Steve Demello, VP of Operations and eventually CEO of EZBoards.
EZBoard executron, long rumored to have been 'involved' with Eurytol. Didn't make the jump to Yuku, but was an occasional surprise poster at Sucks and elsewhere. See his 'Ask Steve DeMello' thread on Monster Island.
My Chat with The Man
By L00TA, Editor
L00TA: Hey Steve, I was just looking at your "Ask Steve Demello" thread over at Sucks. The posters really love you. Is it gratifying to know that so many people use your product and get so much satisfaction from it?
sdemello: Yeah, it is — it's been a really good time. Strangely enough, this is the first time in 4 years I've really taken part in a board, and I really get it now.
L00TA: So now you're hooked like the rest of us?
sdemello: Absolutely. :D
L00TA: How long did it take you to realize that it's actually FUN?
sdemello: About a day, truthfully. You have to understand that 99% of my interaction on the boards pre-Sucks was legal — trying to straighten out fights, etc., which is no fun at all. And it really helps that the Sucktards are so.damned.funny and interesting…
L00TA: I took a trip with the Way Back Machine. Were you involved from the beginning or did Vanchau bring you in later?
sdemello: I came in about 7 months after the fun really started… one of the founders, and original CFO of the company is someone I worked with many years ago, and he introduced us.
L00TA: And ezboard survived the dotcom blow out. How?
sdemello: Basically, three things — we reduced our staff by 80%, changed how we did things to take more advantage of our own product, and launched subscription. Very ugly times, but very necessary.
L00TA: Fortunately for all of us, it worked. You are a privately held company, though, right?
sdemello: Yeah, we are — we had the usual angel investors early, and our VC's came in right before the bust…
L00TA: Ever consider going public?
sdemello: Not really… these days, to go public you need massive size, very strong revenue, and a clear position as a standalone site. While we have size, the other two are not there… also, most markets still consider community as untried, and a commodity market.
L00TA: How many employees do you have?
sdemello: 15, plus a number of part-time contractors who help us moderate and provide customer service.
L00TA: I was about to ask about Atlas and Nutrocker in the help forums. They are contractors?
sdemello: Yes, as are about 5 or 6 others.
L00TA: I've been there several times myself, it's great customer service.
sdemello: Thanks — we've had to make a lot of changes in approach and technology over the last few years, but I feel like we do a good job. The mods are really the big difference…
L00TA: When will ezboard will start using InnoDB or BerkeleyDB tables instead of MyISAM.? (That from a high tech friend of mine)
sdemello: You're talkin' to the wrong boy… I'm hopelessly non-technical. :D
L00TA: LOL, I don't know what that means either.
L00TA: So, I read at Monster Island that you are college shopping for your son?
sdemello: Sure am… just went to Boston to see Berkley College of Music, because the kid is a kick-ass drummer. It's his junior year, so the shopping is just starting…
L00TA: That's great. You won't be disappointed if he doesn't get an MBA like Dad?
sdemello: The last thing either he or I want is for him to become an MBA like dad. Part of the joy of being his father is knowing that he's very different from me, and will find his happiness doing something totally different, I think.
L00TA: That's a very healthy attitude. I hope he appreciates it. Do you feel as though your degrees helped prepare you for what you're doing now?
sdemello: Somewhat… the truth is that an MBA may be the most overrated degree in the academic world. Most of the useful preparation has just come from being in a lot of different work environments over the years. What I really need here is a degree in abnormal psych ;)
L00TA: If you keep posting in the Splinterverse….speaking of, are there any other groups of boards similar to ours?
sdemello: Only one of any size — the Xenaverse, devoted to all things Xena Warrior Princess. Although I don't think it all spawned from a single site and user base, there is that "network effect" goin' on, and lots of cross posting.
L00TA: I was there when the original Planet Sucks board evolved to ezboard, it was a wild time.
sdemello: I'll bet — someone should be writing the official Splinterverse history, doncha think? Then there's the movie…
L00TA: What about the onslaught of instant messaging? Do you think it will hurt ezboard if more and more people turn to private chats?
sdemello: Not really — I think people use the two together, and that there are some times when history is really important. We added our chat feature specifically because we thought the two really should go together, not replace one another. We still have work to do, but I think a good, integrated chat feature will actually help what we do.
L00TA: It seems to be working much better. As is the PM system.
sdemello: Getting there… both have issues (chat with some basic code, PM with database), and we're slogging through the fixes now
L00TA: When does your board life go from work to fun? From fun to work?
sdemello: In terms of time, they're all mixed together. I follow my Sucktards throughout the day, in between "real work". My evenings and weekends are mostly about family, so I tend to spend a lot less time. Nowadays, though, whenever I'm on I hafta at least take a peek to see what's happening…
L00TA: You are so hooked. LOL. Since playing on message boards is your job, do you make databases and spreadsheets at work for kicks?
sdemello: I do a lot of database and spreadsheet work, but not for kicks — one of my jobs is doing a lot of the business intelligence work, and business development forecasts. Access and Excel are my constant companions…
L00TA: Ah yes. I spend ALOT of time with those two as well.
sdemello: So you know the joy… :-&
L00TA: Is it true that all of the words we write on these boards become the copyright of EZBoard? For example, if I write a movie review and post it at Hobietopia and then publish it somewhere like a newspaper, could there be legal trouble?
sdemello: No — under our TOUs you hold the rights (and responsibility) for what you post; we have limited rights to use content for marketing, but that's about it. We will go after folks who wholesale steal our content, but never view this as "ours" versus "the author's."
L00TA: Which brings me to my next question: Number one reason for banning?
sdemello: Spamming, followed closely by violations of privacy.
L00TA: And that is pretty much left up to the board's admin or ezop?
sdemello: Two levels here — we globally ban for clear violations. We leave local (board) banning entirely in the hands of the admins, who do so for a variety of reasons beyond what's covered by our TOU's. Basically, we see the admins as the primary Gods of their own boards, and try to avoid intervening unless and until we see clear violations that are not dealt with. We don't intervene without a clear, documented complaint — we don't troll for violations — and will try, where we can, to work with the admins on cleaning things up themselves.
L00TA: So you don't go uninvited / undetected into private or admin forums?
sdemello: We only go in when someone has filed a formal complaint with links to content — so no, we don't ask permission to visit, but we don't go without a clear reason to do so.
L00TA: About how many formal complaints to you receive per week?
sdemello: A light week is around 200, a heavy week can be 400
L00TA: That'll keep you busy.
sdemello: Oh yeah.
L00TA: My friend nedloh wants to know if you have any groupies?
sdemello: Nah — too old and unexciting for groupies. :D
L00TA: He says you can have some of his, then.
sdemello: Tell him I'm so grateful :)
L00TA: I know you have to go, just one more question?
sdemello: Fire away…
L00TA: Who's on and what's for dinner?
sdemello: LOL — you'll have to 'splain "who's on", and no dinner tonight because I have my jazz bass class.
L00TA: LOL At a few of the boards that's a standard line….Who's 'online' and what are you eating for dinner…
sdemello: see, I have much to learn yet about 'ze Splinterverse.
L00TA: :) Thank you so much for the interview.
sdemello: This has been fun, thanks for asking me.
L00TA: You're welcome!
sdemello: buh bye now.