28 January 2011

Getting to Know: Rickc

By Bryan

1. What got you involved with SMF?
I was working for a big teaching hospital. My department was in need of an internal website. I was already in college, so I took up some design classes. Back then, perl was all the rage and Yabb reigned as its King. A classmate suggested taking up PHP instead, and sited a bunch of reasons. From there we both bumped into YabbSE. YabbSE  was essentially Yabb ported over to PHP, an idea of to Canadian college students Joseph Fung and Jeff Lewis.
As YabbSE grew, a young programmer  [Unknown] thought it best to do a whole new re-write. He hit the ground running and as time passed, it became clear this re-write was no longer YabbSE. It was a forum made for PHP. When he introduced it to the YabbSE team, they decided to ditch their new version of SE. The Admin team felt it best that it become its own project. Over the years as SE grew, it got some bad PR from other splinter versions and this new re-write was worthy of more.

Creating anew project required funding. Jeff and Joseph (and David I believe) thought it best to use a charter member group as a means of funding its growth. I hired Jeff and Joseph’s web design company and so as part of the package, I was added as a charter member. From there my love for SMF grew. It was a small community of self driven individuals who did big things and had a great product, what wasn’t to love?

As time progressed, I (like everyone back in the day) would contribute to the community when as where we could. As the team grew, they took notice to my contributions. I was formally invited to work on the doc team. But before I was brought to the team, a new division was formed; Marketing. I was one of the first, and eventually ran this portion of the team. From there I set to make SMF’s presence known in the open source community. I was able to get us to attend a few events, and began to plan more things for the future, but my ideas were cut short when I left the team.

2. What feature of SMF do you like the most?
SSI’s without a doubt. They are one of the things that differentiated SMF from other forum software. Seamless integration.

3. From what you see what do you feel SMF is missing?
Direction. (In a nutshell) A (better suited) business model. SMF has grown to the point it needs people to manage and run it to dedicate their time 40+ hours a week, but the team either can’t come to terms with this reality, and or can’t seem to want to pay a team member to do this. The Charter Member group shouldn’t be the only means of funding. This is severely stunting SMF’s growth.

When on the team, I pushed hard for alternative revenue streams. New innovative marketing ideas could bring FAR more money, users, and media attention than Google ads and CM money. I also tried hard to kick out banner ads in favor of sponsorship. SMF has a HUGE following, and could easily gain a sponsorship that would benefit the project, the sponsor and more importantly the community.  IMHO if SMF were sponsored by say Apple or Intel, IBM, etc,etc it would be far more beneficial to SMF, and the users than some cheap banner ad placed randomly by some fly by night company that gives Google 10$ for an ad campaign.

But its not just about money and or a sponsor, its about building a system. SMF was initially owned by Jeff and Joseph’s webdesign company Lewis Media, and as such it was ran very small time with the intention of once it got big enough they would create its only entity to allow it to grow and come into its own.

Eventually it did, but the management system stayed the same, and it has reached mass critical overload. The manger(s) (at the time I was on the team) were over worked and unpaid. Dumping 40+ hours into something a week tends to put a huge strain on the rest of your life. This then spills back over onto the project. Other volunteers could walk away and come back as their real life schedule permitted, but not the Admin/ Managers.

Cathy and I had many conference calls about this and though she agreed with me, it seemed as though change wouldn’t come.

4. How do you feel about the transition from LLC to NPO?
Again this was something else I pushed hard for as well.I even went as far as formally requesting my user name and posts be permanently removed from SMF. MY user name was, but I was told that I had far too many posts in many leadership boards and too publicly to the community that wouldn’t make any sense if removed.

As a NPO, the programs we would be eligible for. Things such as tax free donations from corporations. Free swag, the ability to attend events free or for a reduced charge. Legal advice, the list goes on and on. Looking back, perhaps I pushed too hard, as it caused many heated debates within the team. Even though the project had grown past the point where it was a clear advantage, it was too much change from how things were for most of the team to accept.

5. Since you have left SMF what have you been up too?
Wow, how to answer that in a sentence or two…  When I left the team, I completely unplugged from online. I sold many of my websites. I even changed career fields and now work for DoD (The US Department of Defense)

I finally have time for hobbies. My two big ones -1>Reef keeping and 2>paint balling.  As far as work; I’ve sold off most of my small business ventures as well and don’t do much marketing anymore, though I do help out my wife with promoting Brazilian bands and clubs nights from time to time. Slowly I’m doing more online, but no big projects.