As some of you may know, our developer Ieva, who's been with us since the beginning of Stall Catchers, has recently left us, and we've been struggling to "make ends meet"! Fortunately though, we found a gem of a developer - Percy - who joined us a little while ago, and helped us develop Dream Catchers. Percy is now full on with the projects of the institute, and here's a little interview with him, to tell you all about it!
How did you end up working with the Human Computation Institute?
It all started back in August 21st 2019. That day I received an email from Pietro Michelucci, entitled: “Looking for a full-stack Laravel developer - telework”. After reading the email, I realized it was basically a job opportunity to work with the Human Computation Institute on their different projects. Pietro explained in his email that he found me through my various online activities and contributions within the Laravel Community.
I was a bit sceptical at first but then I decided to give it a try, and here I am today happily working with a great group of people on various interesting projects.
What's your main role at HCI? Which projects do you work with?
I would describe my role as a Full-Stack Engineer at HCI. I help out with all aspects related to software conception and development process. From data modeling to Front-End design, bug fixing and deployment process. I am also involved in improving the current ecosystem of all the various platforms within HCI.
Projects I’ve worked mainly are Stall Catchers, Dream Catchers, and, currently, Civium*.
* learn more about the civium initiative here: Civium post
Which HCI project inspires you most? Why?
I would definitely have to say Stall Catchers.
The reason being that as a Software Developer, it's our job to build tools that make people’s lives better, but it’s also pretty cool to imagine that some of the tools that you’ve built might actually save someone’s life. That’s a great source of inspiration for me to keep working with HCI.
Have you been involved with crowdsourcing or citizen science before? What is your opinion about these efforts / tackling big problems with citizen science?
This is my first time working with crowdsourcing and citizen science. The idea of bringing people together is a very interesting concept. More and more platforms are now doing the same (am not talking about social media).
One of the analogies that I can draw from it is Open Source Software and platforms such as GitHub which brings Software Engineers together to build better software that everyone can benefit from.
This approach has really revolutionized the software development industry, by making people collaborate instead of competing. The same way, I think, Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science are revolutionizing the way we will solve big problems in the future.
What have been the main challenges working with HCI projects / crowdsourcing / citizen science so far? Why?
The main challenge for me was that I’ve never worked with such projects before.
In Software Projects you have usually various “types” (example ecommerce platforms). Projects of the same “type” would usually share more or less the same business logic even if they are built by different companies or developer. An Ecommerce Website will always need to have Products, Search functionality, checkout buttons and so on. So having never worked on Crowdsourcing and Citizen science types of projects before it took some time for me to fully understand the business logic behind these kind of platforms and I am still learning new things to this day.
Do you have any connection to the big problems that HCI is tackling with citizen science? Alzheimer's (Stall Catchers), SIDS (Dream Catchers), or other diseases that future projects / Civium might tackle?
I don’t personally have any connection to these problems, but as I mentioned, just the thought of being able to bring a small contribution to tackling these big issues brings me great joy and a certain sense of satisfaction.
Have you ever participated in other citizen science projects? If so, which ones?
Unfortunately I have not, but I am now very much interested in discovering other citizen science projects and see what problems they are trying to solve.
What are your hopes for the projects you're involved with HCI? Will we cure Alzheimer's, defeat SIDS, or... something else?
If that happens, It will be one of the greatest accomplishments of my career. Having been one of the contributors of such a feat would be just amazing.
So my hopes are very high for the projects, not because I believe we can cure one of these diseases, but because I believe we can make people’s lives easier. So I will do my best to help us achieve that goal.
What is your general background, how did you end up doing what you're doing?
I come from a mostly scientific background. I’ve always loved Mathematics and Physics and school. But the domains I excelled at were observation, analysis and logical reasoning. So it was just a matter of time before I fell in love with programming.
I started building my first webpage when I was 13 years old and loved every bit of my HTML page (Those were the days before high speed internet and LCD flat monitors). Thus decided to pursue programming in College, got my Bachelor Degree from Bangalore University in India and the rest is history.
Where are you from, and where are you based?
Born and raised in Port-Louis Mauritius some 29 years ago.
My small paradise island is located in the Indian Ocean, approximately 500 miles / 800 kilometers east of Madagascar and 125 miles / 200 kilometers east of Réunion Island.
I’ve moved to various countries across Europe and also India throughout the years. Passionate of new adventures, I’ve always felt the need to travel and discover the world; and being fluent in both French and English has helped me to accomplish that goal.
Currently I am back working in Mauritius, and I don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future.
Anything else you'd like to share with the community?
My few months working with HCI has been very fruitful to me. I’ve learnt a lot, and it has helped me realise how we can solve problems not just with machines and calculators but also with the Human element. So am very glad for that !
I’ve met some amazing people (Exclusively on Video Calls, but I hope that might change someday) and a vibrant community.
I am glad to be a part of this revolution and community as well and I do not regret my decision of accepting this offer from Pietro back in August.
And here's what Pietro had to say about this newest "arrival" at the institute ;)
To me, one of the most wonderful things about the Human Computation Institute is working with people who believe deeply in our shared mission to develop and deploy collective intelligence systems, like Stall Catchers, that can make a big beneficial difference to a lot of people. We believe in people and in using technology and good faith to extract the best of what they offer.
Percy Mamedy, our new lead developer, is a gem of a human being. And it is significant that I say that first, because he is also a software development guru with a sharp mind, who has published incisive articles about best practices and methods in his field. And where else do you find someone with this rare combination of philanthropic ideals and impeccable engineering skills? Why, the unlikely island country of Mauritius of course :)
Mau...whatius? Well, I'm sure you've heard of Madagascar, right? Mauritius is part of an archipelago due east of Madagascar, and despite its rich culture and tumultuous colonial history, to me, it's greatest distinction is having produced... Percy!
Percy has already distinguished himself at HCI. He got us across the finish line with our Dream Catchers spin-off platform in record time, and he is now working on a groundbreaking initiative that not only stabilizes Stall Catchers, but also makes it easier for us to address new diseases and do research on how to make Stall Catchers more fun and more efficient.
One of the things I appreciate most about Percy in collaborating with him is his tenacity. He leaves no stones unturned, and will continue to raise excellent questions that help lead us down the right software development path until none remain. And when we get stuck, he always has ideas for how to unstick! His fantastic and unrelenting communication, positive attitude, and desire to improve the world has made us all feel so lucky and grateful that he joined our team.