Interview with Haze
A interview with Haze, real name Martin, a 18 year old male from the UK. He loves going on forums and listening to music, socializing with people around the globe and more! But especially has a deep passion for the forum WebGuruBB of which he is the co-owner.
1.) Max Pen: Could you tells us a bit more about yourself so the readers know who you are?
Haze: Sure thing, you won’t learn much about me though, haha. To put it simply, I am your average eighteen year old guy from the middle of England (Coventry to be exact!) who spends his time in out of college and browsing forums and internet memes all day, every day. My hobbies include socialising with people from all walks of life (Hence why I am on the net so much!) and hanging out with my girlfriend as much as I can. My main hobby though would have to be sticking my headphones on and turning the volume up loud because music is everything to me!
2.) Max Pen: When did you start going on forums? What is the story behind your username Haze?
Haze: Well, it was only over the last two years that I have started using forums ‘religiously‘ so to speak but I have been using forums for a long, long time (Maybe since around 2004 when I joined the net world properly) but mostly as a lurker. I started becoming more and more interested though as I started finding so many more popping up in areas I like but also the amount of knowledge that one could gleam from people across the globe just via a simple conversation.
It just appealed to me! As for my name, it was an odd beginning for a name but it came from simply the weather on the day which was ‘hazey’ but also how the weatherman described it. I thought ‘Haze’ sounded awesome and each time I’ve changed it, people have begged me to change it back so its stuck and I can see it staying for a long time!
3.) Max Pen: What type of staff jobs have you done so far? (reviewer,moderator, etc..) What did you learn from each?
Haze: *Gets out my list*, I have done a wide range of jobs on a wide range of forums which have taught me a whole host of different things. From being a reviewer, I’ve learnt to look in detail at certain things like design aspects, user experience of your site/forum and stuff like that. Being a packager taught me to the main rules about posting on forums and posting only high quality posts which in return means I hopefully don’t post rubbish everywhere I go! The Admin/Mod positions I have taken on have taught me how important it is to be involved with the community at any staff level.
As a reviewer/packager in the old days, I tended not to interact with any ‘normal’ members of the forum because I felt I do my duty by spending hours reviewing a forum or posting on your forum but that all changed when I caught wind of a serious moderation position. Interacting with your community is important, very important and if as a staff member you do not do that, I wouldn’t say you are a very good one. From all of these positions, I have definitely learnt the value of teamwork though as in life I am a very singular person and like to do things on my own but forums have helped my real life by teaching me the importance of communication and listening to others.
4.) Max Pen: What attracts you to forums? Do you think forums will ever be replaced by something else?
Haze: Well, as said above it is mainly the social and knowledge aspect of forums and in my opinion, they way in which one can interact on forums is not something I think can be replicated (Or at least I haven’t seen so yet.), even with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Of course, FB/Twitter have their own social interaction pros/cons and positive aspects but forums provide me with more a of a community/personal interaction sense than I get anywhere else, even on Facebook. I don’t know really why that is but it is something about Facebook that makes it seem much more impersonal than a forum is. Maybe in the future, something can replace forums in some aspects but I believe that forums will always be around in some shape or form because lets be honest, they rule.
5.) Max Pen: What made you start your own forum? Why that niche? How did you came up with the name?
Haze: Well, to be quite honest I didn’t actually ‘start‘ this forum but in a sense I guess I did contribute to it right from the start so I guess in a way you could say I did ‘start‘ it, haha. But speaking from the words of the actual founders, they started it because it was something that they were passionate about and that is why inspired me to join their ranks because I too, was passionate about the webmaster scene despite not knowing much at the time! For me, a forum that is run by people who have a passion for that particular area is of great importance because whats the point if you are not passionate? As for the name itself, it was essentially just a fusion of ‘web‘ from webmaster and guru because the aim of the forum is to help educate people to become the best webmaster they can be or indeed, just help others on their journey to becoming ‘gurus‘ themselves. It’s quite catchy I thing! The BB was simply for ‘Bulletin Board‘ but it just stuck at the end of the name!
6.) Max Pen: Has WebGuruBB been on Xenforo from the start? Could you give us a history overview of the project? (When it launched, major changes occurred, etc..)
