Interview with Jasper Aguila

Discussion in 'Interviews' started by The Sandman, Nov 15, 2011.

  1. The Sandman

    The Sandman Administrator

    Jasper Aguila is a former vBulletin employee who has recently moved on from that position into the social media arena. He is also a recent addition to the TAZ staff.

    Our thanks to Jasper for taking the time to participate in this interview and give us the chance to get to know him a little better. :)


    Note from Jasper: Before I begin this interview, please note that these are my own personal opinions and does not in any way affiliate/reflect with any other individual opinions.

    Tell us a little bit about yourself.

    I'm a 22 year old "social media" computer geek. Born in the Philippines, but raised in the US. I currently live in the best place in the world: Los Angeles, California. Ever since I was a young lad, I've always taken a liking to the internet. I was always getting yelled at by my parents about being on the computer for too long - let's just say they are now proud parents. :)

    What is your educational background?

    Spent 2 years in Cal State Fullerton going for a computer science/business/marketing degree, but I've currently placed it on hold to focus on new opportunities - there are just too many to pass up. The tech-industry is booming right now and I just want to get into the craze!

    Additionally, I felt school is not providing the "education" I actually need to utilize in the real world. I learned more during my first 3 months at vBulletin, than I ever did in 2 years at college. Depending on the field, you should only go to college for learning something new -not to get a degree. Use the other time to actually gain the experience.

    What was your job when you were with vBulletin?

    I was in charge of expanding vBulletin’s affiliate marketing program through commission junction, helping to build out communication to customers through e-mail, and other means, assisting in developing video walkthroughs on the product, managing social media presence, and providing general assistance with marketing and communications efforts.

    What were the high and low points of that job?

    The Highs:
    • The useful experience/knowledge I obtained.
    • My friendly co-workers.
    The Lows:
    • Most, if not all development decisions go to upper management (CEO, CMO) - who have no experience with vBulletin.
    • The licensed customer feedback forum is very demeaning to read for a support staff.
    • Support staff suggestions are not taken seriously.
    • VERY high employee turnovers rates.
    • $$$ - you can figure what that means.
    • Lost "Founding Spirit"
    • Unmotivated staff.
    • Just a JOB.
    • CEO
    • etc.

    Where do you see vBulletin going in the future?

    vBulletin is still a viable forum software, but it's definitely heading in a downward spiral. There is just not enough passion and vision within the "Decision Makers" to actually roll out great and new features. If they don't address the issues that customers/support staff have been complaining about, they will definitely fall behind the times.

    My advice: hire upper management positions from within the vBulletin community to lead the software out of its rut.

    Where do you work now?


    What is SocialEngine?

    SocialEngine is a white-label community software that helps individuals create their own Social Network - over 8,000 websites are running our software. Unlike forum software, we focus more on the "Social Networking" aspect of community building. We have the largest database of custom social networking plugins available, helping you truly build your own "customized" social network.

    What do you do there?

    I'm the community manager - basically responsible for interacting with people and answering emails. I'm also responsible for creating documentation about the product.

    What other projects and/or ventures are you involved in?

    Currently 90% of my time is focused around SocialEngine. We are only an 11 person team, therefore, we are very busy. However, everyone has a say on where the product should be heading.

    The other 10% are focused around my own community websites like PersonalityCafe and Final Fantasy Forum. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be creating another one, but this time build it on SocialEngine software.

    Please tell us about your own forum communities and websites. is my baby. I started this community when I was experiencing a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the "winter blues." Since then, it has become the largest and most active psychology community on the web. - Bought from a friend. Will be working on it as soon as I find the time. - Website acquisition. - My personal online resume/portfolio.

    PersonalityCafe looks like a very interesting communtiy. Tell us a little more about it.

    PersonalityCafe is an online community dedicated to helping you develop your personality through interaction with people who have the same personalities as you. I didn't see many personality boards at the time that offered the features that I was seeking for - so I decided to create my own. It was started in late 2008 and has grown to over 500,000 visitors making around 100,000 post a month.

    It definitely didn't become successful overnight. At times, issues would arise that would make me think about closing down the site. However, if you stay consistent and stick to your overall vision, there is little reason why you should not be able to achieve your goal.

    What is your personality type?

    I'm an ENFP - The Inspirer. ENFPs are charming, ingenuous, risk-taking, sensitive, people-oriented individuals with capabilities ranging across a broad spectrum. They have many gifts which they will use to fulfill themselves and those near them, if they are able to remain centered and master the ability of following through. To know your personality type, please take the following personality quiz:[/QUOTE]

    What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?

