Pass the shotgun please....

22 replies
Has anybody got anything good to say about programmers...

Over a decade I have had so many issues with programmers. Mostly these are self-taught non-professional and I think therein lies the problem.

Then again, my own brother was the programmer in our family software business and he was a friggin nightmare as well. He never did the work he was meant to do in nowhere near the time he said he would do it.

Recently, yet again, I have been let down by another PHP programmer.
I had to let down a big client who has now moved away as he was not happy with the speed of progress on some work.

I have already learned that if the programmer says 2 weeks, to double it, and then double it again and then add on the intial 2 weeks.... :rolleyes:

Can somebody please share some happy ending stories so that I can regain my confidence in these elusive people!

#pass #shotgun
  • Profile picture of the author KirkMcD
    I'm a programmer. I deal with highly paid, so called programmers all the time.
    They come to me when they have a problem they can't solve.
    Why can't they solve it? They don't know how to debug.

    Then there are the ones that try to reinvent the wheel. Another one I worked with spent two weeks trying to come up with a way to convert numbers to words.
    What are you freaking kidding me? This had to have been done before. I spent 5 minutes googling for a solution. Ta-da!

    I'm considered a genius because I can solve the problem quickly.

    If I tell you two weeks it is because I'm going to spend the first week doing something else.
    I'm sometimes called a Fireman, because I come in to solve the problem quickly and leave.
    You want to hire me fulltime? First, you can't afford me. Second, I'll be bored after all the problems have been cleared up and I'll start looking for something else.

    Yeah, I'm bragging, but it's all true.
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  • Profile picture of the author kevinclanton
    Use oDesk, so you know what you are getting into.
    Unless the contracter comes highly recommended by a friend, your best bet is to use a system where you can see their reviews and the amount of work they have done.

    If you are interested I have a lot of other tips for using oDesk / finding a freelancer..
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    • Profile picture of the author Michele Miller
      This will SHOCK you then~!

      I can certainly commiserate! Albeit many moons ago, I hired a programmer to do a what I thought would be a fairly simple "line count" program. I did not receive a darn thing for my money, and went through three MORE programmers who promised the earth but didn't do anything either. More money wasted. At least it was a project for me, and not for a client - can't imagine how awful that might turn out to be.

      Finally, I found a programmer, through a site that doesn't exist anymore, and I took another chance on a "qualified" programmer, it was sort of like etc.

      I thought I had died and gone to heaven. He was professional, kept me informed of progress, provided the given project in a timely manner, and kept in touch with me throughout the years, and has always been there for minor tweaks.

      Now, although that is spectacular in itself, this is the SHOCKING part!

      All the other programmers were older, established idiots, that had been in the 30-50 year range, and in the biz a long time, but couldn't provide what I was asking for. Yet, my latest programmer not only provided the line count program, but added an invoice program to it, and..... it turned out that he was 15 year's old at the time!

      One would have never known, as his customer service was prompt, polite, and professional. Today, you couldn't afford to hire him! He works on the latest gaming videos etc. But see... you never know do you?

      But I can certainly understand the original poster saying, "pass the shotgun"... it is truly frustrating when you are the person in that position.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jim Hughes
    It's hard to find programmers that are good, understand what you want to accomplish, can communicate technical concepts in plain English, are reliable, have a decent turnaround time and are not inordinately expensive.

    As far as happy stories, I've worked with a lot of programmers and some have been excellent. Okay, that's not really a story, but there are good people out there.

    Its' like in any profession, some are good, some not so good, some really bad. If you find someone good, it's worth it to pay more.

    Never Give Up!

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  • Profile picture of the author SteveSRS
    Let me tell you something shocking


    YOU as manager apparently have no idea how to communicate with programmers. Most likely that is because you have no clue what you are talking about. And I'm sorry to say that is ERROR #1 in the world why IT projects fail. Managers that expect to much and just generally have no idea what they are talking about and what they are promising to clients.

    What you need (if you can't do it yourself) is an good IT manager. Somebody that speaks BOTH languages, that of business and that of programmers (and perhaps a VERY rare and good one that also speaks the language of designers). Somebody that can write very good product specification documents (they are SO important and SO often skipped).

    So please don't just blame it on the programmers, have a look at the mirror!

