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The Feature Friday Interview
Feature Friday Article

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DateFriday, April 03, 2009
AuthorBarry Alistair


Many Irish software and web people may not know David yet. In fact, why would they? He's only lived here for six months.


But, if you are in any way community focussed, the chances are you will have heard his name, maybe as the PR Officer for the Irish PHP User Group, or perhaps as a presenter at events like OSSBarcamp and the Irish Open Source Technologies Conference (see video).



David Coallier

At just 22 years old, it's fair to say David has made quite a mark on the Open Source scene around the world and it's precisely his devotion to community why we chose him to kick our 'Tech Know' interview series off on the very first Feature Friday.


The Ignition

David has a distinct accent. Listen carefully, and one can detect 'frenchisms' in its currents, which is unsurprising if you know he is a native of Qubec, Canada. His mother tongue is both French and English, and he also has speaks Italian, Spanish, Portugese, Romani, Arabic, Latin and Irish to one degree or another.


His interest in computers began at the age of 11. His mother ran a company renovating electrical motors and owned a 486 on which she developed scripts to calculate PAYE deductions, aswell as general accountancy tasks.



When she wasn't around, (she wasn't that keen about him being near the computer!) David would load her Golf games and play away. Until one day.......!



Suddenly, lines of code appeared on the screen - David of course didn't know what was going on but he knew he was likely in for some mother trouble, so he picked up a manual from the bookcase and began reading. To his excitement, in a very short space of time he discovered not only could he repair the code, he could manipulate it too and make the application run faster. He was hooked.



His first machine was a Mac. The one with a tiny 7" screen. He still has it, using it as a coffee cup coaster.


David's first venture into programming was with C, then Java, a language that to this day he still loves. At 12 years old, he produced his first commercial software application which requested names and IP addresses. This, for him, was the real driver for his future software engineering interest.



School Years
Talking about his experience with computing in school, he said, "The computers sat in a central room but because my teachers knew I was pretty hot on the PC's they were always asking me to fix this, install that, or code the other. As a result, I had open access to them. A lot of my jealous friends, were not quite so fortunate."


David continued to develop applications throughout his early teen years, mainly in his beloved Java and Perl. One day, his friend said he believed PHP was the future of computing. David looked in to this mysterious language and was surprised to see there was an immense amount of knowledge being shared in open source communities on the web. When he published some code, he was astounded total strangers began fixing the bugs for him, and fixing them for free!



David said "It wasn't so much that it was free which sparked my passion and commitment for the open source movement, but the realisation that as a collective group, applications were growing up around me. This was real 'evolvement.'




At 16 in Canada, after school, there's college. The problem for David though, was that now having committed to Open Source projects for a number of years, he knew much more about 'best practice techniques' than his tutors and struggled to accept what they were teaching. Feeling at odds, he decided to skip college and gate crash the local university, attending random lectures instead.


He was enjoying his life. Going to university (when he shouldn't), working in a coffee shop throughout the night and coding in his spare time.


First Employment

One morning at 8.00am, he got a phone call from a local company, Densi Graphix. They'd heard about him and wanted to meet. So, two hours after arriving home from a coffee shop shift, off he went, did a presentation, presented some code, and by lunchtime had his first job as a PHP, VB and Python developer.


He worked in Densi for around two years, and continued committing to Open Source projects. An increasing amount of companies began to court him and rather than be a 'poached head' he began a consultancy, developed a network protocol, and then sold the company two months later for US$8,000, a deal he openly admits was somewhat naieve. But his entrepreneurial attitude was truely whetted.


The Move
David moved to Ireland with his wife in the autumn of 2008. He immediately began to network in the open source community, meeting his now business partner Eamon Leonard, a relationship he feels very fortunate to have. Echolibre is developing very well with the opening of an office in London in March where most R&D is conducted and lead by Helgi Þormar Þorbjörnsson which you can on the right of David in the below picture



He said that the blend of Eamon's local business contacts, and his own international technology contacts seems to beis working well for them. "We are trying to build a community around our projects. It's clear that Facebook, Twitter and iPhone have had tremendous success doing just that and opening API's for people get to know them, means the communities grow." Echolibre themselves collaborated on Spaz, an alternative client for Twitter.



David Coallier, CTO of Echolibre alongside Helgi, the Company's Head of R&DOpen Source Communities

Aside from his international duties as the President of PEAR, David is involved with a few communities, but none like his new darling, the Irish PHP User Group which he hopes to nurture over the next few years. He said, "In comparison to say Holland and Germany, the PHP community is very small in Ireland."


It's not that the number of people using the technology up and down the country is small, more there's a distinct lack of communication and knowledge. With his fellow committee he intends to grow the local community using his stature as an international community figure to inform people of the PHP myths, how it has changed and how it can be best used in software applications today.



He believes that Irish Open Source groups need to hook up and join together because experience with different languages gives different views and, in his opinion, that means a better way of finding solutions.




Future Skills, Future Ireland

David believes that Cloud Storage is one of the most exciting technologies to arrive in recent times, and sees the Pay For What You Use model will be greatly beneficial to developers and technology consumers alike.



He also cites OAuth, Web 3.0 and Semantic data as technologies to look out for and suggests people read up on them.



From what David has seen, Ireland is most definitely the country for young, educated and passionate developers who are eager to learn.



He said, "From a computing point of view, the school system is getting better, but it needs more open source - it's a mentality. There are already some very, very smart people in Ireland and it should be introduced as early as possible so Ireland can develop the best software development community in the world."



For young developers, he strongly advises them to start working on OSS projects, saying, "Standards are getting higher. After 4 years as a committer, you've gained heaps of professional experience, interacting with people, users, developers, bug fixers, the lot.  Extend your knowlege, scope ideas, and publish your work, especially if you're not too sure. You'll find an abundance of help just waiting there for you."

"I'm a big reader, and so should you be. Keep updated with the developent of new technologies, keep reading about anything. Get ideas, don't stay at the same level, " David adds.




David Coallier Is A Hit With His Bodhran


When he's not got his laptop to hand or his head in a book, David likes nothing better than the fresh country air. Growing up in the Canadian countryside was memorable for him and he and his wife wanted to keep to what they loved. Socially, he plays rugby for the Crosshaven team, he rock climbs, hikes and fishes. At home, he loves preparing Sushi and to relax he plays the Bodhran in the local pubs.



                                                                 Oh, he also eats an awful lot of carrots - every day!




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