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Businesses Programming

'I Just Need a Programmer' 735

Posted by timothy
from the next-step-solve-all-problems dept.
theodp writes "As head of the CS Department at the University of Northern Iowa, Eugene Wallingford often receives e-mail and phone calls from eager entrepreneurs with The Next Great Idea. They want to change the world, and they want Prof. Wallingford to help them. They just need a programmer. 'Many idea people,' observes Wallingford, 'tend to think most or all of the value [of a product] inheres to having the idea. Programmers are a commodity, pulled off the shelf to clean up the details. It's just a small matter of programming, right?' Wrong. 'Writing the program is the ingredient the idea people are missing,' he adds. 'They are doing the right thing to seek it out. I wonder what it would be like if more people could implement their own ideas.'"
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'I Just Need a Programmer'

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  • by symbolset (646467) * on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:03AM (#34456260) Journal
    Geocities in apps format.
    • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @05:08AM (#34457920) Journal

      Oh dear God in heaven do NOT even think it, much less say it! Good God man, do you have ANY idea the soul sucking den of evil you are making light of? Imagine, you are just a humming along, all happy as can be with your shotgunned modems and your overclocked Celeron pumping 600MHz with Win98 stripped down like a used Buick all hot rodded when BAM...you hit the tar pit that is Geocities.

      Suddenly all the fans scream to life, desperately trying to keep the Comet Cursor that suddenly is hanging a fricking pocket watch off your arrow like a swing ball of snot from blowing your CPU, your modems strain under a bazillion animated GIFs, while you are blinded by a neon purple background with snot green text in the always evil "OMG Ponies!" style, complete with little stardust shit dripping off their "brilliant" prose, when SLAM the overload of total lameness kills Win98 and you are staring at a BSOD, which sadly is kinda comforting at that moment because at least it ain't fricking purple or swinging snot clocks. So don't joke about Geocities pal, those of us that lived through it will end up having nightmares! That is like joking about Bonzi Buddy to PC repairman, you just DON'T, okay?

      As for TFA, the reason they probably think it is "just a programmer" is thanks to offshoring that is how pretty much ALL IT is treated today. Experience and education don't mean jack when they can hire a guy from Bangalore for $15k a year. So they are just thinking like future CEOs and looking at the programmers as "just the help" which sadly is the way many are treated in this crap economy.

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:27AM (#34458600) Journal

        Suddenly all the fans scream to life, desperately trying to keep the Comet Cursor that suddenly is hanging a fricking pocket watch off your arrow like a swing ball of snot from blowing your CPU, your modems strain under a bazillion animated GIFs, while you are blinded by a neon purple background with snot green text in the always evil "OMG Ponies!" style, complete with little stardust shit dripping off their "brilliant" prose, when SLAM the overload of total lameness kills Win98 and you are staring at a BSOD, which sadly is kinda comforting at that moment because at least it ain't fricking purple or swinging snot clocks. So don't joke about Geocities pal, those of us that lived through it will end up having nightmares! That is like joking about Bonzi Buddy to PC repairman, you just DON'T, okay?

        Lived through it? Dude, I actually had to program something like that in 1999. The other folks in the team were calling the graphics designer turned app designer The Antichrist, because his ideas made everyone cringe.

        Green text on purple background? You kids don't know how good you have it. Oh, what we wouldn't have given for something as readable as green on bright purple. See, the Antichrist's idea was orange-ish yellow text on yellowish orange background, or in some parts the other way around. Even telling him that medically a lot of people will be unable to read that poor contrast did nothing to move him.

        He had an idea for navigation that thankfully got dropped because he made the mistake of showing it to some investors and nobody could understand how they'd use it to get from page A to page B. Even that was better than the idea he had for some other site, where you literally had to find a scrap of paper with the action you wanted to do in a heap of newspaper cuts. I don't even mean newspaper style scraps arranged in a neat menu, but literally finding the one you want in a heap.

        And yes, 1 MB+ of graphics per page.

        Remember that this was the age of dot-coms, when they sold such craps to investors based on the idea that browsing some site should be an "experience". You don't go to some news portal site to read news, you go to have a unique experience, see? ;)

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:45AM (#34458682) Journal

        That said, from your example and mine, I'm starting to get the idea that it's not just programmers these people need. Before even needing that, they could use a few more experts, starting with interface designers and usability experts. And maybe someone who understands the business side of that idea too.

        Honestly, the more I think about it, I don't even think it's just programmers they miss. People spew all sorts of half baked ideas, and thanks to the Dunning-Kruger effect [wikipedia.org], the more unqualified they are to judge that, the more that half-baked idea sounds like a stroke of pure genius. I've had to sign NDA's for ideas boiling down to "we'll make a portal site and have an IPO and people will give us lots and lots of money", and those people seemed to genuinely be convinced that someone would be just itching to steal _that_ pure genius idea.

        Heck, it's not even about programs. People have "genius" ideas about business, games, mods, etc. Now someone just has to do the boring trivial stuff like balancing the gameplay or making that business idea work. They did their part and had the idea, and should get the credit, right?

        • by Skal Tura (595728) on Monday December 06, 2010 @11:09AM (#34459860) Homepage

          Hey, it's us programmers who are supposed to bring all that expertise on the table, get paid next to nothing, listen to verbal abuse day in and out, and in the end have a battle about getting paid at all or not, and when you are winning that battle, they threaten to sue you on court for demanding to get paid for work. Not only that, but they expect that if you start a job and you spend 1hr doing it, you may not charge for it at the following days anymore, but even a 1000hr job has to be done on that initial stretch. If that's not enough, they hire you on a hourly basis, but expect you to work at project terms, thus denying any right to pay a dime before you accomplish 1500hr job to get paid for the 150hrs owed.

          Sometimes they put the payments on ridiculous terms which they do anything to stop you from achieving so that there would be a snowball's chance in hell they'd have a bad conscious to not paying you.

          And if you happen to get all of that right, client decides in the end "this idea was bad, so this implementation must suck and you suck as a coder, thus we don't need to pay you", stays quiet for couple months, then implement your alternative idea to get the system done on minimal work.

          Ofc, for a programmer "rush" and "hurry" are just feelings and do not exist, and programmer's 24hr day is actually a 48hr day and programmers don't need to sleep. Programming neither is a job which requires special skills, knowledge or way of thinking. Programmers also work each day faster, so you can just keep increasing the load on a infinite loop. They are efficiently semi-robots as they have no emotions but are still capable of creative thinking.

          They are also masters of all fields of knowledge, experienced veterans. All of them know marketing & advertising, business leadership, how any industry works and rocket engineers along with being programmers.

          If you do happen to agree to pay them, you don't need to pay the local rates, because you can get programmers so much cheaper from far asian countries. Not only that, but they never have a problem accomplishing a 500hr task in 1 week.

