back to article Please work for nothing, Mr Dabbs. What can you lose?

“So,” murmured the blonde in the now-deserted restaurant late the other evening as she lazily traced the rim of her wineglass with her middle finger before looking up to fix her eyes on mine, “what excites you?” No, I’m not remembering this accurately. It wasn’t a wineglass but a cup of coffee and she was stirring it furiously …


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  1. James Hughes 1

    Good read!

    Agreed with everything you said.

    1. Cliff

      Re: Good read!

      We put the 'free' in 'freelance'!

      But this is exactly why I avoid that whole industry geared around startups, networking, wannabes, training, etc.

    2. WylieCoyoteUK

      Re: Good read!

      I would comment on this, but I wouldn't want you to think that I write for nothing.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What excites me?

      Asset systems :|

    2. wowfood

      Re: What excites me?

      Whips and chains

      I mean... data rich graphs?

      ( both of which I consider forms of masochism. Unless you're the one presenting the data rich graph in which case you're a sadist)

    3. Larhten

      Re: What excites me?


      1. Irongut Silver badge

        Re: What excites me? ( Larhten)

        +1 mate, payday it is.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What excites me?

        People telling me what excites them....

        Oh yes!

        Keep it coming...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What excites me?

      Actually, to be more accurate it's when the invoice gets PAID.

      1. Grikath

        Re: What excites me?

        "Actually, to be more accurate it's when the invoice gets PAID."

        That's not excitement, that's a bloody orgasm. A big O if it's actually on time ...

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What excites me?

      Lesbians and butter!

      1. John Tserkezis

        Re: What excites me?

        "Lesbians and butter!"

        We love lesbians! We love lesbians! We love lesbians!

        Oops, sorry, wrong show.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What excites me?

        Lesbians and butter!

        Lesbians eating bacon butties!! With a nice cup of tea!!!

  3. Milen

    Lack of quality?

    What lack of quality? This is (sadly perhaps) the most entertaining reading I do all week at work. I've been reloading the main page every few minutes for the last few hours waiting patiently for your column to appear.

    Then again the rest of my weekly reading is either math or starts with something like "Company X's profits miss analysts' estimates...". Btw I loved your rant on that, but I guess it won't be news if the analysts's estimates are incorrect.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    But it's not just IT/Jounalism.

    As an ( redundant/retired /ex) educational expert there is no shortage of people who seek my expert advice, hang on my every word even. As long as they don't have to pay for me. But if it costs money then they'll happily continue with what they were already doing, even though it isn't working. I should also add that when I recommnend some inexpensive software that will help the kids they won't authorise the time for a staff member to go away and learn how to use it, either.

    Maybe it's the " freetard" generation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Absolutely

      I am reminded of a quote I read a while ago.

      CFO: What happens if we pay to train out employees, and then they get a job somewhere else?

      CEO: What happens if we don't train them and they stay?

      Sadly schools are run based on finances. Why pay extra to train a teacher / staff member when they might end up going elsewhere. I'm also reminded of a friend of mine who works for schools indirectly, installing / troubleshooting hardware etc. School X buys a load of new (fairly nice) printers. A few weeks later they want them all replaced because "They make a lot of noise when you first turn them on"

      *flush* bye bye money o/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Absolutely

        That would have been an unusually percipient CEO. (Personally I would have expected the COO to come up with that because, obviously, he or she has real jobs that need to be done by people who can actually do them.)

        Schools also think that somehow they can get technicians who know their jobs for half the going rate of a teacher.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Absolutely and Schools

          Yes schools with the highly trained teachers who know nothing about the safety of the chemicals in their store and over rule the lab technician. Mind you the teachers have mastered the alphabet, but neither health and safety nor the period table. So acids and alkalis both begin with A so can sit together. Just wait for them to have a party, anyone for ammonia with any choice of partner?

          'Trace the item' can become fun with e.g. copper oxide which goes as copper with co but not with cupric or cuprous versions which begin with cu.

          It does get worse, iron begins with i but ferric and ferrous begin with f, rust of course begins with r.

          Still who needs to bother with such things as the period table and health and safety. This is a school not real life. - Oh and sodium, potassium and lithium for example, cannot be stored in secure protected areas as the key is missing.

          What is a fire risk?

          1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

            Re: Absolutely and Schools

            Does anyone still use the -ic and -ous suffixes? I thought it was all Fe(II) and Fe(III) these days (hell, even 30 years ago when I did Chemistry O-level).

          2. J P

            Re: Absolutely and Schools

            Couldn't you just file them all under C for Chemicals? Or save time, & stick them all in one jar labelled (briefly) "compound"?

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: Absolutely and Schools

              Shirley, all in one jar labelled, 'reaction', screw the lid on and run.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Absolutely and Schools

              Never worked in science depts. But I quickly started to file all my teaching admin under S (for "stuff").

              1. ShortLegs

                Re: Absolutely and Schools

                >Never worked in science depts. But I quickly started to file all my teaching admin under S (for "stuff").

