by Patrick O'Keefe (Patrick)
Known throughout the phpBB community as Ptirhiik, Pierre Roge wrote the extremely popular Categories Hierarchy (Sub Forums) hack, which would become the definive sub forums solution for phpBB 2. But, his library of hacks includes several others that were widely adopted, including Profile Control Panel, Simply Merge, Post Icons, Keep Unread Flags and more.
Thanks to his extensive library and consistent contributions over an extended period of time, Ptirhiik has been honored 9 times through the phpBBHacks.com Awards. His creations have been downloaded in excess of 150,000 times from phpBBHacks.com alone.
A lot of people know you as a hack author. Can you tell us more about who you are, beyond that, personally and professionally?
Who am I? I sometimes ask myself this, too! I'm Pierre Roge, 44, living in Lyon, France. Back in 1981, I started to program in BASIC, then in Assembler on a ZX81 my grand sister brought home one day. I don't think she actually had a chance to put her finger on it until I got my own! So, I decided very quickly to make programing my job and to get the appropriate degree for it. I started working in 1989, on an IBM AS/400, which was a very popular middleware system back then. I worked on that system until the early 2000s, then switched to PHP, which I have kept using to this day. During all this time, I also played with various other languages, from C#, Cobol, Pascal, ActionScript and many others I don't remember.
I also have a second passion, which is music. I played violin from ages 9 to 15 and stopped a few years to then learn the guitar and keyboard by myself. I worked semi-professionally in a studio recording as a sound engineer between 1993 and 1996. I also gave guitar courses and played in bars and clubs at night. Quite a life. :) I still play, but not so late at night.
How did you end up developing for phpBB?
At the beginning of 2000, I was also involved in an MMORPG and it's communities, being a moderator on one of the largest french boards deling with the games. I found a few passionate and nice people at this time and we decided to make a guild and needed a board to communicate with each other.
We tried several systems and ended up with phpBB because of the code structure (easy to install, easy to decorate, easy to modify). However, it was lacking a few features I had with UBB, vBulletin and JeuxOnLine's board, so I started to develop them. I think the first one allowed groups to have multiple owners (which ended up as the Group Moderators hack of mine). I found with phpBB an entertaining community and then found phpBBHacks.com which was the perfect complement to the phpBB.com community. Not the same approach, but the same passion.
Your most downloaded creation currently available on phpBBHacks.com is Categories Hierarchy (Sub Forums) with 36,013 downloads. What led you to create it and what do you think about it's popularity?
It was actually the same reason I mentioned above: sub forums were a feature I had on a vBulletin board and needed for clanmckeen.com. So, I developed it. The first versions were about having sub-categories (hence the hack's name), which ended up being sub-forums. There were, I think, 2 sub-forums hacks that existed at that time, but neither one was maintained or very stable. Though it was quite a large hack, I decided to share it because it was quite a popular demand. It kept growing along the versions, so at a point, I decided to rethink all of popular customizations that I had for it and turn it all into the biggest version of Categories Hierarchy, which became the 2.0 line.
I must say it is quite an adventure to share your work with thousands of people, getting feedback, pushing you to improve every bit of code, getting good and bad (often justified - not always, however :)) criticisms and thanks, the whole deal. I am very proud of what Categories Hierarchy is or was for so many people and always surprised, even today after so many years. I am very honored so many find it useful and used it for their own communities, giving much more sense to it than I could ever dream of. Really, losing the domain name clanmckeen.com was really a very hurtful thing for me.
phpBBHacks.com is 10 years old. Your first submission to the database was on January 11, 2003. What thoughts or memories does that passage of time bring up for you?
The funny thing that comes first to me is, at this time, phpBBHacks.com was seen as the blacksheep at phpBB.com. It was the evil little brother you didn't want to name, qualified as the "non-official support board." I didn't think that was fair, so it was obvious I had to publish things there and I did. Maybe my "Robin Hood" side. ;) I must say I found at phpBBHacks.com a very nice community, too, so I stuck to it. And that was where I read first about people like Smartor, Acyd Burn and so many others. They are some great programmers! And the site made me realize, oh, there was a phpBB 1 version? And you it's still there, along with hacks for it?! That's a treasure - that's history!
Depending on your perspective, whether you are a phpBB user, an author or someone else, phpBBHacks.com may hold a different meaning and offer something different to each individual person. When you think about this site and community, what comes to mind for you personally?
phpBBHacks.com has been, for me, always a place to find very knowledgeable people. Nice people, always ready to help, whatever it was - formal or informal. I always found people willing to give help to authors as well users, taking suggestions, giving also, without the weight to keep a certain line of communication. All is natural, as if you were sitting near coffee cups talking to each other and all is done with respect for everybody. That's something I consider as the most valuable quality among all others, because it is naturally present and not forced.