We did our first Interview with Jake Bunce back in August 2005. That was more than 6 years ago!
Jake had a good run providing support for vBulletin customers, but he has recently moved on from his position there. We thought this would be a good time for us to catch up with him in another interview.
On XenForo.com, Kier occasionally bestows a custom user title to particularly worthy members. Jake's reads "Jake Bunce - Probably knows the answer". What better compliment for someone who's provided support for countless thousands of forumers over the years.
At the time of your last interview, you were going to college and living at home. What's happened since then?
I earned my Computer Science degree in Fall 2005. Immediately after graduating I examined my options for moving out on my own. I realized I didn't have a need or desire to move out, and my mom liked having me there since I paid all of my own expenses, including rent. But then she got remarried so I decided to get out of the way and moved into an apartment in March 2008.
Customer support must be very frustrating at times although I imagine it can also be quite rewarding as well. What is it about providing support that keeps you at it?
The only thing that frustrates me is when people won't accept my help. This is rare in customer support, but it happens. I sincerely like helping people. My reward is knowing that I make a difference. And helping people with their websites reflects my own hobby which is even better.
I see that you've moved on after 8 plus years on the vBulletin Staff. With all of the recent changes going on there, you must have mixed feelings about leaving vB. Any thoughts you'd be willing to share with us?
9 years. I miss my job. I would have worked for free but there were differences that couldn't be ignored. It was time to move on.
I lost interest in vBulletin a couple years ago but I still enjoyed my job with them. My niche was doing installs and upgrades. Doing upgrades in particular can be challenging and rewarding. Give me a 4 million post upgrade with 10 gigs of attachments, lots of customizations, and a corrupt database and I am a happy camper.
Recent changes at vBulletin had little effect on me and my position. Of course I was sad to see our veteran staffers leave. It is hard to replace that kind of expertise. But my position was always on the outside. I telecommuted and my only interaction was via email and IM, so my actual work was unaffected by recent changes.
What would you consider to be the highlights of your time at vBulletin?
I feel privileged to have been with vBulletin during its rise to dominance. I have fond memories of the early vB3 days in particular.
vBulletin's success brought with it a heavy workload for support staff like me. I logged 530 hours in the 2 months following the release of 3.7. I had no life but I enjoyed every minute of my work. That was really the best thing about my job at vBulletin is that I enjoyed the work.
vBulletin, and Kier in particular, inspired me to become a programmer. Kier helped me modify one of his custom scripts for my needs back in the vB2 days. At the time I had no programming ability whatsoever. I was so grateful for his help and impressed by his abilities that I decided to take programming classes. I eventually majored in Computer Science. Now I do my own web programming.
What is your full time job currently?
My job right now is to work on revamping my aging web site (it hasn't changed since our last interview). To that end I am spending a lot of time learning XenForo. I plan to convert my forum to XenForo once I have finished developing my addons and a custom style. I am also waiting for version 1.1 which has some features I need like custom profile fields.
I don't have a paying job if that's what you mean.
What kinds of jobs are you considering going forward?
I like supportive roles, hence my interest in teaching and massage therapy. Whatever my role, I need to have a personal interest in it. Some people can work jobs for the sole motivation of money. I cannot.
What would you say is the current state of forum software?
Feature creep. Too many features, not enough forum. I see creep in many forum applications today, and on many forum sites. Having lots of features isn't necessarily a bad thing but it can quickly overwhelm and distract from the core product. That is one reason I lost interest in vBulletin. New development became focused on features that I didn't need so I had no reason to upgrade. Meanwhile the core product remained exactly the same.
How would you describe the ideal forum software, and which currently available forum software comes closest to it?
Considering my criticism of feature creep, I am very impressed with XenForo. There is great attention being paid to the core product. And the addition of new features is secondary to the overall user experience. XenForo is a solid forum product as opposed to a forum + lots of features.
I am impressed with the innovations XenForo has made to some standard forum features. The "like" system is effective and simple. Personal conversations make a ton of sense. And the expanded use of avatars in conjunction with the profile system really helps to personalize the forum experience. The result is a superior user experience which is something many forums neglect.
XenForo is a pleasure to work with from a development perspective. I have recently begun porting my addons from vBulletin to XenForo as part of my own conversion. I have found the addon system to be powerful and easy to use once you are familiar with the MVC structure of the code. The template syntax greatly simplifies the code by moving some of the programming into the templates.
You do seem to spend a lot of time on XenForo.com. What's up with that?
I have a personal interest in using XenForo on my site so I spend a lot of time working with the software. I help people on the forum as best I can in order to learn the software. And as I mentioned previously, I really like helping people with their web sites.
I enjoy my time on xenforo.com. The community reminds me of the early vB days. Everyone is so passionate about the software. There are lots of skilled developers and designers giving back to the community. And everyone worships Kier just like in his vB days. Poor guy.
Are forums becoming obsolete?
Forums are not becoming obsolete. There is no other application that enables discussion on a web site like a forum does. But let's address the core issue that always inspires this question, and that is Facebook. Facebook is often blamed when a forum community fails. This is an overly simplistic view.