                All my admin stuff is under S too - for "shit", and its all filed in the B (for 'bin')

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Absolutely and Schools

              some wouldn't react, so it would have to be (briefly) a 'mixture of compounds'.

          3. Pete 2 Silver badge

            Re: Absolutely and Schools

            > Still who needs to bother with such things as the period table

            I think Tom Leher could help you out there. or if that's not trendy enough for today's yoof (the teachers, not the children) there's a new, graphic version - though I'm not sure if the entry for Silicon(e) was a deliberate mistake. Or did I just imagine it?


            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Absolutely and Schools

              I think Tom Leher could help you out there.

              He missed out unobtainium!

      2. John Tserkezis

        Re: Absolutely

        "CFO: What happens if we pay to train out employees, and then they get a job somewhere else?"

        "CEO: What happens if we don't train them and they stay?"

        Of all the places I've worked at bar one, the CEO has never said that.

        And that place went out of business anway.

    2. J 3

      Re: Absolutely

      It seems to be widespread, then. My graphic designer friends all rant about all the "for-exposure" work they get offered to perform. You know: "I don't have the budget right now, but if this business takes off hundreds, maybe thousands of people will see your work. All you need is to design this logo/flier/website/whatever for me". Amazingly enough, some designers must still believe that is a good deal.

  5. Tromos

    Returning a favour would be nice

    I've only been asked to do the speaking bit just the once, but at least I was expensively wined and dined in return. The thing that gets me is that, as a known 'techie', I am asked if I can just take a quick look at someone's laptop/tablet/phone/TV/satnav/microwave and even, on one occasion, a doorbell. Do I ever get an offer of some gardening or a couple of shirts ironed in exchange? To make matters worse, you find yourself being responsible for a lifetime warranty as soon as you do the slightest thing. Sort out someone's email problems on their phone and who's in trouble if the battery dies a week later?

    Just say 'no'.

    1. GreyWolf

      Re: Returning a favour would be nice

      I work for marmalade. I live in a village full of retired people, some of whom make killer marmalade. I ALWAYS respond to those people's requests for assistance. I also work for whisky - the composting group wanted a website, and gave me a bottle of Old Pulteney (if you haven't tried it, you've missed something special). The other guy, who can't keep his email working for more than 2 weeks at a time, takes me for days out on his yacht.

      Works for me.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Returning a favour would be nice

        Let's hope that HMRC are not reading this post.

        The view 'barter' transactions with a dim view. all that lovely Tax your are avoiding... Hard working Families will be hating you with every bit of food they have to get from a food bank.

        how does building web sites in chokey sound?

        Yes, there is an election looming.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Returning a favour would be nice re: HMRC

          As far as I am aware, HMRC looked at trying to count barter as an income, but decided that the problems of attempting to set a notional value on something like the type of barter described here was inefficient and subject to challenge, and would probably cost much more than the money that would be recovered.

          They looked at trying to make the people associated in the barter assign the value, but as there were no checks, there was nothing to force people to even declare it. They did decide that if there was a 'scale of barter value' in an organised barter scheme, they might treat that as a currency, and attempt to count that as income, but even that would have been difficult.

          So although they disapprove, and are prepared to say as much to the country as a whole, there is realistically nothing that they can do about it. (This happens more than you might think. My company had an expenses compliance check from HMRC once where a particular practice that I was following over the payment of daily subsistence expenses while I was working away from home was questioned. They said "We don't really like the way that you're assigning a per-diem for your expenses. We would prefer that you kept receipts". I replied, "The per-diem I pay is below your allowed value for daily expenses, and I see nothing in the regulations that state that I have to account separately for legitimate expenses that fall into the category for the per-diem, so what would you do about it". "Nothing", they said, "but we don't like it". My company passed the check with no other issues, and was commended on the records that were kept. This was some time ago, so things may have changed).

          Large scale commercial barter may be investigated, but marmalade for fixing a computer is just not worth them bothering.

        2. Frankee Llonnygog

          Re: HMRC view 'barter' transactions with a dim view

          The most senior at HMRC are not averse to bartering over the odd billion of corporation tax

        3. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: Returning a favour would be nice

          Barter transactions are OK. You assign a monetary value to the jar of marmalade and the computer repair, and the marmalade maker shows that amount as the sale of marmalade and cost of fixing computer (if the computer is used in the marmalade making business), and the computer repairer shows that amount as sales of computer repairing services, and purchase of marmalade (if the marmalade is used in the computer repairing business). If either of the expenses are not business expenses, then they are shown as drawings just like if you had received the cash and used it for personal living expenses.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Returning a favour would be nice

        Oh. When I read the first four words, I wonder who the hell that was. Then I got to the part about whisky. At which point I started over, and it made much more sense.

        I, too, work for whisky, whiskey, beer, gin, scotch, bourbon, wine, rum, food and, of course, money if all you have is tequilla or goldschlager.

