vBulletin 5 – Years Later…

Chronos and I have been busy with real life. Sadly, we both gave up on vBulletin. The once iconic forum platform is now a smoldering piece of dung. No one loves being told their baby is ugly. Sadly, ugly is putting it politely.

We cracked open the mailbag curious to see what’s left of the ashes, and we found no phoenix. Only more scathing letters. We’re adding another one from Will this week.

 

Sharing my Story
By Will D.

So nearly a decade ago I logged into my first vBulletin and helped a friend run a forum.  It was slick, it did it’s job exceptionally well.  Around the time vBulletin 4 came out I purchased and configured my first vBulletin forum and ran it for several years without problems.  Regular updates went smoothly, bugs were few and far between and in general the product was simply excellent. I’ve since moved in from that community and shut it down, but it was an exceptional experience.

When I started seeing vBulletin 5 Connect advertisements hit my mailbox I checked out the Beta and saw what I expected to be a huge leap forward in the CMS/Forum software.  Recently I found myself needing to setup a CMS and Forums for a non profit and wanted something I was relatively familiar with and would be rock solid.  Without a thought I advised we purchase vBulletin 5 Connect assuming it would be vBulletin 4’s feature set improved/expanded…
The product having been released for nearly a year, with the current version of 5.0.5, I assumed most of the early adoption pains would be absent, and that I’d be dealing with a rock solid product that was going to make my life easy.
Imagine my disappointment when I find out that two key features, Calendar and CMS were simply left out of the release.  The CMS was expected for 5.1.0… which had a very loose ETA of ‘End of 2013’.  The Calendar isn’t even planned at this point!  I was stunned.
I took a good look and realized I could limp along with their existing features until 5.1.0 released and went ahead setting up my forums.  What I didn’t know is the number of ‘bugs’ I’d run into that would qualify as ‘major’ in my mind that vBulletin support simply accepts as facts of life.
Images have no configuration options in posts… they are supposed to, but it will be fixed in 5.1.1… maybe…
Insert a table and it ignores settings you configure in the UI… it looks fine in the WYSIWYG editor and when you click post goes to the most basic table without any options.  vBulletin support’s answer to this?  They simply say it’s the way CSS and HTML interact and I need to advise users to use the advanced tab and apply formatting that way… yea, good answer.
At present my forums just went live with a small community of users and I’m frankly looking for an alternative that will give me CMS options with a solid Forum backend… once I find this I’ll be buying it out of my own pocket and migrating away from vBulletin forever.

 

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I was once a happy vBulletin customer by Mitzy

Reference: I was once a happy vBulletin customer in the Licensed Customer Feedback forum.

Just thought I would give a bit of a review and offer some insight in my decision to remove vBulletin from my site.

Perhaps you’re a potential future customer and are considering purchasing vBulletin 4 for a new project, I would respectfully suggest that you reconsider. I took over a site in the vBulletin golden era when Jelsoft were the owners and Kier Darby was lead developer, shortly after vBulletin 4 was being promoted. Being new to the forum game and looking at the list of features available I thought I was onto a sure winner and decided to purchase the product.

For well over a year I was happy enough, I had heard a lot of complaints in the hidden “licensed customer” forum but as a lot of the issues didn’t effect me I wasn’t too concerned, a lot of the time I even defended the software. One thing I began to notice though was all the new releases in the 4. series that would introduce a new feature but would then have to be patched and patched/upgraded over the next few point releases to actually be usable. You can imagine you can only upgrade so many times before you get bored and realise that you’re not actually adding anything useful to your site.

Anyway for whatever reason, probably after reading about it on here so much I decided to give XenForo ago, that’s an alternative paid forum product (for the uninitiated). Their whole forum is public, they don’t have a hidden forum for all the customer complaints, they don’t get many complaint at all actually. The difference in development, the entire ethos over there is a complete contrast to what’s happening within vBulletin at the moment. I’m rambling.

Point I’d like to really put across is that being on the inside, seeing the lack of development and vision and the disinterest for anything that would seem logical in terms of the future of the vBulletin product led me to a competitor within 24 months.

If you’re currently trying to decide if you should purchase vBulletin I would personally not recommend it.

Regards
A Customer

PS My comments are strictly for the development and implementation of features and lack of vision in the core product. One excellent plus with the vBulletin team is their support staff and the individual developers themselves, they’re a credit to themselves in spite of the company.

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vBulletin Staff – Behind the Curtains

First, let me start by saying a big thank you to Internet Brands, and the staff at vBulletin. Thank you for not making me regret my decision to ditch vBulletin, for the far superior XenForo. Thank you for continuing in the downwards spiral that you have been going in, one which will ultimately lead to your demise.

It has been some time since I last visited vBulletin forums. Still having an active vBulletin license, I do like to frequent the forums time to time to read about the latest happenings, but in truth mostly to get a good chuckle out of the mess vBulletin has become. Recently, I was browsing the “Licensed Customer Feedback” forum and a thread caught my attention and actually shocked me. This forum is a private forum only accessible to current licensed members of vBulletin, and is not visible to the public, which is most certainly a good thing for Internet Brands because it allows them to hide and censor the reality of the debacle that is now vBulletin.

