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'[OT] Hiring contract programmers'
2009\04\16@133956 by Vitaliy

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face
William Couture wrote:
> My company recently hired a contract programmer to do a project that we
> didn't have time/resources to do.  So we did several interviews.
>
> One candidate wasn't doing very well, but tried to hide it by talking a
> lot.
>
> So, I asked him a "nonsense" question.  He did not realize that it was
> nonsense, and tried to B***S*** his way through it.
>
> Needless to say, someone else got the job.

Bill, can you share more of this experience? How did you go about finding
the contractors? Was it a large project? Was it successful, and why you
think it was/wasn't?

We find ourselves in these sorts of situations all the time, yet our
experience with outsourcing is all negative.

Vitaliy

2009\04\16@154525 by David Restall - System Administrator

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face
Hi,

> William Couture wrote:
> > My company recently hired a contract programmer to do a project that we
> > didn't have time/resources to do.  So we did several interviews.
> >
> > One candidate wasn't doing very well, but tried to hide it by talking a
> > lot.
> >
> > So, I asked him a "nonsense" question.  He did not realize that it was
> > nonsense, and tried to B***S*** his way through it.
> >
> > Needless to say, someone else got the job.

I remember, years ago, going for an interview and being asked some really
taxing questions and I didnt know many of the answers - I felt that the
questions had deliberately been chosen to avoid my skill set.  I gave
short, 'I don't know, I'd need to find out, look it up etc.' answers.
I got the contract, basically because my boss to be admitted that I was
the only candidate who didn't try to b*sh*t my way out of the situation.
When I later asked him about the questions, he admitted he didn't know
the answers either, he'd looked for obscure questions on the web and
used them.

It was a good contract and he was a good boss, sometimes it's a gut
feeling that counts far more than a list of qualifications.

I've always been willing to go into a contract on either a very short
notice period or short term trial period - if it isn't going to work
out, it's an easy way out, it also lets the employer know (indirectly)
that you're confident in your abilities.

Regards,



D
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>
> Bill, can you share more of this experience? How did you go about finding
> the contractors? Was it a large project? Was it successful, and why you
> think it was/wasn't?
>
> We find ourselves in these sorts of situations all the time, yet our
> experience with outsourcing is all negative.
>
> Vitaliy
>
> --

2009\04\16@164743 by Michael Algernon

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{Quote hidden}

Was it all negative ?  Any positives ?   Can you give a percentage ?
MA
>
> Vitaliy
>


2009\04\16@171432 by Vitaliy

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Michael Algernon wrote:
>> Bill, can you share more of this experience? How did you go about  
>> finding
>> the contractors? Was it a large project? Was it successful, and why  
>> you
>> think it was/wasn't?
>>
>> We find ourselves in these sorts of situations all the time, yet our
>> experience with outsourcing is all negative.
>
> Was it all negative ?  Any positives ?   Can you give a percentage ?
> MA

100% negative.

2009\04\16@173404 by Tamas Rudnai

face picon face
On Thu, Apr 16, 2009 at 10:12 PM, Vitaliy <.....spamKILLspamspam@spam@maksimov.org> wrote:

> >> We find ourselves in these sorts of situations all the time, yet our
> >> experience with outsourcing is all negative.
> >
> > Was it all negative ?  Any positives ?   Can you give a percentage ?
> > MA
>
> 100% negative.


Why was that? Lack of experience / knowledge on the contractor's side?
Communication problems? Or they just did not care bout your project?

Tamas
--
http://www.mcuhobby.com

2009\04\16@174230 by Herbert Graf

picon face
On Thu, 2009-04-16 at 20:45 +0100, David Restall - System Administrator
wrote:
> I remember, years ago, going for an interview and being asked some really
> taxing questions and I didnt know many of the answers - I felt that the
> questions had deliberately been chosen to avoid my skill set.  I gave
> short, 'I don't know, I'd need to find out, look it up etc.' answers.
> I got the contract, basically because my boss to be admitted that I was
> the only candidate who didn't try to b*sh*t my way out of the situation.
> When I later asked him about the questions, he admitted he didn't know
> the answers either, he'd looked for obscure questions on the web and
> used them.

FWIW in interviews I've been part of we ask questions that we consider
reasonable, but at the same time increase in difficulty (to a point
where we'd have trouble answering 100%). The idea is to figure out two
things:

1. how far does the candidate's knowledge go? Nobody knows everything.
2. how does the candidate deal with "not knowing" something? Sometimes
this is the more important thing to figure out. Some will completely try
to bullsh*t their way through it, others handle it honestly. One got
angry and banged his fists on the table...

On the other end, I've had interviews where they asked technical
questions (how would you build a D flip-flop out of gates). Others had
me fill out personality profiles. One even had me do a sort of
intelligence test (word association, logic, even basic math problems).

Another interview basically consisted of me chatting with the
interviewer about the computer industry, it was like two buds just
hanging out, only thing missing was the camp fire and beer, most
enjoyable interview I've ever had. I ended up getting that job!

TTYL

2009\04\16@175256 by Vitaliy

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Tamas Rudnai wrote:
>> >> We find ourselves in these sorts of situations all the time, yet our
>> >> experience with outsourcing is all negative.
>> >
>> > Was it all negative ?  Any positives ?   Can you give a percentage ?
>> > MA
>>
>> 100% negative.
>
>
> Why was that? Lack of experience / knowledge on the contractor's side?
> Communication problems? Or they just did not care bout your project?

I'd like to hear about other people's experiences first. :-)

Have you ever worked with contractors/been a contractor yourself?

Vitaliy

2009\04\16@181747 by Marcel Duchamp

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Vitaliy wrote:

> We find ourselves in these sorts of situations all the time, yet our
> experience with outsourcing is all negative.
>
> 100% negative.
>
> Have you ever worked with contractors/been a contractor yourself?
>
> Vitaliy

I've worked on both sides of the fence here.  In one company, the
management hired consultants and some did great jobs while some did not
do so great.  Usually, the "bad" ones were the result of trying to get
some job done that insiders knew was very hard or impossible to do and
wouldn't touch it so the management hired an outsider.  The outsiders
had less knowledge and in those projects, were doomed.  My take on it
was that management was to blame for the failures.

Later working as an "outsider" doing consulting with another person, we
avoided the jobs that were so ill defined that success was going to be a
moving target, if possible at all.  All the jobs we did usually ended up
with repeat work from the same client.

Aside from the crazies who wanted perpetual motion machines built, the
people we avoided always had the notion that our part of the job was the
bone-head simple part that should take a week or two at most.  They had
done the hard part, the creative part, the inventing part.  Now it just
needed to be "fleshed out" a bit.  People who came to us and said "we
don't know how to do this and need your help" were the ones we would
gladly work for and had the best success with.

I'm tempted to say that if you outsource a lot and it is 100% negative,
then you need to look in the mirror.  Dozens of people on this list work
entirely as "outsource engineering" and do so with complete success.
This would indicate that outsourcing can be profitable for all
concerned.  So if your experience is otherwise, you need to think about
how you go about your business maybe.  This is just a guess based on
nothing more than what you stated above coupled with my experience.

YMMV.





2009\04\16@190115 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Vitaliy wrote:

> I'd like to hear about other people's experiences first. :-)
>
> Have you ever worked with contractors/been a contractor yourself?

I've been a contractor for most of my career, both in electronics and
programming, with generally good experiences. Some jobs didn't work out
well (for some measure of "work out well"); in these cases there mostly
were several layers of contracting involved, and the layer that didn't
work out well was above me and what I could influence. These usually
involved rather complicated company politics on the side of the final
clients.

Gerhard

2009\04\16@193027 by Philip Pemberton

face
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Vitaliy wrote:
> Have you ever worked with contractors/been a contractor yourself?

Been a contractor twice...

#1: The Database
I was asked to develop a database. The goal was basically to have something
that would track what engineers were working on a given job, what parts they'd
used, and how much to bill the customer (including VAT calculations). On top
of this, it had to be accessible from the engineers' mobile phones and/or laptops.
Biggest mistake: starting without a well-defined spec. Customer kept adding
stuff, and adding stuff (more like emailing me and asking "can you do X as
well, it's probably only a small thing"). It took about five weeks to get a
90% working prototype, which passed all the Baseline and Financial tests
(basic functionality and "it calculates numbers properly"). After that, two
more weeks to get far enough through the "additional functionality" list that
the client would consider paying. Even after the app was "done", it took
another four weeks to get the client to pay. They've asked for work since, but
don't seem interested in answering my questions ("we want it to print job
labels too" / "what printer are you using and what do you want on the label" /
<silence>). Then I usually get an email two weeks later -- "Why are you
ignoring us?"

#2: The Simulator
A local council was doing energy-efficiency "audits" (probably the wrong word,
but there you go). Basically going into people's houses on request, and
checking over the heating boiler and timer controller, helping the occupiers
get their bills down and so on. Problem is, people don't read manuals, and
their existing "demo box" (used to teach people how to program the timer
switches) was basically a timer controller, two lightbulbs, and a bit of wire.
"Demo" used in the loosest term -- there was no way to make the clock on the
switch run faster, so you basically had to set it a few minutes after the
current time, and wait. Not exactly ideal.
In this case, I had a 2-hour meeting with the managers who wanted this doing,
and left with an A4 refill pad full of notes, a timer-switch and a couple of
batteries (turns out the switches worked off mains or DC -- quite odd). Two
weeks later I sent them a preliminary design, and a work estimate (rough time
taken, hourly rate, estimated total cost including 15% margin of error and a
disclaimer to the effect of "this is not a final estimate and should not be
considered binding"), and was told "we were under the impression you were
doing this as part of your university coursework" (read: we want it doing for
free). Um, nope. "Well, we won't be pursuing the contract then. Thanks for the
design documents though."

At this point, I've basically given up on contracting...

--
Phil.
piclistspamKILLspamphilpem.me.uk
http://www.philpem.me.uk/

2009\04\17@031807 by Tamas Rudnai

face picon face
On Thu, Apr 16, 2009 at 10:51 PM, Vitaliy <.....spamKILLspamspam.....maksimov.org> wrote:

> I'd like to hear about other people's experiences first. :-)
>
> Have you ever worked with contractors/been a contractor yourself?
>

I have been worked as a contractor and also was working for the Hungarian
Post Office who worked with contractors. The field is not electronics but IT
though.

My experience as a contractor was kind of mixed with good and bad. Some
companies it was so easy to work with, they understood that some procedure
needed to be succeed. With some other companies in the other hand it was
hard to get through anything, they refused to create any project plans or
specification, they thought that things can be done by snapping the finger -
usually these companies changed mind at the very end stage when the
prototype was ready and they realized they just need a "small modification".
Small modification usually involves to redesign the whole lot or just
re-code a month of work. I have learned in a hard way that should not work
without a proper specification and a contract that tells what small
modification the client can make for their money.

I even used to do data recovery from damaged hard drives and that was
sometimes really hard - clients of course were very upset when I have told
to them the bad news as their files cannot be fully recovered and of course
they blamed me because of that. Instead usually they tried to do that by
themselves before coming to me and they made even bigger damage, but it is
hard to explain when they just realized that couple of months of their work
just gone.

As working with contractors in the Hungarian Post Office: It was a large SAP
system with Digital Unix machines and there was a contract with a company
for consultancy. Usually that company made the software updates and the
emergency maintenance. There was a very high level expert there who was
brilliant, fast and cooperative - and there were the others. We were
fighting to get this most experienced one as he made twice as much in a day
than anybody else - and of course the company charged day-by-day basis...

