Episode 64 | Hiring and Managing Remote Developers

Show Notes


[00:00] Rob: This is Startups for the Rest of Us, Episode 64.

[00:03] [Music]

[00:12] Rob: Welcome to startups for the rest of us the podcast to help developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products. Whether you have built your first product or you are just thinking about it, I am Rob.

[00:21] Mike: And I am Mike.

[00:23] Rob: And we are here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. If you stick around to the end of the episode we are going to be discussing hiring and managing remote developers in depth. What’s going on this week Mike?

[00:35] Mike: The last week I remember you would you had mentioned that Google Adwords issue where if you go in you browse and you search for different things there was a little newsletter popup for somebody to signup directly through the Google Adwords. And I did some research on that and unfortunately it’s in beta but it’s basically just an Adwords extension that they have added on it. I mean they have added a couple of different Adwords extensions over the years and this is just one that is currently in beta. So I couldn’t get much info on it and you know there is a little bit of speculation here and there but it seems to be rather new its only been out there for maybe a moth or so.

[01:10] Rob: Yeah I have never actually seen it in the wild you are the one that stumbled upon it when we were having kind of an offline conversation. Explain to the… we didn’t talk about it at all on the podcast last week, explain to the listeners what it is.

[01:20] Mike: So when you go to Google and you do a search for something that Google does is in addition to showing the page search results right underneath well actually its embedded in line with some of the search results that are paid for you will have a just a text field that says ‘subscribe’. And there is a button off to the side I don’t know whether you can customize the ‘subscribe’ button or not and you basically it will fill in your email address if you are already logged into Google services. And I will assume that it goes through and you know signs you up for whatever mailing list that they have.

[01:55] Now if I remember correctly it also directly sends your email address to them. I don’t know if there is any sort of double opt in or anything like that but it looked interesting. The one thing I question is whether or not people are going to actively hand out their email address through something on that unless you explicitly say in the text of the Ad that you are giving something away for free and they can only get it if they sign up.

[02:20] Rob:    Yeah it’s got to be a big you are basically selling to them in like what you have 50 characters or something. I mean that’s like ten words tops you know. So you really have to convince someone to give their email quickly. It’s not like you have even a sidebar with a little photo or anything like that its just very very tight. So we will see how it goes I think it’s an interesting experiment obviously but it’d be curious to try it out at some point. And its Adwords only I mean you know its kind of a bummer they don’t allow it in the search results. But I am sure they are going to they are not going to allow people to do that they want you to pay for it. Well hey my update the new Hit Tail design is up, it’s live.

[02:56] Mike: Really?

[02:57] Rob:    Yeah, yeas I launched it yesterday. So everyone rush out to hittail.com and check it out, it’s a lot of work. Try to think I didn’t have nearly as many issues as I thought it would once I rolled it live. Because I have I did it kind of a commando launch you know I did not have the massive QA team doing all kinds of monitoring and all of that stuff. I just kind of I knew it worked pretty well and I tested the major functions. I put it up yesterday, I emailed everybody all the active users and said come check out and…

[03:24] Mike: Cool.

[03:25] Rob:    I think the biggest issue has been caching of course like certain people’s browsers are still caching all the images and they have same names and so things look weird for them.

[03:31] Mike: Oh I see yeah that can…

[03:34] Rob:    So once we clear cache and clear cookies and all that or open in a different browser everything has been working so.

[03:40] Mike: Cool.

[03:41] Rob:    That’s been good I haven’t gotten a lot of emails about it which is both good and bad because I well its good because its nice that people are interested but its bad because I don’t have time to answer them all so. But I am excited yeah I moved to a whole new pricing model, I moved away from the PayPal payments where you know people have to go offsite so now its credit card processing through Stripe. I’m just excited to see how it impacts conversion rates because now soon I will ask for credit card up front instead of letting them to do a full trial and them like trying to beg them to signup. And it’s just totally different conversion rates when you do that right?

[04:14] Mike: Right.

[04:15] Rob:    The credit card up front you are going to convert a lot more a lot more people. So its exciting its a new day and if anyone is curious and wants to see the old design they can go to old.hitttail.com I left it up just for posterity for now I am going to take some screen chats for presentations because its definitely going to be a case study, I am hoping that I can dramatically improve conversion rate and such and you know use it in my talks and blog posts and such.

[04:38] Mike: Yeah it’s a pretty dramatic difference between old.hittail.com and just hittail.com.

