## Programming, Business, Social Contracts

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Fri, 12 Dec 2014 15:03:41 -0300

I know of two ways to do programming (for money):

1 - With a spec, a careful contract, and a pile of lawyers.

2 - With mutual understanding, respect, and flexibility.

(1) doesn't work and / or is very expensive.  It's hard to avoid people doing
the minimum necessary to get the job done, because there's mutual distrust on
both sides.

(2) is, in my experience, much more productive.  Sometimes you can do more,
sometimes less.  But hopefully both sides understand why the outcome is at it
was, and believe that have the best possible product (not a perfect product,
perhaps, but one that has mutual support, was "value for money", and can
server as a base for future development).

The big risk (from "my side" as a developer) with (2) is that it's not how the
larger world works.  So (2) is often implemented as a gentleman's agreement,
behind a contract framed as a "traditional" project (ie 1).  This means that
the client always has the option to be less than a gentleman, and revert to
(1) if it's to their advantage.

Hence the need for trust.

Recently I had a very bad experience.  I did a major piece of work with the
understanding that it was (2).  The expected collaboration was lacking and I
ended up going "the extra mile" to get something I felt reasonable.  In short,
I ended up being not just the programmer, but also doing the work of the
client-side "expert".

Well, that's life.  And I learnt a lot.

So all would have been OK.  Except that TWO YEARS LATER the client complains
that the system has problems that are my fault.  Issues that I should fix for
free.

Not only that, but when it comes to fix these issues the client still doesn't
have the correct answers.  Instead they want to continue with a progressive,
friendly, collaborative approach where we understand the problem together.
But at a fixed price of zero.

Now don't get me wrong.  The technical problems are real.  I am in complete
agreement there.  But this was work done to as good a standard as possible at
the time.  I already went beyond what was reasonable.

Yes, we can continue to work with (2).  If the client has finally got their
technical act together then it would be a pleasure to fix those issues.  But
it is further work and requires further payment.

Either that, or we go back to (1) which is an aggressive, confrontational
approach, where you give me an exact spec, which I implement (and nothing
more).

But not both.  You can't expect me to be your friend, to work extra hours, to
give 110% to cover your deficiencies, and, two years later, claim we should do
things by the rules.  It's just not fair.  Rules or not, it makes you a bad
person.

Andrew