Tamas
--
http://www.mcuhobby.com

2009\04\17@040418 by Alan B. Pearce

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>One got angry and banged his fists on the table...

Sounds like a touch of autism, or similar mental state. I know a guy who
does this sort of thing when he gets frustrated when things don't go right.
On the other hand he has an incredible memory and can recite all sorts of
disparate facts on a wide range of subjects. His biggest problem is he
doesn't seem to realise his 'handicap' (for want of a better word).

2009\04\17@102809 by William Couture

face picon face
On Thu, Apr 16, 2009 at 1:39 PM, Vitaliy <EraseMEspamspam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTmaksimov.org> wrote:

>> My company recently hired a contract programmer to do a project that we
>> didn't have time/resources to do.  So we did several interviews.
>>
>> One candidate wasn't doing very well, but tried to hide it by talking a
>> lot.
>>
>> So, I asked him a "nonsense" question.  He did not realize that it was
>> nonsense, and tried to B***S*** his way through it.
>>
>> Needless to say, someone else got the job.
>
> Bill, can you share more of this experience? How did you go about finding
> the contractors? Was it a large project? Was it successful, and why you
> think it was/wasn't?

We started talking to local contractor shops.  Give them an overview of
what we were looking for, and have them send us resumes.  One shop
mostly in the "we can provide Microsoft certified people!" business, and
didn't really know what embedded programming was.  Another was run
by a man who had spent years in the embedded field, and he sent us
some good resumes.

There were also 2 contractor shops that came in to give us a presentation
on what they could do for us.  One of them was local, but the people
were from India, and between heavy accents (hard to communicate) and
more focus on "Microsoft certified people" instead of embedded, we didn't
do any more with them.  The second was also local, using local people,
but they also brought the person who tried to B*S* the "nonsense" question.
While he wasn't the most experienced person they had, he was the one
they wanted us to hire.

First step was a phone screen.  Call the applicant, and see what they
are like over the phone.  Several were dropped at this point.

Next, ask other people what they thought of the applicant (another
programmer here had spent some years as a consultant, and knew
people to ask).  One person was dropped because of "personality
problems" that don't show on a resume (and may be hard to spot
during an interview).

Bring person in for an interview.  Nothing serious, just about half an
hour or so with myself and another programmer.  Ask questions, see
what they know, what the B***S*** their way through, and what they
admit they don't know.  Are they familiar with I2C and SPI protocols?
Do they understand a "positive logic output" and a "negative logic
output"?  I also asked them to write a line or two of code for common
tasks (i.e. MODBUS is a "big-endian" protocol.  Write a function that
takes a native endian INT and turn it into a big-endian INT.  And maybe
another question or two like that).  Much of this is "get a feel for
applicant."

This is the first time we've brought in a truely "outside" consultant.
Previously, we have farmed some work to an ex-employee.  Since he
wrote the code in the first place, he is the ideal person to make
fixes / updates.  And he works cheap (actually, the boss here has
on occasion told Andy to double his fee).  But this time
  1) This is a new product, based on a new processor (ATMega644P).
      I've written a lot of code for this family, and as able to give the
      contractor the bare bones of running the hardware (interrupt driven
      serial I/O, MODBUS source, interrupt driven display output and
      pushbutton input).  Using this means that the code base is far
      more consistant than starting from scratch (Andy is a nice guy
      and usually writes OK code, but occasionally I want to strangle
      him...)

  2) This is a new product, and requires more work than fixes / updates
      done in "off hours" from another job.

This is is a "work in progress", so I can't say yet if this is going to
work out.  I actually have a "backup plan" in that I think I can bang out
the basics of what we need done in a week.  It will not be what we are
hoping for long term, but will get the current product out the door until
I have more time to do it right (it took me 1 day after the contractor was
hired to cobble together the basics described above from other software
I have written.  This allowed me to test the hardware before the EE went
off on vacation, and what I expected from the contractor at the end of two
weeks (I figured it would take a week for them to get familiar with the new
processor and toolchain, and another week to understand the target
hardware.  I was already familiar with the processor, toolchain, target
hardware, and had much code I could draw from)).

> We find ourselves in these sorts of situations all the time, yet our
> experience with outsourcing is all negative.

One important thing is this is *NOT* "outsourcing".  One of our
requirements is that the contractor work on site.

When outsourcing, you have to have a very compreshensive statement
of work and objectives (to the point where it is usually easier to write
the code yourself rather than write the SRS).  Here, we can give him
direct input and immediate feedback, and check up on his work daily.

Hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions.

Bill

--
Psst...  Hey, you... Buddy...  Want a kitten?  straycatblues.petfinder.org

2009\04\21@022908 by Vitaliy

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William Couture wrote:
>> Bill, can you share more of this experience? How did you go about finding
>> the contractors? Was it a large project? Was it successful, and why you
>> think it was/wasn't?
>
> We started talking to local contractor shops.

Where do you get their contact info?


> There were also 2 contractor shops that came in to give us a presentation
> on what they could do for us.  One of them was local, but the people
> were from India, and between heavy accents (hard to communicate) and
> more focus on "Microsoft certified people" instead of embedded, we didn't
> do any more with them.  The second was also local, using local people,
> but they also brought the person who tried to B*S* the "nonsense"
> question.

I'm intrigued, you mention this B*S* question a second time. What was the
question? :)


> First step was a phone screen.  Call the applicant, and see what they
> are like over the phone.  Several were dropped at this point.

We do this for "normal" hires. Although really, this only happens after step
zero, which is the resume sort.


> Next, ask other people what they thought of the applicant (another
> programmer here had spent some years as a consultant, and knew
> people to ask).  One person was dropped because of "personality
> problems" that don't show on a resume (and may be hard to spot
> during an interview).

This actually sounds a bit dangerous. What if there was some unjustified
personal bias?


{Quote hidden}

Good, good.


{Quote hidden}

Please do let me know how it pans out.


{Quote hidden}

It sure does. We tried it both ways -- "true" outsourcing, and having the
contractor work in-house. Both failed, for various reasons (some our fault,
of course).

Vitaliy

2009\04\21@023242 by Vitaliy

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Marcel Duchamp wrote:
> I'm tempted to say that if you outsource a lot and it is 100% negative,
> then you need to look in the mirror.  Dozens of people on this list work
> entirely as "outsource engineering" and do so with complete success.
> This would indicate that outsourcing can be profitable for all
> concerned.  So if your experience is otherwise, you need to think about
> how you go about your business maybe.  This is just a guess based on
> nothing more than what you stated above coupled with my experience.

You're right, of course. That's why I brought this up: I hope to learn from
other people's experiences, as well as our own.

Vitaliy

2009\04\21@023355 by Vitaliy

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David Restall - System Administrator wrote:
> I've always been willing to go into a contract on either a very short
> notice period or short term trial period - if it isn't going to work
> out, it's an easy way out, it also lets the employer know (indirectly)
> that you're confident in your abilities.

That's definitely a good idea.

Vitaliy

2009\04\21@024427 by Vitaliy

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Herbert Graf wrote:
> FWIW in interviews I've been part of we ask questions that we consider
> reasonable, but at the same time increase in difficulty (to a point
> where we'd have trouble answering 100%). The idea is to figure out two
> things:
>
> 1. how far does the candidate's knowledge go? Nobody knows everything.
> 2. how does the candidate deal with "not knowing" something? Sometimes
> this is the more important thing to figure out. Some will completely try
> to bullsh*t their way through it, others handle it honestly. One got
> angry and banged his fists on the table...

:-) Never happened to me, but we did get a guy once, who got indignant
("there's a TEST?!") He flunked it, of course.


> On the other end, I've had interviews where they asked technical
> questions (how would you build a D flip-flop out of gates). Others had
> me fill out personality profiles. One even had me do a sort of
> intelligence test (word association, logic, even basic math problems).

I don't think I'd ever go for word association, but for a clerk position we
did ask people to do basic math problems (relevant to the position) and put
people's names in alphabetical order.


> Another interview basically consisted of me chatting with the
> interviewer about the computer industry, it was like two buds just
> hanging out, only thing missing was the camp fire and beer, most
> enjoyable interview I've ever had. I ended up getting that job!

I don't trust myself enough to correctly "read" people in a casual
conversation. I prepare a list of questions relevant to the position, ahead
of time. The interview is not 100% structured, there's room for spontaneous
answers and even jokes to put myself and the candidate at ease, but I try to
hit every question on my list. The interviews tend to be rather long, often
in excess of one hour. I can afford it because we rarely interview more than
two people for a position, even one that has several hundred applicants (the
rest are eliminated during the resume sort, or a phone interview).

Vitaliy

2009\04\21@031730 by Vitaliy

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Philip Pemberton wrote:
> At this point, I've basically given up on contracting...

We've had several bad experiences with contractors, but as I mentioned I
think we share a lot of responsibility for it as well. We've learned a
number of lessons, here they are in no particular order (some seem obvious,
thanks to the hindsight syndrome):

- Communication over a distance is probably the biggest problem. Phone,
email, and detailed specs are no substitute for face-to-face conversation.

- One must conduct the process of hiring a contractor the same way one goes
about hiring an employee. Except it is even more essential to find the right
person to do your project, because it takes longer to find out that they're
lazy or incompetent, or both.

Aside: the one on-site contractor we hired, was a guy in his 60s or 70s who
had an impressive resume (which included work done for NASA). He said he
couldn't tell us about most of the projects he'd done because they were done
under NDAs. He spent an hour telling us stories from his glorious past. Two
weeks into the project, my partner called me (I was on vacation), and said
in a worried tone that he was having serious doubts about the guy's
competence.  One week later when I got back, we reviewed the work done up to
that point, and fired him.

- Be weary of the lowest bidder.

- Hire an expert you can trust to get the job done. If you don't feel you
can trust someone, look for somebody else. If you find yourself holding the
contractor's hand and answering basic beginner's questions, cut your losses
short and find someone else to work with.

- Don't try to find comfort in paper. I know some people on this list
strongly disagree with me on this, but there is no substitute for actual
work done, not even the best specs in the world. Periodically, after short
intervals, review the progress. I don't care what the project is, the
contractor must be able to show me real results -- what he spent the last
two weeks on, not just produce documentation that shows how great the
product will be, once it's finished.

I think the bottom line is, a contract relationship is just another human
activity, so in the end, it's all about people. We just haven't found our
Dream Contractor, yet. :-)

Vitaliy

2009\04\21@105351 by Alex Harford

face picon face
On Thu, Apr 16, 2009 at 10:39 AM, Vitaliy <spamspamspam_OUTmaksimov.org> wrote:
>
> We find ourselves in these sorts of situations all the time, yet our
> experience with outsourcing is all negative.

At my previous job, we brought in some outside contractors to do some
well defined tasks.  We had a hardware product that had Windows
drivers, and needed drivers for other operating systems like Symbian,
QNX, Linux.  It allowed full-time employees to continue with their
existing work, and we didn't need to retain the knowledge of
developing those drivers as our core skills.  I think you will
increase your chances of success if you can package up a task with
clearly defined goals.

I wasn't involved in the hiring process, but I believe it was word of mouth.

2009\04\21@120101 by William \Chops\ Westfield

face picon face

On Apr 20, 2009, at 11:28 PM, Vitaliy wrote:

> We tried it both ways -- "true" outsourcing, and having the
> contractor work in-house. Both failed

FWIW, cisco has a long history of hiring contractors "in house" (full  
time, work at the cisco site) for extended periods of time, and I  
think it has worked out well for us.  In some cases, people have been  
hired as regular employees; in other cases not (of the people I know,  
most of the successful "not" cases have been because the contractor  
didn't want to give up the "contractor" status for a "possibly flakey  
startup.")

