Interview: Derek Liu, Gaia Online Anime Community
The Gaia Online Community is an anime and manga related website, featuring a bank of links, an anime art repository, and a role-playing oriented message board. These forums present a number of innovative and original ideas such as a cartoon-like discussions layout, completely customizable avatars for which you can buy items in a shop, or a rather sophisticated money system allowing you to spend and earn gold in various ways. Online only since a few months, the boards have known since a faster-than-imaginable growth, now featuring more than 5 million posts and 100000 users.
Known on the boards as Lanzer, Derek Liu, board admin and founder, has accepted to answer our questions.
A few details about the boards before we get to the interview:
1 x Celeron 1.3 w/512k RAM, single HD
4 x P4 2.6Ghz w/2GB RAM, single HD
1 x Dual Xeon 2.6 w/4GG RAM, 4 80GB HD running as 2 sets of RAID 0 arrays
1 x Dual Opteron 240 w/4GG RAM, 4 x 15,000RPM 16GB HD as 2 sets of RAID 0 arrays from Raid Array controller, 1 80GB HD for OS
The dual Opteron setup is for the MYSQL server, while the dual Xeon is the main web server for the forums. Within the 4 smaller servers, one is used to serve static information such as graphics and avatars. The rest serves all the other pages like the art rating page, the character item stores, and the link list. The slowest machine is used strictly for displaying the non-vital graphics such as frame borders and forum buttons since the site is very graphic intensive.
Creation date of the board
February 18, 2003
Number of moderators
We just went from 14 to about 20 mods.
Could you please introduce yourself and describe your background before your involvement in the Gaia Community ?
With a background in wide area networking, I used to work for networking companies like Ascend, Lucent, and Alcatel. I have interest in too many hobbies for my own good, and in particular Iím into Japanese comics (manga) and animation (anime), plus anything related to computers and technology. I was still learning how to draw, with ping pong, skateboarding and video gaming as my past-time before involving in Gaia. Now I have no life. ^_^
What was the first internet community you became a member of ? What other forums than yours do you still regularly visit ?
I ďsurfedĒ the net when I was finishing high school. Keeping up with posts in Usenet in video gaming and anime forums was a pastime for me. That was when the internet had less than 200 anime fans. ^_^; The culture of the net has changed dramatically since then. Now days I frequent communities related to site building and communication between web masters. Occasionally I visit a few art related communities.
"Gaia will be as much of a game as it is a forum"
How did you start building the go-gaia website, what was your goal back then, and did you have any idea of what it would become in the future ?
Gaia Online was an idea that me and my roommates came up with. It started out as a small project to create an anime link list with a small community. We thought we could do something we all enjoy working for, as we earn a little bit on the side from advertising. Though due to our video game influences we came up with adding a role playing aspect into the community, and eventually the ideas for the role playing aspects had gotten so big that I knew this is going to be quite an on-going project for us. We never anticipated big growth. We only knew that the community would be a lot of fun, and our goal had been to make the forum as entertaining as possible. Currently all our ideas revolve around role playing. Gaia will be as much of a game as it is a forum.
What does a day in Derek Liu's life look like ?
Itís a vicious cycle of sleep (occasionally on the floor), eat, and 16 hours of development. ^_^; As this is the first year of development, Iím giving it all Iíve got, so I now found myself glued to my chair, either coding, maintaining or researching for the community.
Please tell us something great and something horrible Gaia brings to you.
Gaia is a representation of me and my friendsí inspirations. Having a community of thousands of users enjoying your creation is the most splendid feeling, and having the freedom to realize ideas and exercise personal ethics is an experience like no other. At the same time, Iíve founded many businesses before and none had the level of involvement, work load, and stress that Gaia had brought me. Gaia had probably shortened my lifespan for a few years. ^_^