Kiwi 15-year-old takes on Dropbox problem with free app Quicksand

Sebastian Hallum Clarke jumped into the world of coding at the age of nine, playing around with Scratch programming in primary school. Since he was 11, Clarke has been developing Mac apps using Applescript, and now at the age of 15, his latest piece of software tackles a problem that hasn't been add

Sebastian Hallum Clarke jumped into the world of coding at the age of nine, by playing around with Scratch programming in primary school. Since he was 11, Hallum Clarke has been developing Mac apps using Applescript, and now at the age of 15, his latest piece of software tackles a problem that hasn't been addressed by Silicon Valley giants like Dropbox and Google.

The year 12 Scots College Wellington student launched Quicksand at the start of Febraury, one of the four apps he's released under his company Zibity. 

The app is quite simple, it lets Mac users sync their most recently used files to various cloud services by automatically adding them to pre-designated sync folders. There are options to control the types of files synced, their sizes, and how often.

Like all his other apps, Hallum Clarke is giving away Quicksand as donationware - users are free to download and share the product, but are encouraged to donate to him if possible. Hallum Clarke says he usually makes between US$10-15 a day from donations, it's not exactly making him rich, but he's saved up enough for a trip to Paris later this year.

"My ultimate aspiration would be to make a living by giving away my apps. I'm not sure how realistic that is, but here's hoping I can," he says.

Hallum Clarke says he taught himself programming by reading tutorials online, and asking questions in developer forums. 

"I'd try to solve a problem by attacking small pieces of it. I'd ask 'how do I do this thing?', then add that to my knowledge, which would keep adding up until it became a fully fledged app," he says.

As his questions were answered, Hallum Clarke's technical efficiency grew, and he acknowledges the user interface and code behind Quicksand is much more elegant than his previous apps.

Hallum Clarke says he is giving back to the community that helped him learn programming by making his apps free, contributing code to GitHub, and talking to people who ask for his help. Quicksand isn't open source, but Hallum Clarke says budding developers can quite easily take a look under its hood by using Applescript Editor on a mac.

"I learned everything I know about Mac development from what I found on forums. This is about giving back, so one day if there's an 11 year old kid that wants to learn programming, I might be able to help," he says.

Still a high school student with two years left to graduate, Hallum Clarke says it takes concentration to maintain a balance between his studies and supporting the apps he's released. He's uncertain whether to pursue app development as a career, instead he says he wants to combine programming with his interest in economics to find a common purpose between the two fields.