Effie "Loy" Rover, the owner/operator of the RPG Gateway, was very pleased to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for The Admin Zone Article Contest. Since she's currently working very hard on her coding of the Gateway and the RPG Nexus, the center of all of Effie's sites, this was very gracious of her.
Her site is affiliated with RPG Host which I do believe they had asked her to take over the Gateway back when it was still growing. RPG Host is one of the fastest and biggest growing RPG community sites online.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hmmm. That's hard for me. I'm a wife, mother and web developer. I'm also a gamer, cyclist, camper, carpenter and general idea-person. I'm heavily involved with our church, my kids' schools and a local activist group. There's an old saying: "If you want something done, give it to a busy person." Yup.
2. What got you interested in the online community world?
When I first got online back in 1984, there were only text discussion groups, but you could get an answer to almost anything from people you hardly knew. I remember being in sci.space and discussing satellite launchings with folks who actually worked on the satellites, on the shuttles and at NASA. I remember getting instructions for successfully delivering email to Beijing before the student demonstrations made the news. I thought that was marvelous.
3. When your not online, how do you relax?
I love taking pictures, so I scrapbook and I show my photos in artwalks. I build things -- right now we're building a treehouse in a hundred-year-old walnut tree in our backyard. I play with the kids. Having them is like getting a license to have a second childhood. I get to race clouds, fingerpaint and build forts out of the couch cushions again.
4. Whats your favorite movies, games, books?
My all-time favorite movie is Man in the White Suit starring Alec Guinness. Everyone should see it at least once. My favorite comedy is Noises Off starring Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, John Ritter and a host of other semi-luminaries. I also tend to like stuff like Bob Roberts -- I shook my head all the way through it; that stuff is brilliant.
I like D&D, some d20 systems, but not many other RPGs -- just don't want to take time to learn the rules. I'd rather play what I know. My husband and I like to do detective-style computer games together when we have time. Otherwise, we play Worms over the network. I like Cosmic Encounter, Risk and Pit for table games and I read most fantasy that comes out in paperback. I read a lot of O'Reilly, too, but that's my job.
Once a month from September through June, we have a movie party at our house with snacks, a board or card game, and a movie on our big-screen. In the summer we try to have cookouts with more active games and a late-night bonfire. That's my idea of fun.
5. What is your educational level?
BS Computer Science, but I'm always taking professional development courses and attending seminars. I don't ever expect to stop.
6. What was your life like before you started your online businesses?
Pretty normal. I was a computer consultant, billed as a troubleshooter, so I used to drive all over the state fixing small-scale unix systems for businesses. I remember being in a closet in a retail store at 5:30am trying to fix the cash register server -- with the store owner breathing down my neck because the store was about to open and none of the cashiers could add. Seriously, they
Now I get to stay home more even if I work about the same hours. I like adding the graphics to the technical side of the job -- when I'm burned out on coding, I find I can switch to graphic design and vice versa. Keeps me interested and challenged.
7. RPGGateway, what was it like creating such a fantastic community? What was the inspiration behind it?
It was a little like riding a roller coaster. For a period of time, I'd see the site grow, have positive feedback and feel like I was contributing something useful to the RPG community. Then some know-it-all would come along and tell me how it was all wrong and I could do the whole thing so much better by changing this, that or the other thing (usually a suggestion I had already tried and it didn't work) -- and I'd feel like I didn't even know why I bothered. It's
still like that. The good outweighs the bad. The best part is when like-minded folk volunteer or just give that positive feedback and you realize that what you do really is of value to someone else. I never get tired of rediscovering that.
The original Gateway was called Effie's Concordance and it was a searchable index of the D&D books, Dungeon and Dragon magazines. Basically, if you took the indexes from the books and table of contents from each magazine, and put them in a searchable database online, that's what you got. So you could search for 'drow' and find all references to them no matter which books or magazines they were in. I had found those resources online as static pages, but I had no patience to sit and read through them, so I made a searchable version. In 1994, that was hot stuff.
Then I started building a links database and a player finder, and got an offer to run the Gateway. At the time, it was only a thousand links or so. I took it over completely a few years ago, when it hit 4,000 links.
8. What is your overall rating for phpBB? Why?
As far as features go, it's pretty darn good. It has most everything I need. And it's not hard to hack; the code is very readable. As far as drag on the server, it could be better. But I'll stick with it until I need to change. If it ain't broke ...
9. Do you hack phpBB to your needs or just use your own special method of manipulating the boards to your advantage?
I always hack software, so phpBB is no exception. I have no patience for weenies who want to run their own boards and can't read the code underneath. In fact I get rather frustrated at security holes in boards -- many of them are the result of trying to make it easier for people who can't code to run code-based sites. Grrrr.
