The virtual future of software development

In a previous article, Avoiding remote software collaboration disasters, I shared my experiences of virtual software development and offered four golden rules I now use. Heres the sequel.


In the previous article mentioned elance but I have now also been favourably impressed with another service, Rentacoder, which allows you to post projects to be bid for by software contractors all over the world.

Spam Bidders

What I particularly like about Rentacoder is the quality of responses and questions I received from the bidding suppliers in the areas I was looking for work (J2ME).

In other services I have used you may get more responses than Rentacoder, however this is partly due to suppliers who just send you an automatic reply expressing interest without even reading your requirement. Amazingly some even agree with your budget and timeframes!

I prefer less responses of better quality than lots of speculative responses and Rentacoder looks good here. A simple way to eliminate these Spam Bidders is to mention your project name somewhere in the middle of the brief you post and to automatically eliminate any bidder who does not mention it in their reply.

Escrow Account

The other thing I like about Rentacoder is that, once you select your coder you transfer the project amount (full or part depending on size of project) into a Rentacoder escrow account.

You then only release this when you are happy with project completion. That arrangement pretty seems fair to me for both customer and supplier.

Rentacoder also suggests a standard set of terms for your project which you can accept or modify.

Great for niche work

My observation is that this is an excellent way to get niche or specialised items delivered very competitively. If you post a niche project you may get no response or you may get some excellent responses. In the latter case the bids may be so competitive it could only be that the guys have done jobs very similar before and are using this work as their starting point.

It is of course even better if you can produce a really tight specification with no ambiguity.

I would be more hesitant about using these kinds of services for more general development work and any work which requires considerable design.

Don’t be naïve

Like all services you need to filter the replies to find the best ones. In addition to the points I mentioned in the previous article I also place a lot of weight on:

  • The quality of the supplier’s clarification questions

  • How well they write in my first language (English in my case)

  • Their digital reputations (available on the system)

You also get some very enthusiastic and confident replies but I don’t think this is a criteria you should place much weight on!

Virtual Professional Communities for Software

It seems to me that services like elance and Rentacoder are nurturing Virtual Professional Communities for Software which could become the dominant way software is delivered in the future.

Its very different from outsourcing as it is not about contracting whole projects but being able to use remote niche developers for specialised tasks and deliverables within a project. It is therefore an on-going collaboration between the in-house project team and the external resources.

This is the kind of mixed distributed multi-organisational team for whom the bioteaming approach is ideal.

Enterprises, be they IT user or software supplier, not experimenting and integrating this way of working into their operations may find themselves rendered uncompetitive much sooner than they think


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More great points. I think this kind of briefing would be very useful to every company in a bootstrapping situation, in every innovation centre in the country.


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