A few good geeks?
June 2, 2005 9:51 AM   Subscribe

A friend of mine is starting a business and needs to find some hard core developers. How should he go about looking for them?

A business school friend needs to find some professionals who can design and build the front and back end of an upload-intensive, web-based application with user-interactivity. He's a business type, and doesn't know where to look for good computer people. Is there is some kind of freelance job board where hard core developers go to look for work? Any pointers welcome.
posted by nyterrant to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
 
He could post on Craigslist.

Or, he could have a friend post on a popular community board that a variety of people use to find answers to their questions.

Also, he could always email me (my address is in my profile). I might be interested in working on the project.
posted by bshort at 10:02 AM on June 2, 2005


I'm a developer by trade and have been wondering how to find a solid business type to partner with for fun and profit (that's long term business partner - freelancing simply doesn't appeal to me anymore). A business type in the Chicago area with a business idea (or even better, plan) would be ideal. Makes me wish that I'd associated with more business types in college.

If your friend is interested, my contact information is also available in my profile.
posted by jperkins at 10:15 AM on June 2, 2005


I don't know what you mean by "hardcore developer", but his best bet is his local craigslist site and jobs.perl.org.

Also, it looks like you might get plenty of people from this ask.mefi question alone.

Now, one thing he should keep in mind if he's never done this before is that a lot, possibly the majority, of "web programmers" pad their resumes like crazy. He should make sure that whomever he hires can both program decently (give applicants a programming test to find out, and demand code samples), as well as actually architect the software. Not just throw a bunch of PHP or perl together and call it a solution, but really understand resource planning, security and specifics about the underlying operating system.
posted by cmonkey at 10:32 AM on June 2, 2005


This is very interesting. I didn't know that craigslist was such a widely accepted resume site. I mean, for apartments, yeah, but for programmers, wow.

Thanks for the tips so far. Nothing special meant by hard core, this friend is just looking for a few good geeks.
posted by nyterrant at 10:42 AM on June 2, 2005


Oh, and the local linux users group probably has a jobs list, like this one in NY.
posted by cmonkey at 10:51 AM on June 2, 2005


Wow, I'm a development manager, and it seems like some really bad advice here.

Assuming he is a stand-up guy, he has two basic choices:
  • Hire a technical recruiter to find the people for him, they will correctly vet the person for technical skills
  • Contract out the website to a consulting firm.
Your post states he's looking for hard-core developers, which tells me, he knows nothing about developing software, and consequently nothing about hiring programmers, devising schedules, milestones, defining requirements. The title of this post is 'A few good geeks', I smell a boondoggle here. Hard-core developers? What he should be looking for is one seasoned software developer, who's comfortable coming into a situation like this, and telling your friend, the scope of the project that he's trying to start, how many people, and the timeframe for such a project. Someone who's used to releasing software on time, on budget.

Craigslist, Dice, Monster are all good options, but throwing programmers at an ill-defined project is just a recipe for disaster.

If you really want to help your friend, buy him a copy of Peopleware, and let him decide is he has the capacity to do this himself.
posted by patrickje at 10:53 AM on June 2, 2005


Well, patrickje brings up a really good point--resources like craigslist, etc., are great if you can quickly and confidently sort out the "hard-core" programmers from the amateurs. This is something that really requires a savvy tech person, though, since it's way too easy for some slacker to doll up a resume with a lot of jargon and seem hard-core.

If he's not very technical, he's at real risk of being misled by someone who comes across as a real pro, but can't really deliver. He'd need to find an interface to the market--someone he _can_ trust who can vet the pool of candidates, and pick the good ones. As Patrick points out, that really means either finding a technical director through reliable connections, or making a deal with a reliable consulting firm (who've basically already done that).
posted by LairBob at 11:22 AM on June 2, 2005


Craigslist is VERY popular with developers. I've found two or three good developers.

nytyrant, I would strongly suggest that your friend first find a geek to be a partner in his business. Find someone with a lot of experience managing IT projects (because to those used to managing business projects, IT projects are a whole different can of worms), someone with experience hiring developers, and someone used to collecting requirements and translating them into geek. He REALLY needs to do this before he starts hiring developers, or he won't be able to manage the technical debates about the best way to implement a project and he'll end up making horrible decisions in the beginning that will cost him a lot of money. That's not even mentioning the fact that he could be taken for a ride by developers that overstate their competencies or have a pet technology that they insist on using, even though it's not appropriate.

So he's got a decision to make. He can keep development in-house, knowing that he knows absolutely squat about the technical requirements of the program. Either he needs to find the one geek to bind them all first, or he needs to find a company of geeks that's already set up and can handle the infrastructure and development in-house to his specifications.

Otherwise, this thing's going to turn into a giant clusterfuck that wastes everyone's time and delivers a horrible experience to his users.

Hot diggity damn, I walk away from the computer for a few hours and patrickje steps all over me.
posted by SpecialK at 11:43 AM on June 2, 2005


patrickje, LairBob and SpecialK - I think my own lack of knowledge about lingo has created some confusion. My bad.

