Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Outsourcing - good or bad?

There has been a lot of hubbub these days about business process outsourcing. Many companies have started to outsource software development, customer service, and other processes. This has become a major election year issue, as many people are fearing for their jobs as forecasts predict that outsourcing will increase tremendously over the next few years. Unlike many factory workers who were laid off in the 80s and 90s, these workers are generally high-paid and middle class.

It's practically a no-brainer to outsource from a business' point of view - for the $80K you pay for a senior developer here, you can get 3 or 4 in Inidia or Russia. Obviously those of us who's jobs stand to be outsourced are worried.

But as much as I see jobs going overseas, I see new jobs staying here. For example - to maximize efficiencies, it makes sense to have somone in the US test the code that is written 8,9,10, or 11 hours away. Delhi is 11 hours ahead of New York so when a Q/A person leaves his or her office in New York the person in Delhi is starting his or her commute - and has bug reports waiting for them. 24/7 operations without paying someone extra to work a night shift.

I also think that even if companies outsource development, they will still need someone on site to gather requirements and manage the process - whether that person works for the outsourcer or outsourcee, it is still a job that is best filled on American soil - if not for anything else than logistical reasons.

In addition, people who started a company in 1999, would hire developers on the spot - requiring a lot more capital expenditure for in-house bodies. That same company could initially outsource the development, thereby saving start-up costs and spurring growth - which might lead to other types of jobs.

I also have heard from several colleagues that some companies (although not necessary explicitly) sell higher levels of service that are only staffed by americans. They realize that many people are willing to pay a premium for support engineers that are native speakers of their own language and not reading from a script. Because of the revenue associated with these sevices, support technicans get the opportunity to earn higher salaries as well.

I guess there is a silver lining to the looming gray cloud of IT outsourcing. The trick for those of us in the industry is to find an umbrella to wait out the rain with and we'll be okay.

A little annoyance...

I recently switched to one of those all-inclusive packages for local and long distance service, and I am enjoying the benefits of free caller ID. It is great to be able to screen my calls and it helps me decipher the messages that the nanny leaves for us when people call during the day (somehow, Ziggy became Vicky?).

My cell phone also has Caller ID as well. But here is the rub - why can't I get caller ID with name on my cell phone? Yes it will identify people that are in my address book with names and pictures and what not, but why can't I get the same caller info on my cell phone?

Friday, March 05, 2004

Lost in Translation...

Google has done a great job in globalizing its brand, as it has sites in a bunch of languages and specific to certain countries. They even have a Google for Israel in Hebrew.

However, some things just don't translate quite the same. The infamous "I'm feeling lucky button" has been replaced with a Hebrew phrase - yoter mazal m'saykhel - which literally means [i have] more luck than brains! (one of my favorite Israeli expressions).

Thursday, March 04, 2004

SCO = Sue Companies Over nothing?

So SCO is suing AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler as its latest victims in its effort to extort money from Linux users because it can't seem to sell enough software to stay afloat.

My main beef with SCO is that they haven't been willing to identify specific code snippets that are infringing on their patents and intellectual property. I am sure that the main reason for this - given the open nature of Linux - is that programmers around the world will have patches in place within hours that will invalidate their claims. If that happens, they can't sue anyone and they've thrown out all of this money in legal terms. However, they will have to divulge something to fight AutoZone in court. Which means that I am not quite sure how long their tirade will last.

I hope that they fall flat on their faces and close up shop. A win, even a small one, is going to wreak havoc in the Linux and patent communities.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

How Google Changed the World

I was watching the Gilmore Girls with my wife last night, and was ROTFL at the scene in which Lorelai (Lauren Graham) tells her stuffy mom to 'Google' a recipe for Mock Turtle Soup.

Google has entered the vernacular in a massive way. I remember my summer interns showing it to me in 1999, when I still preferred Yahoo, and I have been hooked since. It is probably one of the greatest things since sliced bread. Lately Yahoo and MSN have been trying to improve their own searching technologies to compete better with Google - a war that only means the end users will see vast improvements and changes for the better. I just want to share two more Google tidbits:

Google Bombing - Since google ranks sites not just by content, but by the number of pages and terms that link to them, a clever Stanford student discovered that he could have his friend come up in the Google search as the first result for 'Talentless Hack' if he got enough people to link to his friends web site where the link text was exactly that term. There is a great Slate article that explains how this might and will be exploited. (Hmm... maybe I should start a campaign to link The Passion of the Christ to the Simon Wiesenthal Center's page about that movie? Or link the Palestinian Authority to PMW?

Where your name comes up - I will ocassionally do a narcissus search (i.e. one where I search on "Yonah Wolf" to see how far down my site appears on the list). More often than not it will come up first when I have made an update to my site, otherwise, the various message board posts I make show up ranked higher - because they were updated more recently. Yesterday and old boss of mine called me and asked me to play with how I mention her on my site, because she has just launched a new consulting business and my site comes up before hers. (Even though I don't mention anything disparaging about her, I do mention how the company bombed with the collapse of the .com era.