Pioneer Interview: James Gallagher

James Gallagher (@jamesg_oca) got started early. He’s 16. And he’s building Open Commit, a platform for code review as a service. The project connects developers around the world with the support they need to write efficient code and improve its overall quality.

Can you give me a brief explanation of your project?
Open Commit is a service where developers can receive on-demand, actionable reviews of code from expert software developers.

How did you decide to start working on this?
I started programming when I was eight years old and, since then, have spent the majority of my spare time learning best practices for programming code. When you’re self taught, it’s really easy to pick up bad habits, because you simply don’t know they are bad habits.

There have been multiple occasions during my journey as a coder where I had no idea I wasn’t in compliance with industry standards until I stumbled upon the information in a Stack Overflow thread. If I had access to a platform for reviewing code from day one, I would have been more confident and acquired best practices a lot earlier on.

A platform like that just didn’t exist, so I decided to create one with Open Commit.

How are things going with the project lately?
Open Commit has continued to grow. We’re focusing on scaling the reviewer community and refining our internal documentation for code reviews. There are two main areas we’re working on right now: hiring partnerships, so we can turbocharge our reviewer hiring funnel, and improving user experience for developers on the platform.

Developer experience has come down to developing internal policies to help with consistency and clarity in code reviews, whilst maximizing code coverage. We’re also making the platform easier to use by enhancing integrations with GitHub and BitBucket.

What did you learn through playing a Pioneer tournament?
Pioneer exposed me to a community of young innovators, who I connect with over everything from computing to longevity. This community has allowed me to network and learn from the wisdom of people I’ve looked up to for years and has also showed me new perspectives on issues and challenged me to think about problems in different ways.

Can you tell us a bit more about the community?
During the Pioneer tournament, other players would give detailed and diverse feedback like share links to interesting posts, insights into how I could create more actionable and measurable goals, and tips to refine my pitch.

But what I really enjoyed was the informal community that grew out of the tournament. About a dozen of us created a Twitter group to share status updates, compare progress, and spend time giving more in-depth feedback. We also shared tips for staying productive, which introduced me to new concepts on how to stay focused.

Did any feedback stand out?
When I was finishing product development and starting to focus on building the reviewer community, I was given really useful feedback on ways to get started building a marketplace and develop a stronger hiring pipeline. It helped me plan my strategy for the months after the tournament, and gave me ideas on how to build a more unified community. Acting on this feedback eventually resulted in a developer from AngelList reaching out to follow our progress.

What are some of the weird things you worked on or you've done in life?
My most peculiar project is probably becoming a publicly traded person. I now sell shares in myself in exchange for the ability to vote on key decisions in my life. Inspired by the stock market, I crafted a basic platform that allows me to facilitate trades, share updates, and post questions for shareholders to vote on.

The basic rule is, if it’s a decision I’d ask a friend for advice about, I ask the shareholders. They have literally invested capital in me, which helps keep me accountable in my projects. It’s still early days but, I believe that publicly traded people and personal tokens will become a trend in the next few years. It has the potential to guide the way we look at human opportunity and potential.

James’ top tip for playing Pioneer
Use feedback to widen your horizons and challenge your set perceptions. You never know what you might be missing out on that an outsider can easily identify.