View attachment 209 Vanilla Forums is a leading forum software that boasts of over half a million installs across the internet. The software itself is an open source, user friendly community platform that offers both paid hosting solutions and free download of the core product.Matt Lincoln Russell (@linconwebs) is a long term Vanilla developer and enthusiast, He kindly agreed to this interview with us.----------------------------------------------------------Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your involvement with Vanilla Forums? I'm Matt Lincoln Russell, and I'm a web developer who's been working in PHP since around 2005. I went looking for better forum software for my sites in late 2009, just after Vanilla 2 was open sourced (but was still pre-release). After contributing to it for over 2 years, I got a job with them and absolutely love it. When you are not helping to develop Vanilla what do you like to do? What are your hobbies? I've been practicing Zen Martial Arts for 4 years, and I've been running online communities since 2003. Away from Vanilla, do you own any websites or forums? Yes, Icrontic.com, NewBuddhist.com, and IntoDetroit.com. All have both blog and forum components. Vanilla is not like any other forum software out there, mainly because of the threaded display. What other things make Vanilla stand out from the crowd? We're really focused on usability. We threw out old terminology like "threads" because people coming to your site from Facebook or Twitter don't even know what that means and won't take the time to learn. We have strong opinions about how forum software should behave, and we're creating to that standard rather than building an endless admin control panel that confuses new forum owners. We made plugins first-class citizens in our platform, so if you have a different opinion as a developer, you're not limited in the scope of what you can do. What is the biggest planned update for 2012? What should we expect to see this year from Vanilla? Our next target is online reputation and helping community owners better grow their sites and retain members. Vanilla currently has an import/export tool for Vanilla 1, phpBB, vBulletin, bbPres and SimplePress. Are there any plans to support importing other boards such as mybb and XenForo? We have a few more in the works. The import tool is open source and we built to to be easily extensible, so we're always eager to see what other systems people want to create support for too. What are the 3 best implementations of Vanilla that you have seen to date? What makes them attractive to you? I love Penny Arcade and GameSalad, because I think they really show how awesome Vanilla's theming abilities are. Penny Arcade also shows how well Vanilla can scale to huge installations. I think vanillaforums.org (the open source community) is my third favorite because we use it to demo upcoming features, so it's always exciting to use and tinker with. What are 3 common mistakes you see new forum owners making and how do you suggest they avoid these mistakes? Lack of patience. I see people make discussion after discussion with zero comments for 3 months, then give up. You need partners and early users to help you get some momentum, then you have to keep it slow and steady. One of my sites took 5 years before it was truly popular. I think sock puppet accounts are a mistake because they aren't sustainable and feel as fake as they are. Lastly would be getting in over your head. You need some basic coding skills to run a website. If you don't have the time or energy for that, find a competent forum host to give you a hand. If you were to setup a new forum and Vanilla was not an option, What existing forum software would you pick and why? I'd check out what the phpBB team is doing with their rewrite for a verison 4. I've talked to Nils and Yuriy and like where they're headed. Could you tell us a fun/interesting fact about Vanilla? The forum is really just a small app sitting on top of a custom lightweight framework based on users, roles, and activity streams. It's so powerful, and it makes building and integrating custom software for your community a really great experience. It's Vanilla's not-so-secret weapon.