Interview with Wojtek, our prolific Polish GHOP contestant
18 Jan 2008
It's the height of Summer where I am, so its quite peculiar to imagine you in feet-deep snow working away on SilverStripe code. Can you give us a feel for Poland and the city and school you live in, and life there?
Krakow, with over 1 million inhabitants is one of the biggest cities in Poland and its historical capital. It is located in the southern part of our country. The city is known for its significant scientific community and 7 universities (among them, Jagiellonian University and AGH University of Science and Technology, two of the best Polish universities). The IT business sector is developing very fast, represented by many important companies (e.g. Motorola, Google, ComArch). Additionally, Krakow is a beautiful city with a splendid medieval old town and the biggest market square in Europe. It’s also famous for its thousands clubs and pubs, so that Krakow is called “the city that never sleeps”.
As for my school – I love it! Certainly, you couldn’t find a better one for a programming enthusiast. Our schedule is mainly focused on various competitions and contests, and lets us develop our skills the way we want to (well, almost). My teachers have taught me a lot about all the aspects of programming, especially algorithms, on which our school is focused.
Wow, it's always interesting to learn about other cities, and that's quite a contrast to highschool education in New Zealand, where any advanced computing skills must be self-taught. My family had programming careers and encouraged me to learn QBasic before I got to highschool. This let me learn C, and later PHP and web technologies... what is your experience and background with programming, and open source? How did you get into them?
I’m involved in the WWW since I was 12 – that’s when I have started creating my first websites. During these years I have learned PHP on a pretty good level, and when I started attending the 5th High School in Krakow, my C++ and algorithms knowledge has visibly increased. During the last two years I was working as a freelancer and making projects for a bunch of different web developers which brought me a lot of experience. As for my own projects, I have created two browser based PHP games that attracted dozens of thousands of players, which I’m really proud of!.
My open source experiences are mostly related with the phpBB project, which I was using and developing on my own for very long. I was also cooperating for a short time with the Polish translation team of this project.
Great! I'm always curious to learn where people first bump into SilverStripe. How did you first come to learn of SilverStripe?
I have read about SilverStripe some time ago on an IT website, but, to be honest, I learned more about it, when I started to work with SS during the GHOP.
My school teacher told me about the contest, and after taking a look on the contest website, I already knew that it was something for me. I went through all the companies profiles and have simply chosen what I found the most interesting. The SilverStripe tasks seemed nice for me and I decided to go for it. If I had to choose once again, I would certainly participate in the SilverStripe project for the second time.
Glad to hear there's a multitude of places that feature us! How have you found SilverStripe to work with, so far?
I think that SilverStripe is a fantastic project. Its simplicity and flexibility are impressive. I have no doubts that the project will become even better than it is now, as more and more people will be involved in it. I’m looking forward to my future experiences with the Polish SilverStripe support that is going to start soon!
How do you see your involvement with SilverStripe continuing?
I would love to get seriously involved in the SilverStripe development and I feel that I could bring lots of great ideas to the project! I’m thinking about creating some new modules and improving a few things in the code… In my opinion, all SilverStripe developers should focus on the simplicity of use and the extendibility – for me, these are the two biggest advantages of this CMS.
Wow, we'd love to have you on board! Its also great to see our emphasis on usability and extendability be noticed. So, tell us about your experiences working with the other SilverStripe people (core team members, GHOPers) you've interacted with over the contest.
During the contest I was really happy with the amount of work that the SilverStripe staff put into reviewing the tasks and helping the contestants with their issues. The majority of my tasks were reviewed by Ingo, Will and Sigurd and their suggestions made the effects of my work to be better and better. Working with these three people was a real pleasure for me (unfortunately, I haven’t had the occasion to work longer with the other SilverStripe members, but it may change in the future, I guess...).
The atmosphere of the competition between the GHOPers was really nice!
Phew! We've been working quite hard so am glad to hear its been appreciated. How do you feel the contest could be made better?
I have no serious complains about the contest. I think that it was well prepared and I’m looking forward to the next year’s competition (the next year will be my second and last GHOP year), and to this year’s Summer of Code, of course.
I have had a lot of fun with the build-a-theme tasks–after creating two SilverStripe styles, I knew everything about it and the rest was a real pleasure :) . But, certainly, the LOLCAT translation was the funniest of all tasks–I hope that the SilverStripe community will like it, just as the SilverStripe staff did!
Glad you had a bit of fun with the LOLCAT challenge! What was your toughest moment so far?
It's ironic since its snowing outside, but my ADSL modem overheated and died. I was really worried it would stop me in my tracks but fortunately my network provider took only an hour to replace it, but my family suffered for a bit while I cursed about unreliable equipment!
In addition to LOLCAT, you did translate SilverStripe into Esperanto and its modern revision, Ido. Can you explain how you learnt these and in what way to do you use them day to day?
For the first time I ran across the Esperanto language was when I found a book which I was able to understand despite being unfamiliar with the language. It seemed funny to me and I read it carefully, trying to understand the Esperanto grammar. Later someone told me more about this language and that was the beginning. After some time I found the Esperanto internet courses that taught me the rest. I use this language only on the web, because that’s the easiest way to communicate with the other Esperanto speakers. As for Ido, it’s very similar and it took me very short time to understand it. The biggest differences are the word suffixes, but the grammar rules remain the same. Ido was created to make Esperanto sound better, but it’s rather a dialect than a new language. The Ido community is thousands times smaller (millions of Esperanto speakers, as opposed to a few thousands of Ido fans), but it’s growing very rapidly due to the internet. I must admit, that I never used any of these languages to communicate in a normal way, because English and French were sufficient for me. Maybe it will change in the future?
How do you personally see open source is better than closed source software?
Recent years have brought a revolution to open source development, as more and more people are engaged in the OS projects. Personally, I think that in some aspects the closed software is still better, but the open solutions have a much bigger potential and I have no doubts that in a few years it will rule out the closed software. Projects like SilverStripe can develop that fast also due to the GHOP and GSoC projects, which is not possible for closed software.
What's next for you?
After finishing the high school, I’m planning to go to a university and study computer science, but I don’t want to be a programmer with no freedom of being creative. I would like to be involved in original and interesting projects that will help to improve the web and people’s lives – that’s what IT should be for.
Apart from the career, I would love to travel to a few places around the world – it’s great to see how people in other countries and cultures live.
What's next for the web and computing?
It’s very hard to predict. As for the web, the new html and css standards may bring a lot of new features to website developing, but it won’t be a big revolution. I think that in a short time all the home electronic devices will be integrated and we will use one machine to watch TV, listen to the radio, browse the web, play computer games, buy something through the web etc. During the next years, e-shopping will become more and more popular; we will probably become more familiar with the e-signatures and e-voting… The multitouch interfaces can be the new devices to substitute the computer mice. I’m looking forward to see it happening. In the next decades the quantum computers will bring us something totally new. Who knows what will we be able to do then? I do not. But, certainly, the future looks very exciting.
Great, you've been really interesting to talk to. Best of luck with the rest of the contest!
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