Interview with Brad T.

MyBB would like to kick off our first social media showcase with Harajuju, the Japanese Fashion forum!

Harajuju is one of the more interesting MyBB projects, because of the extensive ways it has been customized such as the excellent usage of the XThreads system and the wonderful theme. Some of the features and looks of Harajuju can be seen below:

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We wanted to talk to brad-t – the prolific MyBB community manager and UX expert who previously worked on the World Beyblade Organization, about how he uses MyBB and what makes his ethos unique.

How did you first get involved in forums?

I’ve been running my own websites since I was about 12 years old, when I started an online RPG on GeoCities. I got really interested in Beyblade around 13 years old, and I started looking for forums to join and discuss it.

None of them were any good. So I decided to start my own – Off the Chain, which ran phpBB2. I ran that site from 2003 until 2005, when I closed it due to a lack of interest.

A few years went by, and I was wondering how my old Beyblade friends were doing … there weren’t any communities for Beyblade around anymore, so I decided to start again. I created Beywiki – the Beyblade encyclopedia – in 2007 in order to bring everyone back together. I chose MyBB for this project, though I sadly can’t remember how I discovered it. Shortly after that, it was announced Beyblade would resume production again, and we transitioned to become the World Beyblade Organization. After a few years I was offered a job at a toy company and resigned due to a conflict of interest, but those guys are still going strong.

I decided I wanted to start a community about Japanese fashion in 2010, and chose MyBB because I was familiar with it and knew that I could customize it a lot. And well, here we are now.

Given the excellent design of Harajuju, your Japanese fashion forum, do you have any background in web design?

I don’t. I’m entirely self taught. It’s just something I’ve developed from running many websites, I guess. I’m a hobbyist at best; I think I can give valuable design feedback, but I’m under no impression that I’m a professional. I have a big interest in UI and UX and have done a small amount of real work in those areas.

What sites do you visit daily? Do you subscribe to any web development/design type blogs?

I find reading about app design interesting, and I think there’s a lot of lessons that can be taken and adapted for web design. Some tech blogs I read include: Daring Fireball, Marco.org, LittleBigDetails, iOS.tumblr.com.

What do you like about MyBB that puts it above other forum software?

Its extensibility. It’s very easy to bend MyBB to your will, so to speak. There are some MyBB plugins that are completely indispensable to me, such as xThreads and Template Conditionals. I’m not sure that I would’ve been able to accomplish things like Haralooks and the Brand Directory with another forum software … at the least, it would’ve been much more work.

If you could add one thing to MyBB, what would it be?

There are a lot of things, frankly. If I had to pick one thing, it would be a revamped conversations feature similar to Facebook’s. Threaded messaging is not optional anymore. I’m hopeful that we’ll see a plugin to add this functionality in the near future, but I had sincerely hoped to see it in 1.8. C’est la vie.

What do you think the next big trend in forums will be?

It’s hard to say. Forums themselves are definitely on the decline in terms of both relevance and popularity as conversations shift to giant platforms like Facebook. If they want to regain any foothold outside of techy niches, they need to become simpler. They need to shed extraneous features and checkboxes and menus. And just hiding that complexity is not enough – things really need to be simpler.

I know XenForo is a big deal right now, and they’ve done a lot well, but I still think they are adhering to forum standards too rigidly. Discourse is a really interesting development, but its interface is pretty indecipherable in a lot of ways. It feels like a product made for the technologically inclined.

We should be designing forums in a world where nobody knows what the hell a “forum” is.

Any advice for people aspiring to make forums as thriving as yours?

Haha, well, Harajuju is a fairly quiet project by design right now. I’ve been quietly tuning things under the hood; I hope to generate a lot more activity over the next year.

I’ve posted this maybe a million times, but it’s important to fill a need other than your own. A lot of people create forums because they want to run a forum. That’s just not enough – your desire has to be not one of control, but one of invitation. I created Harajuju because I wanted to create a community space for people who love Japanese fashion and who were sick of the shallow and petty conversations in other spaces. I created Off the Chain because there were no good Beyblade communities. I founded the World Beyblade Organization because sanctioned Beyblade play outside of Asia was essentially non-existent.

Of course, I get a thrill from running these communities; it’s great to create something and to own it. But it’s not just my needs I’m serving. My needs take a backseat to the needs of my community’s members.

Anything else you’d like to say?

MyBB’s power is in its flexibility. Don’t stop with a few CSS changes and a list of forums. Think about what you can do with the powerful templating options and the huge library of existing plugins out there. Work with developers to create new ones – or if you can develop, create your own.

MyBB is at a tumultuous place in its lifespan. Interest in forums among the general populace of internet users is on the downswing and competition in the space is heating up. MyBB 1.8 is going to be the last version of the 1.x series and the last version that’s compatible with the existing plugins out there today. So we all need to work hard to maximize its potential.

10 thoughts on “Interview with Brad T.

  1. Hey,
    i think it’s a really great project. But is it possible to upgrade to newer versions? I think this might be the biggest problems with huge customization, but this is important especially for security reasons.

  2. Hi Insignificant – I haven’t run into any upgrade issues so far. It’s important to note that this is all done with template edits and a few plugins, along with a very, very minor amount of manual patches. This is not incredibly difficult custom work.

  3. Nice interview and great Forum! I still don’t know how did you manage to build such a customized theme with just a few core patches – I’ve created the 100th patch just today for mine :P

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