Interview: ViperAlley

By The Sandman · Sep 13, 2004 ·
  1. The Sandman
    Michael Pierce, better known around these parts as ViperAlley, graciously agreed to give us an interview. :) Michael is a programming consultant for PhotoPost, PhotoPost Classifieds, and ReviewPost. I guess you could safely say that Michael is an extreme kind of guy... :yup:

    > Please give us a brief biography.

    I am 38 years old, live in Virginia with my wife and 4 beautiful daughters. Grew up at Dartmouth College and started programming when I was 12. I entered the military where I worked for NORAD and NSA in the computer field.

    I've also owned several successful businesses and have helped take a couple public. Currently working on my websites, PhotoPost and several other projects. I also enjoy photography and built several sites around them like ExtremeBikini.com.

    > Where did you get your coding experience?

    At a young age I was exposed to the Internet and computer programming when I lived in Hanover, NH in the middle of Dartmouth College. I learned programming by spending virtually all my time at the computer center, taking Dartmouth programming classes and working at the computer center. I've been programming on various platforms for the better part of 26 years.

    > Are you coding full time or is it a sideline?

    After the stock market crashed three years ago, I decided I needed some time off. For the better part of this time I've been doing a variety of things that revolve around my family, but PhotoPost was an unexpected project which ended up taking most of my time the past couple of years.

    > Can you give an overview of PhotoPost, PhotoPost Classifieds, and ReviewPost?

    PhotoPost was written by Scott Wainner at All Enthusiast, Inc.. I purchased it because it was the first script designed to integrate with forums. Back then it was written in Perl and didn't work with UBB.Threads - thats how I got involved - I offered to convert the program to PHP and open up the number of boards it worked with. ReviewPost was an extension of PhotoPost which allowed for the posting of products and user submitted reviews and ratings of those products. Classifieds was something I wrote for my own site ViperAlley before enough people noticed it and asked for it to be an official product - this version I made extensive use of format templates which allow for different kinds of Classifieds to be posted (Help Wanted, etc.).

    Many of the products and enhacements are a result of using the products on my own sites and constantly trying to improve them for my users. When my members repsond well to new features, they often find their way into the commercial script.

    > Are you working of other products as well?

    In addition to the PhotoPost products, I'm the lead coder for the website ResellerRatings.com which is a rating site for business that sell products online (mostly computer related).

    I'm also a partner in a company that is helping launch an alert system within the state of California (and eventually to more states) which will connect users with their local police departments and allow for the instant delivery of important information which users subscribe for. This project will be announced in the next month or two in joint press releases with the California COPS police organization and ScanUSA.

    A while back I wrote a signature script that is being used a couple million times a day at http://www.danasoft.com but recently sold that project and am waiting for my next fun idea.

    > Your ViperAlley community is quite popular! Please tell us about it.

    ViperAlley was started as a less-restrictive alternative to the Viper Club of America website which is owned by the VCA club with a strong relationship with Dodge. This results is a need to keep content fairly generic. Our group of users wanted more freedom and a place to call their own that involved members more in the decision making process. This unique approach gives our users alot of control over the content of the site - many issues are put to a vote and majority wins. This is particularily true for user banning which requires a 2/3rds majority.

    We've made the distinction between the system and its content - I retain creative control over the site and defer to the members and moderators to police and manage the content of the site.

    We're fortunate to have a great group of members who support our site so that we do not need to accept outside advertising (or subject our users to banner ads). Our site grows mostly from word of mouth - after all, the Viper community is not nearly as large as some of the other car groups. We also proud sponsor of Viper-related racing events.

    > How did you become involved in Online communities?

    I own several website which were centered around forums (including http://www.extremefitness.com) and assisted in the development of others - my work for PhotoPost simply extended my involvement with online communities as I looked to improve the message-based system with a visual experience of integrated galleries.

    > Please describe your typical workday routine.

    I have to admit to not being a morning person. If I can, I sleep until 9 or 10 (although during school, I tend to get up early so I can walk the kids to the school bus - they are young enough to let me, so figure I should enjoy it while I can!). I don't work a typical 8 hour day and often find myself doing my best work in the 11pm-2am range. Some days I work as little as an hour or two and others I work for as many as 14 or more. It all depends on what I am working on and how excited I am about it - some things I cannot put down until I get them working. Coding has definitely contributed to my insomnia for the better part of the past 10 years or so! ViperAlley and PhotoPost take up most of my time while I am online.

    > What Websites do you visit regularly?

    Other than ViperAlley.Com and PhotoPost.Com, I frequently visit GarageGlamour.Com for photography discussions, I'm a news junkie so read the news sites and also check out various webmaster community sites and I also volunteer as a moderator on the Threads development site ThreadsDev.Com.

    > What plans do you have for the future?

    To continue developing the PhotoPost line of products and enhance my online community sites.

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