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Paul Johnston

I'm really looking for a cloud provider. I'm working with a UK based startup who are using AWS and have an opportunity to move into Nigeria with a partner. But we're used to AWS. Which is easy and cost effective. 

We need that kind of a service in Nigeria. Can anyone point us in the right direction? Really struggling to find anything clear and obvious online.

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I'm developing an app at the moment and it does something similar to this on occasion.

Is this an android bug?

It's when the app tries to do something over the lock screen or in screen on received, it places the app activity behind the home screen.

Only way to remove is via touching the home button. Otherwise it stays there


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Anybody looking for a talented #android dev (Not me) currently? I Know of a startup who have just closed and have a great android dev
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Getting frustrated by a company employing an MDM solution onto an Android tablet and then not giving me enough information to really know how to install an app myself. 

Seems they have an app that can install other apps on the device, but keep "Unknown Sources" turned off. Is that correct?
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Why we don’t work for nothing

Caveat: I don’t think everyone who has a business idea is an idiot. Some of you are naive (a significant proportion, but it’s not everyone) and if you’re in that proportion, this is for you! If you’ve been sent here to read this, I would take it as a wake up call that you’re not as aware as you think you are of the risks of what you’re asking!

Over the past few months, my business has moved more into the area of doing development work for early stage startups. 

This means that we put a lot of time, energy, hard work, experience, expertise, code, blood, sweat, tears, stress and a whole bunch of other stuff into a project to produce something amazing for other people and often with quite risky projects.

This move as a business has led to something that we’ve heard many times in the past and it seems more and more frequently...

“I’ve got the great idea! If you build it for nothing, I’ll give you % equity! We’ll be millionaires!”

Somewhere, somehow, this idea has gained traction with people and not just business people, ordinary people who think business is simple. 

I don’t know if it’s historically in every boom in some form or specifically from the dot-com boom of the late 90s or the fact that there are some ENORMOUS companies in the US that seem to have been built from college dorms (like Facebook) or from a simple idea that was built on a shoestring and someone invested $xxx millions into it and made everyone rich...

Wherever the idea of working for nothing is from, it’s stupid. 

It’s stupid if you say it to someone.

It’s stupid if you take on a project like this.

It’s just stupid!

Why? Well I’m glad you asked...

Ideas without execution are just ideas... and they are worth NOTHING

And that’s it. 

Pure and simple.

Ideas aren’t worth anything.

I can’t explain it better than a recent go daddy advert... YourBigIdea.CO | Featuring a Sky Waitress and Danica Patrick - Official Go Daddy Commercial

Because an idea with no execution goes nowhere.

An idea with bad execution has more of a chance of doing something than that.

An idea with great execution doesn’t even always work.

So a great idea even with great execution may not even go where you are expecting.

So if you think your “idea” is worth something? It’s not. 

It just isn’t. 

You’re fooling yourself. 

You’re wrong.

You’re an idiot.

And, if you expect a developer to build it for nothing, then they are taking all the risk on the project, and you are taking none.

And you think the developer should do it for nothing? Get a life.

Next... Does the idea already exist?

I’ve sat with many people who have great ideas and they are great ideas with brilliant propositions and fantastic opportunities, but often they have missed the key first step.

Checking out if it already exists

If it does, that’s ok, there may still be a market, but often you can tell if there is a market there without even speaking to a developer.

But if you expect a developer to take it on trust that you know your market, you have to prove it and the first step is:

“Have you done your research?”

If the answer is no, then no developer in the world should touch your “idea” because it’s worthless and you haven’t put any time into it.

I have spent a lot of time with people that think there idea is amazing, only to go online and find the idea (or a close variation) of it within seconds, and I mean seconds.

So if you think you have a great idea and haven’t researched properly whether it exists? You’re an idiot.

So why should a developer put time and energy into something that already exists?

Oh that’s right... they shouldn’t!

Next... The idea needs a way to make money and return on investment

This step is so often missed off by the “idea” person that it’s just funny.

The business way of putting this is:

“What’s the business proposition?”


“How the hell is this going to make any money?”

A slight aside...

Now, I’m quite willing to admit that there are numerous companies that have started with one idea, and moved into another idea and made millions. Twitter is an example of this springing out of a podcasting platform called odeo

BUT the initial proposition had a proposition. It wasn’t a “build it and they will come” thing. This just shows an example of a “pivot” which is just another way of saying “that didn’t work, let’s try something a bit different”.