BillW


2009\04\21@122531 by Tamas Rudnai

face picon face
On Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 5:00 PM, William "Chops" Westfield
<@spam@westfwKILLspamspammac.com>wrote:

> FWIW, cisco has a long history of hiring contractors "in house" (full
> time, work at the cisco site) for extended periods of time, and I
> think it has worked out well for us.  In some cases, people have been
> hired as regular employees; in other cases not (of the people I know,
> most of the successful "not" cases have been because the contractor
> didn't want to give up the "contractor" status for a "possibly flakey
> startup.")
>

In Hungary for a very long time it was a common tax-trick so that the
company payed the salary like this - they did not have to pay taxes too much
as that was an expense instead of a salary, and the employee did not have to
pay the income tax only for the 'minimum salary'. That time everyone had
'company cars' and virtually everything was expensed by the employee, like
buying a furniture - that belongs to the self employment company as the
office need some furnishings... Mobile phones, bills etc etc etc. Even there
were people collecting bills as salaried people did not need to keep the
bill but tax cheaters needed _any_ kind of bills. Of course it was a
paradise for off-shore companies as well - they were the 'sub-contractors'
so that the Hungarian registered companies did not have to pay too much
profit related tax either.

Tamas
--
http://www.mcuhobby.com

2009\04\21@130431 by Vitaliy

flavicon
face
William "Chops" Westfield wrote:
> FWIW, cisco has a long history of hiring contractors "in house" (full
> time, work at the cisco site) for extended periods of time, and I
> think it has worked out well for us.  In some cases, people have been
> hired as regular employees; in other cases not (of the people I know,
> most of the successful "not" cases have been because the contractor
> didn't want to give up the "contractor" status for a "possibly flakey
> startup.")

I wonder how they get away with it. The IRS has pretty stringent guidelines
as far as who can be considered a contractor. In their ideal vision of the
world, everyone should be an employee (=more tax revenue).

Vitaliy

2009\04\21@130654 by Vitaliy
flavicon
face
Alex Harford wrote:
> At my previous job, we brought in some outside contractors to do some
> well defined tasks.  We had a hardware product that had Windows
> drivers, and needed drivers for other operating systems like Symbian,
> QNX, Linux.  It allowed full-time employees to continue with their
> existing work, and we didn't need to retain the knowledge of
> developing those drivers as our core skills.  I think you will
> increase your chances of success if you can package up a task with
> clearly defined goals.

Makes sense.


> I wasn't involved in the hiring process, but I believe it was word of
> mouth.

This would be pretty hard to do for us, being a relatively young and small
company.


2009\04\21@131846 by William \Chops\ Westfield

face picon face

On Apr 21, 2009, at 10:03 AM, Vitaliy wrote:

>> FWIW, cisco has a long history of hiring contractors "in house" (full
>> time, work at the cisco site)
>
> I wonder how they get away with it. The IRS has pretty stringent  
> guidelines
> as far as who can be considered a contractor. In their ideal vision  
> of the
> world, everyone should be an employee (=more tax revenue).

I dunno.  We also use contractors for janitorial services, cafeteria  
service, childcare, and so on.  I imagine that there are ways that  
keep the IRS happy, and still work out better "on the books" to have  
contractors...

BillW

2009\04\21@134139 by Bob Axtell

face picon face
Interesting comments.

I have done contracting almost my entire life.

All I do now is write PIC assembly and advise on hardware design...
nothing else. So I see no need for me to be "ONSITE" to do this. The
way I show what I can do is to simply present a bill when it is
_done_, withholding the source until I am paid. That eliminates all
uncertainty. It has always worked except for one case, where the
client didn't actually know what he wanted done. I finally had to stop
working on it, so was paid nothing.

--Bob

On 4/21/09, Vitaliy <KILLspamspamKILLspamspammaksimov.org> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> -

2009\04\21@152328 by alan smith

picon face

And what is your dream contractor?  Bob is not far from you, and he appears to be a pretty smart guy!

I do contracting

I manage contractors

Its interesting to see both sides of it


--- On Tue, 4/21/09, Vitaliy <RemoveMEspamTakeThisOuTspammaksimov.org> wrote:

{Quote hidden}

> --

2009\04\21@155001 by Vitaliy

flavicon
face
alan smith wrote:
> And what is your dream contractor?

My dream contractor? He reads my mind, works around the clock, and works for
free. :-)

I post various projects from time to time here, but we haven't had the
courage to outsource a project, since 2005.


> Bob is not far from you, and he appears to be a pretty smart guy!

No argument there. Maybe we'll get to work on some future project.


> I do contracting
>
> I manage contractors
>
> Its interesting to see both sides of it

Care to share? :)


2009\04\21@161754 by Vitaliy

flavicon
face
Bob Axtell wrote:
> Interesting comments.
>
> I have done contracting almost my entire life.
>
> All I do now is write PIC assembly and advise on hardware design...
> nothing else. So I see no need for me to be "ONSITE" to do this. The
> way I show what I can do is to simply present a bill when it is
> _done_, withholding the source until I am paid. That eliminates all
> uncertainty. It has always worked except for one case, where the
> client didn't actually know what he wanted done. I finally had to stop
> working on it, so was paid nothing.

I don't know if we would be comfortable with this type of arrangement... I
would actually prefer to pay-as-we-go but have access to the source at all
times. Otherwise, how can we judge the quality of the code?

It doesn't sound like it's an ideal situation for you, either... you risk
not getting paid at all, after you do the entire project.

Regarding "no need to work ONSITE". While it may be true for small projects
where the requirements are very clear, I don't see it working on longer term
projects. The requirements on our projects are constantly changing (albeit
in small increments), so this would drive anybody nuts, unless they keep
themselves in the loop by attending the impromptu meeting sessions.

Vitaliy

2009\04\21@174011 by Bob Axtell

face picon face
I guess it wouldn't be hard in your case, Vitraly, as you are just 100
miles from me....

--Bob

On Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 1:17 PM, Vitaliy <RemoveMEspamspamTakeThisOuTmaksimov.org> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

> -

2009\04\21@234133 by Vitaliy

flavicon
face
Bob Axtell wrote:
>I guess it wouldn't be hard in your case, Vitraly, as you are just 100
> miles from me....

Are you talking about the "work onsite" part?


2009\04\22@090731 by alan smith

picon face

Share...sure, I have about 30 seconds...busy busy ya know

Managing contractors.  Well, with some you have to just try to keep them happy by telling them enough that they feel they are in the loop, while not exposing them to EVERYTHING that is going on.  We have some very long term relationships, and its worked out well with those.  They are committed to us, because they have been doing work for many years, even before I arrived on the scene a few years ago.  Others, well...its been a struggle.  You never know when or what they are doing till you finally either go see them onsite, bring them in or have a 'goto meeting' and expose them.  I have one right now that is VERY capable, Im impressed with his firmware, but his time is like a rollercoaster...sometimes he puts in a good day, othertimes he is busy with other things....ie..gone fishing.

It really depends on the project.  If its a single 'thing' thats self containted, much much easier to have the contractor just do the work.  MUCH more difficult if you have multiple resources working on different pieces in differnt parts of the country or world.  Don't get me started on outsourcing to lands far away...... (not saying only the good engineers are in the USA...its more of the time difference, and the way some remote engineering firms are managed..leave it at that).

However, its a struggle from a management side (me) in that I have to make sure the communications are working...if team A needs something fixed that team B is doing...call em up, or something.  I have to almost anticipate what is going on in order to keep things moving forward, and if something isnt going right, or a quick change in code or hardware is needed, I'll just do it in order to try and stay on schedule.


Flip side...me the contractor.  First might say...you manage contractors and yet you are one.  Yes, for several reasons.  I always say the best engineers are contractors, because of the wide variety of projects you are exposed to.  I know many,many,many engineers that have been stuck in one job doing one thing, and finally they are forced to look for new work.  Skill set is gone, or no longer current, so what do they do?  I can count on one hand (maybe half the other hand) the number of engineers I have worked with over the last 20 years that can do code, hardware (analog/digital), pcb layout and know how to use test equipment.  Most can capture schematics, but have NO clue how that relates to PCB layout.  No clue.  So I contract out myself on a limited basis, and have a small list of clients that continue to feed me work, plus now and then one-off jobs.  I undertand that its ME that they are depending on to make the payroll, or to introduce a new
product, or that they have a customer that needs a change or fix TOMORROW because of other deadlines.  I've come in and cleaned up messes left by others, so that someone else who might come in later can actually understand what was done.  For some local guys, I go spend my lunch hour at their shop or office...seeing what that bug is, so I can have a fix that night.  I charge a fair rate, but on the other hand, I also don't nickle and dime them for everything.  If I get a call...hey I need that file...I zip and send and I dont charge them.  Hell, I might even spend an hour fixing something and never send a bill, but they come back to me because they know I service them in times of crisis, and give me the new work that I make good money on.  Do I give away my time for free when they call and say....ever seen this...or...this part went obsolete can you find a replacement.  What goes around, comes around.

Ok..spent too much time answering, hope that gave you some insight.





--- On Tue, 4/21/09, Vitaliy <spamEraseMEspam.....maksimov.org> wrote:

{Quote hidden}

> --

2009\04\22@112030 by Bob Axtell

face picon face
yes, I'd stay in an inexpensive hotel there, then come home every Friday.
But at this instance, i am busy coding...

--Bob

On Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 8:40 PM, Vitaliy <RemoveMEspamspam_OUTspamKILLspammaksimov.org> wrote:
> Bob Axtell wrote:
>>I guess it wouldn't be hard in your case, Vitraly, as you are just 100
>> miles from me....
>
> Are you talking about the "work onsite" part?
>
>
> -

2009\04\22@143955 by Tony Smith

flavicon
face
I've done that, it gets old fast (and the hotels have been fairly nice too).

Young enthusiastic recruiters just can't understand why you're not as
excited as they are about travel.  "but... but... it's got travel!  Travel!
TRAVEL!!!".

Tony


{Quote hidden}

2009\04\22@182115 by Vitaliy

flavicon
face

----- Original Message -----
From: "Tony Smith" <EraseMEajsmithspamspamspamBeGonebeagle.com.au>
To: "'Microcontroller discussion list - Public.'" <RemoveMEpiclistKILLspamspammit.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 11:37
Subject: RE: [OT] Hiring contract programmers


> I've done that, it gets old fast (and the hotels have been fairly nice
> too).
>
> Young enthusiastic recruiters just can't understand why you're not as
> excited as they are about travel.  "but... but... it's got travel!
> Travel!
> TRAVEL!!!".

I've been there too. :) After about six weeks of constant travel, I said "I
don't care about the money, I just want to stay at home".

Vitaliy

2009\04\23@102017 by Peter

picon face
Vitaliy <spam <at> maksimov.org> writes:
> in excess of one hour. I can afford it because we rarely interview more than
> two people for a position, even one that has several hundred applicants (the
> rest are eliminated during the resume sort, or a phone interview).

Could you elaborate on the 'resume sort' that eliminates 98% of the applicants,
and, thus, should be 98% accurate (for 100 applicants) ? Or is it the phone
interview that eliminates most of them (and achieves the high accuracy) ?

thanks,

 Peter

2009\04\23@111147 by Peter

picon face
Alex Harford <harford <at> gmail.com> writes:
> At my previous job, we brought in some outside contractors to do some
> well defined tasks.  We had a hardware product that had Windows
...
> increase your chances of success if you can package up a task with
> clearly defined goals.

