Interview with Daniel Hood

By The Sandman · Feb 18, 2015 ·
  1. The Sandman
    Daniel Hood is one of the go-to guys that develop and maintain add-ons for the XenForo community to give us the additional functionality we crave for our forums.

    Daniel is pretty busy these days but he finds the time to help out on TAZ as a Tech Admin. He also graciously agreed to sit down and complete an interview with us.

    Thanks Daniel!

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    Please tell us a little about yourself.

    I'm a 24 year old web developer from Florida. I was originally born in New Jersey but my family moved to southern Florida when I was two. Two years ago (Feb 2013), I moved to central Florida (Gainesville) when I got a job at an Affiliate Marketing (PeerFly) company as the lead engineer. In 2012, I proposed to my Fiance and we're getting married in a couple of weeks (Feb 28th). Together we have a year and a half old son.

    At the end of 2014, I got an LLC (Hood Ventures, LLC). It's a company for both software development and retail consulting (something I else I do).


    What's your educational background?

    I graduated high school in 2008. I attempted college for a short while, I just couldn't get into it. I've always learned better by doing or just teaching myself by reading online, going at my own pace than I did in school. I taught myself html in 2003 and started to learn php in 2004. I've been learning ever since, I always try to learn something new every day. Between high school and getting the job with PeerFly two years ago, I programmed, but didn't have consistant projects and wasn't programming every day. In the past two years, programming every day again, I've gotten significantly better at Javascript, MySql, and even PHP in addition to starting to learn new languages.


    What are your accomplishments up to this point?

    I would say that being able to teach myself a skill that allows me to support myself and my family is a great accomplishment.


    Any failures you'd care to tell us about?
    Not really. Not because I’m perfect or don’t have them but because I try not to focus on negatives. Even if something doesn't work out, I take a new lesson out of it, learn something from it, and move on.


    What is your fulltime job?

    I'm the lead engineer at PeerFly. PeerFly is an affiliate marketing company. If you're looking monetize your forums, or even test out an alternative ad platform, feel free to sign up. We're going to be releasing an add on in the upcoming months that makes displaying our ads on your site even easier (you can still sign up and promote ads through us before hand).


    Are you currently involved in any other projects and/or ventures?

    Making XenForo add-ons and working for PeerFly are the only continuous projects I have going on. Those are more than enough to keep me busy.


    What is your ultimate professional goal... your dream job?

    I'd say PeerFly is my dream job; I plan to work here until retirement. As far as ultimate goals, I kind of feel like I'm too young to give those. I don't feel right setting an ultimate goal because I hope in 30 years I'm able to achieve some stuff I can't even imagine today.


    How did you get involved in coding add-ons?

    It's weird, but I'm really not sure. I never had a really large community or anything and I always hated to work with scripts that I didn't write. I didn't even like working with frameworks a few years ago. The XenForo platform was really nice though and I enjoyed coding for it. The community is nice and any time I posted something I got nearly instant feedback, which is what I like. I can think of things to make but I don't have the time, energy, or patience to wait for something to get active and start receiving feedback. I don't enjoy making things just for myself, I want to see other people enjoy and get use out of the things I make and that happens at XenForo. I release something, people instantly say whether they love or hate it, and adjustments get made.


    What does your typical workday schedule look like.

    I go in, check my email, see if there's anything urgent that needs to be worked on first. If not, I resume my scheduled project(s) for that week until the last hour of the day when I go through our bug tracker and fix a handful of the really small things that need to be changed.

    What's it like to create add-ons for the XenForo community?

    For the most part it's awesome; being able to produce something that you see on some of the largest forums on the internet, getting instant feedback, and most of the time people are grateful for the service I provide.

    On the other hand, sometimes it can be overwhelming. There's a very small portion of the market place that expects nearly everything for nearly nothing. I can produce something that works great with the core software, but doesn't work with an add on (and sometimes, one that I've never even heard of), and people flip out.

    It's a very strong majority that recognize what goes into add ons though and appreciate it, and in return I (along with other devs as well) appreciate them.


    How did it come about that you took over Syndol's add-ons?

    I really liked the bookmarks add on concept and had considered making my own version in the past but thought it'd be a waste of a time competing for such a small market. When he said he was retiring/quitting/leaving, I reached out and asked him if he'd be willing to let me take that add on over instead of starting from scratch spending several hours to create duplicate functionality. We decided that the biggest issue was, it wasn't fair to his customers to have one add on live and others (including more popular ones) die off. So he made me agree to take them all over and support them. Which I have enjoyed. Turns out I like some of the other add ons (the essentials series especially) more than I had expected and have enjoyed adding some new functionality to all of them.


    What changes have you seen in the XenForo add-on scene? Do you expect any further changes?

    There's been several minor changes: resource guidelines, standards in the community for prices/what's expected/etc, some good things like featuring tutorials.

    In comparison to several other forum softwares, XenForo is still in it's infancy. There will absolutely be more changes to policies, to standards, etc as time goes on. I can't predict what they are but it's inevitable. I expect them to maintain their current policies to a degree though. I don't anticipate them policing the marketplace despite some people calling for it.

    When you create an add-on is it generally something you personally want or are you coding strictly for the enduser?

    I'm generally coding for the end user but if it's a feature I'm adding that wasn't requested then it's mostly because it's something I would like to see on the forums I frequent. Sometimes I'll be browsing www.theadminzone.com or www.xenforo.com/community, think of something I wish I could do or something that would be nice to see, then I make it happen and hope it gets there eventually.


    Which of your add-ons are you proudest of?

