Introducing Developer Evangelist Luís Leão
Time to read: 4 minutes
When I started my career in IT, being a developer meant for me to be a small piece of a giant machine. That time we had "software factories" who developed apps and systems based on their projects and a predetermined schedule.
I always loved Chaplin's movies, and my favorite movie was "Modern Times" because it resumes how developers worked back in 2000. Now everything has changed, and I want to tell you what happened on this path...
Back in 2007 in Minas Gerais, I was already a web developer and Twitter was starting to get noticed in Brazil. That time when friends' invitations to new apps were a thing and I got one to Twitter, I saw the service had a "developer page" and I was curious about it.
I've worked with web services before, but this was different: you could make simple HTTP calls and authenticate on behalf of the user. Those calls allowed me to post tweets, send direct messages or change their profiles. With that power, why not create something cool?
If you knew the story about Twitter and why it started with 140 characters you knew it's about SMS. You could use it only in the US and UK, but why not in Brazil?
I'm a curious person and my first thought was about how I could implement something to make Twitter work with SMS in my country. That was hard.
Imagine a person trying to interact with carriers and all the communication providers which are regulated by the government. Think about having an idea that requires this kind of interaction and how long it takes to get into production.
In my mind, and appropriating Apple's iPhone commercial "it should have an API for that". There was a company in the US called Twilio who did this, but not in Brazil at that moment.
Remember, the iPhone was launched in 2007. But Microsoft had a device known as a PDA (Personal Device Assistant) and running Windows Mobile, I knew how to program it and using the Brazilian way to solve things that we call "Gambiarra", I used my creativity to intercept SMS messages from my device and created a web service that checked the sender and used their credentials to post into their Twitter accounts.
I launched sms2blog in 2008 and the service worked until 2011 when I moved to São Paulo. It received more than 1 million messages and a peak of 6000 messages a day with 4 smartphones next to my bed, each one with a different carrier, so users won't spend any money sending SMS to my service.
I had users who tweeted in their classrooms and rock fans who covered a Guns N' Roses show using SMS.
My love for APIs and the Do It Yourself (DIY) movement made me the developer I am today. From learning how to create websites, apps and build robots, 3D printers and machines which interact with people in events. The maker community gave me a source of knowledge and connections to know interesting people, learn from them and help others.
With that, it was possible to work with brands and create experiences with their customers or work with startups who need to innovate, integrate with many other services and get their business done.
My first, most impactful job was to set up a remotely controlled robot, which spied on the assembly of a museum exhibition. The users got in line into a Facebook Fan Page and watched/controlled the robot moving through the space. If you are interested in how to do it by yourself, my fellow Developer Evangelist Christine Sunu did recently a battle of Roomba robots.
To make it work I had to set up a media server to broadcast the security IP camera we used and another server to manage the queue of users and to send/receive commands from and to the robot.
After that, I did an experiment using the telephony system to interact with users in their cars to listen about their social media accounts, news and other important things.
This experiment became the campaign motto for a new car at FIAT - the major car manufacturing brand in Brazil - and it was called Fiat Social Drive. I've learned a lot about telecom infrastructure and again we hadn't any platform or API in Brazil so we had to build it by ourselves. We were more focused on building the infrastructure than the service, and that's what APIs are for.
Now you have been asking what these two projects have in common? Both used communication tools that may look like a big challenge, but it doesn't should if there was a platform that offers that.
What I've learned was to not stop when I hit the first obstacle and try to find a way to make it come true.
In FIAT's example, I made the prototype using Twilio's voice API, but I could't synthesize texts in Portuguese. I had an idea that came from two boys ordering pizza using Google Translate and I managed to get the service to work in my language.
If you check now, we have Portuguese and many other languages :)
In addition to the maker movement, I started to help developer communities and in 2012 I became an organizer of the Google Developer Group. The community in São Paulo started from scratch and now has more than 12K members and regular events.
The community gave me the opportunity to connect with developers and learn so many things I can't enumerate as well as making a lot of friends. That vision about developers being isolated on their desks is gone and if we are together we can do wonderful things.
We organized meetups, hackathons, conferences and a lot of different types of events talking especially about open-source technologies with a hands-on perspective.
Because of this work I've been invited to create an experiment at Google I/O 2017 to showcase machine learning with IoT. I've built a "smile dispenser" that gives candies to attendees who smiled in front of the device :)
My name is Luís and now I've become a developer evangelist at Twilio. Especially in Brazil that means I’ll be closer to developers, help them build incredible things and use a lot of creativity. We’ll make it possible to create services that will change the way our life works and impact our society in a positive way. My goal is to remove language barriers and help you learn and connect with Twilio and other developers.
If you are interested in creating something cool that needs to communicate with your users in a different way and have fun in the process, let's grab a coffee and talk. I can't wait to see what you build.
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