Haze: Umm, no it certainly has not! WGBB has actually had quite the turbulent history, even after I joined the team, haha. In the start, we were actually on MyBB with probably one of the most horrid themes ever used on a forum! We launched in January of 2012 though and until around Mid-March we stayed with MyBB but it was around that time that there was a major shift in the structure of the community which allowed me to join the team myself (Which I wanted to from the start!) when Sam (The original co-owner.) of the forum stepped down due to time constraints and it was around this time that Xploiter (The other co-owner.) bought Xenforo for the forum as he felt that having such a software would show that we are not just another one of those forums which start up and then die off and cry when we’re not active as every other forum around.
As stated, a shift in the balance of the team occurred which allowed me to join as a moderator and eventually, move up into the Administrator position. I’d like to say that my joining was a smoothing period for the forum but in effect it produced quite the turbulent time as being an Admin gave me the powers to ‘throw my weight around’ in a sense and get some ideas out there which I think could make the forum that much better and appealable. One of my main and persistent objectives was to get us a premium theme and change the forum structure (Board wise) to cater for a wider audience whilst also not having a bazillion sections because it looks awesome.
I was lucky that Xpl0iter shared my vision for the forum and its future and as such, it was easy for us to do what we wanted when we could and change the future direction of the forum itself. One of two major sticking points though was a staff member that we had at the time (Whose name I won’t say out of respect.) that was essentially posting messages in a derogatory tone all around the forum and being rude within the staff area and for myself, that was not the kind of staff member I wanted representing the forum. It was form this point that we decided that firing this member would be the best option because I actually felt that he was driving members away from the forum due to his attitude.
This then resulted in ANOTHER major change as it was at this point that Sam (The original co-owner.) actually came back onto the staff team and it was form that point that I was effectively working within my dream team and the perfect team to take the forum forward. Combined, myself, Xpl0iter and Sam have a wealth of knowledge and skills in different areas and we use this to our advantage everyday to come up with ideas and notions to take the forum as far as we can.
The latest big change though was our essential re-design of the forum which resulted in achieving my long-term goal of a premium theme (Which changes colours so no-one can complain about the colour, haha.) and getting ourselves a new logo to finish off the re-branding which we are going to begin promoting shortly.
7.) Max Pen: What makes it different from other webmaster forums?
Haze: Well, in one sense, nothing makes it different content wise in a majority sense because how many forums have the same content in todays world? For me though, what makes us different is our aims and ethos as a forum staff team. Our aim isn’t to be just another forum which forces knowledge down your throat or act like we’re on top of the world because we know such and such. Our aim is to effectively create an area where both ‘noobs‘ and pros can learn side by side and share knowledge without having people popping in going ‘Hurr hurr, you should know this already, GAWD!‘ like i’ve seen on a lot of forums. I’m one for effectively dumbing down to a level where even a a complete newbie can understand but also attempting to create something which more advanced people can benefit from.
One thing we are working hard on at the moment is creating a very detailed set of guides which will more than likely help very new webmasters using any of the ‘big five‘ forum softwares whilst also maybe teaching the ‘pros‘ a thing or two. I’m getting a fair bit of help from various people on this guide so it’ll be big, it’ll be detailed but most of all, it’ll be free for anyone and everyone because like I said, its a learning environment we are trying to create.
8.) Max Pen: The name says “Web Guru” do you have any of those on your community? :p
Haze: Haha! I like to think we do and I will admit, we have a lot of smart people in our community who know way more than myself and my staff team but I like to think of my team and my members as people of many talents. For example, Sam knows a lot about the financials and revenue side of things relating to websites and his skills are impeccable when it comes to such an area whilst Xpl0iter knows so much more about back-end stuff and coding side of things whilst my talents lie in creating guides, interacting with the community and so on. I like to think that whilst we are not a web guru, we are a collection of ‘gurus’ with knowledge in different areas and that is an environment I wish to push within our members because my team want to learn from you but also help you out if you need it.
9.) Max Pen: Who has helped alot making the project as it is today?
