Big Board Owner Interview #1 – Sharree

We recently contacted Sharree with an invitation to be featured as our first Big Board Owner (BBO) Interview. After seeing the results he has achieved with his MyBB forums, we were eager to hear his response. Fortunately for us, Sharree agreed to sit down and have a conversation with the MyBB Team.

storymunch

First of all, he has Sharree.com which is his first MyBB site, recently joined by a board which some of you may have recently seen in the Showcase section on the Community Forums — StoryMunch. The result of the advanced customization is amazing! Here are Sharree’s responses to our questions below.

What inspired you to create your sites?

Sharree is a site for small YouTubers to share and promote their videos. Being someone whose tried YouTube in the past, I know how disheartening it is to put a lot of time into a video and have little reaction or viewership. That is why I’ve aimed to create a platform that’ll ease the struggle for small beginner YouTube channels and bring more attention to them.

There were two MyBB powered forums back in 2013 that got me interested in the software. The first was LeeFish’s BlackCanvas project which was an image gallery for sharing abstract art, the other was brad-t’s Harajuju, a Japanese fashion community. Both sites were heavily customized using the XThreads system, prior to these two I had only seen traditional forums so I was absolutely amazed at MyBB’s capabilities and what could be achieved through the MyBB software. I was inspired by them both and in 2015 it lead to me selecting MyBB to power my site Sharree.com.

Do you have any exclusive plans for your sites?

Currently Sharree is a YouTube sharing platform that allows YouTubers to share and promote their content with other YouTubers. It has been a little over a year since the site’s launch and I feel it’s time for change. I’ve decided to expand the site further by allowing other sharing options including Twitch streams, SoundCloud tracks, Graphics, and Websites. I feel the site should have more leeway for content creators, not just catering to YouTubers. There is so much talent out there that deserves to be discovered, so I hope to make Sharree the hub for all content creators to share their talent whether it be entertainers, musicians, artists, or any other craft. I am seeking more forum growth with these changes. Along with this expansion I am developing a new flat theme inspired by Dribbble, Flarum, and Shade’s MyBBoost. I have been working on these changes and I’m looking to have them implemented by early March 2017.

What do you like about the MyBB software that allows you to create your sites as you desire?

I love the flexibility of the software and the freedom in customization. To be able to develop themes, modify templates and have extensive plugin choices has allowed me to create my site as I desire. If it wasn’t for MyBB’s freedom, I would have likely selected another software. Being someone who had minimal CSS, HTML, PHP, and SQL knowledge prior to Sharree, my coding knowledge is completely self-taught through the flexibility of the MyBB software. Being a complete beginner, the ease of use of the software was a bonus. Navigating the Administration panels becomes increasingly easy over time and once you’ve adapted to the software it becomes your playground for creating anything.

What would you recommend to people looking to start a forum?

With giant platforms like Google+, Reddit, and Facebook groups, social communities for any topic have become readily available and can be created by anyone with ease. I’ve heard people say “There’s a Reddit for everything” or “There’s a Reddit for that”, the fact is giant platforms like Reddit have made it increasingly difficult for starting forums to gain traction. I feel because of these giant platforms, forums have become less popular and relevant compared to the 2000’s. Despite this added difficulty for new forum owners, getting a new forum on its feet is not impossible. Creating and launching a forum is the easiest part, I feel less thought goes into pre-development planning and having a marketing plan for post-development. Have everything thought out and thoroughly consider if your forum concept is something that the internet needs and is worth creating. After development, marketing becomes the bedrock of your forum, without it your forum will have no activity. This was the area where my focus was lacking in past projects and it is where I see most new forum owners lacking as well. Posting your forum in Showcase sections of web-development boards, begging users to join, and shutting down after a couple of months is not a marketing plan. Invest your time into your project, do your research, if you believe in your project then don’t shy away from spending some capital, and don’t jump ship when things don’t go as expected. This is what led to me becoming a Big Board Owner.

What method(s) did you use to gain activity on your forums?

