Unrealistic Cost Expectations, and How to Fix Them

I suppose there have been hiring companies with wildly unrealistic cost expectations forever; the internet just makes it more visible. Take, for example, this job post for PostgreSQL expert, which I republish here for criticism and comment, anonymized:

We are looking for a postgre expert with indepth Oracle skill to help with the following project:

1) migrate all data and structure from Oracle 9i to PostgreSQL 8.3.
2) create a script to capture daily differentials on Oracle db and export the changes to PostgreSQL
3) create a script to automate the import the Oracle differential export into PostgreSQL on a daily basis
4) full documentation

Will provide both Oracle and Postgre dev box to work with, interested party please send email to (REDACTED)

Job budget between USD 300 to USD 400. However need this delivered within one week from job acceptance, or before Dec. 31, 2009, whichever come first.

To clarify for anyone reading this, this is not my job post. I am not looking for a PG expert. Do not contact me to apply for this work.

This fellow wants:

  • An experienced guru
  • In two quite complex technologies, one of which is a very expensive technology
  • To do a non-trivial project, and presumably, to be responsible for the results actually working
  • Who can do their project Right Now
  • Over the Christmas holiday, at least here in the US
  • For a $400

It seems to me that this person, in addition to creating some annoyance on the mailing list where they posted it, simply has wildly unrealistic expectations. As a result, they are likely to end up disappointed with any real person applying for their work. They will quite likely get multiple applicants, eager to attack the job for the budget shown; so I am not suggesting that noone will do it.

Instead, I estimate that most likely a week will come and go, $400 will come and go, and they will not have a working system. With some struggle and legwork on the hiring end, they may get the end result for a surprisingly small multiple of the proposed budget… but if they started with a more realistic amount in the first place, they’d likely get there faster and with less work on the hiring end.

A broader lesson, that I’ve learned through experience in the trenches, is that if you don’t have a good feel for the price range, start with no price range. Then talk with the first handful of applicants, listening carefully. With a couple of hours (for a simple request), you’ll probably have at least some realistic sense of the size of your project. With this knowledge, you can make more realistic and credible job posts, yielding more and better applicants.

Were you hoping for an approach to fix someone else’s unrealistic expectations? Sorry, I’ve not found a good way to do this. The best you can do is to find and fix your own.

BlackBerry tether with Ubuntu 9.10

There are many pages out there about how to use a tethered BlackBerry internet connection with Ubuntu 9.10. Here is one that actually works. It uses Barry, BlackBerry support software generously provided by Net Direct Inc.

I’ve found this quite useful with an Ubuntu based netbook. There is Wifi a lot of places, but not even close to “everywhere”.

My BlackBerry is on the T-Mobile network, which (nicely) includes tethering at no extra cost, but (not so nicely) offers only EDGE (not 3G) in most of the US. Still, in a pinch an EDGE connection is far better than no connection, and is quite suitable for occasional use at zero incremental cost. For heavy mobile wireless tethering users, I suggest Verizon or Sprint service with their respective USB dongles.

StartupToDo.com Scholarships for St. Louis Startups

A few weeks ago I met Bob Walsh, well known MicroISV guru (he wrote the book on it). He has a startup-acceleration company called StartupToDo.com; which he persuaded me to take a look at. The site offers a pile of information, for a fee, to help startups “cut to the chase” as they get moving. I was initially skeptical, because there is such a vast amount of such information for free online.

Then I thought about it a while, and thought about various potential and actual founders I’ve met, and thought about how much time a person can spend browsing around for information, and looked through the guides on StartupToDo… and it now appears to be a worthwhile resource for first-time founders to use (and pay for). Speed is everything, StartupToDo could save a founder some hours.

At the same time, I’ve been looking for ways to help boost the nascent St. Louis startup and software-company community.

Putting those two things together, Oasis Digital (my firm) is going to sponsor (that is, pay for) a StartupToDo membership, for up to 10 St. Louis area startup companies. The rules are simple:

  • Must be a software product / service or related startup company (not consultant)
  • Must be located within 50 miles of St. Louis, MO
  • Either starting in the near future or in the last year
  • First 10 that meet these requirements, “win”
  • Act fast – you must “apply” by the end of December 2009.

Read the official details on Bob’s site, and follow his directions to “apply”.

While you’re at it, consider getting involved with ITEN-STL if you aren’t already. ITEN offers assistance of various kinds to St. Louis area startup firms, and I am an ITEN mentor.

Book Giveaway at Lambda Lounge, Dec. 3

This Thursday is the next meeting of the Lambda Lounge, I’m giving away another stack of books:

Kyle is giving away these books

I love books. I love them so much that my house became crowded with them. Then I realized that The World is My Warehouse.

Please take a book, free. There are some excellent books in this pile, most notably the “Generative Programming” book and Bitter EJB.

Update: All but a couple of the books were snapped up at the meeting.