среда, 15 ноября 2006 г.

oDesk = eSlavery 2.0?

oDesk = eSlavery 2.0?

I first learned about oDesk when listening to Michael Arrington at the Future of Web Apps summit in September. I decided to take a more in-depth look a this web application. What I saw scared me. In fact, I wonder if oDesk is eSlavery 2.0?

Let’s start with the positive. Hiring workers (mostly offshore) is hard. oDesk, on the surface, does a good job of handling the finding of a professional to handle a need. They do testing and verification which is a good thing.

So I started to look deeper. And this is where the slavery aspect begins. When we think of slaves of the last 1000 years, there are several things in common. The most common is the fact that the “masters” would watch them to make sure they worked. And if they didn’t they got whipped or beaten or worse. Now while oDesk does not go that far, they certainly allow you to watch and monitor. So how do you watch?

The first way you can watch your worker is by monitoring his/her productivity on the keyboard and mouse. Don’t check your Yahoo! mail or check the latest Paris Hilton pic or you will be penalized. So those who type faster or click faster, are more productive and thereby get a better rating. Same thing masters did to their slaves.

The next way you can watch is by actually making the worker post images every 10 minutes of themselves in front of their pc. I mean ARE YOU KIDDING ME. So if you happen to have a stomach ache suddenly hit you within 3 minutes of photo time, you best get a bed pan. And make sure you get your lipstick and blush on first. Same thing masters did to their slaves.

From the oDesk site about watching:

Monitor Activity — oDesk Team creates filmstrips of the provider’s online activity (screenshots and webcam shots). You can literally see what your team members are working on. Buyers use this visibility to spot check code, see when the provider is working, and see if the provider is getting stuck on any tasks.

Could you imagine any web shop in the U.S. recording the activities of their employees so closely? I would love to see (insert web shop) setting up this type of system. What about a large corporation. Let’s see that happen. C’mon. I am quite sure that within a short period the employees would be gone. I have used several contractors over the years and about 15% of the time, it does not work out. But I have never even considered putting a web cam on them. One of my best friends does my design work. I could only imagine what it would be like if I (seriously) asked him to put a web cam and a click tracker on when he works on projects for me. I am sure I would no longer have a great designer or a friend.

In fact, oDesk has a video showing their office from behind the scenes. I don’t see any web cams taking pictures of the employees. Carol and Maureen? Ron and Josh from operations? Does anyone monitor their activities? When those employees look at the camera and talk, is their keyboard/mouse productivity going down? Does the CEO, Gary Swart, send his web cam shots to the investors every 10 minutes? What about mouseclicks? I can just imagine the fun the oDesk team has looking at all these bits of info and images.

So why do I believe we allow this? It’s simple… from the research I have done, the majority of workers on oDesk are from outside the U.S. and the majority of buyers are inside. So I assume the buyers feel it is ok. It is “ok” to take advantage of the Russians, the Indians, the others. All of the documentation is in English and Russian which makes me believe that there is a large percentage of Russian people on the site. Actually if you look in most categories, a Russian person shows up first for hours worked. Why are the Russians ok with this monitoring? Because my guess is that the money outweighs the monitoring. Furthermore, if you are paying someone $15/hr and assume they work 40-ish hours in a week, the maximum you would be out is $600. So for $600 you force someone to monitor their activities like a rat in a cage.

Here is the bottom line… oDesk has some good attributes, but the monitoring is absolutely absurd and really is sad that people buy into this model. If you don’t trust someone, don’t work with them. If you are worried, start with a small project with someone while you work out the trust factor. Clearly oDesk’s motto is “We don’t trust the people we represent”. Really shameful in my opinion. I welcome comments from those who have used the service as a buyer and would certainly be open to a discussion with oDesk management about my concerns.

Update 11/16: Some questions for oDesk:

  • How do you handle work away from the computer? Meaning, while I get that “productivity in keyboard clicks and mouse clicks = payment” what about when I am working on thought?
  • What does oDesk take as their fee?
  • Stats on providers and buyers – send me some stats please

Автор: centernetworks.



Brian says:
March 4, 2010 at 2:15 am
1. Large corporations can and do monitor. People in retail, healthcare, even business deal with security cameras, auditing and inventories all the time. IT guys want to get away with looking at Paris Hilton (says your article) and checking Yahoo mail? Do that in any other field and you’re fired. Not talking about walking away from your desk and finding a computer but jobs with computers in front of them where the guy doesn’t dare use it for anything but what’s necessary. IT guys are not special and it’s time we stop thinking that way.

