Interview: Jerry Hutchings (vBulletin)

By floris · Jul 5, 2004 ·
  1. floris
    Just over a year ago the vBulletin community got surprised with the announcement of a new asset to the development team, Jelsoft hired Jerry! Nobody had an idea what his job function was going to be, but after the release of version 3 of vBulletin it became obvious. Jerry is the developer behind the vBulletin Import / Export System that helps web sites in distress to convert from their third party forum software to the next generation forum software vBulletin. Just when Jerry was planning a night of sleep after months and months of hard work, we kept him awake with our questions. Because community fans want to know all the details! Here they are :)

    Interview with Jerry Hutchings from
    Hi there Jerry! First off, thank you very much for your time, please give us a short bio and explain your position in the vBulletin Development Team if you can.

    Well I'm one of the development team, I've been with Jelsoft about a year and a half, though I've only been working for them full-time for 7 months or so.

    I joined originally to help out with the importers and to contribute to the project as another experienced developer.

    How did you get involved with internet development, and when? Was your interest always with PHP/MySQL?

    My first introduction to 'internet' development was probably just around pre-college where I used to go to The flying teapot bbs around 1989 or thereabouts.

    I can remember thinking "I wonder how they do that then......." and the rest was history as they say. I progressed via the Atari ST route to PC's, as my brother had an Amiga so I didn't need to get one of those.

    My first experience with web development in a form similar to that which I do with Jelsoft was in 97 with Lockheed Martin. I also worked with a company called Tree house writing an online game; Suzerain, which was launched at GenCon UK.

    Initially I used C and shell. PHP & MySQL came later as the language over took everything else out there when it was re-written by Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski in 97.

    How do you work? Sketch out, your system, tools, resources if you can.

    Mainly filled with green tea.

    My development environment currently is a XP desktop with 2 *nix servers (Suse and Gentoo) and my laptop. Xmanager 2 takes care of all the exported X apps nicely to the desktop.

    I usually change editor every now and then to see what the latest offering are like, but I come back to jEdit as I feel happy with Java and have some ideas for developing it, also I have it quite customed and tuned to how I code. I use Textpad as a scratch pad and I tend to advocate it to everyone I meet... I'll have to see if there is a reseller program!

    As for design, Visio usually does the trick for simple apps or ideas work, for something more serious, I'm getting used to ArgoUML at the moment, as I've not got a copy of rational rose any more and found it a bit heavy weight.

    Testing is taken care of by PhpUnit, after using JUnit in my last job I learned the benefits of having a testing harness for everything. The initial core of ImpEx was developed using PhpUnit.

    I'm a big fan of CMM and always look to introduce applicable elements of that into a working practice, the same goes for Extreme Programming as well as the formal training I had at university and various employments.

    Do you feel that the ImpEx System for vBulletin is the next generation of modules that could set the tone for competition sites to come up with their own resources and inhouse products?

    ImpEx is a redevelopment of the existing importers designed to get rid of the problems that existed with the old scripts. The improvements that we now have are speed of development, lower maintenance and improved quality.

    The importers can be written very quickly based on the shared core. Using ImpEx, we should have less of an issue keeping up with data structure changes in new versions of the foreign systems from which we import.

    Quality is also higher with regard to the final stage of a board after an import, ImpEx won't import any data object that would negatively effect a vB board (i.e. break it). With the use of the ImpEx dictionary, every single piece of data can be checked to ensure compliance as well as its existence.

    I really don't know what the competition will do or how it will affect them, I just know that there will be a lot of good importers into vB3 as soon as we can get them done.

    Where is ImpEx now, and where do you like to see it go to for the future?

    ImpEx is version 1 and as a core a replacement for the vB2 importers, with a few systems done and the rest on the poll on the way.

    I have a to do list for Version 2, a clean up of the OO code and more correct use of design in a few area that I'm not at all happy with it, such as error handling. I'll be looking into handling other interfaces such as CLI. ImpEx also needs to be extended to allow language packs for the purposes of translating the ImpEx interface.

    Oh, and ImpEx has been designed to allow us to use it to import data other than forum data for various forthcoming Jelsoft/vBulletin products...

    What have you done before being involved with Jelsoft - and what is your position within Jelsoft?

    My history in reverse:

    I left Cable and Wireless to join Jelsoft.

    I was there for just over 3 years, I started in the IP Applications department (basically the internal software team) working on just about all things network and internet based as we did a lot of R&D.

    Moved from that team to the security government team to work on some government systems and that about all I can say for the rest of my employment there. I signed lots of documents and have security clearance that I do not want to lose.

    Pre Cable and Wireless was I-D Media, one of the many new media companies that started up in London and were paying top bucks for scripters and software engineers. It was a lot of fun with a young party driven team, though C&W made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

    Before that was Tree House writing a multi user online game, massively complicated for its day but sadly gone now.

    Before that was suited and booted at Lockheed Martin UKGS (Uk Government Systems), did a lot of work there with CORBA, network coding, military systems, image processing, amongst others. Once again, can't give any details.

    Prior to all that I was at university where I met Kier, and college where I met beer and motorbikes.

    Where do we see you in about five years from now?

    Job wise, no idea, I'm happy at Jelsoft at and think that with the direction we are taking now there is a very good future for the company, so possibly here! I do other consultancy to local companies and organisations, but that is casual. My main skills lie in process development and the manner in which software is produced and managed so I would expect that I will be doing that some where, for Jelsoft I would like to think.

    Location, probably in Canada, Vancouver is the plan at the moment..

    Are you also working on any other projects besides Jelsoft's product vBulletin? (And if so, which?)

    I'm doing a personal project with jEdit to write a plugin. Various contracts with other clients (non vBulletin related) for web work and advisory IT roles.

    Is working on vBulletin a full time job? When you're not working how do you like to spend your time? Where can we expect to run into you offline?

    Yup, at the moment it's 95% of my working time. When not in front of the machines I'm either : Riding the Fireblade, dancing (I used to teach salsa and still dance locally), the gym, sitting in the garden or tree house with a Terry Pratchett book, down the local with my house mates, jumping out of planes, London at friends, various places really :)

    What's the most rewarding part of your job?

    Well at the moment as I'm doing all the importer ......

    When I see a successful import and another vBulletin site up and running I know that I've helped in something and the start of another community, it is a nice feeling.

    Again, thank you very much for your time. Any final words?

    I'm having a really good time at the moment, and I hope everyone else is as well :D

    © Copyright 2004
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    Floris & Staff

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