I strongly believe that contractors working full time on the premises in the
domain of the company (i.e. not nannies, nurses, cooks and window-washers) are
actually 'temporary workers' and that calling them otherwise is a form of tax or
insurance fraud. I have good reasons to believe that the tax laws in at least 3
developed countries strongly agree with me here. Maybe in the USA it is
possible, but elsewhere it is not a good idea. I heard of 'contractors' being
downgraded retroactively (during tax review) to temps, with $$$$ consequences
for the company and for the 'contractors'. I also believe that such contractors
are necessary and *contractors* when they do a specific job for a specific
limited amount of time (and the tax man agrees with me here too).

It also seems that for some reason clients employing a contractor on a 'testing
basis' can offer half or less the pay normally assigned to that kind of work.
They claim that it's for 'testing' and later it will be re-negotiated. Hello?!
Some things will be done for free or at material cost, to see how things work
out later, even if lengthy and prestige-related, but half *pay* for real *work*
is an insult.

In general, when something is outsourced an interface is built that consists in
a specification, cost and time-frame, with or without (uhh) checkpoints. It does
not matter whether it's a patio, a new roof or a controller project. There is a
spec, a time-frame, a cost frame, and a final inspection in any case, as well as
risk that may have to be hedged with insurance. How the contractor does it, is
not relevant. He is hired because he can do the work. A prefabricated or
assembled off site roof or patio or controller cannot be 'inspected' while it is
being built elsewhere, at best, one can have progress reports from a designated
contact person, and, no, factory or lab site visits that allow the client to
glean important manufacturing and design technology details and later implement
them on his premises foregoing the contractor later, are NOT ok in the vast
majority of cases. The contractor's work place has NOT just become an
inspectable and accountable part of the client's business. Some people on this
list post pictures of their private labs, looking more or less pristine (or
not). That's an advertisement, not an invitation to drop in at any time, day or
night, or 'invite' yourself over, to 'see how it's really done'.

'Testing' the contractor (otherwise than by accepting his portfolio or other
bona fide) sounds like testing a temp employee. Does one test an IBM
salesman/integrator before buying from him or before letting him and his workers
install a computer room and start up the servers ? No. How about your favorite
Microchip FAE ? Maybe not. Then why the contractor ? How is he different from
the roofer or from the IBM man ? The only person one would 'test' would be a
temp *employee*.

Control freaks pay for the adrenalin and ego rush they get from 'full' control
with endless amounts of wasted time and implicitly money, and eventually manage
to p*** off the most patient person, turn away clients, and even cause their
best workers to just walk. Eventually you have to trust someone, and no-one is
perfect.

The 'interface' with a worker or a contractor is in general a type of
requirement sheet or a contract. If it is too long or complex, then the problem
to be solved has not been defined sufficiently. There is no substitute for a
concise, short contract or work sheet that everyone understands. 'Expanding'
this into a 100 page document by endless discussions is not a good idea.
Hand-waving and weekly 'architecting' meetings are not going to get you there.

I have had success writing the spec sheet and drawing the block diagram of the
device before, as a basis for the 'interface', using successive discussions and
obvious technical data acquisition, and standards and safety reviews. All of it
2 pages. Add to this 10 pages of menus and button descriptions (mostly user
manual style graphical with comments) and there is a product spec. This I made
into the user *manual*, which was accepted by the client. The product was
designed and built after *that* manual. Voila, three minor software revisions
later (all compile time flags selecting options), one supply related CPU change
later, and one minor board revision later, it was accepted, on time and in
budget. Just as an example (I guess this is top down hardware design <vbg>).

Of course with a sufficiently complex multi-node device it can take 6 months of
building and several days of integration sessions to make things work, but the
basic principle is the same. Clean 'client' interface design, specs, sign it
off, get work done to (identically and functionally) resemble specification.

Peter


2009\04\23@120330 by William Couture

face picon face
I really should reply to this thread more (since I started it...)

On Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 10:19 AM, Peter <plpeter2006STOPspamspamspam_OUTyahoo.com> wrote:
> Vitaliy <spam <at> maksimov.org> writes:
>> in excess of one hour. I can afford it because we rarely interview more than
>> two people for a position, even one that has several hundred applicants (the
>> rest are eliminated during the resume sort, or a phone interview).
>
> Could you elaborate on the 'resume sort' that eliminates 98% of the applicants,
> and, thus, should be 98% accurate (for 100 applicants) ? Or is it the phone
> interview that eliminates most of them (and achieves the high accuracy) ?

When you look at the resume for an embedded position, how well does it
match up to the experience you expect?

Have they been doing embedded recently, or years ago?

Have they been doing primarily embedded, or mostly webpages / Excel?

Have the companies they have been working for known for their
embedded products, or is it just a sideline?

Do they claim to know C / Assembly, hardware protocols (I2C , SPI),
and comm protocols (MODBUS or whatever you want)?  Is there any
sign that they use them extensively, or just have encountered them?

Information like this, coupled with a phone screen that checks
to see that they actually have some of the knowledge they claim on
their resume will eliminate many candidates.

Bill

--
Psst...  Hey, you... Buddy...  Want a kitten?  straycatblues.petfinder.org

2009\04\23@130916 by Peter

picon face
William Couture <bcouture <at> gmail.com> writes:
> Information like this, coupled with a phone screen that checks
> to see that they actually have some of the knowledge they claim on
> their resume will eliminate many candidates.

Thanks for that comment.

So, still, this means that assuming the applicant is an engineer with
experience, who studied for at least 4 years and likely practiced for at least 4
more, is screened for what he knows in a 2-step process (resume screening and
phone interview) that likely takes much less than an hour (each step), which
achieves 98% accuracy. That means that each screening (resume and phone
interview) is at least about 86% accurate, and rejects a lot of applicants.

Given that f.ex. a full length professionally designed and administered
university exam will reject only about 20% of candidates at any given level, and
take well over three hours per test (with several tests per exam usually), the
hiring testing/screening standards must be very good by any measure, be
'designed' ad-hoc by engineers and hr employees who do not design exams for a
living in a few hours, and must carry a very high level of confidence.

Interesting numerical and psychological insights into hiring policy :) They sort
of sum up the current 'superiority' of Western manufacturing and engineering
companies, as well as their economic 'success' in not so many words. Not that
I'd have a solution for that. It's just the way things are, I guess.

In any case, non-Western management style still has a long way to go to match
the Western managerial teams on the green turf and in spending power.

Peter

PS: I am well aware that one cannot talk about 'statistics' when considering one
or two job openings and hundreds of applicants, but waving some numbers instead
of just hot air over it is still something, as opposed to nothing imho.


2009\04\23@132038 by Peter

picon face
Vitaliy <spam <at> maksimov.org> writes:
> I've been there too. :) After about six weeks of constant travel, I said "I
> don't care about the money, I just want to stay at home".

Vitaliy, what is your opinion on modern telecommuting (including remote presence
at daily conferences etc), given you are an advocate of work being done 'on
site', and constant checkpoints ? Not the technical side(s) of it, the human
point of view ?

thanks,

 Peter


2009\04\24@022249 by Vitaliy

flavicon
face
alan smith wrote:
> Share...sure, I have about 30 seconds...busy busy ya know
>
> Managing contractors.  Well, with some you have to just try to keep them
> happy by telling them enough that they feel they are in the loop, while
> not exposing them to EVERYTHING that is going on.  We have some very long
> term relationships, and its worked out well with those.  They are
> committed to us, because they have been doing work for many years, even
> before I arrived on the scene a few years ago.  Others, well...its been a
> struggle.  You never know when or what they are doing till you finally
> either go see them onsite, bring them in or have a 'goto meeting' and
> expose them.  I have one right now that is VERY capable, Im impressed with
> his firmware, but his time is like a rollercoaster...sometimes he puts in
> a good day, othertimes he is busy with other things....ie..gone fishing.<


If you don't mind me asking, do you work for a defence contractor, or a
government agency? The reason I ask is because the standards for those types
of jobs seem to be vastly different from the private sector.

By the way, we started using GoToMeeting a year ago, and found to be
indespensible for technical support, and "show-and-tell"s.


> It really depends on the project.  If its a single 'thing' thats self
> containted, much much easier to have the contractor just do the work.
> MUCH more difficult if you have multiple resources working on different
> pieces in differnt parts of the country or world.  Don't get me started on
> outsourcing to lands far away...... (not saying only the good engineers
> are in the USA...its more of the time difference, and the way some remote
> engineering firms are managed..leave it at that).<

Makes sense.


> However, its a struggle from a management side (me) in that I have to make
> sure the communications are working...if team A needs something fixed that
> team B is doing...call em up, or something.  I have to almost anticipate
> what is going on in order to keep things moving forward, and if something
> isnt going right, or a quick change in code or hardware is needed, I'll
> just do it in order to try and stay on schedule.<


I get to do this sort of thing with regular employees. :)


> Flip side...me the contractor.  First might say...you manage contractors
> and yet you are one.  Yes, for several reasons.  I always say the best
> engineers are contractors, because of the wide variety of projects you are
> exposed to.  I know many,many,many engineers that have been stuck in one
> job doing one thing, and finally they are forced to look for new work.
> Skill set is gone, or no longer current, so what do they do? <

Collect unemployment, then get jobs delivering pizza, or as baggers at the
local supermarket?


> I can count on one hand (maybe half the other hand) the number of
> engineers I have worked with over the last 20 years that can do code,
> hardware (analog/digital), pcb layout and know how to use test equipment.
> <

I pretend that I know all three. :)


> Most can capture schematics, but have NO clue how that relates to PCB
> layout.  No clue.  <

This is pretty sad. Our interns learn this within their first two months on
the job.


{Quote hidden}

Yes, it did -- thank you very much! It sounds like you have a hectic
lifestyle, so -- thank you double for your time! :-)

Vitaliy

2009\04\24@033048 by William \Chops\ Westfield

face picon face

On Apr 23, 2009, at 10:08 AM, Peter wrote:

> That means that each screening (resume and phone interview) is at  
> least about 86% accurate, and rejects a lot of applicants.

Um.  I'm not sure I follow your math, but in any case I think what you  
MEAN is that each screening ELIMINATES 86% of the applicants. By  
definition, you have to narrow down hundreds of applicants (perhaps,  
if you're lucky) to ONE person to hire.  Whether your process does so  
with any ACCURACY is another question entirely. (whether it does so  
EFFECTIVELY (ie whether you get someone who can do the job) is a  
DIFFERENT question.  You never know whether you got the BEST person  
for the job (that's usually ok, because the job has a habit of  
changing anyway, and you're better off having gotten a person who can  
change to the new requirements rather than the perfect person for the  
original problem.))

1) Have you ever looked at the pile of resumes that show up in  
response to a job advertisement?  You could swear that 80%+ of the  
respondents didn't even look at the job requirements, and another 15%  
chose to ignore them.  If you have a larger company, you get a  
constant inflow of resumes that aren't even in response to a  
particular posting (and HR will run their software and discard 90% of  
them before a hiring manager ever gets to see them.)

(This is why it is important to have a carefully written resume, and  
why it can pay to customize the resume to the position you're applying  
for, and why it is REALLY important to get past HR if you can.)

2) Accuracy?!  I take it as a given that hiring someone is not a very  
accurate process.  You get to decide (sort of) whether you'd rather  
miss people who would have been good, or hire people who aren't as  
good as you'd hope.  And a lot seems to come down to un-quantifiable  
evaluation you can't get from a resume "would they fit in well  
here." (Especially, "I want someone to do something that has hardly  
ever been done before.  So I have to guess whether this person will be  
able to do it based on what they've already done, what they seem to  
know, and their 'attitude.'")

