Exclusive Interview to Dave De Fijter
Dave joined the IOTA Foundation by July 2018 as Online Communiy Liaison and has been contributing since then to keep things sharp at Slack and Discord, key places for IOTA community to discuss different topics and organize itself. At certain point Slack ended up not being able to handle the vast IOTA community and Dave contributed planning the Slack-Discord migration.
Since he has a tech background (ICT Degree at Rotterdam University), he soon became developer advocate and started conducting Twitch sessions to guide users step by step on mounting a Full Node, Bootstraping IOTA’s Data Marketplace or creating testnets. This videos can be viewed at IF Youtube Channel.
Dave is a very kind and always willing to help guy. For us, this are the assets that make IOTA the great project it is and enable to have a growing community starting to adopt or developing. Enough talk, let’s get to meet him a bit better!
Daniel De Michele
IOTA Hispano Founder
Would you tell us a bit about your background?
Somehow computers always had my interest, even though I didn’t have access to one at home as a kid. I went to the library to read about them, until my parents got one for me so I could put all that theory into practice. I never lost that interest. I spent most of my childhood playing and creating simple games, exploring the internet and learning HTML, which was still in an early phase at that point. I started my first web-development job when I was 16, and I’ve been working in that field ever since. I started working full-time while in my third year at Rotterdam University. I’ve worked for multiple smaller companies as a backend developer since then. In 2010, I quit my job and started my own company to work on some more diverse projects, the ones I got to pick myself. Up until now, I’ve spent most of my time supporting early stage startups as the sole developer/CTO, something I’m still doing next to my work for the IOTA Foundation.
How did you end up being interested on DLTs? (We like stories)
I’ve always been interested in learning about new technology. It’s not just part of my job, but it’s also one of my favorite pastimes. Around 2010, I read an article on Hacker News about a new technology called Bitcoin. I loved the concept of a digital payment method. I got my first 0.1 BTC from a faucet and instantly started mining for a day. After that day, I only had 0.13 BTC in my wallet and thought it was going way too slow. So I quit the mining and moved on, since there was little more to do with Bitcoin at that point. I quickly forgot about Bitcoin until there was a story in the news about Bitcoin hitting the $1000 mark. I looked up my old wallet.dat file and I sold my 0.13 BTC to buy a new gadget and quickly forget about it again. Years later, in the summer of 2017, I started to look into DLT’s again. I had heard something about Ethereum allowing you to program on top of a DLT, which had caught my attention. After buying some Ethereum and tinkering with Solidity I quickly lost interest yet again. This was mainly due to the fact that you had to pay for every interaction with the Ethereum ledger, making it unfriendly to use. Another issue I had with Ethereum was it’s scalability. It only allowed a couple of transactions per second, without a solid plan to make it scale. I didn’t see a future in it and I looked for alternatives that I might’ve missed over the years.
When did you first hear of IOTA and what were your first impressions?
I stumbled upon IOTA on Reddit after looking for more viable alternatives and I was sold by its unique features; Free transactions, open source, a more scalable DLT that’s not blockchain based. The most interesting aspect was that the people working on it actually seem interested in building a unique technology for the future, not just a bitcoin clone to profit from. I really loved the bold design decisions by the IOTA founders to go with new technology. It had not been done before in the DLT field or in general but could pay off huge in the future.
I joined the IOTA Slack to learn more about the possibilities of IOTA and was pleasantly surprised by the amazing community hanging out there. I quickly became a piece of furniture there learning from others, helping others out, and just hanging out in the speculation channel for the more casual conversations.
We know you helped on the Slack-Discord migration. Why did the IF decided to move to Discord. Do you think the community lost some members on this transition?
Only a couple of weeks after joining the IOTA Slack, I was asked to become a moderator. Things were quickly getting out of hand, lot’s of new people were joining the server (mainly due to the big increase in price for the IOTA coin) and more moderation was needed to keep everything civilized. At this point, Slack was showing its shortcomings when it comes down to hosting an open, not-strictly-business type of community. Slack has very little moderation tools (because most of the time you don’t need them in a business environment), very little ways of differentiating users (they are either a slack owner, moderator or a regular user) and it had no protection against impersonation leading to people trying to impersonate others. We needed a more suitable alternative for our community in order to keep it manageable. After trying out all kinds of alternatives together with Navin from the IOTA Foundation and some of the moderators we finally settled with Discord. The gamer audience it targets does have a lot of the same problems the crypto communities have and therefore better moderation tools like mutes and permanent (IP) bans are available by default.