[04:44] Rob:    Yeah.

[04:45] Mike: Cool I have been doing something similar I have been kind of working on my marketing sites for Audit Shark and for my forum software which I have profusely neglected for a far too long. So basically trying to do those more or less in parallel I have looked into a couple of different CSS frameworks and I have been experimenting with the Twitter Bootstrap framework have you taken a look at that or no?

[05:10] Rob:    No I have never, I’ve barely even heard of it.

[05:13] Mike: So if you go if you just search for Twitter Bootstrap what you will find is a link to you will probably end up on GitHub or something like that. But basically you can download all of the CSS templates for the framework that Twitter is built it and everything looks very nice, its got very high quality layout CSS that you can throw in there.

[05:35] Rob:    I have seen this I have seen it before yeah.

[05:38] Mike: Really yeah it’s really interesting to work with. I think the one thing that I find a little bit not disconcerting but a little bit challenging is the fact that if you want to use like a different color scheme for the background or for that’s top level navigation bars or for a photo or something like that you have to kind of work them in yourself. So you can’t really rely on the CSS that’s coming down from you know the CDNs that they provide. I mean you can some degrees I mean you have to supply your own CSS, custom CSS files but my question is to whether or not using their service is a good idea for that I mean you don’t exactly have quality control over that.

[06:15] Rob:    So you are you building something from scratch them by hand instead of going with like WordPress or having a designer build something?

[06:24] Mike: I am, part of the reason for that is over the past probably I would say two weeks or so I have been a lot of debugging on my server to try to and figure out exactly why things seem so slow. And it’s all built on WordPress so you know obviously there is only so many places that there could be issues. And what I have done is I have gone through my entire WordPress installation, I have done massive optimizations I have streamlined everything, I have turned off as many possible plug ins as I can. And I have gotten the page load speeds down to a less than a second. Before they were going upwards of I don’t know five, six seconds depending on what page you were going to.

[07:01] Rob:    Which website is this?

[07:02] Mike: For both singlefounder.com I did all these optimizations there because I knew that that probably had more traffic than Audit Shark and then on auditshark.com I did some optimizations there as well. But I think I mentioned it before like the Contact 7 plug in for example is loaded on every single page regardless of whether you use it on that page or not. So like all the CSS files and the JavaScript files and everything they get, you know for all those plug ins they tend to get loaded regardless to whether you use those plug ins on the page or not. So what happens is that that slows down your site as a whole.

[07:36] So I started out with singlefounder.com and tried working on my blog because I knew that I would see a lot more speed increases there just because there is so much more content. And I was able to get the initially the load times were in the neighborhood of five to six seconds, when I was done they were down to about maybe three quarters of a second but that was if it was cache. I signed up for a pingum.com account and started tracking to see how fast my different servers were because I have a Windows server out there and I also have a Linux server that you know I run most of my stuff on. But there are still some things I have to run Windows applications on.

[08:13] And what I found was that on singlefounder.com there were images that were not loading immediately. They were you know 10, 15k images but they were taking anywhere from three to four seconds to load. And when the page itself the entire thing loads in five seconds and you have got one or two images that are you know they are being loaded in parallel but they are still taking three to four seconds for just those couple of images you know there is something obviously wrong.

[08:40] So I tried figuring out okay well is it the fact that its WordPress, is it just these images and what I did is I pointed Pingum directly to those images, not even loading the page just loading those images and I found that there is something between some of the Pingum servers and my web server that are just causing some sort of issue. And I haven’t quite been able to track it down yet I mean for all I know it could be the server itself.

[09:03] Rob:    Yeah and it’s just the server serving is slow I mean it will have to be right there is how can it be anything between Pingum and your static image coming off a web server?

[09:11] Mike: You know I don’t know I mean I can think of ways. I mean if that traffic  is getting misrouted  or if it’s getting you know rerouted based on some you know security firewall that it runs into and says, oh I will have to analyze this packet. Or maybe if the image itself when it gets requested the server says, oh I have got this image its you know its needs this specific requirements I have to you know zip it before I send it down, you know stupid things like that. And I am yet to be able to figure out exactly what the problem is because sometimes it loads very very quickly. I mean it will load that image I mean maybe 100, 150 milliseconds and then there is times where it will take three seconds.

[09:49] Rob:    The big question in my mind is why are you doing this? Like why are you spending the time to speed all these stuff up? I mean I guess with singlefounder.com if its five to six seconds it’s your blog and everything I can understand spending some time on it. But I would just change web hosting at this point man…

[10:05] Mike: Well…

[10:06] Rob:    Because if you have invested three, four hours into it its like such a not it’s not paying itself back you know what I am saying?

[10:11] Mike: Right.

[10:12] Rob:    But it’s like Audit Shark isn’t even live yet you know what I am saying like why optimize now instead of just getting some up there?

[10:18] Mike: It was more a matter of trying to figure out where the problem is. I mean because if it’s a WordPress problem it’s not going to help to move to a different site. You know if it’s a DNS server issue which I have found that my DNS server respond depending on which one it is I have one that responds at about 80 milliseconds and another one that will run to 100 which is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But what I did find and through the process of digging was that within WordPress there were a lot of plugins that were active which you know I thought that wanted these plugins.

[10:47] You know for example one was Jet Pack which gives me these analytics on my site that tells me you know what people are searching for and gives me more of a real-time status of what people are looking at on my site and how many people are actually on it things like that. But what I found was that it was the cost benefit analysis you know it just shows it was just wasn’t worth it to have those things. I mean they were sucking up lot of time to load these pages. And I really think that people were coming to my site and just saying you know this takes too long to load I am out of here.

[11:16] And because that’s translates pretty much every single site that I had I am like well you know I need to at least spend some time here to figure out what’s going on. And I really wanted to revamp the marketing a little bit anyway. So it just seemed like an appropriate time to start looking at that stuff and do a little bit of digging and see whether or not it was a problem with WordPress or something else.

[11:36] Rob:    Well if all your sites are slow I would bet that it’s your host.

[11:40] Mike: It’s not.

[11:41]Rob:     And if it’s only some of them then it’s probably plugins in WordPress.

[11:44] Mike: Well what bothers me is that like as I said pointing to a specific image sometimes that image will load in a100 milliseconds and sometimes it takes three seconds.

[11:53] Rob:    Yeah you know man…

[11:54] Mike: And I still think that that’s the server.

[11:55] Rob:    I got an email last week from a WordPress architect and developer after he heard the last, well it was two episodes ago when you and I kind of made a call. He emailed me I think his rate is pretty decent I would recommend maybe hiring him. It sounds like there is just a better option than trying to troubleshoot this stuff yourself. When you are talking about doing like why slow stuff and spending hours and hours on it I just feel like there is a better your time could be better spent doing other stuff you know.

[12:20] Mike: No I agree I talked to somebody else by the way I don’t know whether it may have been the same person or not and I am just kind of chatting back and forth. He emailed about you know what sort of thing he has done for other sites and you know what sort of things he has used to help speed things up. And you know we were just going back and forth I was like I tried this, I tried this. And he was like you know I don’t see anything obvious that you have done that isn’t really doing it. I mean really it kind of comes down to at this point the servers I mean there is nothing else to try. So I think it’s a matter of just saying okay well you know either I have my host move, the move my VPS to a different server or ditch them entirely and go some place else.

[12:59] Rob:    Right I went per your kind of suggestion I went back and I listened to a bunch of the earlier broadcasts. And you were right they are not nearly as bad as I had remembered they are actually pretty darn good. Yeah it was entertaining I actually like how we, I felt like the broadcasts get better as we go on because we share more about what we are doing and we don’t just talk about five ways to do this or X rules to do that. Like we actually share our experiences to help avoid the same mistakes we have made.

[13:27] You know but it really that’s when it gets more interesting for me listening to it. So but there were three loose ends that or three kind of funny things listening back that came up that I had totally forgotten about. One in episode eight which was…

[13:42] Mike: Oh no.

[13:43] Rob:    Yeah way way long ago yeah you said I am, we are starting work on a SaaS app and I expect it to launch in September or October and that was 2010. Isn’t that crazy? And that’s audit, that’s what became Audit Shark.

[13:55] Mike: Wow yeah.

[13:56] Rob:    So that was the very first mention of it you didn’t talk about the name at all obviously I mean I think it was…

[14:01] Mike: I didn’t have a name at the time.

[14:03] Rob:    Right episode eight we would have recorded it in the early 2010. So you were expecting it to take like nine months in developments so just a little point for the…

[14:13] Rob:   Now the other thing I noticed was in…

[14:15] Mike:  Let’s just rename this episode to embarrass Mike with failures.

[14:17] Rob:    Yeah exactly.

[14:19] Mike: Failed predictions.

[14:20] Rob:    Yeah the other one was in September of 2010 in Episode 23 I predicted Boarders going out of business, not like anyone else wouldn’t have done the same. But I basically was like I think Barnes & Noble was going to stick around and Boarders is going to go out of business. I thought that was funny now that they have filed whatever Chapter 13. And then the last thing was in Episode Two you talked about re-launching your forum software. And that was actually something you mentioned several times in the first maybe five, six episodes and then it just disappeared. And so it’s funny you brought it up today because I was going to ask you about it like, what’s the update it on that? You know did it ever happen, did you decide not to do it what what’s the story?

[14:57] Mike: I held back to be honest and I don’t have a good reason for it. It was I will be honest it was fear of putting it out there because I am like, man I don’t really like how this is put it together. The reality is I probably should have just done it and kind of cleaned up afterwards. But being kind of the “perfectionist” I just said no I don’t want to put this out there yet. I never really made it a priority.

[15:18] So I have kind of gone back and said you know I have had this has been sitting here on the shelf for probably far too long and it’s really not that far from being able to be re-launched. So I don’t know how much work it is, I haven’t really sat down to figure that out. But I have been basically going through the marketing for it and saying you know I got I really got to just put this out there and be done with it. We will see how that goes I am kind of doing that in parallel with the Audit Shark marketing and a couple of other things so.

[15:41] Rob:    Right. And then the last thing is I realized I used to give updates about my book sales I haven’t been in a long time. I am over 6500 copies sold.

[15:51] Mike: Good for you.

[15:51] Rob:    Yeah thanks it’s for people who haven’t heard about it, it’s called Start Small Stay Small; A Developers Guide to Launching a Startup. It’s available at startupbook.net or you can get on the Amazon. But it’s basically my kind of my take on getting something out of the door without venture capital. And the reason, I had this big jump in probably in the last four, five months and I couldn’t figure out why this was happening. I kept getting this emails from Amazon at the end of the month and normally the Kindle payment would come through and , you know, it would be X amount, and suddenly it was  like five times that.

[16:23] I was like why am I selling a tremendous amount of Kindle versions of this thing? And just suddenly you know I hadn’t done any marketing, anything like that specific to this. Well as it turns out if you go to Amazon you search for ‘lean startup’ yeah you go to Eric Ries’ Lean Startup book in Kindle version. The customers who bought this also bought as Start Small Stay Small, it’s like the fourth or the fifth one over.

[16:45] And so this is like a New York Times bestseller and so  that’s my best guess is that there is  much traffic to that page that it’s like selling hundreds of copies per month of my book. So you can just imagine how many his are selling. Just having some type of tie in that’s increasing your luck surface area I think so.

[17:03] Mike: Luck surface area that’s nice.

[17:05] Rob:    Yeah that’s from Jason Roberts from texting.

[17:08] [Music]

[17:11] So today we have a listener question that is seven points and so we are basically architecting the whole episode after it. And we are going to be talking about hiring and managing remote workers. And the email which I am not going to read all at once because it is so long and we are kind of going to take it point by point, is from Glenn Jermaine and he is at mypractice.net.au.

[17:33] And he says I am the founder of a start up that has been going for six years, I am the sole developer and now I have  one person working full time and two part-time that handle sales and support. We deal with non-techie people in the health industry, generally individuals and small practices. Sales are fairly high touch to coin a term you guys use. I am at the point where I really need help on the dev side of things as we have several integration points we need to address. We need to do this to remain relevant and grow in our market.

[17:59] I am keen to use Odesk, Elance or similar services; I can’t afford to employ a full time dev at present. The issue is that in feel there are several roadblocks and concerns. Point one, I feel as if the app and the requirements are complex enough that it would take me considerable time to bring someone up to speed. I believe this would require a great deal of hand holding. Point two, point one is not a show stopper I expect a ramping up period, the fear is that I will spend the time only to find the individual that company turns to be duds.

[18:26] In other words unable or incapable of doing the job to a satisfactory level and I would have to start again. And number three, so my concern here is that I could waste a great deal of time and money. Have you guys got any history or stories you could share or lessons learned you could discuss?

[18:39] Mike: In my experience the things that I run into there were exact same fears have essentially stopped me in several cases from pursuing that direction. You know other times I have actually gone through and said I know that I’ve got to do it. The problem is that if you don’t make the time it’s never going to happen and so you are never going to alleviate that pain. You basically have to just bite the bullet and do it. There is  really not much you can do about whether or not somebody is going to turn out to be a dud or not.

[19:07] I mean you can try and do your best effort upfront to make sure that you are going to work through and eliminate people who aren’t just going to just walk away when things get tough or are going to dedicate the time to actually learn the things that they need to do to get the job done, but there’s only so much you can do. And it’s just like hiring somebody full time, I mean you are going to have to put in some time and effort and it may not pan out.

[19:28] You may end up hiring somebody  full time you think  you’ve gone through all this great process of eliminating all the bad candidates and you get down to one or two people and  you hire somebody. And then three months later they so no this really isn’t what I signed up for I am out of here. This is something that you can potentially run into no matter what. But if you want to eliminate the pain that you are currently having where you just don’t have enough development cycles to get things done, you are going to have to do it. And whether you do it now or you do it two, three, four months down the road it’s something you are going to have to eventually get done.

[19:58] Rob:    Yeah to give an example from some recent experience of mine, I have been doing quite a bit of hiring. I hired a DBA, I hired two…no I had three part time developers just to help with some smaller tasks. I have hired a couple of VAs in the past a couple of weeks. And in all those cases I went through the same process and the process was this, I happened to use Odesk. I like it because it tracks what people are doing and when I have a brand new contractor I just like to kind of know what they are up to and know how many hours they are billing and know that there is a limit on it and Elance doesn’t offer me as much flexibility with that, it doesn’t offer as much monitoring.

[20:33] Now when someone works for me a long time I don’t care about that stuff. But upfront Odesk has worked so I will use them in the examples. Basically I have posted a job, I get a bunch of applicants and it pretty obvious there’s typically about 20%, 25% that totally are not going to fit, and typically there is another 30, 40% that may be out of budget. And so I take the guys, guys and girls, and I start running through them and really creating a short list.

[21:01] And then I will email my top three, maybe top five. And what I do is I ask them specific questions that I specifically did not include in the job description because I want to see how well they reply. I want to see how well their written English is, I want to see how well they understand my questions. You know its typically things about like their working arrangements, where they work, if they work  day time jobs and then  they are going to do this at nights and weekends  and that kind of stuff.

[21:27] So there is enough complexity there  that  I can learn pretty quickly if their cover  letter of their profile was written by someone else or edited by someone else and  I can get an idea of how good their English is. And this is true for native English speakers as well right, I mean I want someone who can communicate well. So I go from there typically I can narrow it down to an even smaller list and then I give them a trial project. That includes you know both VAs and developers.

[21:48] I don’t see any other way that you are going to do that here. I know later Glenn talks about only having large projects to give but there has  to be something that  you can pull out that’s  like a two to four hour project, make one up if you need to. But if you have one give it to all three of them at once, hire them all. The pay rates are not so high that you can’t afford to that and then see who delivers. And that’s how I have been doing it and I have been having pretty good luck. The one exception and it does support what Glenn’s fear is, but this is out of five hires in the past three months.

[22:20] The one exception is I found a really good VA and everything checked out and I talked to her on Skype and everything worked. And then I hired her and on day one she just—day two or day three she just disappeared and that was a bummer. But I had my short list and I just went back to the other two people and I found out if they were available and I hired another one right away. So my big loss really was yeah it was a few hours of training her but I didn’t train her in  person, I created screen cast and I  wrote docs. And so when the new person came through I was able to just forward them the same links and I didn’t have to say all the same stuff again.

[22:55] So I think that would be a big piece of my advice, is that if you are going to hire someone you start small and then you do create repeatable stuff to train them at least for you know kind of the general stuff. There is going to be general stuff about your app you are going to want to explain, do not do that in person. Create a screen cast or a doc that describes this so you can reuse that if someone decides to bail.

[23:15] [Music]

[23:18] So the next question from Glenn, he says I am also unclear on the best methods for communicating my requirements. I have heard Rob mention doing screen casts for his VAs in previous shows and that sounds like a great idea. The idea of sitting down to spec out one of these integration points is horrifying as some of them require using APIs that are less than ideal. I feel if I am going to design and spec the whole thing upfront then I might as well write it as well. I feel I need someone who I can get started and then iterate with them as we flesh out the intricacies. So my question is how would you handle this?

