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Philo's been sacked ... :(

Read all about it ...

http://www.saintchad.org/blog/

... bummer, this was interesting in a reality show kind of way.

mondo
Thursday, May 01, 2003

That is a bummer.  Clients like to feel special and that all of your attention is on them.  They resent moonlighting as it makes them feel like just another number on your list of clients.  But they should realize how that works and be mature about it.

The way this project was going, its probably better for Philo to move on to better things.  CAMEL is going to sink.

sedwo
Thursday, May 01, 2003

sedwo, you nailed it.
The problem (and the reason for that article's subtitle) is that when it comes to how employers treat employees, it's *exactly* like "just another number on their scorecard"

Reminds me of the day I grew disillusioned with so-called "permanent employment" - when I was at my last full-time job (2000), they laid off a guy at lunch with no notice. That's when I realized this whole "stability" thing was just employer propaganda - all they want are the lowered costs and increased control.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Philo, you sound 'jaded'.

You are no longer eligible for an employer's favor.

;)

Heywood Jablomie
Thursday, May 01, 2003

so what are you going to do about the blog? don't let it die, your writing syle is interesting and engaging, make sure you keep us posted on any other *interesting* projects.        

ALL the luck.

Prakash S
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Prakash - thank you very much.
Obviously Camel is a goner, but I'll probably start another blog akin to Joel's - observations on the industry.

I'm reluctant to take the Camel approach again - I did it on that job because it was *such* a train wreck; I don't feel comfortable making a running commentary on other clients; especially given the Usenet effect of only posting the negative things.

I'm still in a quandary about the fate of Camel, though. What say ye - should I print it out and mail it to the head of the law enforcement organization concerned? Let him know that his prize project is being completely mismanaged?

If it were a private company, I wouldn't. But we're talking $2,000,000+ of taxpayer money here...

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Heywood (LOL! Nice name!) -
"Jaded" indeed. Which is of course employerspeak for "not willing to play the game so we can't screw with him" or perhaps simply "Cheezit, he's onto us"

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Sorry to hear that, Philo. I was a regular reader of the CAMEL saga.

Being a consultant myself, I can certainly vouch for the requirement for lots of "face-time" with a client. Oh, they may say they understand if you aren't always there, but in reality they don't.

Furthermore, when things start heading south and people start getting itchy, the first folks that get the blame are usually "those consultants".

Combine being a consultant with not enough face-time along with a troubled project and yeah,you're gonna get hosed.

Good luck to ya on your next project! You deserve a good one after this....

Mark Hoffman
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Simple answer to letter question "No"
a) You'll look petty and it will probably be represented as being a reaction to being fired
b) Being a whistleblower might be bad for your career, even as a contractor. If you were working on a project in trouble, would you want to employ a known troublemaker?
c) You may cause the whole project to be canned, this could be bad for your former co-workers

It may be possible to send such a letter, but personally I wouldn't count on it not back firing.

However I have sent such letters to my clients historically, usually when a project starts to feel like it's heading towards trouble, recomending the steps I feel they should take to bring a project back on course.

Peter Ibbotson
Thursday, May 01, 2003

I agree. I don't think there's any purpose in sending the letter, especially now. No matter how much you say that it's because it's the right thing to do, there's bound to be some serious emotion tied up in it, for both you and your client.

If it comes to their attention that the project was cancelled because a certain weblog - and anyone that knew you there would be able to pick you out in a second... that would be bad. Did you sign a confidentiality agreement with them?

Also, I wouldn't be surprised if you were canned *because* of the Camel blog.

www.marktaw.com
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Ditto on what Mark Hoffman wrote. I too was a regular reader of the CAMEL saga and will miss reading your commentary.

Maybe the project manager (the one who said she couldn't keep you from going to Chicago) rather than the client was the one had a problem with your lack of butt time?

I am assuming that you were subcontracting through a consulting firm that was billing the client for your services. Perhaps, the suits working at this consulting firm simply felt they weren't earning enough profit and could make more money if they replaced you with "one of their own"? Then again, the client is a bureaucratic government agency so it may have went down just like the consulting firm told you it did.

Philo wrote, "Obviously Camel is a goner, but I'll probably start another blog akin to Joel's - observations on the industry."

If you do, please put the URL in a signature when you post here on JOS.

One Programmer's Opinion
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Is is possible that your bosses found the blog?

Maybe they weren't happy with the "truth"?

--
ee

eclectic_echidna
Thursday, May 01, 2003

It might have been the blog.  In my experience it is impossible to get fired from a government job for laziness, but very possible to get fired for political reasons.

choppy
Thursday, May 01, 2003

I don't think it was the blog - I have a feeling the layoff would've been different. I also think there's a good chance if they found it they would've kept me around and put pressure on me to take it down.

