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Why 80 Percent of Web Projects Are Total Bullshit: A Freelancer’s Rant (betabeat.com)
280 points by alexkehayias on Sept 19, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 123 comments

> They’re not hackers, but they understand that programming is a craft; that programmers are artisans, not serfs.

Gold. Pure gold.

I've long wandered in the wilderness. I've had years of writing bullshit business applications. I've even dabbled in investment banking (where programmers, excluding quants, are the second lowest paid professionals at the bank, only higher than support/IT people). I've worked on bullshit semi-startups.

Now I work for Google where ironically... I write internal applications. This may seem like a cruel joke but it's really not. There is so much respect for engineering as a craft here that it occurred to me that it's not the writing bullshit business applications that was sapping my will to live, it was the business-types who so consistently treated engineering as an interchangeable cost center.

I've done the freelancing thing too. Never again. The world is full of delusional people who think they're the next Steve Jobs and that their idea, by itself, is worth something (it's worth precisely nothing).

I think my own thoughts on Biz's view of IT crystalized when I witnessed a conversation between a tech and a manager about dress code. The tech had been paged at 11:30pm about an hour after he went to bed. He couldn't fix the problem from home (hardware failure), so he thru on jeans and a polo shirt and drove into work. He fixed the problem and got everything ready for the incoming medical test kits by 4am. It was an amazing piece of work and let's just say certain types of samples really cannot be delayed. He hung around and watched everything from his desk. His desk is in a restricted zone behind security where no customers are ever allowed (I do believe it would be a federal law violation). It was around 9am and all the kits were processed and he was going to go home. A manger asked why he was not in proper work attire (sports coats / slacks or suit). He told the whole story adding he didn't want to wake his wife so he grabbed what he could. His boss said "well, it your career".

It never ceases to amaze me how large organizations (in all industries) seem to hyperfocus on minutiae over getting things done.

People will throw a fit about whether or not the meeting minutes were filed in the right place, in the right format, or whether or not someone is in the precise sanctioned work attire... but huge problems will just slide.

The modern corporation is a horrifyingly inefficient waste of time in so many places.

That used to confuse me too. I've come to the conclusion that the reason people focus on things that don't ultimately matter is because it's easy. Anyone can see that someone isn't wearing a suit, works odd hours, doesn't file their TPS reports in triplicate, etc...

On the other hand big problems are hard to solve. People frequently bemoan the glut of poorly skilled individuals who claim to have software engineering skills. One would assume that that there could be a similar ratio of crap people in other fields, management, for example.

In short; managers focus on these things to an extreme because they are bad at their job and policing people's wardrobe is the fizz buzz of the management world.

I don't think it's that the trivial problems are easy, but rather they don't understand the hard ones. Everyone has an opinion on the color to paint a bike shed [1], but technical problems are much tougher to conceptionally deal with.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson%27s_Law_of_Triviality

Edit: fixed link - thanks

You have a slight typo in your link, it should be: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson%27s_Law_of_Triviality

You're describing bikeshedding


I love finding out there is a single word for something it would take an entire paragraph to describe.

Sounds like we need a word to describe the occasion of finding a single word for something that would otherwise take an entire paragraph to describe.


I'd love it even more if I could use the word without explaining it to every person I talk to.

I mean these laws should be taught at school.

Every so often I scan through http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_eponymous_laws for a reminder.

> I've come to the conclusion that the reason people focus on things that don't ultimately matter is because it's easy.


I don't excuse the individuals who embody such behavior. Nobody held a gun to their head and forced them to internalize this type of culture.

I have a pet theory on the whole thing. Humans are pretty much pattern matching machines. I get the feeling that a certain percentage of individuals in abscense of a known crisis will value the pattern over basic feelings. It gets worse after someone else has had to perform actions and now the person who did nothing must do something. So resolving out of pattern things is a priority.

I know it sounds weird and I am probably doing a bad job explaining, but it just seems like some people cannot stretch beyond the pattern that the rules say should be there. You are absolutely right, it doesn't excuse anything, but it just seems like you can make some amazing predictions of post-crisis behavior based on what you think they think the "pattern" should be.

>I have a pet theory on the whole thing. Humans are pretty much pattern matching machines. I get the feeling that a certain percentage of individuals in abscense of a known crisis will value the pattern over basic feelings.

