Ayende @ Rahien

Oren Eini aka Ayende Rahien CEO of Hibernating Rhinos LTD, which develops RavenDB, a NoSQL Open Source Document Database.

You can reach me by:

oren@ravendb.net

+972 52-548-6969

Posts: 7,087 | Comments: 49,877

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time to read 6 min | 1110 words

I run into this link, which is Lambda school offering to place a student of theirs at your company for up to four weeks without having to pay them or the student. They market it as: Add talented software engineers to your team for a 4 week trial at no cost for your company if you do not hire the fellow.

Just to point out, this is not relevant to me or mine, so I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I run into this offer because of this:

Scott then wrote: “Pay people for their work. Pay interns.”

I think that this ties closely together with the previous posts on money and open source. On the one hand, I think that this is a pretty good offer for a student, because they are able to get over what is likely to be their biggest hurdle, actual experience in the field. It also lowers the bar on actually getting their foot in the door, after which the second step is likely to be much easier.

On the other hand, for the company, it is a great way to do test runs for entry level positions. Hiring developers is hard, and being able to trial run for a few weeks is much better than trying to predict the candidate’s ability based on a short interview.

On the gripping hand, however, there are a bunch of issues here that are rife for abuse. This also means that the only people who’ll get to this program are those who are able to actually go a month or so without pay. Or that they will need to do this and their regular work as well.

An “easy” way to fix this would be to pay at least minimum wage to the students, of course. The problem is that this would curb a lot of the advantages of the program. I’ll refer you to Dan Ariely and the FREE! experiments for the reasons why. From the company’s perspective: Paying a minimum wage or getting an employee for free is pretty much the same thing. But there is a lot less process to getting someone for free. And once there is a foot in the door, it is a lot easier to convert internally.

What I wish was possible was to be able to hire people (at or near market rate) for a short amount of time and then decide if you want to keep them on afterward. The idea is that actually seeing their work is a much better indication of their capabilities than the interview process. That reduce the pressure to perform during an interview, gives candidate far better chance to impress and show off, allow them to learn, etc.

This is technically possible but not actually feasible in almost all situations. Leaving aside labor laws, consider the employee’s perspective in this case. If they are already working, going to another company and doing a “trial run” which can be unsuccessful is a very powerful reason to not go there. A company with the kind of reputation of “they hired me for a month and then fire me” is going to have hard time getting more employees. In fact, being fired without a few weeks or months of getting hired is such a negative mark on the CV that most people would leave it all together. Because of this, any company that want to do such trail runs cannot actually do so. They have to make the effort to do all the filtering before actually hiring an employee and reserve firing someone after a short time for mostly egregious issues.

The internship model neatly works around this issue, because you have a very clear boundaries. Making it an unpaid internship is a way to attract more interest from companies and reduce the barriers. For the student, even if they aren’t hired at that place, it gives actual industry experience, which is usually a lot more valuable in the job market.  Note that you can pay the grocery bill with Reputation bucks, it just takes a little longer to cash them out, usually.

The unpaid internship here is the problem, for a bunch of reasons. The chief among them is that making this free for the companies open this up for abuse. You can put controls and safeguards in place, but the easiest way to handle that would be to make it so they pay at least minimum wage to avoid that. The moment that this is paid, a lot of the abuse potential go away. I can imagine that this would be a major hassle for the school (I assume that the companies would rather pay an invoice rather than hire someone on for a short while), but it is something that you can easily do with economies of scale.

The chief issue then, however, would be that this is no longer free, so likely to subject the students to a much harsher scrutiny, which defeats the purpose of getting them out there in the field and gaining real experience.  That is also a problem for the school, I think, since they would have to try to place the student and face a bigger barrier.

Turning this around, however, consider that this was an offer made not for a company, but for open source projects? A lot of open source projects have a ton of work that needs to be done which gets deferred. This is the sort of “weeding the garden” that is usually within the capabilities of someone just starting out. The open source project will provide mentorship and guidance in return for this work. In terms of work experience, this is likely to be roughly on the same level, but without the option to being hired at the end of the four weeks. It also has the advantage of all the work being out there in the open, which allows potential future employers to inspect this.

Note that this is roughly the same thing as the offer being made, but instead of a company doing this, there is an open source project. How would that change your evaluation? The other aspects are all the same. This is still something that is only available for those who can afford to take a month without pay and still make it. From the student’s perspective, there is no major difference, except that there is far less likelihood for actually getting hired in the end.

time to read 4 min | 616 words

I run into this tweet:

I wanted to respond to that, because it ties very closely to the previous post. As I already said, getting paid for open source is a problem. You either try to do that professionally (full time) or you don’t. Trying to get hobbyist amount of money from open source is not really working. And when you are doing this professionally, there is a very different manner of operating. For this post, I want to talk about the other side, the people who want to pay for certain things, but can’t.

Let’s say that Jane works for a multibillion dollar company. She is using project X for a certain use case and would like to extend its capabilities to handle and additional scenario. We’ll further say that this project has a robust team or community behind it, so there is someone to talk to.

If the feature in question isn’t trivial, it is going to require a substantial amount of work. Jane doesn’t want to just bug the maintainers for this, but how can she pay for that? The first problem that you run into is who to pay. There isn’t usually an organization behind the project. Just figuring out who to pay can be a challenge. The next question is whatever that person can even accept payments. In Israel, for example, if you aren’t an independent employee, there is a lot of bureaucracy you have to go through if you want to accept money outside of your employer.

