Repetita iuvant: you’re a Developer, not a Priest

Repetita iuvant (latin): repeating things helps.

In this case, I’d like to repeat a message I sent in the past, but that seems to fall on deaf ears way too often: if you are a Developer, you must not behave like a Priest. I felt the need of repeating it because, in a short time frame, I stumbled upon a couple of websites with messages such as “we don’t support Internet Explorer”. It’s annoying enough to see messages like this on sites made by nerdy teenagers, but when they are written by people who call themselves professionals, it’s unacceptable.

Also, do yourself a favour: don’t be like a guy I met once, who boasted that “his code works 100% on every browser“, when it failed miserably on any version of Internet Explorer. When I pointed it out, he replied that “IE is not a browser, and you are stupid if you use it“. Sure, IE might not be the best browser out there, but calling your potential Clients “stupid” for using it won’t bring you much business.

Being a Professional Software Developer doesn’t just involve coding what you like, when you like and only for what you find cool, but being able to support various technologies and making the most out of them. Keep your Technological Religion wars for yourself, grow up and get over it.

Or keep being stubborn, and just give me the contacts of the Clients you rejected, I’m quite sure I can help them. Your choice.

 

Being a Developer must not become a burden

This post has been inspired by a discussion spawned from a thread on Vanilla Community, about the topic of business models for the products created by Developers. Very briefly, one of the key points was the comparison between a purely commercial model, where (almost) everything that one creates is sold for cold, hard cash, versus a more collaborative one, where Developers give their contribution in form of code and knowledge, and obtain the same in return, without exchange of currency.

Vanilla Community is very much oriented towards the latter approach, by providing an invaluable amount of software, knowledge and expertise, completely free of charge. In that sense, I am kind of a “black sheep”, as I recently decided to start selling some of the plugins I created, rather than giving them away for free. Of course, anyone is free to do what he, or she, likes with the fruit of his, or her, own labour, and I’m not advocating that every single line of code should be sold for big bucks. In fact, I actively contribute to Vanilla Community (and several others) without billing my time, for the sake of helping people the same way they helped me when I started.

Other people do it for passion: they absolutely love coding, or maybe working with a specific set of tools, or even just working in a specific field, and they can’t help but share this passion. As soon as someone asks about something that they love, passionate people give everything they can to help. Some of them even get on a high by doing it. Passion can really be a drug.

Bitter truth

However, and, I would like to add, unfortunately, the world doesn’t run only on good will. One of the issues of having a passion is that such passion can easily be exploited with our consent. I cringe when I hear young Developers saying that “they can’t believe that they get paid to do something they would happily do for free“. That is the first step to get royally screwed by people who have passion for nothing else, but their own profit (I bet many salespeople’s ears are buzzing, right now). When they see that your skills are valuable, but that you are ready to give them away for peanuts, they run to the nearest shop and get you three sacks of them. Don’t expect that they will spend even one second thinking that they are exploiting you. Such concept is unknown to them, that part of their brain tends to malfunction more often than not. In short, apart from rare cases, Companies have no interest in paying you more than what you sell yourself for.

Should you become a “greedy bastard”, then?

Despite greed being built-in in all animals (including humans) as a mechanism for survival, I’m not advocating a greedy behaviour. I simply say that, if you can afford working for free, or for very little, you are conscious of doing it and you are fine with it, there is no harm. This, though, doesn’t mean that you can expect everyone else to do the same, as other people, like myself, for example, have to pay bills and support a family. Even if they just like to smoke cigars and drink expensive Brandy, the bottom line is the same: they need money. That doesn’t make them any worse, or any better than someone who works for pure passion: they just have different needs and priorities, and act accordingly.

My experience

In my 15 years of career, I admit I have worked on many projects just for the sake of it, without expecting (or obtaining) any compensation, therefore I know what it means to work for passion. I also got exploited because of it, and it took me almost five years before “waking up”. Five years in which I got paid X per month, while my employer charged the same amount per day. Considering that all the work was done by me, and that, without me, my employer would not have obtained the contract, I wonder what the hell was I thinking at the time, and why didn’t I set up my own business, instead of “working for passion”. Believe, it’s a painful memory.

