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  1. #1
    $this->toCD-R(LP); vinyl-junkie's Avatar
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    Unhappy Sometimes it doesn't pay to be nice

    I got an email recently from someone who found out I had written some database search scripts, said he was interested in doing something similar and wondered if I could help him out by offering a few pointers. I said sure, I was planning on making my scripts available on my website as soon as I can put some documentation together for them, but I emailed the scripts to him in a zip file anyway.

    Well, to make a very long story short, it turns out he knows nothing about PHP and keeps asking me more and more questions that a little bit of reading on his part would answer. In the last email I got from him, he says he wants to have his application up and running within a month and asks me to code it for him. Huh?!

    I politely but firmly told him no, and that he shouldn't ask anyone to do that much work for free (I'd estimate the work to take about 2-3 hours).

    So why do people do that? You do them a favor by offering to mentor them as they learn PHP, and then they end up asking you to do their project for them? OK, so I know why really but it just bugs me.

    ::deep breath:: I feel better now. Thanks for letting me rant.
    Last edited by vinyl-junkie; Jan 11, 2005 at 20:49. Reason: Bad grammar!
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  2. #2
    SQL Consultant gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy
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    i get this all the time

    people write to me and say "i notice you are a big sql expert on such-and-such forum ..." (i'm on more forums than just sitepoint) "... and could you please tell me how to do this or that with sql?"

    i have this policy that i will answer every email, so i do

    if it doesn't take any longer to actually give them an answer than it would to do the same on a forum, then i usually do -- but only once

    i've had lots of people come back and try to ask followup question after followup question

    my response to them is something along these lines: when i answer a question on a forum, i am in control, and more specifically, i get to choose which ones i want to answer and how quickly, and one of the benefits is that others can learn from my answers because they're public, and taken as a whole, represent as large a body of work as if i had written a book in the public domain, so feel free to search for my previous answers (there are many thousands of them out there, and not just on sitepoint either)

    then i tell them that if they wish me to provide answers privately, my rates are such-and-such per hour

    most of them say something like "oh, okay" and i don't hear from them again (these are almost always students)

    however, i have also had several people then take me up on it, drop a deposit into paypal, and then i'm happy to go to work for them until all their questions are answered
    rudy.ca | @rudydotca
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  3. #3
    $this->toCD-R(LP); vinyl-junkie's Avatar
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    I think what you're doing is an absolutely fair way of handling it. When it gets to the point where someone is starting to monopolize your time, I think they should be willing to pay for it.

    Interestingly, I haven't heard back from this guy. No apologies for the imposition, or thanks for the help and advice (I referred him to Rent-A-Coder). I'd still offer my help though if someone else wanted it.
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  4. #4
    l 0 l silver trophybronze trophy lo0ol's Avatar
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    I've also found out to never ever give out screen names for various IM services. I used to just give them out if someone asked nicely, but now I've learned that it's best to just tell them to send it via email. It's not very fun trying to deal with a (very) misguided person who assumes that you want to hear every detail of their life and want you to do them favors all the time.

  5. #5
    Skills to Pay the Bills Sparkie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vinyl-junkie
    Interestingly, I haven't heard back from this guy. No apologies for the imposition, or thanks for the help and advice (I referred him to Rent-A-Coder). I'd still offer my help though if someone else wanted it.
    Soooo..vinyl-junkie, can you code a Yahoo.com clone for me for $20?

  6. #6
    $this->toCD-R(LP); vinyl-junkie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparkie
    Soooo..vinyl-junkie, can you code a Yahoo.com clone for me for $20?
    Sure, no problem. I'll have it for you before I go to bed tonight.
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  7. #7
    Non-Member Egor's Avatar
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    I have also had a few questions emailed/pmed last year. If the person sounded like he/she really wanted a few pointers/advice, and was polite I would always give them a hand. However I had some of the most retarded questions, like OS Problems, written in a 11-year-old-like chatroom language, with no manners whatsoever. I politely sent those packing.