That's the core of "Parable of the Monkeys." I'm not sure what the canonical source is, but here's a concise rendition: http://allhazardscontemplations.blogspot.com/2009/06/monkey-...

That is some scary reading. I would love to find the canonical source of the study. So, breaking a pattern requires ignorance or innovation.

If you are right about the pattern matching, why doesn't he focus on the guy being there in the middle of the night and encourage him instead?

A pattern-matcher (and I think you are right about that) would focus on the most out of the ordinary thing, would he not?

I mean a Tiger in coming towards you. Do you notice (or care about) the bustling leaves on the bush?

> I mean a Tiger in coming towards you. Do you notice (or care about) the bustling leaves on the bush?

I think you missed the clause "in abscense of a known crisis will value the pattern over basic feelings". Not being a zoo keeper, I would think a Tiger constitutes a crisis.

I cannot help but think the manager found that there was no current crisis, someone had taken action, he must now take action, then we get the thing out of place. I would assume (yeah, that word) the normal behavior would be to send the tech home with a "great job" and a "we got it from here". Nope, let's fix the pattern.

I don't think it's a conscious decision.

Sometimes petty issues come from an even darker place, like punishing non-conformity.

Well not just that, large organizations have policies which perfectly echo with saying 'No good deeds go unpunished'.

In my case I observed a few things which I could not believe from my own eyes. When you put in a lot of effort to deliver to things you are considered not a good team player, some how even the guy who performs the least is considered better than you. You are expected to share both credit and hard work rewards with some one who had absolutely nothing to with your work. Refuse to do so and you suddenly become a bad team player.

You are always expected to be in full dress code, sometimes this takes so much precedence that its often taking as bargaining thing in performance appraisal discussions. You have to be good to your boss, revere him as hacker extraordinar even if he is actually a Jack ass.

The list goes endless. If large corporations spend even 10% of the effort they spend on these things on work, they could move mountains.

I hope that guy quit on the spot. As long as managers get away with this kind of stupidity they're going to keep doing it.

Nope, he had a family and was the sole income source. It was a long time ago (90's) and I do believe he transferred departments not long after. Responsibility trumps rage in the short term sometimes.

I'd rather him bring it up to HR. If he quits, do you really think the manager would realize it's because of him? And do you think that his manager would even realize what happened?

That just made my blood go slightly nearer to 100 degrees celcius.

I left for a consulting gig about 2 months later. I call my time there my 3 seasons in heck. At the time, it really felt like watching a slow motion car wreck on ice. You know the kind where all the cars are doing 5mph, but no one can stop it. Dilbert wasn't funny to me before that job, I honestly didn't get the humor. After that job, I understood.

That company is screwed once their employees realise that they have a highly valuable skill and that there is an employee shortage out there.

One of the greatest hallmarks of the enterprise is ensuring that nobody within their organization is replaceable. They standardize on languages like Java because of its prevalence in the marketplace, they document the dickens out of every task, no matter how small or inconsequential, they ensure that everybody and everything within their company is a commodity.

This enables them to worry about things like dress code with impunity, as they're relatively free to hire and fire without having to worry about who is going to manage that system that only they knew about.

Then they wonder why they aren't able to deliver exceptional or world-class service.

However, all you'll do is reduce the average employee skill to can-just-about-do-FizzBuzz levels. That is not good at all. And since you can raise the 'average skill of the programmer' by just allowing jeans & tshirt (which costs nothing), it seems like a sensible investment to make.

A lot of huge corps won't care. As long as they can muddle along (with the help of consultants of course). The phrase that I see a lot of for this is "not our core business".


Yes, thank you. It's too late to edit it now, but I appreciate the head's up.

If you think that using Java by itself standardizes programmers you quite simply don't understand the craft at all.

Literally: Not at all.

Java has, perhaps, the largest talent pool of developers available of any 'Enterprisey' language. If it isn't Java, I'm sure it's some flavor of .Net.

The point wasn't that Java = easy, so let's use Java, rather, that the entire mindset of the Enterprise is that THEY don't understand the craft at all. They believe they can swap out developers as easily as they can swap out help desk workers (which also seems easy in theory, but isn't in practice -- a great help desk tech is worth their weight in gold.)

