their guild/clan sites.
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Steve M
Community fan & administrator for nearly 20 years. Website & add-on developer for XenForo and various other forums. Content creator part-time for right now.

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