Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello my name is Floris Fiedeldij Dop, I am male, 28 years old (21 January 1977) and I live in the Netherlands; In an apartment (8 levels up) overlooking some nice nature. I like horse riding and playing guitar. In the past I've had my own web design company and trained my horses to accept--and have patience with--physically/mentally handicapped and sick children. My interests include online communities (specifically the ones powered by vBulletin) and reading fun or important information on the internet (SitePoint.com, SlashDot.org, ThinkGeek.org, TheRegister.co.uk, Daniweb.com, DeskPro.com, some blogs, etc. You can find me in IRC chat rooms having fun with friends and regular community members (irc://irc.vBFans.com/vBFans). I'm busy learning everything I am behind on, which includes PHP and MySQL and basicly life. My experience with online communities is starting-up and managing various-ranged-topics forums. The reason I am online so much is because I can concentrate for only a few hours per day on 'work', after which I get headaches and increased nystagm. I am an albino, and the bright sun light is not my best friend. As you hopefully understand I have quite some time to surf the internet; so for example doing support for Jelsoft is more a hobby.

You are now a well known figure in the vBulletin community, but how did you end up there?
After I moved out of my parents’ farm and into the world on my own, I noticed that I had more and more requests to help family, friends, small to large businesses, find a spot on the internet. I’ve always had an interest in the internet and graphic design so I tried my best and quickly learned how to make web designs and web sites (latest is www.thenewdeli.com and www.vBulletin-Style.com). After a few years my priorities changed and I decided to finish the work I promised and not take on new customers. As a hobby I started an on-line community, which is what I always wanted to do as a personal web site. A central spot where I can hang out and have great conversations with friends. The first year went great, but also horrible. A lot of friends signed up and loved the unique design I made, but the community just didn’t perform as required. After going through OpenBB, phpBB, IPB, and tForum, I decided to find a BBS solution that would really fit the web site; the features, the performance, the support, the quality, etc. On December 31st of 2001 I’ve purchased my first vBulletin license and wrote a custom import script to convert from tForum to vBulletin (version 2.2.1 was just released I think). On January 1st 2002 the web site was back online and the response was great. It could handle the amount of users online without problems and ever since we’ve grown to a community nearing its first 100,000th post and 10,000th member. What remained was converting the unique design I had in mind to vBulletin, so I started learning the template system and with the great help of Boofo and others from the community I came up with some unique ways to realize that design. Halfway through January, someone sent me a private message telling me I should sign up for the Board of the Month competition on vBulletin.com – so I did, but ended second place in March 2002; the great final fantasy republic web site came first. Over time the creations.nl community grew, and as I learned more about vBulletin I found it is great to help other newcomers so I continued to do just that. And over time creations.nl turned more and more into a vBulletin discussion community, and so we changed to vBulletin.nl (which did win Board of the Month November 2003 http://www.vbulletin.com/botm.php?year=2003) and earlier this year we changed into the vBulletin-Fans.com web site. During this, just over a year ago, Kier Darby and Steve Machol took me aside and offered me a contract as an official Junior Support staff member; how could I refuse? I guess my personal motivation to provide and share my resources and offer support to those who need it, has helped make me get where I am now in the vBulletin community.

You have several vBulletin related communities such as vBulletin-Fans.com. What drove you to create them?
Probably insanity, but mostly because I am a big fan of the software. I like to discuss the software, its features, rumours, to hold competitions and to show off vBulletin’s capabilities. Right now I am running a vBulletin Fans web-ring with a language translation/development forum (vBulletin-Language.com), a free style demo/development forum (vBulletin-Style.com), and of course the fans forum (vBulletin-Fans.com). One more to open its doors soon after the release of upcoming vBulletin forum software version 3.5 is http://www.vBulletin-Tutorials.com/. From creations.nl to vBulletin-Fans.com was a natural process. A community grows and I just move along with it.

So it looks like all, or at least most, of your communities are vBulletin related, do you have any personal communities?
Yes, I have a few more sites. But I prefer to keep those separate from these hobby sites. I also prefer to keep those private as I express myself very personally – it is an outlet to the world – and that’s just a different side of me.

But you also work for Jelsoft, as a Support employee as you told us earlier, what exactly do you do?
If I were to tell you, I would have to kill you... (so don’t tell anybody else!) Just kidding! My main function is to give support in the vBulletin support forums (which might explain those 16,000+ posts I’ve made so far), and go through the pre-sales questions. I review submitted styles and language packs and I keep an eye on threads as a moderator. Besides the public forums there is also the private ticket system where I handle sales, support, piracy reports, moderate on-line manual comments, links.php requests and testimonials. When there is time I do installations and upgrades too. Besides all that, in my free time, I try to find bugs in new source code, discuss new or existing features with the development team. Occasionally I update the on-line manual with new entries and sections. Uhm, I worked on the ACP-Manual style; And other stuff I just can’t tell you.

Gathering from this, you sound like you have a lot of experience. Do you have any suggestions for the not so experienced?
Yes, it is really important that you do not rush into clicking buttons and links. Read what is presented on a page; Learn to understand how a feature works or what options want from you. Really, so many things are so much easier for you if you just spend five more seconds on what you’re doing. And if you tried to search on-line for answers, and do not understand what to do, or just unsure what to do next: Ask! Besides the trained staff, there are many experienced users and we’re all happy to help. One of the first things Steve Machol told me was to not assume anything, but to go and figure it out.
And to be honest, I am still learning a lot. Each day I open my browser and visit a web site and I get new ideas, new motivation and I attempt to try a lot of stuff out. If it doesn’t work, I’m just one step closer to a solution that does work.

And with vBulletin 3.5 coming closer and closer, I can't resist but ask: Got any inside info?
The recent announcement gives away a lot of details and hints about what to expect, and 3.5 is a great step forward for the community. This time not only does the end user get a better online experience, and this time not only does the administrator get a boost in features and options to make it possible to create an even better and more unique balanced community, but this time the vBulletin resource community itself will enjoy this upgrade for it will make modifying the software so much easier – and still keep official free support – and still upgrade to the next version and the next. Personally, I consider 3.5 the silence before the storm release. Or 3.5, ‘directors cut’. Web technology is improving, and browsers are catching up, and Jelsoft is fully embracing new technology. Listening to their customers, and giving their customers what they want.
But that of course is all information that you already know, so here goes. Not to long ago we took the idea of inline moderation from our todo list and realized it. We’ve shown a short example of what is possible with it; but in the meantime I’ve added unique suggestions and ideas for the developers (I believe mainly Kier) to work with and work out. The result is really amazing to me, what the developers always wanted for years now works in 3.5, and in a slick, smooth and visually appealing manner. Simple to use and easy to understand. Those who have an active license can already download the latest beta and try it out themselves! Oh and keep your eyes open for the new live-switching WYSIWYG message editor.

Thank you for giving us some of your time.
Thank you for asking me all these questions, I had a fun time answering them.
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