      3. TitterYeNot

        Re: Returning a favour would be nice

        "I work for marmalade. I live in a village full of retired people, some of whom make killer marmalade."

        You weren't perchance discovered at Paddington Station, with a sign round your neck saying 'Please look after this bear' were you?

        1. Cliff

          Re: Returning a favour would be nice

          "No good deed goes unpunished"

          Anyone who's ever helped someone with any even vaguely technical issue has felt the rough edge of that one... These days I play dumb, and bite my tongue.

      4. Charles Manning

        Re: Returning a favour would be nice

        I've found the smae. Retired and older people seem to value service and are intent on repaying you in plates of scones, a leg of lamb or a bunch of carrots.

        It's the "internet is free" generation that seem to expect any tech stuff to be done for free and have pretty much no useful services with which to repay you.

        Still, It you were charging what commercial support organisations do, you'd be able to buy that bottle of whiskey (and maybe the yacht).

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Returning a favour would be nice

      To make matters worse, you find yourself being responsible for a lifetime warranty as soon as you do the slightest thing

      I had someone who invariably notified me of problems only well after they had already escalated past "unworkable" instead of "hey, it's getting sluggish". No spyware or viruses, just disk full errors ("I can't save any document I write"), keeping every frigging mail since day 1, and all in their inbox, irritatingly stupid stuff like that. Which were generally easy but time-consuming to fix.

      Eventually I stopped caring, and started ignoring their mail.

    3. Andrew Moore

      Re: Returning a favour would be nice

      I tell people that working on their phone, PC, tablet or whatever is beneath me- "It's rather like asking a Michelin starred chef to fry an egg for you"

      1. IglooDude

        Re: Returning a favour would be nice

        Yeah, I've used "asking a Ford automotive design engineer to change your oil" in the same vein.

      2. John Tserkezis

        Re: Returning a favour would be nice

        I tell people that working on their phone, PC, tablet or whatever is beneath me- "It's rather like asking a Michelin starred chef to fry an egg for you"

        It's difficult to say that without looking like a righteous know-it-all knob.

        I used to say I only worked on "corporate grade systems", I don't know anything about domestic equipment.

        It doesn't work either. Just because you're in IT now, it obviously means you can work on a $10 transistor radio as well. "Beyond economical repair" doesn't come into the equasion, because they're expecting it for free.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: John Tserkezis

          "Beyond economical repair"

          I got asked to fix a phone by a customer. I did internet and pc trouble shooting for locals as a little job, nothing professional (offered or advertised, just a helping hand).

          The phone was bought broken for £2.50 from a car boot. I really did not know what to say... I would have charged them £15 just to turn up if it was not for the fact I'd not charge them to say "no" at the door then walk back home.

    4. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: Returning a favour would be nice

      I wrote about this last year. You may enjoy...

    5. ginger_tosser

      Re: Returning a favour would be nice

      I now have a stack of printouts of on my desk to ward off any advances to what seems to have become an unofficial IT helpdesk.

      1. Annihilator Silver badge

        Re: Returning a favour would be nice

        "I now have a stack of printouts of on my desk to ward off any advances to what seems to have become an unofficial IT helpdesk."

        Stop ruining the illusion! Years I've spent with that technique, fooling everyone in sight.

        Rummaging through the registry is good for some added showmanship too.

    6. Bogbody

      Re: Returning a favour would be nice


      Quite a few years ago I repaired a kettle for a neighbor - this involved buying and fitting a new element.

      They refused to pay for it because it was done as a "favor" --------- humph!

      From that day on I started to charge for repairs. The phone calls that started "Can you just,,,, " petered out. The requests from family/friends to do us a favor and fix xxxxxx stopped when I started saying "OK, the part costs £XX and It will cost £XX to do it...........

      "If you do owt for nowt - do it for thy seen"

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Returning a favour would be nice

      Sometimes it pays off though. Even if they never notice, you do know you did the right thing.

      Otherwise you do end up wined and dined. There is no such thing as a "free lunch" unless your the one giving out the plates. :)

    8. Sander van der Wal

      Re: Returning a favour would be nice

      As I understand it the techies managing other people's home computer systems always put Linux on those systems.

      Isn't that enough of an revenge?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is another reason startups fail

    Even if the proposition is really good, during the traditional investment negotiation process (aka begging someone to make THEM rich), Vulture Capitalists first of all insist you prove to them you don't need the money (low risk), and then take as much as they can of the company for as little as they can get away with. Oh, and you, the person who came up with the idea that is going to make them all that lovely dosh, are expected to work at a salary that will force you to occasionally borrow of your cleaner to pay the rent.

  7. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Always the highlight of the week. I applaud your cynicism, sarcasm and mercenary attitude(*).

    I'll add a bit of humour from Mr. Adams.

    (*)Any chance of a kickback?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "You read it for nothing AND get paid to do so AND you want to get paid a second time to celebrate your poor judgement?"