As their intent is to reduce IT workers to a commodity, I would also venture that it's harder to hire the truly talented (more often than not.) The focus isn't on technical excellence, it's on baseline competence, ability to follow SDLC workflows and, basically, to develop consistent amounts of code so that scheduling is as repeatable a process as possible.

There are exceptions to everything, of course, but I'm speaking from my experience working in and consulting for Fortune 50 companies and Federal Government, where the behavior I described is possibly more prevalent than somewhere like Cisco or EMC (read: technology companies), but I stand behind the position as more the rule and less the exception.

Agreed! I recommend reading this article from 37signals : http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2188-theres-no-room-for-the-i... , pure gold too, having THE idea is not enough

FWIW, the "Sticker Comapany Guy" is really cool and helpful to the startup community. He donates his products to almost any tiny technical gathering, shares a lot of info on his business, and provides a great product and excellent service to customers large and small. Also, his site has anywhere from 80-150K visitors a month who pay for his products so he may know a thing or two about running a business online http://siteanalytics.compete.com/stickergiant.com/

And somehow he gets to be the target of this rant. That is really depressing.

That is the one thing that consistently amazes me about entrepreneurs - no matter how silly, ridiculous, dull or otherwise negative opinion you may have of an idea/area - someone is probably doing something really impressive in the space. I've done a lot of interviews with entrepreneurs and honestly, sometimes I read the quick description and go 'oh god, not another one of these <stereotype>.' Sometimes, I am right, but there have been quite a few after doing my research have really impressed me. Even if I think it will be boring, I am willing to give it a chance because I've learned I can't predict what will be impressive or not with any significant degree of certainty.

Also, while his web site is not the paragon of UI design, it does manage to be #1 on google for "stickers." I can think of half a dozen things off the top of my head that he could be doing that, it would seem to me, intuitively, would make his business vastly more successful still –– but why would I think I'm right, having never lifted a finger to explore the sticker-selling business, while he has clearly been iterating the hell out of it?

Also I wonder what the ranting anonymous coder has to show for that is so cool. But I can guess: he can code, therefore he is a god who has to be worshiped accordingly.. No need to show actually viable products he created.

Well, he sells stickers. He shouldn't be talking about how a technical founder/entrepreneur doesn't need to know anything about the technical aspects of his company/product.

If you sell stickers it maybe will work out for you. But if your company is highly technical you should at least know a little about how your product is made to decide if ideas are feasible or not.

The irony of the article is that Mr. Case doesn't want to share his identity because he himself works for these people he is making fun of. He then goes on to call out the Sticker Giant Guy and Kyle Bragger instead of protecting their names too. Kyle took it in stride, asking for more feedback in the comments.

Using a pseudonym to anonymously whine about people's bullshit projects is so cowardly. I generally agree with what he is saying but don't have much respect for this faceless ranter. Is it so hard to say no to the people who approach him with these bullshit projects, and move on? This isn't a new problem. There are plenty of clients especially in Brooklyn that are willing to pay a decent wage to work on a project that isn't completely soul crushing.

Building a good freelance client base is all about word of mouth. If you work a gig for a low wage and they walk all over you, chances are you will get more clients from the first client that want the same thing, to pay you a low wage and walk all over you. If you are choosy about who you do projects for, you will probably have a better portfolio because you didn't work on a bullshit project, and you will land more clients like first ones you chose to work with.

If you are choosy and still think the clients suck and the projects are bullshit, freelance probably isn't for you.

I'm confused—he links to this article in the sentence "marginalized as a Magic player", which clearly lists his name... http://gizmodo.com/5833787/my-brief-okcupid-affair-with-a-wo...

How is he trying to stay anonymous?

Mr Case is not the famous Magic guy from the OKCupid article. Mr Case was just trying to impress you by sayingg he is like the Magic guy. The actual Magic guy did a AMA on Reddit is is a much more pleasant and well-adjusted fellow than Mr Case.

It is just one poorly written line in a poorly written article.

That link is an instance of people being marginalize for playing Magic. That's not him mentioned in the article - the guy mentioned in the article is a world champion, and works at/owns some sort of investment firm. He isn't a software consultant.

I'll see your rant and raise you one.

I posit that there are two kinds of people: Those who are good at what they do, and those who are not. Granted, it's far easier to find people who are good at some tasks than others, but the list of "difficult to find" skillsets isn't as focused in the tech industry as you might believe.