2. You have a misunderstanding of slavery. If you’ve taken economics you would understand minimum wage is a price floor. Minimum wage is not meant to prevent slavery. It’s good for making people feel good about not seeing a lady at the local mall making cents per hour for a vital job. It’s not so good for a global economy. Basically a price floor shuts out everyone who could offer the service or good for cheaper. No, I don’t believe slavery is always pointing a gun at someone’s head. But I do believe to make the claim of slavery, or slave-like conditions, you have to present an argument with high barrier to exit. Not only is it pathetically easy for a provider to quit a service like oDesk with zero repercussions, but you can do so at any time and leave projects unfinished.

So in sum you misunderstand economics. Look up barriers to entry, price floor and maybe get some perspective. The wage is not the only thing to look at when you make a claim about slavery or illegal sex workers wouldn’t be called slaves because they make hundreds an hour even though they often are, trapped in their work (the real definition of slavery).

Fail says:
March 3, 2010 at 9:06 am
This is a very poorly written article. It seems the author “Allen Sterm” has never used Odesk, or even understands how the Global Economy works. The only people that complain, are the ones who are trying to compete globally against people who gladly work for $1.00. Welcome to GLOBAL economy. If you want to get paid more than that, get a job somewhere that 99% of the providers Aren’t looking to outsource. Idiot. All of the large company’s such as HSBC banks and Nokia outsource IT to Bangalore. Why? Because they can do the same work if not better, than YOUR ignorant ass, and go home rich at $1.00/hr.

I have many teams and projects on Odesk, and the screen-capture is the best Idea ever. Why? Well, try managing a team, meeting deadlines, budgets, and answering questions when you can’t see what they are looking at. Then you might understand why buyers and providers alike love it. They just upload a screenshot, and you are both on the same page. If you work in an office job, don’t kid yourself… they read your e-mails, and know exactly when you are or aren’t working.

Furthermore, Odesk doesn’t require your credit card at all to post a job. I tried other services, like Elance, and they wanted my credit card BEFORE even posting a job. What the hell? AND they won’t stop e-mailing me to do it. Odesk ONLY require’s 10$ refundable deposit to make sure it’s your real card…. this is awesome, reduces fradulant cards and protects providers/buyers.

I don’t work for Odesk, I just LOVE how it’s changed my life. In a matter of weeks, I was able to increase my company’s man-power and outperform my competitors. I’ve met amazing people, and done things that were not possible before with local talent. Thank you Odesk!

Bobby says:
February 24, 2010 at 7:16 pm
I’m still in the process of getting work through oDesk. Its hard to get a decent break into the CG industry, and it takes alot of time to create a good portfolio. I think odesk presents an excellent opportunity for me to earn some money whilst building my portfolio, so i’ll just have to jump through hoops until I am regarded as a professional.

Asifuzzaman Ahmed says:
February 23, 2010 at 10:51 am
Just wanna give you props for writing this, especially since its looking like the majority of the comments on here are against you. As a designer, I can tell you that there’s nothing okay about being continuously monitored like this.

For all the companies supporting oDesk, at the end of the day you get what you pay for. Your customers are still going to be able to spot a cheap design, no matter how rich you think you made some Ukrainian. I went to school with a lot of very talented and amazing designers who will treat a project like it’s the only thing that matters in life; you can’t get that dedication for $10/hr.

One last thing, some of these arguments are just wack man. Really think through what you’re saying before you leave a comment, please.

February 19, 2010 at 2:53 am

Darren says:
February 16, 2010 at 2:36 am
It’s not slavery, it just sets the tone for the working relationship.

Trust has to be earned but how that trust is earned is worked out between the freelancer and the client who is using their services.
It’s a two way street, I’m very cautious of new companies after having bad payers in the past including several I’ve had to take to court to get money from.
Luckily these have been the exception but it’s why a clear contract is important before doing any work for a company with clear requirements and deliverables agreed.
There are companies looking to get work done for free and there are companies looking to get quality work done at a good price.
There are freelancers looking to get paid for dragging their feet and there are freelancers looking to deliver quality software to meet their clients requirements.

If a company never shows respect or trust then they shouldn’t expect any return.

Remember, as a freelancer/contractor you can choose who you work for and if you don’t like a clients work ethic then just wave goodbye.

Freelancing and contracting isn’t about just employment. I run a limited company and what a client is getting is a service provided by my limited company which includes my expertise, development skills and time.
What my limited company expects in return is cooperation and a fair work ethic from its clients.

I personally would not have a camera because for myself I would not want to be monitored. If someone else is happy with that then that’s up to them.

Just remember it’s a two way street and you if you are not happy with the service or client then switch. If you don’t like how oDesk works then don’t use it. There are plenty of alternatives out there.

If theres enough of you not happy then create an alternative to oDesk.

AC says:
December 24, 2009 at 12:06 pm
This “author” of this “article” doesn’t know the definiton of “slave”. A common phrase in slavery is “forced labor”. Slaves are owned, not rented or hired. So this guy’s credibility is torched from the jump. Sounds like an oDesk hater to me. oDesk is just a broker. They’re getting paid. The developers are getting paid. The buyers are getting their work done. It’s not without issues or complaints, then what it is. But oDesk is cool. I like it…and no I don’t work at oDesk. I just use it a lot.

Walter says:
December 13, 2009 at 3:40 pm
This is my story:

I am an oDesk provider. One of the reasons I have used oDesk is what I thought was protection from buyers who abuse the system and steal from honest providers.

Over all oDesk has some good features, but…

I had a client through oDesk. I spent at least 1 week and untold correspondence to meet the requests for a bid and work. The client changed the job spec’s twice, I was able to get the client to understand that some work will need to be an hourly rate and some a fixed rate. 2 assignments were created by the client; I provided a proposal for the hourly work along with the time and details for the job. I start the assignment and was on my second week when the client decided to reset the completion time and how many hours he thought it required, he also said that I committed to doing it ALL in 10 hours, but my proposal was for 16 hours at a minimum for only the hourly portion of the assignment. I also made several attempts to explain that it was 2 parts, 1 for core work by the hour, and a fixed rate for custom programming if required, I never said I would do it all in 10 hours, if that was the case why did the client create 2 assignments and higher me for the hourly rate to start, and review my proposal that included the 16 hours for part 1.
The above was to fill in what happened next…
The client decided to switch from 10 hours/week assignment to 1 hour/week without informing me, then sent notice to oDesk that there is a contested week of 10 hours.
I then stopped the assignment and waited for oDesk to respond, I was allowed to provide my side and data to oDesk arbitration, and this is what happened…
I LOST; the reason is, and only is, I did not have enough data points for them to monitor my activity, even though I always logged in to oDesk tracking software every time for that buyer.
What needed to be done is every 15 minutes I needed to describe what I was doing for the previous 15 min. for all time logged in for that buyer. Now there is no set policy for how many times you need to explain per hour what you are doing, but once an hour would still have not been enough…the reason I lost was I did not monitor what I was doing even on an hourly bases because there was a limit to how many hours I thought I had bid to actually do the work, I did not compensate for the 15 min/hour monitoring time.
In my opinion oDesk and the buyer were RIGHT, I did not follow oDesk policy to the letter and accepted the outcome of the arbitration, although I had no choice.
Also since I lost the arbitration I was responsible for the oDesk fee for the $125.00 for the 10hours for the second week. Since I am also a Buyer at oDesk I had my credit card on file for buying other providers services, oDesk charged my credit card for their lost oDesk fee. So not only was I out the $125.00 for the 10.5 hours worked that week I was also out the oDesk fee on money I did not earn.
Here is my solution, either quit oDesk, or…I will, for every oDesk hourly job I get, monitor my work every 15 minutes for every hour that I work for that Buyer, I will then have no issues when Buyers want an accounting of my progress, if for some reason the buyer does not feel that I am performing on the assignment and wants to contest that week I will at least know that I have been following oDesk policy to the letter…Who cares if I get the work done as long as I get paid and to stay competitive I will not compensate for monitoring times, just use the time I was contracted to do the work to do both monitor, communication and ALSO DO THE WORK, and even better yet not charged the oDesk fee if I violate their policy. I also will not inform the Buyer on this, that I need to spend an average of 5 min. describing what I did every 15 min. on their assignment, it is their problem to find out. I will be fully covered, Maybe…

matt says:
December 12, 2009 at 12:57 pm
I work on oDesk and have no problem at all with the “monitoring”. Frankly, I don’t think the guy I’m working for even checks, but if he did he would see that I’m working. It doesn’t take webcam shot of me, but does take screenshots.

What’s so wrong with an employer wanting to make sure that a worker who he has never met and never worked with isn’t playing WoW instead of working?