    That's a bit harsh. Even though we salarymen are indeed being paid, (a) we aren't being paid by you, (b) even when being paid by a third party, time spent reading still has an opportunity cost to us, and (c) there's a good chance we were duped into it by a juicy headline (so it's YOUR fault).

    So if you were to let us down with a rather dull article (admittedly you've done yourself proud this week), then the cost that I'd need to be compensated for is the entertainment, education or work-related utility that I could have found reading other free to web content, and the disappointment that I'd suffered, naturally expecting good stuff from you. Admittedly that's not going to be a very high value, but where this leads me is the important conclusion that the Holy Grail of micro-payments for web content needs to be a two way transaction platform, that facilitates not just small payments and small refunds, but also small compensation.

    Would you continue to write without indemnity insurance under this sort of payment structure? A really top notch article should bring in a lot more than the occaisonal duffer costs you, and you'd end up earning more than the peanuts the Reg are chucking you? And the Reg could stop having to prostrate itself to advertisers, and just take a small share of your income stream.

    1. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: Harsh!

      Peanuts? El Reg pays me handsomely!

    2. Grikath

      Re: Harsh!

      Ah but dear Ledswinger... Is reading "boring clickbait" in Company Time not a waste of Company Resources? In the same vein you wish to be compensated for your time, the company you work for may well wish compensation for the time they pay you for you just wasted.

      Oh wait, all you have to do is just pretend to breathe..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Harsh!

        " Is reading "boring clickbait" in Company Time not a waste of Company Resources?"

        No. It's valuable "research and market awareness". Well that's my claim anyway.

        "the company you work for may well wish compensation for the time they pay you for you just wasted"

        That's possible. But that would be a contractual dispute between me and them, and nothing to do with whether AD owes me money for wasting my time with a duff article. In terms of legal disputes, AD might have a case against you for insinuating that his esteemed output is in fact "boring clickbait".

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Harsh!

          @Ledswinger if you are advocating that laws be drafted and enforced* under which you could seek financial recompense for time spent reading an article that under no sane interpretation were you forced to read then please, for the good of our entire species die quickly and without issue. I fear such arrogantly entitled idiocy may not only contaminate the gene pool directly through propagation of your lineage, but by proximity, in a manner similar to DNA-destroying high-energy photons.

          Espousing a belief in remuneration for time wasted voluntarily - even if done only semi seriously - is, in my opinion, "high energy stupidity" of such overwhelming composition that it should be added to the Geneva convention with all possible haste.

          *Or that extant laws be mangled such that they be turned to such a vile perversion of social justice.

    3. Denarius Silver badge

      Re: Harsh!

      @Led. You're management ? subtle sarcasm :-)

  9. ukgnome

    F' 'em Dabbsy

    I don't work for free, I would even charge my Mum for IT assistance.....granted it's usually a cup of coffee and a nice crisp tenner.

  10. Eradicate all BB entrants

    I could not agree more .....

    ..... with the whole message. When people at work ask me if I can fix their personal devices I say sure. Just as they are about to crack the 'got something for free' smile I then mention that I charge £300 half day, £500 full day. I then mention that if they start to tell me the nature of the problem that will invoke the half day rate. Most of them walk away at that point, yet some choose to argue that I should do it for free.

    Do plumbers and electricians get this too? (I don't mean from family and close friends, more acquaintances or co-workers)

    1. Irongut Silver badge

      Re: I could not agree more .....

      Only £300 a half day? I have a £150 call out charge and then its £300 per hour!

      (unless it's someone who I'm happy to help for free, not many of those)

    2. The First Dave

      Re: I could not agree more .....

      "Do plumbers and electricians get this too?"

      Actually, yes, they do.

      And people who work for BT repeatedly get asked to fix people's phone/broadband, even after being repeatedly told that I "don't do phones".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I could not agree more .....

        Also works for us tax advisers. And no, I don't understand tax codes; my specialism is international financing structures. Maybe if you were looking to invest £30m into a Chinese joint venture I could help...

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: I could not agree more .....

          > invest £30m into a Chinese joint venture

          I do not think it is a good time to da that shortly before a bubble burst, innit?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I could not agree more .....

            "I do not think it is a good time to da that shortly before a bubble burst, innit?"

            Fastest appreciation is always before the bubble bursts, fill your boots, streets of Shanghai are paved with gold, I tell you.

            But as an adviser, what does our friend care if somebody invests £30m in Mythical Dragon Enterprises ten minutes before they go bust? As long as the Western investor is still solvent he can claim his fees.

  11. billat29


    and then there are those "networking events". Full of people who haven't a job, looking desperately for someone who might give them a job but the only people in the room actually with a job are those "facilitating", of course, or those bringing the tea and coffee

    1. Cliff

      Re: Networking

      That's exactly what they are - you rub shoulders with exactly the wrong set of people. Same with most film festivals, etc. Nobody with any money or hiring ability goes to these things looking for unemployed talent with poorly formed hand-wavey big ideas.

