The Ace in the Hole

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  • everythingdaniel 2009-07-07 09:04
    Ohh my.....


    Not even sure where to comment on this one.
  • MechanicJay 2009-07-07 09:04
    Well, it's too bad, this sporting goods supply company hadn't even gotten to FIRST base yet...technically speaking.
  • stewieatb 2009-07-07 09:05
    never underestimate the power of old, tech-illiterate people to commit wonders of stupidity
  • AnnyNMoose 2009-07-07 09:07
    I enjoy 'working with the internet'





    fapfapfap
  • Addison 2009-07-07 09:09
    WHAAA

    I find it amazing that they managed to keep themselves sequestered for so long that they thought ordering online was a new idea. I mean really. They must not have hired anyone under 30 in the last 15 years.
  • Optedout 2009-07-07 09:10
    Haha I have a customer like that .. but without ridiculous budget constraints .. thinking he's leading the information revolution.. I try to help as good as I can but sometimes they come up with ideas that were shot down decades ago :)
  • T Bank 2009-07-07 09:10
    Wow! That is so 1995. Yes I worked for a fortune 500 company that put its mail-order catalog on the web. Despite every technical person in sight screaming that this is not the way to do it, they insisted on having every web page an exact photographic duplicate of the printed catalog.

    Rewind your mind, if you can, to 1200 baud modems. Imagine how long an 8 1/2 by 11 "inch" .gif file takes to download...

    Yes they insisted on measuring everything in "inches". Couldn't waste the time to hear about "pixels" much less the radical idea that other people don't have your computer.

    After many months and many dollars the site did exactly as we all expected: flat nothing. So, of course, they promoted the genius whose brainchild this was.

    The web is not a magazine.

    Or a newspaper.

    Or a TV set.

    Or a movie.

    It's the web dammit. Still can't get people to hear that.
  • Hiring Manager 2009-07-07 09:24
    We could be the first sporting-equipment supplier in the world to offer this frist post.
  • Connect to Reality 2009-07-07 09:27
    Use the internet for ordering processing? Keeping track of statistics in real time? Who invented this interweb? Al Gore you say? Brillant!
  • LoztInSpace 2009-07-07 09:30
    Let me guess. Eventually someone came along and saved the company by putting together some PHP/MySQL injection riddled piece of crap and thought they were god's gift to the world of computing and commerce.
  • snoofle 2009-07-07 09:30
    Well, most things cost $xxx.99, so almost $2000.00 is like $1999.99, right?

    That should be enough to build anything-web; it's just computer stuff, right?
  • Claxon 2009-07-07 09:31
    I can see where the confusion was... They didn't explain to Erhen what this "Internet" thing that they obviously invented was, or what they meant by a "Web-Sight". Lack of documentation...
  • Bobby Tables 2009-07-07 09:33
    LoztInSpace:
    Let me guess. Eventually someone came along and saved the company by putting together some PHP/MySQL injection riddled piece of crap and thought they were god's gift to the world of computing and commerce.

    Well, what do you expect for $2,000?

    Look, I say we store the price of the item in the web page itself, and the total order price in a cookie. Should make our site very popular!
  • Bernie 2009-07-07 09:38
    What is the snail mail address for The Daily WTF so that I can post a comment? (Maybe I'll be first!)
  • Frank 2009-07-07 09:40
    I've had dealings with a variety of clients, and occasionally I'll get a client who's so far behind the times that it scares me.

    I've taken countless hours, both billable and non-billable, to explain the merits of the internet and the associated costs to obtain those merits. These people need to know that either they go all in to create something they're looking for, or they have a very simple "We're here, this is us, hello, come to our store and see our stuff!" website.

    I billed $4500 for a website once - I couldn't talk the client out of it. Beautiful website, had all the stuff that programmers love - Fully dynamic, database driving the flash animation and page creation, playing with some neat tech to get it all looking fantastic... I loved doing it, but felt guilty. I just could not talk the client out of it, convince him it was overkill for his needs.

    He ran a service that cleaned dog crap out of people's yards. He had 4 employees. $4500 website and I did it on the cheap. Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??
  • AndrewB 2009-07-07 09:42
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.
  • Satanicpuppy 2009-07-07 09:43
    Bobby Tables:
    LoztInSpace:
    Let me guess. Eventually someone came along and saved the company by putting together some PHP/MySQL injection riddled piece of crap and thought they were god's gift to the world of computing and commerce.

    Well, what do you expect for $2,000?

    Look, I say we store the price of the item in the web page itself, and the total order price in a cookie. Should make our site very popular!


    Heh. There was a time when I'd have set up a storefront with custom logos and stuff for 2k. It'd have been a good weeks work. I might even have imported their catalog...If it was in a good digital format.

    It ain't a day job though.
  • Who 2009-07-07 09:48
    Frank:
    Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??

    Well I can't speak to the cleanup part, but at the other end of the pipeline, so to speak, I worked for a large pet store chain a while back.

    It was 2:00 AM. The huge new fully automated warehouse with robots to stock and fetch the merchandise was not working yet. 30 semi trucks were coming at 6:00 AM. Yes it was go live day and we were dead.

    In the midst of extreme stress, one guy pointed to the hundreds of pallets of dog food and said "Just think. In two months this will all be dog crap."

    We all laughed, and then realized we weren't dealing with an air traffic control system here. Just dog food. We went back to work and got the system online by about 6:45.
  • IByte 2009-07-07 09:48
    Frank:
    He ran a service that cleaned dog crap out of people's yards. He had 4 employees. $4500 website and I did it on the cheap. Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??

    That gives a whole new meaning to "taking cr*p from the boss"...
  • Master Chief 2009-07-07 09:49
    I certainly hope someday after working in professional environments long enough that I'll be able to keep the level of professionalism that's shown here. Honestly, I think I would've shit myself laughing at these guys.
  • Zylon 2009-07-07 09:52
    This story is so cringingly absurd, I'd really like to know which parts of it weren't made up.
  • basseq 2009-07-07 09:55
    To be fair, the hiring manager had wanted a website since 1999, and actually had a pretty good idea. If the board had let him run with it then, that company probably would have been worth quite a bit.

  • LAN Mind 2009-07-07 10:03
    Hey, you gotta give it to the old codger; he wanted the web site all along, and was only constrained by likely even older codgers.
  • Zecc 2009-07-07 10:07
    Who:
    Frank:
    Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??

    Well I can't speak to the cleanup part, but at the other end of the pipeline, so to speak, I worked for a large pet store chain a while back.

    It was 2:00 AM. The huge new fully automated warehouse with robots to stock and fetch the merchandise was not working yet. 30 semi trucks were coming at 6:00 AM. Yes it was go live day and we were dead.

    In the midst of extreme stress, one guy pointed to the hundreds of pallets of dog food and said "Just think. In two months this will all be dog crap."

    We all laughed, and then realized we weren't dealing with an air traffic control system here. Just dog food. We went back to work and got the system online by about 6:45.
    Good story. TFS
  • Zor 2009-07-07 10:15
    Geez, keep it quiet! Now every college kid with a garage is going to rush to create the first online sports equipment store!
  • SR 2009-07-07 10:18
    Zor:
    Geez, keep it quiet! Now every college kid with a garage is going to rush to create the first online sports equipment store!


    And presumably come on here to shout FRIST when they've finished.
  • hallo.amt 2009-07-07 10:19
    Some companies are still doing it...
    http://www.hild-radwelt.zeg.de/Blaetterkataloge/Bulls2009DE/Blaetterkatalog/
    take care, it's in German
  • hikari 2009-07-07 10:27
    To be fair to the guy doing the hiring, if they'd listened to him 8 years ago, they might well have been slightly ahead of the game (or at least in with the game). Assuming this actually happened a couple of years ago.

    They sound like someone who can actually see the merits of new technology, but is stuck working in a company that can't.