          But most of all, programmers are telepathic and knows what you want without telling you.

          You know what's the irony here? This was all based on my experience. I've been always avid coder, done lots of cutting edge stuff, just for fun or to profit myself. I finally went to work as a programmer because i needed that income. Took me a bit over 1½years to burn out, then finally first proper vacation and few freelancing clients to stop completely and refusing even very high paid jobs. Now i only code for friends, and even that with extremely long schedules. The best thing was that the income was worse as a full time coder than as a logistics worker in a warehouse! I quite literally earned more as logistics worker during the brief 2months i temped there before going as a programmer.

          The sad part is that i actually liked working as a programmer, and i liked to have a little bit of hurry. I was 110% fine with that, but the loads kept increasing faster, and owner of the company was a total asshole. He basically told me that it's a illusion that i'm in a hurry, after i had worked 3 months constant overtime and my workload had doubled or tripled during that, some of which i WANTED to do, but the amount of work started to become a bit too much and i became stressed out. Final stretch was the owner of company gave me bullshit written warning. He refused to give me even average industry salary based on the fact that he wanted to make me a partner in that company - Basicly asking money for shares of unknown value, so that i would work for smaller salary. I was earning so little than under 100euros spending to fix my home computer took 4+ months to get together that money, after all gas to get to work and back and food are more important costs.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        Hey, mock it all you want, a lot of us learned html and got our first webpage thanks to Geocities. It's not like there were a ton of sites back in 1994 offering free web space (something we pretty much take for granted now). And it cost a lot more than $5-$10 a month back then if you wanted to buy webspace too.

  • beer (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:05AM (#34456268)

    I just need a beer...

  • As a programmer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:09AM (#34456294)

    I disagree. A terrible idea with a beautifully executed development goes no where. A great idea that is hacked together with shell scripts and kilometers of spaghetti code can make someone a fortune and (lame as it sounds) change the world.

    That said I think having solid developer(s) is a really good thing. It costs less, makes for a more reliable product, and enables you to say "yeah, we can add that" vs. "hah, you'd have to rewrite everything" when further great ideas come along.

    But saying that the importance of programming is on par with the idea.. it's not. Much as us programmers like to think we are _the_ critical component.. I really don't think we are in a lot of cases. The idea and the marketing are what makes the product successful. HR tends to think of programmers as production line workers.. and as much as I hate to admit it, there really is truth in that. We turn ideas into something tangible so they can be sold. If we produce better products or produce them more efficiently, we make the company more money.. but we arn't as important as the guy's who tell us what to make, or the guy's who get people to pay for it.

    As for idea people learning to program.. I don't buy it. Might work for some people, but I think programming/working with technology is either something you enjoy or you don't. Most good programers I know don't care about the end product as much as the code. The end product is a necessary evil.. a reason to justify their code poetry. Learning programming as a way of achieving and end goal sounds like some bad code about to happen. And I thought the whole "managers can write code thing" died with COBOL.

    • Re:As a programmer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ndkchk (893797) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:14AM (#34456330)

      A great idea that is hacked together with shell scripts and kilometers of spaghetti code can make someone a fortune and (lame as it sounds) change the world.

      Not quite. A great idea that is hacked together will almost certainly be "borrowed" and better implemented by someone else, making them a fortune. The world still gets changed, I suppose.

      • Re:As a programmer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Firehed (942385) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:32AM (#34456446) Homepage

        Unless your product is catering to developers, your customers don't give a damn what the code that powers your product looks like (and even if your customers ARE developers, they probably still don't care). Unless your implementation is at least an order of magnitude better than the competition, the first one with traction wins. Look at Twitter, and the dozens of twitter clones that came out shortly thereafter - none of them went anywhere because they didn't have the users, but I'm sure they were implemented better (since Twitter exposed a lot of the original problems). And yet bit.ly ended up killing off tinyurl.com, because it's a) 45% shorter to start and b) offers analytics on link usage which really did make it an order of magnitude more useful than what it replaced.

        At least, that's the case for startups and new ideas. When your idea is to win the Netflix challenge and hit the million dollar payoff, then it's 100% down to implementation.

        • Re:As a programmer (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:23AM (#34456786)

          Unless your product is catering to developers, your customers don't give a damn what the code that powers your product looks like (and even if your customers ARE developers, they probably still don't care).

          With a totally new out of the box idea, I would agree. The coding itself isn't all that important. However, I am in an analysis team (in a multinational, multi-billion dollar company) and part of our job is to provide tools and programs to look at the business in new/innovative/out of the box ways - and this means that a lot of the time we are the ones with the "great idea" as the article suggests. For us, when we develop these tools, doing it in an efficient and well designed way is one of the most important things.

          This is because there hasn't been a single time that we haven't given our business managers a new insight into the business that hasn't resulted in those chaps then saying "Great, now that I know [insert reason/cause/problem], I would really like to see how it ties in with [insert potential cause/issue/problem] and see if they are related.". We do really need to design our products/projects in such a way that we have the flexibility to be able to modify them quite drastically. If our solutions were a program stuck together with bits of tape and band-aids we simply wouldn't be able to deliver what was needed.

          Not all great ideas that need a programmer are in the same bucket.

        • by BeanThere (28381)

          Unless your implementation is at least an order of magnitude better than the competition, the first one with traction wins. Look at Twitter, and the dozens of twitter clones that came out shortly thereafter - none of them went anywhere because they didn't have the users

          In Facebook's case, we often forget now that there WAS a primary competitor with a massive userbase already (MySpace), but then I guess you are categorizing that under "order of magnitude better". What you are referring to though is called "network effects", and it's inherently stronger for certain types of software products, less so for others.

      • Re:As a programmer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by zach_the_lizard (1317619) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:35AM (#34456470)
        If it works, and works well enough, that will make up for the tangled web of code, so long as it is not too horribly mangled. Sometimes the perfectly designed and combed over implementation loses to the patched together monstrosity because the first one is never released, or is released late, and the second one is out early enough. Sometimes economics trumps an implementation whose code could be read as poetry.
        • Re:As a programmer (Score:4, Insightful)

          by tgatliff (311583) on Monday December 06, 2010 @07:23AM (#34458384)

          The problem with the above argument is what I run into on a daily basis... The person with the idea knows the business, but the consultant (programmer) typically just understands the implementation side of it. That is why high paid consultants (in their chosen industry) are worth their weight in gold. Someone else have paid to train them up on the industry (and paid for their learning curve as well).

