Topic: Webmaster with a Ruby app - Advice needed please!


I paid a Ruby agency over $40k to have a Ruby site developed. Now it's done and is working fine.

The issue now is that I'm not a developer, and I can't afford to hire one. For every single change to the site (e.g. change the header, add some analytics code, add a Twitter button) I'm getting charged a minimum of 1 hour's work at their hourly rate which is pretty high.

I don't mind paying the agency for new development work, but by getting billed for these tiny things I'm feeling like my hands are really tied and I can't tweak anything.

I'm thinking of hiring a Rails developer with a good rating from say for $25/hr, to use on an ad-hoc basis, say 1-2 hours per week for small changes here and there for a much lower cost.

- Do you think this is a practical idea?

- Would it take the developer too long to familiarize himself with the code? Or does he not need to know the full inner workings to do simple changes?

- Is there a big risk of the developer screwing up the site, or stealing the code?

Thanks a lot for any advice and input, would really appreciate it!


Last edited by amast (2010-10-26 13:53:28)

Re: Webmaster with a Ruby app - Advice needed please!

I think you are doing good if they only charge you one hour for a minimal change.  It is hard to imagine how one could set up the proper development environment, understand the requirement, determine what and where to make the change, test it and package it back up for installation in less than one hour for any change.  You would be better off to come up with a reasonable number of things to be done and package them up and have them done as a job.  At least the overhead would be less.  When you want only a hours work done now and again you can not expect the vendor to maintain any development setup specifically for you or to maintain a familiarity with the code. 

I think you will have to pay a large startup cost with anyone who works on the code unless it is dead simple.

Re: Webmaster with a Ruby app - Advice needed please!

Hi Norm, thanks for your input.. at the moment the same developer who built the site a few months ago is working on it, so I don't think he's having to go through all those steps. He's able to make the changes quite quickly, but I still get charged 1 hour.

Is it because I'm coming from PHP sites and I don't understand how troublesome it is to make changes on Ruby apps? i.e. is it really a hassle even to change the header?

And similarly for a freelance developer.. would they have to take a lot of time to understand the code even for simple changes like that?

Many thanks,

Re: Webmaster with a Ruby app - Advice needed please!

I know nothing of PHP but making a change to an app in ROR is not complex if you have the environment set up and are familiar with the app but I agree with your vendor, I would never make any change for a charge of less than one hour just on a general principle.   It takes time to get your head out of one app and into another.  There is also unavoidable overhead involved in changing context.

Any one else would take a lot of time to understand any complex app.  If you are so sure the change involves only a 'simple' change of a header and will not screw up anything else, just change it yourself.  If you want to depend on someone who understands what he is doing and the implications of changes you will have to pay for it.

Re: Webmaster with a Ruby app - Advice needed please!

Hi Norm, I don't know anything about ROR or the environment, so I can't change anything myself - I also don't know if changing a header would affect anything else.

I suppose I could ask the vendor about what changes are safe to make myself.

I do get your point about changing context etc though, and I will look to batch changes together as you suggested.


Re: Webmaster with a Ruby app - Advice needed please!

40k for a website ?? Euh I'm doing a website like facebook alone just for fun and it's not that complicated (I`m not even a programmer).
I think you should team up with a developper or learn to program yourself. This could save you a lot of headach and crazy bills.

Re: Webmaster with a Ruby app - Advice needed please!

Henrik41 wrote:

40k for a website ?? Euh I'm doing a website like facebook alone just for fun and it's not that complicated (I`m not even a programmer).
I think you should team up with a developper or learn to program yourself. This could save you a lot of headach and crazy bills.

LOL! Will it handle 1 billion of users? Did you develop your own database engine like facebook? Does it include a commercial program as hudge as facebook's (beacon if i'm right)?

There's a hudge difference between a homemade application without tests and a professional application with support, tests and all the legal stuff wich allow your customer to sue you.

I love people who are "astonished" by informatic (B2B) prices because they think "it's easy". It's not easy. If it's a profession, it's not just to stole money from customers.
You told yourself, you're "not even a programmer". You have NO idea of what is a commercial application and what does it mean.

Nevermind, to answer to Amast, just consider this:

1) If you hire a developper, his salary in one year will cost you more than 40k.
2) How can you evaluate a good developer from a bad if you don't have skill in domain? You'll hire a bad developper wich will ****** your app. You'll have to rollback to your previous version, and you would have lost lot of money for nothing.
3) You'll lose all your guarantees. Maybe the company who's selling your website is a bit expensive, but you have a legal frame wich allow you to not pay if they don't make the job or make it bad.
4) You need more than one developper. A developper is not a project manager. You will also need a projet manager wich will collect your needs, express them, time them and make developper's planning.
5) If you have economical problems, you can just not ask new development to your software company and keep using current version of your website. However, if you hire a developper and have economical problems, you'll have to fire him, and it has a cost too.

To complete what norm told to you, don't forget that a software company is not working on ONE application. And "The" developper who worked on your application is not always the same person (maybe it's not just ONE person). When you ask for changes, it's given to a developper who has time in his planning for it.
As norm said, this developper has to:

* get back your project on his computer
* set up environment
* go inside code and look what's need to be modified
* change it and test it for no regression
* commit changes
* test changes in production mode
* deploy changes on your application (when it's possible, depends to your activity).
* update informations about his development in software's company application

(all steps are not always realised by one unique person).

Don't even think to change it "yourself". When software company will have changes to do, they won't have the same version as you. You would lose all your personal changes when they'll update.

As norm said, batch your changes. One hour for a twitter button can be felt too much, but believe me, it's not. I'm sure the developper who did this spent (with testing, project setup, tickets closing etc...) more than 1 hour.

If you batch your changes:

* developer has to setup project on his computer only one time for the whole batch
* it won't bother him to do all this crappy stuff "just for a fucking tweeter button" and will do the work better
* the more changes there's in your batch, the more you can discuss about pricing (like if you buy 1 litre of milk or 1 000)

Don't see your website as a money drain. It's an investment to improve your business. So ask you the good questions.
Is a button twitter usefull for your activity? How much customers and money will it bring back to you? If you can answer and tell me "my twitter button will bring me 1,000 customers and $200k", so no, paying $500 for 1 hour to see it in front of your website is not expensive at all. It's a really good invest (+199,500)!!!
However, if it's just to make you feel "fashion" but don't really bring you money back, just don't do this, with your own developper or not, because your own developper has a cost too.

Hope it will help.

Last edited by Mulasse (2011-01-19 06:59:37)