    Really you have to feel sorry for him; he's probably a pretty good manager, just lacking the exposure to the modern world to know how things currently work, although he's obviously perceptive enough to see how they can work.
  • Paul 2009-07-07 10:28
    This story has /got/ to be apocryphal.
  • Bri 2009-07-07 10:32
    First!
  • Wooble 2009-07-07 10:33
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.


    He just found out about this great new product called a "digital" watch. They're available in all the better mail-order catalogs. One day, you may even be able to buy one on the Internet.
  • Ren 2009-07-07 10:47
    Wow... just... wow.

    I was about to post a "This is where you leave", but it just kept getting better and better. I kept cringing and waiting for the candid camera to come out.

    Mail-order catalogue? Two thousand dollars budget? They apparently somehow missed the first dot-com bubble.

    But seriously, he should've offered to make a presentation on how stuff works nowadays for the CEOs, then offer his expertise at $100/hour or so.
  • RobFreundlich 2009-07-07 10:48
    Frank:
    Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??


    We used a service like this for a while. They came out once a week, and charged (I think) $75/month.
  • Brent 2009-07-07 10:51
    T Bank:
    Wow! That is so 1995.


    1995 is being generous. I was phoning in orders from catalogues I had gotten of the internet before there was a web... typically by sending an email to a mail server which would autoreply with the catalogue. But I remember one store actually did it via finger.
  • ClutchDude 2009-07-07 10:53
    Kinda reminds me of my favorite parts website: Mcmaster.com

    Almost every item can be seen on a catalog page, with a image identical to that in the paper catalog.

    Thankfully, they have a decent search engine and click-through that gets you to the part you need in 1/10th of the time with complete specifications. They even allow you to order AND pay online!
  • ObiWayneKenobi 2009-07-07 10:58
    I kind of feel sad for the company. You have to wonder what sort of person runs a business and then shuts themselves up in a hole without caring how new trends can help them improve their business. Shouldn't a good business owner ALWAYS be looking to improve what they do?

    Oh, wait. The owner of the company was probably some middle-aged idiot who doesn't care a lick about actually running a business so long as he gets enough money coming in to pay for his six cars and huge house on the beach. Actually improve your company? Who does that?
  • Salami 2009-07-07 11:01
    basseq:
    To be fair, the hiring manager had wanted a website since 1999, and actually had a pretty good idea. If the board had let him run with it then, that company probably would have been worth quite a bit.



    Or...

    Their existing client base, most of whom had been with company for decades, having become internet savvy, shop around for the equipment and realize they are grossly overpaying, and take their business elsewhere, in a huff.
  • hatterson 2009-07-07 11:01
    T Bank:
    Wow! That is so 1995. Yes I worked for a fortune 500 company that put its mail-order catalog on the web. Despite every technical person in sight screaming that this is not the way to do it, they insisted on having every web page an exact photographic duplicate of the printed catalog.

    Rewind your mind, if you can, to 1200 baud modems. Imagine how long an 8 1/2 by 11 "inch" .gif file takes to download...

    Yes they insisted on measuring everything in "inches". Couldn't waste the time to hear about "pixels" much less the radical idea that other people don't have your computer.

    After many months and many dollars the site did exactly as we all expected: flat nothing. So, of course, they promoted the genius whose brainchild this was.

    The web is not a magazine.

    Or a newspaper.

    Or a TV set.

    Or a movie.

    It's the web dammit. Still can't get people to hear that.

    As contrasted with the internet which is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes.
  • amischiefr 2009-07-07 11:02
    snoofle:
    Well, most things cost $xxx.99, so almost $2000.00 is like $1999.99, right?

    That should be enough to build anything-web; it's just computer stuff, right?

    Definitely. The 1's cost only 0.000001 cents per 1 and the 0's are free. I don't see a problem with getting it done in under 1999.99.
  • amischiefr 2009-07-07 11:06
    IByte:
    Frank:
    He ran a service that cleaned dog crap out of people's yards. He had 4 employees. $4500 website and I did it on the cheap. Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??

    That gives a whole new meaning to "taking cr*p from the boss"...

    Wouldn't that be "taking crap from the customer?"
  • sammy baby 2009-07-07 11:12
    I believe this story, absolutely.

    Back in the day, I was doing some work as a systems administrator for a small regional ISP. One of my clients was a guy who had a microscopy supply company - they sold lab equipment to schools, research facilities, basically anyone with a need to look at reeeeeeally small things. They were fully on board with what they used to call "internet commerce" back when we still felt like we needed a name for it: the cost savings they'd realized on not having to ship a paper catalog anymore was more than enough to justify hiring a few college kids to maintain their site.

    At the time, it was powered by a horrible mix of CGI scripts which drove an order-form based (read: no shopping cart) which sent credit card information around in unencrypted e-mails. (When I raised this concern with the owner, he looked surprised. "Most people I know are comfortable buying things on the Internet," he said. "That's because they know that the companies they deal with are taking steps to protect their payment information," I replied. "You're not. I know because I run your site for you.")

    But the owner was convinced that his site was truly groundbreaking, and one day he called my office on his cell phone to share a big new idea with me. After about fifteen minutes of lead in where he basically tried to warm me up on how great the site has been for him so far, he said, "So here's my idea: I want to be able to update the price of an item in my database, and have it show up on the web, in real time."

    I managed to get out the word "Well," before he cut me off. "I have to go now, I'm getting an MRI done on my brain and they say I need to turn off my cell phone. But I'll call you back about this later." He never did.

    Another time, he sent me a very angry e-mail demanding to know why his site was down. I tested accessing the site from my desktop, and Google Translate, and glanced at the server logs - all suggested perfectly normal activity. When I told him so, his next email became indignant. "Well, I'm in Beijing right now at a client's site, and I can't get to the site at all." When I asked him if he'd tried speaking to any technical support resources there, he responded, as if speaking to a child, "I can't talk to anyone here. They all speak Chinese."

    Oh, and about those college kids - the head college kid called me up in my office one day, sounding a bit sheepish, and said, "Um, the boss asked me to call you. Do you have any reason to think that the server has been hacked?"

    I grew alarmed, immediately started watching system activity, looking for alarms, anything - but everything looked normal. "Um... no. Why?"

    "Well," intern replied, "we have these pictures on our site - they're jpeg images of the products."

    "Yeah?"

    "Well, we have a few of them, and they're supposed to be in color, but they're now in black and white."

    I paused a few moments to wait for the next sentence, but it didn't come. "Um," I said, "are you asking me if someone broke into your web site and replaced your color images with black and white ones?"

    There was a long pause, and when he spoke again, he sounded even more sheepish. "I told you," he said, "he told me to call you."
  • universe man 2009-07-07 11:18
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.


    He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.
  • Steve 2009-07-07 11:18
    Aside from the $2000 part, this would seem to me to be a great side opportunity for someone working in an entry-level job.

    I know that much money won't go far for a custom-website. Does anyone have an idea of how much it would take to set up a bare-bones, cookie cutter website with the ability to process orders? Obviously, the customers aren't goint to print out and mail in their orders. I can't believe there isn't a template or code out there that someone couldn't just cut-and-paste and add some graphics and text to.

    Say he bills his time at $20/hr, thats 100 hours, or 2 1/2 weeks of time to set up something. Yes that is an abysmally low rate, but you have to start somewhere. The experience you gain and putting it on your resume is the greater compensation.
  • Anonymous 2009-07-07 11:22
    So this was seriously from 2007? Wow. I wonder if the hiring manager really did say "we could be the first sporting-equipment supplier in the world to offer this service" or if that was a bit of an embellishment. If so, I'm actually impressed by their level of technical incompetence. And that certainly doesn't happen very often.
  • Steve 2009-07-07 11:28
    Another thing: You give this company something that allows their customers the ability to place orders online, and they are going to find money for additional funding for it real fast once they realize how behind the times they are.
  • Pjotr G 2009-07-07 11:31
    And of course the hardware and software developers use is free!
  • kastein 2009-07-07 11:33
    ClutchDude:
    Kinda reminds me of my favorite parts website: Mcmaster.com

    Almost every item can be seen on a catalog page, with a image identical to that in the paper catalog.