          Also, if it is one lesson I have learned (several times actually) about doing consulting for the last decade, it would be that a good spec doc up front that is written by someone who knows exactly what needs to be built and has a "knack" for attention to detail. Programmers are supposed to be implementers and nothing more. The ideas should have already been flushed out... If this happens, then the projects typically go well. If not, then who knows what will happen

      • Re:As a programmer (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:33AM (#34457216)
        The problem is that the vast majority of these ideas tend to be completely unworkable, or overly broad. It's because the person with the idea has no clue about how to go about implementing them, and is thus completely ignorant of what can and can't be done, or how much effort it will take. And that's even filtering out the completely goofy ideas. People have this get-rich-quick mindset that gets in the way. Such as when the dotcom boom was going on, and people thought they could make a fortune selling pet food online or other unworkable ideas. In some of the cases they don't just lack the programming knowledge, they lack the entire range of knowledge that's necessary - management, planning, marketing, sales, logistics, etc.

        Often I think they just expect to have this great idea and then make a fortune off of royalties.

        Just today in a game there was this kid going on about how he needed a good programmer, because he had this awesome game idea. It turned out to be completely silly, but requiring a lot of complicated implementation.
        • by gmack (197796)

          Indeed.. I can't tell you how often I've been approached with ideas that are not just difficult but impossible to implement. My overall favorite is my friend's father who wanted me to predict stocks for him but didn't know any of the math.. "look you can see the graph goes up or down"

          Or just plain dishonest. "we need a phone card system but we need to be able to change the length of a minute"

          And then there are the throwbacks to the year 2000. "I need a web page so I can put ads on it. What do you mean I

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KingFrog (1888802)
      I would have to disagree. The difference between wealth and having a second job isn't in whether you can code the idea. Any 15-year-old idiot can probably code an idea, unless it's very complex. How well you can do it is nearly paramount. You know, for example, that most sort algorithms max out at an efficiency of Clog(n)[element_count], as a rough description. You know who makes six figures a year? The guy who can reduce "C" by five percent. And no, you can't do that with shell scripts and lines of
      • Only if he can demonstrate the business case for expending the effort to do so, and market himself to the companies that need him.

        It's not all about technical skill, business ability is just as important

      • Re:As a programmer (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Surt (22457) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:01AM (#34456654) Homepage Journal

        I specialized in C reduction for years (and was very successful at it), but I started making 6-figures after I gave that up and just started building business applications.

      • Re:As a programmer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by arth1 (260657) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:38AM (#34456880) Homepage Journal

        I have replaced quite a few C++ and Java programs with just shell scripts, where it was expedient. Because having the guts to kill your babies whenever needed can be damn effective.

        Like instead of elegantly reduce an expensive database lookup loop by 10% execution time, you ditch it and push a diff to a local hash table instead.

        Or instead of reducing the sort across a table by 5% by choosing the most efficient algorithm, you do a Schwartzian transform and only sort the parts you need, saving 95% time even if you now do it in a script.

        Programmers often stare themselves blind at the problem at hand, not seeing the bigger picture and how the best solution is not doing what they do as well as it can be done, but doing something entirely different. Which quite often can be done just as well with a script.

        As for spaghetti code, sometimes that's warranted to. Instead of rolling back through 300 levels of recursion to return, it just might be expedient to chop the Gordic knot with a well-placed goto.

        (And no, 300 is not an exaggeration. I knew a programmer who made a web site with multiple entrances and breadcrumbs. Someone browsing the site for a few hours or days could have a linked list longer than you'd think, and clicking "go home" caused it to roll back each layer one by one, until hitting the entry page of that particular user. Which could take 5-10 seconds of unnecessary waiting. I suggested storing the entry page as a global session variable and simply Go There, and was looked at like I had grown two extra heads.)

      • by bradleyjg (68937) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:45AM (#34456944)

        You do realize that you are posting on a website that: a) made its founders a fair chunk of change and b) was first implemented as a disastrous mess of perl spaghetti code.

      • I would have to disagree. The difference between wealth and having a second job isn't in whether you can code the idea. Any 15-year-old idiot can probably code an idea, unless it's very complex. How well you can do it is nearly paramount. You know, for example, that most sort algorithms max out at an efficiency of Clog(n)[element_count], as a rough description. You know who makes six figures a year? The guy who can reduce "C" by five percent. And no, you can't do that with shell scripts and lines of spaghetti code.

        c = 299,792,458 metres per second [wikipedia.org] - it's not just a good idea - it's the law. Of course you can't do it with shell scripts. You need at least a Mr. Fusion.

    • Re:As a programmer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by drsquare (530038) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:17AM (#34456358)

      Ideas are ten a penny, it's the implementation that matters.

      • Re:As a programmer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Surt (22457) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:51AM (#34456972) Homepage Journal

        Mod parent up. The number of different people who thought up a variation on pagerank is astounding, but there's only one company that executed it well, and had the funding to get through the development of that idea.

        • by wrook (134116)

          There are many things that lead to a successful company. Development of a product is one of them. There are a lot of other issues as well.

          But if we concentrate on development of a product, the initial idea is not the important part. It's the million of little details that make the idea come together. When the parent said that "it's the implementation that matters", I think that's what they mean. It's not just coding part of implementation, it's the analysis of the idea and finding out exactly how it c

        • As an example (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday December 06, 2010 @04:56AM (#34457884)

          I "had an idea" for Kinect over a decade ago. Having toyed with VR stuff and motion capture and the like I though "Man, it'd be really awesome to have a device that does visual and shape capture at the same time, to be able to get a full 3D capture of a world in to an editor." I personally was thinking something along the lines of an IR laser rapidly scanning a scene (like a laser shape capture device but larger).

          Wow! Amazing! I so thought of it years before MS! I should be rich!!

          Well... No.

          All I did was think it was a neat idea. I had no fucking clue how to make it work. I just thought such a device would be great and would be doable, and had maybe a vague idea of what you might try. That is in no way shape or form something you could start development from or really anything unique. I'm sure tons of other people had the idea. What makes Kinect unique is that they got a team together, had engineers sit down and figure out how you might build such a thing, and do it cheaply, and now other people have figured out how to use data from it to reconstruct 3D scene data on a computer. The idea is not the hard part, the implementation is.

          Even in purely idea fields, having a vague idea isn't amazing or worth anything, showing its worth is. Feynman didn't win the Nobel prize because he had an idea about how the spin of particles might relate to larger phenomena (such as the spin of plates, as he talks about in his book). He won it because he turned that idea, that spark, in to a theory of quantum electrodynamics that is detailed in its construction and makes extremely accurate predictions. Had he just said "Huh, it is interesting that the amount a plate wobbles when tossed is an integer ratio to how much it spins. Maybe that has something to do with the way particles work," well then nothing would have come of it. His work was all ideas, but the important part of the idea work was developing it in to a complete, useful, theory.

      • by kestasjk (933987) *
        As a programmer, and a guy who has ideas, I find it insulting how simple people often think the programming is compared to their wonderful (stupid) idea (which lacks any sort of implementation, or any grounding in the reality of pulling off a complex project).