    A few have also demanded for me to do free work, or help out in non-profit projects, and sent them packing too.

    Why do people do that? Who knows. Ask them.

  8. #8
    Romans 12:2 codyrockx's Avatar
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    Yea, not entirely sure they even know. I've had and still have a few very troublesome ones across AIM that I've just decided to ignore after already changing my SN a few times! Best bet is to either tell them to politely leave, or ignore them, although I especially like Rudy's method!
    Codyrobert.com - Designer and Developer

  9. #9
    $this->toCD-R(LP); vinyl-junkie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by codyrockx
    I especially like Rudy's method!
    Me too, except with the person I mentioned, I have a feeling I would have had to go through the whole detailed specs and signed contract thing, and even then he probably would have tried to weasel even more than that out of me - for no additional money, of course.
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  10. #10
    $this->toCD-R(LP); vinyl-junkie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mstwntd
    A few have also demanded for me to do free work, or help out in non-profit projects, and sent them packing too.
    I had someone PM me a few months ago asking me if I would be interested in helping with his non-profit organization. After several back and forth PMs, he still hadn't given me a simple statement of what he expected me to do. Said he had designers but no coders, but nothing specific.

    When I pressed him for more information on what he expected me to do, he wanted to arrange to meet with me via IM. I told him I don't have that (which I don't) and that if he couldn't just give me a simple statement of the work involved, I didn't see how we could work together. I never heard from him again.

    BTW, is it customary when working long distance like that to discuss project specs via IM or chat room? I'm just curious. Seems like an odd way of conducting business.
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  11. #11
    SQL Consultant gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by vinyl-junkie
    BTW, is it customary when working long distance like that to discuss project specs via IM or chat room? I'm just curious. Seems like an odd way of conducting business.
    what's customary for me is email, and only email

    unless they want to call me, that works too
    rudy.ca | @rudydotca
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  12. #12
    Non-Member Egor's Avatar
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    I generally find it easier to discuss small project details via IM, yet still ask for a detailed brief emailed to me. Just so I have it all in one place.

    I'd say it's quite a common thing these days.

  13. #13
    Free your mind Toly's Avatar
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    To answer the original question... no, it doesn't pay to be nice. It's going to be a pain 95% of the time and I'm just being modest with that number. A lot of people see kindness as weakness. Thus, try to take advantage of it.
    Community Guidelines | Community FAQ

    "He that is kind is free, though he is a slave;
    he that is evil is a slave, though he be a king." - St. Augustine

  14. #14
    l 0 l silver trophybronze trophy lo0ol's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toly
    To answer the original question... no, it doesn't pay to be nice. It's going to be a pain 95% of the time and I'm just being modest with that number. A lot of people see kindness as weakness. Thus, try to take advantage of it.
    It doesn't suprise me either that usually the people who actually email/IM you and are the type of people we describe are usually all under 18 (at least in my experiences). They just don't understand yet that other people have other things to do.

  15. #15
    SitePoint Addict loadx's Avatar
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    well my rule is.. i will help with something they have coded themself, i will not help make mods on some other bogus code because 8/10 there is documentation for it and the person asking for help just can't be bothered to have a read.
    My second rule 'i will not spoonfeed' i always try to provoke the person into thinking of the answers for themself otherwise i will point them at a page of a manual or some kind of text that will make it clearer to them how they should solve their problem.

    i find this to work brilliantly as usually people are too scared to ask me to do it for them because i come across direct with both of those rules stated clearly before i even start helping (maybe im a bully)

  16. #16
    Non-Member coo_t2's Avatar
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    You guys are all mean.

    --ed

  17. #17
    l 0 l silver trophybronze trophy lo0ol's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coo_t2
    You guys are all mean.

    --ed
    Someone hasn't ever had to deal with these things I see. Count yourself lucky.

