I recently had the chance to interview Techie-Micheal, a Support Team member at phpBB.com and recently become moderator here @ TAZ. Micheal - thanks for taking the time to answer our questions - I'm sure many are itching to know just that little bit more about you.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks Nippoo. A little about myself? Well, as you know, I am a Support Team Member for phpBB, and as you mentioned, a recent addition to the TAZ Staff. In real life, I work for a community college in my area, in their Network Services department. My job there includes the usual computer technician stuff, but in addition, I also am responsible for the information security. I handle things like the Intrusion Detection System, Intrusion Prevention Systems, firewalls, and so on. I am in my early 20's, so I consider myself lucky to have a job like that. My hobbies include computers (of course), model airplanes, model rocketry, and some backyard soccer and Frisbee when I can find time. I also love to write software, when I get the chance.
Describe your involvement in the computer world.
Well, as I mentioned, I work for a community college. I also spend time writing software to this or that, for my personal things. You can find me on a variety of mailing lists on the internet and various computer-related websites. Off the internet, you'll find me in a local cyber cafe. I also like to tinker, so at any given time I'll be working on one project or another, be it a hardware hacking project (such as making an internet toaster), or thinking up a new website, or how to add on to my current websites.
What's a typical day in the Techie-Micheal life like?
Typical. heh. That's funny. In all seriousness though, a typical day would be going to class and going to work. I'm a geek, so not much in the lady department. At work, I am working on anywhere from 1 to 3 projects. I may be investigating a new virus so we know how to clean up should we get hit with it, I may be working on projects to better handle log data, I may be working on a computer for one of our faculty or staff. In class, I'm your average student. I make A's and B's, and trying to get my degree in Information Systems Technology and Administration of Justice. Hint: If you plan to dual major, don't. At home, I'm always working on something, be it homework, chores, or working on a website. Outside of computers, I play the piano a bit and like to relax watching TV or reading a good novel.
How did you get involved with phpBB?
Oh my. That was so long ago. Well, I started out with an ezBoard. From there I used everyone.net's board for a while they hosted my email. Then I moved on to a couple of others, including the flatfile version of Ikonboard, which was nice, but many hosts started denying usage of it due to resource usage. Then I decided to start dabbling in PHP. I found phpBB 1.4.2 by some luck. I made a couple of MODs (then called hacks) for it, toyed around with it, customized it a bit with the style, and had bunches of fun learning from it. I haven't looked back since. For a while, I joined phpbbhacks.com, verifying and writing hacks. Mostly verifying. That was around the time 2.0 was in CVS. Then 2.0 came out. I hung around that for a while. Then I noticed that one day theFinn posted a call for Support and Moderator Team members. I was a senior in high school then, and had just gotten my Comptia A+ certification. I decided to apply for a Support Team Member position. I sent him my resume and a few days later I found myself having a new rank. It has been great ever since.
I'm not surprised - how couldn't it be?
How much time do you think someone of your position should have available to help with phpBB?
As much as they can spare. Sometimes it can be just one or two hours browsing, making sure people understand how to install templates or configure a forum on their board so only moderators can access it. Other times it can involve several hours. There have been times where I have gone through large database backups to fix some obscure data issue, or going through access logs to try and track down an attacker, such as with the recent Santy worm. Obviously the more you put in to it, the more you will get out of it. Users will trust you more and you will learn more. Win-win situation in my eyes.
Sure. How many computers do you use and what for?
Are you sure you want the answer? *lol* Well, at home I have a desktop computer and a laptop. I also have a Windows 2003 server and a Linux server. Of course the rest of the family each have their own computer. The desktop is a Windows XP Pro, I use that for some graphic design, writing school papers, papers for my site, playing the odd game, and general goofing around when I'm not working on something. The laptop I use for when I have to travel for work, or when the family goes on a long trip. The two servers are for learning and for providing a client/server environment for the household, such as DNS services, email, backups, etc. I also use the Linux server to develop the websites.
Besides this forum and phpBB, do you moderate for any other forums?
I also moderate for phpbuilder.com, the popular PHP community. I currently do not moderate for anybody else, besides my own sites of course.
Tell us something we don't know about you. I won't tell anyone, promise! Apart from everyone who has access to Internet
lol. That's a tough one. Well, I'm told I can sing. Honest. I don't believe them, but those who have heard me have said I'm not too bad. I'm no American Idol by any means though. Hi, my name is Micheal Cottingham, and I like to sing.
One last question. What trait do you think is most needed to run / moderate an online community? And what do you feel in general about what has, and will, happen about the growth of online communities and the software powering it?
That's a loaded question. One must have a general knowledge, willingness to learn, ability to admit when you are wrong, but above all I think is patience. With patience, the rest will follow, I think. Your users will be able to accept they’re wrong, or you’re wrong, if you show them patience. Your coworkers (be it volunteer or paid) will appreciate it too.
I'm a bit too young to remember the old days of dialup BBS'es, but today's graphical user interfaces and featuresets have come a long way, in whatever language the software was written in. It is almost to the point where the bulletin board can think for you. Well, maybe not, but an interesting concept. I am almost afraid to think what the bulletin board systems will be like 5 years from now. Will they evolve faster than computer systems can evolve? It almost seems like that at times. The growth of online discussion boards is phenomenal. You have bulletin boards on almost ever imaginable subject. You have movie fans starting bulletin boards about their favourite movie, you have music fans starting bulletin boards about their favourite band or artist, and you have people like me who start bulletin boards about something in technology. At times it can seem almost like there are no more topics to discuss, but before you know it, another one pops up.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Techie-Micheal. It was great fun to get to know you better!