Read my latest article: 8 things I look for in a Ruby on Rails app (posted Thu, 06 Jul 2017 16:59:00 GMT)

Rails Business: Weekly Review #2

Posted by Mon, 18 Jun 2007 05:26:00 GMT

First of all, I’d like to welcome the more than fifty people that have joined the Rails Business group since my last post. Over the past week, there were less posts, but we did cover a few important topics, which may be of interest to you.


Michael Breen asked a few questions about subcontracting for larger firms and how people set their rates when doing this. Several of the responses provided some personal experiences (good and bad) of being a subcontractor on large projects. Where some risks are and how to negotiate your rates, when applicable.

Read the discussion

Change Requests

Nick Coyne started a discussion on how to manage change requests in an Agile development process.

Dealing with large clients

There was also a discussion about how to go about responding to a 150 page RFP for a large client. A few of us offered our experiences of bidding on large projects. Read more

Join the Community

The list is about to pass 400 members and it’s already proving to be a valuable resource for all of you entrepreneurs out there. I encourage you all to introduce yourself.

Audit Your Rails Development Team

Posted by Sun, 17 Jun 2007 19:05:00 GMT

Several months ago, a few of your colleagues decided to join forces with you as you had come up with a concept for an innovative web application, shared the ideas with your friends and relatives, and began developing a business plan. After a few months of performing some initial market research, working on your pitch, and raising some initial funding, you decided to bootstrap the project and start designing and developing the product.

During your research phase, you came across several articles about this exciting new technology called, Ruby on Rails. You were impressed with many of the sites that were being developed on this new framework as well as the community that surrounded it. Your team decided that it would be a great idea to follow this trend and use Rails as the platform for your new product.

At this point, you began soliciting freelance developers and/or firms to hire for the design and implementation of your project. Eventually, you make a decision and break ground on building the product.

Let’s jump forward to the present day.

You’ve been in heavy development for quite some time. Your product has gone through a series of design changes and you’ve recently begun to allow other people to begin testing the application. You’re receiving a lot of bug reports as people use the system. Your development team quickly fixes them as they appear, but you’re noticing a trend in the development process.

The speed of implementing new features is drastically slowing down as your development team is spending most of their time fixing bugs. Along with that, they are becoming frustrated by the project because they can’t keep up with your new feature requests while trying to keep up with your growing number of bug reports. You’re becoming concerned about the stability of the product and are slightly suspicious that your developer(s) might not be as good as they suggested they were.

Did you hire a bad development team? Chances are, you may not be able to tell. You’re not a developer, so reviewing their code would almost be a waste of time. How would you know if they were doing a good or bad job? Your developers reassure you that things are going to work out in the end, but it’s going to take longer then originally planned. Along with this, your partners and investors are anxiously waiting for you to launch the product, but something feels wrong. You’re worried that launching it too soon could be the quick death of the entire project if it all comes to a screeching halt due to unforeseen bugs and problems with the application. This wasn’t how you pictured the launch of your exciting new product and you feel a lack of confidence in the entire process.

What can you do?

Before I get into that, let’s discuss some of the possible causes for this situation.

  • Your development team may have grossly underestimated this project.
  • You might have pushed too many features into the initial release of the product and your development team might not have done a good job of helping you determine what you need, not just what you want.
  • Your development team might not emphasize testing enough in their process.
  • Your development team may have begun to take a lot of short cuts in an effort to hit your launch date(s)
  • Perhaps you asked for quick turnarounds on new features before an investor meeting… maybe this happened on several occasions.
  • Your development team might not be very good with Ruby on Rails, maybe this was their first Rails project.
  • ...and so on.

At this point, the big question is… what’s the problem?

Can you answer this question yourself? Can your development team answer it? If not, what do you do? How can you get an accurate understanding of how stable the code base of your application is?

Answer: An independent code audit and review

Why is this a good idea? Well, when you have an independent team review your code, you get the benefit of having a fresh perspective.. and often times, an independent team can be much more critical and provide an honest assessment in a very short period of time. This is especially true if they have a lot of experience with the technology. For example, PLANET ARGON has been conducting code audits on existing projects for over two years. We’ve designed a process for checking existing code bases for mistakes that we’ve either made ourselves in the past or found in other projects that we’ve reviewed.