  18. #18
    SitePoint Guru loanuniverse's Avatar
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    I need:

    1-New logos....

    2-A few 800X600 and 640X480 graphics in case I want to buy popunders....

    3-A redesign of my site.

    4-Inbound links, I can always use inbound links

    5-A drawing of my face the way that the WSJ uses in the front page so that I can insert it on my site.

    By the way, I want them for free

  19. #19
    Non-Member coo_t2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lo0ol
    Someone hasn't ever had to deal with these things I see. Count yourself lucky.
    Every time I ask Rudy an SQL question I have to use a different email address. I shouldn't have to maintain 37 different yahoo! accounts just to query a freakin' database!

    --ed

  20. #20
    Non-Member bronze trophy geniusgoalie's Avatar
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    What's even worse is when friends ask you to do something because they are your friends, and have no clue how long coding can take. This one happened to me last week:
    Him: "Hey, you know how to program computers, don't you?"
    Me: "um, yeah?"
    Him: "I need your help"
    Me: (expecting a simple ms word question or something) "okay... what's the problem?"
    Him: "Can you make a game for me?"
    Me: "What?"
    Him "You know, like the games on your website. My dad wants to attract younger people to his company website, and we thought that making a game would be a good idea"
    Me: "ugh, it really depends. What type of game are we talking about?"
    Him: "It should be a game where you have to pick a boat, and steer it down a river. You should be able to go off waterfalls and make jumps for points and stuff, and if you hit the rocks you die."
    Me: "Sure, but a game like that will take a while. How much are we talking?"
    Him: "How does ten bucks sound?"

    He is learning flash as we speak

  21. #21
    Intoxicated with the madness petertdavis's Avatar
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    Heh, even worse... I'm getting questions like that too, and I'm the last one someone should ask about PHP.
    Peter T Davis

    I buy forums - PM me if you're selling.

  22. #22
    Free your mind Toly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lo0ol
    It doesn't suprise me either that usually the people who actually email/IM you and are the type of people we describe are usually all under 18 (at least in my experiences). They just don't understand yet that other people have other things to do.
    Well, my reply was more directed to real life situations, but I do know that sometimes people tend to abuse while asking for help online.
    Community Guidelines | Community FAQ

    "He that is kind is free, though he is a slave;
    he that is evil is a slave, though he be a king." - St. Augustine

  23. #23
    SitePoint Addict KelliShaver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vinyl-junkie
    BTW, is it customary when working long distance like that to discuss project specs via IM or chat room? I'm just curious. Seems like an odd way of conducting business.
    I've had problems with this in the past. People seem to take it a lot less seriously, in my experience. Now I do all of my long-distance business correspondence via phone or email. Mostly, it's via email, but if someone that I am goign to be working with for mroe than, oh, say, a few hours, I'll get them on the phone at least once. I find it builds a better relationiship and makes them feel more comfortable.

  24. #24
    $this->toCD-R(LP); vinyl-junkie's Avatar
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    I was just reading through the original correspondence with this character again, and got a bit of a chuckle over some of it. Here are a few snippets:

    I guess I should ask if you have time to assist for a few minutes here and there.
    And from "a few minutes here and there" in his first email to this:

    Now I'm sure I'll learn this stuff on my own in the future but I'm stuck because the football season for the website gets going in a month or so and I wanted to have this done for when the season started, so I could introduce a cool new feature to the site. There's little chance I'm gonna learn this on my own in that time, that's why I'm asking for help. Can you help?
    AARRGGHH! I had to calm down before I could reply to him in a civil manner.

    I guess I should have just given him a brief overview of the code, since I had no documentation to go with it, and then tell him he was on his own after that.

    Off-topic question: Where in the world is football season starting in a month? It's over here in the US once the Super Bowl has been played, which happens at the end of this month.
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  25. #25
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    lol, give him this invaluable link:
    www.sitepoint.com


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