Interview with Scott MacVicar from vBulletin.com
With great pleassure we present you an interview with Scott, one of the developers from Jelsoft, the company behind the leading bulletin board software vBulletin. Usually our questions for an interview are gathered cautiously by the vBulletin.nl staff but this time we wanted something different. We wanted to know what the community wants to ask Scott. And so we did. Here is a compilation of questions, answered by Scott who we thank for taking time apart to participate in this interview.
Take a seat, have a drink and some food. How are you and nice to have you here.
Before we let you pick out some questions asked by our audience tonight, could you please introduce yourself? (by Floris & Staff)
My name is Scott MacVicar and I'm from Scotland. I'd like to start by clearing up a few things; no, I don't wear a kilt all the time and Nessie is not my best friend. I'm the youngest member of the development team currently approaching my 20th birthday and I'm just entering the 3rd year of my computer science degree.
When I'm not at the computer doing some form of work, I enjoy going to the cinema and doing other fun stuff with friends such as playing pool, driving about or going out drinking in Glasgow.
Here we go:
What was the first community you joined online if any and why? (by DarknessDivine)
The first community I joined was based on translating the Pokémon Silver / Gold ROM from Japanese to English back in 1999. The project was being run by Phil Reuben. It was running a UBB if I remember correctly.
And what are your favorite web sites? (by MrNase)
I try to keep an eye on the projects that will directly affect any Jelsoft products including the PHP Development Newsgroup, MySQL Dev site and various Mozilla Blogs.
My current list of sites that I load from my local portal is
The Register (http://theregister.co.uk)
Sky News (http://www.skynews.co.uk)
Adot's notblog (http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/asa/)
I also visit various websites to get my daily injection of humor including the compulsory visit to dilbert.com and a read of userfriendly.org.
Have you ever tested bulletin boards like phpBB or wbb? (by MrNase)
I have various installations on my local development server for testing ImpEx when I'm helping Jerry, as well as looking at the interface and how we can make the equivalent in vBulletin more advanced.
And vBulletin always seems to be in the lead in regards to its competitors when it comes to functionality and features, do you find it hard at times to come up with new and innovative features? (by phoenixdown21)
We have a huge to do list of features that we would like to see added in future releases though sometimes it's a balance between maintaining performance and adding that killer feature that everyone wants.
The hardest problem is usually creating a feature that is cross platform with regards to both server and client software. Getting started is sometimes hard if it's something that has never been done before and is poorly documented.
Personally, once I hit a problem I have to start googling for answers and it doesn't always help. The end result is usually me bouncing the idea off another developer.
Do you enjoy what you do, (by DarknessDivine)
Whats your drive? (by ja3)
And what is your favorite part of your job? (by cirisme)
I enjoy the freedom of what I do the most. The hours are very flexible and it's extremely satisfying to see the large number of websites out there that use vBulletin worldwide in various languages, especially when you consider how much effort was put into the production.
My favourite part of the job is the praise from customers after helping them with a problem or when they find a new feature that's been developed. Though the trips to Reading to meet everyone were quite exciting, my eyes are still a bit sensitive from the continuous flashing of Kier's camera every time I went a little off topic.
How much time do you spend developing vBulletin every day? And do you usually spend that time in the daylight, or late night no-sleep-in-days coding sessions? (by cirisme)
And describe your optimal software development environment and how that allows you to increase the quality of your work. (by Wayne Luke)
I spend at least 10 hours every day doing something vBulletin related. However, I do a lot of different tasks which include researching new features, producing test code, triaging bugs from the bug tracker and the occasional bit of support.
My sleep patterns vary depending on the task, I work from midday into the evening and then take a break. I then start work at night and do some more coding, though it usually finishes when I've completed what I've targeted for or when those silly mistakes appear due to the lack of sleep.
My optimal software development environment definitely involves multiple monitors as it's the easiest way to improve the speed at which code is produced. The changing between my IDE and browser added up to a large amount of wasted time.
