Jul 9, 2012
I have a theory that you can tell if a Microsoft web developer is good or not based on as single question. Would you choose webforms or MVC on a new project? Many readers probably consider this obvious, perhaps even equivalent to the choice between punch cards vs keyboard/monitor. I suspect most people reading this consider asp.net-MVC the logical choice, and only an idiot would choose otherwise However, I suspect most Microsoft web application developers would still chose webforms … scary as that is. I think that right now, MVC has really separated the good from the bad, at least as far as asp.net developers go. Developers on top of their game have at least overview experience with MVC, yet most weak or lazy developers haven’t been forced to make the leap yet, as a result they either haven’t looked into it, or have been so confounded by the paradigm shift that they’ve passed it off as a trendy fad. Please notice I said ‘choose on a new project’, not ‘currently working in’. I’m sure there are many developers who are working in webforms who would prefer to be working in MVC … I’m one of them. On the flip side, I recently met a developer working in an MVC app who wishes it was webforms. There is a presumption in my statement, that MVC is inherently better than webforms. To most of us, this seems obvious, but there are many who disagree … and that’s fine. However, I’ve yet to find a valid argument for webforms over MVC. … don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard people tell me that webforms is better, but I’ve never heard a rational argument. Those who have tried have basically given me buzzwords like ‘event-driven’ but fail to contrast it against, or even recognize the cost of that paradigm. Take for example; answers to this Stackoverflow question When to favor webforms over MVC? I’m not going to argue about integrating MVC into an existing webforms app because I think maintaining technology consistency is important. But some of the other reasons include : Leveraging existing training – True, but good developers usually keep their skills up to date, so is this really that big of a deal? View/edit modes makes duplicate work – This is actually better than all edit pages, yes … even for enterprise apps. If you don’t believe me, just think about all the functionality you added to ensure users couldn’t ‘save’...
Feb 2, 2011
Overview I was having lunch with my friend & colleague last week and we had a disagreement about whose decision it is to make a change when you see something wrong in the client’s software. Mechanic analogy My colleague used an analogy about a mechanic; it was a good one, so I’ll use it here. Let’s say you bring your car in for a $30 oil change, and your mechanic notices a problem with the timing belt. My colleague suggests, he doesn’t just ignore it, he tells you it’s an emergency must be changed immediately (the emphasis is my friends). Well I agree the mechanic shouldn’t just ignore it, and I was relieved my friend didn’t suggest the mechanic should simply change the timing belt, driving the bill from $30 to $930, but I’m not sure if telling the car owner they must change the timing belt ‘now’ is appropriate either. In my opinion the mechanic should tell the customer what he found, the risk in not fixing it, outline the options to fix it, and the cost & associated risk with each option. Then make a recommendation. It’s the customer’s decision, not the mechanics, and even if the customer makes a foolish decision, it’s his decision, not the mechanics. Fortunately, all the mechanics I’ve dealt with seem to understand this. As consultants we’re advisors, not the decision maker In my opinion, our role as consultants / advisors includes the responsibility to inform the client of any problems or potential problems you’ve noticed, the risks in not fixing it, options to resolve the problem, along with the costs and risks associated with each. Unethical behaviour To me it seems unethical to go rogue, and just start making changes the client doesn’t know about, and didn’t approve. It’s also unethical to purposely instil fear, uncertainty, and doubt when explaining the options to the client so they make the decision you want them to; regardless of your intentions. The client owns your time After all, the client does own the software, is responsible for its maintenance, and they do own your time to direct as necessary. Wait, what? Who owns your time? Yeah, when you’re consulting, your client (or employer) owns your time. … you sold it to them; remember? Every consulting and/or employment agreement is different, but if you’re charging by the hour, it probably says something like this; they bought your focused efforts to solve their problems for a...