    In the Netherlands (for example) there are special bachelors for people who are exactly like this in the middle. I know because I did exactly this bachelor (after which I continued to do a Master in IT).
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    • Profile picture of the author KirkMcD
      Originally Posted by SteveSRS View Post

      What you need (if you can't do it yourself) is an good IT manager. Somebody that speaks BOTH languages, that of business and that of programmers (and perhaps a VERY rare and good one that also speaks the language of designers). Somebody that can write very good product specification documents (they are SO important and SO often skipped).
      Bad specs don't make bad programmers.
      Bad programmers, make bad programmers.
      Bad specs, make bad programs.
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  • Profile picture of the author rankingconsult
    I spend a lot of time project managing amongst my businesses and will always set out a well written and detailed specification document for the programmer to work on.

    Now, this 'should' help. Indeed, any decent programmer will insist on it anyway so as to avoid future misunderstandings.

    In most cases, this still does not help. They still wildly underestimate the time taken to do the work.

    It was touched upon here. I suspect the number 1 reason is not actually skillset but that programmers, by their very nature, cannot turn down work and therefore take too much on. The next thing that happens is instead of pleasing that one customer, they let down 6 of them as they cannot find the time to focus on the projects properly.

    I am only a couple of projects away from being in a position that warrants a full time programmer sitting next to me. I feel that might be only solution.
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  • Profile picture of the author wayfarer
    It might shock you that most good programmers just aren't available to do trivial projects any more. By trivial projects I mean anything less than $5000 dollars in budget, or maybe more depending on your perspective. That's because we work for real companies with real budgets/funding, that understand how projects are put together, and how to market them. Not that it's impossible to find help on the internet, heck, I made my living as a freelancer for years before joining a company full-time.

    Though the story of the 15 year old is interesting, generally you get what you pay for. Sure there might be a lot of 30-50 year olds that have basically flunked out of the system, but there are still some good senior developers that are taking on new projects. The trick is, you have to pay their rates to get what they're worth. For some people, this means paying 2-3 times what they're used to paying. I charge $75 per hour, and I don't negotiate. I could probably charge a heck of a lot more if I wanted to, but I'm not that greedy. However, I'm not even available at that rate for new clients, so therein lies the dilemma. Top talent is hard to find, and even harder to recruit. I was contacted by a recruiter in a Fortune 500 company just the other day, and told them it would have to wait a couple of years at least, and even then I'm not sure. So you can see, even top companies have a hard time finding people. You, the little guy, has to compete against all this.

    Despite all of this, it is not always the clients fault, even if the spec was bad. It is part of the contractor's responsibility to educate their client as to what makes a good spec, and work with them to make the plan as solid as possible. It also needs to be clear that any changes outside of the spec are an extra charge. This is a very common thing to happen, and is why most projects go over their original projected time/budget. We call it scope-creep.
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  • Profile picture of the author activebiz
    "wayfarer" - how true.
    I must chime in here. I started 1993, knowing nothing about computers. Had my first website then, paid a college student to teach me html then, {Ilearn fast though]. Then had a programmer who was fantastic for about a year, suddenly zero communication. Hired someone else, only to discover a few months later that all the databases were only linked that were on my server, - I was out in the cold. Nearly ruined my then already nicely growing business.
    Literally overnight I found myself having to learn "everything". I am a designer first, so DB's scared the heck out of me.
    I learned as I went - yep, totally self-thought. But, contrary to the first post ripping self-thought apart - I know more and perform better than most programmers/developers I paid before.
    Today, I do know what to ask for when I hire someone, that weeds out already right then and there all the ones that try to wiggle their way through a project.
    If you don't know anything yourself, before you can tell someone what to do or what you need, your own research and information gathering is of utmost importance. How can you convey what it is you really need, if you yourself have no clue.
    Front-end is miles apart from back-end and not everything you think you want may be possible. That is where "wayfarer" is 100% correct: it is the programmers responsibility to educate the client with arising or foreseen complications upfront.
    To wrap this up - don't htrow the baby out with the bathwater - there ARE good "self-thought" programmers out there. Today I am considered a "geek - hahaha, really funny at age 67, I work 18 hour days, and love every minute of it.
    On a lighter note: I actually wound up sending a copy of my DL to one developer after knowing him for years, he thought I was somewhere around 30. Goes to show - you never know. Maybe because I too work a lot with professional "kids" now on a daily basis. Some of those I am in awe how good they are at what they do and how they think.
    Bottom line - learn at least the basics yourself.
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    • Profile picture of the author wayfarer
      Originally Posted by activebiz View Post

      Front-end is miles apart from back-end and not everything you think you want may be possible.
      Yeah, which is very difficult to explain to people. I started out basically as a front-end developer, but was asked to do so many types of things, I was forced to do a variety of different programming tasks. This ended up making me much more well-rounded as a developer, so I'm glad it happened. Many developers get stuck in one or the other, because they work for teams which allow them to delegate responsibility. It's hard to find people that can do both well.