        And if you try to inject a dose of reality.. forget about it, you just don't get the genius of their idea and must just be incapable/unimaginative/scared of taking it on. If only they could find a programmer..
        These people often have little cash, an
    • by Junta (36770) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:28AM (#34456422)

      Most of these people with 'great idea', but *just* need a programmer (i.e. people who have obviously never talked to a developer about their idea and obviously know next to nothing about the nuts and bolts of how things work) have ideas that are terrible, impossible, and/or uselessly vague (many cases of do 'something' with the 'cloud').

      If a developer acts as a production line worker, they will frequently turn out irrelevant product. It's one thing to read the specs handed down by someone who knows what they want and write strictly to the requirements listed, it is another thing entirely to really internalize the need and apply your advanced knowledge of what is possible to deliver a perfect fit above and beyond the specific requests. People will prescribe awkward workflows due to perceived technology limitations and/or steer clear of very sensible features they presume impossible.

      Clear delineation between developer and 'idea' people just doesn't make much sense except in the most straightforward cases, and none of those straightforward 'ideas' are valuable (mostly one-off customized solutions of common setups required to work with a customers uniquely evolved system).

      You really need both a solid idea and a developer who is more than just an assembly line worker to get good results of significant value.

      • by dgatwood (11270) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:19AM (#34456778) Journal

        Clear delineation between developer and 'idea' people just doesn't make much sense except in the most straightforward cases, and none of those straightforward 'ideas' are valuable (mostly one-off customized solutions of common setups required to work with a customers uniquely evolved system).

        Agreed. Most of the good tech companies, major web companies, etc. have gotten their start not because of an idea person, but because of a programmer who had an idea. Programmers (and, to some degree, non-programmer computer power users) are much more likely to have a concept of what's possible, practical, and useful in technology. The farther you get from that, the less likely you are to have a good idea. Either way, the first thing you should do if you have an idea is to discuss it with people who do have a background in programming. Don't be surprised if it gets shot down as impossible or impractical.

        • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:43AM (#34457280)

          The thing is what can and can't be done with a computer is the kind of thing non-computer people have trouble understanding. So their "great ideas" may well be "impossible pipe dreams." I have a friend who is all the time bothering another friend with ideas for development that are impossible, things that would require an AI to do. He doesn't know computers very well so he doesn't know what can and can't be done.

          So you might not have to be a programmer, but at least have some deeper computer and programming knowledge to be able to actually come up with a workable idea.

          As a practical matter I find that the "I have the idea all I need is a programmer," types always have shitty ideas. They are usually very vague, obvious, already been done, etc. We see this shit with business students (I work for a university). They'll come over since we are the engineering department looking for engineers to work on their project. They have a "great idea" and "just need some people to develop it." They have a very small amount of funds they are willing to pay, and of course they keep all the rights, because after all THEY did the hard part. Often their ideas are, literally, along the lines of "Make a search engine that works better than Google," or the like. Things that would take a massive implementation effort even if they are feasible. However they think they did all the work coming up with it and making Powerpoints about it, and they just need a couple engineering students to stop being jerks and accept a minimal amount of pay to make it a reality.

          • by dgatwood (11270) on Monday December 06, 2010 @04:06AM (#34457662) Journal

            Agreed. Or, as Edison put it, "Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration." If anyone honestly thinks the idea is the hard part, that person hasn't ever tried to actually make anything. :-) That's not saying that the idea isn't important---without an idea, nothing would ever get made---and perhaps with really basic inventions, the idea actually is a significant part of the work. However, there's a rather obvious counterexample to put things in perspective:

            Hundreds of writers throughout time have thought of the idea of building a time machine. Yet 115 years after the H.G. Wells novel of that title, we still don't have one. Clearly, when it comes to any suitably complex invention, the idea is not the hard part.

            Ideas inspire genius---they give genius a reason to push the human race forward---but they are not genius. Only an idea with a working implementation is genius, or at least an idea whose implementation has been roughed out and shown to be feasible. Up until that point, it is just a thought---no better or worse than any of the other billions of thoughts had by everyone on the planet in any given moment. Sadly, as a society, we seem to give far too much credit to the "idea men" and far too little credit to the people who actually get things done. *sigh*

            • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday December 06, 2010 @04:34AM (#34457792)

              It also depends on what you mean by "idea". Generally when people say they have an idea and "just need a programmer" they have a very simple, vague, idea like your time machine example. They haven't really done anything, they just have thought of something they think would be cool.

              There IS idea work that is more substantive and important. For example the overall design of how a program works, that might be considered an idea part of the development cycle. However to do that you need some understanding of programming and generally you wouldn't say you "just need a programmer" you'd have a specific set of requirements as to what needs to be done.

              Another way to look at it would be to consider game development. The idea side generally encompass many people. You have a number of designers, producers, writers, and so on. They do a lot of work. They create the whole game universe, the story, the decide on how the mechanics will work, what assets will be needed and so on. They then can give specific tasks to the development team. They are idea people but it isn't as though the "have an idea" and then it is done. THAT is why they make money.

              So the real difference between a business idea guy who is useful and who is a tool is the amount of work they are willing and able to put in to their project. If it is something where they've drawn up a whole design and framework, where they understand what they are asking for and have designed how things will work, well that's useful. If they just have a thought, they are useless. The useful ones generally know what they need and ask for it. They will seek specific kind of developers, or have contracts to do specific tasks. The useless ones just want "a programmer" who can do whatever magic programmers do to make their idea a reality.

          • by JWSmythe (446288)

            I have a friend who is all the time bothering another friend with ideas for development that are impossible, things that would require an AI to do.

            They're not impossible. They're just impractical within the given parameters.

            I've had to explain that to quite a few people over the years. They make an impractical suggestion, so I tell them what I just said above. They give me a funny look, and ask "what", "why", or some other grunt of a question.

            I've had people a

      • by Trepidity (597)

        I agree, but I think that's more of a problem with the idea... I don't really agree with the analysis in the original article that it's mostly an issue of the idea person not knowing how to code. Someone with a really vague idea, and no clue about the field that idea is supposed to be in, does indeed have a lot of problems. Their problems aren't that they don't know enough C++ or Ruby or whatever to hack things up, though. It's that they don't know enough about how computers work in general to actually come

    • Re:As a programmer (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:31AM (#34456438) Journal

      I honestly don't think either is true.

      Programming is not a production line, and trying to turn it into that leads to inefficient programmers, bad code, and maintenance nightmares. Programming is an art, a creative process, and a science, and there are definitely people who do it better than others, and platforms which make it easier than others.

      That's important. Think about a typical ad agency, special effects company, or pretty much any design field where you can hire a contractor for a project. You hire them based on their work, because their work is recognizable and valuable. You also hire them based on prior experience working with them, how well you can communicate your ideas to them, and so on. You can pretend they're replaceable if you want, which is partly true -- there are always other design companies you can go to -- but you certainly don't think of them as cogs in an assembly line.