Remember - it wasn't laziness - I took on every task they assigned and then some, and completed everything on time. The issue was that I wasn't physically present 40 hours/week, even though I finished everything I was assigned.

[a side note here about this being an extremely bad move on the part of the contracting company - enforcing a 40 hour/week rule on an independent contractor is asking for trouble]

I honestly think it was, as mentioned above, the feeling that they didn't own me, coupled with my refusal to be a "yes man"

Oh sorry - "not a team player"

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Philo:

Is this the end of your blog, since it was about the software project, or does this mean more blogging because you have more time (temporarily)?

Joe
http://www.joegrossberg.com

Joe Grossberg
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Peter:

I would also note that Philo shouldn't underestimate the timing involved. -- i.e. if the company is screwing over a client, why didn't you say something earlier?

Joe
http://www.joegrossberg.com

Joe Grossberg
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Philo,
Would you explain this "enforcing a 40 hour/week rule on an independent contractor is asking for trouble"

I am curious on your perspective...

Mike Gamerland
Thursday, May 01, 2003

"I took on every task they assigned and then some, and completed everything on time. The issue was that I wasn't physically present 40 hours/week, even though I finished everything I was assigned."

Devils Advocate:
You will never know the real reason until you ask.  But...

Perhaps, you were not assigned anything else because you were not there or seen as being available.  CAMEL looks  like it has serious problems.  So many you blog.  You could not find more work to do?  From the blog it would seem you could do hours of work more and still not have success.

Sorry if that hurts, but at least consider how it looks to the other team members for next time.

Anonymous Coward
Thursday, May 01, 2003

10 bucks says CAMEL launches within a few months of the target date and is acceptable.

pb
Thursday, May 01, 2003

To Anonymous Coward's point.  Did you get a chance to talk to the manager who dumped you?  Perhaps, they could at least give an idea of what they were thinking.

Even if you do not agree, you will know what they will say if asked.

Mike Gamerland
Thursday, May 01, 2003

pb - yeah, most projects are nightmare projects.

www.marktaw.com
Thursday, May 01, 2003

First off, if you 'enforce' a 40 hour workweek on a contractor, then that person is no longer a contractor according to the IRS.  Part of being an independent contractor is determining the when & how you are going to do the projects.

Heywood Jablomie
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Heywood,
There are several factors that come into play the most significant being a signed contract that describes the understanding between the parties.
http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1779.pdf

A minmum 40 hour or a fix 40 hour week is not significant determination.

Mike Gamerland
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Mike, IMHO the following would pretty much answer the "employee/contractor" question:
I had to work in their offices,
on their equipment,
on their schedule.
I was paid hourly.
I was expected to work a 40 hour week.
I was subject to all the client company's working rules

The "employee/contractor" test is often called the "duck test" - if I look like an employee, act like an employee, am treated like an employee, and nobody else can tell I'm not an employee, then as far as the state and the IRS are concerned, I'm an employee. That means the person paying my wages is liable for employment taxes, workman's comp, and if I sued for employee benefits I would probably win.

This is the result of a few cases against employers by the IRS, and most notably a case against Microsoft by MS temp workers, who sued for "back" stock options and won.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 01, 2003

"I would also note that Philo shouldn't underestimate the timing involved. -- i.e. if the company is screwing over a client, why didn't you say something earlier?"

Code whore. :)
I *should* have pushed the issue up the chain about a month ago. I didn't precisely because I didn't want to get fired. Practicality won out over ethics. [shrug]

By the way, an observation - the only reason I even asked if I should send the blog in is that I jokingly mentioned it to my coworkers still there and they both thought I should. I wasn't considering it seriously until then...

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Although I very much enjoyed reading CAMEL, if I was the company owner, I'd have had you sacked the second I saw it.

Could that have been the reason?

Happy to be working
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Happy To Be Working:

On what grounds?  Did he reveal any business critical/sensitive information?

GiorgioG
Thursday, May 01, 2003

pb - define "acceptable"?
After all, the users are pretty much a captive audience. If the thing is marginally better than the mainframe app it's replacing, they'll probably be happy. The question is whether that marginal improvement is worth the money spent to deliver it, especially when spending a fraction more would've delivered a far superior product that would have given the law enforcement officers more tools to do their jobs better and freed up more of their time to prosecute cases instead of flying a keyboard.

Seriously, tho, I don't see how it could be delivered on schedule - there are 75 Word templates that are used for data entry, each of which overlaps to some degree. The existing application has about 800 tables, which we think will map to about 300 tables in the final application.

