Ninjas + Rockstars is Closing Shop

The team at Last Commit is sad to say that we’re closing up shop for Ninjas + Rockstars. We had a great-if short-run, but it no longer makes business sense to keep ninjasandrockstars.com up and running. We are now shifting our focus over to Watch It Stream, a site for finding movies and tv shows online. We have a few other projects in the works, so if you want to keep up with what we’re doing, just follow us on Facebook or Google+.

So what does this mean for the designers, developers and businesses that used Ninjas + Rockstars this past year? Rest easy knowing that our servers are wiped and we will never disclose any information or data that you have shared with us. It does pain us to part ways, but we hope to run across you again in another incarnation.

Thanks for the good times.

– The Ninjas + Rockstars Team

Why We Love Stripe.com

Payment Processor

If you received our email you know that we launched a week later than we had anticipated. What’s the hold up you say? Couldn’t finish on time eh? Slacker…

As usual, the answer is Yes and No. We could have launched on time, and frankly it’s likely that everything would have gone smoothly. Likely isn’t good enough and we heard that little guy on our shoulder telling us to reconsider our payment processing provider. Things were just getting too complicated. There were too many middlemen. There had to be a better way.

Well, luckily, there was—Stripe.com. I’m going to tell you why, but first here’s a little history lesson. The initial version of Ninjas + Rockstars was built using Recurly. We really liked their service. It was supposedly very easy to setup, protected customer data, utilized their internal credit card processing gateway, and had multiple libraries to support integration. Nice. In a perfect world, yes, but we ran into some hiccups along the way that made us think twice, thrice, and then, well, four-ice times. That’s when we decided to kick the tires a bit more and replace Recurly with Stripe. Here’s our findings on Stripe.

Easy to Integrate

Our initial Recurly integration took about two weeks from start to finish. That time included reading documentation, designing our payment flow, sending a few cursory emails and finally, integration. What we found was a lack of strong documentation and fully realized code samples. On more than one occasion, we ran into outdated documentation as well as library updates that required us to rewrite substantial portions of our initial code. There were also occasions where we found that the provided code libraries did not include all functionality in the basic REST API. In contrast, our recently completed Stripe integration took less than a week. During that time we found it easy to reference Stripe’s documentation and answer our own questions – a key factor if you’re working on time sensitive material. Our two support requests were answered extremely quickly and provided thorough answers. We found Stripe very easy to integrate.

Fully Customizable With JS Library

Both Recurly and Stripe have javascript libraries to help with payment forms, security tokens, and validation. Recurly goes with the all or nothing approach with their JS library, you embed their code, setup some options and the form code is generated for you. It does work great, but we found that the cookie cutter approach was limiting. For example, if you’re implementing a long form and there is a validation error, that error is displayed at the top of the form, which in our case was off the screen. Stripe, on the other hand, follows the roll your own form approach and provides excellent example code. You write your own validation call backs and update the DOM yourself. Often, the roll your own approach can be cumbersome, but with their excellent documentation we were able to create exactly the form we wanted super fast and mix in our own validation on top of the credit card validation that Stripe provides.

Accepting Payments Within Minutes

Here’s where we found the biggest difference. Recurly requires an intermediary Merchant Account to accept credit card payments if you want them to be your gateway provider. Or, you can sign up with Authorize.net or a similar service to act as a gateway provider. Either way, you have to sign up for at least one middleman account and pay more fees to another company. Stripe, on the other hand, allows you to verify your regular business bank account—and as long as your fall within their TOS—process payments immediately. We were able to test live credit card transactions on the first day. Sounds too good to be true right? How about this, they don’t even charge a monthly fee. Yep. Here’s what they charge: 2.9% + a $0.30 fee for every successful charge. We like that. So, we were accepting payments within minutes without extra merchant accounts, monthly fees, or voodoo Smurf juice.

So to recap: we delayed our launch a little bit to change payment providers and we wanted to share the details with you. We found our new providers, Stripe, easy to integrate, very customizable, and fantastically fast to get rolling. I hope for some of our developers involved in projects at the moment that this post might help you make a better informed decision. It’s common for us to run into problems while we’re developing. It’s rare to find a solution that we really want to share with an audience. Stripe is one of those solutions and we think their approach and dedication to simplicity is changing the future of online payment processing.

Launch Update

You signed up for this service that promises to change the way you get new work or hire great designers and developers. Now what? Days, weeks, months go by without an invitation email, heads up or even a ‘Like’ on those epic birthday photos.

We at the Ninjas + Rockstars HQ initially planned to let businesses in starting June 1st. Right before we pulled the switch, we ran into a hiccup with our payment provider. With our excited fingers poised over the big flashing lights of the command and control console, we decided to put the full launch on pause and switch to another payment provider that would better serve us and our customers. Thank you, Stripe! We’re working around the clock to get this done right. With our current progress, we appear to be ready for a wide open launch next week.

