The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'it'
A software developer in the US has taken outsourcing into his own hands, by hiring a company in China to do his job for less than ¹⁄₅ of his salary:
"This organisation had been slowly moving toward a more telecommuting oriented workforce, and they had therefore started to allow their developers to work from home on certain days. In order to accomplish this, they'd set up a fairly standard VPN concentrator approximately two years prior to our receiving their call," he was quoted as saying on an internet security website.
"Authentication was no problem. He physically FedExed his RSA [security] token to China so that the third-party contractor could log-in under his credentials during the workday. It would appear that he was working an average nine-to-five work day," he added.The unnamed developer is said to have come physically into work but spent the time surfing eBay, Facebook and Reddit and watching cat videos on YouTube for the standard eight hours a day, which somewhat defeats the purpose of his hack. Then again, the report also suggests that he was simultaneously employed at several other companies, and similarly subcontracting his duties there to Shenyang.
The Daily Torygraph's Dr. Tim Stanley has hailed the developer as an exemplar of capitalism at its best:
For not only is Bob a modern hero to the terminally bored office worker, he’s also invented a whole new way of making capitalism work. If big companies can outsource labour to save money, why the heck can’t the little man do exactly the same?His employer, Verizon, didn't agree, and sacked him.
A recent popular self-help book, The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, advocated doing the same sort of thing, converting oneself into middleware binding together disparate subcontractors and charging a premium for doing so, though advised the reader to first arrange to be able to work from home. And there are reports of enterprising hackers having done similar things as early as 2004.
On a similar tangent, Britain's sense of moral indignation has also been outsourced to China, and is being handled by “a permanently outraged man working 96-hour shifts” just outside of Beijing:
The outrage outsourcing was first noticed when a Rod Liddle was accidentally printed in its original Mandarin.
An excellent answer to the eternal question of why software development task estimations are inevitably off by a factor of 2 or 3, even if one compensates for this in advance:
Let's take a hike on the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles to visit our friends in Newport Beach... The line is about 400 miles long, we can walk 4 miles per hour for 10 hours per day, so we'll be there in 10 days. We call our friends and book dinner for next Sunday night, when we will roll in triumphantly at 6 p.m. They can't wait!
We get up early the next day giddy with the excitement of fresh adventure. We strap on our backpacks, whip out our map, and plan our first day. We look at the map. Uh oh... Wow, there are a million little twists and turns on this coast. A 40-mile day will barely get us past Half Moon Bay. This trip is at least 500, not 400 miles. We call our friends and push back dinner til Tuesday. It is best to be realistic. They are disappointed, but they are looking forward to seeing us. And 12 days from SF to LA still is not bad.
Man, this is slow going! Sand, water, stairs, creeks, angry sea lions! We are walking at most 2 miles per hour, half as fast as we wanted. We can either start walking 20 hours per day, or we can push our friends out another week. OK, let's split the difference: we'll walk 12 hours per day and push our friends out til the following weekend. We call them and delay dinner until the following Sunday. They are a little peeved but say OK, we'll see you then....and so forth.
After allegations emerged of brutal working practices at online game company Zynga (who, as well as considering the idea of work-life balance to be tantamount to disloyalty, recently have been forcing some employees to give up stock options), venture capital douchelord Michael Arrington posted a defence of long working hours and nonexistent work-life balance in the software industry as part of the Silicon Valley way, extensively quoting Jamie Zawinski's Netscape diaries to back up his point. But then, jwz turned around and tore it to pieces.
He's trying to make the point that the only path to success in the software industry is to work insane hours, sleep under your desk, and give up your one and only youth, and if you don't do that, you're a pussy. He's using my words to try and back up that thesis. I hate this, because it's not true, and it's disingenuous. What is true is that for a VC's business model to work, it's necessary for you to give up your life in order for him to become richer.