Facebook competes with forums in one area, user interaction. Forums have always enabled user interaction through online discussions, but they have never been dedicated to that purpose. Forums have tried to improve user interaction by adding social features. Compare that to Facebook which is entirely dedicated to user interaction. Facebook has taken that market away from forums. By no means has Facebook replaced forums. Rather Facebook has outdone forums in the specific market of user interaction which was previously a forum market by default more than by design. Forums still dominate in their intended market of online discussion.
Forum applications themselves share some of the responsibility. Forums are often criticized as feeling old and outdated, and they are. Never underestimate the importance of user experience. Facebook provides a superior user experience which is why it is so successful. Forums must do the same. Here is an example of what a good forum application can do to user activity.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the US and World economies?
I think the US is outgrowing its sense of individualism. "Everyone for themselves" no longer works. We need to become more communal or our union will fall under the weight of competing interests. By "communal" I mean we need to work to benefit the group instead of the individual. It will be a difficult transition. Americans don't trust the group interest because its members are presumed to be self-interested, which they are, and that is exactly the problem.
Another option would be to continue along our current path of neofeudalism where money and power are concentrated until everyone serves a corporate lord.
Aren't the European countries more "communal"? They aren't faring very well either.
I haven't been to Europe so I hesitate to speak on its behalf.
I am talking about the mentality of the individual more than a political system. Most people believe in the basic philosophy of "help thy neighbor," but this practice doesn't usually extend beyond charity. There is no real sense of group interest. At most there exists a mutual self-interest between members of the group which creates the illusion of solidarity. The result is a system with too much "take" and not enough "give." Eventually the system falls under the weight of this imbalance. That is what is happening in the US right now (and perhaps in other countries as well).
Are you concerned about the size of your footprint on the Earth? Could you live in 100 square feet?
For those who don't know me, he is talking about my tiny house idea. I want to live in one of these: http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/
I was all ready to implement this idea a year ago but I encountered a road block... society rejects the idea of tiny living. In short, you can't legally live in a 100 sq ft house so it has to be an addition to an existing house such that it is not the primary residence on the lot. I expected that one of my friends would let me park on their property but I was rejected by everyone. I have begun looking at studio apartments as the next best thing, but they are just too big for me.
Well, 100 sq ft is rather extreme. What is the smallest house that would be acceptable by today's standards, and what is the biggest that would work for you?
Housing requirements are determined by local governments so they vary. Most jurisdictions have implemented minimum size standards. It's a money interest. Home values go up if you force consumers to buy more home.
Ideally I want a living space no bigger than 200sqft. Properly allocated and organized, that would be enough for my needs.
Are you still finding time for working out?
Yeah I am staying fit. I am currently biking 25 miles every other day. There are some good country roads where I live but they are littered with goat heads. I have to use thorn-proof tires with liners.
Really? Goat heads??
That is slang for the thorny seed of a plant around here. Not to be confused with the animal! The wiki page has some good pictures of these nasty little thorns:
Is MSC Clan still going strong?
No. My forum community is dead. My clan is dead. This happens whenever a game gets old (like WoW). I hope to resurrect my clan again for Diablo 3 but I am growing concerned that the game won't live up to expectations.
Are you involved with any other projects?
In Fall 2009 I began preparations to get a math teaching credential. It's an enormous bureaucracy to even apply for the program but I got through it. Then I won a $10000 scholarship. Unfortunately I ended up deferring my start in the program indefinitely. I learned that I would not have been allowed to implement my classroom teaching strategy in public schools because it goes against the bureaucracy.
In January 2011 I started taking massage classes. I was inspired to take classes by my massage therapist who has helped me with my scoliosis. I took 500 hours of classes including Reflexology, Tuina, and general massage therapy. We also did a lot of energy work including Reiki. I want to be able to help scoliosis patients like my therapist has helped me. Unfortunately I have found that people are resistant to this kind of treatment.
Still a Star Trek geek?
Nothing new has been worthy of the franchise. The only new trek since our last interview was the self-titled 11th movie (aka star trek 2009). It may have bore the name and featured its characters but it wasn't star trek. On top of that it was an awful movie full of plot holes and nonsensical plot devices. Many characters were underdeveloped, not the least of which was Nero, the villain.
There may be a new trek series on the horizon. It sounds promising.
Which websites do you visit regularly?
Having any better luck with the ladies?
I have yet to meet a woman with which I have a real connection. I tend to play the role of the supportive male friend rather than the boyfriend.
Do you have any pet peeves?
Facebook. It reminds me of The Game from TNG. People won't stop pressuring me to use it, and they don't respect my decision not to use it. They want me to constantly defend myself. It's creepy.
Tell us something about yourself that we don't already know.
I play the piano.
What does the future hold for Jake Bunce?
I had planned to continue working for vBulletin, even if on a volunteer basis. Losing that position has left me with more free time than I had plans for. I may take more massage classes. If I am able to find tiny house parking then I might consider building the house myself (as opposed to buying it prebuilt). I may also take the opportunity to travel but I don't know where.
Thanks for taking the time to participate in this interview! Anything you'd like to add in closing?
I like your site. Bringing admins together is a good idea. I have lurked on occasion but never participated (except in these interviews). Props to you guys.