    Thankfully, they have a decent search engine and click-through that gets you to the part you need in 1/10th of the time with complete specifications. They even allow you to order AND pay online!
    I actually like that... my worst order ever from digikey was when I ordered some parts that fit every electrical spec I had, but they showed up and were approximately 1mm square. Had I been shown a picture of them on the search listing I would have at least expected that and been able to design for it ahead of time instead of having to hack something together at the last minute. Now digikey is adding pictures or at least line drawings of most of their products to the site :)
  • Micah S. 2009-07-07 11:43
    He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.

    And when they meet it's a happy land?
  • Schnapple 2009-07-07 11:44
    universe man:
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.


    He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.


    What happens when they meet?
  • Grimoire 2009-07-07 11:50
    hallo.amt:
    Some companies are still doing it...
    http://www.hild-radwelt.zeg.de/Blaetterkataloge/Bulls2009DE/Blaetterkatalog/
    take care, it's in German


    Still common practice in smaller companies. They really don't understand the concept of the web. Audio Video Unlimited does the same thing with their flyer: http://www.avu.ca/flyer/index.php. They create a low-res image of each page. For some of the pages, the smaller text is unreadable.
  • monkeyPushButton 2009-07-07 11:58
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.
    Wooble:
    He just found out about this great new product called a "digital" watch. They're available in all the better mail-order catalogs. One day, you may even be able to buy one on the Internet.
    universe man:
    He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.
    I'm more impressed that his watch can tell if it has traveled through a temporal anomoly and adjust itself acordingly.
  • hatterson 2009-07-07 12:02
    monkeyPushButton:
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.
    Wooble:
    He just found out about this great new product called a "digital" watch. They're available in all the better mail-order catalogs. One day, you may even be able to buy one on the Internet.
    universe man:
    He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.
    I'm more impressed that his watch can tell if it has traveled through a temporal anomoly and adjust itself acordingly.
    You mean yours doesn't?
  • Ken B 2009-07-07 12:04
    LAN Mind:
    Hey, you gotta give it to the old codger; he wanted the web site all along, and was only constrained by likely even older codgers.
    BTDT with Linux. Back in the early 1990's, we in software development wanted to do a Linux port of our commercial database package. TPTB wanted nothing to do with it. After all, Linux wouldn't last, since there's no way a free O/S could support itself.

    Now, this was in the 0.9 kernel days, and the license restrictions of the day probably would have made it impossible to sell a program without releasing source code as well, but we saw the potential. (We even played around with it by "sacrificing" one older system to be a Linux box, and doing the port on our own time "just for fun".) They eventually released a Linux version, some 10 years later.
  • Unknown Unknowns 2009-07-07 12:08
    T Bank:
    The web is not a magazine.

    Or a newspaper.

    Or a TV set.

    Or a movie.

    It's the web dammit. Still can't get people to hear that.


    You know how an anti-proton is like a proton, except antimatter instead of matter?

    Is the parent statement anti-"get off my lawn"?
  • Anonymous 2009-07-07 12:13
    I think sporting goods is a pretty cool guy. eh has ace in the hole and doesn't afraid of anything
  • Georgem 2009-07-07 12:15
    Zylon:
    This story is so cringingly absurd, I'd really like to know which parts of it weren't made up.


    Ask.com

    They're real. You can google 'em and everything
  • A Muffin 2009-07-07 12:17
    Wooble:
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.


    He just found out about this great new product called a "digital" watch. They're available in all the better mail-order catalogs. One day, you may even be able to buy one on the Internet.
    Still a WTF. Do you really need the year on your watch?


    P.S. this is the first comment ever!
  • Kazan 2009-07-07 12:20
    Bobby Tables:
    LoztInSpace:
    Let me guess. Eventually someone came along and saved the company by putting together some PHP/MySQL injection riddled piece of crap and thought they were god's gift to the world of computing and commerce.

    Well, what do you expect for $2,000?

    Look, I say we store the price of the item in the web page itself, and the total order price in a cookie. Should make our site very popular!


    i'd setup a Drupal uebercart for $2000 ... would be less than 4 hours of work :D
  • Danny V 2009-07-07 12:22
    I just laughed for a minute straight. Thanks for that.

    As an added bonus - CAPTCHA: (for the immature CAPTCHA files): appellatio (it's kind of like practicing on a banana but a lot more difficult)
  • Douglas Adams 2009-07-07 12:22
    Wooble:
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.


    He just found out about this great new product called a "digital" watch. They're available in all the better mail-order catalogs. One day, you may even be able to buy one on the Internet.


    Yawn, do you *still* think they're a pretty neat idea?
  • Anonymous 2009-07-07 12:25
    sammy baby:
    I believe this story, absolutely.

    Back in the day, I was doing some work as a systems administrator for a small regional ISP. One of my clients was a guy who had a microscopy supply company - they sold lab equipment to schools, research facilities, basically anyone with a need to look at reeeeeeally small things. They were fully on board with what they used to call "internet commerce" back when we still felt like we needed a name for it: the cost savings they'd realized on not having to ship a paper catalog anymore was more than enough to justify hiring a few college kids to maintain their site.

    At the time, it was powered by a horrible mix of CGI scripts which drove an order-form based (read: no shopping cart) which sent credit card information around in unencrypted e-mails. (When I raised this concern with the owner, he looked surprised. "Most people I know are comfortable buying things on the Internet," he said. "That's because they know that the companies they deal with are taking steps to protect their payment information," I replied. "You're not. I know because I run your site for you.")

    But the owner was convinced that his site was truly groundbreaking, and one day he called my office on his cell phone to share a big new idea with me. After about fifteen minutes of lead in where he basically tried to warm me up on how great the site has been for him so far, he said, "So here's my idea: I want to be able to update the price of an item in my database, and have it show up on the web, in real time."

    I managed to get out the word "Well," before he cut me off. "I have to go now, I'm getting an MRI done on my brain and they say I need to turn off my cell phone. But I'll call you back about this later." He never did.

    Another time, he sent me a very angry e-mail demanding to know why his site was down. I tested accessing the site from my desktop, and Google Translate, and glanced at the server logs - all suggested perfectly normal activity. When I told him so, his next email became indignant. "Well, I'm in Beijing right now at a client's site, and I can't get to the site at all." When I asked him if he'd tried speaking to any technical support resources there, he responded, as if speaking to a child, "I can't talk to anyone here. They all speak Chinese."

    Oh, and about those college kids - the head college kid called me up in my office one day, sounding a bit sheepish, and said, "Um, the boss asked me to call you. Do you have any reason to think that the server has been hacked?"

    I grew alarmed, immediately started watching system activity, looking for alarms, anything - but everything looked normal. "Um... no. Why?"

    "Well," intern replied, "we have these pictures on our site - they're jpeg images of the products."

    "Yeah?"

    "Well, we have a few of them, and they're supposed to be in color, but they're now in black and white."

    I paused a few moments to wait for the next sentence, but it didn't come. "Um," I said, "are you asking me if someone broke into your web site and replaced your color images with black and white ones?"

    There was a long pause, and when he spoke again, he sounded even more sheepish. "I told you," he said, "he told me to call you."


  • PaulG. 2009-07-07 12:51
    Careful. Old does not necessarily make you stupid. Tech-illiterate people are not necessarily stupid. Which leads me to believe this story is bullshit, made up by some punk wanting to make old, tech-illiterate folks look "stupid". I hope this punk gets busted bit torrenting Michael Jackson with children videos.
  • R. Mullen 2009-07-07 13:36
    My thought EXACTLY!
  • JohnFx 2009-07-07 13:37
    universe man:
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.