      1. Ted Treen

        Re: Networking @Cliff

        Too true.

        In a goldrush, the main people who get rich are the ones selling shovels...

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Networking @Cliff

          And politicians selling shovel-ready projects.

    2. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: Networking

      I picked up at the only networking event I ever went to*. It turned out we were the only ones with actual jobs. The other thirty of so people were all "small business owners" or creatives (read got made redundant last year and thought they were going to get in IT servicing and consulting or did a Pagemaker course and thought they were going to get rich doing web pages). She ran a recruiting agency and I assume gravitated to me 'cause I was the only one not clearly desperate for paid work and owned a suit that fit. Scary stuff.

      * Actually it took a further two weeks of coffee and dinners and generally behaving like a grown up with a life and prospects, but why let the facts get in the way of a good story.

  12. MonkeyFeet

    Great article

    Very entertaining, I wouldn't have paid for it mind you.

  13. Ihre versteckte Person

    Shared Pain

    Mr Dabbs,

    An excellent piece, really it is. Keep up the good (paid) work ...

    I have taken to professing extreme ignorance and a worryingly narrow field of expertise when pressed to "do freebies". Even that doesn't scare all of them off ... I fear it is time simply to switch fields.

    Bah. Whisky.

    AC - it is very much the "Freetard Generation"

  14. IglooDude

    I've actually been overjoyed with the rollout of Windows 8. Because it was nasty Vista-ish crap in the first place, I didn't see any reason to try to adopt it. And having hardly touched it, anyone coming to me for help about it gets what I have always replied regarding Apple questions: "Sorry, I have no experience with that one, if you've used it for a day you're ahead of me, but good luck and let me know how it goes."

    And people smart enough to stay on Win7 or are running Linux themselves don't ask me for free support anyway, so I'm probably good at least until Microsoft comes out with Windows 9.

    1. wowfood

      Exactly what I've done. My parents for whom I have been tech support since "insert when we got our first PC here" now they've gone to windows 8, any issues they have I just wash my hands of.

      "I'd help if I could, but I don't even know how to get the start menu to appear, you'd probably have a better chance of fixing it yourself than I would"

      Following which I give them the flow chart from xkcd for tech support.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A friend has decided to spare me the trouble of maintaining her IT equipment. So she has declined my offer of a selected W7 second-hand laptop with MS Office - prepared for when she finally heeded the message about XP end of support.

      Yesterday she rang to inform me that she had been to Tottenham Court Road and had bought the "perfect" replacement - a notebook running W8. This - she tells me - will last her the rest of her life - and long past the EOL of W7 in about 2020.

      The reviews say that the screen is dim, the battery charge poor, and the battery is not removable. I tried to persuade her to make a system back-up as a priority. She assures me I am the only person she knows who does that - because I am such a pessimistic person - and anyway the notebook doesn't need a DVD writer.

      I told her I know nothing about W8 except for what I have read in El Reg - and for her to expect some very long downloads to update the supplied basic W8 release. Her parting shot - "I'll no doubt get back to you".

      If I had a cat I would probably have kicked it.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've retired

    And was able to partly because I don't work for nothing except for genuine charity cases. If you do work for nothing, people value your work based on what it costs them.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    one service deserves another

    so if you are willing to clean my house while I sort out your pc you are welcome. Other services are also accepted, this makes my audience mostly from the other gender.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good article, made me laugh too

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is why so many "conferences" are stuffed with vendors - first because they pay to be there and second because the "experts" who people really want to hear are expected to work for free.

    If you are paying for a conference this is especially galling.

    I agree; I've spoken at too many conferences where the only person not getting paid was me. Bottom line, if I'm speaking at a commercial event then I expect to get paid.

    Now we just need all the other "expert" speakers to do the same......

  19. Pete 2 Silver badge

    The saying or the doing

    > Some would suggest that I earn my money disreputably and don’t really deserve to receive any.

    The difficulty with paying people to write is that so little of it contains any actionable, credible, information. And so little of the tiny minority that is actionable is worth anything..

    Anyone can write "do this and you'll earn $1m" - but is the value in the information: "do this ..." or in the actual doing?

    For example: a boxing promoter can suggest that Wladimir Klitschko could make millions by fighting Alex Leapai (he did, he won). But merely suggesting the match takes no effort - even though the money-making opportunity was a certainty. And so it is with most writing. Merely suggesting a course of action is a trivial enterprise (even if you had to spend time researching it, writing it and doing your own editing and publishing) and, importantly contains no investment or risk for the writer. It's the effort: the activity and the risk of failure that deserves reward, not the writing or suggestion.

    After all, if writers were able to identify all these ways of turning ideas into actions - wouldn't they be too busy doing them, themselves rather than just sitting there writing about it?