Let’s say that the cost of the feature is set around 2,500$ – 7,500$. That amount usually means that Jane can’t just hand it over and claim it in her expenses. She needs someone from Accounts Payable to handle that, which means that it needs to go through the approval process, there should be a contract (so legal is also involved), they might be a required bidding process, etc.

The open source maintainer on the other side is going to get an 8 pages contract written is dense legalese and have to get a lawyer to go over that. So you need to cover that expense as well. There are delivery clauses in the contract, penalties for late delivery, etc. You need to consider whatever this is work for hire or not (matters for copy right law), whatever the license on the project is suitable for the end result, etc. For many people, that level of hassle for a rare occurrence of non life changing amount of money is too much.  This is especially true if they are already employed and need to do that on top of their usual work.

For Jane, who would like her employer to pay for a feature, this is too much of a hassle to go through all the steps and paperwork involved. Note that we aren’t talking about a quick email, we are probably talking weeks of having to navigate through the hierarchy, getting approval from multiple parties (and remember that there is also the maintainer on the other side as well).

In many cases, the total cost that is involved here can very quickly reach ridiculous levels. There is a reason why in many cases it is easier for such companies to simply hire the maintainers directly. It simplify a lot of work for all sides, but it does means that the project is no longer independent.

time to read 3 min | 559 words

I run into a (private) tweet that said the following:

Is there a way to pay for a feature in an opensource project in a crowdfunded manner with potential over time payouts? I would love to pay someone to implement a feature I really want, but I won't be able to pay it all.

I think that this is a very interesting sentiment, because the usual answer for that range between no and NO. Technically, yes, there are ways to handle that. For example, Patreon or similar services. I checked a few of those and found LineageOS – 205 Patrons with 582$ monthly.

There is also Librapay, which seems to be exactly what the tweet is talking about, but…  the highest paid individual in there is paid about under a thousand dollars a month. The highest paid organization is bringing in about 1,125$ / month.

There are other places, but they present roughly the same picture. In short, there doesn’t seem to be any money in this style of operation. Let me make it clear what I mean by no money. Going to Fiverr and sorting by the cheapest rate, you can find a developer for 5 – 10$ / hour. No idea about the quality / ability to deliver, but that is the bottom line. Using those numbers (which are below minimum wage) gives you not a lot of time at all.

A monthly recurring income of 500$ – 1,250$, assuming minimum wage, will get you about a week or two of work per month. But note that this is assuming that you desire minimum wage. I’m unaware of anywhere that a developer is charging that amount, typical salaries for developers are in the upper tier. So in term of financial incentives, there isn’t anything here.

Note that the moment you take any amount of money, you lose the ability to just mute people. If you are working on open source project and someone come with a request, either it is interesting, so it might be picked up, or it isn’t. But if there is money involved (and it doesn’t have to be a significant amount), there are different expectations.

There is also a non trivial amount of hassle in getting paid. I’m not talking about actually collecting the money, I’m talking about things like taxes, making sure that all your reports align, etc. If you are a salaried employee, in many cases, this is so trivial you never need to think about it. That on its own can be a big hurdle, especially because there isn’t much money in it.

Counter point to my entire post is that there are projects that have done this. The obvious one is the Linux kernel project, but you’ll note that such projects are extremely rare. And usually have had a major amount of traction before they managed to sort out funding. In other words, it got to the point where people were already employed full time to handle such projects.

Another option is Kickstarter. This isn’t so much for recurring revenue, but getting started, of course. On Kickstarter, there seems to be mostly either physical objects or games. I managed to find Light Table which was funded in 2014 to the tune of  316,720$ by 7,317 people. Checking the repository, there seems to be non activity from the beginning of the year.

time to read 1 min | 98 words

RavenDB is built to be your main database. It’s the system of record where you store all of your information. To minimize complexity, work, and cost, RavenDB also contains a fully-fledged full-text search engine. You can perform full text searches, but you don’t need a plugin or addon. This enables you to find interesting documents based on quite a lot of different criteria.

In this Webinar, I show how you can run all sort of interesting queries and show off some of RavenDB’s full text search capabilities.

time to read 1 min | 159 words

imageWe are looking to expand the number of top tier drivers and build a RavenDB client for PHP.

We currently have 1st tier clients for .NET, JVM, Python, Go, C++ and Node.JS. There are also 2nd tier clients for Ruby, PHP, R and a bunch of other environments.

We want to build a fully fledged client for RavenDB for PHP customers and I have had great success in the past in reaching awesome talent through this blog.

Chris Kowalczyk had done our Go client and detailed the process in a great blog post.

The project will involve building the RavenDB client for PHP, documenting it as well as building a small sample app or two.

If you are interested or know someone who would be, I would very happy if you can send us details to jobs@ravendb.net.

time to read 1 min | 115 words

YABT - Start of the SeriesAlex Klaus has decided to take up the task of showing how to build a non trivial application using RavenDB. The domain of choice is Yet Another Bug Tracker, mostly to be able to discuss the details of the implementation without having to explain the model and the business constraints.

The first two articles has already been published, with more to follow:

As usual, all feedback is welcome.

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RECENT SERIES

  1. Open Source & Money (2):
    19 Nov 2020 - Part II
  2. Webinar recording (10):
    28 Oct 2020 - Advanced Search Scenarios in RavenDB
  3. re (27):
    27 Oct 2020 - Investigating query performance issue in RavenDB
  4. Reminder (10):
    25 Oct 2020 - Online RavenDB In Action Workshop tomorrow via NDC
  5. Podcast (3):
    17 Aug 2020 - #SoLeadSaturday with Oren Eini
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