So if your goal is to enrich the Arringtons of the world while maybe, if you win the lottery, scooping some of the groundscore that they overlooked, then by all means, bust your ass while the bankers and speculators cheer you on.Instead of that, I recommend that you do what you love because you love doing it. If that means long hours, fantastic. If that means leaving the office by 6pm every day for your underwater basket-weaving class, also fantastic.Touché.
I recently read an interesting article in the September issue of Exberliner (though not on the web site yet, it seems) about the state of the music industry in Berlin. According to it, the clubs of Berlin still draw in the "Easyjet set" who fly in for weekends (apparently a significant proportion of Berlin's clubbers are tourists), though the club market is saturated, to the point where door charges have dropped dramatically. Meanwhile, gentrification is threatening a lot of long-established clubs, as apartments are built next door, yuppies move in, and the clubs' licenses are not renewed due to the newly bourgeois, residential nature of their environs. (Which all sounds familiar.) Though, according to the article, the real area of growth in Berlin is not so much clubbing or music performance as music technology; the article pointed to the growth of Berlin-based music software firms like Ableton and Native Instruments, and also mentioned SoundCloud's Swedish founders having relocated to Berlin to establish the firm. Which seems to tie in with what I've heard elsewhere about Berlin being Europe's IT startup hub these days.
Anyway, while that article is not online, here's an earlier one about the rise of "place consumers" and "post-tourism tourists", foreign "hipster nomads" who move to Berlin temporarily to enjoy and participate in the lifestyle before moving on.
The New York Times has a piece on the works of Paul Otlet, a Belgian who, between the late 19th century and World War 2, invented early forms of hypertext, search engines, the semantic web and even social software. Of course, not having digital computers to work with, his "Mundaneum" had a vaguely Terry-Gilliam's-Brazil quality about it, relying on telegraphs, vast numbers of index cards, armies of clerks and analogue terminals referred to as "electric telescopes".
The government granted them space in a government building, where Otlet expanded the operation. He hired more staff, and established a fee-based research service that allowed anyone in the world to submit a query via mail or telegraph — a kind of analog search engine. Inquiries poured in from all over the world, more than 1,500 a year, on topics as diverse as boomerangs and Bulgarian finance.
Since there was no such thing as electronic data storage in the 1920s, Otlet had to invent it. He started writing at length about the possibility of electronic media storage, culminating in a 1934 book, “Monde,” where he laid out his vision of a “mechanical, collective brain” that would house all the world’s information, made readily accessible over a global telecommunications network.Alas, when the Nazis took Belgium, they destroyed most of what he had achieved and he died a broken man, all but forgotten until a graduate student found what remained of the Mundaneum in 1968. 10 years ago, a museum dedicated to Mr. Otlet's singular vision was established:
The archive’s sheer sprawl reveals both the possibilities and the limits of Otlet’s original vision. Otlet envisioned a team of professional catalogers analyzing every piece of incoming information, a philosophy that runs counter to the bottom-up ethos of the Web.
Just as Otlet’s vision required a group of trained catalogers to classify the world’s knowledge, so the Semantic Web hinges on an elite class of programmers to formulate descriptions for a potentially vast range of information. For those who advocate such labor-intensive data schemes, the fate of the Mundaneum may offer a cautionary tale.
A UK "accelerated learning" company recently did a survey of the contents of MP3 players owned by various types of IT professionals and found relationships between career niches and musical tastes. Microsoft weenies, apparently, are into shiny mainstream pop like Britney Spears and Dido, penguinheads are into "electro" like The Orb and Kraftwerk (and, I imagine, a lot of industrial/EBM bands the researchers haven't heard of), developers are into metal (Megadeth, Iron Maiden and Slipknot), and the coolsie chat types who listen to The Smiths and Suede tend to congregate around database administration careers for some reason. Project managers are into Queen and the Rolling Stones, security wonks are into '60s psychedelia (maybe it's the beards or someting?), whereas, for the management, it's all classical music. Nope, no stereotypes here.
(In the office where I'm working, the soundtrack is the iTunes collection of one of the programmers, constantly playing quietly on loop/shuffle. It consists of a combination of metal, commercial pop and Radiohead.)