In fact, our process currently walks us through the following areas of your Rails application.

  • Security of the application
  • Privacy of users’ personal data
  • Adherence to the conventions of the Ruby on Rails framework
  • Scalability of the application
  • Performance of the application and data model
  • Testing framework and process
  • User interaction (when applicable)
  • Information Architecture
  • Model-View-Controller (MVC) implementation and organization

Not only does this process provide you with our analysis, but we also provide you with our advice as to where your development team should focus their attention next. If your team is lacking experience in the areas that we recommend they focus on, we’re also here to help them through this with our consulting services. We’re currently assisting several Rails development teams with their testing process, refactoring, user interaction design, optimizing their site, improving their deployment strategy, and plan the implementation of new features.

In general, most freelancers and firms could/should provide you this service, but it should not be performed by your existing development team. They have a bias towards their process and this is your chance to get a second (or third) opinion on the work that you’ve been paying them for. If you’re spending several tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars into this product, an independent review of your investment should be something to seriously consider.

There are several different scenarios that could lead you to deciding to have an independent firm perform a code audit. In fact, I’d encourage you to always get an outside perspective of your team’s work.

You can learn more about our Ruby on Rails Code Audit service on our website or by giving us a call at +1 877 55 ARGON.

Rails Business: Weekly Review #1

Posted by Sat, 09 Jun 2007 21:07:00 GMT

This past week (give or take a few days), the Rails Business group has covered a lot of topics, that might be of interest to you, should you be running a business and using Ruby on Rails. Many of the members of the new group are independent contractors and have been very open in sharing their experiences of working for themselves. I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few conversations and tips that were covered this past week.

Health Coverage

Mike Pence started a conversation about health coverage…

“Has anyone else found the medical insurance issue to be a show stopper for them? Are you one doctor visit and diagnosis away from financial ruin? I can tell you firsthand that wishful thinking won’t pay those bills…”

This started a discussion about how people are able to work on their own and maintain health coverage, which is definitely not something that should be considered lightly. Read more…

Client Expenses

Another great question was raised by Mike Breen.

“I’m going to start work on my first project that will require me to travel. How should I handle the expenses? Do I build the costs into the contract price or do I submit the expenses to the client for reimbursements? Or does this vary from client to client based on the company policy?”

The responses included links to IRS sites and sections of other peoples’ contracts. Read more...

Hosting Client Repositories

Where do you host your client’s source code repositories? Are you managing it all yourself on your own servers or using a service?

The discussion (so far) has lead us to evaluate our own solution for this at PLANET ARGON. It appears that everyone has different concerns about how they want to manage client code during the development cycle.

For example, do you allow your client access to trunk/ if they aren’t all paid up yet?

Also, it seems like there are a bunch of new commercial options coming out (and are built on Rails). Read more...

Naming Your Business

Jared Haworth writes,

“For those of you who are working as ‘independent developers,’ have you found that it makes more sense to simply do business under your own name, for example “Jared Haworth L.L.C.,” or to come up with a clever business name instead, such as “Code Fusion Studios”?”

This was a good conversation to follow and definitely raised a lot of great questions and things to consider in response to the original message. Read more...

Other Topics

  • Magazines, what business magazines do you read?
  • Where do you find gigs?

Join the Community!

The community is still only a few weeks old and we’re already approach 350 members! It’s been a great learning about other peoples’ experiences… as well as sharing what I’ve learned since I started PLANET ARGON (and how the name came to be).

If you hadn’t had a chance to join, stop by and introduce yourself!

Ruby on Rails gets down to business

Posted by Tue, 29 May 2007 13:53:00 GMT

It’s been a week since I announced the new Ruby on Rails meets the business world group. Already, the group attracted over 300 members from around the globe... from Argentina, Boston, Australia, Florida, Seattle, Portland!, the Netherlands, and South Africa.

We’ve already seen some great topics come up… from:

  • Project estimates
  • Fixed bids versus time and materials
  • Pricing
  • Handling code ownership with client contracts
  • Incorporating (LLC, S CORP?)
  • Managing money/accounting
  • Contracts

I expect that many of these topics will resurface and there has been a lot of valuable information passed around. It’s exciting to see that so many people not only want to use Ruby on Rails as a platform of choice for their business ventures, but they’re also willing to share their personal experiences and knowledge to help others move into this space.

If you’re running a business that focuses on Ruby on Rails or just considering it, you should stop by and introduce yourself.

update: membership grew from 200 to over 300 in the past day!

Ruby on Rails meets the Business World

Posted by Mon, 21 May 2007 23:36:00 GMT

On Saturday, I had the great pleasure of being up in front of several hundred people with the following individuals on the the Business of Rails panel at RailsConf.

Photo by James Duncan Davidson

Moderated by:
  • Nathaniel Talbott, President, Terralien, Inc.
The Victims:
  • Justin Gehtland, Founding Partner, Relevance
  • Geoffrey Grosenbach, Topfunky
  • Andre Lewis, Earthcode Studios
  • Joe O’Brien, artisan, EdgeCase, LLC
  • Robby Russell, Director, PLANET ARGON

Overall, the experience was fantastic. I really enjoyed the questions that Nathaniel and the audience threw our direction, both during and after the session. Throughout the remainder of the conference, people would catch me and present complicated business questions to me and ask for my input. I think that I even helped one guy make his final decision about which job offer he was going to accept (btw, did you decide yet?). It’s always great to share my experiences of leaving my last full-time job (3+ years ago), moving to Rails exclusively (2+ years ago), how Allison and I went from two people in an attic to seven people in an attic in about a month... to having an office in downtown Portland and clients around the globe. I’m also always happy to share my not-so-happy experiences throughout the past few years as well. Running a business is hard stuff as it comes with a whole lot of responsibility, which can lead to stress. It was great to know that the rest of the panel has had their difficult experiences. While Rails makes everything feel easy… running a business is a whole different spectrum of challenges. ;-)

At one point during the session the audience was asked, “How many of you are considering starting your own business based on Ruby on Rails?”

The response?

Based off of my extremely scientific calculations (looking around the room), I’d estimate that around 30-40% of the audience raised their hands! Wow. It was fantastic to see that there was that much interest in people starting venturing off onto their own. Imagine… a flood of new companies, competing directly with us… and guess what? I think that’s awesome! Awesome for Rails. Awesome for future startups. Awesome for everyone!

Let’s face it. Rails isn’t going anywhere for a long time.

So, now that the conference is over, questions have begun to appear in my email box. Thank you all for writing. What if you could have a sounding board to throw questions to on a regular basis? Unfortunately, our session only lasted a hour at RailsConf and too many questions weren’t gotten to. Well, I’ve asked the rest of those on the Business of Rails panel to join me on a google group, titled, Ruby on Rails meets the Business World.

If you’re looking to (A) start your own Rails-based business, (B) already run your own Rails-based business, or ((C)) have business experience that you’d like to share with those in camp A and B… then join the community and start some conversations.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to learning from you all and hope that my experience of co-founding and leading PLANET ARGON can be of benefit to all of you.

Photo by James Duncan Davidson

Portland Public Transporation and the Zen of Office Management

Posted by Tue, 10 Oct 2006 16:33:00 GMT

One of the coolest parts about my job (aside working with cool people everyday)... is getting a say in where we spend some of our money as a company. One of the things that Allison and I decided that we really wanted to do as a company was encourage sustainable business and growth in our local community. Everyone here loves Portland, Oregon.

This screenshot was taken after we took headshots for our transportation passes.

Head shots for public transportation passes

Our awesome Office Manager, Nicole Fritz has started a blog, which she plans to, ”...not only to let people know what goes on behind the scenes at PA, but to give other startups hints and tips about cool admin things that I have learned along the way (from taxes to how to get the right people “on the bus”).”

Nicole has posted an article, which introduces people to some of the great tax credits that small businesses like PLANET ARGON can take advantage of… in particular how we are now taking advantage of a tax credit for public transportation, bike storage, carpool programs, and more.

If you’re a customer of ours or are running a small business… you might consider subscribing to her feed.

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