Case in point. My father has run his own lawn & landscape company for the last 15 years or so. In that time, he's discovered that it's actually really difficult to find people who are good at that job. That job being running a lawn mower, weed-whacker, and hedge trimmer. I'm a determined individual. I consider myself up to any challenge, but on my best day, one of his crewmen is worth two and a half of me in the field.

After the Florida hurricanes in 2005, I worked with my father's business for about a week in an effort to help them catch up. Two Guatemalan men on the crew called me "el burro", because while I wasn't much good at anything else, I'd pick up and drag tarp after tarp full of debris back to the trailer without question. They were half making-fun, and half serious. I ended up gaining their respect, but I'd have received my pink slip after three days if I were a hired hand.

I've taken the long way around to get to my point. From the businessman's perspective, most programmers we deal with suck pretty hard too. Care to know how many developers I've wasted time on, only to find out that they didn't know what they were doing, or were incapable of meeting me half-way in understanding a project?

Some will be quick to point the finger at me for having a loose spec, or allowing scope creep, or failing to understand the technical challenges. I'll be quick to point to the fact that I have a great network of talented, motivated programmers who jump at the chance to work with me.

I'm not asking you to talk to bullshit entrepreneurs who can't walk the walk, but I am asking you to set aside that chip on your shoulder until you take the time to know the difference.

You make some solid points. My net-net or tl;dr of it all is this:

For anyone you work with to respect you, you must show that you at least have tried to do they work you hired them to do, and done it competently.

The longer version: As a CEO of a software company it means you've at least developed in a couple languages (even if its only php, ruby and some Obj. C) and actually built something. As CEO you need to also be good at (or at least had some success at) sales to be able to attract talented and well connected sales execs. If you can do both things at an above average level, you are irreplaceable.

Again, both dev and sales positions are crucial. It's very hard to find someone even marginally good at both. Great salespeople and devs should be paid and treated like the rockstars that they are. That's the easy part.

The hard part is actually being the guy who can bridge both worlds. You're not worth the paper your business card is printed on if you can't attract talent, raise capital, sling a little code, sell, and ultimately be the product manager for your company/product on any given day.

It's a hard effin' job, and if done well will earn you the rockstar hires that will make your company zoom.

I am not sure I buy that. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that it would be enough for that person to respect me and the work I do.

In fact I would prefer somebody who didn't know that much about computers, since he is properly happy enough letting me do my job with little to no useless interference.

Interference can be a problem, to be sure. But you can't create a successful business without feedback of all kinds, including technical. It's just that it has to be done thoughtfully, with respect for your talent and opinions.

You could be right, and it may well be that someone with zero technical knowledge can lead a team to success by being completely hands off. I just have to believe that success is more probable when the boss can sit down and brainstorm solutions to problems with the dev team when needed.

And perhaps more importantly, I know I appreciate it when my previous bosses understood when they were asking for something hairy, and appreciated the level of effort and skill that went into crafting a solution.

The problem is how that somebody finds you instead of one of the hundreds of other developers in the pile who can't develop.

Guys, if you don't like clients and don't like most clients' ideas, then, uh, don't take on clients.

Programmers can:

1. Work at Big, Co. and make a decent living.

2. Work on your own projects and sell them directly to consumers (App Store)

3. Take on potentially douchey clients and their ideas.

If you can't stand the thought of #3, then just don't do it!

The problem is, #3 is a huge unknown area. I've had good and bad experiences with #3. When I started doing contracting as a student, I could afford to take those crappy $1000 14-day assignments just because I didn't know what the hell I was getting into. I didn't have a track record so I figured I couldn't demand higher pay and I should try to get whatever -- I think quite a few newbie developers get into this mess too. Just because you're a nobody doesn't mean you should accept a job at a measly $15/hr rate.

Usually those $1000 snowball scoped projects take forever for the owners to pay up.

The keyword is most. There are clients, rare though they may be, that are actually realistic about specifications and pay. Most importantly, they also understand that if they are going to be a tech company, tech is the single most crucial aspect of the business plan. Those are the clients you need to find, and it is unlikely that you will find those clients on freelancer's sites for the same reason that it is unlikely your idea would attract Sequoia investment by submitting your business plan via their online form.

