Stuck in a Coding Rut? Get One-On-One Help with HackHands

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When I first began Learn to Code With Me (LTCWM) a few months ago, I just wanted to get it up and running. I didn’t want to bury myself in creating a website from scratch – it would take too long to complete.

However, the more I continued to create content for LTCWM, build the readership, etc., the more I wanted to transfer off the generic WordPress theme I started with.

The problem, though, was that I didn’t have a budget for a designer or developer. But I wanted a unique LTCWM site more than anything. So I decided to take on the task myself and rebuild it from the bottom. 

As I went about restructuring the LTCWM site there were certain parts I was having trouble with, especially relating to PHP. Specifically, I was having a problem figuring out how to display the most viewed posts in the sidebar.

I came across resources on the web that didn’t help much. And as I went about different approaches, I kept breaking the site.

After several hours of tinkering, it was clear I needed some expert one-on-one assistance. (Now, I hate “giving up”, but sometimes you need to ask for help.)

That’s where HackHands came in.

“What is HackHands?”

HackHands is a service that connects coders with an experienced programmer in the area they’re struggling with. They have experts in a range of languages/skills all around the world. Obviously, unlike lots of the other stuff I mention on LTCWM, this is not a free service. (It costs a dollar a minute.)

In any case, I initially discovered HackHands because a member of their team approached me about the service. I thought it sounded like a great idea from the get-go. But at that point in time, I didn’t have a reason to use it.

However, when I began struggling with displaying the most viewed posts, I realized this was a perfect situation to call upon HackHands for some one-on-one help.

“What is the HackHands process?”

Before connecting with a HackHands expert, you must to sign-up and make a request.

In the request, you specify:

  • Which language you are using
  • A short description of your problem
  • Any relevant tags

This information helps connect you to an expert who is knowledgable on the topic.

When I used HackHands, I requested help with PHP and WordPress. After submitting my request, I was connected to an expert almost immediately.

“How is the HackHands technology and interface?”

The HackHands technology and user interface is comparable to Google Hangouts or Skype. It comprises video, screen-sharing and a chat box. However, HackHands takes it a step further by including a little interactive code editor. This is a place where the tutor, or person asking for help, can write code snippets.

In my session, this was helpful because my expert wrote code in the editor that I could copy and paste into the PHP file on my computer. (Look to the image below as an example.)

HackHands Interface

Overall, I found the user experience to be top-notch. Communication was fluid and there were no technical glitches I came across. I’d have to give it an A+.

“What is it like working with the expert?”

Working with the tutor took longer than I imagined. Before going in, I thought creating a function to display the most view posts was easy.

In fact, I was sort of embarrassed I even had to ask for help on this, thinking it was so elementary.

I was under the impression that the expert would come in, have the answer instantly and ta-da.

Conversely, it took some fiddling around. We tried different methods and even went into my BlueHost account to look at one of the databases. We did this to see if it was picking up the code (something I never did before).

All and all, it took nearly an hour to get it everything working.

My thoughts on this is either setting up a most viewed posts function is much more complex than I thought. Or, as the tutor, Hugo, mentioned when we first connected, he had not worked with WordPress in some time. However, he was knowledgable on PHP. (For those unaware, using PHP in WordPress is a lot different from using it in other places.)

Because of this, when we first connected Hugo put the timer on pause. Meaning it was no longer tracking the minutes, AKA I was not being charged. To supplement this, HackHands offers a moment at the end of your session to tip the expert. (Kind of like tipping a waiter or hairdresser of exceptional service.)

Overall, though, working with the expert was fine. (Check out Hugo’s HackHands profile here.)

“Who would find HackHands most useful?”

HackHands is beneficial for those who need help with a specific question pertaining to a particular project. Before going in, it would be best to have a clear sense of what you’d like to accomplish.

Furthermore, HackHands is a great last resort after exhausting all free online articles and forums. While there is an abundance of information online, there are times where your question is so specific you genuinely can’t find the answer you desire.

Both of the above were the case for me. I had a clear end-goal and I had sifted through tons of articles online with no luck.

“Who wouldn’t benefit from HackHands?”

HackHands wouldn’t be useful for someone who doesn’t have their own project. With that, a person who is in the early of stages of learning.

For instance, I wouldn’t use HackHands to ask a question about Python because I am still at a beginner level. With Python, I am working through tutorials and online courses – not building my own projects from scratch. So using HackHands for assistance with these tutorials wouldn’t make much sense. (Especially given the fact said tutorials/courses oftentimes have forums where people help you, i.e. Codecademy or Coursera.)

Moreover, I imagine an advanced person with a very difficult question may not find the answer via a HackHands expert.

I’d say HackHands is ideal for beginners working on their own projects to those on an intermediate level. (If you’re that advanced, you should probably consider becoming an expert instead of requesting help from one!)

Final Thoughts

Overall, I was satisfied with my HackHands experience. We accomplished my main goal. (As you can see, “Most Viewed Posts” is present on my sidebar.)

When it comes to any kind of one-on-one help, I think the tutor makes all the difference. Knowing this, HackHands created the first five minutes of any session as a risk free trial. Meaning your session will be free if you cancel before the five minute mark. (Say, in the event you were connected with someone who couldn’t help.)

Additionally, at the end of the session you can review and rate the expert. This allows the HackHands team to know if there were any problems.

In the end, I suppose the next best thing to HackHands would be in-person help. But where the heck am I going to find that, in my hometown of Bethlehem, PA, for only a dollar a minute?

No where.

For people like me, living in areas without the best resources, the concept of HackHands is a lifesaver.

Still, for anyone in any location, HackHands is convenient. Sure, face to face interaction may be better. But you can talk with a HackHands mentor from the comfort of your home or apartment. Oh, and it’s “open” 24/7. (For all you psycho night owls.)

So, if you’re struggling with a specific problem or issue on your project and need some one-on-one assistance, check out HackHands.

Have you ever received help from a tutor or similar online? If yes, leave a comment below and share your thoughts!