Interview:Derek from Gaia Online-Largest Online Forum

By fumbalah · Jun 20, 2005 ·
  1. fumbalah
    Thanks to Derek for taking time out of his very busy schedule to do an interview with me. :). Hope you all Enjoy!

    Can you give our members a brief biography?

    Me? I'm a 31 year old Chinese guy who happen to have a lot of interests
    and hobbies. Not an expert at anything, I just tend to go wherever my
    interest takes me. Eventually I ended up in the networking industry for
    the better part of my career. With interests outside of technology which
    includes business, marketing and administration, I had been involved
    with different ventures and projects. From computer stores to internet
    services, being an entrepreneur had always been a part of me.

    Why did you choose to start Gaia.?

    Japanese anime and video games had always been a source of inspiration
    for me and my housemates. There were times when we played a lot of
    online roleplaying games, and one day we've decided to discover the
    potential of the anime oriented community on the Internet. We noticed
    that there isn't a central community centered around anime in general,
    and we wanted to start a community that will represent internet users
    like us.

    Why did you choose phpBB over other forum software?

    It's free! :D Been using it since it first came out so I was comfortable
    in installing and editing the program. The growing pain would be
    tremendous if we went with a paid software which we continuously edit
    and we expand and install more servers. I couldn't imagine running
    anything with a per server license when there are a hundred servers
    installed. Besides, the phpbb community always carry an inspiring and
    helpful environment for developers.

    What is your favorite thing about running a large online forum?

    Our users most definitely. Nothing like receiving immediate feedback
    from thousands of users for every feature, update, or bug that showed
    up. Nothing else will make you feel more alive. :)

    How many moderators/Super Moderators do you have?

    Hard to keep count as our moderators can mentor a few helpers to furthur
    moderate the forums. I estimate about a hundred. It's quite a challange
    for every moderator because of the high traffic volume on Gaia. Can't
    thank everyone enough for holding the community together.

    What is your favorite moment from Gaia.

    It was the first party that was organized by our users. To help
    celebrate the event I programmed in a flying gift box which would grant
    our users a bonus party item. I happen to be visiting my family at the
    time and it was great seeing my brothers involved at the same time. That
    idea with the party item eventually evolved into a rare item system.

    How many servers do you have and what are their purposes?

    Today we have about 110 servers. Most of them are web servers sitting
    behind a load balancer, while many are also web servers setup to handle
    specific tasks such as registration or avatar customization. Over 15
    servers are database servers handling the many aspects of the site, and
    we even have 3 servers setup just to handle user sessions.

    Do you have any new features that you are excited about?

    We are about to release a host of real time interactive features that
    will allow for many gaming or community related ideas. As soon as those
    features go live we'll finally reach the beta stage of our development
    so I'm extremely excited about this upcoming milestone.

    What do you like to do away from Gaia/the internet?

    Movie watching and playing Ping Pong dominate all my free time these
    days. :) I also spend time collecting and reading Japanese comics.
    Infact, that's my greatest hobby.

    How many hours a day do you spend at the computer?

    12 to 15 hours usually. Gaia had managed to take over my life for the
    past two years. It might sound a bit harsh but I've enjoyed every moment
    of it. :) Things are actually a lot better than the early days when I
    take 30 hour programming sessions every time I woke up. :)

    Do you have any advice for people starting forums on how to become

    Definitely. The main word is a goal. Before starting a site, determne
    what you want to do and how you'll insprire interest for your users.
    Don't start with the "you build it and they will come" mentality and
    don't settle with features that everyone else can install in a day. The
    time and effort spent in brainstorming and development will equate to
    the uniqueness and often the popularity of the site. I've had many
    failed projects before, but it always feel great looking back when you
    gave it all you've got.

    Tell us one thing we don’t know about you?

    I'm deadly accurate with firearms. :D

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