      Originally Posted by activebiz View Post

      To wrap this up - don't htrow the baby out with the bathwater - there ARE good "self-thought" programmers out there.
      Haha, true. I'm also totally self-taught, though my story isn't nearly as long and dramatic as yours seems. School can only teach you so much before you must inspire yourself anyway, so even those who learned programming in school have to end up teaching themselves a lot of things. Self-taught people can also potentially be the most motivated, because they had to motivate themselves into learning everything.

      Everyone is different, and there are a lot of programmers that are notoriously unreliable, that never finish or do what they say they will, or who interview really well but in the end can barely perform. It can be very hard to find people who are excited about learning new things, which seems to me the very definition of the job. Some people just find the job very boring, as you can tell from this thread.
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  • Profile picture of the author Adam King
    Wayfarer brought up some excellent points. I, too, am a full-time programmer, and by full-time I mean I have a full-time job in addition to doing freelance work on the side. Money is certainly a motivator, but I primarily code because I enjoy the challenge and the variety offered by different programming projects.

    It's unfortunate to hear about the bad experiences some of you have had, but like almost any service I imagine that you tend to hear more about the bad than the good. I think it's important to engage any potential programmer in conversation (be it email or voice) before agreeing to work together, as you can usually get a feel for their level of competence and how well they'll communicate in the future. I always insist on establishing clear guidelines with my clients as it benefits both parties to know where the line in the sand is.

    I personally couldn't sleep at night if I did a half-assed job or just let a client hang, and I don't think I'm alone. Do a little more due-diligence, offer a reasonable rate, and you should get much better results.
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  • Profile picture of the author tweakr
    I finally decided to click on this thread and see what it was all about. And now I feel the need to throw my two cents in.

    While I agree that you will find bad programmers out there, it's not always the programmers fault. I myself am a programmer and at times became to swamped with work so I had to hire people to help out, I decided to use a freelance website (elance) to find somebody. Their profile said they had all the qualifications etc, and experience working with this particular system, and the team assured me that they would have no trouble jumping in and getting things done. Well if that wasn't an outright lie I don't know what is, turns out their head "programmer" had no experience at all and thought that he would learn on the fly.

    However, other times it can be the customer themselves that are the trouble/problem. I have had experiences of customers "knowing exactly what they want" and then after getting most of the way through the project they decide that's not it at all, and I'm left thinking well this is exactly what you ordered. Others keep adding and adding features etc. to the project which naturally will add extra time to the overall completion date, I have found that customers don't quite understand that extra work = extra time and often will become upset that the original completion date won't be met any longer.

    I know you're not on the programmer side, but I have found what works best for me is a very rigorous screening process before I will work with a client it helps to save me a lot of headaches later on.

    So on the flip side, if you're looking for a programmer that potentially knows what they are doing. Don't go looking for the lowest prices as I'm sure that's what a good percentage of those that are complaining do. Instead look for somebody who is willing to take the time for a sit down chat with you about your project and what you hope for it to accomplish. This will be helpful for all, because the programmer will be able to point out features that should be included that you might not have thought of yet.

    That's my two cents on the subject, hopefully it helps somebody out.
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  • Profile picture of the author FirstSocialApps
    I worked as a freelance programmer for a long time. Even now after becoming inactive Im still in the 99th percentile on vWorker and Elance. Its not fair to say that programmers are bad .. what is far to say, with respect, is that people who want to hire the lowest bidder in general will get the lowest quality. When I freelanced I placed bids that targeted $50 an hour .. cheap people would say ..well I can hire this guy from India that only wants $8 per hour .. I would reply to them .. and after you rehire me to fix his garbage you'll end up paying a total of $58 per hour

    Point is .. you get what you pay for .. its not the programmers that have gotten bad .. its the people purchasing have gotten there expectations of payment so low that they cant attract skilled people.
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  • Profile picture of the author Big Squid
    I agree with a lot of sentiments expressed in this post. Seems like the better programmers (all around - communication, skill, timeliness, etc) are getting more and more expensive. I program myself doing freelance work. Much of the time, the projects I'm getting were already started and the programmer either didn't deliver what they promised, or didn't deliver anything at all.

