Sunday, September 13, 2015

HackHands Review

Recently, there seems to be several companies appear that are offering developer help and mentoring services.  I've been wanting a service like this for a long time since I've never had the opportunity to work with a mentor or even work with a more senior developer at any of my previous jobs.  This is a great idea and I wanted to fully support any company that would offer a service like this.  Since there aren't many reviews out there, I decided to try a few companies to see who I liked the best.  I started with HackHands since they were bought by PluralSight, another company I use for training videos.

Initial Sign Up  

Once you sign up, you can purchase credits that can be used to purchase time with an Expert.  Their dashboard is very simple and it seems you only have one way to interact with their Experts.  You put in a request with a description and the category (language) along with some tags.  You can then choose the maximum rate you are willing to pay.  Since you pay by the minute, you can choose anywhere from $1/minute to $5/minute.  They notify their experts that accept $1/minute and if no one responds, they move up the scale until they hit your max rate.  You have no way of searching for Experts or choosing a specific Expert unless you have worked with them in the past.  

They offer a 'Test' setup of your environment with the screen/video sharing software so you will know it works before scheduling a meeting.  This is supposed to make sure there are no technical difficulties once you start the meeting since you are paying by the minute and as soon as you connect, you are billed according to the timer.  I went through the process and everything seemed to be working fine.  The audio and video on the test were very high quality and I installed all the appropriate plugins.  Also, if you cancel within 5 minutes, you do not get charged.


My first experience with HackHands was mixed.  I am new to EF and Async programming and I had a simple problem with some code and I needed some clarification on how to use Async/Await.  I put in a request describing the problem and I was taken to a 'Wait' screen while they sent the request out.  While you are waiting, you can play a game or they have some sort of Desktop notification application you can install.  The screen said it might take up to 15 minutes to find the Expert.  They found someone for me in about 10 minutes and the session timer began.

Once the session began we started having some technical issues with audio.  I think it may have been with him having a laptop microphone and a headset microphone, but I'm not sure.
Our session was 13 minutes at $1/minute.  I would say a good 6 minutes of this time was spent trying to hear/understand each other and get the screen sharing done correctly.  We never got the audio issues completely fixed, but it was good enough to hear if I closed the door, listened carefully and asked him to speak up.

Once we got going, he was able to see what I was doing wrong in my code and helped me fix it immediately.  Then he gave me some background into async/await, but because of the audio issues I only got about half of what he said.  Over all, I was impressed with the Expert, but not happy about the connection issues.  Seeing that we had those issues, it would have been nice if he had 'Paused' the timer while we were figuring out the audio/connection issues.

After finishing the session, they asked me for a review.  I mentioned the technical problems, but their response was I should have stopped the session before the 5 minute mark so I wouldn't get charged.  I did not do this because by the time we got to 5 minutes, the problem was almost resolved.  I think this was poor customer service, but to be fair I was not using my own money.  I had received some free credits by signing up during one of their email marketing campaigns.


I was pleased with the knowledge of the Expert, but technical problems and mediocre customer service made this a mixed experience.  Also, I don't like that you have no ability to pick/choose experts or even review them prior to the match up.  They could have great Experts available, but you may never get to talk to them because all their low level 'experts' keep accepting your request before your bid gets high enough for a real 'Expert' to accept it.  Also, their service seems to be focused on one-time, by the minute interactions.  I'd like for them to have an hourly rate where YOU could choose the Expert and not worry about the clock ticking away.