Peace and quite is also important, distractions from phones and people are a great way to destroy someone's train of thought. I'd also say the investment in a whiteboard has helped a lot with working out logic. Writing something out rather than trying to type it works much better for me personally.
How did you get involved in the vBulletin project? (by ja3)
I had been using UBB 5.4x when I started my first forum and had learned Perl so I could write my own scripts and modifications, though it was starting to take over the server that was being used. My friend Derek pointed out vBulletin which had just started its beta testing of version 2 and we switched to it a few weeks later. It was also Derek's suggestion for me to learn PHP, I used Core PHP by Leon Atkinson (2nd edition) to learn the various differences between Perl and PHP.
Now that we were running vBulletin 2 we needed some modifications. The first one I released was "Change Username via UserCP" on August 6th 2001 which started the spree of hacks I released for vBulletin 2. In total I released 25 hacks in the space of 10 months.
The first position I was to get was moderator at vBulletin.org. At the start of summer 2002 I signed my contract and NDA for Jelsoft and started as a member of the support team. This gradually led on to the development team a few months later in which I became responsible for fixing bugs in vBulletin 2 and the subscriptions part of vBulletin 3 before becoming a fulltime developer of vBulletin 3.
When, how and for what reasons did you learn PHP? (by teamrocketman)
And have you ever considered learning something outside of PHP/MySQL? Such as perhaps ASP.net? (by MetalGearMaster)
I have developed in Java, C# and C and despite dabbling in ASP.net, I didn't find it very appealing. My C knowledge has come in handy while working at Jelsoft, I've submitted a few patches to PHP, most of them regarding errors with date/time functions.
How many computers do you have at home, and what do you mainly use them for? (by MetalGearMaster)
Athlon XP 1900+, 1GB with Red Hat 9
This runs apache, MySQL and samba. I mount the development folder as a network drive so I can move from machine to machine without having to worry about if I have the latest copy of the files.
P4 3ghz 800fsb, 1GB with XP Pro
I do the majority of development on this computer as well as playing my favourite games which at the moment is Star Wars Galaxies and Doom 3.
Sony Vaio Z1XP
Centrino 1.5ghz, 512mb with XP Pro
Mobile development when it's too warm to sit at a desk and sitting outside seems like a better idea.
900mhz, 256mb with OS 10.3.5
Was originally for the drop down menu bug in Safari and has been used to do tests on various aspects of vBulletin. I've actually grown quite attached to it recently and have been using it for browsing and other general use.
Test System 1
P2 333mhz, 512mb with Windows 2000 / Red hat 9
I use this for testing when a low speed machine is required, for example, looking at ways to improve the speed of the editor on a slow machine and a bug in Firefox when a lot of tables are involved.
Misc Machine 1
Athlon XP 1900+, 1GB Ram with XP Pro
Other family members use this machine and it runs IIS which I use for various testing.
As you can see I have a lot of varied machines which are used for development and testing. There are also other redundant machines which are no longer in use.
Are you a gamer? If so, what's your favorite game and genre (RPG, FPS, Action, etc.)? (by MetalGearMaster)
Yeah I love to play games in my spare time. I like FPS though strategy games are good too. I was hooked on Dune 2000 for a few weeks, base building is so enjoyable. Though my favourite game of the moment is Doom 3 and I'm definitely looking forward to Half Life 2 if it ever gets released.
Do you like German beer? (by MrNase)
The only German beer I really drink is Becks. I've not really tried any others though if your willing to send me some I'd gladly drink them and give you feedback
And the bonus question: A train is travelling at a speed of 50 km per hour. A car is travelling at a speed of 100 km per hour. After 3 hours, how much further has the car travelled than the train? (by Chris Gwynne)
Well if you are talking about overall distance rather than displacement then its 150km though it's not often that a car goes faster than a train.
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Floris & Staff