      You sure as hell don't try to design your process so you can replace a single artist at any time.

      However, ideas are valuable. I can't speak for other programmers, but I'm absolutely lost on the business side of things. From my perspective, sales, marketing, ideas, and so on are just some of the things I'm very glad other people do, all as part of the Development Abstraction Layer [joelonsoftware.com]. I'm hopeless without them, to the point where on one-man projects, I usually end up asking every prospective customer, investor, or just friends and family, for advice on things like naming a price.

      I'm not sure how I feel about idea people learning to program. They try anyway, with spreadsheets. Sometimes it ends well, but often it ends in disaster. It's usually not a good idea to hire a dedicated full-time programmer to work on spreadsheets, and the whole point of spreadsheets is to enable end-users to do these things. Still, a few basic programming concepts would go a long way, even if they are in spreadsheets.

      (No, I don't mean VBA. Either program or don't, but to half-ass it by crawling up out of excel into VBA is only going to end in tears.)

      And I do like to think I'm working on something really cool. I certainly want my "code poetry" to have a point. It's not that I can't appreciate idea people or their ideas, it's that I'm not much of an idea person myself -- or at least, my ideas don't tend to be the sort that are likely to make me money.

    • Re:As a programmer (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mysidia (191772) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:31AM (#34456440)

      I disagree. A terrible idea with a beautifully executed development goes no where. A great idea that is hacked together with shell scripts and kilometers of spaghetti code can make someone a fortune and (lame as it sounds) change the world.

      A terrible idea that is beautifully executed can also go somewhere.

      But it is extremely rare to find a terrible idea executed well. The idea will almost certainly be revised (to something better) in the process. Thus great execution can make up for having an originally poor idea, as long as the idea changes in the process of the execution.

      As for a great idea... if the execution is poor enough, it will never come to fruition.

      A mess of shell script and spaghetti code will suffice for a good enough idea. But in practice, there are very few ideas thought up that are that good.

      Most ideas thought up will lie somewhere in between terrible and great, and most executions will lie somewhere between terrible and great.

      The most terrible execution possible cannot be made up by the best idea possible, and vice versa.

      Real world efforts always lie somewhere in the middle.

      There are massive amounts of good ideas, however. Executions and business plans are in short supply.

      So it is the execution that is valuable.

      And if you "just want a programmer" to implement your idea, you should probably be expecting to sell the idea to the programmer who will provide the execution, in exchange for a small share of the profits from their great execution..

      Otherwise, how would it be worth their while, when there are millions of other idea mean they can find a good idea from? :)

      • A terrible idea that is beautifully executed can also go somewhere.

        So poking yourself in the eye with a really sharp, exquisitely carved and perfectly balanced stick is better than doing it with your finger?

    • Re:As a programmer (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Angst Badger (8636) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:38AM (#34456496)

      The idea and the marketing are what makes the product successful.

      As much as I agree that programmers tend to overestimate their importance -- a trait that pretty much every job category shares to one degree or another -- I think the idea is of negligible importance compared to the marketing.

      A lot of people like to think that having a good idea and having it first is terribly important. And while that is occasionally true, it's mostly wishful thinking. Henry Ford didn't get rich by inventing the automobile. Someone else did that. He didn't even get rich by inventing the assembly line. Someone else did that, too. He got rich by extending credit to his customers: he invented the car payment. And once he did all this, a bunch of other companies came along and did more or less the same thing, and they made vast sums doing it, too. And the story repeats itself through the following century with radio, television, computers, refrigerators, and all the other technological advances we presently enjoy. Even with patents, inventing something and inventing it first just doesn't matter all that much. (Which is not to say that it doesn't matter at all.)

      The same applies to the myth of the indispensable man (or woman). By himself, Henry Ford couldn't have done squat. He needed a considerable number of people with a broad range of skills just to get off the ground. And quite likely, any or all of them could have been replaced by other people without materially affecting the outcome.

      Those of us who aren't magnates believe these myths because they allow us to believe an even bigger myth: that we can, as lone individuals, change the world. This is almost never true, allowing for rare exceptions like assassinating an Austrian archduke. Those who are magnates believe these myths because they allow magnates to believe that they are self-made men, ignoring the labor and intelligence of the thousands who helped put them there.

      If good ideas were all it took to strike it rich, almost everyone would be rich already.

      • Re:As a programmer (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:16AM (#34457118) Journal

        If good ideas were all it took to strike it rich, almost everyone would be rich already.

        Wow. Good ideas don't grow on trees. Most ideas are bad ones. Some are obviously bad, but for many, it's hard to tell. And the people doing the judging tend to be arrogant sorts who severely overestimate their abilities. I've been a code monkey on several bad projects. It is infuriating to have those jokers tell you that it's your laziness and incompetence that is dooming the great idea, when it gradually becomes obvious that they never did their homework to get some data to back up their woolly, pie-in-the-sky notions.

        Last one I was on, The Man blamed poor sales on the sales people, and fired them all. Twice. When the 3rd group of sales people still couldn't sell the service, he shifted targets, and blamed it on the programmers. But it was too late by then. The company ran out of money, and could not reboot the programming group. Didn't matter. The idea had to do with project planning. It was not particularly profound, and their vision of how it should be realized was, ironically, frightfully ad hoc and not well focused. For instance, hours worked was integral to the realization. Bean counters love that kind of thing, but that's of little value for planning on larger scales like weeks and months. We did eat our own dog food. Didn't help. Whenever I asked to see what they'd done in the way of market research, test marketing, design, user feedback, and such like, they became annoyed at my supposed obtuseness. In their view none of that was needed, or it was an ongoing process. They thought their idea was so good that it was obviously a winner. No need to research anything! There was a little user feedback. The negative feedback was seen as user stupidity-- those users just weren't getting it. They took comfort from all the positive noise they were getting at trade shows, but somehow that failed to translate into sales. And I was just a stupid code monkey, what business did I have questioning their leadership?

    • by Lord Kano (13027)

      HR tends to think of programmers as production line workers.. and as much as I hate to admit it, there really is truth in that.

      Except that it's easy to see if an assembly line worker isn't doing a good job. I know virtually nothing about making automobiles, but I could watch someone painting body panels and have some idea of whether or not he's doing a good job.

      And I thought the whole "managers can write code thing" died with COBOL.

      LOL. You think the COBOL died?

      LK

    • by FSWKU (551325)

      If we produce better products or produce them more efficiently, we make the company more money...

      Now, if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime. So where's the motivation? And here's another thing, Bob. I have eight different bosses right now!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      As a programming non-programmer, I think I kind of fall under the category the post is talking about.

