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Question about how to live my life (to show code or not to show code)

 
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Hey guys, I am preparing to leave the land of money and go to grad school.
I joined a (fixed-bid) project a few years ago. The money was horrendous, 30K, for what has turned out to be a two year project. I originally joined this project in order to own the code, w/ the possibility of distributing the software to other institutions for profit. I overlooked the massive levels of scope-creep, because my manager and I get along relatively well (to a fault, considering he's wasted months of my life) and because as the proprietor of the code, I had to suck it up when the client (who knows his business more than I do) realized there were better workflows.
Now I face a situation where I may be prohibited from receiving funds from elsewhere (nor will I have the time to maintain the software) by receiving a stipend from grad school. So I am in the process of selling the code to the client. I have received some funds from the client up until now (the 30K mentioned above) and we are negotiating the amount it will take for me to turn over the software.
But an issue has arisen: a developer that would conceivably support my code has mentioned that he'd like to review my code before he "supports" the decision to purchase it. I'm not sure how I feel about this. When I lived in the land of salaried employees, I built my career by speaking disparagingly about the skills of the consultants (years ago, I've learned the error of my ways )... so my suspicion makes me wonder if this developer wants to utilize this amount of time to summarize decisions, etc., tug the ear of his employer, and leave me out in the cold. I also do not know what the legal ramifications are of turning over my code to someone to let them review the code (the image of years in the court w/ the judge remarking "but you gave them the code" haunts me). Also, I did in fact, put myself on the financial line by working on this software as a fixed-bid project. I built the schema. I built the object model. I toiled through the late nights of deciding how to handle the client's complex business flow (or rewriting things when he had a brain-spasm "oh-yeah!"). I just don't know how I feel about this (well, I guess I do as shown above ).
But am I being silly? How do things normally work in this situation? Should I be more accommodating? Any help or opinions would be appreciated.
[ December 05, 2003: Message edited by: Matt Horton ]
 
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I?m not quite sure what the issue is. Where does the current contract end and where does this new opportunity begin?
I?m reading it as, ?for $30k I?m giving them a working executable program.? I?m also not clear how feature creep played into it. Were these features not in the original contract that you let slip in? If it?s not in the contract, then let them slip more money into your pockets. However, if they have written documentation of you saying ok to the new features without asking for more money, then you may be out of luck.
What is your leverage? What happens if you work and give them the minimal amount of work. What happens if you walk and give them nothing. Yes, they can sue you, but how much will it cost them in legal fees and time. It might be cheaper to simply pay you more money to make it all go away (although don?t expect a Christmas card). I don?t advocate playing hardball, but if they did things of questionable morality, it may be a viable recourse.
It is reasonable for them to want to look at the code, since if its 100,000 lines of spaghetti it might not be worth buying the source code or looking to maintain it. But I won?t give them the entire source. I?d let them come and look at it on my computer. If that?s not feasible, I?d send a module or two as evidence that it is well written and documented. If they have been morally gray, then they could also easily look the other way as they use the source without paying you.
I?m suggesting some aggressive options, but they are only options for a bad situation. They may not be applicable as I don?t full understand what you exact issues are.
--Mark
 
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definately don't send them all or most of the source code in usable form, especially not important bits. if you wanted to do this you ould have to get them to sign a legal agreement. if they want to see some bits you just show what you are comfortable with and as said above the best way is on your own computer, or take it to them on your laptop or something.
 
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Originally posted by Matt Horton:
Hey guys, I am preparing to leave the land of money and go to grad school.
I joined a (fixed-bid) project a few years ago. The money was horrendous, 30K, for what has turned out to be a two year project. I originally joined this project in order to own the code, w/ the possibility of distributing the software to other institutions for profit. I overlooked the massive levels of scope-creep, because my manager and I get along relatively well (to a fault, considering he's wasted months of my life) and because as the proprietor of the code, I had to suck it up when the client (who knows his business more than I do) realized there were better workflows.


Hi Matt,
Your name seems familiar. Are/Were you owned a venture company with a Japanese fellow?
Could you check with the trade secret contract that you supposed to sign when joining the project?


