Interview: SHS' - phpBB Moderator Team Leader

1. Can you give us a brief biography?

Of the autobiographical kind (since no-one has yet written a biography about me, as yet!) here's a fairly quick run down. My name is obviously Jonathan Stanley and as of May 2005, am aged 26. I'm British by virtue of my father being British though was born and raised in the ex-British colonial outpost that is Hong Kong, where my family lived in up until late 1990. Coming back to the United Kingdom saw me continue with my secondary education and having the opportunity to develop my strong subjects which I then went on to study at A-Level, namely Art, Maths and Physics.

Barr a year or so back at college part time with one ex-employer, I've been in the job market for some 8 years now foregoing the more common University Degree route and I say I'm better for it as I've had the opportunity to work in jobs I wouldn't have had the chance to do if my graduation certificate was still wet off the printing press. To date, I've worked in Technical Customer Support, Finance and Auditing, deep sub-micron Electronic Engineering and more recently, Technical Authoring... lots of "parallel" and "perpendicular" jumps and all the better for it.

Currently though, I'm looking up to start up my own business... so what does the future hold? Who knows! Smile

2. What sparked your interest in phpBB?

Way back in early 2001, I had set up a now defunct website which needed a forum and toyed around with UBB to see if it was suitable and came very close to getting a licence. Though after consulting the Oracle a bit more, Google came up with the goods and pointed me to this free bulletin board product by the name of "phpBB". After hunting down a webhost that supported PHP and MySQL then doing some testing, said site launched on 13th April 2001 (yes it was a Friday!) running phpBB 1.2.1.

phpBB 2.0 was already in development then, being a complete rewrite from group up and a live demo running alpha code existed at Interested in all things cutting edge, I just had to register there too and follow progress, contributing feedback when the developers asked for it as they worked on the new features.

So by then I was pretty hook, line and sinkered for phpBB, though as with all stories, it doesn't just end there! One fateful day late October 2001 was the day when myself, Dominik "dhn" Dröscher and Aaron "Kanuck" Adams were invited my James "theFinn" Atkinson to be moderators on the phpBB2 beta forum at, which we all accepted and helped out on moderating "General Chat" and supporting "phpBB2 Beta1". The months rolled on and with 4 release candidates and it was time to get things ready for the big day, release of phpBB2.0.0. Paul "psoTFX" Owen had actually aimed for a 1st of April release, though that was missed by a tiny 3 days.

Since 2002, lots of things have happened phpBB-wise, most obvious that the community is now huge and is reflected by more voluntary staff making up the various teams. Personally I've gone from "just a moderator" to Team Leader for the same group, and relatively recently have had the Styles Team under my wing too. Looking forwards, the Developers are still beavering away at phpBB3.0 (née "Olympus") and there's plenty there to keep me interested with what relevant input I can contribute towards that project.

3. Describe a typical day.

I'll have to assume you're referring to a phpBB Day, in which case I'll have to expel any myths about team members all having their own private jets, flying around the World spreading the word of phpBB as we overlook the forums on our laptops connected via satellite Internet connections as we sip some fine champagne and scoff caviar right off the bat.

A typical day, for myself at least and assuming I have an Internet connection that moment, is to overlook the administration side of the phpBB site, managing the teams I have under my auspices and bits of work which require server access such as adding new validated styles to the Styles Demo and so on.

Aside from that would be the testing of phpBB, versions 2.0.x and 3.x inclusive as and when required by the Developers to see how proposed changes work, which generally involves just pulling the current code from CVS manually and getting on with that.

4. How much time do you spend on each day?

That really does vary day to day though I am basically available where ever I have Internet access and am awake, which totals about 15 hours per day. Actual time spent can vary from just 2 hours to as many as 10 hours, juggling what things I need to have done for phpBB and things which are external to it such as personal pet projects or keeping down a real job so as to make sure that bills can be paid and that there's food on the table.

5. Do you moderate anywhere else?

As strange as it may sound, I don't moderate anywhere else anymore, if only for the fact phpBB takes up quite enough of my time already. I do however try and contribute my bit to whatever other OpenSource projects I may be using on a nearly day to day basis bug submitting bugs reports as required for such projects ranging from Mozilla (SeaMonkey & Firefox), through to Gallery (version 2 mostly) or WordPress.

