Archive for January, 2013

I Design and Build Software that Powers Businesses

January 17th, 2013 4 comments

I’ve been a programmer for hire for a number of years now, and in such a broad field as software development, it’s taken me some time to converge on a succinct description of what it is I do, especially one suitable for non-technical folks.  But I think this sums it up:

I design and build software that powers businesses.

This line contains a lot ambiguous connotations in my field, so in the interest of clarity let’s break this down one key word at a time.

I.  I do the work that I am hired to do.  I don’t sub-contract my part out, I don’t manage the projects for others to  execute.  The projects I am hired for are executed by me, made with the love of a craftsman who values being able to hand over completed work that is a proud expression of what I am capable of.

Design.  Design is often taken to mean the pretty pixels: color schemes, imagery, graphics, styles.  That is not me: I take my aesthetic cues from the established brands that hire me, or the designer my clients are using, or one of the graphic designers that I recommend.  I’m talking about design of user experience, functionality, solutions to the real needs.  This means my clients don’t have to feed me a lengthy spec doc brewed up at great effort & expense, their mere knowing they have a need is enough to get the conversation rolling.  I play the role of collaborator responsible for designing an effective solution.

Build.  I build the software that I am hired to create.  That means I’m intimately familiar with how it’s going to go in terms of time and money.  It also means I can intelligently contribute to the design process, attuned to what will be low hanging fruit and what will be more hassle or expense than it’s worth.

Software.  Interactive stuff that runs on a computer or other smart device.  Generally complicated, usually custom tailored, and always web-based.

Powers.  The software that I design in build plays a vital role in the functioning of businesses that hire me.  Real results depend on it, either as internal tools for operations or public facing software that customers need to use and love.  Clunky or hated or hacked together work is not an option.

Businesses.  Organizations rely on the software I build, my fee is worth every penny and priced well compared to less nimble firms, and with projects starting at $5000 I am generally not suitable for individuals to hire.  I work for businesses where the stakes of successful execution are high.

That’s what I mean when I say I design and build software that powers businesses.

Categories: About Me Tags:

CoachAccountable: My Personal Project

January 16th, 2013 No comments

Yesterday I wrote about personal projects, and I would be remiss not to mention my own.  It’s called CoachAccountable.

It’s a SaaS business, cloud-based software for managing and structuring professional coaching relationships.  Reborn from the ashes of version 1 which was built nearly 4 years ago by me and my partners, it carries forth the pretty pixels created by my fab design partners Lee Robinson and Rob Fieldhouse.  Otherwise, like I detailed about personal projects yesterday, I’m fully responsible for however it’s great and however it’s not.

My work on CoachAccountable is the reason I haven’t posted here in over 7 months1, as that writing bandwidth has been essentially redirected to the CoachAccountable blog.  So if you’re curious what I’ve been up to, there you have it.

If you’re reading this chances are good that the content of online coaching software might not be interesting to you, but the craftsmanship of it might be.  I’m proud to have my signature all over it.

You can see my baby here:


  1. Lordy, has it been that long?  Goodness, how time flies when you’re having fun!
Categories: Projects Tags:

Personal Projects as a Programmer for Hire

January 15th, 2013 No comments

Sometimes the greatest thing about being a programmer for hire is you have virtually unlimited access to a very useful class of service provider.

The employee discount is pretty nice, too.

The notion that software is eating the world is fast becoming a commonplace quotation and is well on it’s way to Cliché Town.

Correspondingly, it’s not that hard to think up any number of sexy and interesting (if not downright useful and/or profitable) projects that might be pursued.  This holds doubly true for those of us well immersed in the craft: we dabble in this stuff all the time, seeing countless examples of what the other smart monkeys are dreaming up this week which affords limitless opportunities for ideas to cross-pollinate.

If you love the programming craft, I think personal projects are pretty natural to pursue, bounded primarily by bandwidth1.  Conversely if you’re only in it for a paycheck, personal projects are never going to be a priority because when free time comes about, well, fuck this programming stuff–I’m on break.

One of the highly instructive things about doing a personal project is that it allows a programmer to experience being completely at the source of a project.  By that I mean: completely in tune with the purpose and vision of why do the project at all, and thus able to effectively navigate the countless micro-decisions about how to create a fits-like-a-glove solution.  It is the complete absence of a Creator/User Gap, and, put into crude terms: it’s a matter of being keenly aware of when something sucks and when it is great.

Why is this instructive?  Because one of the key ways for a programmer for hire to be fantastic is to fully own whatever vision and purpose of the project they are hired for.  If you do, and then you create something you think is great, your client will likely agree.  Dabbling in personal projects gives you the experience of fully owning the vision, and cultivates your ability to do that with other people’s projects.

It’s also a unique opportunity to create and showcase something that you’re really proud of.  Assuming you can muster the whole “doing a substantial chunk of work without a tidy paycheck as reward”, a personal project can be the shining beacon of your ability, with nothing external to detract from it.  Often as servants to the vision of others, our proud work is sometimes blended into projects based on problems which are uninteresting, design which is unflattering, or direction which is lackluster.

By contrast, a personal project need not be compromised any such excuse.  It’s the ultimate act of putting your money where your mouth is insomuch as “Well, if it were up to me…” speak is concerned: it’s all up to you.

All of these properties of personal projects suggest they’re a really good predictor of talent that is worth hiring.  Though this approach may suffer from the occasional false negative (even the greats now and again bang out quick-and-dirty personal projects don’t necessarily impress), a false positive probably never does: you’ll probably never find someone with a great personal project who also turns out to be rubbish.

There’s something great about the notion of personal projects serving as resume pieces: as far as credentials go, they have a much stronger connection to reality than more abstract indicators like, say, certifications or a 4-year degree.  I don’t mean to imply some need to create personal projects as yet another barrier to entry of the field, but when trying to discern talent they make a really nice basis on which to differentiate.


  1. To be clear, I’m not saying that this is not a trivial bounding by any means: some months the time for personal projects feels strictly like a luxury.  I would never take the absence of personal projects to imply the absence of love of programming.  The presence of personal projects, however, I take always to be an indication of that love.
Categories: Essays Tags: