63: Meet Chris Pliakas: Open software and open data make for better decisions

Chris Pliakas is a solutions architect at Acquia. He works closely with the Acquia sales representatives and potential clients "to help people who might not know about Drupal or might be considering a proprietary solution see how Drupal can help them. It's really great to be out on the front lines helping people to see Drupal the way we do."

Chris is also a search and data management expert and and the Product Owner of Acquia Search. He makes the point that open data is only useful "if you can find it and make meaningful findings from that data. Search is a way to do that." Chris is especially focused on data-visualisations and the Facet API module that provides a common interface for the various faceted search technologies and implementations in Drupal: Apache Solr, Search API, and so on.

On getting started with Drupal and open source

Chris is a musician and came to technology through building PC systems for audio recording at university. The reasons he had for getting started with open source software ("Open source makes it easy to play with stuff; you don't have to buy it.") are another way of expressing one of the ways it also minimises risk in a business context: Failure, improvement, and innovation are cheaper with open source software.

Chris started learning about the web when he needed a website. Learning PHP was followed by the discovery that "I could actually make a career out of that!" and he went on to become a certified MySQL developer and administrator, LPIC certified, and a certified PHP engineer-developer.

On leveraging the power of community-built software

He joined a company as a junior sys-admin and "they kinda forced me to use Drupal." It was love at first sight, "The first four months, I hated Drupal, with red-faced, keyboard-pounding, fist-clenching hatred." The change from hand-coding everything from scratch to learning to take advantage of Drupal came with an aha-moment: "A lot of problems have already been solved in Drupal and if I change my attitude, then I can leverage what really smart people are doing." Drupal gives you a head start, "I get to do all the interesting things that I'd never be able to do if I were doing it all myself."

"Working with Drupal gave me a career doing something that I love and that I feel has the ability to change the world. Working on the technical pre-sales side of things, I have a lot of discussions with people who are adopting proprietary solutions. The mindset is totally different; all the data is locked in, it's tough to get to, it's tough to extrapolate. With an open platform, that data is able to be shared and propagated. That's really important. Drupal allows anybody to get that information out there so that people can make the best decisions possible."