Recently, a new staff member joined the team – Lawrence Cole. Here I was thinking it couldn’t possibly get any worse for vB, then they surprise me yet again by hiring this 34 year old man who behaves like a child. Having read many of his posts in the private forums, it was apparent that he is completely unprofessional and has no respect for the customers. He engages to cheap tactics and resorts to name calling, belittling and being all out rude to customers. His excuse and justification was essentially (paraphrasing) “if you attack me, I’ll attack you” I think he fails to understand that he is a staff member, one who should be focusing on CSR and not engaging in picking fights with customers. Do any of the other staff members come in to support the customers? No why would they actually care about concerns have, instead they let the thread, and bashing by the staff member continue, until he decides to close the thread.

Don’t take my word for it, have a look at what happens behind the closed doors, if only the public knew just how bad it was in this private forum.

In sum, there is no excuse for someone in his position to behaving this way towards paying customers. Even if other customers were “attacking” him, the solution is not to retaliate in this manner, as a customer I would expect them to approach it in a professional, courteous matter…then again this is vBulletin and it seems that shipped sailed long ago.

Internet Brands, enjoy the customers you have, it’s only a matter of time before the remaining ones you have follow the rest of us and move on from vBulletin to bigger and better things. The primary reason you are even able to get new customers is because you censor any signs of conflict in the public forums, and allow it to go in in the private forums that new members (and potentially new customers) have no knowledge of. This ruse is a temporary solution, and since you will do nothing for an actual solution, it will be just that – temporary. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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Dolores Umbridge

Dear Ms. B Lynn Walsh – We Must Not Tell Lies!

Dolores Umbridge
"We Must Not Tell Lies!" - Dolores Umbridge

An Open Letter to Ms. B. Lynn Walsh (part of our vBulletin Truth Series)

Dear Ms. Walsh:

My name is Veritas and I am a customer of Internet Brands and committed to finding the truth.

I own a vBulletin license and I must say I find it daring that you would orchestrate a lawsuit against your former employees given the circumstances of your own product lines. More to the point, I find this lawsuit, rather amusing. I must congratulate you on a job well done for expertly catching key details and organizing this ruse. Nothing has slipped by you. Let me explain further.

I took  liberty of doing a quick Google search to see who you are and what your history is. For those reading this open letter, let me share with you what I’ve learned:

Internet Brands Website:
Lynn Walsh is responsible for structuring and negotiating acquisitions and strategic partnerships and oversees all human resource, legal, and regulatory aspects of Internet Brands’ business.

Prior to joining Internet Brands in 2000, Walsh was a partner in the Technology group at Alston & Bird LLP in Atlanta, Georgia, where she specialized in public and private offerings of securities, mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance.

Previously, Walsh was a partner at Hunton & Williams in Atlanta. She received her B.A. from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from Wayne State University Law School.

Forbes.com

Ms. Walsh has served as Executive Vice President of Corporate Development, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary since 2000. From 1998 to 2000, Ms. Walsh was a partner in the Technology group at Alston & Bird LLP in Atlanta, Georgia, where she specialized in public and private offerings of securities, mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance. From 1992 to 1998, Ms. Walsh was a partner in the Corporate and Securities group at Hunton & Williams LLP, in its Atlanta office. Ms. Walsh has a B.A. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School.

Something I found most interesting is that Alston & Bird LLP in Atlanta is the exact same law firm that filed the vBulletin copyright AND also filed the suit in the United States Central District Court of California. I really have to wonder if we were scratching the back of your former partners…hmm..

Granted a bit weak in the argument department, but let’s look at your wonderful declaration. Just remember your declaration is signed under the penalty of perjury that the above is true. After all, we must not tell lies!

So let’s start with argument 4.

“In Paragraph 21 of Darby’s declaration, he states that almost all of the witnesses in this action live and work in England. My understanding of the facts is different than Darby’s.

I find it extremely convenient that certain names of witness in the UK were left out. People like Darren Gordon, James Edward Limm, and others who worked at the Reading, UK office. Plus I also found it interesting one name was left out: your famous, disgruntled employee Scott MacVicar, who currently works with Facebook.

<sarcasm> I’m sure he’d love to fly down and provide expert testimony.  Oh wait, but of course, Scott wouldn’t testify for you. He’d likely testify against you because of his first hand experience at how you do things at Internet Brands. No wonder you didn’t expect Scott to testify.</sarcasm>

Let’s look at item 5.

Based on my review of the allegations of the FAC (First Amended Complaint) and my knowledge of the employees of plaintiff and Internet Brands, I anticipate that California residents affiliated with defendants and the Xenforo website as their representatives here in California will testify in this action. I understand that Xenforo.com website domain is registered here in Westchester, California, where it maintains a physical presence and that it maintains a technical and administrative contact phone number with the California area code 661. Any witnesses concerning the activities of these technical and administrative representatives of Xenforo in California, would, in my estimation, have to reside here in California. I discuss this further in paragraphs 11 and 12 below.

I’m shocked at your broad statements, claiming that xenforo maintains a physical presence in California. Anyone can simply Google Search to discover what WHOISGUARD is. Even on the WHOISGUARD website it has Namecheap.com written all over it. In fact, even your own Exhibit A clearly says Registration Service is provided by Namecheap.com.