    Now if you were to consider yourself an entertainer, and that the product of your efforts were supposed to engage the audience, rather than direct them to ways of improvement or profit, THEN there would be a way to place a value on the content. But it would be content for its own sake, not as a means to some other end.

    1. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: The saying or the doing

      I bet you're a romantic sweet-talker in the bedroom.

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Re: The saying or the doing

        Is that the observation about romantic drama writers: those who feel the need to write about it aren't doing it?

        > I bet you're a romantic sweet-talker in the bedroom.

        You'll never find out.

    2. noominy.noom

      Re: The saying or the doing

      :The saying or the doing

      I think I agree with your point, though I don't think you made it well. Here's my take. I enjoy lots of writing, being a real bookophile I read lots. And pay for it. But all of it is either actionable or entertainment. For actionable it could be something like Tony Redmond's books on Exchange Server. For entertainment it could be an old Asimov SF or a Brook's fantasy novel. I also read and pay for newspapers (and online equivalents-yes I pay real money for a few of them.) But the type of writing referred to by you (Pete 2) is indeed rarely worth money. "Do this and make a lot of money!" is rarely a good read.

    3. Denarius Silver badge

      Re: The saying or the doing

      @Pete; so that's your problem to assess. Try a speed reading course so you scan a blurb in 10 seconds or less and decide. As for journos being paid, I would think that the background research required for an actionable item (you've just done a management efficiency course, haven't you ?) requires significant time to create a document that is worth reading. Sometimes that research is like any other job, background and experience. Still costs to acquire, so fair enough the key pounding classes get paid.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Try being a photographer - you have to actually spend money (15k min) in gear (not to mention all the IT gear to process the snaps) and then people ask you to photo (product/group/event) for free for exposure/publicity. Oh, and you have to pay the £5/£10 entrance fee as well. And turn up in a suit.

    Moved back to IT to make in a hour what I was lucky to get a day taking snaps.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Funnily enough there was a 'fantastic opportunity' being pushed for paintfest (or whatever they actually call it) at Norwich in the next few weeks. Get this for a deal

      £100 Photographer's entry (limited spaces available), for which you get to photograph models in body paint, subject to the following provisos

      - You may not use the images commercially

      - You may not agree to work commercially with any model present during/after the event (including on Social Media)

      - You will give priority to the event's selected/paid photographers

      + a bunch of other restrictions.

      Even taking the first one, who's going to drop £100 with absolutely no chance of a ROI. You can't even use the event to find prospective future models (though how they'd enforce that). Basically you get to pay £100 to use your camera for a day, and then either give the images away for free or keep them to yourself....

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My mistake

    I thought I was reading a piece by Will Self. Then I looked again and realized he looks healthier than that.

  22. Chris G Silver badge

    You're an expert! Can you just.......?

    It doesn't matter what you do, if you are good at it a friend/colleague/relative/wouldbe friend will ask you to help/advise/fix something for them for free or cheaply, usually they are the same people that won't get out of bed unless there is some wonga heading their way.

    Many years ago I and a mate were asked to teach a few members of our social crowd some karate and martials arts as we were both quite good at it, we found a space at a local sports club and charged only enough to cover the cost of the room: no one here will be surprised at the number of people who thought they could turn up and learn for nothing.

    In our favour was the fact we both owned razor sharp Katanas and could chop potatoes out of the air when thrown towards us.

    Few refused to pay and there was the prospect of chips for supper!

  23. Daedalus

    The answer is yes, and...

    ...this is what it will cost.

    Consultants are told that the answer to a client inquiry is always the above.

    Perhaps Mr. Dabbs should say "Yes, and every two minutes I will be running a video commercial for Millett's Milky Marvels. I will also have a crawl running along the bottom of the screen promoting online gambling."

    That way the talk will be as "free" as a typical web page.

    1. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: The answer is yes, and...

      Editors on computer magazines insist on screenshots to accompany software reviews without paying for them but at least they cover the wordage for captions. I did have one editor who refused to pay for the captions either, so I upset him by invoicing for the screenshots... on the basis that every picture "is worth a thousand words".

  24. MJA

    I always look forward to reading Something for the weekend although I would appreciate it if you started work earlier and published it in the morning. Currently it pops up around my lunch break, the only period between 9 and 5 that I'm not being paid! :)

    I did enjoy the article though. I was under the impression (based on David Brent in The Office being paid a tidy amount for his 'Simply the Best' speech) that conference speakers were getting paid silly amounts.

    Next time I go to one I'll try extra hard to keep my eyes open in the knowledge that the poor speaker may unable to afford lunch.

  25. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

    >> the poor speaker may unable to afford lunch

    I have met people who spoke for free at conferences and festivals in order to promote their books, and I have met people who wrote and printed books without any advance simply in order to promote their conference speaking engagements. Funny old world etc.

    1. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: >> the poor speaker may unable to afford lunch

      I've met people who speak at conferences to promote their books to. The fact that they ignore the set topic and talk about their book is a dead give away. Knowing they aren't being paid anyway makes me feel very slightly better about the waste of everyone's time.