    He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.


    ...and when they meet it's a happy land.
  • FatherStorm 2009-07-07 13:39
    and they're using jQuery? anyone willing to use jQuery you'd think would be willing to experiment just a touch more with getting a web-version catalog.
  • FatherStorm 2009-07-07 13:40
    Grimoire:
    hallo.amt:
    Some companies are still doing it...
    http://www.hild-radwelt.zeg.de/Blaetterkataloge/Bulls2009DE/Blaetterkatalog/
    take care, it's in German


    Still common practice in smaller companies. They really don't understand the concept of the web. Audio Video Unlimited does the same thing with their flyer: http://www.avu.ca/flyer/index.php. They create a low-res image of each page. For some of the pages, the smaller text is unreadable.


    and they're using jQuery? anyone willing to use jQuery you'd think would be willing to experiment just a touch more with getting a web-version catalog.
  • Ken B 2009-07-07 13:47
    JohnFx:
    universe man:
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.
    He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.
    ...and when they meet it's a happy land.
    I believe that will happen next on 21-Dec-2012. :-)
  • Dazed 2009-07-07 13:54
    "On the inside, there wasn’t a piece of furniture or decoration that had been built post-cold war."

    So what's special about that? Would have been true for all the companies in at least my first half-dozen interviews. (Admittedly back then the cold war hadn't quite ended yet.)
  • Anon 2009-07-07 13:56
    ObiWayneKenobi:
    I kind of feel sad for the company. You have to wonder what sort of person runs a business and then shuts themselves up in a hole without caring how new trends can help them improve their business. Shouldn't a good business owner ALWAYS be looking to improve what they do?

    Oh, wait. The owner of the company was probably some middle-aged idiot who doesn't care a lick about actually running a business so long as he gets enough money coming in to pay for his six cars and huge house on the beach. Actually improve your company? Who does that?


    bitter much?
  • jnareb 2009-07-07 14:00
    A Muffin:
    Wooble:

    He just found out about this great new product called a "digital" watch. They're available in all the better mail-order catalogs. One day, you may even be able to buy one on the Internet.

    Still a WTF. Do you really need the year on your watch?

    Well, if you want your watch to adjust to leap year when displaying date, you would need to have the year at least in your watch.
  • Americium 2009-07-07 14:10
    Optedout:
    Haha I have a customer like that .. but without ridiculous budget constraints .. thinking he's leading the information revolution.. I try to help as good as I can but sometimes they come up with ideas that were shot down decades ago :)


    Don't automatically discount ideas that were shot down decades ago. Some ideas need time to become feasible or accepted.

    A few thousand years ago a Greek invented a steam powered toy. Slavery was widely available to do the unpleasant work. Just go conquer the next city-state. So, no one followed through to build a steam engine until James Watt did it in the 1800's.
  • Brent 2009-07-07 14:24
    A Muffin:
    Still a WTF. Do you really need the year on your watch?


    Yes. That way you don't need to fiddle with the date every 4 years (minus every 100 plus every 400)... I'm tired of wasting those seconds.

    Watches which tell the year FTW, not WTF. TRWTF is digital watches that don't.
  • Seahen 2009-07-07 14:34
    TRWTF was that he didn't take the job. The best boss to have is one who's easily impressed.
  • Vjg 2009-07-07 14:44
    I thought dog crap removal was the primary purpose of rain storms.
  • jay 2009-07-07 14:51
    In fairness regarding the $2,000 budget ... My understanding of the story is that they're talking about hiring this guy as a full-time employee, not a consultant. In that case, the $2,000 budget would presumably not include his salary. If $2,000 is just supposed to cover software tools, it would be quite adequate for a modest web site.
  • Franz Kafka 2009-07-07 14:55
    jay:
    In fairness regarding the $2,000 budget ... My understanding of the story is that they're talking about hiring this guy as a full-time employee, not a consultant. In that case, the $2,000 budget would presumably not include his salary. If $2,000 is just supposed to cover software tools, it would be quite adequate for a modest web site.


    are you kidding? That won't cover servers and hosting for much of anything.
  • jay 2009-07-07 14:57
    "... there wasn’t a piece of furniture or decoration that had been built post-cold war."

    You make this statement like this is something amazing. All the furniture is at least 20 years old. Okay. Old, but not incredibly so. Most of my life was before the end of the cold war, it doesn't seem like all that long ago.
  • Wesley 2009-07-07 15:05
    Building made out of asbestos ... "this huge job we have" ... "a budget of almost two thousand dollars" ... "enjoy the security of working for us"
    Addison:
    I mean really. They must not have hired anyone under 30 in the last 15 years.

    This company did not hire anyone in the last 15 years. And none of their incompetent employees left for better pastures either. It's possible they were not paying attention to their customers needs, but think of their suppliers. How could their suppliers not have online ordering, delivery tracking, online account management and payment?
    And $2000, you can't even fully equip a little league team for that. If they think $2000=huge, the TRWTF is how they stayed in business so long. Oh look this guy bought 10 baseball bats, wow, he's our customer of the month.
  • Steve 2009-07-07 15:40
    T Bank:
    ...
    The web is not a magazine.

    Or a newspaper.

    Or a TV set.

    Or a movie.

    It's the web dammit. Still can't get people to hear that.


    The best way to get it across to the old folks is to use a really old example. Shortly after Thomas Edison invented the movie camera, someone thought of bringing a camera to a theater and planting it in the middle of the audience. It worked as well as you can imagine.

    I remember tearing my hair at some of those early Web sites that were designed by print-oriented artists. A bank site I used had two dozen images to download before you saw the login window. On dialup. It also had some Microsoft-supplied code that guaranteed that it was usable only with Internet Exploiter, but that didn't last after enough customers pointed out that there were, literally, half a dozen other banks in the neighborhood.
  • AlpineR 2009-07-07 16:06
    Unknown Unknowns:
    Is the parent statement anti-"get off my lawn"?

    Get on my lawn?
  • Justice 2009-07-07 16:07
    ObiWayneKenobi:
    I kind of feel sad for the company. You have to wonder what sort of person runs a business and then shuts themselves up in a hole without caring how new trends can help them improve their business. Shouldn't a good business owner ALWAYS be looking to improve what they do?

    Oh, wait. The owner of the company was probably some middle-aged idiot who doesn't care a lick about actually running a business so long as he gets enough money coming in to pay for his six cars and huge house on the beach. Actually improve your company? Who does that?


    PRO TIP: If your small business generates enough revenue that you can afford six cars and a beach house, odds are you're doing something right.
  • TC 2009-07-07 16:22
    For the love of god please provide link/screenshots/anything that is left of $4500 dog-sh*t website.
  • Chelloveck 2009-07-07 16:25
    kastein:
    I actually like that... my worst order ever from digikey was when I ordered some parts that fit every electrical spec I had, but they showed up and were approximately 1mm square.


    Um, are you saying that Digikey had no datasheet, mechanical spec, or even packaging information for those parts? Or that you just ignored them? Every time I've ordered from them or any other supplier, the mechanical specs are displayed as prominently as the electrical specs.
  • Robert S. Robbins 2009-07-07 16:30
    This was in Pennsylvania, wasn't it?
  • Monday 2009-07-07 16:38
    I'm not buying it.

    This old guy knew he needed a site for over 8 years, and during that time he never punched "sporting goods" into Google? Did a little market research? If anyone in the company knew anything about their competitors they'd know about their websites. Or at least amazon.com.

    //captcha: populus. Fun game.
  • Bags 2009-07-07 17:07
    Georgem:
    Zylon:
    This story is so cringingly absurd, I'd really like to know which parts of it weren't made up.