Do you expect me to believe just because I choose a domain registrar located elsewhere that we have a physical presence? Imagine the precedent that would set! Use a registrar like Godaddy (which of course Internet Brands uses) and now Godaddy is considered your registered agent? I think not! I’m sure even Internet Brands would not like that argument. Now you have legal obligations in not just Delaware, and California, but in Arizona too all because you used Godaddy’s Domain’s By Proxy service. But of course, as a lawyer, you’re detailed and meticulous and I’m sure you know what you’re doing. I’m sure you took great care to research what WHOISGUARD is. After all, you do use DomainsByProxy in Arizona.

Furthermore, we both know that ICANN requires us to maintain up to date contact information as part of our domain registrar. However, we also know that the big registrars do offer a privacy service which blocks people from. Essentially we know these registrations become “private” and that the registrar becomes a temporary owner of a domain. The registrar, in good faith, is expected not to seize the domain from you and will release it back into the custody of the original owner upon domain.

But of course, it is common knowledge. And we must not tell lies.

Moving on, item 8.

Based on my review of the allegations of the FAC, and my knowledge of the employees of plaintiff and Internet Brands, I anticipate Ray Morgan, Adrian Harris, Michael Anders and Fabian Schonholz, members of Mr. Rosenblum’s technology team for vBulletin will testify in this action. These Internet Brands employees were present for the meetings in El Segundo at which Darby is alleged to have improperly utilized plaintiff’s proprietary information and also were involved in and monitored the progress of Darby and his team of the development of the vBulletin software, and communicated with the entire vBulletin team about the development and implementation of the software features and improvements. Mr. Morgan is and was the General Manager of the vBulletin business team and so was often intimately involved in the matters giving rise to this dispute. All these gentlemen live and work in Southern California.

WHOA! Excuse me, Ms. Walsh, but isn’t that overreaching? In fact, I would argue you just LIED to the courts. You just committed perjury! Let me explain.

Let’s establish some timelines first.

First Visit by Kier to Internet Brands:  September 3 to September 7, 2008
Second Visit By Kier to Internet Brands: End of September 2008.
Kier’s Resignation:  June 19, 2009

All these dates are based off of Mr. Rosenblum’s declaration, signed under the penalty of perjury.

Adrian Harris, while currently is the business manager for vBulletin, was PREVIOUSLY employed by Internet Brands, but as the community manager managing YOUR AUTOMOTIVE FORUMS. In fact, Adrian did NOT join the vBulletin Team until March 2010. In his blog entry, dated March 26, 2010, he said he was new to the vBulletin team. Let’s also not forget about this thread too. So tell me Ms. Walsh. What is a community manager of Automotive Forums doing in a closed door, vBulletin development meeting, in which technically is considered outside his normal duties? In fact, I’m willing to bet Mr. Harris was not permitted to attend the meeting, but more to the point, was NOT even AT the meeting! Unless Mr. Harris somehow traveled back in time one and a half years prior to attend that meeting somehow.

Let’s look at Fabian Schonholz. He’s currently a vice president of technology according to the vBulletin.com forums, but whoa, stop the presses, we have a problem too. In this post, dated April 14, 2010, Fabian noted that he recently started at Internet Brands and that for the last two weeks, he has been reading the forums and talking to the vBulletin team. So explain to me, Ms. Walsh, how does a Vice President of Technology, who was hired in 2010, attend a meeting in 2008? Again, that mystical Internet Brands time machine must come into play.

I’d like to remind you, Ms. Walsh, that on the 23rd of December, you signed, UNDER THE PENALTY OF PERJURY, under the laws of the United States of America, the the foregoing is true and correct. In fact, looking at item 8, I, an auditor, just impeached you as a witness and have discovered you committed perjury.

In fact, I can’t believe anything you’re saying now. Why? Because you just lied to the courts. But you are a former lawyer with Alston & Bird LLP, obtained a Juris Doctor at Wayne State University Law School. You were taught never to lie and commit perjury. After all, we must not tell lies! We must not tell lies to the courts!

I eagerly await your response Ms. Walsh. Have a wonderful week.

Sincerely,

Veritas.

P.S. Is there a particular reason why you are not registered with the California State Bar? If I’m not mistaken, under the California Rules of Court, Rule 9.46, in-house counsel is required to register with the California State Bar to practice law in California and must renew annually to be legally permitted to practice law in California.

Just a thought.

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It’s an Internet Brands’ TRAP!

In our continuing series of bringing truth to Internet Brands, I want to start this off by showing you a clip Star Wars.

Admiral Ackbar’s famous words “It’s a Trap” has spawned a series of parodies over the years. But it also serves as a great launching point for this discussion: Have you fallen into Internet Brands’ Trap?

I refer you to Mr. Joseph Rosenblum’s Declaration, item 9 and 15:

Item 9:

At one of these meetings at Interet Brands’ corporate office in El Segundo, CA on September 4, 2008, Darby and employees of Jelsoft and Internet Brands discussed the development of new features and functions for vBulletin Software. During this meeting, Internet Brands’ Chief Executive Officer Robert “Bob” Brisco, Darby and several Jelsoft employees and I developed off page, on page, and other ideas for a search engine optimization feature for vBulletin. A “road map” for these ideas was discussed at length by the participatns at the meeting. Darby was an active participant in that meeting. During same:

  1. The purpose of the meeting was to purpose all functions and features that should be in future versions of vBulletin software
  2. The “road map” for search engine optimization be written on a white board;
  3. Darby took and retained a picture of the white board with vBulletin “road map” written upon it; and
  4. Using his laptop computer, Darby took notes regarding the matters discussed.