Tech is never the single most crucial aspect of the business plan, the single most crucial aspect of any business plan is the bottom line.

PageRank is awesome, but adsense pays the bills.

For me, the bottom line is the end game. My contention is that if a client's goal is to build a successful technology company and this client is unwilling or unable to pay for the proper tech talent (whether in cash or equity), then they should not be in the technology business. Regrettably, this happens frequently, and all I am suggesting is that any developer needs to be on the lookout for the best clients with the best projects.

Would definitely agree with you there. The big plus to meeting the best clients is they know others with the same mindset.

Agreed. They're not easy to find, but I've found that the more side-work I do, the better clients I run into. My latest batch of clients (within the last year) have been excellently realistic and speedy payers.

Turning down clients that raise your eyebrow play a large part in finding the right ones.

Absolutely, there are many things you can do as a developer, and regarding taking on clients, the problem with a lot of developers is that they don't spend the right time spotting the crappy clients. You have to interview them as they interview you. Analyze them more and you'll find great time working. If your answer is "yeah, but there aren't many clients like that", then get more skills, they'll find you.

Yes, in the same vain if you don't like paying taxes then just stop paying taxes. And if you don't like driving at the speed limit, then just stop driving at the speed limit.

But seriously, at least if you don't like clients, stop whinging about it. Unless you have something good to say, which this article does not.

Can anyone say "linkbait"?

Hate to be a party pooper, but this was total garbage. We all know what's wrong with freelancing.

No need to pick on the sticker company guy, either - I've heard he's a great fellow.

Zero intellectual substance here.

They may be bullshit to you but they are not bullshit to your customers.

The free market sucks, especially when you're competing with 3rd world countries. The only way to improve that is to make sure that the standard of living in those countries goes up sufficiently high that everybody gets to make a living. Give it a thousand years or so. Meanwhile enjoy your cheap goods from China.

Guess what, building infrastructure is really boring. And to the people that employ freelancers (like you and many others) you and your product are not the goal but simply a means to an end. And that end may be boring as hell but it probably makes a lot more money than freelancing writing software does.

If you want to practice software as an 'art' then you should get really good at it, rather than to be mediocre and to bitch anonymously about how terrible your customers are.

The great thing about freelancing is that you are under no obligation to take on a particular client. But you are under the obligation of once you do take on a particular client to treat them with dignity and respect and to deliver the job with a minimum of fuss, on time and within the budget. And even just that can take some skill, even if not all of it is technical.

As a business student always getting new tech related ideas it quickly became obvious I was going to need to know some programming. I'm trying to learn some Java right now and attempted an iOS programming class...I dropped it.

I have a new found great respect for you programmers...I am very envious of your skills. So thank you all for creating the great software and technology that I use everyday.

I'm in the same boat working on a simple web application. There are great lessons to learn when you try the other shoe on for size. Things that I thought were trivial become real difficult, especially when you don't plan them from the start and you have to re-architect your entire code. However I do find the process enjoyable and in the end it feels fulfilling to actually create something instead of just dreaming all days about ideas.

I hate that stuff like this gets upvoted. Yeah, we get it, you can code, therefore you are superior. An artist even. If only everybody would ask your opinion first, but people seem to have the nerve to get by without you. Boo-Hoo...

While I agree with most points on the article, Its ridiculous to single out a person (in this case founder of Stickers company?) who only gave a decent positive advise to someone else.

Correctly so someone in comments of original blog pointed out the stickers guy is not a nOOb and a successful entrepreneur.

Decent advice? Is there any evidence that the guy has any experience running a technical company? Because to me, his advice sounds vague in a dangerous way. "Nah, you don't actually need to know anything about what your business does — just know what's right and what's wrong for it and get people to do that for you." If that were technically possible it would be wonderful — you could just bumble around cluelessly and profit from it. My experience with people who take that approach, though, leads me to doubt it.

More likely he's a sales guy and he made a product-sales business with minimal software needs. Good for him, but you can't generalize that to "Founders should barely know anything about technology."

Chip Morehead?

Seriously though. I kind of gave up to discuss this. To be honest I kind of like things the way they are, I want those who believe in the "coders think business is only codding" to continue doing so. Why would we want to enlight them?