If I get a bad case of diarrhea, guess what? I go to the bathroom and my employer isn’t charged because there is no mouse or keyboard activity? Why should he pay because I ate two week old pot roast?

To answer the first two questions you asked:

1. Time spent “thinking”, researching, planning, doodling, etc. can be billed as “offline” time. The employer and provider can agree on how much offline time is needed and appropriate for the project.

2. oDesk adds 10% to the rate charged by the provider (worker). The provider gets their full asked-for hourly rate.

This big-brotherish concept also brings a distinct (and huge!) advantage for the worker: oDesk guarantees payment for all online (monitored) work. An employer can’t refuse to pay for work that has verifiably taken place. If all else fails, oDesk will step in and make payment. I can’t begin to imagine the number of contractors out there that are trying to wrestle payment out of their employers. Not a problem on oDesk.

The bottom line is that no, buyers on oDesk don’t trust the providers, nor do they have reason to. The guy that hired me did so despite the fact I was the highest bidding contractor for his job (my rate is 10x the lowest rate bid). He hired me because he’s had bad experiences with others on oDesk (not working, shoddy work, etc.). It’s no surprise he might want to monitor the work being done – I would too.

Rebecca says:
December 12, 2009 at 7:28 am
I’ve been working through oDesk for over a year. I’m in the U.S. and I work for clients and agencies outside of oDesk as well, and I’ve also worked on-site at companies in the U.S. — in fact, I teach college, both online and face to face classes, so I currently do some work on-site.

Your employers get to watch you work and to check up on you. At the college where I teach, I have official observations and student evaluations, and of course my classroom is open to my supervisors at any time.

My non-oDesk clients call me, IM me, ask for reports, and otherwise watch my work. If I’m working on-site, they can come and watch what I’m doing if they feel like it.

I don’t use a web cam at oDesk (it’s optional), but I don’t mind the screenshots. I’m proud of my level of productivity, and I don’t mind clients seeing my work any more than I would mind having someone drop by my classroom.

Now, that’s the emotional aspect.

Look at the practical side. I can accept work from complete strangers on the other side of the world because I know that oDesk’s payment system protects me. They can hire me, a complete stranger on the other side of the world, because oDesk’s oversight system protects them. On both sides, we know that oDesk has our back.

I’ve hired some graphics folks through oDesk (I wrote about the experience here: http://www.rebeccahaden.com/blog/2009/10/on-hiring-at-odesk.php) and I like being able to see what they’re doing without disturbing them. It’s interesting. My work isn’t all that interesting, since it’s mostly just Word documents getting longer, and I doubt that my oDesk clients actually look much. Still, I’m glad that they can if they want to. I want them to feel confident about hiring me.

Stranger says:
December 9, 2009 at 8:37 am
I have been freelancing on RentACoder for years, got into top providers and never ever got a rating below then the max 10 for any of my projects. But this oDesk system does suck.. When I need some inspiration I can go for a walk in the park or have a WoW playing session during my work day :D Then I can sit down for 3 hours and write the code some other providers would need 3 days to write. So being paid on hourly basis is absolutely not compatible with my way of working as well as being monitored that way. Looks like slavery indeed.

Darren says:
November 30, 2009 at 1:32 pm
I guess it’s a good option for some developers depending on their exact circumstances and location.
It’s not for everyone but then what job or way or way of working is?

It has the potential of being a good way of getting into the industry, working from rural locations or just building up a client base.
If you already have an established client base or a long history in the industry I think there are better ways of working but even then if you like odesk then why not use it.

Wojciech says:
November 30, 2009 at 7:27 am
I’m working near full-time on oDesk as a Ruby on Rails programmer.

I haven’t enabled web cam – only screenshots of my desktop are being monitored. No client (had more than 10 so far) has ever asked me to install a web-cam.

I don’t see this as a privacy breach – I don’t regard my computer desktop private, while I’m at work.

I don’t watch porn, play on Facebook or check personal email while I’m working. So only screenshots that are taken are screenshots of my code editor, Linux terminals, web browser with documentation. What’s there to hide?

I set a log 2-3 times a day, to document what project I’m working on. Again – what’s there to hide?

My initial rate (just to put my foot in the door) was petty $8, then $16 after a month. Now I’m billing $30/hr. It’s about as much as I’d earn in a local company. Still it’s a little compared to income of US programmers, but I plan to double my rate throughout next year.

I wanted to work with native English speakers (to practice the language) but I don’t want to move (got a son here to raise). I wanted to work from home or from a workshop/office I set up near my home, so that I’m near when my son needs me. I wanted to have very flexible working hours sometimes early in the morning, sometimes late at night.

Slavery – right. I have never felt so much freedom at work.

This doesn’t mean I’m entirely happy with my oDesk experience – they have issues with their site and tools. I got some concerns about their TOS (can’t never ever work directly for a client I’ve met through oDesk). But I’m totally fine with their business model and monitoring tools.

CAD says:
November 9, 2009 at 2:12 pm
Clearly, the author has never got ripped off through ODEsk. There are many applicants there with the only aim is to create several false account and get the job, grab the payment and go. Since I become $70 short I am more careful and that was only article writting, no codeing or programming. I mean how can you be sure that the russian bloke to whom you are paying $10/hour does not work on his facebook app or whatever instead of your code?

I have been acting as a Client representative both in the Civil engineering industry as well as in other sectors like e-commerce/it and I must tell you that if a contractor/consultant has the chance to ripp you off they most likely will.

Monitoring is the only chance of us Clients, and this is not pleasent but this is life, isn’t it?

stinks says:
January 14, 2010 at 3:43 pm
Whats not pleasant is the fact that people are getting paid literally third world wages, doesnt matter if you are in China or the United States. Lets face it, the buyers that use oDesk are looking for dirt cheap skilled labor. Where do you find it? just look at any one provider on oDesk who has logged in the most hours.. they’re in 3rd world nations like India, Pakistan, Ukraine. This business model only benefits the buyer and oDesk, it doesnt have the interests of providers in mind.

monsi says:
October 20, 2009 at 6:18 am
what seems like slavery wages in some countries is actually good in others, and the purchasing power is a lot better, too. as for the camera, i personally am a provider at odesk and i appreciate that there is a camera so i know the client knows he gets his money’s worth. and i can turn it off anytime. of course, i don’t get paid for that, but it all works out well for me and the client, too.

CMB says:
October 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm
ODesk doesn’t require the web cam feature, it is optional but they do recommend it. For the hourly positions it is required that your mouse/keystrokes are recorded but if you are working on a fixed rate project it is not.

fedmich says:
September 24, 2009 at 4:52 am
I think the monitoring, either the “keyboard typing” or the webcam shots are creepy.
I dont like this feature.
I had been a member of odesk since last year 2008, and thats 2 feature is what’s keeping me from applying for jobs on desk. I am a very productive provider but this could reduce my productivity as it will make me feel uneasy and always be wary from time to time.

and all I can say is the most important thing in the end are results.

Andy says:
September 16, 2009 at 1:27 pm
After having initiated a number of projects on oDesk with varying success, my biggest concern is that the feedback system is completely unreliable for ranking the developers who will be providing services.

Feedback you make appears to be weighed by the amount of payment you make so that providers who abandon jobs and receive no payment for those jobs are then not penalized. Despite abandoning job after job they retain a high rating. This encourages providers to bid far lower than they can accomplish the job for and then abandon the job when they realize they can’t do it. It’s a tremendous time waste for the buyer. But that is not the worst of the feedback system. I even had a provider who hacked into my system to extort money from me when they failed to complete the project because despite their earnest efforts they simply were not qualified. Understandably I gave them very poor ratings and complained about them hacking my site, but despite the complaint having been verified by oDesk support, when I checked again any details of the incident were gone.

Looking over the online work history of other providers who have performed poorly for me, I have seen numerous cases where negative feedback from buyers other than myself appears to have been erased. I am extremely generous with praise when a provider even comes close to fulfilling specified requirements, and I generally pay a bonus when they do so. When I make a negative comment about a developer it is only done when they REALLY mess up. It is dishonest that my negative comments and those of others are erased when my positive comments are featured so prominently.

Overall the oDesk provider rating system is not credible and introduces too much risk into the IT process. I recognize the company’s need to have a rating system that doesn’t thin the ranks of developers too much, but that must be balanced with the need for a rating system that rewards providers when they pay attention to detail in reading specifications and when they exercise diligence in completing them. I fully support that a feedback system should provide an opportunity to improve on poor feedback when received, but feedback should be improved by the developer’s gaining technical knowledge and experience at completing projects, not by the oDesk administrator hitting the delete button on negative feedback.

