Writing Challenge #13: An Interview with Mr. Josef Essberger, the Founder of EC


I clearly remember seven years ago when I came across "Seven secrets for ESL learners" on English Club. The information was so excellent and impressive that I wrote an Email to Mr.Josef Essberger, the founder of EC. Although my writing was not so good, he kindly read it and humbly responded. I could not imagine one day I can easily interview him, and as usual he accpetd my request right away and humbly responded. Here is the interview:

1-There is a photo on your page, the photo of the first computer that you used for EC, so how did you come up to create EC?

I had just discovered the Internet. I was teaching English in Paris at the time, and doing some translation work for a client who wanted to work through the Internet. So that forced me to learn about the world wide web, which in Europe was pretty new at the time. As soon as I saw the Internet, it kind of clicked in my mind that here was this fantastic new medium for the distribution of information and knowledge. I had no idea how it would develop. I don’t think anyone had at that time.

2-At the beginning was it easy to build EC? Was anybody supported you?

Ha! I had one thing going for me: I spoke and taught English. But I knew almost nothing about computers, and even less about the Internet. So the technical side was probably the most difficult. There was a lot to learn – about HTML, and then about various scripts like CGI and PHP. But that was fun and kept my brain active. As for support, no, but over the years we have built up a team of really creative individuals who help in developing EnglishClub in a variety of ways:

http://www.englishclub.com/about/team/index.htm

3-How many years has EC been built?

I started EnglishClub in 1997.

4-Did you think that you would have one of the best English websites? Because EC is on English as a Second Language best English website list.

I don’t know. I think it’s impossible to try to be “the best”. One should try to be good, or very good, or the best that one can be. If some people consider that to be among the best, then it is very gratifying. But we should always keep trying to improve, and ultimately to think of the user and the user’s needs.

5- Have you ever thought you shouldn't have created it?

NO!!! That idea has never occurred to me. Your question is the first time I have even thought about it. It’s a good question, though.

6-what does success means to you?

In general terms, I think that success means achieving a goal. Logically then, we cannot be successful if we do not have a goal. So having a goal is the first and most important thing. Without a goal, you cannot measure success.

7-How many members do you have already?

About 150,000 in total, but not all members participate in all parts of EnglishClub. For example, MyEnglishClub, which started less than a year ago, has just over 12,000 members. But when you take in newsletter subscribers, forum members, chat room members and so on you get something like 150,000. Those are really active members. It would be more but we are rigorous about cleaning out the database, and we don’t count for instance members whose newsletters bounce back to us because they’ve changed email address. In terms of visitors per month though, we have nearly 2 million. EnglishClub is free access and we don’t force people to join in order to see content.

8 - When you get a negative feedback from your members, how do you deal with it?

Very good question. And yes, we do of course get negative feedback at times. It’s sometimes difficult not to take criticism personally. I know that several forum moderators, who are volunteers and give their time freely, have once or twice been really hurt by “negative feedback”. But in reality we have to be grateful to anyone who writes in with criticism, as long as it’s serious and not abusive. Often they have a valid point and we do what we can to correct the issue as appropriate.

9-How do you feel when you see EC's name on the influential websites like EST as a TOEFL resource studying material?

Good. Very satisfied. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But at the same time, I have to think of and thank all those people who have helped to put it there, and remember that it’s not automatically going to stay there!

10-Would you please describe one of your best memories of EC?

Seeing so much creativity coming from members. For example, first in the ESL Forums where members would create games for each other or write poems, and more lately in MyEnglishClub where members have come up with the most amazing ideas, writing, games, audio and so on. Something else that is very exciting is “The Learning English Video Project” that is currently in production.

11-Would you please describe one of your worst memories of EC?

I think two things, which are kind of related. One is just spam, or attempted fraud. Which unfortunately is a fact of life. It’s sad to think that people spend so much time and effort over something that is ultimately going to get them nowhere but causes so much trouble for others. The other is intolerance, the kind of thing that happens in chat rooms or forums, not just on EnglishClub, when people get abusive with each other without stopping and trying to see the other person’s point of view.

12-What messages do you have for those who have new ideas and want to take action making their dreams come true?

Believe in your dreams. It’s a little bit like the “goal” we were talking about earlier. And like the lyrics from “South Pacific”, that wonderful musical film that came out long before most EnglishClub members were born: “You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream, How you gonna have a dream come true?”

13- How did you learn Thai Language?
By taking some lessons, by using Thai with Thai people, by watching Thai TV. By learning to read and write Thai since it uses its own script.

14-Which topic did you like most when you were a student?
Art, English

15-Which topic didn't you like when you were a student?
Maths

16- What famous figures do you admire most?
Genghis Khan

17-what is your favorite color?
Grey

18- If you were born once again, what kind of job would you choose?
Doctor

Dear Josef, I very much appreciate for your kindness and taking your time in order to answer my questions.

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Mod
Comment by Nafis on December 12, 2009 at 18:09
Dear Elise,

Thanks a lot for reading. I think thoes questions are so personal. That is why I did not ask about them. I suggest you if you are interested in knowing the birthday and also the postal address, please ask dear Josef.
Thanks a lot once again.

Have a nice time,
Nafis

Mod
Comment by Nafis on December 12, 2009 at 18:07
Dear Mojtaba,

Thanks a lot for reading. So glad that you liked it.

Good time!
Nafis
Comment by Elise on December 12, 2009 at 17:53
Hi Nafis, thanks so much for your good idea of interviewing Josef. This does help us to understand more about our kind "boss" Joe. However, I'd like to add one more question about himself is his birthday (when?) as well as his postal address...
Good night & have a nice weekend!
Elise
Comment by mojtaba on November 24, 2009 at 18:29
dear nafis
hi
i wrote something for josef , i thanked him for creating this intresting website , i made lots of friends here , good friends ,fortunately as you said he is always humble , and answeres our question .
and you have creative mind for preparing this nice interview .
thank you and josef .
best wishes

Mod
Comment by Nafis on November 23, 2009 at 14:05
Dear Manuela,

Thanks a lot for reading it and so glad that you liked it.

A big hug and love,
Nafis

Mod
Comment by Nafis on November 23, 2009 at 14:04
Dear Expectorsmith,

Thanks a lot for reading it. Glad you liked it.

Have a nice time,
Nafis

Mod
Comment by Nafis on November 23, 2009 at 14:03
Dear Ruzan,

Thanks a lot for reading it and you mentioned a great point. Glad to see you again.

with a big tight hug and love,
Nafis
Comment by Forget-me-Not on November 22, 2009 at 7:04
Hello Nafis,

As i told you when we last chatted, your interview with Joseh is really interesting and well done. I particularly like the the questions where the answer could be developped as the question 8 and 11. In fact it's incredible that some people as Josef give so much of their time (freely) just to give us a chance to learn or to improve our english skill. But after reading his answer to question 18, i have to say i am less startled that he is spending so much time to help us.

Thanks for this good and interesting interview.
Ciao
Manuela

Mod
Comment by Expector Smith on November 21, 2009 at 23:20
Great job! Thanks for the interview, through which we learned more about Josef and his excellent Web site. And I'd like to thank Josef for taking the time to give all the details for us and the challenge.
Comment by Ruzan on November 21, 2009 at 1:38
Dear Nafis,
Excellent interview!
The answer for your last question is clear for me,because Josef loves the film "Dr Zhivago":-)
Thanks for this interesting interview!
Ruzan

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