My friend is looking for "one geek to bind them all". I thought that was called a developer, but I guess an IT project manager/seasoned developer/partner is more what he is after.

Thanks for the tips.
posted by nyterrant at 12:02 PM on June 2, 2005


Does your friend have any actual money with which to pay these developers?
posted by Caviar at 12:02 PM on June 2, 2005


Technical recruiters are no good at vetting talent for you, if you're looking for people who are like-minded "hard core" geeks. They're good at working with the consulting firm's sales staff to find a warm body who won't mind being on the wrong end of a 80% or more margin on his rate. I speak from experience here.

Find the talent yourself using Craigslist or Guru.com; it's harder, you need to do all the background/reference/skill checking yourself, but you'll save a ton of money, and you won't feel dirty when it's done.

Linux geeks tend to be cheaper but hard to keep on task. .NET geeks tend to be more expensive but easier to keep on task, and more likely to be "conformists", and to follow along with whatever rules/procedures/policies you apply to programmers. So, you need to figure out what technology is important (if you're sticking with one given technology) and look for those online sites that cater to that type of talent (lots of great ideas above, but stay away from Monster/Dice/etc, you'll not find anyone with any loyalty in their resume database).
posted by Merdryn at 12:11 PM on June 2, 2005


Merdryn, please don't stereotype linux geeks. Linux geeks are very easy to keep on task and are far more creative than windows geeks. I should know, I employ both types. Actually, I find that anyone who isn't completely dedicated to one technology is a lot more creative.

I really REALLY think Craigslist is the best invention for hiring since sliced bread.

But with the "one geek to bind them all" ... check references VERY carefully and investigate their experience VERY carefully. I suggest multiple interviews; one to get a feel for their skills and personality, then check their references and then a final one to make sure that they're the right person. this person is going to become a very key person in the business, and hiring someone who isn't experienced and skilled will not end well. Don't forget the personality aspect of hiring -- the "Can I work with this person" question. Don't ignore your gut feelings.
posted by SpecialK at 12:28 PM on June 2, 2005


Sorry to be chatty, but: I didn't stereotype, I said "tend to be". :)
posted by Merdryn at 1:33 PM on June 2, 2005


You might want to use the term "software architect" to refer to the one geek to bind them all. Although that doesn't necessarily cover the business analyst/project manager angle. The two skillsets are often quite divergent and don't often (didn't say "never") overlap.
posted by matildaben at 1:40 PM on June 2, 2005


Oh, and nyterrant, setting aside the above pedantry for a sec:

What that kind of person is called is what we usually called a "Development Team Leader" ... developer is the rank and file guy that consumes Mountain Dew for a living and wears clever t-shirts from thinkgeek. Team Lead is the one that takes the business requirements from the project manager (or whoever his boss is) and manages the team that's developing it. A business analyst/project manager doesn't necessarily need to know programming and is the role that your friend should take; he sets requirements but doesn't nail down the techincal details.

Now, pardon me for using the personality classification system we use in my circle of business friends; it's based on the medieval 'humors', which you can look up elsewhere to translate what we're saying. Anyway. The sign of a good team lead is that he's got relatively strong feelings about a technology, but isn't a zealot; he has a sanguine mixed with melancholy attitude (confidence mixed with slow, plodding thoughtfullness, but more towards confidence), has broad knowledge with some specializations, and he has leadership ability and demonstrated ability to make decisions quickly and stick to them. A bad team lead would be a full melancholy or a full sanguine or even worse a sanguine/choleric; a full melancholy would make a good programmer but not a good manager, a full sanguine would get frustrated with the programming and management part of his or her job, and a sanguine/choleric should never be exposed to programmers and should instead be shuffled to the sales side.

The relationship should be like the relationship between a military officer and a good non-commissioned officer; the NCO has all the experience and knows what to do but doesn't necessarily have the ability to be an offier, and if the officer asks good questions of the NCO they'll always end up doing the right thing together.
posted by SpecialK at 2:05 PM on June 2, 2005


hardcore developers don't do web apps (amazon and google excluded) ;)

Don't muck around with individual developers unless you're talking to them on an even level. Get a firm and you'll be good.
posted by devilsbrigade at 2:21 PM on June 2, 2005


He's a business type, and doesn't know where to look for good computer people.

Your friend wants either a packaged solution, or a consulting firm that can handle project management as well as development.

"business types" and "hardcore" developers rarely work well together. A business guy who used to be a developer, back in the day, can work well with a strong developer who has a lot of interest in business. Both parties need to be able to respect and understand the other's role. Very few projects can be completed by two people these days, unless those two people have extensive experience working together in the sector.

On preview: most of the responses so far have some degree of truth in them. What you should take away from this is that software development is a professional activity that takes many years to get good at. Software project management, doubly so.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:20 AM on June 3, 2005


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