Is it so ridiculous to single someone out? If perhaps people didn't so quickly and easily open their mouths the world would be much better off.

Suppose we restrict the outcomes of him being called out to two possible scenarios:

1. He becomes offended, writes a retort, etc. Both he and the writer are filled with indignation. 2. Laughs it off as he knows much of what he said is correct though sees from the writers point-of-view what he was getting at. Both are improved as long as the writer himself does not take the feelings attached to scenario 1, that being of maliciousness/anger or rather someone giving in to being controlled by dumb emotions.

Personally I have quite little faith/trust in people who become wild upon hearing the slightest possible insult or whatever. It's like people who give in to 'road rage' yet the next day themselves has a small lapse of judgement. I think what I'm trying to say is, who cares or in an even more vulgar term, 'haters gonna hate.' :P I would prefer it if we all were held more accountable to what we said and those who think and act intelligently have near-nothing to worry about yet those who act based on silly ideas and superstitions will forever be in fear of being called out.

And, I associate tact and similar concepts with when talking so I can agree that it's not always appropriate for public comments.

IMO what the "sticker company guy" wrote is actually true. And while I agree most web projects are bullshit, the article as a whole reeked of arrogance, especially the part about the "sticker company guy".

Every founder should have studied programming at some point, at least CS101 and CS201, at least enough to know what's possible and what's not.

I have a bootstrapped startup. I also left CS my junior year several years ago after running out of money. I haven't touched programming since so it's easier and less time consuming for me to hire a freelancer for a few bucks than it is to hit the books again. Even though I'm not doing the programming I'm grateful every day that I have that programming experience since I know if what I'm asking is possible or not. I have friends with ideas that ask me about programming or websites all the time and some of the things they think programming can do is shocking, the average person is completely clueless when it comes to how things work. Possible: "when someone signs-up on the website send them a confirmation message with a link asking them to like us on Facebook". Not possible: "when someone signs up send them a confirmation message and automatically have them click Like on our Facebook fan page".


The link points to an article demonstrating how people who play Magic the Gathering are marginalized by mainstream society.

The freelance programmer who wrote this piece is not Jon Finkel, a full time Magic the Gathering and poker pro.

Try harder.

Nowhere in the article does he claim authorship of that link? I think the author's intent was to draw solidarity with Jon Finkel, who is (probably) not a programmer but instead a several time Magic: The Gathering world champion and a manager of a large capital fund.

Jon Finkel sounds like an awesome, passionate person. Glad the guy dodged that bullet.

The best part of being 30+ is that we don't give a fuck any more.

According to Wikipedia he is 33, which would probably be a little old to have created a Dragon Ball Z fan page on Geocities in the 7th grade (probably late 90's timeframe).

From the article: "(coders think businesses are just code)"

Requesting this on a t-shirt. White text, black background. Nothing else. Maybe a cheeky clip art of a stereotypical neckbeard-sort-of-guy.

Damn, son! Thirty dollars?! That's a serious chunk of payola.

I'm not cheap ;)

But seriously, you requested that someone make the t-shirt, implying you were willing to reward the effort; I figured I might sell 1, and get, what, $4 for 20 minutes of work I did at 1:30am?

I don't fault you! Your plan is admirable. I just don't know if I can actually pay that much for a t-shirt. :->

I'll take one too.

Will this do? http://metanullcomic.com/ I don't have it quite in shirt format but couldn't help but throw richard stallman into the mix.

Best quote from the rant "vague snowball requirements, language barrier, and low pay"

I also like:

'Every time I tell a suit about an idea of mine and they ask “what’s your exit?” the answer is “death,” because my goal is to make software that is useful and makes users happy and that’s all I need.'

Having an exit, I think in this context is more about having an appropriate platform to pivot. I mean, no person or product lasts forever.

That's from the next post. Were you reading in Safari Reader? It's running the posts together ...

Hmm, that is strange - it is posted as "page 2" of the article for me. I am using Chrome.

Oh hey no you're right, sorry.

Second page

He had me at "I’m a member of the Startup Weekend LinkedIn group, for better or worse, home to some of the most asinine conversations about startup dumbfuckery on the internet."

he had me at "dumbfuckery".