      My background is an aerospace engineer, but I've been coding since I was about 10. My job is spacecraft navigation, and much of my free time is spent helping manage a conference and a non-profit organization. My job is a lot of analysis and simulation, and the way its set up, it ends up being a lot of code (Python tying together a bunch of C objects,) and for my non-profit work, I have the skills that have

      • Re:As a programmer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mickwd (196449) on Monday December 06, 2010 @05:12AM (#34457948)

        "Since I spend a lot of my time in code, and I'm an engineer at heart, I'd say I've learned how to do decent coding -- modularity, MVC, properly normalized databases, small well-defined functions, OO when necessary (and recognizing when its necessary). Now I won't claim to be at all skilled in anything lower level....."

        By the sound of it, you're actually a better programmer than 80% of the "programmers" out there. And I say this as an experienced programmer myself.

  • It's bologna (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drumcat (1659893) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:09AM (#34456300)
    If someone says that, "they just need a programmer", they haven't vetted the idea. If they really knew what they wanted, they wouldn't need a programmer - they'd need a contract fulfilled for a specific task. If you say that crap, you're just a bullshit marketing guy.
    • If someone says that, "they just need a programmer", they haven't vetted the idea.

      Actually if the "ideas" that this guy receives are like the "ideas" my colleagues and I receive as physics profs I would not even call them ideas but simply wishes as in "I wish physics worked like this and I'd like you to work on proving that it does." vs. "I wish this piece of software existed and I'd like you to work on writing it.". Apparently it is not just profs which get requests for help with "ideas" as amusing exchange [27bslash6.com] shows.

      • A little while ago, my wife's cousin (who is a trust fund baby living on an island in a treehouse... no shit) decided that he's going to change the world. He is educated as a carpenter (daddy made him work for a little while... to build character) and is damn good at it. But, when you're living in a tree house in the tropics with your wife and babies... there's very little to do but "think".

        Over FaceBook, he has been putting a great deal of effort into informing people about government conspiracies that are
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:09AM (#34456302) Homepage Journal

    Really ideas are cheap.
    A better social networking site than Facebook...
    An electric car that can charge in 5 mintes, go 300 miles on charge, and costs $20,000
    A no fat chocolate.

  • Wrong and wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:12AM (#34456314) Homepage

    Success is 1% inspiration, 9% perspiration, and 90% marketing (of which "timing" is a significant but minority component). The inspiration is cheap (obviously, since this professor has already amassed quite a portfolio), the perspiration is, yes, a commodity, and the marketing requires Emotional Intelligence, something which, ironically enough, does not often come naturally to perspirers.

    So... the real question should be: what it would be like if marketers could implement ideas (not necessarily their own)?

    • by drumcat (1659893)

      what it would be like if marketers could implement ideas (not necessarily their own)?

      God I Don't Believe In, help us all...

  • by epyT-R (613989) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:13AM (#34456320)

    idea people often take the form of upper management. they always assume their ideas are workable, and if their employees are having trouble rewriting reality to make them happen, then it's due to the employees' ignorance and not their own. classic ivory tower syndrome.

  • "Just" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KingFrog (1888802) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:19AM (#34456370)
    Really, I am already re-thinking my earlier reply. The issue here is summed up in one word - "Just". You think you need "Just" a programmer, or "Just" a marketing guy, or "Just" a salesman? You have already told me that you don't really value their contribution to the effort, and additionally that you don't really understand fully what goes in to the work they're doing. Yeah, you have a genius idea. You don't want "Just" a programmer. You want a genius programmer, preferably either with a passion for your cause, or a resume of working in coding similar things. Otherwise, your operating system is being written by "just" a database programmer, and while you will have great search times, you may find other areas coming up short.
    • "Just" Ice 4 all (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yergle143 (848772) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:47AM (#34456954)

      "Just" quit smoking. "Just" exercise and lose weight. "Just" balance the budget. "Just" get off foreign oil. "Just" win baby.
      "Just" is the word that betrays the orders of magnitude energetic difference between the running of the mouth and the actual doing of something.

       

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:20AM (#34456372) Homepage Journal
    I've met people who have excellent working software, and have had it for years, and simply aren't able to make a business out of it. They think I just need an investor! And this when it would take them hundreds of dollars to actually start their business, after which they'd have a lot more value to an investor, if they decided they still need one.
  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:24AM (#34456404) Homepage

    This might be limited to universities, but on job ads posted around the campus, "computer science student" tends to stand for "cheap coder". Every now and then some hot-shot (possibly a marketing, media or finance student) with a bright idea for a new dot-com (sorry, Web 2.0 site) puts up flyers asking for "computer scientists".

    It's funny because technically, we can be cheap coders (and will be, often), but it would sound less bull-shitty if the ad actually said "programmer".

  • by wagadog (545179) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:25AM (#34456408) Journal

    We should unionize. Conservative rhetoric aside, labor unions provide training, institute quality standards and work procedures.

    The partnership system in the steamfitters and pipefitters unions could be emulated as pair programming is often much higher quality than code produced by lone programmers, or ad hoc hastily-assembled teams.

    Think of it as a contracting outfit, only with the hefty cut that normally goes to the contract brokers -- going directly into your pension plan -- a REAL pension plan -- which you get to take with you from job to job.

    Training, standards, a partner system, pensions, health plans. All the things we could get small businesses off the hook of having to provide.

    And, union labor could actually undercut the likes of TekSystems and Adecco in a fair fight, lol.

    • by orphiuchus (1146483) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:35AM (#34456474)
      I think the current situation that programmers are in industry wide is exactly the sort of thing unions are designed to prevent. And I say that as a republican.
      • by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:47AM (#34456562)

        Unionization would be complete unsuccessful in an industry where entires countries of scabs can easily cross the virtual picket line. You can't off-shrore plumbers, electricians or jobs like that, though

        • by wagadog (545179) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:35AM (#34456864) Journal

          Actually, the industry is rapidly realizing that offshoring only works in certain very limited situations, and that any "key performance metrics" you put in place can be easily gamed by people too far away to throttle when they start in with the malicious compliance and the stringing out jobs forever with their poor quality work.

          The key to a successful union would be to provide better quality work for a lower price overall. Would you rather work with a union rep who in his or her heart of hearts wants your enterprise to succeed and can get you the people you actually need quickly and effectively and at a fair price, with no dickering over 401K's -- and to work on-site?

          Or would you rather work with some outsourcing outfit that undercuts and way under-delivers and then has the cheek to insist that you have them fix their mistakes? Or a contracting outfit that charges like a wounded bull and whose people are no better than cheap overseas labor anyway?

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:25AM (#34456792) Journal
        Wait, what situation are programmers in industry wide? Making three times the median income? Getting full coverage healthcare with no limits (and so cheap it's almost free)? I mean, I have it pretty good here, and so do most of the other programmers I know.