After launching my site I began contacting YouTubers individually, telling them about my site and what it offers. I’ve created a website for those struggling and talented YouTubers who deserve to be brought to the forefront. The site’s concept is something that YouTuber’s really needed and it had many of the people I contacted rushing to join the site. The growth at the beginning was quite slow but seeing many of the positive comments from the YouTubers I contacted, I became more and more confident with the site. The method that brought the most activity to my forum is influencer marketing, in May 2016 I began contacting larger YouTubers who’d recommend my site to their subscribers. I was hesitant about the cost but the turnout was amazing as the forum surged with activity. The sudden influx of users had me upgrading my webhosting plan three times in one day. With the increased activity I began offering users an incentive for creating videos about Sharree where their YouTube channels would be featured in the header of the home page. As of February 2017 there are over 6,000 video results for Sharree.com, all helping bring further activity to the forum.

What do you like most about the MyBB software?

What I like most about MyBB is the freedom in the software. Being able to play around with templates allows me to mold the software into something unique that stands out from ordinary traditional forum layouts. Plugins like XThreads and Template Conditionals by ZiNgA BuRgA are examples of the extensibility that the MyBB software offers, I don’t think turning a forum into a complete video, music, or image gallery would be possible with any other forum software.

What is one thing that you regret most during your development time?

One thing I regret is when my forum began getting a lot more activity, I panicked. Initially I was running the forum on my own with my friend Bobby helping with moderation. With the amount of reports we were getting we really needed more staff members, and we needed them fast. Instead of having applicants and selecting users best suited for the position, I chose the first users who volunteered. It was a disaster. To new forum owners, this should be obvious but I recommend you think thoroughly before giving users moderator privileges.

How much time and effort do you put into maintaining the boards?

On average about 20-30 hours a week are spent maintaining the board, sometimes more if big changes are being made or site updates are being implemented. Although most of the site’s development is done by me, I have to thank my staff team Jennifer, Shayne, and Ryan who help generate new ideas for the forum and ease the workload by voluntarily moderating the site on a daily basis. I’d also like to thank Sharree’s Mentor Team who voluntarily assist users by offering advice as well as their guidance.

Can you share on your forums’ profits?

I do not wish to reveal the exact amount I’m making through the forum, however to give you some idea of my forums’ profits: After one year of running the forum I felt secure enough to leave my part-time job and focus on my forum full-time. I am very grateful for my users as I am currently able to pay for my schooling without taking any student loans.

What are you hoping 2.0 will bring to a site like yours?

I am unsure if I will be upgrading Sharree to MyBB 2.0, it may be difficult to transition to the new version. Plugins that are essential for my forum’s functionality may need to be modified or completely rewritten although that cannot be answered until MyBB 2.0 is released. Based on the screenshots, videos, and demos I am very excited for its release. I will definitely download and experiment with MyBB 2.0 when it’s released, possibly using it in a future project.

Interview with Shemo

Hello MyBB fans!

It’s time for our next forum showcase, and this time we have Shemo’s forum, ShaveNook.  A forum concentrated on a very unique and small niche, “Traditional Wet Shaving”, it surprises some when they see the post count at nearly 300,000.

Some screenshots of unique parts of ShaveNook are below.  The community, like brad-t’s previously featured Harajuju, also uses the XThreads plugin, specifically RateU’s Product Review mod.

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How did you first get involved in forums?

I first got involved in forums when I used to game a lot and ran a gaming clan with a few friends. Seeing the need to stay informed about game practices, matches and other clan related information, the best medium to accomplish this was to establish a forum so that threads and posts could be posted whenever, without having to worry about people missing out on any information because they weren’t around when things were being discussed.

How did you find MyBB?

I found mybb through a friend.

When I originally started my gaming clan and then set up the discussion forum, I installed phpbb. After wanting to extend the features of phpbb and realizing how daunting of a task it had become, I was ranting to a friend of mine who worked in IT.

My friend had mentioned that he had used mybb and that it had a much simpler template and plugin system than phpbb, which made it a snap to add a new look and add functionality to the forum. After checking out mybb, I gave him a few bucks and he converted my forum from phpbb to mybb.

The rest is history after that. Every single forum I’ve ever ran and/or had a hand in establishing and setting up has ran mybb.

