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Have you used a paid on-demand expert help service to screen share/pair program/review code with someone?

lostintangent profile image Jonathan Carter Updated on ・1 min read

Hey All! As the PM for Visual Studio Live Share, I care a lot about making team-based collaboration amongst teams more enjoyable 🚀 That said, in some cases, you may be working solo on a side-project, or your team might not have the answer to a question you have, and therefore, it may be worth using an on-demand expert help service to get quickly unblocked (e.g. CodeMentor, Pullrequest.com).

Have you ever used (or considered using) a service like this? I’m curious to hear if folks have ever paid to get help, have a peer code review, do some pair programming, etc. and if so, what service you used. I’d also be interested to hear the scope of the task (e.g. quick question vs. 2 hour pairing session), the programming language your used, and overall, how your experience was. Thanks! 🙌

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lostintangent profile

Jonathan Carter

@lostintangent

I build developer tools and services at Microsoft (currently VS Online, Live Share, IntelliCode, and Playwright, previously CodePush, IE Dev Tools, Visual Studio, Azure).

Discussion

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I strongly believe in this type of thing, and I think it will be mainstream in the future, but it is definitely a tough nut to crack.

I think this works best if it is efficient to the point where it can be priced at a discount. Efficient, meaning the pairings are accurate, the overhead is straightforward, and the supply and demand match up well.

In my mind I've invented this service as "AirConsult" where experts can volunteer their availability in straightforward ways with no negotiation, and an obvious user experience in terms of scheduling and/or notice of who's online and available now.

The chaos of ecosystems like this cannot be underestimated. This service needs to win on user experience, user habits, irrational biases towards face time and contact for earning trust, etc.

It's incredibly difficult to bootstrap this. And I think some of the best efforts found that they eventually had to shift their focus towards enterprise and more traditional forms of software consultancy because the dream service is just a bit too hard.

Hard but exciting!

 

I wanted to create something similar to this with on demand help and I definitely agree with your comment.

I created a scrappy mvp called fixmy.dev just to get something out there but quickly realised that there's a ton of issues to overcome:

  • Having the right kind of help on demand when it's needed
  • Creating awareness of the product, I had no idea pull request.com existed and would definitely have used this by now if I would have known about it
  • As you mentioned pricing is also an issue, if a Dev has a bug that they cannot fix it's not always obvious what the solution is. I've thought about this with code mentor, what if I request help and after an hour the issue I had isn't resolved because it's not possible to fix within an hour?
 

Very cool! Out of curiosity: what kind of help have you seen folks requesting during your beta? And how did you determine which experts you needed in order to seed the “marketplace”?

The site itself has only been live for just over a week so I haven't had anyone request help (yet) unfortunately. This is my first attempt at building something as a service as opposed to having a client and charging to build them something so I need to work on my marketing and promotion skills!

I think my next step is going to be to try and focus in on specific problem areas such as build systems failing to answer e.g "Webpack won't compile..." and so on

Sounds good! I’ll definitely keep an eye on the service and would be happy to help re-tweet/etc. anything if you do some social promotions 👍 (I’m @lostintangent on Twitter as well)

 

I haven't, but now that I have read this I might. I am in a bootcamp right now, so I have a mentor, but I will be looking for help once the bootcamp is done!

 

Thanks! Out of curiosity: once you’re done with the boot camp, do you think you’d be interested in another long-term mentor? Or would you simply want to get help as-needed from someone with expertise? I just ask since some of these services are more oriented towards the later, and I’m curious how relevant they are for different folks needs.

 

It depends. (Hopefully!!) I will get a job after my bootcamp. If there is mentorship through the company, then no I wouldnt seek a long term mentor. If I feel like I am not getting enough feedback at work, then yes a long term mentor would be great. I see myself looking for more as needed help with personal projects.

 

I have not! BUT I have toyed with the idea of signing up as a mentor. I mentor IRL and I was curious what online mentoring would be like.

 

Which services did you consider signing up for? And out of curiosity: what’s stopped you from signing up? 😁

 

CodeMentor! And I stopped myself because I've just started a new role and I'm not sure how much time I'll have available.

 

I haven't used them in the past but have definitely been thinking about it recently. I would absolutely pay for services like this.

 

Thanks! What kind of things would you expect to use it for? Have you had any situations in the past where it would have been helpful to have on-demand expert help? I’d love to hear any/all details about how you might envision this kind of service being useful 😁

 

I'm a really junior developer and I think it's the sort of thing I would like to start looking towards as a way to get out of the online tutorial loop. I want to be able to dive in to technologies and start building and but also still know that I'm building well and to a high quality so it would be great to periodically run my code past experts.

 

Posting a take from the co-fonder of Sixty on the challenges of building an on-demand expert assistance platform: twitter.com/_davidhead/status/1137...

Also, here’s a tweet from someone that used an on-demand help service for peer code reviews: twitter.com/hashim_warren/status/1...

Here’s a tweet of someone using an expert help service to compliment tutorials while learning how to program: twitter.com/casjam/status/11206818...

 

Posting a comment from Reddit that outlines someone’s experience getting help when learning Swift: reddit.com/r/iOSProgramming/commen...

Also, here’s a tweet about someone’s attempt to look for ad-how help with an advanced topic: twitter.com/faraz_r_khan/status/11...

 

Well, the problem with such services is the synchronous part.

If it's sync, then I don't see the real benefit.

Why, cuz there is Team Viewer which does exactly the same thing (and very reliable connection + quality).

If it's async, then maybe it's a thing.

 

Many of these service use screensharing tech to actually collaborate. The key point about them is the “marketplace” of experts that can be matched with you on-demand so that you can get help whenever you need it.

It sounds like you’re speaking more to the value of Live Share then to on-demand expert help? That wasn’t the focus of this post, but you can see an article that I wrote here which talks about the potential benefits.

 

I've always pondered this type of stuff to get good enough to get into the "tech-elite" areas of the country. Have been strongly considering the whole mentor/mentee thing.

 

What’s your thoughts on a paid service for on-demand mentoring (like CodeMentor)? Would that be helpful? Or have you been considering a long-term mentor relationship from a dev community?

 

I'm not really sure what to think on it yet to be honest. I've just started "putting myself out there", so to speak. Like, I literally spent 2-3 years self-teaching in isolation and chugging along at work, where most of my cohort doesn't code at all. It's only until recently where we had some new hires from the PNW that were like "Hey, you should do X, Y, Z!"

TL;DR I've basically been a social hermit and had no clue this was a thing

 

Posting a comment from HackerNews that mentions some use cases that people have used CodeMentor for, from the perspective of a mentor: news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19586892.