Interview with Jaxel - XenPorta Creator

By The Sandman · Nov 19, 2014 ·
  1. The Sandman
    Jaxel is Jason Axelrod, creator of XenForo add-ons including the very popular XenPorta Portal among many others. Early in 2014 Jaxel started a crowdfund for XenPorta 2. After it was funded, Jaxel stopped talking about XP2 completely, missing several self-defined milestones and creating quite a bit of concern and speculation among his investors and the XF community in general. You can see a summary of the XP2 crowdfunding timeline Here.

    Jaxel was kind enough to sit down and do a candid interview with TAZ including answering some questions about the status of XenPorta 2.


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    Please tell us about yourself.


    Not much to say. I'm a German Jew with obsessive compulsive and avoidant personality disorders. I am also a strict adherent to rules, and believe in brutal honestly; which gets me into a lot of trouble, because I constantly call people out for misleading and lying to others (yes, I sense the irony here). I am also a varsity certified umpire and officiate many amateur tournaments during the spring and summer months. I am also a Libertarian (Old-Right Republican) and am staunchly against Socialism.


    What is your educational background?

    I have a degree in Biomedical Informatics from DeVry University; however I didn't actually receive an "education" while pursuing this degree. Everything I have learned has been self-taught from reverse engineering other people's code, or asking questions to people more knowledgeable than me on places like StackOverflow.

    When I started programming though, object-oriented design was still a new idea. So I learned to program procedural code, and object-oriented design is still a weird concept for me. I wing it though, and I get by; but I often have to go back to Google to look up the meaning and syntax of terms. I still rarely use IDEs if I don't have to. Its because of this, I still consider myself a terrible programmer.


    What is your full time job?

    I don't really have one. Because of my personality issues, I don't work well with others; so I have no desire to hold a 9 to 5. Instead I work freelance, which basically has me working in spurts where I program 16 hours straight a day, and then going "dark" in between jobs. This "dark" area is often where I find time to program many of the add-ons I've released for free in the past. The problem with working freelance is the "feast or famine" issue. Some months I am flush, and others I have nothing.


    How did you get into coding add-ons?

    I launched my first website while competing in the beta for Command & Conquer: Sole Survivor (the first ever MOBA) in 1996. At the time, I was the #1 ranked player for the majority of the length of the two-year beta; but when the game actually got released, I stopped playing. However, through my time, I met a lot of people and ended up joining an early gaming network called "UGN3D".

    In 1998, when we were looking for websites to start to expand the network, I proposed "Pokémon", foreseeing an immense popularity. That's when we launched our Pokémon website "UPN"; I was 15 at the time. UPN was created before the advent of CMS platforms like Wordpress, so everything was programmed in house by me. Our forums we ran off UBB, and I wrote a few small-time modifications on UBBHackers. At it's peak, UPN was the #6 most popular website of all the internet; receiving 6 million page-views a day. The website remained the most popular Pokémon website on the internet until we had to shut it down due to the internet bubble crash. It took several years for the internet market to recover, and this is why the majority of "old" websites you find on the internet these days didn't exist before 2003.


    What's your favorite part of coding add-ons for the XenForo community?

    The actual coding. Some people think I'm peculiar, because I hate vacations and I love working. When I can sit down in front of the computer, get in my stride and just hack away at the keyboard for 16 hours straight, I love it. I grew up playing point and click adventure games, back when they were hard and had extremely obtuse puzzles, so I guess that fed into my love for solving problems.


    What's your least favorite part of coding add-ons for the XenForo community?

    Isn't it obvious? The tech-support. I hate dealing with people. I have a hard time disconnecting and dealing with the fact that other people aren't programmers. What may be extremely simple for me, could be insurmountable for others. In fact, this detail is one of the reasons I'm able to subsist on freelance work. When people pay me to work on a project, often they aren't paying for MY time, they are paying for THEIR time; the time they save by not having to do it themselves. I can program something in 2 hours, but if they did it themselves, it could take them 2 weeks.

    In fact, my mantra when it comes to programming is "The user is an idiot". Most programmers I know, they program the code-behind first, and then build the user-interface on top of that. I work differently; I like to program the user-interface first, and then build the code-behind to match it. I feel this makes it a bit easier for the user and less chance of them breaking something. However, I did state that I come from a procedural coding background, and with scripting languages its a lot easier to just "know" when a bug is possible. It doesn't matter how convoluted it would be for a user to encounter this bug, with my mantra, I just know, if a bug is possible, the user is dumb enough to figure it out.


    Which single add-on of yours are you proudest of?

    Probably XenRio. In that add-on, I pretty much hit every goal I set out to do.