Haze: So many people from a wide variety of places but I have to give special thanks to Sam, Xploiter (My staff team) and the members of the forum itself but also outside the community, people like Darthmaul and Shadyx for their immense help when I have faced issues or helping me think up new ideas for the community. They have been a big, big help in every aspect and without these people, I wouldn’t be happily running the forum as I would be in a mental home due to the stress. To you guys and girls, I love you and thanks alot! <3
10.) Max Pen: What has been some of the hardest challenges on it so far? What type of goals have you set for yourself?
Haze: The hardest challenge, like most forums is obviously keeping it fresh for the members and actually gaining the members in the first place! As for community goals though, we don’t tend to focus on gaining X amount of posts or X amount of members but rather on the resources we offer for the members and the wider forum community. As I said, I am currently working on some big guides for people and in all honestly, that is the goal we currently have. To get these (10 in total) guides out to the wider public before the end of summer (September) and from that we’ll set a new goal. I think it is good not to have a laundry list of goals because you can become sidetracked from your goals. With one goal, you can focus on that singular goal and get it done much more professionally in my opinion.
11.) Max Pen: What type of goals both in real life and online that where against all odds did you over come? (Give some examples.)
Haze: Wow, a hard question there matey! Well starting with my real life, I have faced a lot of challenges which derive from my Autism which presents a lot of challenges for me socially and personally which have been my biggest obstacles in life and in a way, online. One of my biggest obstacles is education and during primary/secondary school I faced so many problems and teachers putting me down saying you’ll “never be smart” and such things which put me down and made me think I’d be nothing but then I attended a college which catered to my needs and due to this, I overcame my obstacles and in the last two years, I’ve achieved the best grade possible and in effect, become the spokesperson for my college (Its a special needs college.) and I’m doing things which I’ve never imagined and receiving praise which is only serving my desire to do much, much better.
As for online, the biggest problem I’ve semi-overcome is coding. Remembering intricate things such as CSS syntax and such is something I’ve never been able to do and something which has always bugged me (Especially as I study computers in a general sense at college.) but I wish to learn how to code properly and efficiently and so my current life goal is to at least learn HTML/CSS to the extent where I can fashion a website off my own back and not rely on tutorials. I’ve sort of overcome this because for once, I understand what does what in the CSS code and HTMl code so that is but one part of the challenge.
The next part is putting all together in a coherent mix, hopefully by the end of summer I could say I can achieve this. One thing I will say though, is never give up on your goals. A few years ago I forbid myself from bothering learning code in any form as I thought screw it, I’ll never learn it but with a bit of persistence, I’m starting to get a grasp on it. Follow your dreams.
12.) Max Pen: You have a directory and blog, but why are these on a new domain and not on a sub-domain like: blog.webgurubb.com
Haze: Thats a simple one! It is really because whilst we wanted to offer the services described we also wanted to create a mini-network in a sense. The primary directive is that incase the directory or blog gets a decent ranking SEO wise then it could be utilised to drive traffic to the forum in a sense. Its just our way of thinking! We’re strange like this but I think if we actually worked on them a lot it could be so much better!
13.) Max Pen: What does the future hold for WebGuruBB? Have you held so far any contests?
Haze: The future for WGBB is my eyes is indeed a bright one (hopefully!) because of what we are aiming to release to the public in the next few months. We’ve finished our redesign process with a brand spanking new logo custom made for us and an advertising campaign we are going to be starting shortly (Just promoting our forum everywhere which is something we haven’t done in five months of being open all that much!) but we’re 500 posts away from unleashing our biggest ever contest (The two previous were minor in comparison!) with over $110 worth of prizes plus a few extras to throw into the mix to give the person who competes a choice of their prize as opposed to us dictating the prizes! I hope as many people as possible will be a part of our future because we’d be happy to have you.
14.) Max Pen: Finally, if you couldn’t start a webmaster forum what type of niche would you get into?
Haze: I would definitely start a general chat forum mainly due to the socializing aspect of it. I know they are an insanely hard niche to start up in and to maintain but for me, I don’t care how active my forum is or how long it takes to get a decent amount of people to converse with. It’s all about doing what you want to do and proving people wrong.
Thank you for doing this interview with me Haze/Martin. I enjoyed your detailed replies quit! And I hope the other readers will enjoy them to. -Max Pen