    Ask.com

    They're real. You can google 'em and everything


    I hear you can even get to their website...
  • Beer, beer, beer 2009-07-07 17:10
    Anon:
    ObiWayneKenobi:
    I kind of feel sad for the company. You have to wonder what sort of person runs a business and then shuts themselves up in a hole without caring how new trends can help them improve their business. Shouldn't a good business owner ALWAYS be looking to improve what they do?

    Oh, wait. The owner of the company was probably some middle-aged idiot who doesn't care a lick about actually running a business so long as he gets enough money coming in to pay for his six cars and huge house on the beach. Actually improve your company? Who does that?


    bitter much?


    I'll have much bitter, please
  • Bobble 2009-07-07 17:24
    Steve:

    I remember tearing my hair at some of those early Web sites that were designed by print-oriented artists.


    I still see print media with 72dpi jpgs where a someone asked a client for an image and they likely said "Here is what we have on the website".

    I'm glad I learned long ago that those images get sent back and to ask them to find someone to help them get something with a proper print resolution.
  • chrismcb 2009-07-07 17:27
    Frank:

    He ran a service that cleaned dog crap out of people's yards. He had 4 employees. $4500 website and I did it on the cheap. Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??


    He had 4 employees, and apparently HAPPILY paid you $4500 for advertising. How lucrative do you think it is?

    Do dog's really shit out asterisks?
  • Moss 2009-07-07 17:29
    hatterson:
    monkeyPushButton:
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.
    Wooble:
    He just found out about this great new product called a "digital" watch. They're available in all the better mail-order catalogs. One day, you may even be able to buy one on the Internet.
    universe man:
    He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.
    I'm more impressed that his watch can tell if it has traveled through a temporal anomoly and adjust itself acordingly.
    You mean yours doesn't?


    Mine used to... turns out they aren't so water proof. Technology, my foot.
  • fourchan 2009-07-07 17:46
    monkeyPushButton:
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.
    Wooble:
    He just found out about this great new product called a "digital" watch. They're available in all the better mail-order catalogs. One day, you may even be able to buy one on the Internet.
    universe man:
    He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.
    I'm more impressed that his watch can tell if it has traveled through a temporal anomoly and adjust itself acordingly.


    It could be radio-controlled.
  • dive2deep 2009-07-07 18:28
    Not to stray too far off-topic, but the crap-cleaning business may be more lucrative than you think. During a time when we had two dogs, I found it much less painful to pay $65/month to have someone clean our yard once per week than to do it myself. This guy had quite a lengthy client list, many of them paying for 2x/week service.

    He must have done pretty well, since one day his truck pulled up to our house and the business owner got out with another person.

    "This is my apprentice," he said.
  • jgreen 2009-07-07 18:33
    I also had a wonderful experience with a "web catalog" that I created for a local company. Could not for the life of me get them to do it right. Hell, even after they threw out my design after many years, they're STILL almost treating it like a web version of their paper catalog. The original design was LITERALLY taking their paper catalog and duplicating it online.

    BTW, the one I'm talking about is at:
    http://dashtop.com

    Take a look at like like 1999 on the Wayback Machine to see the original design.

    T Bank:
    Wow! That is so 1995. Yes I worked for a fortune 500 company that put its mail-order catalog on the web. Despite every technical person in sight screaming that this is not the way to do it, they insisted on having every web page an exact photographic duplicate of the printed catalog.

    Rewind your mind, if you can, to 1200 baud modems. Imagine how long an 8 1/2 by 11 "inch" .gif file takes to download...

    Yes they insisted on measuring everything in "inches". Couldn't waste the time to hear about "pixels" much less the radical idea that other people don't have your computer.

    After many months and many dollars the site did exactly as we all expected: flat nothing. So, of course, they promoted the genius whose brainchild this was.

    The web is not a magazine.

    Or a newspaper.

    Or a TV set.

    Or a movie.

    It's the web dammit. Still can't get people to hear that.
  • acid 2009-07-07 20:11
    To be frank, I'm having trouble seeing the WTF in this story.

    I hate to be the one to break it to everyone here, but there are people out there who don't understand technology anywhere near as well as we do. There are people out there who are NOT well versed in the uses of the internet, or with the lessons we've all learned along the way.

    FFS people, when we go to a doctor or solicitor, we expect them to give us advice. We expect them to do their job in a way that protects us and but also teaches us a little more about what we can be changing in our daily lives so that we are not so reliant on them in the future. Why is it any different for us?

    I hate to be the one who has to point this out all the time, but most people out there are hanging on by a very thin thread when it comes to the insertion of technology in their lives. They're coming to us to make it better. To make their pain go away just like a doctor or solicitor would. We're supposed to be professionals and experts, what's the point of that if we don't make their lives that little bit better?

    Alright, $4.5k for a turd removal business website where the owner INSISTS that's what he wants, well at least the consultant in question tried to talk him out of it, and he didn't listen. How many smokers have been told by their doctors to quit and don't? But as professionals, we have to try.

    Sure Erhen didn't take the job, but instead of looking for temporal anomalies perhaps he could have taken 10 mins out of his day to explain the realities to this man. Perhaps he did and it's just been edited out. In any case, the man may have listened, or he may have completely ignored Erhen and hired the next guy who came along who was ready to give him a crap (no pun intended) system for $2k. But, ethically Erhen could've held his head high knowing that he's tried to help.

    Expecting everyone on the planet to be au fais with technology, and the internet, and with the risks of phishing and malware and viruses etc. just seems a little naive to me.

    Once my own father (a career journalist) came up to me with this great idea for a classified advertising site on the internet. He wanted to charge by column centimetre (we use real measurement standards here in Australia). I could have laughed or poo-pooed (again no pun intended) the idea, instead I took 20 mins to explain to him the basics of how itnernet advertising works, what the market model was, and pointed him to sites like Allclassifieds here in Oz so he could see how it was done. In the end, he realised that it WAS a good idea, but it had already been done several times.

    This idea and his take on it doesn't make him an idiot. It makes him a specialist in his field, and he was trying to relate to a new technology and new way of doing things using the only framework he had available to him at the time to make sense of it. It wasn't sufficient, so I supplied the right one.

    And THAT people is our job. With the exception of documentation, training and education seems to be the area where the most of us fall down. Not everyone sees the world through our eyes and with our knowlege, and nor should they. I wouldn't like to go to a doctor who was a great techo but didn't know what was happening inside me. He's an expert in his field, and I'm an expert in mine.

    Alex et al - this site has lost its way. It's one thing to hold those of us who consider ourselves experts up to ridicule by our peers when we deserve it, but it's quite another to effectively make fun of someone who shouldn't necessarily know better.

    IMHO, TRWTF (if there is one) is that Erhen didn't take a small amount of time out of his day to try and help educate the man. He had the right idea after all, what he needed was an expert. If the story is accurate in that effect, then Erhen failed him by not being that for him.
  • J Wynia 2009-07-07 20:26
    The dog poo market is probably more lucrative than the web design market is. Lots of people want it gone and no one in the dog poo market is complaining about the wannabe's picking up dog poo for free.
  • S 2009-07-07 20:31
    Wooble:
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.


    He just found out about this great new product called a "digital" watch. They're available in all the better mail-order catalogs. One day, you may even be able to buy one on the Internet.


    Well. Even if there was a timewarp, the time on the watch shouldn't have changed.
  • Ike 2009-07-07 21:05
    Monday:
    I'm not buying it.

    This old guy knew he needed a site for over 8 years, and during that time he never punched "sporting goods" into Google? Did a little market research? If anyone in the company knew anything about their competitors they'd know about their websites. Or at least amazon.com.

