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Ask HN: Is there a service for 'renting' devs time to help program?
7 points by Inebas 1026 days ago | 10 comments
Hi,

Sometimes I get stuck on a development problem or just want to ask someone. Sometimes, asking on stackoverflow and forums are not enough especially if you have to debug through the problem and show where the crash happens. However, someone experienced might point it out in an hour or two. Is there a service where I can pay a developer by the hour and remotely work out the issue?

If not, do you think that there is a market for a service like that?

Thanks!




I don't think there's a service like that, but let's attempt to talk through who could potentially use it to figure out if there's a market.

1) Would a developer who is part of a workforce in a company where there are other developers use this? Chances are, probably not - he has coworkers whom he could ask to help him work through a problem. This is more efficient than hiring outside help - his coworkers probably understand the codebase and the problem domain much better than he does.

2) Would a student developer in a school use this for his schoolwork? Chances are, probably not. Schools usually have tutors, and the instructor is usually available. Also, students are usually low on money to pay for services like this.

3) It sounds like you are what I call a "lone-wolf developer". You consult for projects as your main source of income for companies that don't have on-staff technical talent (otherwise you'd ask them), or are a single founder working on your own project (or, if you have cofounders they are completely non-technical). You would definitely use this service. How many people are there like this?

The reason why your post caught my eye is because I often find myself in the "mentor" role that you are describing, and have often wondered that question myself.

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Hi Yuri,

Yea I see your points but couldn't the same points be made for elance and yet they exists. I don't know the financials but I am using elance right now because coding this thing takes too long for my taste and I want to move on to the next thing.

With that said, elance may be used by someone who has no development skills whatsoever so it will have a bigger market, no doubt.

But, I can see a service like this to go beyond development, it could be about marketing, strategy, SEO, etc...

PS: Would you be willing to mentor me ;)

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No, elance is something else - people on elance are not good for a quick, off-the-cuff 1 hour conversation. With elance there's a definite project start date and a definite project end date, and a deliverable that is either delivered or not. There's a large market for outsourcing this kind of long-term or even medium-term development - there's a very basic distinction between hiring someone else to fully do it during their own time vs. you doing something yourself and having someone educate you and walk you through it. After all, you can always reject the work someone did on elance, because the payment is per-project. In a mentoring situation, you can't really say "well, our conversation wasn't helpful", unless the mentor spent the whole conversation talking about something completely irrelevant - the act of mentoring is a little more amorphous.

What you are actually talking about is something along the lines of what lawyers do: you purchase a set amount of hours upfront (a retainer), and then you reach out to them with specific problems as they arise, until you use up all the time you've purchased. Sure, there might be a market for all kinds of professionals to sell their future services for retainers.

With regards to me mentoring you: sure, e-mail me, we can chat more.

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regarding #1 very often you find out that you or someone else are the last piece in the asking chain, and stackoverflow is not always a solution. the solution is expensive consulting companies that will gladly take your money, but if there was some sort of service that can lower the costs, I think it might work. many companies seek external advise, especially for critical parts or new technologies. there is already an industry of software consulting, and I think it can be disrupted.

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I think such a service would be great. Last night in the middle of a very long coding session I got stuck on getting a particular SQL query working right for a couple of hours. I got a little help and some hints in #mysql on freenode, but I eventually needed to work it out myself. When I come across an issue like this that blocks progress on the project I'm working on, I'd love to have a service where I can drop some cash on getting help from an expert when I need to find a solution quickly.

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I think there is a niche market, yes. Just like there is a market for a paid twitter (app.net), there could be a market for paid for stackoverflow (just not something like experts-exchange).

I would call this "CTO for rent" or "tech lead by the hour"

note that there are many consulting companies that do exactly this, the thing is that they charge 100-200$ an hour.

I'm sure that in elance you can find someone willing to help for a nice reasonable fee.

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Yea. Thanks for the consultant insight. It is weird how elance developers are getting paid much less by per hour than consultants.

I would assume they are both thinking of not just a few hours gig but a project where they can bill 20+ hours.

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Do you account for the differences between living/business costs where most elance developers live vs. where most consulting companies operate?

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I posted this a while ago asking a similar question http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4500567

I considered it micro-consulting. The responses listed http://anyfu.com and http://clarity.fm

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There is a site called www.glgroup.com where you can do initial consulting with the individual for free just to know them but if you want specifics then you have to hire them using various options available.

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