Business-focused custom software

  • The cynicism of hourly fees for programming

    StopWatch Most programmers who have been around a few years can tell you horror stories about a software project they worked on. The stories are varied, but most of them involve an “unreasonable” customer who kept changing their minds, and the project suffered from lots of rework and frustration, or perhaps didn’t even get finished. (Even I have a story like that.)

    Which is why programmers are often surprised to learn that I don’t charge by the hour. They’ll ask, “Aren’t you worried that the customer will change their mind repeatedly and you’ll lose money?”

    Not really.

    Most customers aren’t ...

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  • How to learn about secret software bugs

    Top_Secret_resized One of the more frustrating aspects of being a programmer is that sometimes users encounter problems you never hear about. It isn’t anyone’s fault – I don’t always notify people when the software I use generates an error either. It takes time and effort, and I often think “they probably already know”. 

    But honestly, we don’t always know about the problems users encounter. Especially on smaller software projects with a limited number of developers and testers, we’re unlikely to test every single scenario. So the problem a user discovers may not be anything we tested for or have seen ourselves.......

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  • Ask the Programmer: Why can’t I “own” my code?

    question mark Ask the programmer is a feature designed to answer questions from non-geeks about hiring and working with programmers. If you have a question, please email me at

    Question: Why doesn’t your custom software contract grant my company ownership rights for the code. I’m paying for the software, shouldn’t I be the owner?

    Answer: To start out, we need to have a common understanding of what is included in custom software. Most custom software is made up of several different things:

    • Controls, components, or libraries written by third parties and purchased by the developer
    • Controls, components, or libraries ...

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  • When more is less (or makes you look stupid)

    Photo from Muffet on Flickr My new thermostat has a myriad of features, including a sensor that will tell me the outside temperature. The thermostat doesn’t use this information – it just reports it, with lots of information about the climate inside my house (temperature, humidity, etc.)

    One problem: the outside sensor is in a spot that gets the full morning sun. This means that this morning, when the temperature was actually 30 degrees, my thermostat said it was 61. I have seen the reported outside temperature be off by more than 40 degrees!

    There really isn’t a good alternative location for the sensor. They ...

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  • Top 5 tasks that get missed in software estimates

    Software estimates can be tricky. One challenge is remembering what to include. When people put together their estimates, they usually focus on the features but often forget some critical pieces that aren’t functionality specific.

    You might think that as a customer you don’t need to concern yourself with this. To a degree you are correct. But if your software roll-out has dependencies that make hitting target dates critical, you’ll want to feel confident that the estimates are accurate. Also, some developers who charge on an hourly basis can low-ball projects by providing estimates that exclude these tasks. It will be ...

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What the critics are saying...

From my experience with Avonelle, she can be relied on to deliver whatever she promises--always on time and for the quoted cost. She'll ask the right questions to make sure that what she delivers truly meets the business need. Her expertise has been invaluable. All that at a very reasonable rate!

Kim Merriman, Operations Manager @ HousingLink