    My greatest accomplishment thus far is my job. With so many unemployed individuals, especially in my age range, I consider myself very lucky to be employed.

    How did you become interested in Online Communities?

    I’ve been creating and developing online communities since I was 10 years old, having established a series of community boards for my guild at Neopets - a virtual pet community.

    It was in my high school years that I began refining my community development skills and generating real income. In 2007, I founded, designed, developed, and sold a number of vBulletin powered communities for huge amounts of profits. Though, only a few of those websites still exist today due to loss of interest/neglect from the owners.

    Although I considered myself a community development expert, I was lacking the “professional skills” needed in the business world. So in August of 2010, I applied for the marketing position at vBulletin to work in a professional office environment. Since then, I’ve expanded my marketing and community development skill set, and have made tons of connection.

    How would you describe your Moderating Style?

    Drama free.

    Here is the one rule that has saved me from endless headaches that every forum administrator should take into consideration:

    No Public Questionings of Decisions Made By Staff (Do It Privately): There will be no public questioning of the decisions made by the staff. This applies to all, including the staff. Should somebody take issue with the decision of a moderator, it should be discussed privately with somebody of the administration so that action can be taken. We added this rule due to the difficulty in resolving an issue when it's publicly posted in the open forum for all to reply. Issues should be resolved by the parties involved, not the entirety of the community.

    What are the common mistakes you see Forum Administrators making?

    • Starting a community to make money.
    • Starting a community to rival another community.
    • Not focusing on a niche.
    • Joining a crowded niche in which there is nothing unique about their community.
    • Expecting quick results.

    What's wrong with making money from forums? ;)

    Nothing is wrong with making money from forums. In fact, I'm generating revenue with my own personal forums.

    I just meant one of the most common mistakes I see forum administrators (especially new ones) make is expecting quick revenue results - like hiding content for non-paying user or placing too many ads on their website. I've actually seen forums with 20+ ad banners in 1 PAGE!

    When you initially start a new forum, your main goal is to draw the users in. Don't make the mistake of thinking about generating revenue in the beginning - because it will blur your current focus, which is to provide the best user experience as possible. The best administrators will always put themselves in the position of their users.

    How can forum owners use social media to increase traffic and revenues?

    As a community manager, I utilize social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Linked, etc.) as a FREE tool to get your message across - though there is definitely more to posting messages when it comes to social media marketing. Just like forums, you can't just post an update and expect users to like it. There is math and science involved.

    I've written a detailed guide here on how to market on Facebook:

    Where do you see the Internet in 5 years from now?

    Two words: Technological Singularity - an intellectual event horizon, beyond in which the future becomes difficult to predict.

    What Websites do you visit for fun and relaxation?

    • Google News
    • Craigslist
    • Facebook

    What do you know now that you wish you'd known 5 years ago?

    The considerable extent of influence that social networking websites have with the world. I'm just astonished by the fact that it has contributed to overthrowing dictators!

    What offline activities do you enjoy in your spare time?

    lol. Most of the fun activities that I do are online so it's a little difficult to find an activity I enjoy offline. Though, driving across the country is something I like to do each year with friends.

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

    Books - History and Science books.

    TV Shows - The Universe, Trigun, Stephen Hawkings Universe, a lot of social and science documentaries.

    Music - Anything that sounds good.

    Foods - Anything that taste good.

    Beverages - Any.. na just water. :)

    Tell us something about yourself that we don't already know.

    • I'm lucky.
    • I was in the Twin Towers 2 weeks before it was attacked.

    Do you have any pet peeves?

    You young people with your loud music. :)

    What does the future hold for Jasper Aguila?

    All I know is my future is bright and I have no regrets to where it's heading.

    I still have a lot to learn, but I look forward to putting a mark in the community manager industry.
    • Like Like x 1
  2. phoenixdown21

    phoenixdown21 The Man with the Plan

    Very candid interview, best of luck with your new endeavors Jasper
  3. Shanj

    Shanj Aspirant

    Very much agree with Jasper's outlook - most formal education is crap especially in terms of the net and its needs. I have my son doing an OU degree but mostly because it means credibility with our clients.

    As for Jasper's take on VB I totally agree - but this is only what goes down in almost all companies of any size. Self employment or die say !.
    I think Jasper is a little too kind about VB - I just visited his PersonalityCafe and while the conceptualisation of the forums is grand (Jasper's customisation) the VB feels so clunky after operating in XF lately. VB has had it only it takes a while for full collapse to complete. (Mind you I do think XF could be a bit more concise, less splashed out on the page.)