Not one table has been laid out, not one line of code has been written, and 1/4 of the design team has just been fired.

You really think a team of 5-10 people can do that in five months?

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Hi Philo,

It looks like you gained some notoriety from this, and people are visiting your blog, maybe devote it to something positive? where you post good things you hear about companies people may actually want to work for.

I think a lot of companies would start treat their employees better, if they were fed a steady supply of bozis, because employees that have

Daniel Shchyokin
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Nah, he should use the space to start Phucked Company... the weblog of doomed projects, where anyone can post about doomed projects and he'll mod them up.

www.marktaw.com
Thursday, May 01, 2003

pb,

Your spot on.  Of course it will.

I remember my own Camel project.  It came in double the time and quadruple the budget.  From where I was sitting it looked like we were deep in the smelly stuff.

So imagine my surprise when I attend the appraisal for the project and it was declared a success.

I spent the next 3 months desperately hiding all the faults, until they closed down the whole department.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Mike,

There have been several cases where, even though the workers had a SIGNED contract indicating they were independent contractors, the IRS told them that they weren't.

Microsoft is the biggest that comes to mind.

True, there are a host of factors that come into play, but control is the biggest.  Hence the emphasis on the word 'enforce'.

Straight from the horses mouth:

"A general rule is that you, the payer, have the right to control or direct only the result of the work done by an independent contractor and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result."

http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/industries/article/0,,id=98873,00.html

Telling Philo he needs to sit his butt in a chair for 40 would be controlling the 'means ... of accomplishing the result'.

Heywood Jablomie
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Philo,

I'll bet it was bean counting that did it in the end.  I bet there's a definition wrote down somewhere that requires 40 hours for you to be in the head count.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, May 01, 2003

GiorgioG:

In my opinion he gave away enough information for the client and other people to identify themselves and the company he is working for.

He gave away information internal to the comany by discussing Use cases.

ie:
>So, as related before - we are building a case
>management system. One of the oddities of this
>system is that cases are "jacketed" well after they
>are initiated. The way it was explained to us is that
>"jacketing" a case gives the law enforcement official
>the go ahead to commit resources to prosecuting
>the case. It's something of a winnowing process.
>Fair enough.
>
>Exhibit #1: An offhand comment by a senior
>executive about how this agency has a very high
>arrest/case ratio.
>
>Exhibit #2: The policy that a case cannot be
>jacketed unless there is a suspect (there are
>exceptions, but they're *exceptions*)
>
>Exhibit #3: The law enforcement officials can call for
>electronic surveillance against a case before it's
>jacketed.
>
>
>Now at #3 we were startled - if electronic
>surveillance isn't committing a resource to the case,
>then what is? That's when it dawned on me -
>"jacketing" isn't an asset management tool; it's a
>statistics management tool. If all you report to the


and it goes on.

I would consider that information to be internal and confidential to both the client and the company.

Again, in my opinion, it was not a professional thing for a consultant (or employee) to do.

Happy to be working
Thursday, May 01, 2003

"I'm still in a quandary about the fate of Camel, though. What say ye - should I print it out and mail it to the head of the law enforcement organization concerned? Let him know that his prize project is being completely mismanaged?"

No.

1. It'll look like a vengeful, resent-filled attack.  So it'll be ignored and you'll get a bad rap.

2. People don't like hearing bad news.  So it'll be ignored.

3. If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all.

I'd write a letter saying I enjoyed the opportunity to work with them, wish them well, and would be glad to offer my services again if the opportunity arises and there is a match.  (Which might be "never" if I truly hate the place.)

But that's me; I'm certainly not trying to tell you what to do. 

-Thomas

Thomas
Thursday, May 01, 2003

"I would consider that information to be internal and confidential to both the client and the company.

Again, in my opinion, it was not a professional thing for a consultant (or employee) to do. "

I agree. Then again, Philo may be able to demonstrate that he took specific and measurable means to hide the identities of those involved. It's a very gray area. The moment he decided to write anything the question of confidentialy raised it's head and it was simply a matter of how far he want to keep it.

www.marktaw.com
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Since I know the state of case management software projects in several government agencies, I can guarantee you that you simply cannot identify the organization I worked for from what I wrote. You may guess, but you cannot *know*

I took care not to write anything that violated confidentiality - had I stayed and Camel kept going then writing it would've gotten harder as more issues regarding the actual integrity of the system came to bear.

Internal politics are not protected by security clearances. :)

Revealing stupid stuff your boss does (provided it does not reveal a security vulnerability) is not protected by a security clearance.

