Paul Marsden is an administrator of vBulletin.org and is well known in the community as one of the most prolific and widely installed creators of vBulletin code modifications. Of course, Paul is a member of the Admin Zone staff as well. I'd like to thank Paul for his time and efforts both here and at the .org, and for taking the time to answer some interview questions. Thanks Paul!
Can you give us a brief bio?
My name is Paul Marsden (hence the Paul M), I am 44 years old and live just outside of Nottingham in the UK. I'm married and have three daughters.
What is your educational background?
I have five O'Levels and a certificate in Telecommunications. I've never set foot in a university (as a student).
What do you consider as your accomplishments up to this point?
Surviving a house full of females.
Finding another job after (twice) being made reduntant.
Any failures you'd like to tell us about?
I keep failing to win the lottery.
What is your fulltime job?
I'm a programmer for a company that provides services for Clinical Research Studies - I mostly program Interactive Voice & Web Response Systems.
What other projects and/or ventures are you involved in?
I'm an Administrator of Cable Forum, a UK forum mainly for customers of Virgin Media (a large supplier of internet, tv and phone services).
What is your ultimate professional goal, your dream job?
My dream is to get paid for sitting at home all day.
How did you get involved in coding?
I've been programming computers for 32 years. As far as php is concerned, I started when I became involved with Cable Forum - I practiced on myBB code as I didn't have access to any vb code at the time.
How has the plugin system changed the vBulletin hacking community?
It's made it so much easier for forum owners to install those extras - before 3.5 you had to have basic php/programming skills to edit files, and upgrades could be a nightmare. Now anyone can add things to their forum at the click of a button, zero coding skills required. As a result we've seen a large increase in visitors to vbulletin.org - mostly to just pickup modifications and install them.
Describe your typical workday schedule. How much of your time is spent on modifying code?
During the week I don't spend much time, probably an hour or so sometimes. I have more time at weekends - the last few Sundays have been spent doing updates to vb.org code.
What advice can you give people just getting into modifying vBulletin?
Download a few simple mods, read them and make sure you understand what they do. Also, set up a test forum and use it to test things or just mess about, getting to understand how things work.
When you develop a mod are you designing it for yourself or for your end-users?
It depends on the mod. With a few exceptions, all my mods have been written for Cable Forum either to enhance the features for the users or the staff. They are released later.
How did you come to be Administrator of vBulletin.org?
I joined the staff in May 2006 having been asked to be part of the new 'Coding' team. It was a bit of a surprise (to myself as well as many others) because I was not always known for seeing eye to eye with the staff, or keeping my views quiet.
It was a busy time staff wise - shortly before I joined Erwin left, about four other new staff joined at the same time as me, and soon after I joined, Xenon left, and then Brad left.
I became a Team Leader and began coding some changes in the background, which the admins would then implement. In September 2006 I was asked if would like to join the Admin Team, I accepted.
How has vBulletin.org changed over the years?
It has become much busier than when I first joined (in Sept 2004). The majority of newer members are less technical, the ratio of coders to non-coders has changed dramatically.
Since the start of 2007 we have implemented quite a few changes such as the new styles and forum re-arrangements, a new title system (including peoples 'release level' which is a reflection of their modification contributions and popularity) and more recently minor changes to the install system and what is displayed to members.
How will it change in the future?
More changes and features are planned - some are partly written, others still need writing - like most things it's down to time, vb.org coding has to be fitted around the rest of life. A lot of the work being done is also invisible to the members as it's modernising the backend code, much of which dates from vb 3.0 or before !
How do you see the internet in general changing over the next 5 to 10 years? What about online communities in particular?
I'm not sure anyone can really predict the future with much certainty. I don't believe anyone can say what will happen in 5 years time.
How would you describe your moderation style?
I don't do much these days, but if members behave I leave them to it. If rules are broken I usually give people at least one chance, after that they feel the power of infractions.
To my mind, when you have 1000+ members visiting daily you can't justify spending large amounts of time trying to control the odd one or two who cannot follow rules or just disrupt the harmony of the board, they get back in line or feel the wrath!
What are the most common technical mistakes you see new admins making?
Adding too many forums and too many modifications, start small and build up.
Leaving every setting on default - go through them all, learn what they do, and then set them up as you want/need them.
Which online communities do you enjoy as a member?
I'm a ordinary member of some vb related sites, and also several sites completely unrelated - for when I'm fed up of vb related stuff.
Which of your modifications is your favourite?
Despite what most people would probably think (and what my vb.org profile says) - it isn't the visiting members mod - the one I really miss if I'm on other forums is the display of how many unread posts I have.
Which is you favourite modification not written by yourself?
APM (Advanced Product Management) - it makes product and plugin management so much easier.
What exactly is your involvement with Flashchat?
I maintain the three integration files that allow Flashchat to link with vbulletin 3.0/3.5/3.6 (on behalf of Darren at Tufat). It came about because I chose Flashcat to trial as a chat system for Cable Forum back in Nov 2004. I found that it was missing a number of features I wanted, so I ended up writing them and releasing them. Some of them ended up being added to the core Flashchat code. When vb3.5 came out, no integration existed, and because we needed it at CF I wrote my own integration file and released it both at vb.org and Tufat.com - it got adopted as the standard, and that's basically how things ended up as they are now.
What are your favorite books? Movies? TV shows? Music? Games? Foods? Beverages?
Current TV shows I like include Dr Who, Lost, Bones, Stargate, Supernatural as well as Brainiac - Science Abuse, and the similar US programme Mythbusters.
I love Steak, Chips, Chicken, Burgers & McDonalds McFlurries - For drinks I like Dr Pepper & Coca Cola, and for alcohol - Sweet White Wine and Cider.
What do you do for fun and relaxation?
Watch TV, Watch Football (Soccer if you're American), go out on trips (and holidays) - and quite a bit of surfing the net !
What do you know now that you wish you'd known 10 years ago?
That I was going to be made redundant in 2005.
Tell us something about yourself that we don't already know.
I was a Telecoms engineer for 12 years, working in Telephone exchanges for most of that time.
Another little know fact is that my first ever post on vbulletin.org was to release a hack, my second ever post was to release another hack, and neither of them had anything to do with 'Members who have visited today' which is possibly the most installed vb modification ever.
What does the future hold for Paul Marsden?
I have no idea, but I hope to enjoy finding out.