    Love Jasper's advice to admins. Spot on. Keep dirty laundry private - but keep consulting with clients too on what they think.
    Agree niche is central - money has to be secondary but paradoxically if treated as second it will act well - patience builds success and snippy competitiveness is a waste of time (though check out the plus and minus of rivals to focus ideas).

    Checked out Social Engine. Nah. Can't see the advantage over a good forum with plenty of add-ons. But then I'm used to the sleekness and liveliness of XF.
    It'll appeal to a certain kind of admin I can see that. Kind of point and click - but that will tend to deceive a new admin into thinking that building a community is just point n click too :( If you spend 3 months or more patiently designing your forum and its add-ons, thinking through thoroughly on the detail, you'll be in the right frame of mind to nurture your people as they arrive.

    Merry meet Jasper.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2011
  4. Akela

    Akela viam aut inveniam...

    I just browsed through a SocialEngine demo. It must be refreshing to represent software like this after vB. :)
  5. Joshuad

    Joshuad Developer

    Wow, I never imagined Jasper to be so much younger than I, as he is a name I remember through my time as a vB customer. I'm also happy to see he's decided to become a part of TAZ's staff, people with that kind of experience in the community is always welcomed to me.

    I just have one question, however, that I didn't really see from the interview. How did you manage to net these high profile (albeit low paying) jobs such as Jelsoft / IB without a degree? You aren't quite old enough to have THAT much experience, perhaps I should have a closer look at your portfolio, that MUST be the deciding factor :p

    Either way, it's somewhat inspiring. Good luck with SocialEngine, hope all goes well.
  6. LeadCrow

    LeadCrow Apocalypse Admin

    Was he sought after by SocialEngine or he went with them on his own, whether before or after leaving?
    It's not uncommon to either research for new jobs before leaving current ones, or poach employees from each others.
  7. JasperAguila

    JasperAguila Enthusiast

    Thanks phoenix!

    Thanks for your wonderful input.

    PersonalityCafe does feel a little clunky. It takes a while for 1st time forum users to get used to. I'm looking to make the UI much cleaner for future upgrades.

    At SocialEngine, our main goal is to basically provide a software that can be customized to YOUR needs without the burden of difficult upgrades. Our software does have a forum plugin. I will personally work with the engineers in developing a more dynamic feature set for it. Stay tuned! :)

    It definitely is.

    • Founders/Bosses are awesome and have a great eye in design both for the front and backend of the software.
    • For fun and free time the engineers like to talk about developing.
    • Some developers are Space Engineers.
    • Everyone is nice.
    • Lots of collaboration.
    • Gets things done.
    • and etc.
    I've definitely landed the perfect dream job. :)

    Thanks for your well wishes Joshuad.

    Like many in the support team, I was a customer of vBulletin before they hired me - so I knew more about the product than those interviewing me.

    The best tips I can provide (in order) regarding getting any job is to:
    1. be prepared
    2. show your enthusiasm
    3. show how you will "execute" your job
    4. have a "Now" plan rather than a "6 months" plan.
    5. ALWAYS bring a visual portfolio during the application/interview process.

    As I mentioned in the interview, vBulletin was just a job. There was really nothing there to incentivize me to stay. Like many of my former colleagues, I was ready to jump ship.

    I've known about SocialEngine for quite a while now. They have a small team and a very awesome working environment. ( When they had an opening for "Community Manager," I immediately jumped at the chance. Due to our passion for community management, the CEO and I instantly clicked during the interview. I was basically hired on the spot.
  8. Shanj

    Shanj Aspirant

    Sorry I should have been more precise. I like the content and the obvious way you've customised and added in all kinds of cool features. Very powerful.
    Just the underlying core forum doesn't zing like I'm used to. 'Like' beats 'Thank' ... my avatar waiting at the bottom all ready for me tojump in ... stuff like that.
    But your part of it is great.
  9. Adam H

    Adam H King Lurker

    Great Interview Jasper and congrats on the New position at Social Engine, Ive yet to reach into the the full social networking niche but no doubt ill think of something to use it for in the future.

    Good to see some comments about the inner workings of vbulletin too from someone that does see what had gone on over there.
  10. steve10

    steve10 Aspirant

    Very nice interview, out of interest what are your thoughts on facebook overall and Xenforo as a competitor to vBulletin?
  11. SocialManUK

    SocialManUK Participant

    Lovely read/interview I must say, I'm sure your passion is what drives you and will no doubt take you even further in life! Nice to see you are on the team at this amazing place called TAZ which I have only just recently just discovered much to my dismay (joke! very time consuming in my reading here... LOL) I must say.