    I think I'd have to say the Hashtags add on. It was my first paid add on, has been the most stable, and required hooking into a variety of places in the code. Plus I think it's the add on that gets the most use (not necessarily the most licenses but the most use by end users as well). Note that I am excluding all the add ons I received from David. I can't really take self pride in those because I haven't done enough to make the my own.


    What's the status of XenReviews, and what's your current involvement with it?
    XenReviews is moving along very strongly. Beta 4 was released about a week ago. It's become a much more sophisticated add on that originally planned. I didn't have the same involvement as I was originally planning but Jeff did an amazing job taking the requested features from investors and expanding them into something nobody could have really anticipated.

    Originally, nobody saw XenGrid coming. None of the investors requested it, Jeff and I hadn't planned for it. We wanted everything to be completely customizable though and to do so, something big had to be done. Therefore, Jeff came up with the most customizable and user friendly system which now allows every installation of XenReviews (and even every installation of XenForo eventually) to be unique.

    The plan is for me to become more involved again, we're just waiting for the correct time for the project along with my personal life events going on (getting married and the week long honeymoon).


    What's your favorite add-on that you didn't create?

    Xen Product Manager by Chris DChris D. It's the only add on that I didn't make, that I use every day. My sales and license tracking would not be comparable to what they are now, if I did not use it.


    Any comments on Brivium's add-ons being removed from XenForo.com?

    It was a sad thing for the community to lose so many add ons. At the same time though, Brivium had several issues and it was nice that XenForo got involved and made a decision that was a long term benefit to the community despite the short term negative impact. It's also great seeing XenForo staff support the designers and developers on their platform.


    Looking forward to XF 2.0?

    Yes and no. As a forum user, I'm thrilled about what will possibly be changed, improved on, and added to XenForo. As an add on developer, I'm not really excited about porting all my add ons, honestly. I'm looking forward to the new technologies they implement, the new things that will be possible, and the new ways of doing things though. I'm also confident that we'll have plenty of time to adapt and that Kier, Mike, and Chris will make it as painless as possible on us (it also helps knowing Chris is in the same type of boat, but a much bigger version with all of his add ons that he'll likely port as well).


    What future changes do you expect in forum software development?

    I think more social networking features will be introduced; these types of features have become a huge part of browsing the internet and they aren't going anywhere. They've already been embraced in certain aspects (profile posts, likes, comments, user tagging, etc) but I expect this to continue to be embraced.


    What advice can you give people just getting into coding?
    If you're working with a framework or in an existing ecosystem, don't ignore the standards set. They're set for a reason and going with them, will help you in the long run. Also make sure you do an appropriate amount of research and most importantly, remember that security is the most important thing (for both your site, and the safety of your user base).


    What are the most common mistakes you see new admins making?

    With XenForo specifically, new admins tend to struggle with permissions.

    Aside from that, I think people too often try to install as many add ons as possible without making sure they'll "play nice" together and are coded to a high standard.


    Do you own/administrate any forums aside apart from XenMods forum?

    I don't currently. I have control, or can get control from the owner, of a few domains that would be great for a community. The only problem is, as I said before, I don't have the patience to grow a forum from 0. I like to see instant results when I publish something, change something, etc...


    Which online communities do you enjoy as a member?

    As far as forums go, I spend the most time on XenForo's support forums. I also frequent theadminzone.com, digitalpoint.com, avforums.com, and I like to see what Sheldon is posting on xfuniverse.com. I don't tend to post a bunch on forums, but I do enjoy reading the content.


    What are your favorite books? Movies? TV shows? Music? Games? Foods? Beverages?

    Books: I'm not much of a reader, except for online.

    Movies: I mostly like comedies; Hangover, Ted, The Other Guys -- some of my more recent favorites.

    TV Shows: Anything I can binge watch on Netflix. My Fiance and I enjoy being able to watch episode after episode without commercials. Although we don't watch much tv, when we pick a series, we get through it. Some of our favorites have been Burn Notice, White Collar, Suits (USA Network Shows if you can't tell). Breaking Bad was one that we both really liked as well and are now excited to start "Better Call Saul". I also enjoy Blacklist.

    Music: I don't listen to much music anymore but I like rap/hip hop.

    Games: Madden, Nba 2k, Call Of Duty (in that order), the only games I play. (P.S. Madden on Xbox360, DHood33 I'll play with a variety of teams depending on who you pick).

    Foods: Steak and Seafood. Also like some snacks.

    Drinks: Mountain Dew, everyone always gives me crap due to having one in my hand at any given time. I also drink Water (with lemon) a lot, and one coffee to start my day every day.


    What do you do for fun and relaxation?

    I enjoy playing a game of Madden after work, or going for a walk with my family, playing basketball (only play on occasion anymore, so busy working and I don't like spending extra time away from my, soon to be, wife and baby), watching one of the shows I enjoy or a movie.


    What do you know now that you wish you'd known 10 years ago?
    About any of the companies that got sold for millions/billions recently so I could have done that idea instead ;). Seriously though, I was 14 then so pretty much anything about high school or life.

    What does the future hold for Daniel Hood?

    In the short term: a much deserved vacation. I will be away from the internet for a full week for our honeymoon. We are going on a cruise (I’ll actually be inactive from Feb 25th to March 9th most likely).

    Longer term: Hopefully buying a house before too long, another baby in a couple of years, a lot more add ons, and some non-XenForo projects as well.

    Development wise: You can expect to start seeing mobile apps from me in the future. I actually just acquired my first one: Jump Fly Boy. It's only on iOS 8 devices at the moment but I'm going to be working on getting it on Android soon.

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