The further consequences of free and cheap

The further consequences of free and cheap

I touched a little bit on this subject on the InWorldz blog in a post titled The hard thing about hosting things, but lately this has been coming up more and more, and I’m starting to get annoyed.

There are some very talented people in the OpenSim space. People with a wide range of skills from C++ development, C#, web development in PHP, node.js and other languages. The thing that all of them seem to have in common is that they have a passion for working on 3d software and simulations, but unfortunately we’ve found more and more that this passion and drive is being taken advantage of, and just like hosting prices in OpenSim, a lowest bidder mentality has emerged.

As a business owner and employee of small businesses, I learned a long time ago that when people don’t have to worry about paying their bills, they are more likely to be creative and solve problems in effective ways. They are loyal to your vision, and want to help see it through. They don’t have to seek out work elsewhere to make ends meet and they are appreciative of the sacrifices that you make for them.

Unfortunately the stories I’m hearing from people getting paid for OpenSim based work and from OpenSim grids paints a really disturbing picture of the way people are being used and led astray with promises.

The most recent I’ve heard is from an extremely talented software developer that is also serving as a systems administrator, a devops person, and someone that is constantly on call anytime something breaks. This person tells me that he calculated his effective hourly rate with this schedule and came up with a figure of $0.70/hr. $0.70/hr to be a software developer and systems administrator on call 24/7. No thanks, i’ll pass no matter what vague promises about the future you make to me.

Really? Is this the best that we can do? No wonder we have a hard time getting anything done and this space is considered a joke to many outsiders. I don’t think this particular joke is funny at all.

On a related note, I was just recently made aware of a comment that claimed an $800 bid to implement export, which requires BOTH viewer side and server side changes was “not great”. As if this bid to do custom software development on two separate platforms were easy and should pay minimum wage? What?

If you think paying $800 for software implementation is too much, maybe your business should be charging more to free up real money for the software development that it depends on. People’s time is not a charity to be exploited.

Software development charges from companies and independent contractors typically land in the $70 – $120/hr range. In my experience these are fair numbers, and when you pay a much much lower price to try to get the best deal, you end up getting what you pay for, and many times it’ll have to be completely redone later on. When you have to do something two and three times, the cheap rates end up not meaning very much.

So my final message is pretty simple. As we free up more cash to pay more people for their time, expect that the contractors you’re used to paying pennies to may end up finding their way over here. I won’t make any vague promises. I’ll ask them flat out what kind of compensation they think they need to complete a project and pay accordingly. I won’t put anyone on call 24/7 unless they’re being paid real wages. If they go over budget due to a bad estimate, we’ll work to make it right.

I actually like people. I want to see them succeed and be happy. Only when I see happy people working for us and alongside us do I know that we’ve truly succeeded.

Just a box

Just a box

Bring home a box and a cat will instantly be enamored with it. Why? It’s just a box. It’s not a special toy, it doesn’t move around, there are no flashing lights inside of it. There is no glitter, no other cats to play with inside, and no treats.

The shape of the box doesn’t seem to matter, and it doesn’t even seem to matter much how well he fits inside of it. What is it about a new box that is so interesting? Why does a new empty box seem to be my cat’s favorite toy above all else?

To analyze his reaction, it helped me to think of the new box as a metaphor for something new coming into my life. Not just anything of course, but someone, or some thing that changed me for the better.

Viewed from this perspective I again ask why a box, and what did it take to make my cat as well as myself really happy? I’ve come up with a few possibilities, from the perspective of a cat of course.. probably..

A new place to explore

The box presents a new and completely fresh place to explore. The cat has no idea what is contained in the box and has to go inside for a look to see. The possibilities are boundless. There could literally be anything at all in the box. Once you get into the box there is no telling how large it actually is on the inside! Maybe you could spend the rest of your life looking around.

A new adventure

I was pretty bored with my old box, but this one will be different. I can bring some of my toys in here and find ways to play that I never thought were possible. Maybe I can bring my kitty friends with me and we can find new and exciting things to do. Can you imagine all the new things that we can try now?

The unknown

I have no idea what might happen in this box. It is scary, but it is also exciting. There would be little point in life if we always knew exactly how each day was going to go. Even though I am uneasy at first, I really like this feeling.

A place to feel safe

Inside this box no one can hurt me. If I want to be hidden I can stay hidden. If I want to be seen, I can invite my most trusted friends in to share this experience with me. I am safe here. No one can attack me because I can see anything coming at me from here. This box shelters me and keeps me warm. It wraps around me when I am feeling afraid and gives me comfort. In just being there, it promises I will never have to be exposed out in the open and alone.