Now I face a situation where I may be prohibited from receiving funds from elsewhere (nor will I have the time to maintain the software) by receiving a stipend from grad school. So I am in the process of selling the code to the client. I have received some funds from the client up until now (the 30K mentioned above) and we are negotiating the amount it will take for me to turn over the software.


Mark is right. It seems you play hardball here.


One other issue has entered the fray: a developer that would conceivably support my code has mentioned that he'd like to review my code before he "supports" the decision to purchase it. I'm not sure how I feel about this.


Break the darn thing in many parts. Negotiate as you go.

When I lived in the land of salaried employees, I built my career by speaking disparagingly about the skills of the consultants (years ago, I've learned the error of my ways )... so my suspicion makes me wonder if this developer wants to utilize this amount of time to summarize decisions, etc., tug the ear of his employer, and leave me out in the cold.


Not all of them are bad. Just concentrate on selling strategy. What have you done about scanning that particular developer background? If he/she originate from US, you could dig up the profile.

I also do not know what the legal ramifications are of turning over my code to someone to let them review the code (the image of years in the court w/ the judge remarking "but you gave them the code" haunts me). Also, I did in fact, put myself on the financial line by working on this software as a fixed-bid project. I built the schema. I built the object model. I toiled through the late nights of deciding how to handle the client's complex business flow (or rewriting things when he had a brain-spasm "oh-yeah!"). I just don't know how I feel about this (well, I guess I do as shown above ).


If you want to sale something, you have to let people see the sample. When you develop the software for company. Did you create a prototype so the marketer could sell to the potential clients base on that bit?
It does not matter how many phases you have involved, the bottom line is how closely the software resembling the potential client business. That is where you make the most money. The professional marketer then will drum up the whistles and bells for making extra money. This is also the tricky part of software business, customer majority of the times want to ignore the midnight oil that developers putting in.
In general, when you sell a business there are two kinds: sell the dba or sell the blueprints/formular. When you sell the dba, you are free to go outside of the existing dba parameter usually mentioning in the contract to establish another dba. When you sell the blueprints/formular, you have to retire or totally change a different way to conduct a business.
In your case, you attempt to sell a software that helps someone running a business, you are involved with blueprint selling. The software is not based solely on your idea but bases on specs loosely speaking of someone provided to you. My advice is you need to consult a real business lawyer on this serious stuff. If you are low on dole, then go to your local law library or a large city law library and ask about what I just breaking down for you. I bet you will find some nice aspiring lawyers or "greenhorn" lawyers help you out for free.
Good Lucks,
MCao
 
Matt Horton
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Thanks for your responses Mark, Tim.
Mark, if I had correctly addressed all of your questions at the get-go of this project, I would have never had any of these problems.
I permitted the scope creep to occur. Because of my anxiety to "stay in town" (but concievably have some possibility of funds down the road) I bought into the idea that this project had a high probability of success. My initial plan was to write an elaborate database for this client for a really small amount of money, but I would maintain the ability to redistribute the software to a bunch of other people. Essentially, I was tired of living in hotels, etc., so I pretended as if I was responsible enough to manage scope creep.
Scope creep quickly became part of my life since I aspired to be able to resell the software. I ended up in the situation in which I relied on the business knowledge of the users to make my coding decisions. When the (young biotech field) users' business rules changed, I found myself accommodating more and more scope creep, because I wanted the software to be successful. Had I been an hourly employee, I would have more money in the bank and I wouldn't be stressing my relationship with my client.
But back on topic, I think both of you guys are right. It's only natural that I should show these guys the code. I think you guys are right that I could probably do so, by showing the developer my code from my machine. It appears that he really just wants to get a head-start on learning the application, so it's only natural that I should be there anyway.
thanks guys.
 
Matt Horton
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Hi Matt it seems as if you're confusing me with another Matt... hey wait! your name is Matt!
Thanks for your advice, I do need to chat w/ a lawyer. Since I've been practicing this "poor grad student thing" (w/o being a grad student) I'll check into my local University's free legal advice.
Thanks again!
 
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