The Internet Developers Association, a professional association for Internet content developers, is calling for fair play for Webmeisters who it claims are being exploited by clients unwilling to pay real money for their skills and expertise. This problem is partly down to companies trying to get Web author expertise on the cheap – perhaps mistaking […]
The Internet Developers Association, a professional association for Internet content developers, is calling for fair play for Webmeisters who it claims are being exploited by clients unwilling to pay real money for their skills and expertise. This problem is partly down to companies trying to get Web author expertise on the cheap – perhaps mistaking ‘free’ Web access for the intellectual brainpower needed to make it happen – and a lack of clarity in the young industry on what constitutes a fair labor-employer relationship. Many companies do not even understand how to even write an Request For Proposal for Web services, says the Association, which claims membership of 1,200 developers. The ESP (Ethical Standards and Procedures) initiative seeks to provide practical tools for concerned developers interested in establishing a principled framework for defining relationships in this new industry. The ESP package will eventually provide guidelines to comprehensively scope Web site project budgets and implementation phases, provide guidance to important legal issues developers and clients need to address, and establish a template Master Contract covering those issues. To check out some of the reasons behind the formation of the Ethical Standards and Practices (ESP) initiative, go to its ‘War Stories & Soap Operas’ (http://www.association.org/programs/esp/war.html) site. There are nine examples here of Web developers either being outright cheated, exploited, or somehow taken advantage of by customers. One case involves an unnamed company which approached a group of Internet developers, offering them money to help fund innovative ideas. Coders who said they were interested were asked to sign a document saying they were ‘affiliated’ with this organization. A short time later this same company sent out e-mails to these ‘affiliates’ asking how a particular client’s site could be improved. It quickly turned out that this was all a scam to get the developers to come up with ideas for free, so that they could be made the base of a sales pitch, with their suggestions presented in such a way as to make it seem they were all going to be part of the real design team. When one of the misled Web programmers complained, the company wrote an intimidating legal letter threatening to sue for legal defamation. Another story concerns an ad agency which called in an expert to help beef up its internal Web site development skills. In good faith a programmer crafted a customized site spec for a film company – which eventually called back saying that thanks, but no thanks, it had decided to build it itself with local talent. Six months later, I opened Wired magazine and there, in the middle of the issue, was a full-page ad for the motion picture company’s Website. The domain name was one I had suggested in the original copy. When he went to the site to check it out, he found it was essentially the site I had mapped out six months before. They hadn’t even bothered to change the area names! Other problems: a developer who spent a lot of time on a client’s Web site, went back later to find it mismanaged and with his credit removed, only to find that he was expected to spend time fixing the problems for free for the ‘prestige’ of getting his name replaced; and a successful CD-ROM company in San Francisco which was trying to con scripts out of prospective writers by asking them to ‘open up’ their story ideas (in this case, complaints did actually lead to two individuals, the creative director and his assistant, being fired). In essence, it seems that a lot of companies have been asking a lot of Web developers’ time, advice, creative ideas, and skills, and not considering these professionals as worthy of payment as outside contractors in ordinary IT, or any other outsourced expertise, customarily are. As one bemoans, [The client] got a free consultation; we got to fight to win back what were originally our own ideas. Some serious issues need to be sorted out here, plainly, though some problems seem to date back a couple of years when we were a
ll barely out of the trees in terms of Web sophistication. Case in point is this following frantic late night exchange, reminiscent of all those tales of bemused users pointing their mouse at their PC monitors complaining because they can’t get The Simpsons on ’em. Concerned design manager calls Web guru in a panic; the test pages he has just uploaded aren’t working. Web guru goes to site and finds no broken graphics or links, and calls back puzzled as to the cause of the angst. With careful questioning, it was revealed that the customer thought the World Wide Web was all streaming video, changing automatically. After carefully explaining that to change pages one had to use the mouse and click on all those underlined words, which were also known as ‘hyperlinks,’ the Web-spinner waited patiently on the end of the line. How relieved he was to hear his contact exult, Look! The arrow turns into a little hand! Goes to prove how much we all still have to learn about the Web – users, customers, and developers alike.