After the meeting, Darby sent an email to Internet Brands team members who attended the meeting, which contained the photo that he took of the “road map” on the white board. A true and accurate copy of the same is attached as Exhibit “A” hereto. Exhibit A recites two dozen forward-looking ideas for vBulletin search engine optimization

Item 15:

Thereafter, I reviewed the xenforo.com website, information, software code, videos and forum posts thereon, as well as third-party websites mentioned xenforo. Portions of the software code on the Xenforo.com website were readily accessible through the website. Moreover relevant videos, forum posts, and third-party websites were readily accessible by clicking public links on the xenforo.com website. At least six of the ideas, concepts and architecture for search engine optimization that were set forth on the “road map” on Exhibit A are currently being utilized in the xenForo bulletin board software


How many of you have actually questioned what these ideas, concepts and architecture that Mr. Rosenblum claims? Or even taken time to even research what those so-called trade secrets are?

My fear is that too many have fallen for the con artist trick, where they quickly flash a badge at you saying they are law enforcement, and not giving a chance to inspect the badge. Upon closer inspection, you realize the badge is nothing more than a shiny shield painted in gold paint.

Are we challenging Internet Brands’ claims? We certainly are. Let’s find the truth.

Let’s go look at them. Let’s scrutinize them. Let’s put Internet Brands in the hot seat, and their trade secrets under a microscope.

Opening Mr. Rosenblum’s declaration, looking at Exhibit “A”, and blowing up that horribly cropped image to 350% magnification, I can read roughly 80-85% of the text. Let’s look at these “so called trade secrets” and “intellectual property” that was written on the white board.

Off Page:

  • Social Bookmark Widgets
  • URL/Permalinks
  • Sitemap
  • Trackbacks/linkbacks
  • Duplicate Content Management
  • Intelligent Defaults/Installation
  • Google Analytics
  • Gmail? Report
  • robots.txt

On Page:

  • Semantic Markup
  • Meta/HTTP headers
    • keywords
    • descriptions
  • title tags
  • keyword density
  • title attributes (img, a)
  • nofollow

?

  • What is Configurable
  • link baiting?
  • list maker
  • polls?
  • wizard

The last column is guidelines, where there are six items listed but they are not legible. (Anyone want to give a shot reading it? All I am able to make out are URL, Callback, Minimize configuration, and Keywords.)

In other words, Internet Brands’ attempted to pull a fast one on the public. The noticeable absence of specifying the contents out on the board in the declaration itself should have raised eyebrows. The fact no care was put into detailing the contents of the whiteboard draws scrutiny from me as the picture should only validate the claim, not be the claim itself.

Don’t take my word for it. Download the PDF yourself and open it up in Adobe PDF. Zoom in with 350x magnification and read it with your own eyes.

I believe it to be a tactical move on the part of Internet Brands as I wonder if anyone intends on reading the contents of the board. I see this to be a move on the part of Internet Brands’ as  “see we have these ideas and they are on a whiteboard. I have a picture too! It’s proof Mr. Darby stole from us!!!!” when in reality and upon closer inspection, those ideas are common knowledge and readily available to anyone who has access to a Google search.

But case in point, how many of the above is actually “trade secrets”? Correct me if I’m wrong, but 90-95% of the above items can be found in vBSEO! GASP! Another dozen or so of these items can be found on hundreds of websites dedicated to SEO! HECK! EVEN A BUNCH OF THESE ITEMS CAN BE FOUND ON GOOGLE’S OWN BLOG REGARDING SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION.

So my question at the end of the day:  WHAT IS MR. ROSENBLUM BLOWING HOT AIR ABOUT? I SEE NO TRADE SECRETS, OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.

Do you?

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A New Way of Doing Things – There is ALWAYS a better way of doing things

Kaizen – It is at the heart of Toyota’s corporation. Certainly we’ve heard Bob Brisco of Internet Brands tout it, but have we seen him actually spearhead and lead Internet Brands into doing things more effectively and efficiently? Kaizen is about finding ways of doing things faster, smarter, cutting down waste, cutting down costs, all the while maintaining, or improving quality. It has been one of the  reasons for Toyota’s rapid growth in recent years.

It works well when it is done correctly, but when it is done incorrectly, we see shortcomings, such as the Toyota recalls. However, this article is not about Toyota, it is about Internet Brands.
Let me illustrate. An engineering friend of mine sent this YouTube video to me the other week.  My question to you: How long does it take to build a 15 (fifteen) story hotel? Maybe a month? Well, take a look before you continue reading this article.

I sat there in disbelief. The Chinese built a brand new hotel exterior in two days, and completed the exterior four days later! In six days, the Chinese built a brand new, sustainable, fifteen story hotel, with minimal waste, all the while maximizing efficiency in both energy and construction. How? Through using brand new construction techniques and modular, prefabricated designed parts.

Certainly we can make all kinds of implications such as:

  • We should be including time spend fabricating those parts into the total time lapse
  • They had far more human capital available to help do the construction

Truth be told, we would be rationalizing and letting our pride interfere. What matters is the Chinese found a way to construct a brand new hotel with new methodologies that worked and it worked well.

