Yet more trouble

May 31, 2006

Part of the specification of a system we built recently was to email all global administrators whenever a user account was locked out, password reset, etc.  Not the smartest idea, but the client insisted that they needed to be in on all this communication, and that it was of paramount important, so it was built.

A few months on, and one of the dumb f*ck head honchos decides he doesn’t want to receive these emails anymore and keeps moaning to the agency, who moan to us – Can’t you just code it so that he doesn’t get included in those emails? F*k no, we can’t.

There’s only a couple of emails sent out every week, and I doubt it’s clogging up his inbox.  So wtf is all the fuss.  Prat.

Too many marketing agencies think it’s okay to treat digital agencies simply as resources to boss around instead of asking for advice and drawing on their technical experience to do a better job and offer their clients better solutions.

What they don’t realise, is that by treating the developers like crap, they not only demotivate the team, but lose the right to ask favours, and lose the right to expect developers to do anything to help them and further their cause.

We deal with one such dumb f*k on a daily basis, who is constantly asking dumb questions, and making pathetic demands. If you ask us to do a job which we have told you is 6 hours work, don’t call us every 30 mins to ask for a status update dumbass.

For example, we get a shit design from the marketing agency (who are predominantly into print design, and don’t really get how web design is different).  Rather than ask our advice, they go ahead and keep making stupid design decisions.  So, we go ahead and build the rubbish they feed us, only to get comments like “Why aren’t those two boxes squared up?” – because the content inside is content controlled and you’ve put different amounts of content in each region f*cker! hahahahahhaha.

Sure, we probably could put some nice features in like character restrictions, etc.  Modify the CSS to make it match their crap exactly.  But, why the hell should we?  It’s hard to give a job 100% when the people running the show clearly don’t know what they’re talking about, and refuse to consult with people who do.

Perhaps not an ideal analogy, given the number of rogue mechanics in this country, but generally speaking, if you go to a mechanic and ask him to fix your car, let him do his job.

Things have been a bit quiet lately.  I’ve been busy working on various small project updates, and doing freelance work.

One of the benefits of being a developer is the massive freelance market for making extra cash, especially in times like now when a lot of companies are winning additional work and simply don’t have the resources in-house to work on these projects.

Even a mediocre .NET developer can charge £20 per hour, going up to some £40 – £50 per hour for those with relevant experience and demonstrable skills.  The projects paying this kind of money are pretty damn stressful though, and by no means a walk in the park, but heck, £2k/week?  I’d take it.

You’d be surprised how many crap developers are out there, so you’ve gotta hire contractors with care.  Like the idiot we found on freelancers.net, who had a strong CV, but was as dull as dishwater when it came to doing the job.

We’re not a large company… small friendly, close-knit team – which is more like a family, the vibe is that good. This comedian joins us, and on the first day is asking things like “Who’s my line manager?”, and “Who is the fire warden on this floor?”.  WTF.  We had a good laugh about that one.

In the three weeks he was with us, only about 3 hours of his work was actually usable, and the rest got ditched.  For someone who was listing experienc with object-oriented programming and design patterns on his CV, the man didn’t know s**t.

Unfortunately, it’s illegal to give bad references, so when this fella went looking for new contracts and recruitment agencies contacted us for references, we were forced to give no reference at all, though I was tempted to fill that form in and tell them what I thought of that idiot.

It really is hard to hire good people nowadays. Really, really hard.

A fellow developer and I had an interesting time today choosing actors to play the people in one of the marketing agencies we work with. Here’s a few we came up with:

Main account executive, and most annoying of the lot
1.jpg
Annoying young account executive
2.jpg
Annoying young account executive’s dad
3.jpg
We also came up with some good actors to play us, but that would be giving away too much 😉

One of the biggest problems with working with idiots in the internet industry is the amount of valuable time wasted trying to follow and enforce a process for change requests to put changes live on websites.

Let's take the following example. Marketing woman (MW) from big corporate client (CC) has a 20mb powerpoint presentation she wants put on the corporate website. As this site was built by a rubbish company in the first place, getting it from marketing woman's hands onto the website involves the following process:

1. MW calls marketing company
2. Marketing company send request to us
3. We upload to staging server for approval
4. Marketing company check and approve
5. Marketing company contact Marketing Woman to approve
6. Marketing company give us approval to go live
7. Developer connects to to VPN, copies files across, HTML, etc.
8. Marketing company reviews and confirms approval
9. Marketing woman reviews and confirms approval

Then… the f*cking dumbass marketing company call up. "There's a typo on slide 18". WTF. That's why we have the staging server and a f*cking approval process.

Don't these idiots understand that the file they view on the website is the same f*cking file they supplied?! No, instead, they blindly review it at each stage of the process until it goes to production, and then finally look at the damn thing and realise there are typo's.

So, a new powerpoint is supplied, and the poor developer has to drop what they're doing and repeat this whole tedious process.

The rumours are true. People who work in marketing are stupid. F*cking stupid.

Here's a diagram to illustrate the process:

A dev's life

(Click for a larger version) 

One of the biggest problems with crap digital agencies, apart from the fact that they're crap of course, is the mess they leave behind for their successor to pick up. One of the media agencies we deal with has a huge international client, whose corporate website was built by another digital agency for which we took over maintenance.

This is getting confusing. Let me explain. Media Company A (MCA) used to work with Digital Agency A (DAA), who they contracted to build the corporate website for their big corporate client with lots of money. Over time, as incompetent as MCA was, the realised that DAA was completely shit, and came to us (DAB) to take over the maintenance.

Oh my goodness gracious me. The code is f*cking awful.  The navigation system is probably the most shockingly bad way I've seen navigation constructed. Ever. Want to add a new tab? It takes at least 4 hours. No, I'm serious.

Content Management System? That depends whether you count non-technical staff having to VPN into a secure network, remote desktop into a production server, open up SQL Enterprise Manager and manually edit rows.

At least that's better than Ektron. Just kidding. Ektron isn't as bad as that.

Why are media agencies so f*cking stupid? I’m fortunate to work in a web agency with a super smart team of people, where everyone has a few specific areas of expertise, as well as a great work ethic. It’s not uncommon for small agencies like ours to work with larger traditional media agencies, pretending to their clients that we’re the technical team of their shithole company.

This blog is a view from the inside. A blog that will tell it how it is working with such a f*cking bunch of clowns (traditional media agencies, not my team). Hell, this is going to break some poor kids dreams, who dream of growing up and becoming web developers, but if I knew this is what it was going to be like, I’d probably have chosen a different career path.

You will hear stories that will make you weep. Some will make you laugh. There will be foul language on this blog. It’s not possible for me to describe the experience of working with such companies without the use of expletives, so I apologise in advance.

Welcome to the truth.