Liam Allan on Speaking at Conferences as a Teen

COMMON conference speaker

Paul talks to Liam Allan about being new to the platform, open source on i and the search for good food.

Paul: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk with Tuohy. I'm joined today by Liam Allan. Hello, Liam.

Liam: Hi, Paul.

Paul: So for those of you-some of you may have come across Liam at least his name recently so, if you will excuse me, I'm just going to do a quick synopsis of who you are here. Liam has been in the industry for all of a year?

Liam: Two years now actually.

Paul: Oh, two years. Two years.

Liam: Coming up two.

Paul: Coming up two so you started at the tender age of 17.

Liam: That's right. Yeah, quite young.

Paul: So quite young. So but the thing Liam is that OK so just about a year ago I remember starting to hear about you doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things and getting it through the web. You really have sort of broken into prominence at COMMON in the States where you went out there to speak and also you have been speaking at quite a number of conferences.

Liam: Yeah, I've spoken at two now and hopefully three by the end of the year. That would be good as well.

Paul: So new-on-the-platform Liam The tender age of—God, I can't believe I'm sitting here talking to somebody who is 19 working on the platform. Anyway, OK so let me. 19 years old, two years on the platform. Impressions? What are your impressions of the platform? What are the things you like about the platform?

Liam: Well the reason I've stuck with it is because I find it easier to use than Linux generally. Like the, I mean the user interface, which Linux doesn’t have by default, is much easier and prompting of commands is very useful. I find a lot of the functionality on the IBM i platform itself is a lot better than a Linux distro because there is a lot more support for it and if you really need any help with it, then IBM or there are a lot of communities that will help you with it. It's tough to find that with Linux or Windows based community so I like it because it's unique. There is lots of stuff that can be done on it and there's lots of stuff to be done on it as well.

Paul: OK so on the programming side then, anything sort of jump out at you that you kind of like—that takes your fancy—there?

Liam: I like the iLee environment. I love PACE so I love how PACE works but I like that for almost 30 years now they have had the idea of having a level above the hardware that will never change so your programs will never need to change really.

Paul: Yeah.

Liam: I love that. It's amazing. There is me thinking .net was original and then I come to the platform and find it is the most original thing in the world. So it's pretty fantastic and embedded SQL—I'm a big fan.

Paul: OK so you are getting to—are you getting to grips? You've gotten to grips with embedded SQL and that?

Liam: Yeah, I'm trying to push it out of my workplace at the moment but a lot of the open source stuff I have will use embedded SQL for almost everything, so it's almost useless. RPG would be useless without it, in my opinion.

Paul: Yeah so actually since you just mention it in passing there Liam, since you mentioned open source, I think that's really the place where you are making your name at the moment, to be fair.

Liam: Yeah, it is primarily because I come from an area where everything is open source so I'm usually a C# kind of developer and I wouldeverything I do would be on GitHub so everything that I use would be open source so and I would get advice from people that want to contribute to helping other people so I want to give that back. I'm trying to introduce that to a community that it's rare for.

Paul: Yeah and again just maybe for the benefit of people listening here, I talk to a lot of people on i historically so if you come to somebody of my ancient age that when you say open source, that means, well, now and again a couple of people might share a program that they wrote or open source would be something that one of us would publish in an article that's in like one of the magazines or on one of the websites or something like that.

Liam: Right.

Paul: But I don't think that's quite what you mean by open source, is it?

Liam: It's definitely not what I mean. I think what I mean ... I mean that is open source, in a way. But what I mean by open source is it is something where everybody can contribute to, where what you mentioned is for example a program being posted in an article, people can't contribute to it. They can comment on it but I like the idea of people collaborating together to make something that is open and free, people can learn from it and it can build up a nice community. Even though the i community is all lovely already. There are amazing people really. They really are but bringing open-source is the bit that will bring them together even more so and that's what I'm trying to enforce as such.

Paul: OK, so when you say open source, I mean—and I know to you this is going to seem like a stupid question—but so open source would be as if, like if I wrote a program, I put it up on a website somewhere and somebody can come along and say well, actually I think this can be improved and they can change it. They can do a different version of it on your website.

Liam: That's exactly it. That's exactly what websites like Bitbucket is for. Bitbucket is mainly used by the i community but there is also GitHub and GitLab. There's loads of where these kind of websites: you can host code and contribute to it. It's really magical. It really is.

Paul: OK, so because I know you're going to find this hard to believe but I think most people in our industry have never used any of those.

Liam: I have heard that a lot. I really have.

Paul: OK, so havewhen you speak at the conferences and that Liam, is that something that you talk about? I mean do you tell people like well this is how you get started with these tools?

Liam: Yeah, definitely. The way I, you know if I, when I was at COMMON, I was showing off a compiler demo for something that I had whipped up for a laugh really. Just you know I did it for a bit of fun and people were interested in you know how can we look at the code and how can we have it or maybe contribute. I've said, well, the code is hosted on GitHub and you can just look at the code or if you want to change something, you can easily just make an edit to it on the website or you can pull it onto your machine onto your IBM i, edit it on there and then push it back up. People want to be interested in it but it is just the tools that are available to do it—there aren't many tools to do it.

Paul: Yup.

Liam: So but it is getting better. It really is getting so much better.

Paul: And of course there is now an enormous push from IBM towards open source. I mean so the first real open source that we had on the platform I think realistically was PHP with Zend but now we've had everything like Ruby on Rails and now Git is now available with things like Python, etc., etc.

Liam: Yeah, it's a really good move for IBM to do that I think because you will find that a lot of business like Microsoft for example, a very large corporation, they are open sourcing almost all of their products so the .net framework is mostly open source now and that is maybe their biggest product you know other than Xbox. You've got .net and a lot of business application and normal kind of fun applications are written in some .net language and it's all open source. It's generally for a business to provide support in a means of being free and open with everyone. People are interested in learning through things being open so I think-

Paul: Yeah. It's something I know that a lot of people have difficulty with on this platform because the platform being so proprietary that when you say open source and SHARE, people sort of go oh, that's a contradiction in terms but it is not really.

Liam: No, it's definitely not. There are lots of ways to make money off of projects being open-source. There really is. I think once you know about how to do it properly, you can easily gain you know benefit for your own business from open source products. There's lot of things you can do with it. There really is.

Paul: So tell me since we were talking about open source here, you have this open source project. You are a package manager out there.

Liam: Yes, that's right. Yeah. Well it really—yeah. Sorry. Go on.

Paul: No, no. I mean so do you want to tell us about it?

Liam: Yeah, well all it consists of is a project and it allows you to take an RPG project that is on the internet for example Scott Klement HTTPAPI. That's a very popular one and FTPAPI is another one. It will allow you to download the source onto the system straight from his website and build it without you needing to enter any compiling commands. There is no need to touch binding directories for service programs. It will do it all for you and this is kind of a start for RPG in open source, even though previously there was an RPG in open source, but this is real open source because it allows people to collaborate together.

Paul: Right.

Liam: That's the idea behind this project is that people can help with it and I want everyone's opinions when I'm making it because I want it to be made for the community, not just for myself. It's not just a product. It's something that I want people to enjoy working on.

Paul: This isI think this is all good stuff. I mean the sort of attempts at open source have happened once or twice before in the past. I do remember Aaron Bartell trying something like open source but I mean like seven or eight years ago and I think a lot has changed in that seven to eight years with that so.

Liam: It definitely has changed, yeah.

Paul: I think also of the fact that there are a lot more people closer to your age now working on the platform as well to whom things like open source and this whole collaborative development environment, if I can call it that.

Liam: Yeah, it definitely is.

Paul: It's sort of very much a norm as opposed to an exception. It's sort of something—is it fair to say—something that you kind of expect?

Liam: Yeah, you will find that a lot of university graduates or college students will want to use open source. It was a necessity while we were in university or college to perhaps have your project on GitHub so you know Git is available on the platform now and this could possibly make it so more people are interested in using the platform for you know it's power and saveability or for open source. It really does bring more people to the platform and it is everybody–any college you know graduate or student, you know university graduate—will know how to use it so it is a necessity.

Paul: Yeah. So OK, so let's get onto something a little bit more on the personal side, Liam. So just going from your accent, do you want to tell people where you're based?

Liam: Yeah. I'm based in the south of England in Southampton funnily enough and yeah, that's it. I was born here; I've lived here basically all of my 19 years. Yes.

Paul: [Laughs] OK so when you are not doing open source and you're not going anywhere near computers and that how do you like to spend your time?

Liam: Well I like to game. At least I like to game when I have the free time to game. I spend like a lot of time with my girlfriend. We like going out to eat food. We like trying new food together so I'm a big foodie. I like trying new things so I try and do as much as new as much as I can really so … but other than that really, I don't get to do much else at the moment.

Paul: Well I've got to tell you I'm starting to hate you Liam because like having met you in person and seen how thin you are and you tell me that what you like to do is go out and eat. God.

Liam: It's only because I have to walk to work [Laughs]. Otherwise you would see it all. Seriously, it really is.

Paul: So in sort of the last year, Liam, I mean, because there is and again correct me if I am wrong, but 19 years old and suddenly you are going talking at all these conferences and everything. Exciting?

Liam: Oh yeah. It is definitely very exciting. I mean, it's not something I was expecting any time soon or at least actually any time at all. Like I said, I'm just doing it for fun. It has gotten seriously serious now so people are interested in it, which is really great for me because it means I get to go to all these places and meet lots of new people. And it's really nice.

Paul: Yeah so where have you been this year then?

Liam: So country wise I went to New Orleans in May and just this month I went to Sweden, which was really nice. They are both lovely place. You couldn't believe the experience I've gained from just going there and the people I've met. It's unbelievable that it has even happened really so still in shock a bit. [Laughter].

Paul: OK, and we won't mention about where you were in the UK.

Liam: No, no. I was in Bedford for the IUG event, which is smaller than most of the other ones but it is still a very good event.

Paul: Yeah, actually that was. I mean that is where I met you the first time.

Liam: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Paul: So yeah. So listen Liam, thank you for taking the time to chat.

Liam: It really is my pleasure, Paul, really is.

Paul: This is something-I'm going to line you up again I think for another few months just to catch up with where everything is on open source, to follow the progress and I think on behalf of everybody listening Liam, welcome to the platform.

Liam: Thank you very much Paul. I'm going to enjoy my stay really.

Paul: OK, that's it for this week, everybody. Tune in again for the next iTalk. Bye for now.

Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.

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