While I do agree with the main point of this, the tone and delivery made it a bit hard to read at times (not to mention that it seems to skip focus part way through from freelance jobs to the definition of a founder). Granted, this seems to be framed as a rant less than it is an article. Regardless, it would have been nice to get a positive spin on these gripes (e.g. the author is working on a ratemyclient type site or creating a means for educating clients on good vs. bad projects).

I can't be the only one who got to the end and thought, "Man, 80 is a really conservative number."

"Just because you do something, does not mean you're good at it." -- Count

This goes both ways.

I don't think I've ever been quoted on the Internets before. Thanks :)

This hits too close to home.

I agree with his points on the Tinyproj stuff. Most of the projects there remind me of the job postings that label every fucking programming language/framework as a requirement. And then say you need at least 3-5 years experience with them. These were a little more focused than that, but extremely vague.

Most successful tech company CEO's are originally techies (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg,Eric Schmidt and I'd classify Steve Jobs as one too). This would indicate that business skills can be acquired and ultimately it is us techies that should be dismissive of those "business" types.

Until you actually acquire those skills... which is actually really hard to do (it's harder to find a good business cofounder than it is to find a good technical cofounder), you should not be dismissive.

I was referring to "business" types as referenced in the article (who treat techies as glorified typists). I don't think either should be dismissive of the other.

the two words to take away are "glorified typist"...LOL

No way... I've never heard of a start up that had a product with a great potential but didn't manage to pull it of due to bad business strategy. The key is putting up a quality produce. No marketing/business mimics will do it if you don't have a proper product to offer.

I hate to put it this way... but business intelligence is a field that engineers can grasp quite easily while technical knowledge is reserved to those who have the skills it takes. I actually know of companies that only hire engineers to their financial jobs.

"No way... I've never heard of a start up that had a product with a great potential but didn't manage to pull it of due to bad business strategy"

>> Seriously? Enter any space in web 2.0 and you'll see a bunch of very similar products. Ultimately only a few will succeed and yes, while product is extremely important, another key reason some will win and others will fail is because the business strategy sucked (and by business strategy I don't just mean marketing and BD. I mean product strategy and hiring and fundraising). Have you ever heard the term ideas are useless and execution is everything? Part of that execution is the business execution. Think about it this way -- not any one could have pulled off Twitter (identical product and everything.)

"No marketing/business mimics will do it if you don't have a proper product to offer."

>> Of course you need a proper product to succeed. But a proper product plus bad execution on the business side will more often then not result in failure. On the flip side, a bad product with amazing business execution will also more often then not fail. Business and product are not mutually exclusive.

"I hate to put it this way... but business intelligence is a field that engineers can grasp quite easily while technical knowledge is reserved to those who have the skills it takes. I actually know of companies that only hire engineers to their financial jobs."

>> Be careful using blanket statements like these; some engineers are just never going to be good business people, because they hate it and don't have the mindset for it. Others might be, but everyone is different. Also, because business is a cumulative skill and increases with experience, business is rarely something you can "easily" grasp, unless maybe if its something specific like creating financial models or reading financial statements (and even that is not easy for most. Engineers can pick it up financial knowledge by working at an investment bank, but it is by far easy for most people. Also, engineers are usually good at math, and think logically. I think this is why businesses occasionally hire engineers for finance positions. Other aspects of business such as BD and Marketing may be harder for an engineer to pick up easily.)

However, one of the best engineers I know is also the best business person I know. So yes, some engineers can pick up and do it very well. But just as with learning engineering... its a process, not an easy one, and one which will probably require you to fail many times before you become good.

By the way, this is just my humble opinion and I could very well be wrong.

An MBA used to be something you would take as an engineer (or technical person) after you had been working for a number of years, as preparation for getting an executive level position (or just after you had gotten it).

If we had stuck to that most of the problems with executives wouldn't exist because they knew the product they created (even if they did no longer work in the laboratory) and, presumably, they would promote the workers with a clue rather than what they promote now.

Next up: why 80 percent of statistics found on internet are made up: a statistician's rant.

Freelancers Union has an excellent tool named Client Scorecard for rating clients:


It's anonymous and well-curated, if a little thin as of yet.