      The strangest one I've seen was actually at a writers week event running number two in a panel of three on recent feminist literature*. It must happen all the time 'cause the other two panelists didn't even bat an eyelid at what was to us an obvious sales pitch.

      * It was followed by Neal Stephenson and I was early. I wish I'd had a low speed camera running on the audience to capture the way the white-shirt-and-short-hair feminists were replaced by leather jacket, heavy metal t-shirt and beard geeks.

  26. Richard 12 Silver badge

    You think it's bad in journalism?

    Try the performing arts. Too many productions expect most of the people to work for free.

    The worst case is the chorus.

    Everybody expects dancers to dance for free. You know, because dancing's only "fun" and not "real work". Never mind the gruelling hours, the risk of injury, and the years and decades of continuous training...

    Especially the promoters for big names who are raking in millions, because "exposure" is apparently enough to put food on the table.

    - For example, Kylie Minogue's production team decided they'd pay the dancers nothing because "exposure".

    - Don't blame Kylie, the big name knows nothing of the contracts and terms of work for the cast and crew. She is reported to be very upset at this!

    Then there's all the smaller productions where half the cast and crew are expected to work for free, either outright or effectively due to excessive hours and unpaid expenses, the others (including some pretty big events and tours) where invoices are never paid (and the few where the producer never intended to pay them either) etc...

    1. Peter Johnstone

      Re: You think it's bad in journalism?

      Same thing for unknown bands. It was funny how the going rate for a gig was immune to inflation for over a decade! But its worse now. Some venues are actually charging bands to play!

  27. theblackhand

    Re: "Besides, my kids start complaining after being without food for more than three days in a row."

    Point them to Mr Haines nosh challenge - you could easily get them up to a month....

    And I won't even charge you for that....

  28. regadpellagru

    Good article

    "Basically, just because online content is free doesn’t mean it costs nothing. Mercenary I may be, but when I want to be charitable, I do charity, not business. What I’m sick of is being asked to work for nothing by someone who isn’t. "

    Good point and very good article. Good laugh at the start with the blonde, BOFH quality I think ...

    Just wanted to say I'm in vacation this week, so do I earn something for reading ?

    Just kidding ...

    Keep it up, and get paid !

  29. Denarius Silver badge

    an extention of principal

    working for free ? Sounds like the last 4 big IT companies I worked for. Unlimited unpaid overtime with even TOIL abolished. Also like the amount of my time wasted by HR pimps calling just so the applicant count goes up to make it look like they did a search.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Everybody expects it.....

    Everybody expects IT "workers" to do everything for free! The worst are mechanics, builders and decorators. They will expect you to help them out with issues for free as if it is life or death that they cannot check their AOL email accounts, but when it comes to needing a hand replacing brake discs, building a brick bbq or putting a roll of wallpaper up, then it is £50 per hour before they even start the first of umpteen cups of tea! I have recently upset a lot of people in telling them as soon as I answer the phone "if you want IT support or help, then the clock starts now and it is £5 per minute of conversation". Amazing how they then change the subject and then try to squeeze it in as conversation is dwindling. Same on Skype. Innocent chats soon turn in to remote access requests because they have lost an icon off the desktop or little Johnny has changed their email account details. I get asked to write a lot outside of the IT industry, and it is expected to be done for free or for expenses. What expenses other than a couple of hours electricity, 3 or 4 cigarettes, same number of cups of coffee and a couple of hours internet/phone bill charge? None of those would cover what I have lost in time actually thinking up and writing the articles.

    Sod this, I am going fishing and the phone is being turned off so if they cannot retrieve an email from a customer wanting to pay them money, that's not my problem!

  31. Mystic Megabyte

    Luvvies, don't you just love 'em

    I was recording the soundtrack for a film at cheapo studio rates when I discovered that everybody else were on union rates. I let slip that I was also a union member and they had to pretend that I'd played the harmonica and gave me a bunch of cash. Somewhere out there my name is on the credits as a muso instead of sound engineer.

  32. David Black


    There are too few of them in the world... I can't make a money grabbing corporation smile but I can make my 83 year old neighbour who'd just lost all her pics of her great grandkids (win 8.1 remapped the pictures folder). No whisky, no marmalade, just the biggest smile ever.

    Life's too short,

  33. Sir Barry

    I read this on Saturday - unpaid, in my own time.

    My time was wasted and I want a refund for the 25 minutes of my life lost (15 minutes reading and 10 minutes writing this).

    1. Arachnoid

      Ten miutes...........

      You'll never make a living as an IT journalist at that rate

  34. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

    >> I read this on Saturday

    Fair enough, Sir Barry. Unfortunately, I am responding to your claim on a Saturday too. My hourly rate is higher than yours, so we've calculated that you now owe us £37.60.

