Core Product development not done in house? Bad?


I heard that core development of product should be done in house. I'm having a web app built by 2 reputable developers (Freelancing) here in the states, is that a bad thing? They are already half way done.

I just started learning rails myself, but I decided that the app can't wait 6 months.

Is it that bad?


asked Jan 15 '11 at 08:21
Jason Glib
96 points
  • Who is doing the mockups, the devs or you? Who is talking to the potential customers? How often are you communicating with the developers? – Alex Cook 13 years ago
  • So there's 1 backend developer and 1 designer on the team. Me and the designer both worked on the mockups. I'm talking to them and doing the promotional stuff. I'm giving the devs all the info I get from customers and news. – Jason Glib 13 years ago

3 Answers


I don't blame you. I mean it doesn't seem fair to say that everyone who doesn't have tons of money to spend to employ someone full term or can't code themselves doesn't deserve to start anything new.

With that said, do you have any commitment of them going forward? Do you pay them a retainer to be available for a given period of time? Have you clarified how they are to work with you in the future?

I think the key thing is that you need to be the owner of the results and that you have reliable and competent health available when needed.

answered Jan 15 '11 at 08:35
468 points
  • Would hiring different set of in-house coders to work/maintain it afterwards work? – Jason Glib 13 years ago
  • Could work, could not work... you have to be aware that these hypothetical new "coders" (a pretty derogatory term) will have to learn the existing app's source code from scratch, and will not be as productive as the two freelancers right away. – J├╝rgen A. Erhard 13 years ago
  • Exactly. Basically you waste a significant amount of created value by replacing the team totally. They WILL have issues with the code. – Net Tecture 13 years ago
  • I don't think "coder' is such an offensive term unless you mean "code monkey." I have felt like a code monkey myself over the years. I guess the difference is, to do you view them as the instruments of your divine wisdom or as valuable assets/partners who have a skill set, "coding", and the knowledge to transform your "vision" into a reality while bringing improvements and "enhanced" ideas to the table. You could have Michelangelo do finger paints but he would probably be happier painting a carefully crafted masterpiece. – Scott 13 years ago
  • Is there anything the current developers can do to make it easier for a new programmer to learn the code? – Jason Glib 13 years ago
  • I think NetTecture is getting at that while the syntax to coding might be the same... PHP code is PHP code... The people might have different coding styles or approach problems in a different way. Well commented code can go along way to help the next person who is going to work on a project or the same person who comes back to a project after they have not touched the code for months. Usually the actual "command" is short but the how and the why can take up a lot more space. – Scott 13 years ago


I've been down the same route, and while developing with contractors can work well, here're a few thoughts.

  • You've got to drive the requirements pretty firmly and actively, any way you can. Draw diagrams; write, write, write (even if only for yourself - think Joel on Software). Use cases, wire-frames - anything. Don't just talk. Talk has no audit trail.
  • A good contractor or relationship with contractors can get you a lot of ideas and if you don't have a developer/CTO, it's an opportunity to access different skills - UX, architecture, heterogeneous technologies like Mobile/web. You may not get that diversity of skills in one person.
  • Always have your "what if the contractor relationship goes south"-plan thought through. Can you even access your own code-base?
  • Build a succession plan to take over your code - your product - at least partially in-house. Contractors like projects; ongoing maintenance, less so. Being your "staff" isn't necessarily in their long-term interests.

my $.02.

answered Feb 19 '11 at 05:09
840 points


It seems like you are taking on the program manager / business side role in a 3-person team. It's not a permanent team on full-time salaries, but if your product takes off, you'll probably find it more expedient to keep working with the same people rather than incurring the cost of having someone else learn the code base.

Not sure why you consider yourself a "house".

answered Jan 15 '11 at 16:51
141 points
  • Would the distance be a problem? – Jason Glib 13 years ago

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