Outsourcing freelance jobs FAQ

I like outsourcing work to other freelancers when I am short on time myself. Over the time, I am often asked the same questions again and again. Obviously it is time for an “Outsourcing freelance jobs” FAQ. :)

Question: Should I start working even though I have not been told to?
Answer: Please don’t. Start working when you have won the bid and we have discussed the project’s outline.

Question: Should I set an hourly rate that is below 50% of my country’s average web development hourly rate?
Answer: This would be most certainly below your country’s average living wage. Please raise your hourly rate to a fair level that enables you to sustain life.

Question: Give me job!

Ok, this is not a question. But I have an answer for that, too:

Answer: While it is not necessary to speak and write perfect English (which I do not myself) I try to keep a certain level of politeness in communication, with appropriate salutation, “please” and “thank you”. It makes daily routine more bearable. :) If you keep it the same way, you raise your chances of being considered (and being considered again after the project is completed).

Question: I do not have any references. Is this a problem?

Answer: Yes it is. If you just have graduated school or university, make pro-bono projects and use them as references. By the way, that’s how I got my first job in IT business.

Question: I am located more than 2 time zones away from you. Is this a problem?

Answer: Yes it is. I prefer freelancers not too far away because I do not like to wait too long for emails. When I search for freelancers that can help me with a project most of the time it is quite urgent.

Question: I am a screen designer. But I can code too! Would you choose me?

Answer: That depends on your coding references :)

Question: I bade on your project and I am the most expensive, being way above average. Is this a problem?

Answer: Regardless of any other advantages you may have: yes it is. Nobody wants to pay more than he has to.

Question: I bade on your project and I am the least expensive, being way below average. Choose me now!

Answer: Regardless of any other advantages you may have: no I would not. Either you underestimate the scope of the project intentionally or unintentionally (that’s bad either way) or you are offering dumping prices. That’s bad too.

That’s it for now. This list is most likely incomplete. I will add more questions and answers over time.

Memory footprint of Facebook’s Like button iframes

I have made a rough review of Facebooks Like button memory footprint. Since every like button sits in an iframe I am assuming that this would have a heavy impact on a browsers memory footprint. Web developers should keep that in mind when putting many of them on a single page. Not to mention that each like button comes with it’s own Javascript and CSS files and that Facebook is most certainly tracking even people not using the button and so on and so forth…

There *are* very good reasons not to use Facebook’s Like button regardless of its memory footprint.

The tests were made with Firefox 3.6.10 on Vista with Firebug and some other plugins enabled on a client’s WordPress blog. I have recorded the amount of iframes, peak memory value (the highest value during or shortly after page load) and idle memory value (20-30s after page load).

Keep in mind that this is by no means scientific. YMMV.

Amount iframes ~MB peak ~MB idle
1 105 50
11 108 57
21 125 70
31 149 80
41 175 100

Obviously idle memory footprint scales at about 1,0-1,2 MB per iframe. That is quite a lot.

And do remember that each iframe comes with its

  • own HTML,
  • inline JavaScript,
  • inline CSS,
  • external JavaScript and
  • external CSS and
  • at least one image.

I have not counted the exact amount of requests though I expect ~4, maybe ~5 HTTP requests per Facebook Like button iframe. With 40 of them on one page that sums up to 160 HTTP requests just for the Facebook Like buttons.

From a Green Computing point of view it is quite insane.

My conclusion is if you *really* want to use Like buttons that you do not to put more than a dozen or half a dozen Like buttons on a page.

CSS Level 3 Media Queries

In my humble opinion, the upcoming CSS Level 3 Media Queries are one of the major improvements in web development.

Yesterday I have implemented those in my web site so that it adapts to various browser window widths.

See them in action on Youtube!

Try it for yourself and tell me what you think :) (CSS 3 media queries are currently supported in FF 3.5+, Chrome, Opera, Safari and IE9+)

Measures against Slowloris attacks

In a Slowloris attack a client (or a botnet) opens a large amount of connections to a web server and holds them open. It does not send complete requests so you might find no request of the attacker in an Apache log — quite devious. So… The malicious client continues to open new connections using incomplete requests while Apache is waiting for complete requests in order to serve the client. Meanwhile, regular clients cannot open new connections and thus do not get to be served by the host — the site gets unresponsive.

I just wanted to share my experience with anti slowloris measurements on small-scale Apache webservers.

Apache 2.2.15 comes with mod_reqtimeout. The module’s default settings work out of the box. During my own local slowloris attack http latency fluctuated quite a lot but Apache remained responsive. If you are using Apache 2.2.15, go for mod_reqtimeout and you are done.

Debian 5.0 provides Apache 2.2.9 only and there is no mod_reqtimeout for this version.

My first choice for Apache 2.2.9 was mod_qos which I got compiled smoothly. When an attack is launched, http latency rises sharply for about five seconds. After that, latency normalizes quickly. A quite impressive result. OTOH, while there were no obvious problems reported by site users, the module spammed Apache’s error log with backtraces which forced me to search for another solution.

Next option was mod_antiloris which is a very small module with just over 5 kb of source. It compiled smoothly and worked out of the box. There are no configuration options though. During an attack, http latency rises quickly and remains high. The site gets somewhat less responsive but Apache continues to answer requests. Not as impressive as mod_qos but at least it does not clog error.log with backtraces so I am sticking with mod_antiloris for the time being.

Keep in mind that I have only tested attacks from a single client. A botnet executing a slowloris attack is a completely different story.

And BTW: YMMV.

If you have a different approach for plain Debian systems, feel free to comment.

Web fonts slowly picking up pace

Web fonts have been adopted by all major web browsers. What Firefox 3.1+ w/ Noscript users might not know is that Noscript blocks “font face” by default so they do not get to see nice fonts. There are two easy ways though to enable web fonts:

  1. Left-click Noscript icon on the bottom right corner of the browser’s window and enable all “font@” entries in “Blocked Objects”. This will temporarily allow web fonts on the current page.
  2. To enable web fonts permanently left-click Noscript icon on the bottom right corner of the browser’s window and select “Options”. Select tab “Embeddings” and uncheck “Forbid @font-face” and click “ok”.
 

Do we actually need web fonts?

Yes and no.

Yes: Typography enthusiasts have been waiting for years. Now browsers have widely adopted web fonts and every now and then even a free (to use) font comes along. The time for web fonts is now. And why should print designers have fonts and web designers should not? If man can travel into space the web should have web fonts.

No: Have I been waiting for web fonts? Certainly not. The web got along very well for 16 years without web fonts. I like the web the way it is. Bad readability was mostly caused by bad colors only. To me, web fonts primarily are just another possibility of hurting someone’s eyes.

Beware though: Most fonts have strict licenses which do not allow web distribution. So web designers have to resort to fonts with liberal licenses, Bitstream Vera and Droid Sans being two of them. Check font licences carefully before jumping on the web fonts train!