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I want a job as a web developper for the Gov't

High pay, minimal work ethic, sloppy code, what's not to love?

11:33 pm on Nov 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Wouldn't it be nice? Your boss comes to you for an update to the site, and you can look at him and *tsk-tsk* the request...

Where's your form request 3298457bsdf-7 "Request for spelling correction"?

You get to ignore every known coding convention.

The W3C is something you might have heard about, once, in reference to something called "The Private Sector".... Ewwww

You get to spend your spare time coming up with abstract new ways to confuse your end users. Designing clever little navigation mazes that, no matter what choices you make, all lead to dead ends.

You feel safe in the fact that no matter what goes wrong, you can blame another department.

"Accessibility" is something for building designers, not web designers.

Ahh, oh for the glorious life of a government web developer.

11:41 pm on Nov 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I am, a govt worker, though not tech.

Everything is done by committee, except promotions, which are largely based on favoritism and not merit.

Was once on a committee working on an internal WAN browser app. The programmers (using Java) could not figure out how to keep the browser's back button from breaking their code.

I provided some code that would fix the problem. A week later I was off the committee :o


12:01 am on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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a committee working on an internal WAN browser app

It is thus the world over. I am in Ireland (I assume you are in the US) and in the past I have done some outsourced work for government agencies, and it's just painful. I mostly turn it down now.

A friend of mine who still regularly takes on some such work says he prices them up as he would a regular project then trebles it to allow for the enevitable hassles and delays. But there is no money that will pay me to work with commitees, who seem to need half a dozen meetings and numberous internal memos to try to reach concensus on the precise placement of a comma.

The latest request for a quote on such a project that I got came as an attachement to a email that was completely blank apart from a veritable novel appended to the 'end' (of nothing) telling me about how secure and beautifully virus checked the email was - they had not even the manners to write a brief greeting, a sentence or two and a signature.

The attachment contained an outline of a project which was so incredibly poorly thought out and so unworkable that it was obviously drafted by a commitee and the only useful response I could possibly have made was to suggest that they scrap it and start over.

But I just didn't bother and politely declined to quote, while pausing briefly to send sympathetic vibes to the poor unfortunates who end up taking it on.

[edited by: abbeyvet at 12:05 am (utc) on Nov. 15, 2006]

12:02 am on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Worked as a contractor for the U.S. military for about 3 years. I have similar experiences. (After all, the military is just another unit of government, except that the workers carry guns. :) )

We were a small enough to not have a lot of committees, but we sure had a lot of meetings. Projects would sit around going nowhere for months while the specs went up and down the chain of command with changes and questions and requests for changes. Meanwhile, we sat around surfing the Net waiting for the go ahead to start the work.

Oh, and I was overseas at the time, so my paycheck was tax free. ;)

4:53 am on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I hope no government tech types took offense to that. I had just spent a byzantine couple of hours trying to track down (wait for it....)

The primary contact number for a department I needed a tax receipt from.

The phone # was nowhere in the phone book, or various online directories. Calling our government's infamous "RightLine" merely lead to frustrating conversations with people who had no clue whatever.

I ended up breaking down and decided to try navigating through various government websites to find:

A) The department I needed to contact (1/2 hour online, mostly successful thanks to Google).

and once I was on that department's section of the website

B) Their contact phone number. (nearly two hours of toodling through their web presence).

For a while, it seemed no matter what link I tried, it lead me off to a different department. Eventually, I had a brainstorm. I decided to go to the section of their site where a link proclaimed "Download PDF Tax forms" - thinking that the forms might have a relevant phone number.

They didn't. Well, I don't know if the forms do have a phone # on them or not. Because when I went to that section, and randomly picked a form to download, it promptly took me to a page that said...

"These forms are not currently available online. Please contact (government dept) at (1800number) to request forms by mail."

As far as I could tell, it was the only place on their entire website where they had a contact #.

8:14 pm on Nov 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Everything is done by committee, except promotions, which are largely based on favoritism and not merit.- Yep I contract to local councils and Quango like organisations, I can tell you none of them have the slightest idea on how to run a business, or look at something objectivly.

The number of times Ive had to step in and help a senior manager draw up budgets etc is sickening.

I avoid council work unless im desperate.

2:03 pm on Nov 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I've only done a little government work, but I can relate. My worst experience in Dev ever was a large project for a University, an institution that rivals Governments in their enthusiasm for red tape. Everything by committee, and that committee is stuffed with intellectuals who are used to being right about everything.

I'd like to be employed by the government, but I'd hate to work for them. :)

6:29 pm on Nov 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The 'trick' to doing government IT work is to smile, bid low, get the contract, precisely produce the first milestone, then point out all the 'cost plus' contract changes required to actually meet the purpose of the next milestone. Repeat.

Never, ever, point out more than one 'expensive difficulty' at a time; never, ever, point out any problem until the contract is signed and the first milestone is reached. You must be well inside the bank to grab the loot. And with a little bit of luck the cost over-runs will generate a massive payout of your contract due to program termination.

Always record (after the fact is fine) conversations and file a memo of 'understanding' of each conversation with all participants the same day. CYA is the first rule of government work.

I am unable to work this way (my vomit level and shame thresholds being too low) but I know several people (and major corporations) who live very well off the ignorance and incompetence of bureaucrats.

It pleases me to see my tax dollar so well (ab)used.

2:27 pm on Nov 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

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My friend was in charge of a regional department in a Government organisation, and was handed the extra duty of compiling material for a new website about the organisation - this is a couple of years ago, and their first website. His boss didn't use a computer, and hadn't been online. When someone mentioned it might be worth looking at similar organisation's websites for ideas etc, his Boss asked him to print them off and mail them to him.
The website-to-be was constantly having content re-written since they took so long writing and correcting it during development that the content would go out of date. After 18 months the site was still nowhere close to being launched, the Boss decided to start over...
That's when my friend left to do something better with his life:)