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Virtual Interview: John Percival


The team at Jelsoft create one of the most popular PHP+MySQL based bulletin board systems in the world: vBulletin. In this article, Tim talks with John Percival: co-owner and founder of Jelsoft and the amazing forum package, vBulletin. In this virtual interview, John talks about vBulletin, his career, the Jelsoft development team, and a typical day for him, amongst other things.

Author Info:
By: Tim Pabst
Rating: 4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars / 4
January 17, 2002
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. · Virtual Interview: John Percival
  2. · The Interview
  3. · The Interview (contd.)
  4. · Conclusion

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Virtual Interview: John Percival - The Interview
(Page 2 of 4 )

1. John, what is your position at Jelsoft and how long have you been there for?

I've been working with Jelsoft since early 1997, and I am co-owner with the other founder, James Limm. I am in charge of all aspects relating to development of our flagship product, vBulletin. I oversee the main development team, do some coding myself, and I also ensure that the whole operation is running fairly smoothly.

2. What were you doing before you started Jelsoft?

Jelsoft started off as a hobby and has grown more into a full-time job as the Internet has exploded. Initially, we ran a small web site for Visual Basic developers (http://www.vbworld.com), but vBulletin has taken over as our main product, and that has taken over most of our time too.

3. vBulletin is one of the most popular forum packages in the world. What do you think sets vBulletin apart from other forum packages?

The vBulletin development team combines many years of experience in all areas of online community administration, systems development and user experience management. We have a wealth of talent to draw on.

The vBulletin team has watched the product grow and increase in popularity, and so care about the product and its users. The thing that we hold key for a lot of the time is that we listen to what users want, and focus our time on those items. Customer support is also of the highest standard with most queries in our ticket system being answered within 5 hours of being posted, and we will often log into a customer's server to try and rectify the problem ourselves.

Finally, we have a technically advanced product, which is designed to perform under very heavy loads while maintaining usability and having a plethora of different features - calendar, instant messaging, polls and ratings, just to name just a few.

4. How many people are involved in the development of vBulletin and what does each of them do?

The core coding team is made up of four people - myself, Kier Darby, Freddie Bingham and Mike Sullivan. We do the main part of the coding and HTML front-end, although Kier is our HTML, JavaScript, and CSS specialist.

Chris Lambert does a small part of the coding, and provides security reviews along with David Zentner. The rest of the vBulletin support team also provide many suggestions and feedback and code every now and then. Then, of course, there are the customers and community who are always bringing a wealth and depth and ideas to our minds.

5. Can you list ten well-known sites that use VBulletin?
  • Lycos Asia Forums, the popular search engine and portal
  • Infogrames Community, makers of Unreal Tournament
  • J.R.R. Tolkien fan site, author of Lord of the Rings
  • Michael Jackson's Hideout, fan site
  • World of Britney, an ode to the teen pop star
  • Coldplay fan site, a popular UK-based band
  • Milan fan site, an Italian soccer team
  • VB World forums, a site for Visual Basic developers
  • Geek village forums, for discussing all things geeky
  • Global PhotoSite Community, for photographic enthusiasts
  • Winamp support forums, software for playing MP3 files
  • New York Yankees, fan site for the New York Yankees baseball team
  • Rackshack, popular online hosting company
  • Talking Point, Australian Government Site
OK, so that's 14, but I wanted to include a variety of different sites!

6. When vBulletin was first developed, what ways did you find were most effective in promoting it?

vBulletin was first developed from February 2000 onwards. News spread quickly through the bulletin-board communities, and that has been our most effective method of promoting it - word of mouth, and letting its quality promote itself.
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