That's not to say they can't fire you for doing it - but they won't win any kind of prosecution.

And let's face it - if you're in charge of an organization that prompts an employee to write a Camel, you're most likely the type of person that will fire them for writing it.

PB - you honestly wouldn't call the author in to discuss the problems revealed in the blog? Or do some investigation to see how valid they are?

Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Philo ... what's your noncompete clause look like in your contract?  I'd be tempted to get together a couple of my friends and pursue the same contract as an outside consultant, having already seeing the writing on the wall for my former company's project.

Alyosha`
Thursday, May 01, 2003

i'm confused. if you were techinically (irs rules) an employee, but contractually a contractor, you might have wanted to remind them as such--i'm a contractor. if it's not enough 'face time', please hire me full time.

if you want revenge (and never be welcome again), you could call the irs on them. but that's rather drastic. and you'd presumably be investigated too.

remember, the person who wrote the contract (law enforcement hoo-ha) gains power by having the contract be of the size he wants (big enough to inflate his budget, small enough to get it approved), and may or may not have other considerations for picking your previous employer.

mb
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Philo, you're at the cross-over point between contractor and independent consultant.

In your situation, it would have been prudent to have clauses in the contract that required compensation for arbitrary termination. That is how businesses work.

When contracts are run by recruiters, they never do this if they can get away with it, because one of the things they offer to employers is the ability to ditch workers anytime with no strings attached. (Yes, they do actually promote this to employers.)

.
Thursday, May 01, 2003

Philo,

First of al, I realy enjoyed reading the blog. We need more of these things as they are realy valuable as a sort of "open source" case study.
I also believe you were realy trying to do your very best to "do the right thing", and that is to be appreciated.
However, I might have fired you also. You see, I always felt like you were continuously fighting to go a certain direction after the decision was already made to take another route. With the very best of intentions this might have been counterproductive.
If you are working at McDonalds as a burger flipper and you spend all your energy on designing and trying out "haute quisine" elaborate dishes, writing the management about how their current  burger menu is a clogged artery waiting to happen, and that they will never get a Michelin star for this, you are right ... but you are wrong.
I am sorry for your loss, but if you can quickly compensate this with a new client, it might be far better for you. I bet you did not like the CAMEL project all that much, and certainly after a very brief "I was right all along" you would be all the more bitter when this thing will inevitably hit cruch time  and you and the whole team will have to spend weeks day and night plugging the holes of the sinking ship with paper tissue so it will float just long enough for the client to sign off on it.

P.S. I'm also hoping you will still explain that record locking thing I did not quit get in http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=41195&ixReplies=9

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, May 02, 2003

Just me -
I understand where you're coming from, but believe me I can salute and say "aye, aye sir" with the best of them while knowing it's absolutely the wrong path.

For example, the security thing - if management approved the "simple security" solution then you wouldn't have heard about the elegant solution again (unless significant problems developed with the simple security that would've been addressed by the other solution)

The *problem* was that we were consistently given CONFLICTING direction - they wanted a product we scoped at taking 22,000 hours, but they wanted it delivered by 7-10 people in six months. You do the math.

If they had said "give us whatever you can deliver in six months" then it would've been a different story - we would've grumbled but probably put something together.

We put together two phased deployment plans that would have given them something worth showing on Oct 1, so their bosses would have seen significant progress - both those plans were rejected.

So what do you do?

Camel was my vent to keep my brain from exploding at work.  :-)

Philo

Philo
Friday, May 02, 2003

Yo Philio, it sounds like you were fired--not laid off as you report in your blog.

Laid off means you were downsized. Fired means they didn't like you.

Arab who worships Camels
Friday, May 02, 2003

It all be a splittin' o' the hair so far as I'm concerned - as an independent contractor there's no legal difference between quit, laid off, fired, or locked out of the building - the net result is no more money.

Actually, I think the best description would be either "released" or "my contract was terminated." If I felt like self-flagellation it would be "my contract was terminated for cause".

Next question - objectively, would you consider "we were unhappy with the contractor's work schedule" of the same vein as "his work wasn't that good" or "he didn't complete assigned tasks on time"?

(Obviously I'm biased. ;-) )

Philo

Philo
Saturday, May 03, 2003

"Next question - objectively, would you consider "we were unhappy with the contractor's work schedule" of the same vein as "his work wasn't that good" or "he didn't complete assigned tasks on time"?"

If Philo could do x in 35 hours, someone else should be able to do x(45/35) if they worked here 45 hours a week.

You know... management logic. When my old manager used the phrase "Man Month" in ernest, I nearly fell off m chair laughing.

www.marktaw.com
Saturday, May 03, 2003

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