After a break, we are continuing our series of interviews. This time we are interviewing Chris Duerr, the owner and founder of RaiderSoft, the company that develops the popular SigmaChat software. This interview was prepared for HFT Online and The Admin Zone.
Hello, Chris! With the new release of SigmaChat coming next week, I am sure you are quite busy. I want to thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions.
HFT Online (Max aka 'Techguy'): First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got into the software development business.
Chris Duerr, RaderSoft: I am twenty-seven years old. I grew up in southern California, near Los Angeles. Currently, I live near Indianapolis, Indiana with my girlfriend of five years. I wrote my first program in BASIC on an Apple when I was twelve. At seventeen I received a full scholarship from the Air Force to attend Illinois Tech. and study computer science. I ended up graduating from the University of California, Riverside with a B.S. in computer science, with a heavy focus on embedded systems engineering and computer architecture. One year after I graduated, I started SigmaChat as a pet project, which eventually grew into RaiderSoft where I now work full time. With the little spare time I have, I enjoy playing poker, tending to the lawn, and arguing politics with friends.
HFT: RaiderSoft was founded about four years ago, in 2000. How many people are currently employed by RaiderSoft?
C.D.: RaiderSoft has two ‘official’ employees, with many subcontractors. Matt Hahn is heading development of our newest application, RaiderCSS, whereas I spend most of my time with SigmaChat and other R&D work. Subcontractors are used for everything from product promotion to site design work. You can generally expect that you’ll be speaking directly with a developer if you have the need to contact our support team.
HFT: Can you describe your typical working day?
C.D.: They begin late, and end very late. A typical day usually begins at about 11am with basic company maintenance, including billing, upgrades, and technical support. The majority of the day is spent doing research for future projects, or active development of current products. Like many coders, my most productive hours come well after sunset. Right now, most of my time is concentrated on preparing for the next release of our flagship product, SigmaChat.
HFT: Can you tell us a little bit about the upcoming releases of SigmaChat, and the direction RaiderSoft is taking after the break-off of the agreement with Invision?
C.D.: Good question. The next release of SigmaChat is possibly the most ambitious to date. Virtually all of the core GUI components have been written from scratch to look more appealing, yet maintain compatibility with older Java Virtual Machines. Popular features, such as cloaking, and additional clickable content were implemented at the request of our customers. Our integration and remote authentication systems have been enhanced providing for near seamless integration with existing web applications. Much of the work in the v7.4 release has been “under the hood” in preparation for features to come in later releases.
Future releases of SigmaChat will concentrate on moderated/guest speaker chat capabilities, improved performance, avatar features, and multi-room functionality. Virtually all new features added to our software are by the request of our customers.
Now that our agreements with Invision have ended, RaiderSoft is free to pursue many other channels for promoting our current products, and development of new software. RaiderSoft will be working more closely with customers of higher end forum products, such as vBulletin, to meet their chat/forum integration demands. We’re currently working with many other small companies and individuals to expand our current line of operations. Although I won’t comment on specifics, I can tell you that the next eighteen months will see a rebirth of our company with a broader focus, and expanded goals.
HFT: During the last few weeks we heard a lot about the upcoming changes to the “Who’s Chatting” module. Can you briefly tell our readers about those changes.
C.D.: The Who’s Chatting System is a feature of SigmaChat that allows you to show your site’s visitors which (or how many) users are currently in your chat room without having to load the client chat applet. Technical enhancements include faster response time, improved look, and streamlined output for people who are integrating it with their existing web applications. Future pricing will be much more reasonable, and will no longer limit customers by “Who’s Chatting Hits”.
HFT: Some of your customers have been asking about integration scripts with other forum systems. How are you dealing with these requests?
C.D.: Case by case. We need to service the most popular requests first. Right now, vBulletin is by far the most popular forum system that we get integration requests for. pphBB, UBB, YABB, and others are also quite popular. WowBB and IPB currently have built-in support for our chat software. We have many integration scripts available free of charge to our customers, and plan to continue working on updates. For certain forum systems, RaiderSoft will install authentication/integration scripts for our customers free of charge by request.
HFT: While SigmaChat is your main software, RaiderSoft manufactures other programs as well. What can we expect from RaiderSoft in the coming months and years, both in SigmaChat releases and other products?
C.D.: RaiderCSS v2.0 is our premiere customer support service application. While its development is complete, we have not actively promoted it as word of mouth has been doing quite well so far. I think you can expect a RaiderCSS v2.5 by mid next-year. Our instant-message application, ICE, has ceased development, as we’re working on fully integrating it’s current functionality into our flagship product, SigmaChat. We also offer a very light-weight, simple hosted message board system dubbed RaiderMB. RaiderMB is in need of a complete rewrite, which we expect to begin some time in November of this year.
RaiderSoft is currently developing a “bot” for SigmaChat to be offered as an add-on to our SigmaChat service.
Without giving exact details, I can tell you that we do have one other major application currently in development that we hope to launch in late 2005. For right now though, we’re trying to stick with what we know – great chat software.
HFT: If you were to give our readers a success tip for integrating and using a chat room at their site with forums, what would that be?
C.D.: I always recommend making your chat room a core part of your site, and not giving up on it.
It has been popular in recent months for web masters to purchase a chat room, and place it on some remote part of their web site. While this may provide you with a sense of completion for your site/portal, it usually doesn’t help with site stickiness, and does nothing to promote the content that you’re publishing online.
For a chat room to truly help a site, it should be made plainly visible, and should be become a core tool for your site’s visitors. Start by scheduling chat sessions at regular intervals. Eventually, you’ll build a small community of regular chatters. Our most popular chat rooms are never empty. Keep up with it even if at first it isn’t a success – eventually you’ll have your site’s visitors promoting your site in real time, twenty-four hours a day.
Sites that are centered around a forum have a big advantage already; they have community. In addition to posting scheduled chat sessions, try inviting a guest speaker or popular forum member to chat from time to time, or encourage your users to put their regular chatting times into their forum signature. The options for promoting a chat room are limitless; the most important thing is to keep up with it, and eventually it will strengthen your site’s community, your site’s stickiness and overall popularity.
HFT: Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions. We are looking forward to seeing the upcoming release of SigmaChat in production.
About RaiderSoft: RaiderSoft was established in June of 2000. We are based in Fishers, IN with presences in Carmel, IN and Riverside, CA. RaiderSoft strives to provide richly featured, affordable web application solutions for individuals and small to medium sized companies and organizations. Quality customer support and dependable applications has been the key to our success. RaiderSoft maintains a continuous relationship with it's customers to ensure that new demands are being met, and that customer satisfaction remains strong.
RaiderSoft's flagship product, SigmaChat, was first introduced in the year 2000 to provide a low cost alternative to the chat applications on the market at the time. It has since evolved into one of the most popular hosted chat products available today. Hundreds of thousands of users across the world use and enjoy SigmaChat. In addition to SigmaChat, RaiderSoft now offers various other web application solutions, including a simple message board system, an instant-message application, and a live customer support solution.
Web site: http://www.raidersoft.com
(c) HFT Online, 2004. All rights reserved. Master URL: http://www.hftonline.com/forum/showthread.php?t=15259. Permission to publish granted to The Admin Zone and RaiderSoft.