BillW

2009\04\24@034711 by William \Chops\ Westfield

face picon face

On Apr 23, 2009, at 8:11 AM, Peter wrote:

> I strongly believe that contractors working full time on the  
> premises in the domain of the company are actually 'temporary  
> workers' and that calling them otherwise is a form of tax or  
> insurance fraud. I have good reasons to believe that the tax laws in  
> at least 3 developed countries strongly agree with me here. Maybe in  
> the USA it is possible, but elsewhere it is not a good idea.

I dunno what the applicable laws are in the US.  Insurance is surely  
different here than many places, for example.  It's common for  
contractors to get paid significantly more than the equivalent  
permanent worker (when I went from contractor/consultant to employee  
at cisco, I took a pay cut (but I got stock options :-))  I never  
reached the levels of management where the subtleties were explained  
to me, but we do tend to be carefully legal.  It is presumably  
important that the contractor or contracting agency pay their proper  
taxes as well...

In the US it seems to be more of a scheme to work around internal  
funding differences.  Certain projects get funded with a certain  
headcount (real employees) plus a certain amount of funding for non-
headcount things.  I think it is those non-headcount things that can  
include "consultants."

Whatever, we've had employees that were contactors for years prior,  
and decried their missing stock options, and other who came and went  
with a single effort.  Keeping such talent as we discover we LIKE,  
often involves bending the usual process to fit their demands (and it  
seems there are a fair number of people who LIKE not being tied down  
to a major company.)

BillW

2009\04\24@082727 by Tony Smith

flavicon
face
> > Could you elaborate on the 'resume sort' that eliminates 98% of the
applicants,
> > and, thus, should be 98% accurate (for 100 applicants) ? Or is it the
phone
{Quote hidden}

A friend has a quick test to eliminate about 99% of her applicants.  She
needs people to clean up documents, manuscripts etc, and simply turns on the
'show formatting' after loading their Word format resume.  They need to know
styles, and it's easy to spot those that don't.

For example, to create that blank line above I hit Enter twice - a big no-no
in publishing.  Separating paragraphs is called 'ledding' (or at least
pronounced that way), and comes from typesetting where they'd literally add
a strip of lead to create the gap.  Now you just set the paragraph space for
that text style.

Quite handy at times, eg if you have a document that almost-but-not-quite
fits on one page, you can knock the paragraph spacing down a tiny amount,
and this will move everything slightly together to make it fit.

For anyone hiring a technical writer etc, this test would also work.

You'd think with more web sites using CSS (same idea as Word styles) that
more people would pass her test, but after looking at most web sites source
it appears a lot of people just don't quite grasp the concept.

Tony

2009\04\24@085228 by Tamas Rudnai

face picon face
On Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 1:25 PM, Tony Smith <spamBeGoneajsmithSTOPspamspamEraseMEbeagle.com.au> wrote:

> For example, to create that blank line above I hit Enter twice - a big
> no-no
> in publishing.  Separating paragraphs is called 'ledding' (or at least
> pronounced that way), and comes from typesetting where they'd literally add
> a strip of lead to create the gap.  Now you just set the paragraph space
> for
> that text style.
>

Unfortunately you cannot do that with C or Assembly -- resume is not written
in source code :-) These kind of things only reveals on the interview by
either taking questions verbal or do some questionnaire. Surprisingly many
people do not know bitwise operations very well and also they do not know
what heap buffer overflow means. For junior position I guess you do not need
to know that but for seniors you would need to know even all the tools and
methods to determine these kind of problems.

Tamas
--
http://www.mcuhobby.com

2009\04\24@112133 by Tony Smith

flavicon
face
> > For example, to create that blank line above I hit Enter twice - a big
> > no-no
> > in publishing.  Separating paragraphs is called 'ledding' (or at least
> > pronounced that way), and comes from typesetting where they'd literally
add
> > a strip of lead to create the gap.  Now you just set the paragraph space
> > for
> > that text style.
> >
>
> Unfortunately you cannot do that with C or Assembly -- resume is not
written
> in source code :-) These kind of things only reveals on the interview by
> either taking questions verbal or do some questionnaire. Surprisingly many
> people do not know bitwise operations very well and also they do not know
> what heap buffer overflow means. For junior position I guess you do not
need
> to know that but for seniors you would need to know even all the tools and
> methods to determine these kind of problems.


Yes, she does have an advantage in the 'show us an example of your work'
department.

Perhaps something along the lines of this:
<http://www.arttec.net/art/Relevators/DNR20/DNR20.html> for the embedded
folk.  A bit pricey though, you'll be thinking carefully before sending a
resume out.

It is surprising how little some people know, and sometimes you don't
realise it because you assume they know what they're doing.  At a job once
someone hired his mate as a programmer because 'he is really good'.  He
asked me quite a few questions, reasonable ones but what you'd expect from a
'really good' programmer, and nothing you couldn't find in 60 seconds with
Google anyway.  I never bothered to find out what he was actually doing.  

One day I got the question "How do I get a value out of a subroutine?"  Eh?
My brain did a few cycles while I tried to figure out what he meant (make it
a function?  Pass by reference not value?  Set the return value?) but before
I could answer he solved it himself.  "I know, I'll just make everything
global!"  He was quite pleased with his solution.

The same bloke could also write a one page document for something that could
be described in one line.  I'm sure there's a need for that in some
industries.

Tony

2009\04\24@114419 by John Day

flavicon
face
At 11:19 AM 4/24/2009, Tony Smith wrote:

>One day I got the question "How do I get a value out of a subroutine?"  Eh?
>My brain did a few cycles while I tried to figure out what he meant (make it
>a function?  Pass by reference not value?  Set the return value?) but before
>I could answer he solved it himself.  "I know, I'll just make everything
>global!"  He was quite pleased with his solution.
>
>The same bloke could also write a one page document for something that could
>be described in one line.  I'm sure there's a need for that in some
>industries.


Hang on, I think I know this guy!

:)

JD



>Tony
>
>

2009\04\24@115301 by William Couture

face picon face
On Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 11:19 AM, Tony Smith <KILLspamajsmithspamBeGonespambeagle.com.au> wrote:

> The same bloke could also write a one page document for something that could
> be described in one line.  I'm sure there's a need for that in some
> industries.

Don't lawyers charge by the word?

Bill

--
Psst...  Hey, you... Buddy...  Want a kitten?  straycatblues.petfinder.org

2009\04\24@121842 by Funny NYPD

picon face
what a small world.

Funny N.
Au Group Electronics, http://www.AuElectronics.com




________________________________
From: John Day <EraseMEjohn.dayspamEraseMEsiliconrailway.com>
To: Microcontroller discussion list - Public. <@spam@piclist@spam@spamspam_OUTmit.edu>
Sent: Friday, April 24, 2009 11:44:14 AM
Subject: RE: [OT] Hiring contract programmers

At 11:19 AM 4/24/2009, Tony Smith wrote:

{Quote hidden}

Hang on, I think I know this guy!

:)

JD



>Tony
>
>

2009\04\24@122211 by Neil Cherry

flavicon
face
Tony Smith wrote:

> One day I got the question "How do I get a value out of a subroutine?"  Eh?
> My brain did a few cycles while I tried to figure out what he meant (make it
> a function?  Pass by reference not value?  Set the return value?) but before
> I could answer he solved it himself.  "I know, I'll just make everything
> global!"  He was quite pleased with his solution.

I have the opposite sort of problem, I know lots of various stuff
and often use Google, books, notes and code libraries to remember
the rest. I'm not very good at stating what I know and it shows on
my resume. :-/ I have to figure out how to market myself better!

Oh, I'm not a Mr. Know-it-all and I play nice with others. :-)

--
Linux Home Automation         Neil Cherry       spamBeGonencherryspamKILLspamlinuxha.com
http://www.linuxha.com/                         Main site
http://linuxha.blogspot.com/                    My HA Blog
Author of:            Linux Smart Homes For Dummies

2009\04\24@124348 by Tamas Rudnai

face picon face
It reminds me to an interview many years ago. It was a questionnaire about C
and the question was what compile time conditional directives I know. The
question seemed too simple so I was thinking there is a trick somewhere in
the sentence. I kept reading the question for at least 3 times before
answered. They might thinking that "This guy is not quite confident thinking
on such a simple question for such long" :-)

Tamas


On Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 4:19 PM, Tony Smith <.....ajsmithspam_OUTspambeagle.com.au> wrote:

{Quote hidden}

> -

2009\04\24@124705 by Tony Smith

flavicon
face
> >One day I got the question "How do I get a value out of a subroutine?"
Eh?
> >My brain did a few cycles while I tried to figure out what he meant (make
it
> >a function?  Pass by reference not value?  Set the return value?) but
before
> >I could answer he solved it himself.  "I know, I'll just make everything
> >global!"  He was quite pleased with his solution.
> >
> >The same bloke could also write a one page document for something that
could
> >be described in one line.  I'm sure there's a need for that in some
> >industries.
>
>
> Hang on, I think I know this guy!
>
> :)


I see him in the mirror occasionally.

Tony

2009\04\24@125021 by Tony Smith

flavicon
face
> > One day I got the question "How do I get a value out of a subroutine?"
Eh?
> > My brain did a few cycles while I tried to figure out what he meant
(make it
> > a function?  Pass by reference not value?  Set the return value?) but
before
{Quote hidden}

I do the same thing, it's nice not to have to need to remember every tiny
detail now or which book it was in.  Moderns IDEs with the various
auto-complete thingys are a godsend.

Tony

2009\04\24@130250 by Tony Smith

flavicon
face
> > One day I got the question "How do I get a value out of a subroutine?"
Eh?
> > My brain did a few cycles while I tried to figure out what he meant
(make it
> > a function?  Pass by reference not value?  Set the return value?) but
before
{Quote hidden}

I'll just add the sort of questions he was asking (this was VB stuff) were
along the lines of 'why doesn't FTP work?' (well-known bug), 'how do I get a
pop-up on right-click' (context sensitive menus) and so on.  Not exactly
beginner stuff, I figured it was just easier & faster for him to ask me than
Google it.  He was fine once given a nudge in the right direction, so it
wasn't like he needed his hand held for the trip.  He never asked the same
question twice (and everyone does that!).

All of that is what made the 'values from a subroutine' question somewhat
startling.  It's like having a racing car driver ask you about the round
thing in front of his seat.

Tony

2009\04\24@130815 by Rolf

flavicon
face
Tony Smith wrote:
...
> The same bloke could also write a one page document for something that could
> be described in one line.  I'm sure there's a need for that in some
> industries.
>
> Tony

They are called patent attorneys.

Rolf

2009\04\24@133051 by Tony Smith

flavicon
face
> > The same bloke could also write a one page document for something that
could
> > be described in one line.  I'm sure there's a need for that in some
> > industries.
> >
> > Tony
>
> They are called patent attorneys.


I remember Olin giving the plain English version of his patent because we
were unlikely to understand the legalese.

This bloke might have been perfect for that.

I remember one document was for a system that assigned people customer
numbers when they registered (by phone) for a service.  As usual, the
assigned numbers were sequential, but you always rig these things so the
first customer doesn't get 1, they get 1033 or whatever.

He had a half page description which I crossed out and replaced with
'CustomerNumber = RecordNumber + 1000'.

I'm not sure why people do that.  On the other hand, writing is harder than
it looks.  Anyone can write 5 pages of drivel, but condensing it to a few
clear paragraphs takes a bit of skill.