6. Who came up with the idea for the phpBB bears?

phpBB Bertie Bear is all my doing! Very Happy The idea basically sparked from a stint of voluntary work I did whilst at Marie Curie Cancer Care and the office I was at had a really cool bear which was made for them for fundraising purposes. I managed to find out about a UK based company whom actually created the high quality custom plush toys, create logoed garments for them and so forth. Considering the quality was better than what was offered by CafePress, plus more unique; I ran the idea past the other team members where I got very positive reception and proceeded with an initial test batch of 12.

Having got them and distributing them to those in the team that had ordered them, it was decided they should be offered to the wider community. In all, only about 70 were ever made as being sourced from the UK, meant they were quite expensive even though they were sold at cost. With seemingly no-one wanting anymore by late last year and the fact I still had some left, which was paid for out of my own pocket, I ran the idea across the teams if they should be auctioned off to raise some money. From the outset I wanted whatever monies raised to not be for personal gain and settled on the Disaster Emergency Committee as the designated charity whom was providing relief for the 2004 Asian Tsunami disaster.

7. How do you choose moderators for such a large forum?

In my book, how you choose moderators is something unrelated to the size of whatever community you have. May be easier to say whom not to choose as a moderator. Generally, those people that contact you that they would make good "X, Y, Z" doing such and such are the ones you'll want to banish forever to the "NO" list. Anyone can proclaim they are a gift to Humanity, though very few people will actually be able to stand up to this in the cold harsh burning light of reality.

So... practical tips on how to choose moderators? Firstly, that person has to be pretty active on your community. Secondly, do you like their posting style? You don't have to agree with everything they say, as everyone's views on the many topics in life differ. Thirdly, 9 times out of 10, active community members will have personal sites be it a blog or their own forum. Check them out, have a look at how they go about with everything day to day, how they moderate, speak and so forth.

If you don't get any bad taste in your mouth by that point, then you're pretty much home dry. At the point of invitation, be sure to make them aware of what you expect from them and what the team member rules are, in addition to community rules which apply to everyone. This last bit is important as just because one now may be the law, shouldn't mean that you are above it.

Anyway, this approach isn't set in stone, since every community is different and what ultimately works for me may well not work for someone else. Very Happy

8. What is your favorite thing about moderating?

For phpBB, it's because that's one of the things I am able to give back to the project, to ensure that the community runs smoothly so that users that really need support get it efficiently and those that wish to have serious discussions are able to do so too.

9. How many computers do you have and what are they used for?

Currently, I own a self-built Pentium-3 700E dual processor desktop which has served me very well for the last 4 years and a bit. was one of the many tech news sites which I read and just wanted to try out this SMP stuff and have to say that being the multitasking fiend I am, the smoother experience is very nice, even when running a number of CPU intensive programs which would bring a single CPU system to it's knees, however many GigaHertz is has. Smile It was literally the everything PC as it had to do all the functions I needed it to do in terms of running desktop applications and server services such as IIS, Apache, MySQL, etc. Obviously, SMP is effectively mainstream now with AMD and Intel releasing desktop CPUs which are multicored (dualcored for now) and people with such systems will see why the extra CPU was so useful for the way I worked for themselves.

Next is my recently purchased Pentium-M based laptop which I use permanently now by virtue of the fact I have Internet access via Wi-Fi and means I can get on with things and not be sat at my computer desk, such as out in the garden and get some rays from the old Day-Star! Very Happy

That does mean my dually desktop is officially retired and indeed up for sale for a willing buyer, though I intend to replace that with a nice multiprocessor SSF PC, most probably the Iwill one as they are the only people making such things. Though I may be swayed by self-building a small Pentium-M based desktop as those processors are amazing in being able to do a lot of work, yet use very little power unlike the current AMD or Intel desktop CPUs where their power usage ratings are near as makes no difference measured in 3 digits.

10. And last but not least, what advice can you give to moderators/admins of forums?

Quite simple really, "fairness and consistency". Whether your community is big or small, there will be people you like and dislike... fact of life. Pretty much all communities will have rules which are what the administration expects from everyone in how they conduct themselves.

So when anyone oversteps the line, they should be judged fairly, impartially and consistently. As the lack of this will erode the ability in being able to wield power, for want of a better word, as there will be times you will need to be firm, so sticking to the above will mean what you do say won't be undermined.