How can I help my friend fix his website?
January 26, 2005 8:24 AM   Subscribe

My friend has a popular website that has a lot of technical problems. Frequent downtime, sub-standard performance, inconsistent feature implementation, and large numbers of bugs. The software is all custom-written, and clearly needs a complete re-write. He needs help but won't accept it. What can I do?
posted by mosch to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Is it Metafilter? Ahahahaha.

Maybe you could ask your friend if he'll explain the code to you sometime, most programmers I know enjoy doing a code read with someone. Maybe you could slide a few tips while you talk.
posted by orange clock at 8:33 AM on January 26, 2005

Let him come to his own realisation that the site needs some work, and that he needs some help. If you've offered your support and he's turned it down, then you've done your bit. I'm guessing this is a personal web site of some kind?
posted by humuhumu at 8:34 AM on January 26, 2005

Well, there's not much if he is unwilling to entertain the idea. Once you've offered (politely) it's up to him to take the next step. Maybe the community could put pressure on him to seek extra help, but if he is already turning down assistance from a friend, communal advice may not have any effect.

Let it go for now. If things continue on this path, the site may start to lose popularity. Then your friend might start to come around and ask you for help.
posted by purephase at 8:35 AM on January 26, 2005

Not a lot really. If he really doesn't want you to help then short of forcing yourself on him, you're not going to be able to change things.

If you're a developer then you may be able to write some tools to make managing the site easier when it all falls apart, but that is about it.
posted by ralawrence at 8:35 AM on January 26, 2005

Um, butt out? It IS his site, it's his call when he "needs" help. Your heart may be in the right place, but trying to control other people against their wishes is never a good thing.

Is it Metafilter? Ahahahaha.


posted by rushmc at 9:01 AM on January 26, 2005

Did you write this on a dare?

To answer: Keep your nose out of it unless your friend asks.
posted by kamylyon at 9:05 AM on January 26, 2005

If your friend's website is a community website, why not post a question that voices your frustration on that very website, in hopes that your friend will see it? I think anything you can do to get the issue in front of him or her without being annoying, you should do, because at some point some life event will overtake him or her (birth of a child, appointment to a high government post), and the time and resources this person will be able to spend on his or her site will drop to near zero. At that point it's going to be crucial for your friend to have some kind of team in place to keep the site functioning at all.

Perhaps he or she is already working on a plan to solve the problems you see, including bringing others in, but just hasn't communicated it very well and so you're not aware? I would look into that possibility, too.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:49 AM on January 26, 2005

You know what though, I wholeheartedly agree with Joel Spolsky about re-writing software. It should almost NEVER be done. EVER.

Instead, bottlenecks should be profiled and identified, then removed.
posted by robinw at 10:39 AM on January 26, 2005

What is the website? I'm curious.
posted by banished at 11:46 AM on January 26, 2005

You know what though, I wholeheartedly agree with Joel Spolsky about re-writing software. It should almost NEVER be done. EVER.

Yes, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't copy the old file to .old and rewrite individual pieces of the site from scratch to eliminate the bottlenecks. The most common mistake I see with coders who follow Spolsky as Gospel is that they try and go line by line through an existing file when they're eliminating a bottleneck, when it might be more efficient to put the old file in a background window and just start coding the new file from scratch using the logic from the old file.

I agree that you shouldn't just recode from scratch for a whole site, though. You'll miss a spot where some old data used to get routed to X, and then you lose it and never realize it until someone complains a month later.
posted by SpecialK at 12:10 PM on January 26, 2005

My suggestion: start a competing site, written using your godly code-fu.
posted by kindall at 12:53 PM on January 26, 2005

Rewrite the site; get it operating perfectly, free of all problems, and then offer the new software to your friend free of charge.

If he doesn't like it, you can then properly deem him an obstreperous ingrate and drop him.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:18 PM on January 26, 2005

Some people are happy with software that kinda works. This is no bad thing. Trying to force them to do it makes you look like a jerk, and I would know.

Generally though I think that if they're not interested in improving the software but they're still The Leader they should follow Rule #5 from The Cathedral and the Bazaar,

"5. When you lose interest in a program, your last duty to it is to hand it off to a competent successor."

It doesn't mean a complete handover, but sites like SA opened their code to more developers and it's done them well.
posted by holloway at 2:19 PM on January 26, 2005

It should almost NEVER be done. EVER.
i wonder how many people are reading this on firefox....?
posted by andrew cooke at 5:10 AM on January 27, 2005

And you don't think that Firefox would have been possible (not to mention out years earlier) without a complete re-write?
posted by robinw at 12:59 PM on January 27, 2005

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