    Why did you go silent regarding XenPorta 2?
    What is the current status of XP2?
    What can we expect of XP2 going forward?


    The can of worms. I decided to group these questions together. Before I talk about the status of XP2, I want to address a few of the accusations I've read.

    Firstly, that I took the money and spent it on a vacation in St. Maarten. This accusation started pretty much the moment I stepped on the island. Well as already stated before, I hate vacations. St. Maarten was not vacation, it was work. Sure, it was for Caarnival, which for the majority of people, is a vacation; but not for me. When I wasn't at the venue stage, I was back at my hotel processing videos and doing other work. I rarely went to any actual parties while I was down there, except for the few parties I was pretty much forced to go in order to glad-handle politicians and people within the tourism bureau.

    Another accusation I hear is that I spent all the money playing video games; because I'm still continually putting up content on my YouTube channel. This could be true, except that if you look at the videos on my channel, you will see that I am rarely the one actually playing any of those games. I don't really play video games that often any more, and when I do, there is always someone in the chat room amazed to see being the one on the camera. People make jokes that I don't like video games. Because of this, I rarely actually have to spend money on video games... though I did just buy a Wii-U and Smash 4.

    So of course, there is the question... Did I take the money and run? Well, that wasn't my intention, but I have no evidence to prove otherwise. I planned on having XP2 released by now, but it hasn't worked out that way. Why not? Well I have no real excuse; I can give an explanation, but it doesn't excuse me from failure to produce.

    As for the explanation. The moment I stepped into St. Maarten the accusations had already begun, and the crowd-fund had barely completed. By the time I got back, I was no longer responding to the thread on XF because people had already turned it into hate. This was also my first crowd-fund and I wasn't expecting it to be as successful as it was, so quickly. The scope of the crowd-fund, combined with the hate, created this sort of "success paralysis", which has led to an extreme case of writers block.

    I mean, its not for a lack of time. I've had the time to work on XP2. I don't plan on ripping off anybody, but I end up staring at a empty document and getting nowhere. I eventually close the document and just start working on something else. Hell, I've managed to rewrite my XSplit Panel Writer; a program I make no money on because I sell it for a literal penny.

    Maybe I'm afraid of releasing a bad product, so I end up releasing nothing at all? I am very concious of these issues; but being concious of the problem doesn't help you get through it. I fully expect to release XP2, I just don't know when it's coming. At this point, I'm hoping that the oncoming deadline finally kicks my ass into high-gear. But either way, I've still let everyone down and for that, I do apologize for the delays.

    All I can really do is ask people to be a bit more patient.


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

    I don't like this question. I'm an elitist prick; and when I tell people I think there was only one good Star Wars movie, and it wasn't Empire Strikes Back... or that I don't like the majority of Quentin Tarantino movies... or that Inception was one of the dumbest movies I've ever seen... or that Family Guy and Big Bang Theory just plain suck and if you like them, we can't be friends... or that New Jersey pizza blows New York pizza out of the water... things just get combative.

    Steven K Zoltan Brust

    Battlestar Galactica
    Breaking Bad
    Always Sunny in Philadelphia
    The Blacklist
    Doctor Who
    American Dad

    Shawshank Redemption
    Apt Pupil
    American History X
    Seven Samurai
    Vertigo
    Zoolander

    The Last of Us
    Heavy Rain
    League of Legends
    Shadow of the Colossus
    The 2D Tales of... Games
    Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown

    Pizza... Good pizza, not NY ****.
    Filet Mignon Medium Rare
    Propel Fitness Water


    Which websites do you visit regularly?

    I spend the majority of my time with podcasts from TWiT.tv airing in the background. I rarely actually watch other people's live video game streams. And while I don't actually play video games much any more, I do spend a lot of time reading video game news sites like Joystiq and Destructoid while I am bored.


    What do you do for fun and relaxation?

    Well as stated before, I generally don't like "fun" with other people. I more enjoy myself sitting in front of my TV, than having people come over to play video games. However, if I do play video games with other people, I much rather it be in person with actual friends, than playing online against nameless individuals I don't know. I hate partying; and I am a hermit, and my friends know this. Because of it, they know if they want to hang out with me, they have to come to my place, rather than me going to theirs. I have friends over every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday to play video games; and whenever they tell me they can't make it, I feel a little sigh of relief. For true fun though... I eat.


    What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?

    Investments. Also, pursue object-oriented design. At this point, I'm an old dog and its hard for me to learn newer programming styles. If I had learned object-oriented design at the start, instead of procedural programming, I think I would have been much better off.


    What does the future hold for Jason Axelrod?

    Death. Taxes... not necessarily in that order.

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