    1. Sir Barry

      Re: >> I read this on Saturday


      How about a pint instead?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wholeheartedly agree

    I wholeheartedly agree, in addition one of my pet peeves (and I am sure many others in IT) is that everyone expects you to be able and willing to fix their stupid computer problems, for free. I only ever do that for a close friend or such, otherwise I name my hourly fee, part of it to be paid upfront.

    Same thing goes when people know you're good at fixing cars. As if they don't realise how much time and effort is involved....

  36. Ramazan

    "AND get paid to do so AND you want to get paid a second time to celebrate your poor judgement?"

    In fact, articles by mr.Dabbs, ms.Stob and probably by mr.Orlowsky are the only worth content on this site nowadays. Quality of other El Reg's content have fallen below the lowest ligger bottom IMNSHO.

  37. Ian Michael Gumby


    You speak at these conferences and shows as a way to establish credibility and to increase your brand.

    So while you're not being paid with cash, you are getting something of value from being at these conferences.

    If not more business, you can get higher rates.

    You have to pick and choose which conferences will garner you the most business and which ones will be a waste of time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: T.N.T.T.A.A.F.L

      You speak at these conferences and you get marked down as a loud-mouthed content-free low S/N ratio dronebag. Nothing else.

      There's no credibility here, and you should only talk about your 'brand' if you really want to be treated as a commodity rather than as the functioning complex human being you may well be.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: T.N.T.T.A.A.F.L

      Higher rates? Does that mean they promise you you get first crack at the chocolate biscuits next time?

  38. photobod


    People die from that.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Exposure

      or end up in prison

  39. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    The British Disease?

    I reckon it is the British Disease Syndrome kicking in again.

    Look at the Courts, Ministry of Justice and all that malarky.

    The Judge gets lots of mulacca, loads of it.

    The barrister for defence gets almost as much mulacca and the prosecutor will probably have a BMdub anyway.

    But the jury?

    Well, they get busfares, out of pocket expenses provided there is staunch evidential basis, and loss of income considerations (Woweee-ow!)

    The Judge can say: nowt to do with me mate - it was a fair trial conducted and administered perfectly well according to the law.

    And the barrister and prosecuting person thingy-ma-bob can say: nowt to do with me mate - I did a great job din I?

    And the rest of the Court - well - they were on some luverly lucre yes?

    British Disease Syndrome mate - you'll get used to it?

    (If it went wrong it were the jury winnit? I mean to say all the rest were doing their jobs right right?)

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: The British Disease?

      It's a few years since I did jury service, but it was pretty obvious that the jury were being taken advantage of.

      Apart from the way we were being messed around and left sitting about waiting (perhaps unavoidable) the most obvious aspect was that the daily lunch allowance didn't even cover the cost of lunch in the expensive onsite canteen, which was privately operated and had a monopoly because the court was miles from the nearest caf.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: The British Disease?

      No. It's world wide.

  40. Peter Johnstone

    "All they had to do in order to keep earning their money ...... was to not be dead"

    Glad my coffee was not in my mouth when I read that!

  41. Arachnoid

    On a side note isnt it funny..........

    How those on "hours as required" paid employers hate us "hourly paid" bods asking for overtime payments for work they want us to do in our own time and for free.

    Oh its only this [insert highly descriptive content] and it'll only take you ten minutes [Note to self: gasp and insert expletive along description of bulls gonads]

  42. Andy 97

    *************QUOTE OF THE DECADE**************

    "Talking bollocks loudly with an attitude of certainty works for other people, so why not me too?"

    I shall add it to my all-time top 10.

    Thank you.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you don't charge for your knowledge...

    ...then people will not value it

  44. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

    Read whilst on Salary

    Nope I always view the Reg during my lunch break or own time.

  45. Robigus

    In the Events industry...

    "Opportunity" and "Exposure". Two sure-fire words that mean we won't bother continuing the conversation. As I was explaining to a "customer" the other day: this "opportunity for exposure" that you're generously offering me, will cost me over a £1000 to implement, not including the time taken to arrange the event. No, I cannot offer a f*cking discount on diesel costs. If I don't get paid, I don't eat. They, on the other hand, are salaried nicely.

    Why should I pay a grand to be branded in your company's livery, spout bullshit and work 20 hour days for a weekend? It's as much as I can do to keep calm. Luckily we now have someone to field calls who's far politer than I. She can detect a time-waster in seconds and hits them immediately with a ball park figure that's a little inflated to see if they're serious. Still interested? Proper quote time. No freebies.

    Mr. Dabbs, I empathise.

  46. ecofeco Silver badge

    Free? Fuck off.

    " I am always expected to do it for free, for love, for “exposure”.

    If I had a fucking check for every time I've heard that fucking phrase...

  47. aaaa

    asked to work for nothing by someone who isn’t…

    "I’m sick of is being asked to work for nothing by someone who isn’t.".

    Succinct. Brilliant.

    Applies equally to 'successful' open source software that no-one is willing to pay for too...

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