… back to the point

Making money is not the same as trying to make a lot of money. 

Making money is about return on investment and meeting ongoing “idea” costs.

Basically, if you can’t show how the product is going to make money, then why should a developer give up their time and energy into making this “idea” happen?

Because, if a developer gives up time, then they are essentially “investing” in your idea.

Hear that? They are “investing”

The developer becomes an “investor”

They have then got a “stake”

If you can’t show them the numbers to show how their “investment” is going to provide a “return” to them, then how are they supposed to understand this?

It’s a thing called Return On Investment


To help, here is a simple equation: hours worked x hourly rate = developer investment

It’s not hard

In fact it’s quite easy

Too often I’ve seen a developer work VERY hard for a solution that has not returned anything at all, and all it does is screw up the relationships and mean the developer is left out of pocket. Very rarely does the idea person end up out of pocket in this scenario.

The likelihood of the ideas person being out of pocket is a lot lower, because often they have a “day job” that they are “doing until the business is up and running”. They won’t give up until the company can “support them”.

That’s called crap.

If you can’t show the ROI to a developer even in basic terms, your idea is worth nothing



Got that?

“But the market is huge”

But ROI is linked to the market that you are putting the idea into

And how do you decide whether there is a market?

Well, this is a little harder, but it comes back to “has someone already done it?”

But it’s also, how much is it going to take to launch...?

Because 9 times out of 10, the “idea” person has done very little factoring in of how to market the idea (you know, get it to people, get people to use it, support those people out there etc)

I’m being unkind to those good ideas people out there... it’s probably closer to 9.5 times out of 10

If you can’t get the “idea” to market then how can you show ROI?

And if I hear someone else stand there and say “It’s a global market worth $xxx billions per year and all we need is 0.1% of it” I’m going to scream.

I’d agree that would be fantastic, but if you think that a developer developing a solution for you for nothing is going to give you that 0.1% without some work and effort then you’re a proper idiot.

Next... You need “domain knowledge” to succeed

It’s not an absolute prerequisite that you have to know your market and have contacts with the right companies to succeed...

But it flipping helps


And I mean, A LOT

Having credibility in your business domain makes a massive difference.

The number of times I’ve seen a person with an “idea” who is trying to pitch into a business domain they have little or no idea about is too numerous to mention.

Why do you think when people are on MBA courses, and they come up with an idea in a new business domain, that they then spend ages researching that business domain?

Because it’s important. There is often a reason why an “obvious idea” in a business domain hasn’t been done yet, and it’s often industry insiders that know why.


Having a disruptive idea can be the best way to make a business and have it make money fast.

But disruptive ideas are often transferred from one business domain into another.

They don’t just “happen”

You very often have to have domain experience in another business domain to transfer. It’s unusual just to see it from outside.

Unless you are very lucky, and happen to be in the right place at the right time for a whole new industry to start up.

Case in point: Google

They came up with what (at the time) was the single best way (by a very long way) of searching for content on the internet. It grew big very fast. They weren’t first. They were just the best.

But Google worked, because it was a nascent industry, very fast moving, very ready for new ideas and businesses and very willing to forgive minor errors.

If you can find those industries, then talk about your disruptive idea! That’s fine!

But, most ideas that I hear... 99% of them are not in this space.

They are not disruptive in the way the “idea” person thinks of them.

And that means you have to slog it out, do the research into the business area

Because business is hard

And your idea isn’t that great until you’ve tested it

So if you can’t show how it is disruptive, or how the “idea” will make money to a developer, why on earth should they take it seriously?

Next... Commitment to an idea is important

Probably the most important thing


It’s so important

The idea person wants “commitment” from the developer, and thinks that the best way to put that on the table is by giving away equity.

What a load of rubbish.

Commitment to an idea comes in two major forms:



And as I said earlier, a developer’s time can be equated to money for the purposes of development.

So, to be brutally honest, the only thing to look at here is...


Commitment comes down to Money

Let’s put it this way...

If you go to someone and say:

“Hey, I’m going to take you on a journey. It’s going to be great. We’re going to make LOTS of money and I mean LOTS of it”

The other guy will think “great”

Then you say:

“Yeah, the idea is that I’m going to point you in the right direction, and you’re going to do do all the pedalling after you’ve built us a tandem on this journey, and I’m going to wait here and follow on behind you... I might pedal at some point when we’re ready!”

