Part I: and - January 15, 2005

Discussion in 'Featured Communities' started by jpapadpapa, Jan 15, 2005.

  1. jpapadpapa

    jpapadpapa erin

    The Admin Zone is pleased to present ( and ( as our next two featured forums in a two part series of articles. In a somewhat trailer-before-the-car manner, this featured forum article presents, the official hacking site for vBulletin.

    Though Stefan Kaeser’s screen name “Xenon” means “the unknown,” the board he helps administrate,, is certainly not unknown to most admins who run vBulletin software for their forums. Many members here at The Admin Zone may also have become familiar with the site by reading the interview with Xenon that was posted this past July. But, in order to further familiarize members of The Admin Zone with their forum, Xenon recently sat down—virtually, that is—with the staff at TAZ and let us in for another behind-the-scenes look at

    As one might expect, has a huge member base of 62,000+, with about 10,000 of those being licensed. With approximately 80% of its members being male, the member base at confirms, in one way, the stereotype of a hacker. However, it is somewhat surprising to realize that, while the majority is in their teens and twenties, the span of ages goes from the computer-geek kid of 12 all the way to hackers in their 60s and 70s.

    The forum contains several sections, including “Code Modifications vB3,” “Code Modifications vB2,” and “General Codings/Questions.” Most of the members, not surprisingly, frequent the release forums within these sections and the forums discussing further features and optimization. Some of the most popular hacks for vB3 include John’s v3 Arcade, complete with Tetris and Asteroids, among others; NTLDR’s vBindex v3.0.0 RC5, with extra functionalities too numerous to list; and Tigga’s vB Advanced CPMS, a content management and portal system.

    With the cleaner code of vB3, hacking has become easier and the hacks are also coded better. While many of the hacks for vB3 are “just ported over from their vB2 counterparts,” Xenon expects that after the ports are done, the hacking community will reach higher levels with the improved, “cleaner” code. also hosts a monthly contest for the best hack (which a couple of the examples above have won), as well as other occasional contests, including one for the best style that yielded the sleek default Smooth Blue design that one sees upon entering the site.

    With the upcoming version of vB likely to make hacks even easier to write, Xenon expects an increase in the number of hack releases. But, when asked if he recommends waiting to hack a new board until the new version is released, Xenon says his philosophy is to just go ahead and “hack those things into a board you really know you need” instead of waiting for a new version to come out. While the general public has been given a few hints about the upcoming version, Xenon would not divulge any more secrets. “Of course I know more than the rest, but [this] information [is] confidential right now,” he says, and jokingly recommends that we “beg” the developers.

    Being a site dedicated to hacking, one is not surprised to learn that the portal for itself is an original hack created by Xenon. In fact, the site contains a number of add-on scripts, many of them Xenon’s own nameless code creations. Xenon modestly attributes his expert coding skills to “learning by doing…Every time I got an idea for a cool feature I would sit down and try to do it. And if it was a feature I didn’t really need, then I just tried to do it in my mind as training…People consider me an expert, but I am still improving myself. You can always learn something new.” Clearly, the two hours a day he spends “learning by doing” has helped develop him into the expert he is.

    With its crisp, sleek design and organization, the professional feel of is instantly apparent. And that carries over into the atmosphere of the site, as well. The professional, yet fun atmosphere is, in fact, one of the things that Xenon likes most about the site. He enjoys meeting other hackers from all over the world and also appreciates camaraderie among his staff, which consists of three administrators, twelve moderators, and a group of “nearly staff members” from other Jelsoft sites.

    When selecting new staff, Xenon prefers members who have good coding skills, but mainly looks for those who frequent the board and provide help in a friendly manner. “As long as they are really helpful and do what they can to improve this place, they’re good candidates.” Once a member becomes part of the staff, they are told the rules and the way in which they should deal with unlicensed members, but they are given quite a bit of freedom in the way in which they handle their duties. “We ask them,” says Xenon, “to always ask us before they do something they’re not really sure about, and right now that system works quite well.”

    As for Xenon’s own personal moderation style, he considers it to be “just as it should be most of the time.” While he does have his own line that should not be crossed, he considers himself “a user first” and tries to have fun and relate to the other members on his board. He strives to be the type of administrator he would want if he were a member himself, handling difficult situations with patience. His path to becoming an administrator at started in conjunction with the site’s beginning. Xenon signed up in those early days and began helping other users immediately. From there, he was asked to be a moderator and continued in this capacity as a helpful staff member, giving complete codes and files to upload. When the former administrator, Chen Avinadav, no longer had time to administrate the board, Xenon was a natural choice. He and Erwin were asked to take over the duties.

    Though is currently an active, thriving community under Xenon’s watch, it has also been tried by tough times. This past year brought reorganization after some problems with development, among other things, disrupted the board. “Actually,” says Xenon, “the greatest problem we had was that we didn’t allow vB3 hacking during the Beta Stage, which forced a lot of users to search for other places.” However, increased staff and better communication with Jelsoft is quickly bringing the site back to its previous level of respect. “And we won’t stop now. There are so many plans to fulfill in the future to make a better place day by day.” Certainly, that is clear to those 62,000 members and to the new members joining everyday.

    As for the “unknown” Xenon…Stefan is a single man in his mid-twenties who lives in Bavaria, Germany and is studying math and computer science. Other than coding, he enjoys going out with his friends and hanging out at a coffee shop. And when he can’t be found enjoying his favorite hobby on, Stefan also likes to hang out at and His future plans are to earn his diploma and possibly even work towards a doctorate from there. He also dreams of finding a job as a coder that will allow him to move to Japan, a country he loves, “…and who knows, maybe even children, but those can wait,” says Xenon, and adds with typical techie humor, “(as I enjoy being single, and a woman is unfortunately needed).”
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2005
  2. thermo

    thermo Participant

  3. The Sandman

    The Sandman Administrator

  4. Demosthenes

    Demosthenes Resident Mancunian

    Great feature, nice work.
  5. Xenon

    Xenon Neophyte

    Really nice to read, very nice postingstyle erin :)
  6. jpapadpapa

    jpapadpapa erin

    Thanks...glad you all enjoyed it! It was interesting to write. :)
  7. Dead End Society

    Dead End Society Graphic Man

    Awesome read indeed.

    vB is just amazing.