        When I hear 'union', I think seniority, inefficiency, union dues, and another layer of administrators to deal with. I don't want to deal with some incompetent coworkers who can't be fired just because they've been around a long time. I really don't see how I would get anything at all from a union, at least from a US style union.
    • by Lord Kano (13027)

      We should unionize. Conservative rhetoric aside, labor unions provide training, institute quality standards and work procedures.

      I wish I had points to mod this funny. Have you ever had to deal with a Union? Unions enforce the supremacy of seniority, how many times have you had a boss or manager who couldn't find his ass with both hands but he had been there forever so he still had a job? Unionizing would compound this problem a hundredfold. In technology, you know as well as I do, that Rockstar programmers are out there and of all ages. Union rules will absolutely prevent a workplace from bringing in a younger worker above an older

    • by thegarbz (1787294)
      All the positives you talk about can be had from forming a professional association without the incredible bullshit involved with being a union shop.

      Unions are the biggest waste of human talent and resources in the world. I have seen a slack pompus prick keep his job over a hardworking young labourer on account of him simply having all the right friends in the union when he started a fight with the poor kid at a factory. I have seen industrial plant operators all order tickets to the company function th
  • by orphiuchus (1146483) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:31AM (#34456434)
    My father is a professor at a major university who for years has been listed as a "Alternative Fuels expert". He gets calls just about daily from whack-jobs who are positive they've invented some perpetual energy source and they just need some PHD to lend them the credibility to get funding. The vast majority of the people simply don't know what they are talking about, but a fun minority is downright insane, like the hobo who wandered into his office and explained to him where to find the aliens in the early 90s.
  • Ideas are cheap... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine932038 (1934132) on Monday December 06, 2010 @12:41AM (#34456510)

    Implementation is something else. What so-called 'idea people' don't realize is that without implementation, ideas are worthless. And you know what? Implementation is hard.

    Starting a business is hard work!

    The intangible benefits are pretty great, of course - freedom to set your own hours (clients permitting), freedom to set your own priorities, that sort of thing. That's all great. But the costs are pretty hefty. It's not just the money - though the money is a big problem too!

    It's about the stress of getting a business off the ground. It's about taking half pay, living expenses, or no pay whatsoever while the business gets off the ground. It's about hiring someone new and wondering if they're actually a fuckup who's going to pull you down. It takes grit! And after the first year, you end up wondering if you did the right thing - if working for someone else might not seem so bad after all.

    I used to guard my ideas jealously, but these days I don't even care. Go ahead, 'steal' my ideas. Then, whether you fail or succeed, I'll watch what you did. And if I have the opportunity... I'll give it my best shot to do it better.

    • by thePig (964303) <rajmohan_h@y3.14ahoo.com minus pi> on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:12AM (#34457096) Journal

      Amen to that, brother.

      I started my own company. The idea was good, and I had confidence in myself to create the program by myself.
      I left my job and started out on my own. My wife (and my 2 year old too) was also full supportive.

      I completed the coding and testing part. It took me close to a year, but I finished it.
      It works great, everybody who saw the program (including one MNC), said it is very well done.

      After that it came to marketing and sales.
      I went to an MNC where I previously worked. They said they are interested and pulled me around for 4 months before they stopped answering my calls.
      And by then - after 1 year - I got tired and lost my will.

      I started fighting with my wife everyday for very small reasons. Pressure from parents/relatives/friends etc to look for a job etc. Not from my wife though.

      I relented, and I joined a startup - actually I went there to sell my product, and they were very impressed and asked me to join them.
      It has been a year now. I have a fully done product with me. I have not gone to sell it to more than 3 clients.

      It is something I regret, and regret a lot. But I now understand, with experience, that starting a business is not about coding or even having the idea.
      It is about perseverance and patience. Which I sorely lacked.

      • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:21AM (#34457472)

        It is something I regret, and regret a lot.

        This is something I rarely understand. Why regret it?

        If you hadn't gone through this, think of all the things you wouldn't have learned/discovered.

        You wouldn't have discovered that your wife is extremely supportive, even in rough times.
        You wouldn't have learned that you lacked perseverance and patience, and thus know to work on them (you write lacked, indicating that you rectified it)
        You wouldn't have started working at a seemingly supportive company.
        You wouldn't be able to give good advice to people looking to start their own company.
        You wouldn't have learned, that large companies are very keen on fighting wars of attrition without their counterpart knowing it, hoping to swoop in later and have a really cheap feast.

        Unless you ended up divorcing your wife, why regret learning this?

        When I took a college class on starting your own company, the most interesting examples were always from people who had failed. A wealthy entrepreneur told of two of his companies - one a billion dollar company that's been successful for 20 years, the other a million dollar start-up that crashed, and by far the crash was the more interesting one.

        Sure, the successful one had its share of ups and downs, but the crash one had a brilliant idea, patents, proof of concept, EMEA approved human testing (on himself), a story about peeing blood, and ends up with him telling us that the then 15 year old prototype is still stored in a basement lab at a university hospital.

        Granted, he was in a much more financial secure position (helps when you're a multi-millionaire who can put more than a million dollars into an idea and not be too concerned) than you were, but at least you managed to sell your product to three clients. I don't know about the US, but in Denmark the rate of successful startups are around 10%, and luck plays a big factor.

        • by thePig (964303)

          I am still happily married - so the regret is not about that.

          The regret is due to the following reasons:

          1. I started the company hoping that I will be able to be financially secure after a while. That did not pan out, and I am in the same state financially as I was before I started the company.

          I have many other ideas too. I thought I will try out the most financially lucrative one, get enough money to be safe for the rest of the life, and then try out my other ideas. That is not going to happen anytime soon

          • 1) Like I said, the Danish statistics are about 90% failure. In other words, you essentially regret that you couldn't run a marathon on your very first attempt at running.

            2) You quit on something. So what? What was the downside of quitting? Seriously - what was the downside of quitting? Every downside that you've mentioned happened before quitting. The arguments, the failure to sell the product etc. Quitting could easily have been the only correct way to act in your position, and believe it or not, it's har

            • by thePig (964303)

              Please dont take it in a negative way. I am very happy that I did start on it, but what I am sad about is that it did not pan out, and because in my opinion I did not try enough.

              I agree to all your points (esp since otherwise, I will be branded an idiot :-) ), but all said and done, some days and nights, I do feel very sad that I did not go ahead with it.

              There is a lot of knowledge gained from it, I have become much more competent programmer because of it, I appreciate my family more because of it, I got mo

  • by guyminuslife (1349809) on Monday December 06, 2010 @01:03AM (#34456682)

    I'm a college student. Not even a Distinguished Professor. Or even a working programmer. Occasionally, I'll meet a recent business grad who will discover that I know how to write code, and say, "I have this great idea, I think there's a market for it, we should totally do that."