Tony

2009\04\25@032420 by Vitaliy

flavicon
face
William "Chops" Westfield wrote:
> Um.  I'm not sure I follow your math, but in any case I think what you
> MEAN is that each screening ELIMINATES 86% of the applicants. By
> definition, you have to narrow down hundreds of applicants (perhaps,
> if you're lucky) to ONE person to hire.  Whether your process does so
> with any ACCURACY is another question entirely. (whether it does so
> EFFECTIVELY (ie whether you get someone who can do the job) is a
> DIFFERENT question.

It's great to have one's experience confirmed. :)

However...

>You never know whether you got the BEST person
> for the job (that's usually ok, because the job has a habit of
> changing anyway, and you're better off having gotten a person who can
> change to the new requirements rather than the perfect person for the
> original problem.))

This will sound presumptious, but using the tried and true process I
described earlier, the chances of hiring the BEST person for the job are
very high. The key is to focus on a small number of strong candidates.


> 1) Have you ever looked at the pile of resumes that show up in
> response to a job advertisement?  You could swear that 80%+ of the
> respondents didn't even look at the job requirements, and another 15%
> chose to ignore them.  If you have a larger company, you get a
> constant inflow of resumes that aren't even in response to a
> particular posting (and HR will run their software and discard 90% of
> them before a hiring manager ever gets to see them.)

We don't use any kind of HR software, but we also discard the initial 90%
very quickly, during the first resume sort. This allows us to spend the bulk
of our time comparing and interviewing the strong candidates.


> (This is why it is important to have a carefully written resume, and
> why it can pay to customize the resume to the position you're applying
> for, and why it is REALLY important to get past HR if you can.)

Amen. It's not that hard, really. All you need to do, is make your resume
match the job description. Put the job title in the "Objective", list all
relevant experience, run spellcheck, have a friend look it over before you
send it in. It really isn't rocket science.


> 2) Accuracy?!  I take it as a given that hiring someone is not a very
> accurate process.  You get to decide (sort of) whether you'd rather
> miss people who would have been good, or hire people who aren't as
> good as you'd hope.

The former.


> And a lot seems to come down to un-quantifiable
> evaluation you can't get from a resume "would they fit in well
> here." (Especially, "I want someone to do something that has hardly
> ever been done before.  So I have to guess whether this person will be
> able to do it based on what they've already done, what they seem to
> know, and their 'attitude.'")

One lesson I learned, is that it is important to have other people in on the
interview. After I do the phone interview, I ask the candidate's future
coworker to conduct the in-person interview, and ask basically the same
questions. We then both compare notes and decide whether they're the "right
fit", or not. If there is any doubt, it's a "no hire".

Vitaliy

2009\04\25@032754 by Vitaliy

flavicon
face
Neil Cherry wrote:
> I have the opposite sort of problem, I know lots of various stuff
> and often use Google, books, notes and code libraries to remember
> the rest. I'm not very good at stating what I know and it shows on
> my resume. :-/ I have to figure out how to market myself better!

Are you talking about marketing  yourself as an employee, or as a
contractor?


2009\04\25@174242 by Gerhard Fiedler

picon face
Vitaliy wrote:

>> You never know whether you got the BEST person for the job (that's
>> usually ok, because the job has a habit of changing anyway, and
>> you're better off having gotten a person who can change to the new
>> requirements rather than the perfect person for the original
>> problem.))
>
> This will sound presumptious, but using the tried and true process I
> described earlier, the chances of hiring the BEST person for the job
> are very high. The key is to focus on a small number of strong
> candidates.

I know this thread is OT, but shouldn't we still take into consideration
basic principles of science and logic? How would you know how high the
chances are that anybody hired the best person for the job - given that
the others haven't been hired, and thusly their performance on the job
in question is unknown? Is there any (factual) information about the
performance of the ones who didn't get hired that could serve as basis
for calculating (or estimating, or even guessing) a chance?

Gerhard

2009\04\25@180032 by Gerhard Fiedler

picon face
Vitaliy wrote:

> - Communication over a distance is probably the biggest problem.
> Phone, email, and detailed specs are no substitute for face-to-face
> conversation.

FWIW, most of my contracting is over a (long) distance, with very little
face-to-face conversation. So there must be something that makes this
work well.

> - One must conduct the process of hiring a contractor the same way one
> goes about hiring an employee. Except it is even more essential to
> find the right person to do your project, because it takes longer to
> find out that they're lazy or incompetent, or both.

Not necessarily. One main skill that a contractor must have (that is,
one who should complete a project by himself, not an onsite contractor
that is merely a fiscally different version of an employee) is the
ability to organize himself and complete the project. Sometimes you can
break out a two-weeks project, and it probably tells you quite a bit
with not that much risk. With an employee, it often takes longer until
you see how well he fits into the company structure.

> He spent an hour telling us stories from his glorious past.

I'd consider this a red flag when looking for an engineer or programmer.

Gerhard

2009\04\25@180944 by Gerhard Fiedler

picon face
William "Chops" Westfield wrote:

>> We tried it both ways -- "true" outsourcing, and having the
>> contractor work in-house. Both failed
>
> FWIW, cisco has a long history of hiring contractors "in house" (full
> time, work at the cisco site) for extended periods of time, and I
> think it has worked out well for us.  In some cases, people have been
> hired as regular employees; in other cases not (of the people I know,
> most of the successful "not" cases have been because the contractor
> didn't want to give up the "contractor" status for a "possibly flakey
> startup.")

I think those "in house" "contractors" are not any different from
employees from a management and hiring point of view. The only
difference is really their fiscal (and legal) status -- which doesn't
matter for the work.

OTOH, both "in house" "contractors" and employees are quite different
from contractors that are hired to do a project, largely on their own.

Gerhard

2009\04\25@225810 by Vitaliy

flavicon
face
Gerhard Fiedler wrote:
>>> You never know whether you got the BEST person for the job (that's
>>> usually ok, because the job has a habit of changing anyway, and
>>> you're better off having gotten a person who can change to the new
>>> requirements rather than the perfect person for the original
>>> problem.))
>>
>> This will sound presumptious, but using the tried and true process I
>> described earlier, the chances of hiring the BEST person for the job
>> are very high. The key is to focus on a small number of strong
>> candidates.
>
> I know this thread is OT, but shouldn't we still take into consideration
> basic principles of science and logic? How would you know how high the
> chances are that anybody hired the best person for the job - given that
> the others haven't been hired, and thusly their performance on the job
> in question is unknown? Is there any (factual) information about the
> performance of the ones who didn't get hired that could serve as basis
> for calculating (or estimating, or even guessing) a chance?

Excellent question. The knowledge comes the mistakes we made in the
beginning, and the fact that as we perfected/mastered the process, we ended
up hiring fewer and fewer people in whom we would later get disappointed.

Vitaliy

2009\04\25@230621 by Vitaliy

flavicon
face
Gerhard Fiedler wrote:
>> - Communication over a distance is probably the biggest problem.
>> Phone, email, and detailed specs are no substitute for face-to-face
>> conversation.
>
> FWIW, most of my contracting is over a (long) distance, with very little
> face-to-face conversation. So there must be something that makes this
> work well.

Note that I didn't say it wasn't possible. I would love to hear about what
you think makes it work well for you.


{Quote hidden}

Two weeks is our unofficial "trial period" for employees. It is plenty long
to figure out if we made a hiring mistake, and realizing it sooner rather
than later minimizes pain for everyone involved.

I don't quite understand what you are saying... I hope you're not suggesting
that a company should spend _less_ time checking the credentials and
competence level of a contractor, than an employee.


>> He spent an hour telling us stories from his glorious past.
>
> I'd consider this a red flag when looking for an engineer or programmer.

Yes, we know this now. :)

Vitaliy

2009\04\27@174056 by Gerhard Fiedler

picon face
Vitaliy wrote:

>>> - Communication over a distance is probably the biggest problem.
>>> Phone, email, and detailed specs are no substitute for face-to-face
>>> conversation.
>>
>> FWIW, most of my contracting is over a (long) distance, with very
>> little face-to-face conversation. So there must be something that
>> makes this work well.
>
> Note that I didn't say it wasn't possible. I would love to hear about
> what you think makes it work well for you.

Other than when working side by side with co-workers is necessary (like
sometimes during complex integration debugging), there doesn't seem to
be much that would be an obstacle. The ability to clearly express what I
want to convey (both in written and oral form) is probably important for
this, but then this is helpful in any setting. An eye for details also
helps; it's less possible to improvise your way through.

What is it that you think makes this the biggest problem?


{Quote hidden}

No, definitely not. In a way, you're checking a contractor with every
new project, so it's different anyway. My reply was to your last phrase
above: "... because it takes longer to find out that they're lazy or
incompetent". My suggestion was a short trial project; not as
substitution for checking references, interview etc, but after all this
had a positive result. It may not show the technical capacities as much,
but it shows the work style, how he organizes the project. This needs to
make sense to you, and IMO usually tells a lot.

Gerhard


'[OT] Hiring contract programmers'
2009\05\05@020955 by Vitaliy
flavicon
face
Gerhard Fiedler wrote:
>>> FWIW, most of my contracting is over a (long) distance, with very
>>> little face-to-face conversation. So there must be something that
>>> makes this work well.
>>
>> Note that I didn't say it wasn't possible. I would love to hear about
>> what you think makes it work well for you.
>
> Other than when working side by side with co-workers is necessary (like
> sometimes during complex integration debugging), there doesn't seem to
> be much that would be an obstacle. The ability to clearly express what I
> want to convey (both in written and oral form) is probably important for
> this, but then this is helpful in any setting. An eye for details also
> helps; it's less possible to improvise your way through.
>
> What is it that you think makes this the biggest problem?

I guess it's many little things. It's been a while since we worked with an
outside consultant, so I won't remember everything. I found that even email
and daily phone meetings were not "real-time" enough. Communicating ideas
takes longer, and is more expensive. I have to write things down so I don't
forget to mention them in the meeting, instead of just walking over to the
person, and asking the question. I can't easily share the whiteboard, or
draw on a piece of paper while I'm trying to explain something.

Perhaps the biggest problem was that we hired the wrong people for the job.


{Quote hidden}

This is a good suggestion, but I think I would have a hard time finding a
project that could be done in such short time.

However, two weeks is perfect to do one iteration of an agile project... ;-)

Vitaliy

2009\05\05@044245 by Nate Duehr

face
flavicon
face

On Mon, 4 May 2009 23:08:25 -0700, "Vitaliy" <TakeThisOuTspam.....spamTakeThisOuTmaksimov.org> said:

> I guess it's many little things. It's been a while since we worked with
> an
> outside consultant, so I won't remember everything. I found that even
> email
> and daily phone meetings were not "real-time" enough. Communicating ideas
> takes longer, and is more expensive. I have to write things down so I
> don't
> forget to mention them in the meeting, instead of just walking over to
> the
> person, and asking the question. I can't easily share the whiteboard, or
> draw on a piece of paper while I'm trying to explain something.

<shameless plug for my employer...>

You appear to need real-time desktop and room-based videoconferencing
tools, my friend.

</end plug>

:-)

Actually it really does work, but you need some time or a solid fiscal
motivation to really get people's mindsets wrapped around the idea that
they can just chat anytime on video... once you get used to it... you
don't want to go "back" to meeting in rooms.  

Older staff have a harder time, from my view of the world... and I'm
working somewhere where EVERYONE has access to desktop video that's
fully integrated into the H.323 world-wide room-based environment.  I
can join a video conference from anywhere on my laptop, and/or walk to a
conference room and join in HD quality...

One of our customers claims a $5 million dollar a quarter drop in travel
budget by buying GOOD videoconferencing systems and utilizing them to
the fullest to get a proper return on the investment.