10. Would you ever consider using vBulletin or Invision Power Board? Why or Why Not?
I'm told vBulletin is harder to hack, so that's unlikely. I've never gotten into Invision, so I won't rule it in or out. I might ...
11. How many of your sites have forums? What is the best part of administrating it/them?
Three of my own and many more client sites. The best part is not administrating them -- the best part is getting on and talking with people. I guess the best part of administration is discovering that you need new forums and making them. Everything else, well, let's just get it done and get out of there.
12. What is your moderation style?
Hands-off. I like people to be able to have open and honest discussions. I don't like administrating a troublesome thread; I prefer to jump in and ask people to speak to the issue and not the person. I have other mods on the board who lock threads or put them in quarantine when things get really hot -- I owe those folks for watching out for me sometimes.
13. What are the most mistakes you have heard or seen other forum admins making if any?
The worst mistakes I've seen are on opposite ends of the scale -- admins who delete threads that get a little hot or OT and admins who don't pay attention to their boards and let them go to pot. I've been guilty of the latter at times.
You need to be there to make sure that threads stay on topic and users stay polite. But you also need to let users have room to say what's really on their minds. The latter can be a tough call sometimes. Deleting a thread is, I think, pretty drastic. Then you have no way to refer back to any useful info that may have been in it.
14. Do you have any intentions to ever switch from phpBB to another forum software?
I'm thinking about it ... I've just run across a forum that better integrates with other site software and caches the forum listings pages (like the home page) so that each page hit isn't hitting the SQL server. That's a plus on a site with my level of traffic. It's a tough decision because there are so many factors -- whether to work phpBB into the other software, work the other software into phpBB, try to get them cross-talking in some way or just plain leave the two site sections as separate. I always try to go for the best long-term interests, and easiest method for the site users, so I've got some evaluating to do.
15. I have heard rumors of the mistreatment by some of your senior moderators on RPG Gateway, are those rumors true or are they just that, rumors?
When you offer a forum specifically for analysis and criticism of peoples' work, you always get some kind of complaints. The mods are constantly asking folks to keep to the topic and not veer off into personal insults, so they're constantly under fire from folks who can't tell the difference. We've recently created a read-only forum where we can move threads that get hot instead of deleting them. Even so, I still wish people would email me directly instead of popping off somewhere else. Changes like the read-only forum only happen when I get all sides of the issue.
16. How do you see RPG Gateway community forums changing over the next 2-5 years? Other online community forums?
I see us expanding into discussing other areas of the RPG Nexus, so possibly forums to talk about the latest releases, old releases, tangential topics like music, movies, etc. I'm also working on a group of forums specifically for collaborative fiction. We have some real interest in that area among our editors, so it'll happen soon.
I can see boards in general making it easier to integrate photos, illustrations and drawings into the conversation. Perhaps even audio, etc. A picture is worth 1,000 words. Drag and drop references, wysiwyg editing, that kind of thing.
17. It appears to me that you have somewhat become a celebrity to certain people, what is that like? Do you ever receive fan mail?
My agent thinks he can get me in Julia Robert's next movie. I've thought about hiring a limo and a bodyguard, but the Gateway just doesn't make enough yet. Cheap sunglasses I can wear to the grocery store is about all I can afford.
It doesn't happen often, but it's weird when it does. I just do my thing and every now and again I'm surprised by the occasional comment written about me. I once got an offer to DM a game at a local convention based on the site, and people were very excited to meet "the Effie Rover." Unfortunately, that convention didn't pan out. I don't really get fan mail; just occasional surprising comments, usually from someone with whom I'm having an email or forum
conversation. It puts extra fuel in my tank to keep working at the site.
18. Will you tell us something about yourself that the public of RPG Gateway currently does not know?
I wear contact lenses. I'm right-handed. I put my toenail clippings in the wastebasket like a good girl. Oh, you meant something relevant? I'm currently working with industry luminaries on an anti-spam book for O'Reilly and Associates. I don't think anyone at the Gateway knows that yet...
19. What does the future hold for RPG Gateway?
New software. I've run across a package that uses SQL and yet caches static pages so it doesn't kill the server -- and I'm thrilled. I have a feeling we'll be going there shortly and the other Nexus properties will be moving along. It'll be great when I can integrate links, products, reviews, classified ads, button exchanges, webrings and discussion for the same product line all on one page. Plus then we can capture people's favorites and they can keep their own wish lists (and other lists) on the site.
What I do with the Gateway is watch what people are doing with it and expand based on that. Same thing I've always done and it's served well.
20. What does the future hold for Effie "Loy" Rover?
Who knows? I never guessed I'd be doing this after college. I'll let myself be pleasantly surprised.
Thank you very much Effie for taking the time to do this interview. Those who don't know you now know a little about you, those who do know you now know you even more.
For all those interested in learning more about Effie, please visit the Effie Rover Inc..