So let me move on here, and please keep this in the back of your mind. I promise it serves a purpose. First of all, my arguments will be basically in response to Mr. Joseph Rosenblum’s Declaration.

Looking at item one, I see Mr. Rosenblum has conveniently left out his education information. Oh it’s true that it says he has a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters Degree from Stanford, but let me ask you this question. What is his degree in? Psychology? History? Computer Science? Management Information Systems?

After much digging, his LinkedIn Profile provided the information we needed. Mr. Rosenblum graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Modern Thought and Literature. His Masters degree is also in Modern Thought and Literature.

Just what is Modern Thought and Literature? According to the Stanford website:

Modern Thought and Literature (MTL) is an interdisciplinary graduate program advancing the study of critical issues in the modern world. Since 1971, MTL students have helped to redefine the cutting edge of many interdisciplinary fields and to reshape the ways in which disciplinary scholarship is understood and practiced. MTL graduates are leaders in such fields as American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Film Studies, Social and Cultural Studies, and Women’s Studies, as well as disciplines such as English, Cultural Anthropology, and Comparative Literature.

The Program trains students to understand the histories and methods of disciplines and to test their assumptions. We consider how disciplines shape knowledge and, most importantly, how interdisciplinary methods reshape their objects of study. MTL students produce innovative analyses of diverse texts, forms, and practices, including those of literature, history, philosophy, anthropology, law, and science; film, visual arts, popular culture, and performance; and material culture and technology.

Each student constructs a unique and rigorous program of study suited to his or her research. Students have focused on such areas as gender and sexuality; race and ethnicity; science, technology, and medicine; media and performance; legal studies; and critical and social theory. Our faculty is drawn from a range of fields in the humanities and social sciences, as well as from education, law, and medicine. As serious interdisciplinary study is impossible without a firm understanding of the disciplines under consideration, each student is expected to master the methods of one discipline and to gain a firm foundation in a second field.

Translation: It’s just a design your own major type program that allows you to focus on certain areas, and in likely case for Mr. Rosenblum’s, technology. However note where Stanford’s strengths lie in this program: American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Film Studies, Social and Cultural Studies, English, Anthropology, Literature, and Woman’s Studies. These are all humanities type courses. They are not designed to be heavy in the technical area. We of course, do not know what classes or courses Mr. Rosenblum took, however we can infer that while some technical courses may have been taken, there were not the emphasis.

In contrast, let’s meet the hypothetical Mr. John Doe, who graduated from a school with Bachelors of Science in Computer Science Degree and has a Masters in Business Administration. Stack Mr. Rosenblum and Mr. Doe for a technical job, and who do you feel is more qualified for technology leadership position?

Personally, at the end of the day, I feel Mr. Doe is more qualified. Why? It’s not because I’m the author of this article, but because Mr. Doe has been through a program with technology in mind and not a program which treats technology as an afterthought. The degree and education Mr. Doe has is far more comprehensive and rigorous  as there is an expectation to understand the theory, concepts and application behind technology.

Yes Mr. Rosenblum has worked twelve years in the computer industry, but that doesn’t mean he’s QUALIFIED to spearhead a project like vBulletin. A person could be working the helpdesk for twelve years and that is still working in the computer industry.

Moving forward to other points, I’m astounded at the broad level of accusations. For example, point ten.

During his two trips to California, I observed Darby involved in several conversations with Internet Brands and Jelsoft employees outside of meetings, and in their offices, discussing the vBulletin software.

The implication here made by the Internet Brands Vice-President of Technology Development is one that is simply astounds me completely. Mr. Darby talking to employees is reason to believe Mr. Darby committed theft of intellectual property? Has Mr. Rosenblum gone mad? Correct me if I’m wrong, but how do you expect anyone to work together to put together a program as complex as vBulletin without talking by verbal or written means? Does Mr. Rosenblum expect telepathy used? TALKING is necessary to communicate, facilitate and execute any given plan. TALKING is part of the job. Paranoid much, Mr. Rosenblum?

Furthermore, on item 13:

On June 19, 2009, Darby quit his job with Jelsoft. Because of Darby’s resignation and his central role with vBulletin software development and implementation, Platniff was NOT able to implement the new features as quickly as it had planned when Darby was on board.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but if that does not sound like a temper tantrum, then frankly I don’t know what is. The accusation here is again astounding. Internet Brands pretty said “it is all Kier’s fault vBulletin 4 isn’t what it is and that new features aren’t done.” Mr. Rosenblum of course, is conveniently leaving out one key fact. On November 2, 2009, Bob Brisco himself noted in this blog post on vBulletin.com that the number of vBulletin developers had DOUBLED. Do I hear double speak? You loose one man, but you double entire vBulletin development staff and yet you feature implementation is still slowed completely? Talk about inefficiency! Yes I can hear the critics saying that Kier was the lead developer, however lead developer means you spearhead and coordinate the efforts as well as project the vision. It doesn’t mean you are a better coder. Plus add to the fact there is more talent in the Internet Brands HR pool, one should easily make up for the void Kier left behind with three to four people. Internet Brands hired MORE than four people, with a significant number of them leaving for other opportunities. So it’s safe to say Internet Brands HR hired talented people and that they made it elsewhere. It’s also definitely to safe to say Internet Brands HR did NOT hire incompetent people. If they did, we need to bring out the “EPIC FAIL” stickers.

