Archive for March, 2012

The (Sometimes Instant) Good Karma of Open Source Contribution

March 18th, 2012 3 comments

I’m tickled by the good that can come of the noble act of releasing an open source project.

Two months ago I released trueDAT, a web-based GUI for MySQL databases and the first real project I’ve ever taken the time to open source.  While I always figured good things eventually came to open source contributors1, I didn’t have expectations for myself while showing off trueDAT for the first time at a Meetup group back in mid-January.

While demoing my baby, I made the acquaintance of two folks eagerly looking to birth their web vision: a user generated content site focused on promoting the best with prize-laden contests.  They were then working on learning PHP and MySQL, and so trueDAT, a tool which makes a really novice-friendly way to interact with databases, made a nice topic of conversation.  (They were also a bit displeased with the progress on their site with their current provider, so we had plenty to talk about.)

The instant good karma of open sourcing trueDAT is summed up in the following 2 snippets from emails from them to me over the two days that followed:

…  I’d like to talk over potentially hiring you to build Masspire. I’m not that enthused about my current menu of options, and I’d like to explore a bit more. …


… Basically, if we can think up a mutually agreeable version of the site that you’d be willing to build for $… I’d be happy to work with you. I’ve got a bit more faith in someone who makes something like trueDAT for fun than an Indian firm.  …

These words simply tickle me:

I’ve got a bit more faith in someone who makes something like trueDAT for fun than an Indian firm.

I share them not to brag on what a great open source guy I am (I’m not, I’m new to this game–trueDAT hasn’t even been downloaded 100 times since I released it two months ago), nor to revive the notion that I’m anti-India (I’m just anti-cheap slop).  Rather I wish to share that experience with my fellow programmer: that open sourcing can make such a powerful and immediate impression on the type of person who could/would/should hire you.

In hindsight?  Makes total sense.

Beforehand, I only knew open sourcing as more of an ideologically good thing.

Today, about 2 months later, we have high fived over the successful build of their site, which can be seen now at  I had a solid February as a contractor, and they’re pleased with the value and end result of their work.

Our connecting professionally was a tidy win-win, and a direct result of chops effectively demonstrated through an open source project.

Doing well by doing good, illustrated.  Viva open source.


  1. E.g. I’ve donated a few bucks here and there to some of my heroes for creating modules I’ve found useful
Categories: Essays, Projects Tags:

Drive-Thru Programming

March 14th, 2012 1 comment

There’s a delightful phenomenon that happens with clients after the first contract is executed and fulfilled on, and that I call “Drive-Thru Programming”.

The way I am most often engaged professionally is like this: a client needs me to build a web application, we sketch out the relevant particulars, I write up the resultant scope of work contact (which details features, price, and payment schedule).  It’s signed and we’re off to the races.

Once that contact has been fulfilled, all the money has been paid and everything outlined has been built and delivered to my client’s satisfaction (and I’m not done until they love it).  By this point we’ve invariably established a really good rapport: we know how we work together, trust is there, quality, value and workability have been demonstrated.

This situation makes possible Drive-Thru Programming.

What is it?  It’s a style of handling requests for development work on a rolling basis that is tuned for speed and ease.

It’s quite common for clients to want to evolve and expand upon the applications I have built them.  After the first contract, the formalities of said contract are far less important.  So I’m free to operate as a fluid, on-demand programmer for needs as they arise.  So we get to have email volleys that look like this:

9:41am, Client: Hey John, can you add to the system this, that, and the other thing, and how much would it cost?
9:48am, Me:  Sure thing, can do this for $A, that for $B, and the other thing for $C, so $X total.  Can have it done by then end of tomorrow if you want me to proceed.
9:57am, Client:  Sounds good, please proceed.
9:59am, Me:  On it, will drop you an email when it’s done.  Please pull through!

The analogy is crude, but the feeling is dead on: I get the experience of being a drive-thru coding house, ready to take your order and deliver ultra-quick turnaround times.  Of course I request a phone call to clarify in case this, that, or the other thing aren’t entirely clear, and I maintain my promise that I’m not done until they love it.  These two practices ensure that with speed we are not sacrificing clarity and quality of the end result.

For clients with whom I’ve completed a major contract, I have no problem putting on-demand programming tasks and mini-projects on a tab, and billing whenever it makes sense to do so.  My trust is their convenience.  In return, my clients get ultra-responsive service which helps them mold and evolve the application that runs critical (or all) aspects of their business without the hassle of formalities.

I wrote about programming at the speed of trust over a year ago, and Drive-Thru Programming is yet another gem that arises from it.

Categories: Business, Essays Tags: