This Week’s Roundup Was Outsourced to Unpaid Interns

Jan 18, 2013

Many hands many laptopsBob is the kind of guy people don’t look at twice. He’s described as a family man, quiet, and inoffensive. For years he got stellar performance reviews, describing him as “the best developer in the building.”

But Bob had a secret. Years ago he had outsourced his job to China. Instead of slaving away writing software code, Bob spent his day surfing the Internet. Investigators discovered what Bob was doing only because his Chinese contractors regularly logged into the company’s network. When they dug through his work computer, they discovered “hundreds of .pdf invoices from a third party contractor/developer in (you guessed it) Shenyang, China.”

As they dug deeper, the investigators reconstructed a typical Bob day:

  • 9:00 a.m. — Arrive and surf Reddit for a couple of hours. Watch cat videos
  • 11:30 a.m. — Take lunch
  • 1:00 p.m. — Ebay time.
  • 2:00-ish p.m. — Facebook updates – LinkedIn
  • 4:30 p.m. — End of day update e-mail to management.
  • 5:00 p.m. — Go home

Inoffensive Bob, it turned out, was also pulling this same deal at other companies. “It looked like he earned several hundred thousand dollars a year, and only had to pay the Chinese consulting firm about fifty grand annually.”

The account on Verizon’s security blog doesn’t say what happened to Bob, although we can presume he got the boot. On the other hand, readers of the blog variously suggested he’s “an American hero and deserves a medal.” Another suggested he deserves a raise. many more offered the opinion that anyone able to manage remote work teams, communicate the requirements, and get the projects done on time and done well should be promoted.

And then there are those skeptics who think the whole story is baloney, stolen from an Onion satire.

No Outsourcing Here

Dalkey Archive Press’s job posting for an intern for its London office was clear and to the point: applicants must “not have any other commitments (personal or professional) that will interfere with work at the Press,” such as “family obligations, writing, involvement with other organizations, degrees to be finished, holidays to be taken, weddings to attend in Rio.”

The small, niche publisher of poetry, fiction, and other works also had a detailed list of what would constitute grounds for dismissal from the unpaid job:

Coming in late or leaving early without prior permission; being unavailable at night or on the weekends; failing to meet any goals; giving unsolicited advice about how to run things; taking personal phone calls during work hours; gossiping; misusing company property, including surfing the internet while at work; submission of poorly written materials; creating an atmosphere of complaint or argument; failing to respond to emails in a timely way; not showing an interest in other aspects of publishing beyond editorial; making repeated mistakes; violating company policies.

Salon called it the “worst job posting ever.” Was it for real?

“The advertisement was a modest proposal. Serious and not-serious at one and the same time.” Dalkey’s American director John O’Brien told the Irish Times:

So, the tongue-in-cheek advertisement was a call to apply for the internships (and the two possible positions) if you’re going to be serious and are ready; if not, then let’s not waste each other’s time. Usually this is couched in the sanitised language of ‘must be deadline-oriented, well-organised, ambitious,’ etc. But as I think we’ve known for a long time, the age of irony is dead, and I’m a fossil.

This is my ‘official’ reaction to the hornet’s nest.

 Photo courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon /
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