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Be careful who you work for.

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I found a job posting that looked pretty good. $40 for about an hours work. Not too shabby for a guy working his way up the ladder. The job itself was supposed to be simple. "create a friend button that appears on a profile and that profile's web posts if that profile is following the logged in user". Simple, right? Pull a value from a table, if it's 1, show the button, if the button's clicked change a value in a table. The employer's profile looked nice. 900+ jobs, highly rated. The prices were all around my range though - but that didn't bug me too much.

It's been 4 weeks now.

I seem to have made a huge mistake. Firstly, the work environment was horrid. I was given FTP access to a development server. That's when I noticed the first problem. The code was a mess. To complete one thing more than 5 files were used. It seems as if they threw code at it until it worked. You know how people say "PHP is bad because it's very easy to achieve what you want, the wrong way"? This is quite possibly the worst offense I have seen. It took 25 seconds to load one page in Google Chrome - precached. This made development a nightmare.

No problem though, right? I've dealt with slow uploads and slow servers before. Heck that's what I started on. It'll be just like old times.

Yeah - well old times didn't have code like that. I'm 99% sure those 900+ jobs that were around ~$50 each were for the same site. I could look at the job history and see jobs for features I also see in the site. Do you know what happens when you have that many developers working on the same project, with a bad project manager? A nightmare of code. 4000 line do-everything pages, "template" things that send you on hunts for certain strings and replacements, meaningless variable names, inconsistent design patterns. OOP? Don't you dare say that word on this server. I'm pretty sure they use comment programming.

Here's 100 lines of it. It's like that. The whole project.

Now, now, enough of me ranting about their mistakes. Now it's my turn. I didn't hack out the code in one hour like I mentioned earlier, it took me a couple days at first. It included many embarrassing updates which points out bugs and various problems. I got stuck in a loop where I'd mess something up, and they're ask me to fix it PLUS add extra functionality. Fear of a bad report got the best of me. Turns out on my first *final* update, I didn't do what he wanted. That's right, I interpreted the project wrong. He didn't want the button to work. No no no, he just wanted the button to show up. That was it. After a wild goose chase of fixing one thing breaking another, turning it in only to find out I messed up on something, I learned a very valuable lesson.

1. Learn the hard lesson of: The code is going to suck. You're not going to jump into a big project, edit a couple lines, and get out. You're going to have to learn everyone else's thought process and follow it.

2. Don't undersell yourself for the best-case scenario. I was hoping for a quick job on a site that would be something like mine. I was wrong. Don't let this happen to you.

3. Stand your ground, but be fair. Don't be afraid of a bad report. On most freelancing sites you can rebuttle them! However saying that, don't do the wrong thing and then expect to be paid for it.

I'm going to try to follow these rules from now on. Ignoring obvious signs and jumping into a project without really thinking about what it entails put me in a deep hole. The money was not the lesson on that job. It was the wisdom and experience I have gathered.

2 Comments On This Entry

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BenignDesign Icon

10 December 2012 - 02:12 PM
You say "comment programming" like it's a bad thing.

Munawwar Icon

14 December 2012 - 01:03 AM
Comment programming isn't required if you have an awesome SCM tool like git (Just make a branch and put the "experimental" stuff there). Plus I am not a fan of having commented debug statements in code.
@creativecoding: php,html,js and css mixed into one file makes the code horrible (It reminds me of my early days of PHP programming :D :P).
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