[23:47] Mike: I would definitely go about building those screen casts and working through and scoping that stuff out because there’s a couple of different things that doing that will do. And the first  one is that if your APIs right now are kind of hellish  to work through because they are just very complicated, writing the documentation for them are going to  make handing those APIs over to your customers a little bit less painful. I mean people are actually going to be able to work with them. In addition as you grow your team that documentation and those specs are going to help others in the future.

[24:20] So don’t think of think of this as you are writing this documentation or you are doing these screen casts for just one person. Think of it as these are training materials that you can hand off to somebody and say, hey I would like you to look at these and read these and get familiar with them so that you know how to do your job or do the things that we need you to do.

[24:37] Rob:    Yeah I think that’s an important point there is such a big part of the reuse. You are not going to be able to reuse an exact spec of an exact project well I guess you would be. If you gave it to one person and he or she bailed then you would be able to reuse it with the next person. But there are going to be these assets you create like the general walkthrough of what your app is, what it does, basics of how it works, basics of the technology, like to me that is perfect for a screen cast because if you didn’t create a screen cast you  would probably jump on  Skype with someone right? That’s typically how I would want to walk them through in general.

[25:09]And so screen cast by far a better way to do it and it may run 20, 30 minutes but that’s okay because then you have it for the long term and you can reuse it. He said he heard me doing screen casts for VAs, I do. With VAs tasks in particular, everything is a screen cast unless it requires some pretty specific detailed step by step stuff then I tend to put it in a document and I tend to do it in both a screen cast and a document so that they can see can it once and then refer back to the document. So it’s a bulleted list.

[25:37] Now for development projects the only thing I tend to do in screen casts are more general overviews of this is, you know, this is the app. This is how it works, here is a look at it, here is the source tree, kind of just some overview stuff to get someone acquainted so they have an idea which way is  up. I think the desire to not spec it out is something Glenn you might want to resist. In other words I think that you are going to want to sit down and try to do a screen cast walkthrough.

[26:05] And if you need a developer that is so good that they can you know kind of go through your code and figure out the API, then you will have to pay more money you know. But if it’s worth it to you then do that. You may be able to find just kind of a low end developer, a competent developer for 10 or 15 an hour and you may meet someone who is 30 to 40 an hour on Odesk. But if that keeps you from having to spec out everything in detail and you can basically just send him to a page and kind of have him walk through and figure it out, that  may be what you need to do. So it really is a balance of time versus money and the level of effort that you want to put out.

[26:38] Mike: Yeah I can’t even begin to emphasize how helpful screen casts are. I mean one of the things that I was doing this past week that I didn’t really talk about earlier was that I had this idea for a SaaS application that I really don’t have the time to work on it now. But I am kind of looking at the market a little bit and saying, you know is this viable, is this something that I want to dedicate time to in the future. Or is it something that I could realistically put a spec together and then hand it off to a developer and say, here I need you to build this and while you are building it I am going to be working on Audit Shark and my forum software and  just building  up some of the marketing stuff behind it.

[27:14] But I sent it off to Dan over at the Tropical MBA and what he did is he actually sent me back a screen cast. He didn’t reply to my email, he sent me back a screen cast and walked me through an example of one of the things that he does and said here are exactly where my pinpoints are. And it was like a 10 minute video, took him 10 minutes to obviously put it together and just send it back to me and it was exactly what I needed.

[27:40] Rob:    Yeah I would agree, I have really found value in screen casts, I actually now default to them. Unless it’s a very specific detailed process or it’s a true hardcore technical document that really needs to identify some specific points, I will defer to recording a screen cost. It actually winds up being way faster for you as the recorder because you can just sit down, you click through, you talk and in 15 minutes you can explain a heck of a lot of stuff where as describing that same amount of information in a document could take, I mean easily take an hour or two and it’s not as clear you know because you don’t have the visual elements you are trying to include screen shots and stuff like that.

[28:19] Just within the last maybe six weeks I hired someone to create the billing engine, the recurring billing engine for Hit Tail. And it was all in my head of how to do it and I knew that I could probably code it up and I had between eight and twelve hours in my head which is right on the line right. If I can code something in an hour or two I have really a hard time going out and finding a new developer to do it because just the hiring process is more time than it’s worth. But I already had someone who I know is pretty good and about eight to twelve hours it’s totally worth it to do that.