    //captcha: populus. Fun game.
    Google? Isn't that the company with six kids in a garage? Why would he need to check with them?
  • Crusty 2009-07-07 21:20
    J Wynia:
    The dog poo market is probably more lucrative than the web design market is. Lots of people want it gone and no one in the dog poo market is complaining about the wannabe's picking up dog poo for free.


    +1
  • Just Another Geek 2009-07-07 21:55
    You would not believe how lucrative the dog-crap cleaning market is, because of how LAZY the general population is. Check out: http://www.yuckos.com/
  • TheSabre 2009-07-07 22:21
    More Tales from the Interview... please. Maybe it is because I interview people, but TftI should be featured more (and Error'd less) on here. Love 'em.
  • Anonymous 2009-07-07 22:24
    "FFS people, when we go to a doctor or solicitor, we expect them to give us advice."

    Yes, but this is not what happened in the story. What happened would be more like (with some emphasis):

    Guy: "Hey doc, I need your help."
    Doctor: "How can I help?"
    Guy: "Well, my stomach has been hurting for awhile. I figured that you could just cut me open and take a look. You do that kind of stuff, right? I can pay $50. And you don't even need to sew it up, I'll do that myself!"

    It's not that the man was ignorant of technology. He was, but this isn't the issue. The issue is that he seemed entirely ignorant of his ignorance.. something that is rarely limited to a single topic or field.
  • Jimbo 2009-07-07 22:30
    acid:
    To be frank, I'm having trouble seeing the WTF in this story.

    I hate to be the one to break it to everyone here, but there are people out there who don't understand technology anywhere near as well as we do. There are people out there who are NOT well versed in the uses of the internet, or with the lessons we've all learned along the way.
    <snip>


    Agree with the sentiments, however this is someone who for 8 years has been pushing to get this website created. This suggests that for 8 years he has has been aware of and presumably used the internet (I say presumably used because that would be about the only way a non-tech person would be aware of it, I reckon).
    The fact that he doesn't understand how a website works is not surprising (as you point out), but the fact that for 8 years he sat on this idea, and (by the sound of it) never once thought to see whether someone else had thought of it is certainly laughable.

    That being said, I tend to agree with you. This story (though probably still a WTF) is not a tech WTF, and probably doesn't fit with the general genre of this site.
  • Sesh 2009-07-07 23:40
    I am starting to think Erhen should have given this a little more thought than saying no to the job.

    Now in the current situation, if a company is still surviving in business without a webpage, then it says something about the company's management, its products and customer loyality.

    Surely it could have been tough to get the oldies to understand online payment is no longer an ace in the hole but having done that Erhen could have easily become the CTO of the company. No kidding.
  • Dan_the_welder 2009-07-07 23:53
    All things considered McMaster does a good job.

    You have to understand that they have been around for ever and their legacy customers are facilities guys who can thumb straight to the relevant catalog page in a second.

    Spend a minute on Grainger.com if you want to see the wrong way.

  • Nick 2009-07-08 01:49
    Steve:
    Shortly after Thomas Edison invented the movie camera, someone thought of bringing a camera to a theater and planting it in the middle of the audience. It worked as well as you can imagine.

    The first bootleg?
  • Nick 2009-07-08 02:00
    acid:
    To be frank, I'm having trouble seeing the WTF in this story.

    I hate to be the one to break it to everyone here, but there are people out there who don't understand technology anywhere near as well as we do. There are people out there who are NOT well versed in the uses of the internet, or with the lessons we've all learned along the way.

    FFS people, when we go to a doctor or solicitor, we expect them to give us advice. We expect them to do their job in a way that protects us and but also teaches us a little more about what we can be changing in our daily lives so that we are not so reliant on them in the future. Why is it any different for us?

    In 2007 the web had been easily accessable by the general public for at least 12 years, it would be very hard for someone to know virtually nothing about the Internet, didn't the company have email?

    I'm not a doctor and I don't read medical journals, but I do know that doctors have been performing successful hand transplants for about 10 years. there is a difference between not knowing something and actively avoiding any knowledge of the subject.
  • bjolling 2009-07-08 04:51
    dive2deep:
    Not to stray too far off-topic, but the crap-cleaning business may be more lucrative than you think. During a time when we had two dogs, I found it much less painful to pay $65/month to have someone clean our yard once per week than to do it myself. This guy had quite a lengthy client list, many of them paying for 2x/week service.

    He must have done pretty well, since one day his truck pulled up to our house and the business owner got out with another person.

    "This is my apprentice," he said.
    It's amazing how lazy people are! I spent three days training my dog to shit in a specific hidden corner of the garden.

    How can you consider yourself a good programmer if you don't even optimize such a thing?
  • Falcon 2009-07-08 05:55
    "They have the Internet on computers now!"
  • MK 2009-07-08 07:48
    I also have to wonder how much of this story was made up.

    When I was a kid, there existed between the old and the young a true generation gap. This was in the late 60's and early 70's and the world, in my judgment, was changing much more rapidly then it is today. The process of getting older carried with it different expectations. If you were over 40, it was time for you to start slowing down; to start wearing more modest clothes and to start chastising your children for their disrespectful ways. Not only did you not stand a chance of keeping up with the changing trends and attitudes of the young, most likely you had no interest in doing so.

    That cultural gap between the old and the young was an irresistible source of humor. So irresistible, that it survives to this day and gets dragged out as though the old are just as clueless and out of touch as they were 40 years ago. It's all a fantasy. The days of old codgers and their impatience with young whippersnappers is long gone. Get over it.

    To remind us over and over that the interviewer was "a nice older gentlemen in his sixties", and that he was a "sexagenarian", only betray the ageism of the author. I know plenty of people 20 and 30 years younger who are just as clueless as the kindly, well-intentioned manager in the story. And I know plenty of people in their 60s and beyond who are very technically savvy.

    Perhaps the story may have been more believable had it been about a manager in his or her 40s who wants to be cutting edge by leveraging Twitter and social networking in the company's new marketing strategy with no idea whatsoever of what those technologies are or how they might be used in a marketing sense. The buzzword bandwagon is far more insidious than oldsters just discovering the Internet.

    And yes, I'm 47, and if I had a lawn, I wouldn't give a damn if your ball was on it.
  • AdT 2009-07-08 07:57
    And thus the saying was born: He has his head up his ace.
  • Anonymous 2009-07-08 08:00
    Blatantly made up. Regardless of age, you'd have to have been completely ignorant of all news and media for over a decade, to still believe "internet companies" were run by students in garages. Also, why would any firm looking for a project manager go head-hunting a junior web guy? Tiresome
  • Da' Man 2009-07-08 08:43
    I worked for a company that had the bad habit of sending out their newsletter as a high-res PDF email attachment (usually 3-4MB) to just anybody who was careless enough to ever give us his email address.

    I kept bugging the CEO to at least switch to an HTML-Version instead, or just notify them that a new version is now available on our web server; or better: both.

    No chance. This is how it was done since ever (at least a year or so), and it is not going to be changed.

    One day I gave an intern a quick introduction to HTML (really just the basics: what are tags, how to use italics, etc.) when the CEO came in to ask something.

    I didn't think much of it then, and not the following day, when I saw her happily playing with HTML-code. The CEO asked her personally to do something with her new HTML-skills... well, I better look over it before she sends it back, I thought, but then again, I was busy with other things...

    A week or so later I was called to the CEOs office, because he just had a fit, and was shouting at the poor intern.

    However, it wasn't even her fault. In fact, she did a fine job (given her lack of experience - they say that HTML takes a day to learn and a lifetime to master!) but it did not please the stylistic requirements of the power that is(TM)

    It turned out, that because he was used to have the newsletter divided by pages, he not only asked her to make one page for whatever used to be one - he also expected everything to be in a three-column layout.

    And no matter what she did, the last line of the first column never really worked out the way it was intended - even less so on the CEO's computer, who had different fonts installed, and a different screen, too.