Mar 8, 2010
Last week I listened to Seth Godin’s audiobook Linchpin. It really resonated with me and I had a few significant insights. One of the interesting ideas he promoted was the idea of ‘gifts’. A gift as he explains it, is any additional work above and beyond what is required as part of the ‘transaction’. The transaction is fulfilling your end of the bargain for their end of the bargain. Seth Godin explains a transaction as If I sell you something, we exchange items of value. You give me money, I give you stuff, or a service. The deal is done. We’re even. Even steven, in fact. And he explains a gift as If I give you something, or way more than you paid for, an imbalance is created. Lets say a client is having an issue and after some digging, you have an insight where a slight change not only resolves the current problem, but prevents a similar problem from occurring throughout the entire application. The client did not offer to pay for it, and you can’t charge them, as a matter of fact, if you are a consultant, it will reduce future billable work from the client to fix the future problem. The insight and change is a gift.* Seth continues with regards to the gift: That imbalance must be resolved. So how is this imbalance resolved? … Appreciation Yep … that’s it. If you have a particularly astute client/employer, you may receive additional work and referrals as a consultant, or a bonus, raise, and/or promotion as an employee, but these are peripheral. Appreciation is the critical element for the recipient to experience**. If your gifts are not appreciated, the client/employer does not value what you have to offer and both of you should seek out more compatible relationships. So why give a gift? Personally, I give gifts because I want to create the best software I am capable of creating. Creating beautiful software, not just meeting requirements, is the very nature of craftsmanship. Beautiful software is a gift. I can’t write software without gifts. I am actually repulsed by the thought of merely delivered what was asked for since the requirements are always missing something. Yes I’m repulsed. It reminds me of those Mad magazine comics; ‘If kids designed their own xmas toys’. With few exceptions, the results would be horrendous! Unfortunately, I’ve noticed a downward cycle with the reception of my software gifts. I’ve noticed when...
Jul 9, 2009
Some of my projects are a fixed rate and some are hourly. If the scope of the project is small enough to accurately estimate, risks are minimal, and nailing down requirements is practical, I may propose a fixed price. Working on fixed price projects are a piece of cake, I go home, work on it, provide periodic updates via email, phone, or in person. When I finish it I install it and give them a CD with all the binaries, documentation, and source code. However, I’ve found working on an hourly rate to be a little different than doing all the above while just counting my hours. There is a lot of distrust with hourly professionals which is only compounded with a mysterious process like software development. After all how do they know you aren’t home watching soap operas, working on your own projects, the project of another client, or even sitting on the beach? How can they tell they aren’t being over charged? The problem with trust, is even if you are honest, a false perception can still destroy the relationship. I know this too well. Once in the late 1990s I was working from home, charging hourly, and I got a call from one of the newer partners of my biggest client (only client at that point). While talking I rebooted to clean out my system* and when the system came back up it played the 20th Century Fox theme, a configuration change I thought was very cool, and he said ‘Are you watching TV?’ I said ‘No. Why?’ … Seriously, I didn’t even making the connection. Two days later I was called in for an unscheduled meeting where my invoices were questioned, I heard a lot of “we’re not accusing your of inflating your hours…”, and the next day, feeling insulted and unappreciated, I resigned. I didn’t make the obvious connection until much later. It doesn’t matter that I was under charging both in terms of my rate and what I charged for, and would never inflate my hours! It doesn’t matter, because the perception was corrupted. It was a tragic misunderstanding since I loved working there and provided a competent, yet naively discounted service. That’s when I came up with rule # 1 1. Work at the client site when charging hourly. While following this rule gave my clients assurance that I was actually working, it still left them in the dark as to my...
Jun 4, 2009
Today I got side tracked and spent an unreasonable amount of time on StackOverflow.com. One of the questions I was looking at was What is your longest-held programming assumption that turned out to be incorrect?
Many of the answers immediately resonated with me, like Instantsoup’s answer That people knew what they wanted and JohnFx’s awesome answer about comparing his knowledge to the collective knowledge of all other programmers. Other answers reflected a poor initial understanding of the language or technology, many of these I was fortunate enough to not relate to.
As you can imagine, I immediately started coming up with my own answers, so I continued reading to make sure they weren’t already there. But as I read, I came up with more initial assumptions which proved to be false. I thought I’d pick out the best, and answer with that one, but realized I had a whole blog post!
So without further ado; here is my list of assumptions about programming and the industry which proved to be incorrect: …
May 11, 2009
I have a pet peeve and like most pet peeves it’s an irrelevant petty little annoyance, not quite a huge, humanity, oppressing problem.
My pet peeve is filling out the same information; name, address, city, etc… on paper forms. All that standard information at every doctor’s office, school, activity registration form for my kids, etc… I mean why do I need to keep writing this stuff? And why does somebody else have to take the time to retype it into their system?
Really! In all seriousness … what a waste of time! 5 minutes I’ll never get back, every time I start a new relationship with any organization.
But wait … I have a vision! Not a big glorious, save humanity vision, it’s more of a save each person 5 minutes of writers cramp, kind of vision. Yes! That kind of glorious vision! …