Fuck the business-type, and fake entrepreneurs. Just hire a sales-guy on commission to get you good clients, and make sure he doesn't get paid until you get your final check. Next, make sure you get 50% up-front. If the client is shit, just walk away, and keep the money. Those idiots aren't going to do anything useful with their website, anyway. Tell them it costs a $1000, and get $500 up-front. Spend a day on it, and then make excuses or whatever. If you aren't into making excuses, spend $100 an expert. If they keep complaining, demand more money.

Those business idiots don't deserve anything. They just want bullshit excuses when their bullshit doesn't work. Don't try to please them. it is a losing endeavor.

It's not about the code in a project, it's about how you excute it. Compare Yahoo vs Google, AOL vs Google, Facebook vs Myspace, Apple vs PC.

I can't upvote this enough. I might print it and have it posted at every coffee shop I visit within a 10 block radius of my office.

Every line of code written by a founder as he learned to program is a line I have to rip out when I come on board to do it right. By all means, scrounge up a little capital and let the professionals handle it from the start.

You said web projects? That's right. In corporate world the ratio is around 90% ^_^

And everyone should be happy - without BS projects jobless ratio among mediocre coders and ctrl-c-ctrl-v sysadmins will be much higher.)

So … what’s his qualification? He runs stickergiant.com, a site that sells stickers

Uh. That sounds like exactly the sort of superficially boring thing that turns out to be a reliable, profit-generating engine. Like the story about the guy who started a website selling bowling balls. Or a tax client of an ex, who was making millions annually selling hop-up engine parts.

I thought everything else was pretty spot on, attacking this guy for his business and for telling a non-technical guy to stay non-technical is... weird. Do you really want some guy dicking around with the website's CSS when he's supposed to be interviewing people and finding a marketing consultant?

I think the argument was poorly worded, but I agree with his point, which is that his business is stickers, not software. Hence, his advice is invalid when applied to a software business.

If you run a physical business, the only thing you need a programmer for is probably a website and an online ordering system. In that case, the founder doesn't need to learn programming, as that's not his business.

But when you're a saas startup or something, software is your business, and a non-technical founder should at least try to understand some of it. Not necessarily enough to contribute to product development, but enough to... edit basic html? Start/restart the server? Quickly debug and figure out a small technical problem when demoing the product to potential customers in case the programmer isn't available?

I'd argue that software is never your business. People use your software to do something. Understanding that usage is your business.

Perhaps it's semantics, but I think it bears repeating.

That might work for cookie-cutter, by-the-book managers later but it won't work for a founder, or anyone developing anything new.

I've hired construction crews before knowing about the area, and again after working in it myself. It's a night and day difference. And not because they specifically lied or even stretched the truth but because they didn't tell me what I really needed to know to make good decisions.

If all you want is "a blog" then you may be happy with what you get without more thought but if you want anything more complex than that you're going to need to understand significantly more about what you really want and how the constraints are going to impact it.

I do not think the point was that this isn't reliable or profit-generating. My take was that "reliable" and "profit-generating" are goals he finds sad and distressing. Perhaps the founder feels an incredible passion about stickers and thinks they'll make the world a better place, but it has the sound of an exercise in pure business.

What I'd like to see is high budget short-term projects.

$1000 for 14 days is what, $9/hour.

That's my fault for not phrasing the field correctly. It really should be "We need this in X days", and not "This is X days of constant work", which is how most people are interpreting it.

Even then, unless you complete this project in 10 hours, it's not worth it. And by "complete" I mean completely done, no more back-and-forth, no more bug fixing, a complete sign-off. I almost never see it go perfectly like that, and that's why I'm hourly. Want me to fix the color of that button six times, because you feel like a designer? No problem, but you're paying for it.

The requirements are so vague it's hard to tell the number of hours they expect in that fortnight.

Fair point. I am also working on this. I didn't want to necessarily have people copy/paste their entire spec here, only a pitch.

I work on projects from http://www.vworker.com/

Some of the project descriptions are comedy.

The thing that usually bugs me the most is that the client has already decided the platform and programming language before searching for programmers.

The next sadness is the "half finished PHP project needs finishing". So often it's like arriving at the scene of an accident. SQL injection and XSS everywhere. Zero factorisation. Top down everything. Terrible MySQL schema. The list goes on.

You just posted a rant about a tech related bit while splitting your piece on to 2 pages. You sir, are a douchebag.

Your vitriol is misdirected. The author emailed the rant; Betabeat split it into two pages.

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