    The problem was, of course, that now I had to take care of the newsletter, and that on top of all my other duties... :-(
  • dhromed 2009-07-08 08:57
    One has to give the old guy credit that his ideas are absolutely right on track.

    They're just ten years too late.
  • BigG 2009-07-08 09:15
    acid:
    /snip
    Expecting everyone on the planet to be au fais with technology, and the internet, and with the risks of phishing and malware and viruses etc. just seems a little naive to me.

    Once my own father (a career journalist) came up to me with this great idea for a classified advertising site on the internet. He wanted to charge by column centimetre (we use real measurement standards here in Australia). I could have laughed or poo-pooed (again no pun intended) the idea, instead I took 20 mins to explain to him the basics of how itnernet advertising works, what the market model was, and pointed him to sites like Allclassifieds here in Oz so he could see how it was done. In the end, he realised that it WAS a good idea, but it had already been done several times.

    This idea and his take on it doesn't make him an idiot. It makes him a specialist in his field, and he was trying to relate to a new technology and new way of doing things using the only framework he had available to him at the time to make sense of it. It wasn't sufficient, so I supplied the right one.


    Your father is a smart man. I think a lot of our frustration is from people that can't/won't make sense of a new framework. In our careers, we change framework/technology very frequently, sometimes every month!
  • not difficult 2009-07-08 11:15
    Let's be honest about the site itself, because it's a half dozen pages with a half dozen database tables.

    The only stumbling block for me would be interfacing with VISA and Mastercard becuase I've never done it. Transferring the catalog is time consuming, but anybody else can do it.

    Awhile ago, I put together a collecting database inside of about two weeks using Notepad and filling in 10% of the database. I spent more time fighting HTML 4 tables to display a Windows 3.1 theme than anything else. It probably would've been easier to just use divs and make everyone upgrade to the latest Firefox.

    Later, I took alot of that display code and in about a week created a simplistic copy of eBay. Still in Notepad, not Visual Studio. Probably 20% of that was wasted fighting the server's ridiculously slow SQL Server web interface.

    After that, I wrote a CMS for somebody's comic in about a 3 hours. I spent another couple of hours here and there cleaning up the really ugly PHP code to handle anything stupid he might do. I would've been done even faster if C# was an option, but this guy was so cheap that he was borrowing hosting from a friend.

    So it's funny when I offer to help Fun Publications, whose forum software must pre-date AOL and in 2009 still can't handle online registration for Botcon, and get a cold shoulder. They're almost as bad as some of the rentacoder jobs that want to duplicate Facebook for a cup of coffee and bus fare.


    Steve:
    Aside from the $2000 part, this would seem to me to be a great side opportunity for someone working in an entry-level job.

    I know that much money won't go far for a custom-website. Does anyone have an idea of how much it would take to set up a bare-bones, cookie cutter website with the ability to process orders? Obviously, the customers aren't goint to print out and mail in their orders. I can't believe there isn't a template or code out there that someone couldn't just cut-and-paste and add some graphics and text to.

    Say he bills his time at $20/hr, thats 100 hours, or 2 1/2 weeks of time to set up something. Yes that is an abysmally low rate, but you have to start somewhere. The experience you gain and putting it on your resume is the greater compensation.
  • Wyrd 2009-07-08 15:58
    sammy baby:
    I believe this story, absolutely.

    Back in the day, I was doing some work as a systems administrator for a small regional ISP. One of my clients was a guy who had a microscopy supply company - they sold lab equipment to schools, research facilities, basically anyone with a need to look at reeeeeeally small things. They were fully on board with what they used to call "internet commerce" back when we still felt like we needed a name for it: the cost savings they'd realized on not having to ship a paper catalog anymore was more than enough to justify hiring a few college kids to maintain their site.

    At the time, it was powered by a horrible mix of CGI scripts which drove an order-form based (read: no shopping cart) which sent credit card information around in unencrypted e-mails. (When I raised this concern with the owner, he looked surprised. "Most people I know are comfortable buying things on the Internet," he said. "That's because they know that the companies they deal with are taking steps to protect their payment information," I replied. "You're not. I know because I run your site for you.")

    But the owner was convinced that his site was truly groundbreaking, and one day he called my office on his cell phone to share a big new idea with me. After about fifteen minutes of lead in where he basically tried to warm me up on how great the site has been for him so far, he said, "So here's my idea: I want to be able to update the price of an item in my database, and have it show up on the web, in real time."

    I managed to get out the word "Well," before he cut me off. "I have to go now, I'm getting an MRI done on my brain and they say I need to turn off my cell phone. But I'll call you back about this later." He never did.

    Another time, he sent me a very angry e-mail demanding to know why his site was down. I tested accessing the site from my desktop, and Google Translate, and glanced at the server logs - all suggested perfectly normal activity. When I told him so, his next email became indignant. "Well, I'm in Beijing right now at a client's site, and I can't get to the site at all." When I asked him if he'd tried speaking to any technical support resources there, he responded, as if speaking to a child, "I can't talk to anyone here. They all speak Chinese."

    Oh, and about those college kids - the head college kid called me up in my office one day, sounding a bit sheepish, and said, "Um, the boss asked me to call you. Do you have any reason to think that the server has been hacked?"

    I grew alarmed, immediately started watching system activity, looking for alarms, anything - but everything looked normal. "Um... no. Why?"

    "Well," intern replied, "we have these pictures on our site - they're jpeg images of the products."

    "Yeah?"

    "Well, we have a few of them, and they're supposed to be in color, but they're now in black and white."

    I paused a few moments to wait for the next sentence, but it didn't come. "Um," I said, "are you asking me if someone broke into your web site and replaced your color images with black and white ones?"

    There was a long pause, and when he spoke again, he sounded even more sheepish. "I told you," he said, "he told me to call you."


    Thank you.

    Thank you for writing this post. I'm hoping to be self-employed one of these days, and It's always good to have a reminder of what I might be in for.

    --
    Furry cows moo and decompress.
  • Joseph Z. 2009-07-08 16:01
    You can get this set up pretty easily with something like Yahoo! Stores. Doesn't take long to set up, costs less than $50 a month. Pretty easy to work with, too, if you've ever "worked with the internet" before.
  • russ in Albuquerque 2009-07-08 19:42
    Dan_the_welder:
    All things considered McMaster does a good job.

    You have to understand that they have been around for ever and their legacy customers are facilities guys who can thumb straight to the relevant catalog page in a second.

    Spend a minute on Grainger.com if you want to see the wrong way.



    Another advantage of the McMaster site is that you can use the search to find something generally like what you're looking for, then use the catalog page to select exactly what you really want (fortunately the item numbers are active on the displayed page). Contrast that with the mscdirect.com site that uses what might be the worst search (unless you opt for a google search) and displays the catalog pages in a low enough resolution that I can't read the damn things on my 24" monitor. C'mon, just a few more pixels and I might be able to read the fine print without using their godawful viewer's "zoom" feature that brings up slightly less blurred text.

    I use McMaster's website 10x more than MSC, even though they don't list the maker of a lot of what they list and have a smaller selection. But the difference might be because MSC *always* screws me on the shipping (split shipments, minimum shipping charges, etc.) where McMaster doesn't. I got another box yesterday, $35 in parts and $5.50 in shipping, MSC would've charged $20.
  • acid 2009-07-09 01:16
    Nick:
    In 2007 the web had been easily accessable by the general public for at least 12 years, it would be very hard for someone to know virtually nothing about the Internet, didn't the company have email?

    I'm not a doctor and I don't read medical journals, but I do know that doctors have been performing successful hand transplants for about 10 years. there is a difference between not knowing something and actively avoiding any knowledge of the subject.


    Ummmm...