We spent about a month to make sure the new Discord server would cather to as many people in the old Slack as possible. All channels (around 100 at the time!) were carefully picked and categorized to make sure everyone felt right at home. Some bots were created and added for better moderation and to provide handy tools for the community to directly monitor the status of the IOTA network. When we moved over almost the complete community followed. It took some regulars a couple of weeks to make to switch but eventually I think a very big majority of the active community moved with us. We currently have over 22 thousand users in our Discord. I think that’s quite an achievement for a crypto community solely focussing on the technology.
Would you tell us the story on how you ended up being part of the IOTA Foundation?
I loved what the IOTA Foundation was doing from the moment I joined the community. I thought, and still think, that IOTA can have a huge impact on the way technology will work in the future. I really wanted to be part of the team that got it there. I do however have a full-time obligation to continue my work on the startups I co-founded, and still work for, so I didn’t want to apply at the IOTA Foundation since I would have to give that up. I decided to help out in my free evening and weekend hours in any way I could by providing help, moderating the Discord, creating Discord bots and just hanging out.
I often talked with Andrew Greve, still a moderator at that time, about how we could improve the relationship between the foundation and the community. Eventually he applied for the Community Liaison job to make that task his job. He got the position and he did great, but eventually he could move on to a position better suiting his background so he asked me if I was interested in applying for his OCL position. I politely declined because I think it couldn’t work next to my full-time commitment. After talking a bit more to him and Lewis about it we could work out a part-time arrangement that would work for me, basically taking the hours I already spent on the community but now with a official position from within the foundation.
How would you describe a day at work by the IF?
In 1 word: Diverse. I mainly work for the IOTA Foundation in my evening hours and weekends and my tasks vary from day to day. Besides connecting the community to the Foundation I try to help out where I can, supporting others within and outside the foundation with all kinds of mostly development-related projects. Over the last couple of months, my main focus has been on helping developers to start using IOTA technology by providing tutorials, code examples and video’s/livestreams. This has resulted in a lot of extra community interaction, as well with more technical questions for me to answer.
Beside your job managing the community you are now also developing. Could you tell us a little about what projects are you involved with?
I’ve been promoted to a new role as a Developer Advocate a while ago. Even though I love doing my Community Liaison tasks, I think this new role suits me even better due to my development background. In this role, I’m still part of the Ecosystem team, not the Development team. I’m not directly working on creating the IOTA core technology, but I am working towards making that core technology more understandable and easier to work with for developers. I do this by writing step-by-step tutorials, creating code examples and doing live-streams demonstrating the possibilities of IOTA technology.
What I love most about this role is that I get to play with a lot of different technologies and I keep learning new things every week. Before you can write a tutorial you have to actually understand what you are writing about, this is probably the most time consuming process. A lot of the new stuff I work with is in a early phase and doesn’t have a lot of documentation, it’s up to me to find out how it works, how it should work and how to make sure that anyone reading my tutorial can understand what’s going on.
We have been seeing a lot of additions to the IF to create a solid Foundation. What’s your opinion on this and how far you think the Foundation is from being complete in terms of human resources needed to move all the existing projects?
I love it, I think it’s amazing how many quality hires have been made over the past year. We have around 90 people working for the Foundation, not a small feat for a organisation that’s only a year old. I’m really happy to work alongside so many brilliant people and learning from them on a daily basis, something I haven’t experienced for a while since most of the time I had the most senior development position in my jobs. I think we are nearly there when it comes to having a complete team to cover all tasks the Foundation has at this point, but that shouldn’t stop any new quality hires from joining of course.
IOTA has one of the more active communities in terms of development. How important you think this is for the IF to achieve it’s goal of becoming the protocol of the IoT?
I think the community is the single most important factor when it comes to the success of IOTA. You can have the best technology in the world but if nobody uses it or knows about it what’s the point? I’m really proud of the amazing community we already have compared to the communities of other DLT related projects and I hope to see a lot more people joining us in the years to come. To become the protocol of IoT a lot of people need to be introduced to IOTA. By creating awareness about IOTA as a community member you actively help with increasing the community and visibility of IOTA eventually leading to faster global adoption.
Any other words you might want to share with the community?
If you want to help IOTA to succeed feel free to contribute and become part of its success! You really don’t have to be a developer or spend a lot of time to do so. Make others aware about IOTA and what you can do with it, help with improving our documentation, organise a meetup or help with the translation of Trinity for example. If you are a developer you can always contribute to our open-source projects, or just tinker with all the tech currently available. It’s a lot of fun to try out Hub or to set up your own private testnet tangle using Compass for example, give it a go, it might inspire you!
You are very welcome 👍