We can’t thank you enough for your interest in Ninjas + Rockstars. The Web Designers, UX Designers, Illustrators, Programmers and Hackers that we’ve seen roll through the doors are the creme of the crop.

So What?

Okay. You read us loud and clear. You know we don’t have a shiny launch console at the top of a mountain laboratory guarded by laser-toting sharks. What else can you do to get ready for the launch?

1. Get a Profile Together
If you have a LinkedIn account, most of your professional and business info can be imported from there. If not, make sure you have a clear and concise profile ready to go. When you get in touch with other people on Ninjas + Rockstars, they will get a chance to review you and your work before making a decision to go further.

2. Refer a Colleague
If you know a business, designer or developer in the Bay Area who would be interested in our service, send them our way. We’ll be accepting invitation requests right up to the launch date.

3. Keep Up to Date
We will announce news of our full launch on this blog. We’re also on the TwitterBookPlus-O-Sphere if you want to get in touch or share photos of an awesome San Francisco brunch.

Thanks to all for being a part of this exciting project!

The M Word

Money

Money. It can be a touchy subject. It’s essential to all business but can be a delicate matter that makes or breaks a deal, hire or working relationship. When it comes to freelancing or finding a new job the money involved can be especially stressing.

I have more than once begun talks about a fresh job prospect only to soon discover that my rates were out of range or the project’s budget was an order of magnitude lower than my initial estimates. At the end of the day, I would walk away feeling that I had wasted my time and the time of the potential client. Even if it was only a half hour phone conversation. With Ninjas + Rockstars we’re taking a few steps to mitigate that situation.

Talent

When you signs up as a designer or developer and create a profile, we will ask for the minimum hourly rate that you are willing to take for a job. Whether you are looking for full time employment as a product illustrator or short gigs as a user experience designer, we will use the hourly rate metric to standardize the pay grade. There are some helpful calculators out there if you need some help figuring out your hourly rate.

That whole thing about money being touchy? We understand that. We’ll never reveal your minimum pay rate to prospective employers. We only use this as a point of reference to place you with the best jobs. If a job doesn’t meet your minimum pay rate, you won’t get matched to it. If a job wildly exceeds your pay grade and the business thinks you’re a good candidate, you’ll have the opportunity to win the gig.

Businesses

When you, the business, creates a job, we’ll ask a similar question: “What is the highest hourly rate you’re willing to pay for the work?” We only present talent that is willing to work for that rate or lower.

When creating or editing the job, we show a total count of the designers and developers that match the pay grade, specialties and years of experience required for the job. If you have very strict requirements and a low budget, it’s possible that there will not be talent available for the work. You will have the opportunity to figure that out well ahead of making a purchase with Ninjas + Rockstars.

Here again, we will not show candidates the most you’re willing to pay someone for the job. We’re simply matching you to the people willing to work within your constraints.

The Final Word

Ultimately it’s up to the hiring business and the designer or developer to work out the terms of the hire, starting with the pay rate. The only hard and fast rule that we have is that no free jobs are allowed on the site, and no job paying less than a minimum market rate (currently $20/hour) can be posted. If you have any questions about how we derived this, we recommend starting off by researching Junior Designers and Developers in the San Francisco Bay Area at glassdoor.com.

Talent Review

Talent Review

The core purpose of Ninjas + Rockstars is to connect the right talent to the right jobs. So what is the “right” talent? We adhere to some rules that maintain a base level of quality in the interactions on the site. That being said, how do we maintain a level of quality in our talent pool? It’s the internet after all. Anyone can claim to be a developer with senior experience or a designer with some next level talent that will melt your face off.

That’s why we’re going to ask our talent to provide a little verification. Nothing more than what you would send in for a job application or interview. The Ninjas + Rockstars team will look over your qualifications, make sure you are who you say you are and send out invitations on a one by one basis. This process allows us to verify the designers and developers, ensure that there are qualified people in the talent pool and keep it from being over saturated or lopsided towards one type of person or skill set.

Developers should submit a resume or CV outlining their qualifications, past experience and capabilities. We also recommend that they send any links that are relevant to your work life or reinforce your resume: LinkedIn profile, GitHub projects, Stack Overflow profile, etc.

Designers should submit the same resume or CV with the addition of a portfolio. Portfolios come in all shapes or sizes, but we prefer the digital kind: custom portfolio websites, Cargo Collective sites, Behance projects, Dribbble profiles, etc.

Submission Guidelines

All submissions need to come in the form of a link of some sort. If you must send in a PDF or other digital documentation, do so in the form of a hosted link.