Let’s look at item 15:

At least 6 of the ideas, concepts and architecture for search engine optimization that were set forth on the “road map” on Exhibit A are currently being utilized in the xenForo bulletin board software

Excuse me Mr. Rosenblum, but exactly what are those “at least six” ideas, concepts and architectural designs? Would you care to share with the class? Your subsequent claims in number 16 are equally as vague as you’ve not detailed what was taken. As far as I’m concerned, you could have claimed “quick reply” and “lightbox galleries” as part of the vBulletin roadmap, all which have since taken root in different web applications as software.

Last but not least, point 17 is one I love personally.

Based upon my involvement in the computer industry for over 13 years (authors note: he’s now touting over thirteen years when in point one, he touted over twelve years. Reputation inflation?), my knowledge of the vBulletin software since 2006, my extensive background in computer programming for 15-20 years, and my review of the source code used in xenforo software, in my opinion, it would have been impossible for a software company of xenforo’s size to develop xenforo from scratch between June 30, 2009 and July 28, 2010 as stated by Darby in paragraphs 6 and 9 in his declaration in support of his motion. It took Jelsoft and VBSI more than 10 (ten) years to develop vBulletin to this point with Darby working on the project. The fact that Darby was able to program and release a bulletin board software program that included certain more advanced features than vBulletin in a mere thirteen months is a clear indication to me that xenforo and its programmers imply copied vBulletin’s code and spent the last year adding to this product the new features that were planned for subsequent versions of vBulletin.

Can I just say wow for a moment? I’m completely in disbelief at some of the broad claims here. So let’s do some dissection.

  • Extensive Background Knowledge for 15-20 Years in Computer Programming – Call me the skeptic, but could someone please clarify his experience in programming? What is this extensive background knowledge? What does it entail? Does it entail 15 to 20 years of simply reading code? Being able to alter code to add in database information? Plus has Mr. Rosenblum ever heard of frameworks?
  • Review of source code of xenForo – Question. When did you review the source code? How did you review the source code? Note Internet Brands launched a lawsuit far way in advanced before xenForo was ever released.

Last but not least, the fact Mr. Darby was unable to program anything under thirteen months and release it to the public. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but in Item 13, Mr. Rosenblum acknowledged that Kier that he was an excellent programmer and that because of his resignation, work slowed down significantly. We can safely assume here Mr. Rosenblum just admitted to the world that Kier is an excellent programmer. Yet here, Mr. Rosenblum just told the world that despite Kier being an excellent programmer, he can’t release a brand new forum application in thirteen months because Internet Brands can’t do it.

Let me tell you how they did it Mr. Rosenblum. They did it by using existing packages out there on the net that were open for EVERYONE TO USE including yourself. They chose the best stuff adopted by every community, including your own self proclaimed competitor: WordPress.

  • Framework: Maybe 60,70% of the framework is from Zend. Everything in between is filled in.
  • AJAX/UI: All utilizing JQUERY
  • Editor: Tiny MCE
  • Flash Upload: SWFUpload

What xenforo did was the same as the Chinese. Taking existing techniques, finding ways of improving upon existing packages out there and bring them together. Just like this article. The words itself are out there, but it takes someone to assemble them to make anything meaningful. They were being efficient.

Instead of wrestling with reinventing the wheel, designing brand new editors, new frameworks, they utilized what worked out there in the market and integrated the best parts into xenForo. All the while, Internet Brands was reinventing the wheel, while trying to roll the wheel when it isn’t ready.

Here’s why your items are not as sophisticated as xenForo Mr. Rosenblum: You’re wrestling with ten year old code. Rather than doing what all professional coders have said from day one and that’s to start off from a clean slate, you’ve continued to push forward with this agile methodology. Each time something new is introduced, it breaks something else. Your team is constantly spending time squashing bugs and introducing code to make sure existing functionality do not break. They are, to simply put, being completely inefficient with their time because the path you set forth does not work well given the nature of the beast. They are wrestling with something they should not have to. That clean slate was all that’s needed to give xenForo a significant strategic advantage over Internet Brands. Add new methods of doing things, and you have a killer product.

Sorry Mr. Rosenblum, but to me your logic doesn’t add up. You can say a fifteen story hotel can’t be built in a week, but rather it takes a month. The reality is that the Chinese built a brand new hotel in one week instead of a whole month; the reality is that xenForo was able to build a brand new forum in one year instead of ten.

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A New vBulletin Truth Series

As many of you have noticed, I’ve refrained from discussing the current lawsuit. I’ve also been noticeably absent given real life has taken priority due to the end of year audits. However, as the end of year has winded down, and my workload has been somewhat lightened, it is time to put the pen to the paper and write once more.

It begged the question what to write, and after considerable deliberation, I now intend to start a series of entries in respons to Internet Brands’s recent motions and filings in the United States Federal Court.

It is my understanding that there has been some responses by both sides, as well as customers and I will be echoing some of those very same arguments. Granted I’ve not read every single argument out there, I will acknowledge that there is a significant number of people who see the equally flawed logic and statements made by Internet Brands and their representatives.

And thus… the series begins.