    Like everything in our marketplace, it just creates a vacuum where other people can fill the gap.

    The biggest mistake I see people make is to hire on price/cost alone. The most expensive and the least expensive usually should be ruled out immediately. Expect to pay $65- $75 an hour as a minimum.
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  • Profile picture of the author iaeo
    One of the reasons I decided to take up coding as a career (as opposed to a hobby) was because there was obviously a market for it, thanks to experiences like this. Good programmers are in short supply. I personally think it's unfair to lump all programmers into one group as lazy scammers, but I definitely understand the natural tendency to do that. For example, if you have nothing but bad dealings with people from a certain part of the world, it becomes difficult to trust anyone from that region, regardless of any dealings you've had with that person specifically.

    The one piece of advice I can offer (that hasn't already been stated by others, there are some gems above) is to keep an open mind. Don't let your experience with past programmers dictate how you treat the current ones. Learning from your mistakes is one thing, but if you approach every conversation with a programmer the same way (keeping your previous experiences in mind) it's going to become obvious. You may exhibit subconsciously aggressive or distrustful behavior, and we'll pick up on it. We're a smart bunch, and those of us that are talented have our pick of the litter when it comes to clients. I can pretty much tell if I'm going to have a good experience with a client based on the first few minutes of talking to them. So, make a good first impression, be sure you know EXACTLY what you want, and what you will want 2 weeks from now.

    Oh, one more tip. Don't negotiate with a programmer you've never dealt with before. They have their rate, pay it or don't. Any programmer that will negotiate with you without having done any kind of business with you is desperate for work, and there's a 99% chance that it's because they suck (there are exceptions as always, but we're talking about the rule here).
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    • Profile picture of the author nipsyr
      wayfarer speaks the truth.

      knowing a little bit of html and php doesn't make someone a programmer.

      real programmers are working at big companies making big bucks.

      I don't even code that much these days and I still get asked to do related work. Today a headhunter wanted to know if I would do some web services design. SOA environment, integrating canonical message models, develop a composite message schema, etc. I bet the person who knows the tiny bit of html to make a basic web page doesn't have any clue what I was talking about. I wouldn't even get out of bed for less than $90 an hour and you know what, I told them I wasn't interested.

      so the likelihood of find someone decent to do a small cheap project isn't that great.
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  • Profile picture of the author John Ayling
    'Real employee programmers' work at big companies. Real self-employed programmers won't - has nothing to do with their skill-set, but more about their business acumen.
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  • Profile picture of the author edbarnes
    I totally disagree that "Real programmers work at big companies" . Much of the open source software available are not made by any company, just some programmers doing It for fun
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  • Profile picture of the author ababuobana
    Maybe that's because You always worked with inexperienced programmers . I know lots of them doing great jobs and usually on time
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  • Profile picture of the author wayfarer
    I never said "big companies". I said "real companies". The company I work for is tiny, but we have 100's of thousands of dollars budgeted for doing programming work, and handle most of the work internally. That's all I meant. Of course not all programmers prefer to do this sort of work, and it doesn't make you any less skilled just because you prefer to do lots of small jobs. I've personally discovered that I prefer to work on startups, which means having at least half a million dollars budgeted in our case. We haven't spent that yet, but we actually have a little more than that to invest. It's amazing what you can accomplish with that sort of budget. Large companies have a lot more money that that, so you really can't compare what we're doing to a large company, since we're really only beginning to build our technology stack. Of course we could grow into a large company, which is when our work will really pay off, our stock options increase in value, etc. We are entrepreneurs, but playing with other people's money, angel investors, so it's a little different from what most Warriors do, though I can't speak for everyone.
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  • Profile picture of the author dwoods
    I concur whole heartedly with SteveSRS's comments.

    It's the managing team's fault -- Currently my daily job function is a full time on campus CTO and lead developer. I manage 2 teams of 4+ developers on each. We develop in an agile environment and roll things out quickly, on time and with great accuracy when it comes to time estimates. We use SCRUM and tools like pivotal tracker & poker planing to not keep ourselves honest, but keep the rest of the organization honest about expectations. All of my developers work as hard as they possibly can.

    Of course you do run into a slacker in any line of work now and then.
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