Nate
--
 Nate Duehr
 TakeThisOuTnateKILLspamspamspamnatetech.com

2009\05\06@174322 by Gerhard Fiedler

picon face
Nate Duehr wrote:

> On Mon, 4 May 2009 23:08:25 -0700, "Vitaliy" <.....spamspamRemoveMEmaksimov.org> said:
>
>> I guess it's many little things. It's been a while since we worked
>> with an outside consultant, so I won't remember everything. I found
>> that even email and daily phone meetings were not "real-time"
>> enough. Communicating ideas takes longer, ...

Not everybody does this well, and both ends need to get accustomed to it
if they aren't yet. A good and experienced contractor helps you with
this if needed. It also depends on how your deal with the contractor is.
Temporary employment-like full-time availability? Some dedicated hours
for meetings? Enough general availability so that you can do it on a
trial-and-error basis as needed?

What I find interesting is that you don't mention instant messaging. For
close communication over a distance, that's rather important. And it
includes a poor man's video conference :)

>> ... and is more expensive. I have to write things down so I don't
>> forget to mention them in the meeting, instead of just walking over
>> to the person, and asking the question.

If you walk over to my desk 5 times a day to ask a question, that can be
pretty expensive rather quickly, compared to getting together every
other day (whether in person or virtually) and resolving 10 questions at
once. The time spent to jot the questions down may be well spent.

>> I can't easily share the whiteboard, or draw on a piece of paper
>> while I'm trying to explain something.

We do that all the time, using NetMeeting over a VPN. (NetMeeting
because it's free with Windows, and over a VPN because of security
concerns.) Not that different, IMO.

> <shameless plug for my employer...>
>
> You appear to need real-time desktop and room-based videoconferencing
> tools, my friend.
>
> </end plug>

Ah, wouldn't we all like to have this? :)  But for the time being, I'm
happy when VoIP works well.

Gerhard

2009\05\07@035943 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>The time spent to jot the questions down may be well spent.

It may also result in better formed questions, partly because you can review
the question later, and think about what you really want to ask.

2009\05\09@235033 by Xiaofan Chen

face picon face
On Thu, May 7, 2009 at 5:43 AM, Gerhard Fiedler
<RemoveMElistsspamspamBeGoneconnectionbrazil.com> wrote:
>>> I can't easily share the whiteboard, or draw on a piece of paper
>>> while I'm trying to explain something.
>
> We do that all the time, using NetMeeting over a VPN. (NetMeeting
> because it's free with Windows, and over a VPN because of security
> concerns.) Not that different, IMO.

We use this as well and it proved not working too well. We use
VPN as well. For voice, we have the usual teleconference
provider. Netmeeting is the major problem even we have
corporate directory. Normally it works but sometime when
you need it, it does not work. So we decide to use Webex
for important meeting later.

And when it comes to more important meetings, none
of these long distance meetings work well enough.
Face to face meeting is much better but expensive though
due to the distance. I do not want to fly 18 hours non-stop
any more. ;-)

>> <shameless plug for my employer...>
>>
>> You appear to need real-time desktop and room-based videoconferencing
>> tools, my friend.
>>
>> </end plug>

What is the product called? We will use CISCO WebEx.

> Ah, wouldn't we all like to have this? :)  But for the time being, I'm
> happy when VoIP works well.



--
Xiaofan http://mcuee.blogspot.com

2009\05\10@092402 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Xiaofan Chen wrote:

>>>> I can't easily share the whiteboard, or draw on a piece of paper
>>>> while I'm trying to explain something.
>>
>> We do that all the time, using NetMeeting over a VPN. (NetMeeting
>> because it's free with Windows, and over a VPN because of security
>> concerns.) Not that different, IMO.
>
> We use this as well and it proved not working too well. We use VPN as
> well. For voice, we have the usual teleconference provider.
> Netmeeting is the major problem even we have corporate directory.
> Normally it works but sometime when you need it, it does not work. So
> we decide to use Webex for important meeting later.

There are several sharing tools, with different features and target
situations. We routinely use NM over VPN for code reviews or working
together on a piece of code, and for us it just works, at least for two
participants. It sometimes gets a bit shaky when there are more
participants in the same session. We don't use a NM directory provider;
we contact each other directly. The remote users use typical
consumer-grade Internet connections.

> Face to face meeting is much better but expensive though due to the
> distance. I do not want to fly 18 hours non-stop any more. ;-)

This is one of those "in theory ..., but in practice ..." due to
omissions in the "theory" -- in the same sentence you say it is better
but you don't want it because considering all it is not better :)

There are many things that would be better if you took out one decisive
characteristic. It's a simple fact that in many situations the
relocation of all meeting members for a face-to-face meeting is the
killer -- and the reason why it's not "better" than alternatives that
don't require this. It doesn't help that it would be the "better" thing
if we all lived in a commune together and could just go into each
other's rooms to discuss a good idea we have at 3am, but that's not how
it is... and probably not what everybody thinks of as "better" :)

Gerhard

2009\05\10@142239 by Nate Duehr

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Gerhard Fiedler wrote:

> There are several sharing tools, with different features and target
> situations. We routinely use NM over VPN for code reviews or working
> together on a piece of code, and for us it just works, at least for two
> participants. It sometimes gets a bit shaky when there are more
> participants in the same session. We don't use a NM directory provider;
> we contact each other directly. The remote users use typical
> consumer-grade Internet connections.

We use a variety of tools also, and NM is the one that gets used most
often for Customer Support activity -- customer fires up NM on his
internal network on some system we "can't get to", and shares out his
desktop so we can see what's going on.  Usually works pretty well.  The
latest versions of NM are a little wonky in how you transition "control"
of the conference to someone else.  We usually couple the NM with an
audio or videoconference for communication during the session... the
built in NM stuff with an OCS server for doing audio blows.

>> Face to face meeting is much better but expensive though due to the
>> distance. I do not want to fly 18 hours non-stop any more. ;-)
>
> This is one of those "in theory ..., but in practice ..." due to
> omissions in the "theory" -- in the same sentence you say it is better
> but you don't want it because considering all it is not better :)

It's all about the Benjamins... companies can save so much money and
indirectly more money (lost time) in NOT flying people around if they
invest in GOOD network connectivity for all involved.  Of course, when
you go from the corporate office and a nice fat DS-3 or bigger to your
house... the "user experience" often immediately starts to suffer.  Even
supposedly "fast" home connections often don't pass muster when it comes
to latency/jitter and or consistency with bandwidth, since they're
ALWAYS shared pipes upstream and almost always over-subscribed just to
make the numbers work.

The best thing I ever did for my "home" connection was upgrade it to
commercial service.  I still don't have a written SLA, but I get to
complain louder and get more attention from the ISP when it starts
behaving in a flaky way.  Unfortunately I also pay double what the guy
next door pays, so what I'm really doing is subsidizing HIS connection
for the sake of mine, I suppose.  What the heck, it's a tax write-off,
since the company won't pay for ANY of it and I can prove business vs.
personal usage stats and take the appropriate percentage...

I really like working remotely.  My employer is a "leader" in this
field, and ironically doesn't have a proper "work from home" policy,
which I find ironic since they're pushing "Green" alternatives.  Imagine
the "Green" benefits to the environment if my 27 mile commute suddenly
disappeared?  But that's apparently not the purpose of "Green"
initiatives after Corporate America dorks around with them...

Still waiting to see if the new VoIP phone system that's 3 years behind
schedule will offer SoftPhones as an option... that'd fix a lot of the
"logistics" problems with working off-site...

Nate

2009\05\10@171310 by Gerhard Fiedler

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Nate Duehr wrote:

> The latest versions of NM are a little wonky in how you transition
> "control" of the conference to someone else.  

Are you talking about NM (which AFAIK hasn't seen an upgrade in quite a
while) or the built-in remote desktop features of the newer Windows
OSes?

> We usually couple the NM with an audio or videoconference for
> communication during the session... the built in NM stuff with an OCS
> server for doing audio blows.

On peer-to-peer NM sessions I've used audio with success, but currently
we're mostly using YIM audio (as this is what we're using anyway without
desktop sharing).

> It's all about the Benjamins... companies can save so much money and
> indirectly more money (lost time) in NOT flying people around if they
> invest in GOOD network connectivity for all involved.  

But they'd have to change some modes of operation; this seems to be a
difficult hurdle to take for many.

> Still waiting to see if the new VoIP phone system that's 3 years
> behind schedule will offer SoftPhones as an option... that'd fix a
> lot of the "logistics" problems with working off-site...

Ever since modems were capable of connecting to the computer's sound
card -- that was possible with some modems 15 years ago and is standard
configuration today --, I've wondered why this is not being used. Very
few if any of the common address book applications that have a dialer
integrated do it in a way that the modem audio could be used. People
seem to prefer the device on the desktop -- even though they have to
shell out for another device and clutter their desktop still some more
if they want to talk hands-free. Maybe this is a similar thing going on.

Gerhard

2009\05\11@034009 by Alan B. Pearce

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>Even supposedly "fast" home connections often don't pass muster
>when it comes to latency/jitter and or consistency with bandwidth,
>since they're WAYS shared pipes upstream and almost always
>over-subscribed just to make the numbers work.

Also the 'fast' home connections tend to be asymmetrical in speed. To the
house is fast, but back is slow ...

2009\05\11@092059 by William Couture

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A followup to my experience.

We hired a contract programmer.

What we got was a contract coder.

He is no longer working here.

FYI:
  A coder can take a detailed specification and write code that
  conforms to it.  If you don't give them enough details, you will
  not get code that does what you want.

  A programmer understands the system, and can take fuzzy
  instructions and give you code that does what you want.

The problem is, chances are that if you have enough time and
resources to write a detailed enough specification, it would be
just as easy to write the code yourself at the same time.

Bill

--
Psst...  Hey, you... Buddy...  Want a kitten?  straycatblues.petfinder.org

2009\05\11@164440 by Nate Duehr

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On Sun, 10 May 2009 18:12:54 -0300, "Gerhard Fiedler"
<spamBeGonelists@spam@spamspam_OUTconnectionbrazil.com> said:
> Nate Duehr wrote:
>
> > The latest versions of NM are a little wonky in how you transition
> > "control" of the conference to someone else.  
>
> Are you talking about NM (which AFAIK hasn't seen an upgrade in quite a
> while) or the built-in remote desktop features of the newer Windows
> OSes?

I'm sorry.  LiveMeeting, not NetMeeting.  My mistake.

> But they'd have to change some modes of operation; this seems to be a
> difficult hurdle to take for many.

Adapt or die.  That's still the business order of the day, last I had
time to check.  :-)

{Quote hidden}

No, no... I mean we have an old(ish) ACD system and they're replacing it
with VoIP.  Today someone has to be physically IN THE OFFICE to answer
the multitude of 800 #'s that come into our facility.  

Our desk/internal phones were migrated to VoIP 2 years late (after full
announcement, training, handout cards, blah blah blah) at our facility,
but the ACD and other functions were rolled out at other facilities.
Now we're waiting on the final phase which should move the ACD
functionality over to the VoIP desk phones.  

What I'm saying is forward-looking, probably WAY too forward for our
company management -- that it *should* also be *easily* possible is the
use of just about ANY SIP softphone to also handle calls, so you could
literally be anywhere on the planet, have IP connectivity and VPN, and
answer your phone...

But I highly doubt they'll allow it, due to the fact that there's zero
way to guarantee any audio quality in that configuration.

If they WOULD allow it... it'd make not only our desk phones, but the
ACD "portable" to home locations and elsewhere.  

We sell SIP phones, so we should be eating our own dog-food in this
regard by now... but we're still waiting...