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vBulletin v. XenForo (Case #2)

As many of you have read by now, there is a second lawsuit filed against XenForo (XF) by Jelsoft Enterprises and vBulletin Solutions (vBSI)

Case Number: CV10-8209-R
vBulletin Solutions, Inc. v. XenForo Limited

Complaints For:
1. Copyright infringement
2. Declaratory relief over ownership of software
3. Misappropriation of trade secrets
4. Intentional interference with prospective economic advantage
5. Breach of contract
6. Breach of duty of loyalty

First, let me make it clear that I am no legal expert. I have very limited experience with the technicalities of law so this is intended as mere feedback and commentary from reading the filing and is not meant to be anymore then that.

Veritas and I had a chance to read through the 44 pages of the filing and wanted to share some of our initial thoughts on it, and this case against XF and Kier, who used to work for Jelsoft.

Upon the first reading the filing, I have concluded that the majority of the filing is based on nothing but pure speculation. There is no factual basis for any of the six claims made but instead the claims are mere assumptions by vBulletin Solutions Inc.

Factual Background:
vBSI first acknowledges that Kier Darby was hired as the lead developer of Jelsoft products who “had unfettered access to over $100 million of VSBI assets” (6) and access to proprietary information which was located at the vBSI which Kier often frequented for meetings. Although this part does not come as surprise and we would expect the lead developer of vBulletin to have access to such information to perform his duties, this is the basis of the argument presented by vBSI which will be discussed further. Along with this, vBSI contends that because Kier “repeatedly complained about the new ownership and management” (7) they knew he was going to leave the company to pursue his own goals in establishing a new competing product. vBSI then goes on to accuse Kier of having convinced current and former employees of Jelsoft to collect confidential information, while having kept proprietary information himself – All of this is based on the word of a representative from vBSI HR department because apparently her opinion which I’m sure is very objective and not at all biased is good enough for them.

“Software of the kind released by XL generally takes several years to develop. Based in part on the speed in which XenForo product was released–slightly more then a year and a half after Darby and Sullivan left vBSI–vBSI is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that Darby retained Jelsoft’s and vBSI’s proprietary materials obtained during his employment by Jelsoft pertaining to existing and future versions of vBulletin, and used said materials to commence commercial planning and technical development of the XenForo software product prior to his resignation from Jelsoft.” (10)

This part stood out for me – To me, this reads as more speculation and no actual proof. vBSI is essentially contending that, due to the speediness of the development of XF, they must have stole the code and took advantage while they had the opportunity to access vBSI proprietary information. They claim that they were “informed” about this but I have yet to see any actual proof of it. They also proceed to drag Scott Molinari into this in the next section “Moreover, based on knowledge obtained while Darby and Sullivan were employed by Jelsoft, defendants contacted Scott Molinari, the principal of one of vBulletin’s exclusive distributors” – Once again, I am curious about this “knowledge” and “information” they are referring to which they conveniently don’t explain in further detail. Are we to take their word at face value about this? Is vBSI forgetting that XF is headed by the world renowned developer Kier and Mike, both of who have had extensive experience developing software?

First Claim:
In the first claim, vBSI accuses XF of copyright infringement.

“Defendants have reproduced, created derivative works from, distributed, and otherwise infringed upon vBSI’s protected works without vBSI’s authorization.” (11)

In this unfounded claim, I found no basis and the only argument being that the software created by XF is similar to vBulletin in the sense that each serves a similar purpose – community/forum software, that’s it. There is no evidence about similar/identical code being used by XF so using this logic the multiple other forum software available is also in violation of copyright infringement.

Second Claim:
In this second claim, vBSI argues that Kier “misused Jelsoft property and resources for his benefit and the benefit if XL by, among other things, creating source code that is now used for XenForo but which belongs exclusively to vBSI as the successor and assignee of Jelsoft’s intellectual property.” (12)

What I gather from this, is that the lead developer of vBulletin isn’t allowed to work on the software he was hired to work on, without the assumption that he was in fact working on a competing product, so now, the work he did and the source code which is apparently in XenForo (yet again without any proof) actually belongs to vBSI?

Third Claim:
In the third claim, vBSI claims that Kier misused trade secrets which he learned at vBSI in order to advance his competing product at XF. It is a well known fact that employees of the company have access to these “trade secrets” and access to propriety, confidential software which they use while at said employer, but what proof is there that these trade secrets were “taken with blatant disregard of Jelsoft and vBSI’s rights” (14) and were then used at XF? Is one supposed to pretend they no longer posses skills once they leave one employer for another?

Fourth Claim:
vBSI now claims that because they have such a large consumer base who has a vBulletin license, current and new prospective members were discouraged to stay current vB customers due to the interference by XF. vBSI disregards and fails to mention that an extremely large base of their customers were upset with the recent licensing fiasco that took place with vBulletin 4x and the overall direction the company was taking with the new management. They fail to mention that the Licensed Customer Feedback forum is filled with thousands of posts from unhappy clients who constantly express their concerns and frustrations over vBulletin, they fail to mention that customers are unhappy about the unstable, bug filled version of vBulletin 4x released prematurely and rushed compared to the version released by the old vBulletin team with Kier and company. Instead they want us to focus on how they potentially lost clients because of XF, but not because of their own stupidity and the fact that they kept digging themselves a deeper hole. They failed to mention that they lost a number of clients to Invision, well before the inception of XF but instead want to direct all the attention to the new competition which rightfully will take away their customers, but will do so for the right reasons – due to the fact that XenForo is a far superior product.