My personal recommendation

To all the young Developers out there, I can tell what I already wrote in the past: find your worth, and don’t settle for anything below it. It’s great to have a passion, it’s great to be part of a great Community of free people, but don’t wait to have arrears to pay. Don’t be afraid of asking for money, when your work is valuable to the other party. They surely have a budget, and they expect you to set a price. Besides, negotiating payment is a fundamental skill that any Developer must learn, together with dealing with Clients (on a regular basis) and many other non-technical skills. And, remember, when Clients cry, it’s because they don’t want you to notice that they are actually laughing.

A “song” of warning

I’m closing this post with the translation of one of my favourite songs. It was written in 1971 by one of the best Italian singers ever lived, and it applies quite well to the topic of this post.

Translation is not literal, but the concepts are unaltered. If you wish to listen to the original song, you can find it on YouTube.

A Doctor – F. De Andrè (1971)

As a kid, I wanted to heal the cherry trees, when, red with fruits, I believed them wounded.
Health, in my eyes, had abandoned them, together with the snow-white flowers that they lost.

It was a dream, but it  lasted long, therefore I swore I would become a doctor.
Not for God, not as a game, but so that the cherry trees would bloom again.

And when I finally was a doctor, I didn’t want to betray my childhood dreams.
A lot of them came, and they were called “people”, sick cherry trees in all seasons.

And my colleagues agreed, my colleagues were happy to see in my heart so much will to love.
They sent me their best customers, with the diagnosis right on their faces, the same for them all: sick with hunger, unable to pay.

Then I understood. I was forced to understand, that being a doctor is just a job, that you can’t give science away for free, if you don’t want to get sick with the same condition.
If you don’t  want that the system corners you in your hunger.

And the sure trick is to take advantage of your hunger. Of your children, of your wife, who now despises you.
So I closed in a bottle those snow-white flowers. The label said “Youth Elixir”.

And a judge, a man, sent me to spend my sunsets in prison.
Useless to the world, forever stamped as “trickster and charlatan”. Doctor, Professor Trickster Charlatan.

New Release – Steam ™ Sign In Plugin for Vanilla 2.0

Steam ™ Sign In Plugin for Vanilla 2.0 is now available for purchase. This simple plugin allows your Users to register and log on your forum using their Steam ™ profile. This plugin relies on the OpenID plugin which is shipped with Vanilla.

Important

The OpenID plugin shipped with Vanilla contains a bug which doesn’t allow Users to enter an Email address to associate with their forum account. A fix is being discussed on Vanilla Community, but it’s unofficial. Use it at your risk.

Birthday Discount!

From 16/11/2012 at 7.10 AM (GMT), you can avail of a 10% discount on the total of your shopping, by using coupon code HAPPYBDAY-1211. Discount is available for just 24 hours, and for the first 10 purchases. After all, birthday comes only once a year! 🙂

New Release – LoginGuard for Vanilla 2.0

LoginGuard for Vanilla 2.0 is finally available! Just in time for Samhain, the Celtic New Year.

LoginGuard puts an end to brute force attacks against your Community, by tracking repeated failures and temporarily banning Users who are subject of suck attacks. More information can be found on product page.

Discount!

To celebrate both the release and the Samhain, you can avail of 10% discount by using coupon code THEGUARD-1211.

 

New Release – Basic and Advanced Logger for Vanilla Forums 2.0

It took a while, but it’s finally ready. Basic Logger for Vanilla Forums 2.0 is available for download.

Based on the powerful Apache Log4php, it adds much needed logging capabilities to the already excellent Garden framework, allowing Developers and Administrators to keep track of activities with extreme ease. I strongly believe that, in this era of expected 24/7 website availability, having a log for every website is a must, as one cannot always be present to spot issues as soon as they arise.

Available Versions

Logger plugin comes in two versions, Basic and Advanced. The Basic version of the plugin and has a a few limitations, but it’s perfect to get started, before moving to the more powerful Advanced version. In the latter, I added several features that will help also non-developers to easily configure the plugin and manage their logs.

What makes the Advanced Logger very powerful is the ability of sending log messages to remote log servers, such as PaperTrail and Loggly. Being an Administrator myself, I can save hours of work by having all the logs in one place, rather than having to collect files via FTP and merge them, or parse and import them in a database.

If you are still unsure if this plugin can help you, just give it a try: Basic version is free!