The other guy will think “um... ok”

Then you say:

“Oh, and when we get to the end, I’ll take over, and we’ll make millions”

The other guy thinks “I do all the work, and he waits for me to finish, then he makes millions”

The other word for this is slavery.

At least, it’s pretty close. It might be a bit harsh. But it’s close.

Especially if the relationships that I’ve seen in some situations like this come to pass.

A cautionary tale...

A developer I know was working with a guy who had strong domain knowledge. He said he had a great idea and did some research and the developer agreed to work on it for up to 3 months (not full time, but spare time, evenings/weekends). The developer had a family and friends and a life, but decided to forego those for that time because the idea (he felt) was worth it.

And... you’ve guessed it... the developer spent months working and the “domain” guy was saying “you have to finish it before i can sell it”. So in the end, the developer said “I’m not doing any more, I’ve run out of time, money and patience” and the “domain” guy got really cross. Did the project go live? Nope!

Do you see the problem? The “domain” guy got cross. The guy who had spent all the time waiting... he got cross. He got angry.

The developer? He just got screwed.

Really worked out that one didn’t it!  The domain guy was really not committed to the project whatever he thought.

Now do you see why a developer should never work for nothing?

If the idea doesn’t happen, the developer gets screwed. And the idea often doesn’t happen for many reasons.

If you have a great “idea” then you HAVE to commit to it with at least some money or shut up.

if it doesn’t hurt to pay something, it doesn’t mean enough to you, and that’s a big warning sign in my book that it’s not a good enough idea.

If you don’t believe in it, shut up.

If you do, pay up.

Simple as.

It doesn’t have to be everything, but it does have to be enough that if the developer delivers, you should have no choice but to do your part.

It’s like a marriage

You each bring stuff to the table

And if it goes wrong, it hurts both of you. And it should!

So why don’t we work for nothing?

Because we think that a business partner with a great idea should feel so strongly that the idea is worthwhile that they commit to it with money.

That doesn’t mean we ask for 100% of the money, up front and no way we’re touching it otherwise. 

That would be silly.

What it means is that we expect at least some money up front to show commitment to the project.

That money must be significant enough to hurt. Significant enough to be a commitment from your side.

Then stages of the project relate to stages of payment.

And if we so choose (our choice, not yours), we might relinquish some of our payment in exchange for an equity stake, or a revenue share, or just because we think the project has legs, and we can cope with losing a bit of money on it to get the client “over the top”.

But please don’t ask us to work for nothing, or the promise of money. It’s really difficult for us to say no, especially if we’ve spent time with you on it already and you’re nice people, which most of you are!

Even if you have a number of clients waiting for the project to be done, then we’ll still ask you to commit money, and actually, if this is the case, then there should be very little issue as you have clients!

Oh and payment terms are not a negotiable element here either. The earlier the stage, the riskier your idea is.  The riskier it is, the more definite our terms.

More risk = less flexibility on payment (not more)

We will never work for nothing

‘Nuff said
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One day I'm going to write a post on why developers should never work for nothing and even worse work for "sweat equity". Let's face it, our time is precious, we've spent our energy learning a skill, so why oh why should anyone ever expect us to give away our expertise for nothing?

Oh, and if you do give it away for nothing, I can guarantee that nothing is time away from family, kids, friends, and basically the things you like doing.

If it's"your idea" then fine, go for it, but never lose sight of your end goal. 

One day, I'll write this post properly.
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URLs that my servers are currently having requests for that just don't exist on my server (e.g. hacking attempts):


Just some of the URLs that we've seen attempting hacking on our servers in the past few days... very annoying, but interesting for all you out there wanting to secure servers.

FYI - I'm not going to tell you what I do run, but suffice to say, it's not PHP and it has no "default" paths involved in it, so it appears it stops rudimentary hacking attempts at the very least!
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is that you +Rich Hyndman sitting over at the table in campus london cafe? I'm sitting on the sofa eating lunch
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I've been asked to take over a project, but I'm just wondering if there's a "right" way of doing what they need.

They have an existing app which has several hundred clubs on it with different data for each club.

What they want is a specific app for each club based upon exactly the same data.

So - 1 app with everyone AND hundreds of apps, each for one club - all doing the same thing (the club app doesn't allow you to look at other clubs, only data for that one).

Best way to approach this? It has to effectively be automated and maintainable (obviously).
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