And of course, any reasonable hack could figure out how to VPN in, set
up routing to route that to a switch/hub, and plug a "real" SIP phone
into that connection, at least at home... so I still may be able to
"figure it out", but it'd be a "non-standard" configuration that would
blow someone's mind, or trigger their territorial instincts or something
-- so I'd probably just test it out quietly and use it when needed
without making any fanfare about it.  

I can "personally adapt technology to my purposes" a hell of a lot
faster than the company can... sadly.

Nate
--
 Nate Duehr
 TakeThisOuTnatespamspamnatetech.com

2009\05\12@075941 by M.L.

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On Mon, May 11, 2009 at 9:20 AM, William Couture <bcoutureEraseMEspamgmail.com> wrote:

{Quote hidden}

If  you want someone to spend 500 hours on something versus 50, then yes,
just give a vague explanation of what you want. I really don't buy the
psychic programmer argument. He doesn't know what you want unless you
explain it. If you don't care how it works (comm. protocol, etc.) then fine,
but don't give a 1 page description of a 50 page problem and expect anything
good, anytime soon.

-
ML

2009\05\12@094632 by Jan van Dijk

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:-) And for each programmer / coder, there is a different optimum, for the
details / hours curve :-)

On Tue, May 12, 2009 at 1:59 PM, M.L. <RemoveMEmEraseMEspamspam_OUTlkeng.net> wrote:

{Quote hidden}

>  -

2009\05\12@102019 by William Couture

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On Tue, May 12, 2009 at 7:59 AM, M.L. <EraseMEmspam@spam@lkeng.net> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

We got to the point that I took 2 days out of an important project (why I was
not writing this code myself) to write detailed specifications.

He still could not write decent code with any speed (heck, he couldn't even
write bad code with any speed).

It got to the point where I was spending more time trying to manage him
than it would take me to write it.  So he's gone.

Bill

--
Psst...  Hey, you... Buddy...  Want a kitten?  straycatblues.petfinder.org

2009\05\12@123336 by William \Chops\ Westfield

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On May 12, 2009, at 4:59 AM, M.L. wrote:

>>  A coder can take a detailed specification and write code that
>>  conforms to it.  If you don't give them enough details, you will
>>  not get code that does what you want.
>>
>>  A programmer understands the system, and can take fuzzy
>>  instructions and give you code that does what you want.
>>
> If  you want someone to spend 500 hours on something versus 50, then  
> yes,
> just give a vague explanation of what you want. I really don't buy the
> psychic programmer argument. He doesn't know what you want unless you
> explain it.

Yes, and no.  A good "programmer" is capable of generating a "detailed  
specification" from vague explanations (yes, given time to do so, but  
I think a good programmer will generate a mental concept from a vague  
desciption (and/or conversation, and/or "other data", and be able to  
write code based on the mental concept.)  A bad coder can take a  
detailed specification and STILL produce crap.  I'm pretty sure we've  
all seen websites or other application with fill-in forms/etc that do  
what they have to do, are marvels of modern technology, and yet ...  
suck.  (please?  They can't ALL be internal?!)

For example, if I want someone to write a new network interface driver  
for a cisco router, I want them to write it in the style of existing  
drivers, based on existing code and scattered specs and documentation,  
rather than needing a special spec written for just the new driver.  
Reading the existing code, finding the applicable documentation, and  
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS is part of programming.

BillW

2009\05\12@171427 by Nate Duehr

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On Tue, 12 May 2009 09:33:28 -0700, "William Chops Westfield"
<spamBeGonewestfwEraseMEspammac.com> said:

{Quote hidden}

Sometimes this isn't about "good" and "bad" coders.  Sometimes it's
about more basic things like their ability level and whether or not
they're naturally creative or linear.  Hiring a linear thinking coder to
write anything other than a well-specified program is a nightmare, as is
hiring a creative programmer who can "fill in the blanks" on their own,
to write anything that was already well-specified.

> For example, if I want someone to write a new network interface driver  
> for a cisco router, I want them to write it in the style of existing  
> drivers, based on existing code and scattered specs and documentation,  
> rather than needing a special spec written for just the new driver.  
> Reading the existing code, finding the applicable documentation, and  
> ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS is part of programming.

That last part is key, but you WILL run into coders who ask the right
questions to fill in the blanks (linear thinkers) who'll drive you nuts
PERSONALLY if you're not a linear thinker, and you can also run into
coders who ask the right questions and still add 10 new features without
thinking about the resulting QA/Test timeline requirements, even after
they were told to "code EXACTLY this" by their manager or team.

The trick is in having WHOLISTIC thinkers and TASK ORIENTED thinkers
BOTH in your leadership team.  The wholistic folks will see what's going
on, and the task-oriented folks can assign the right people to the right
tasks after consulting with the big picture folk.

It really does take a TEAM to do great software, and yep... it's messy.
Humans.  Who'd have thought?  :-)

Nate
--
 Nate Duehr
 natespamBeGonespamnatetech.com

2009\05\13@074435 by Tony Smith

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> > FYI:
> >   A coder can take a detailed specification and write code that
> >   conforms to it.  If you don't give them enough details, you will
> >   not get code that does what you want.
> >
> >   A programmer understands the system, and can take fuzzy
> >   instructions and give you code that does what you want.
> >
> > The problem is, chances are that if you have enough time and
> > resources to write a detailed enough specification, it would be
> > just as easy to write the code yourself at the same time.
> >
> > Bill
> >
>
>
> If  you want someone to spend 500 hours on something versus 50, then yes,
> just give a vague explanation of what you want. I really don't buy the
> psychic programmer argument. He doesn't know what you want unless you
> explain it. If you don't care how it works (comm. protocol, etc.) then
fine,
> but don't give a 1 page description of a 50 page problem and expect
anything
> good, anytime soon.


I think all of my jobs have had no spec.  It's generally a lot of hand
waving and "here's what we're doing so go and make it better and we don't
really care how you do it" stuff.

One was where data needed to be sent in a particular format (they had a spec
for that) and the rest was "make it easy to use so even my 7 year-old
daughter could do it".

Suits me.

As Bill said, if they knew what they were doing they'd do it themselves.

Tony

2009\05\15@022636 by Vitaliy

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Gerhard Fiedler wrote:
> What I find interesting is that you don't mention instant messaging. For
> close communication over a distance, that's rather important. And it
> includes a poor man's video conference :)

We use IM to communicate within the office (sometimes even within easy
earshot), and I use it to communicate with some vendors, too.

You mention video conference, unfortunately Live Messenger doesn't seem to
support resolutions above 320x240. Two years ago, I bought a web cam that
can do 1280 x 900 (or thereabouts), which I think is the resolution you need
to be able to discern things with any sort of detail (written text, circuit
boards). I'm curious if there is videoconferencing software that actually
supports this resolution.


>>> ... and is more expensive. I have to write things down so I don't
>>> forget to mention them in the meeting, instead of just walking over
>>> to the person, and asking the question.
>
> If you walk over to my desk 5 times a day to ask a question, that can be
> pretty expensive rather quickly, compared to getting together every
> other day (whether in person or virtually) and resolving 10 questions at
> once. The time spent to jot the questions down may be well spent.

I understand what you're saying, it's a bad idea to constantly distract each
other. However, we (the engineers) find ourselves having very productive
impromptu meetings to discuss program structure, or features of a new
device. The meeting can last ten, or well over an hour. Structured/scheduled
meetings don't seem to work as well, maybe because people are in a different
mode.


>>> I can't easily share the whiteboard, or draw on a piece of paper
>>> while I'm trying to explain something.
>
> We do that all the time, using NetMeeting over a VPN. (NetMeeting
> because it's free with Windows, and over a VPN because of security
> concerns.) Not that different, IMO.

Do you use Wacom, or draw with the mouse?

Vitaliy

2009\05\15@033628 by Vitaliy

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M.L. wrote:
> If  you want someone to spend 500 hours on something versus 50, then yes,
> just give a vague explanation of what you want. I really don't buy the
> psychic programmer argument. He doesn't know what you want unless you
> explain it. If you don't care how it works (comm. protocol, etc.) then
> fine,
> but don't give a 1 page description of a 50 page problem and expect
> anything
> good, anytime soon.

"Explain" is not the same as "write a 50-page spec". The first way is
frequently far far more efficient.

2009\05\15@051934 by cdb

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Have you looked at Webex?  

Company I used to work for used that for conferences and remote access
to equipment world wide for support.


Does need a fast internet connection for controlling equipment though.

Colin
--
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Web presence: http://www.btech-online.co.uk  

Hosted by:  http://www.1and1.co.uk/?k_id=7988359






2009\05\15@092139 by Gerhard Fiedler

picon face
Vitaliy wrote:

>> What I find interesting is that you don't mention instant messaging.
>> For close communication over a distance, that's rather important.
>> And it includes a poor man's video conference :)
>
> We use IM to communicate within the office (sometimes even within
> easy earshot), and I use it to communicate with some vendors, too.

Exactly -- and this IM communication doesn't change a bit when the other
is half way around the globe. That's why I was surprised that you didn't
use it with your contractor.


> You mention video conference, unfortunately Live Messenger doesn't
> seem to support resolutions above 320x240.

Ah, I said "poor man's video conf" :)  I agree, the typical IM video
doesn't buy you much; that's why I don't use it. Besides the resolution,
the frame rate is too slow to call it "video conference" -- and
certainly shouldn't be mentioned together with anything "live" :)

> Two years ago, I bought a web cam that can do 1280 x 900 (or
> thereabouts), which I think is the resolution you need to be able to
> discern things with any sort of detail (written text, circuit
> boards). I'm curious if there is videoconferencing software that
> actually supports this resolution.

For such things (text, boards etc) I just send the image as file. If
working on the picture is required (to discuss some features), I use
NetMeeting and share the picture in an editor.


>> We do that all the time, using NetMeeting over a VPN. (NetMeeting
>> because it's free with Windows, and over a VPN because of security
>> concerns.) Not that different, IMO.
>
> Do you use Wacom, or draw with the mouse?

Both. I used to have a Wacom tablet connected all the time, but lately I
haven't had a need to draw that much and currently it's not connected.
When or if I get at the point where drawing with the mouse gets on my
nerves, I'll connect it again.

Gerhard

2009\05\15@142208 by Vitaliy

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cdb wrote:
> Have you looked at Webex?  
>
> Company I used to work for used that for conferences and remote access
> to equipment world wide for support.
>
>
> Does need a fast internet connection for controlling equipment though.

How is it better than Polycom?

2009\05\15@162728 by cdb

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face


:: How is it better than Polycom?

Hmm, I must have missed or deleted any references to Polycom, couldn't
tell you never used it.

Colin
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2009\05\15@175934 by Vitaliy

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cdb wrote:
> Hmm, I must have missed or deleted any references to Polycom, couldn't
> tell you never used it.

http://www.polycom.com/products/

They seem to be basically the same. I don't know if they can work together,
but the price tag is what puts me off.

Vitaliy

2009\05\15@221950 by Xiaofan Chen

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On Fri, May 15, 2009 at 5:19 PM, cdb <.....colinRemoveMEspambtech-online.co.uk> wrote:
> Have you looked at Webex?
>
> Company I used to work for used that for conferences and remote access
> to equipment world wide for support.
>
> Does need a fast internet connection for controlling equipment though.

We just had a 2-hour Webex meeting and it is much better than
using Netmeeting for desktop sharing purpose. We did not
use the voice capability. For that we still use normal teleconference
service from the telco using normal phones.


--
Xiaofan http://mcuee.blogspot.com

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