[28:50] So I recorded a quick screen cast explaining… yeah it was just explaining the current flow and then what the new flow would be. And then I sat down to the doc and you know what, the doc took me about two to three hours to write the spec. And so you might think well that wasn’t a great return on my investment right? But when I sent it to them we started getting into it and of course it grows and he points out some errors and he winds up writing some stuff that I hadn’t thought of and before long it was up over, I mean I think he would up spending 20 hours on it and I think I would have spent 20 hours on it as well. It’s not like I am some, you know, some super fast developer compared to him.

[29:24] So in the end I invested about maybe four hours tops and I basically saved that 16 hours. And so that was two days that I had to do something else. So I know as a developer it always feels like you can code it faster but it’s pretty ridiculous to think that if you spec out a massive thing. I mean even if you spend 15, 20 hours specing something out, if you spend that much time then it’s probably like a hundred hour project and there is almost no doubt that you are going to get back many times your time investment returned.

[29:55] Mike: Maybe one of the questions that he might have is what do you do with these screen casts once you’ve got them built? I mean do you protect them some place? And where do you host them? Do you use like Wistia? I mean I don’t know I just…

[30:07] Rob:    Right, yeah no that’s actually a good question. So for VA screen casts I upload them to screencast.com and that’s put on by the guys who do Camtasia. That is I think its 99 bucks a year for quite a bit of bandwidth. There is a free plan up to a certain amount of bandwidth and then it goes to 99 bucks a year or something like that. And that way you can mark them as private because otherwise you are right. If you just upload them to a server you can send someone a link but then if someone else got a hold of that link or somehow found about it they can watch the screen cast. You would have to like password protect it specifically.

[30:37] So the nice part about screencast.com is you can either add a password to it specifically or you can just make it so you know  you really—you need the link and it can’t be  found any other way so. And  then nice part there  is its not sucking up your server bandwidth if you are paying  for that and  you can record pretty big ones, 1024 by 768 is pretty common for me and screencast.com host it really well. And if you are recording in Camtasia there is just a one click. It’s like produced, it just renders it and uploads it right there, logs in for you and it’s all done so you don’t even need to FTP and do all that.

[31:11] Well very cool, thanks Glenn for writing in I hope this was helpful for you and of course for you other listeners out there.

[31:17] Mike: So before we go the one last thing to mention is that we are finalizing the details for MicroConf. So this is kind of like your last chance to get to the MicroConf mailing list. Go to Microconf.com, M-I-C-R-O-C-O-N-F dot com, and you can  sign up for the mailing list and  those tickets  should be on sale I would say pretty soon and this episode will go out next week and it should be shortly after that. So if you are interested in coming to MicroConf or just hearing a little bit more about it, getting some more details on it, definitely sign up for that mailing  list.

[31:48] Otherwise if you have a question  or  comment you can call it in   to our voice mail number at 1888-801-9690 or you can email it in MP3 or text  format to questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. If you enjoyed this podcast please consider writing a review in iTunes by searching for startups. You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We Are out Of Control” by Mute used under Creative Commons. A full transcript to this podcast will be available at our website startupsfortherestofus.com. Thanks for listening and we will see you next time.


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6 Responses to “Episode 64 | Hiring and Managing Remote Developers”

  1. Mike, friendly comment.

    Why are you working on your forum software, when you still don’t have a paying customer for AuditShark?!

    Come on man! Focus! Get this thing out the door! Every podcast I’m hearing the same old stuff, how you’re doing this and that, but never launching, never selling. You don’t know if people are going to actually use your software.

    We, as people rooting for Audit Shark, need a deadline for you to commit to! How about a public commitment to a deadline?

  2. I agree with Sandy.

    Here’s a topic for next week’s episode:
    “10 reasons why it’s hard to ship a product. And what Mike’s going to do to overcome each one.”

  3. Heard you mention the Twitter Bootstrap framework. Before you get to far with it, they are about to release a new version (2.0) that is built as a responsive framework. Looks really good. It is still in dev, but is pretty far a long. You can use it now if you want by checking out the 2.0 branch on github.


    And also, thanks for the podcast guys!

  4. Sandy and Ted, you’re dead on and absolutely right. Thank you for reminding me of that and calling me on it. We already recorded Episode 65, but we’ll discuss this on Episode 66.

  5. I’m trying to download or play this but it 404s every time. Thanks!

  6. Carl, the links should work now. We were having some problems with our hosting provider earlier this week but they appear to be resolved now.