A place that feels like home

I think I’ll snuggle up inside this box and take a nap. I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be. I’ve left little bits of myself here. I see some of my fur, a couple of my favorite toys. See over there? I made a little mark with my claws once when I was in here chasing a fly. I recognize this feeling and this place. It is so familiar to me.

I’ve been so happy here that it almost feels like home.

But it’s just a box.

Entrepreneur survival guide for 2015

Entrepreneur survival guide for 2015

Working for yourself is exciting, but it takes the right kind of attitude and the right type of person. Life can get lonely and you go through every day knowing that when you fail or succeed, there is ultimately no one to blame but yourself. It is a difficult road to travel, but the rewards, the lessons, and the connections you can make with others like yourself can make the journey well worth it.

Over the past 6+ years I have been an entrepreneur, I’ve been building up a list of the things that help me to maintain my sanity when things get rough. I’m finally to a point where I think I have enough useful advice to share some of it with you. I hope you can find some of this post useful and I encourage you to leave some of your own advice for me in the comments. I’m always looking for ways that I might eke out just a bit more happiness from each and every day.

So without further ado, here are some things I’ve learned.

The fight is mostly mental

This is a bit of a cliché, but it turns out to be true in almost every situation I run into on a day by day basis. When you are going through a rough time with something, take a step back from it and look at it from the outside in. Take a deep breath, remove the emotions and look at the situation logically. Fretting over something, or wasting your time generating hundreds of negative what-if scenarios is not going to solve the problem or make it any easier to deal with.

The most difficult things you’re going to have to deal with are self-doubt, situational doubt, and fear. You’ll need to face these head on, and be able to look at them from an outsider’s perspective to make it through the day. You’ll need to know, to really know that even if things don’t go quite the way you want, or not the way you want at all, you will still be there the next day with a new chance to do something great.

Family and friends

Dont take your family and close friends for granted. The worst thing for your mental heath would be losing your entire support system. These people are willing to put up with your wacky hours, your mood swings, and your need to vent. Treat them with the respect they deserve.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk to your close friends about your problems. Talk to the people that really care about you and will give you honest and empathetic feedback. We all need some way to let it all out. Lean on them.

Force yourself to get out and disconnect

Bad news. Your problems will still be there tomorrow. Good news! Your problems will still be there tomorrow, and you can deal with them at that point if you just can’t push yourself to work one more minute on this Friday night. Get out of the house! Get out of the office! Go spend some time with your friends and family. Go find some fellow entrepreneurs to talk business with. Anything is better than beating your head on a wall getting nowhere because you’ve burned up all your energy and you’re running on empty.

Find people you can rely on

Nothing sucks worse than being responsible for absolutely everything yourself. Find reliable people that you can rely on to help out with important work and when important deadlines are about to hit. These may be contractors, employees, or even friends. Nothing will save your butt quite like a graphic designer that is willing to whip up an ad for you in a few hours, or a coder that is willing to sacrifice most of a Friday night to make sure something is ready for release after you’ve already spent one too many days with little sleep.

Celebrate (and remember) your small victories

This is super important. You’re going to have many more small victories than super large ones. The small victories count and add up to something much bigger. Don’t take them for granted and don’t forget them. Remember them when things are tough. Remember what it took you to get here.

Don’t rely on any one thing (or person) for happiness

Remember that sometimes your just going to need people to have fun with or things to do just to get away from work for a while. Don’t put all the pressure for keeping your sanity on one person or one thing. Make sure you have a few options of people and activities to turn to for when you just need to get away from work so that you’re not stuck disappointed (and working) if plans fall through.

Don’t fight for too long physically alone

If you’re like many of us, you are probably working from home most of the time since having your own office is rapidly becoming an unneeded expense. Working physically by yourself alone for years is a recipe for emotional disaster. You’re going to start to feel isolated from people and your workspace will start to seem lifeless and lonely. Regular skype calls with employees, coworkers, and founders can help this, but eventually you’re going to need to get out and talk to people who are physically there.

Getting out to a local coffee shop can help you to feel better by simply being in a social space. You might also find others with similar interests. Even better is getting yourself a membership or an office at a shared workspace like Geekdom.  There you are sure to find other entrepreneurs and professionals who might need your advice or help, and from which you can receive the same.

Keep your chin up, and do the best you can to find peace even when things are tough. The journey and the lessons it teaches are well worth it.