    Well, they know I'm cheap, so at least part of the scheme works for them.

    Mostly it involves them talking up a vague notion, which is somehow the Next Big Thing. "It's like eBay! Except it's on your iPhone! And I know eBay already has an iPhone app, but they haven't been successful with it and I will be!" And then it involves me doing all the work and them taking their big cut for the "inspiration." It's fairly easy to come up with an idea that's "like X for your Y." And so I smile and nod and discuss it a bit and then go on my merry way.

    If said recent business grad were really able to present me with an idea that really were All That and a Bag of Chips, and could be done by one college student with a twelve-pack of Mountain Dew, I'm not sure what I'd need them for. If I could implement it, I would probably do so and then, if it turned out to really be successful, hire someone else to do the "businessy stuff." Why, I mean, once you've got a product, all there is to do is market it, right?

    Fortunately, our friend doesn't need to worry about me stealing his ideas and cutting him out of the picture, because I don't think his ideas are all that hot to begin with.

  • by nixNscratches (957550) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:19AM (#34457146)
    Saying, "I just need a programmer" is a lot like saying, "I could totally get this car running if I just had a tool." What kind of tool were you looking for? An OBD-II reader, a flathead screwdriver? a 9mm socket wrench? A hydraulic lift bay? Not all programmers are created equal, and they are not equivalent cogs that can be removed and replaced at will without regard or consequence. Surely there are programmers that are more valuable than others, just like there are works of art or engineering that are more prized than others. There is a widely accepted myth among the industry that nearly everything is a computer solvable problem. At the same time, the technology professionals who will be expected to solve these problems with the aid of technological tools such as hardware and software are often considered a minor and inconsequential part of the equation, without value or merit beyond performing a specific task. Often we are told not only what problem to solve, but how we are expected to solve it. Usually by people who haven't the faintest notion what they are asking for.
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday December 06, 2010 @04:10AM (#34457686) Homepage

    When I hear that, I recall a comment about the misconceptions about racing: "Winning the Indianapolis 500 is easy. All you do is stand on the gas and turn left.". 'nuff said.

  • by xmundt (415364) on Monday December 06, 2010 @04:16AM (#34457712)

    Greetings and Salutations....
    Having skimmed through the comments, I will say that it is a good feeling to know that there are so many of us highly competent artists who are massively under-appreciated and under paid. No...I am NOT being sarcastic here. Just the other day, I had a lengthy meeting with three very nice folks that wanted me to set up and administer a website pushing their brand of Zeolite. They had a reasonably cautious business plan, and, had thought about many expenses and such that could arise. Two of them are fairly successful business people, and, I say that because, while they may not be accumulating huge amounts of wealth, they are keeping their heads above water even in TODAY's nasty and fragile economy. In any case, we talked about the content of the site, and, while they had SOME information for it, it quickly became clear to me that they had the idea that I could come in, pop up a few pages for a couple hundred dollars, and, they could then forget the site while the orders and cash rolled in. They had no idea about search engine optimization (such as it is), or, adding content to keep folks interested in coming back to the site, or any of a half a dozen OTHER things that help generate interest in the site and, perhaps the product they were pushing.
    Alas, it ALSO became clear as I spoke with them that they wanted me to create this website, including an e-commerce shopping cart, and, maintain it, either for free (Promises of great rewards to come when the company took off) or for small money (something on that $10/hour figure that has been tossed around already). Well, as an independent consultant, my hourly rate is just a tad larger than that, and, I just walked away from a client who spent a lot of time blowing smoke up my "dress" about how I was going to get these great rewards for my efforts on their behalf, as soon as the economy picked up. Being somewhat slow to learn, it took a while for me to look at them, driving their expensive BMWs, Lexi, and Hummers, and living in their million dollar houses, to realize that the only pocket the money was going to go into was theirs...not mine. So...to get back to my point....I thought about doing this online shop and website for these fine folks for a bit, and ended up writing them a proposal that, essentially, cut my hourly rate by about 25%, but, with a guaranteed monthly payment, and strict limits on how many hours per month they would get from me FOR that retainer. I also made it very clear that any time I spent over and above the allocated time would be charged at my regular rates, and, that I DID charge for time spent in meetings. My general rule there is that the client gets the first meeting free...after that...it gets billed.
    So...it has been a few months now, and, oddly enough, I have not heard anything back from them. I suspect that, since it was mentioned in our original meeting, that they have gone ahead and talked the nephew of one of the folks into putting the site together. Should I have taken the job? At the time it was the only sign of work out there. However, since then, I have picked up several smaller clients, who call me on an as-needed basis, and, pay COD...so since I do not do this as a hobby, and, so far, the utility company has yet to give me free electricity, I think I made the correct decision.
    Just to prove I am not totally wandering away from the topic at hand with this rant, the zeolite folks that I talked to were pretty much of the mindset that they had done all the hard work - coming up with the idea for the website and all they needed was a hack to go in and change some URLs or a bit of text to talk about THEM and THEIR product, and make it pretty. It has been my experience over the years that folks like this are not really downplaying the role of the programmer so much as they are running on that autopilot program th

  • by Hairy1 (180056) on Monday December 06, 2010 @04:28AM (#34457768) Homepage

    Ideas are a dime a dozen. As a software developer I have many ideas. I can also potentially develop software myself. Even so I cannot simply implement every idea I have. The reality is that time is money; even open source developers know that their time is valuable, and that you need to focus on developing one idea at a time. A simple application might take a month of development time. Complex applications take years of effort, and can require whole teams of developers. If you don't have your own money this means you will need a business case and some funding behind it.

    I don't know how many times some Joe has offered to tell me about their brilliant idea, and that they will let me implement it and share in the rewards. Naturally I won't be paid, but get to share in the rewards when the software is sold or licensed. I can count the number of times I have accepted this kind offer on the fingers of one foot. Am I so arrogant that I believe I'm the only one that can have a good idea?

    No. Its just that I know that it takes more than a good idea to be a success. You need the resources behind you, the expertise, experience and contacts in the industry you are trying to sell into. Good ideas are common. Good execution is rare.

  • by john82 (68332) on Monday December 06, 2010 @07:55AM (#34458480)

    The Professor is missing the irony in his own remarks. Since he is the "oracle" in this situation, the one the idea guys seek. He's pontificating as though he's addressing one of his classes on what should happen in the "real" world.

    On the other hand, what he should do is look in the mirror. What do most Professors do when they get an idea? Why, farm it out to a grad student, of course. They're the academic equivalent of the real world instance he's deriding. Grad students after all are cheap labor to be exploited for his infinite favor in the course of their thesis work and perhaps the whiff of a nod in the credits when it's time for him to collect the prize. Other than that, they are merely a commodity.

    Freakin' hypocrite.

Never test for an error condition you don't know how to handle. -- Steinbach

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