Many people have already requested an invitation. Over the next couple of weeks we will send out submission requests, review the responses and soon after that we will open the doors for our public launch and started inviting everybody into the site. Post launch we will ask for a CV and portfolio submission with all of our signup requests.

The Ground Rules

NARS_rules

I think it’s time to lay down some ground rules. It’s not you, it’s me. Actually, I take that back. It’s you too. You see, Internet, we’ve had a lot of fun times together, but it’s hard to take you seriously and there are a lot of trust issues when it comes to the serious stuff. I want to know the real you and trust that I’m getting that person one hundred percent.

In all seriousness, that sums up the feelings we get toward most sites driven by user to user interactions, especially anonymous users. We set out to make Ninjas + Rockstars mirror the best parts of the real world hiring process. There may be a lot of unknowns about the business or the talent, but meeting face to face or through a referral establishes a baseline of trust between the two. With these rules we hope to establish a similar baseline of trust when you use this service:

The Golden Rule

Be courteous, responsive and respectful in your communications. Any abusive behavior will result in an immediate, permanent ban.

It’s a basic part of being a decent human being and we want every user to feel comfortable using Ninjas + Rockstars. If abusive behavior is reported we will act quickly to assess the situation and if necessary remove the offender from the site.

Businesses

1. No Free Work: No unpaid jobs or internships are allowed on the site.

If it’s worth it to spend the time and money to hire a talented designer or developer, then it’s worth it to pay them a fair rate, internships included.

2. You may only post jobs for your business. No outsourcing firms or third party agencies are allowed to sign up or utilize our services.

No middlemen. The talent should know from day one that they are directly dealing with a business looking to hire them for their skill set and experience. No one is allowed to take a cut of their wages, demand a hiring fee or farm out work they cannot complete.

Talent

1. Do not accept a job beyond your qualifications or experience. Be honest with the business hiring you.

You should review all jobs in detail. If you think the job is beyond your level of skill or outside of your comfort zone, let the business know immediately. If you aren’t sure, get in touch and ask plenty of questions.

2. Do not double book if you can’t take on the work. Keep your availability up to date to make certain that this doesn’t happen.

You are so incredibly talented that businesses are destroying your inbox with job offers. Great! Make sure you don’t overbook. We even have handy widgets and doodads on the site to remove you from our job matching voodoo if you are completely booked up. If an emergency does crop up and you need to withdraw from a job you’ve accepted, we provide the tools for a business to reopen the job and continue their talent search.


Pretty simple, right? We think so. We also think that going into a hiring discussion with these ground rules in place will give everyone a higher quality experience than what they typically find on sites across the web. If a user is reported for violating these rules we will perform a review, and we reserve the right to remove the user from Ninjas + Rockstars.

This is a good place to remind you that this site serves as a way to introduce people to new talent and fresh job leads. It never replaces a good hiring contract, which we recommend for every hire.

Humble Beginnings

San Francisco, Mid '00s

In the post bubble slump of 2004, two young men landed in San Francisco. With a couple of beat up laptops, a healthy dose of insomnia and experience designing and developing websites they were ready to get to work. It was San Francisco, the soul of Silicon Valley. Everyone there needed a website, and even the waiters had at least three startup ideas. It should only take a few weeks to be neck-deep in exciting jobs for interesting people, right? Wrong.

One year later in the fall of 2005 Lawrence and I finally had a steady client base, and we felt good about our future prospects. When we look back at what it took to make that happen we can count a few tons of $2.50 Chinese take out, hours spent combing Craigslist and dodgy job boards, hundreds of unanswered emails and RFPs and wads of disintegrating business cards clogging up otherwise empty wallets. There had to be a better way.

Fast forward to now. We are about to flip the switch on Ninjas + Rockstars. With this site, we’re hoping to change the paradigm of hiring talented designers and developers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The core of this idea is the business to talent relationship. As a designer or developer you sign up, fill out a professional profile and showcase your work. A business then signs up, creates a job and describes the type of person that’s right for the job. We take in all of that job data, sprinkle some magic dust on it and return a list of qualified people that we think are right for the role. From there the business rep and the candidates can ask questions, work out the terms of the job, and when the business makes a final decision, get to work.

Ninjas + Rockstars is focused on connecting the right people to the right job. We strongly feel that time shouldn’t be wasted throwing out unqualified applicants or sifting through job postings with unreasonable expectations and pay rates. We don’t want to bog users down with feature bloat or force anyone to jump through hoops to make a connection. We want you to enjoy landing a new gig or connecting with a fresh talent pool.

In the next few weeks we will detail some of the ideas that we’ve built that make this interaction great. We’ll also explain how we will maintain an unprecedented level of quality in the talent pool and posted jobs. In the meantime we’ll be indulging our insomnia, tightening the bolts on a few things and running everything through the ringer with our beta testers.

To be a part of the summer launch you should signup for an invite now!