    I think you've missed the point to be frank. Big time. You may know that doctors have been performing successful hand transplants, but you don't go in to a doctor specifically asking for one and telling him what technique you'd prefer he uses. If you walk in holding your severed hand, he's going to KNOW you need a hand transplant, book you in and then explain what HE is going to do to you to fix the problem you have.

    The real problem here is that we of a technical bent mostly forget to explain our craft. Just because you know that doctors can perform hand transplants doesn't mean that you know how he does it. The general populace out there are trying to micro manage us because they expect us to be the norm for our profession - closed off and unwilling to communicate what it is we can do for them. They're trying to give us options so we can shoot them down, because we have the well deserved reputation for not providing them with the best options in the first place.

    Erhen (when he heard this fellow) had two choices. One, not take the job, was the easiest and he went with that. The second was much harder, explain the situation to him AS AN EXPERT who could tell him what he really needed and why, by asking the pertinent questions and establishing the real requirements.

    That's the bit that we've lost focus on. We go to a doctor, we know they can fix us but we let them ask the questions they need to ask to determine the best way for them to do it. Their choice, not ours. And yet, we expect our customers and clients to tell us how we should do our own jobs?

    And NO, there's no difference between not knowing something and actively avoiding information on the subject. Both people don't have the answers they really want you to provide. I was in the middle of a discussion the other day with a friend and was describing modern theories of what it would be like experiencing crossing the event horizon of a quantum singularity. Ten minutes later I got a roasting because I didn't know who Jerry Springer was. Somehow, after finding out about him, I don't consider myself ignorant for not knowing about him.

    This is a tale of someone providing a potential solution when he should have been providing requirements. As I said before, that's not a WTF, unless you're talking about Erhen's unwillingness to glean requirements from the pitch and help the man with a more realistic estimate of what's required.
  • ace hole 2009-07-09 06:00
    universe man:
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.


    He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.
    How about shrimp to go with the millennium hand?
  • jay 2009-07-09 13:04
    Franz Kafka:
    jay:
    In fairness regarding the $2,000 budget ... My understanding of the story is that they're talking about hiring this guy as a full-time employee, not a consultant. In that case, the $2,000 budget would presumably not include his salary. If $2,000 is just supposed to cover software tools, it would be quite adequate for a modest web site.


    are you kidding? That won't cover servers and hosting for much of anything.


    That depends on the scale of the operation. I've set up several web sites that cost less than $10 per month for hosting, plus I think $20 a year for domain name registration. Sure, that's shared hosting, so if the site gets a million hits a day its going to come crashing down real fast. But one of those sites gets I think ten thousand hits a day and performance is excellent.
  • jay 2009-07-09 13:22
    acid:
    I hate to be the one to break it to everyone here, but there are people out there who don't understand technology anywhere near as well as we do. There are people out there who are NOT well versed in the uses of the internet, or with the lessons we've all learned along the way.


    Acid has a good point here. Just because something is part of everyday experience to us IT geeks doesn't mean it is at all familiar to the general population, nor that we should really expect it to be.

    I'm sure that there are lots of things that are everyday knowledge to, say, people who work in the copper mining business, that I know nothing about. Yes, I'm aware that copper must be dug out of the ground. But exactly how they find it and how they get it out? I have no idea. If my company suddenly found itself in need of large amounts of copper and sent me to a mining company to discuss the subject, I wonder if the people there would ridicule me for all the stupid misimpressions I had about how their profession worked, or if they would understand that I am not in their business so of course I don't know these things.

    A few years ago I came across an article in a news magazine about coal slurry pipelines. Apparently there is a network of pipelines across America that transport coal by mixing it with water, pumping it through these pipes, and at the other end draining off the water and drying out the coal. It's cheaper than using trucks or trains. I didn't even know this industry existed until I read that article, and yet apparently thousands of people spend their entire lives working at this. Were you aware of it before reading this paragraph?

    That doesn't mean I won't enjoy a good laugh at some of the misunderstandings of non-IT people. Just like I wouldn't begrudge the coal miner laughing at my ignorance. Once he explained why some idea I had was absurd I might well laugh along with him.

    What it does mean is that when I'm done laughing at the non-IT person -- either behind his back or to his face, depending on his personality and our relationship -- I then try to explain to him what really is possible and how to do it. I don't conclude he's an idiot because he doesn't know computers, just that he's ignorant of these particular facts.

    After all, if everybody knew as much about computers as we do, they wouldn't pay us the big bucks to do this job, would they?
  • acid 2009-07-09 19:54
    Hear Hear Jay.

    jay:
    A few years ago I came across an article in a news magazine about coal slurry pipelines. Apparently there is a network of pipelines across America that transport coal by mixing it with water, pumping it through these pipes, and at the other end draining off the water and drying out the coal. It's cheaper than using trucks or trains. I didn't even know this industry existed until I read that article, and yet apparently thousands of people spend their entire lives working at this. Were you aware of it before reading this paragraph?


    You know, that's pretty interesting, and no, I had no idea that's how they shipped coal in the US. Mind you, next time I hear a project manager arguing about how thick a pipe he needs for his new app, I'm going to be grinning and everyone's going to think I'm grinning for completely the wrong reasons...

    CAPTCHA - Abigo - Sometimes serendipity strikes us in the strangest ways.
  • Mu 2009-07-10 15:31
    You never know, my little cutting edge science company is stuck on old office versions because the head of administration found out some stuff we can do with 2007 is incompatible with her '97. And she's not giving that up!
  • Bernd 2009-07-12 12:16
    Kazan:

    i'd setup a Drupal uebercart for $2000 ... would be less than 4 hours of work :D

    I know of a typo3 installation (read: configure; make; make install) that cost 60k. It was set up 3 years ago and is still up and running hosting the web presence of a company in the german cable business.
  • Andreas 2009-07-13 15:31
    There is a store in Sweden which sells things related to analog photography. It's a great store, you know, they've got everything from white cotton gloves to 8x10" view cameras. Their site is great and contains a ton of information on each product. It is also quite clear from the design that the people who made the site knew SOMETHING about the web.

    However, their ordering system is the worst I have ever seen in my entire life. If you want to order something, you download a PDF, where you look up the product. The PDF contains things like SKU, price, etc. You then FILL IN (as in, with your keyboard!) these data on a form on the website. The form data are then mailed to the company. You even have to calculate the total cost yourself (as in, with a calculator!).

    They recently "improved" the site by making the price of the products available outside of the PDF. Now you can click on a little button next to the product, and a Java applet (!!!) displays the price. This solution is truly mind-boggling.
  • Michael B 2009-07-17 10:41
    I remember, in 1995, getting out of college and having several phone interviews. One was with a company that offered a service where you'd dial a phone number and be able to listen to a song. Like a jukebox, but over the phone.

    Tempted though I was to accept the trip in order to see Seattle, there was no way I was going to take the job. Too far away, and even in '95 you could see where the business model of calling a phone number to listen to songs was about to have some major competition.
  • Anon 2009-08-11 17:30
    When I ran my custom website business, we had lots of clients like this. Moving from print to web was viewed as a printing and postage-saving deal. In one case, the graphics house that had been doing the print preparation (with Photoshop) pressed the "export as HTML" button as an experiment and said "voila! a website!". The client was a woodworking component manufacturer with thousands of items in their catalog. They came to us to add the "web ordering page". They expected a one-week job to go from JPEGs of their catalog to an online ordering system.

    Sigh.
  • pterry 2009-08-16 15:10
    ace hole:
    universe man:
    AndrewB:
    The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.


    He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.
    How about shrimp to go with the millennium hand?

    I tol 'em, I tol 'em. Buggerit
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    Frank:
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  • Emperor_Z 2014-03-12 12:13
    I feel bad for the manager in this story. He seems like a pretty smart guy, and he realizes the potential of the internet despite apparently having very little exposure to it. The upper management's unfortunately got him trapped in a time capsule.