Fifth Claim:
Next we have breach of contract against Kier. vBSI claims once again that Kier provided trade secrets to XF and its employees in order to get a competitive advantage and Kier’s apparent refusal to hand back trade secrets belonging to vBSI – All of this yet again based on the word of the HR rep working for vBSI. Exactly what information was it that Kier had which he refused to turn in? How are we to know for certain that this was indeed a trade secret and not something belonging to Kier himself? Oh yes, we shouldn’t question the word of the HR rep I suppose and just accept the blanket statement as is.

Sixth Claim:
The final claim made by vBSI is breach of duty of loyalty.
Here they claim that Kier did not have the company’s interest in mind while working for them. Apparently their crystal ball was able to read his mind and know precisely what he was thinking at every given time in the day. vBSI also claims that Darby was “developing and creating XenForo software while employed by Jelsoft” (16) Was Kier “caught in the act” working on XF when he was employed at vBSI? What proof is there that he was working on XF while employed at vBSI other then the previous assumptions, which say that the software was made too soon? Or are we to yet again just take these claims at face value?

Conclusion
I find it ironic, and curious at the same time that the first lawsuit in UK was filed and made public the first day XF went on sale. It’s quite obvious this was to deter sales and used as a scare tactic by vBSI.

Clearly vBSI thinks they have a better chance here in the US compared to the UK courts, hence this second filing, but I see it as a continuation of the scare tactic they first used. Upon reading this filing, I have yet to see any actual evidence of wrongdoing by XF and instead we are just presented with multiple assumptions and mere speculation. Perhaps vBSI is shocked that Kier and company are able to develop a superior product so quickly, which in its beta stage is even more stable then vBulletin 4x. Perhaps they are continuing to do their absolute best, in this last ditch effort to survive since they know they will only continue to lose customers after this pathetic feeble attempt and this frivolous lawsuit – time will tell, but in the meantime, Veritas and I will continue to follow it and post our followups.

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My vBulletin Experience: Before and After Internet Brands. By Jadmperry

I come to this with a different perspective (though, I think many of our conclusions are the same).

I started a small niche site that is not monetized (though, I do get a large volume of clients from my vB site). When I started (vB 3.x series, circa April, 2007), vBulletin was the best forum software that I found. I was (and am in many ways) a complete newbie. I had no knowledge about anything, had to learn how to ftp the files, do basic programming for some tweaks and was generally able to set up my site for my needs.

All of my updates through the 3.x versions were fairly pain free. With the modifications I found at vb.org, I was able to satisfy all of my needs.

I remember being so excited about each new release and remember the countdown to 4.0, like a little kid at Christmas. I was so excited by all the features, the CMS especially. My site was growing and I had great placement on google for all of my keywords.

Then everything went to hell. I had so many problems and it was really discouraging. I did feel ripped off by the new licensing structure and felt like the quality went down greatly.

Through subsequent releases, I had more and more problems. Things were broken and I had so many problems, it was greatly discouraging. Still, I felt optimistic that the vB team would fix things and I understood that upgrades would go through “growing pains.” I was glad to see folks like IBAdrian posting things that sounded right. I remember specifically a problem I had with the CMS that Edwin contacted me for on icq on the weekend and helped me fix. I was still full of hope at this point.

My later upgrades went horribly. Functions would not work as well as they did in 3.8.x, and it was really discouraging. Still, I was hopeful.

I sat and waited. My forum suffered some, but it was still okay, people were still posting and I was able to get by. I was feeling that I should just be patient and things would get better. I did see some of the early noise about XenForo, and thought I would keep my eye on it, but other than a general interest, that was it.

Then I read the post about the lawsuit. It pissed me off to no end. I was especially incensed by the threat (implied or direct, though, I felt it was a direct threat) against purchasers of XF. So, I bought a XF license.

What makes me so sad is what was once a great and vibrant community has become a negative place. I really feel for those vB employees who I am sure are working hard on improving this product (and props for the Iphone App that Adrian just posted about in his blog).

I also feel discouraged by the fact that my posts may be part of the negativity. I am not ready to give up on vB altogether, but it is a completely different feeling than I had when I first bought my vB license.

I don’t know exactly what I am hoping to say here, but I think it along the lines of beseeching the IB corporate folks to take a deep breath, look at what goodwill you still have, think about the message you send to your customers (present, past and potential) and just keep on working to make the product worthy of the name you have built. I think that Kier and XF have started something great (which I am supporting now), but this does not have to take down vB (or what it could be). Competition is not necessarily a bad thing. But, ignore your customers, act poorly, and fail to fix problems, and you will not survive.

I really hope this place turns around. I hope the vB employees and developers keep up their hard work (and that your bosses listen to what you have to say about how to fix things and resource you to make that happen…to be honest, I can’t imagine how tough it must be to work on the product with so much criticism…your customers are willing to cut you slack, so long as you have solutions and are upfront about what is going on and the plan; I have to say, the Jira roadmap and the progress on 4.08 do seem like you guys are working on the issues).

Anyway, that’s my 2 cents.

-jadmperry

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