Well, we’re glad you found us! Moving onto your current forum, how did ShaveNook come about? It’s obviously a very unique niche. (Note: Shemo relayed the question to his team and the following reply is from “bullgoose” on ShaveNook. Teiste is the second admin, and Andrew is Shemo.)

bullgoose: The start of the Shave Nook dates back to Simply Shaving. I was an administrator on Simply Shaving and many of the mods here were also moderators at Simply Shaving. Late last summer, Teiste approached me about updating the software of simply shaving. Unfortunately, we could not facilitate an upgrade on the site. In February, Teiste and I decided to form the Shave Nook and we formally launched the site in late February of this year. I want to say the official opening was February 25th. We wanted to retain the spirit of Simply Shaving while being more up-to-date in terms of forum software. Teiste brought Andrew on board a couple of days after our launch and he has been our IT guy. I am really proud of the team of moderators and administrators that we assembled…they have done a bang-up job!

What is wet shaving even?  What makes it great compared to other forms of shaving, and how is it gaining popularity?

Wet shaving offers the shaver choices that are simply not available to the modern multiblade cartridge razor and canned foam user. The wet shaving choices of razors, blades, shaving soaps and shaving creams are considerably more than that of the modern counterparts mentioned above. For example, using a Gillette Fusion or a Schick Hydro 5 will both feel the same and give the same type of shave. Except for scent, using a canned foam or gel will be pretty much identical across brands.

With more traditional wet shaving, the products used can make a distinct difference in the resulting shave. For example, a double edge (DE) razor may shave differently depending on the DE blade that is inserted into it. Also, different DE razors can offer different types of shaves. One razor might give a mild shave while another a more aggressive shave.

Then, there are the types of razors and the techniques needed to use each. A straight razor (sometimes known as a cut throat) uses a completely different technique than a single edge (SE) razor and a single edge razor can use a different shaving style than a double edge razor. There are no “pivoting heads” on these to do the work for the shaver. The interesting part about the different razors is that some are antiques in excess of one hundred years in age and some are being produced today so the choices are many and varied.

The shaving soaps and creams come in a much wider assortment than the canned foam or gel one typically sees in places like drugstores or supermarkets. Once again, like the razors and blades, different products offer differing characteristics. There are creams which are generally soft and usually very easy to lather, soaps which are hard and take a certain technique to lather, and so called croaps (cream+soap) which are not as soft as creams nor as hard as soaps. Each has its fans and detractors and it is simply personal preference that determines which will be used. Many like all three types and just use whatever one might be in the mood for on any given day.

The choice of scents of the various creams, soaps, and croaps is vastly superior to the supermarket foams and gels. While artificial scents can be and are used, many contain true essential oils so lavender, rose, or other such scented soaps and creams will smell exactly like that with no artificial scents detected. There are also some very intriguing scents produced by artisan soap makers that at first thought may not seem to make sense but work quite nicely.

To go along with these various soaps, creams, and croaps one needs a brush. Once again, the choices are many, from the material of the handle and the hair used in the brush knot to the style of both the handle and the knot. There is no right or wrong brush but simply user preference.

Admittedly, most of these wet shaving accoutrements will have to be purchased on line unless one lives in a large city such as New York or Chicago where bricks and mortar stores can be found that sell many of these supplies. However, if there is not a physical store nearby, internet stores are plentiful and usually offer reasonable shipping costs.

While all of this may sound a bit complicated, a web site dedicated to wet shaving, such as The Shave Nook has members who are always happy to offer advice to those just starting out on this wonderful journey. Free to join, the wealth of information on these sites makes it easy to get started and to learn about new ideas, techniques, and products.

Did you ever think the forum would reach the size that it did?

No. We knew that wet shavers were a dedicated bunch, but to have 300K+ posts in just over a year with less than 3,000 users registered is pretty remarkable. I believe it goes to show that if you listen to your audience and are welcoming, the community will keep coming back and invite friends.

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

One thing I’d add to mybb is a mobile theme. In 2013, almost everyone visits websites from some sort of mobile device, whether it be their cell phone or a tablet. Having something that scales down to mobile viewing size and strips away some of its functionality to make it more mobile friendly would be nice.

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

The biggest thing I like about mybb is the fact that it’s free and open source. Something else I like about the product is that it’s easy to install and activate new plugins and themes.

Any advice that you would like to give to anyone aspiring to create a community with MyBB?

If you put in the work that it takes to run, manage and foster a newly built community, it’ll eventually pay off. At The Shave Nook, we try to keep the environment friendly and relaxed. If there happens to be a problem that arises, we try to nip it in the bud to prevent it from growing into a bigger problem.

 

 

The MyBB team thanks Shemo for his and his team’s time for this interview!  Stop by ShaveNook and take a peek a very unique and special community!

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.