Pothi says:
September 16, 2009 at 3:50 am
@tony, oDesk has recently changed its view regarding minimum wage. Read the full article here…


Darren says:
July 23, 2009 at 4:42 pm
I looked at oDesk but decided against using it since it’s not the kind of working relationship I would want with a client.

I’ve worked as a freelancer and a contractor for many year and enjoy a healthy working relationship with many clients built on trust and performance.
In this game repeat custom and word of mouth is vital so I treat every client like royalty and work hard to deliver great results every time.

So my client’s are happy and trust me to deliver and in return I enjoy the freedom to innovate and deliver great solutions. This freedom was the driving force behind leaving the full time office environment and getting into contracting in the first place.
So maybe I’ll take a break from the keyboard and stand outside to think over a design problem or maybe I’ll call a client or research some white papers online away from the keyboard.

I can’t help feeling that this software is missing the point of freelancing.
Freelancers generally aren’t code monkeys. Code monkeys have full time development jobs which give a reasonable level of freedom to brainstorm and develop solutions.
When someone decides they are ready to take the next step and take charge of complete solutions directly with clients they become freelancers.
So why would you agree to be monitored for the amount of code you churn out?

A good developer wouldn’t just churn out code. A good developer engineers solutions which involves thinking about the problems, researching and finally developing a solution.

No, I suspect this software is aimed at the bottom 20% of the freelancing market, those really struggling to get work because they haven’t delivered for clients in the past or those overseas who have lower expectations of what it means to be a freelancer.

Maybe use oDesk as a way of getting into freelancing but it’s no replacement to networking, pitching yourself to companies and straight forward bidding for tenders directly.

Dev says:
July 15, 2009 at 5:47 am
Kenny says “oDesk is a tool that releases people from slavery. Have YOU developed friendly working relationships with people from a caste system and who now benefit from you treating them as equal human beings?”

You are very off-target and full of misinformed self-congratulations. Incidences of caste-discrimination in India are as much prevalent in rural India as racism is prevalent in, say, the rural US. By that logic I too will claim India can liberate African-Americans because they won’t be hung from a tree here, or get bottles broken on their head for being Africans, unlike in the US.

Dev says:
July 15, 2009 at 5:41 am
To the article author,
You are just acting spoilt. Such monitoring is a way to make telecommuting acceptable in many cases. And managers/micro-managers doing this onsite is very common too. Economic activity is a contract between both the parties. Slavery is forced. This isn’t slavery.

jim says:
July 9, 2009 at 1:24 pm
You are an idiot! Plain and simple. First never comment on something you know nothing about. Second, your master – slave analogy is absurd. Forget the providers you refer to as slaves you are disparaging every hiring manager and business owner that employs people through oDesk by referring to them as slave masters. I am both a provider and the owner of a hiring company ( a buyer) on oDesk and have had great success as both. The reality is that all work done on oDesk is done in the same fashion as work is done anywhere. oDesk users are free to offer and accept work, quit or be fired, and perform and be rewarded as they are in any company you can think of. Are there bad bosses out there sure. Are there bad employees you bet. But overwhelmingly this system provides access to thousands of companies around the world for workers in every country on the planet. This is globalization at it’s finest. Everyone should keep a few points in mind here.
1. Logging hours is the same as punching the time clock at any job except that it is done virtually often from the comfort of your own home.
2. Providers have the same ability to rate companies that they work for as the companies have to rate providers.
3. You can turn down any work you don’t want and you can fire anyone that is not doing their job effectively and efficiently.
4. Many jobs are completed on a fixed bid basis which as you suggest is the optimal way to conduct this sort of employment (of course you forgot that both for the provider and the hiring company having a long term hourly assignment is often the preferred approach).

Don’t assume that everyone that is hiring on oDesk is a “Slave Master.” We hire here because they have the best resources available to deal with the many projects we have. We are, and I think the vast majority of buyers are, very fair with our oDesk providers and have given many of them multiple repeat assignments or permanent part time work.

In the future you should stick to what you know which is clearly not global contract labor relations issues.

Tommy says:
July 8, 2009 at 10:33 am
This article was WAY OFF BASE.

oDesk is no different than eLance, Rent-a-coder and Guru. It matches those with a need with those with a skill. The price is always negotiable and ranges from $2/hr to $100/hr depending on the skillset. There’s also the option to pay as a flat-fee for a particular project.

So for Allen to single out oDesk as eSlavery 2.0 without using the service (or any other service for that matter) is fruitless. The monitoring tools are optional to the provider.

TolMera says:
July 3, 2009 at 8:53 am
I’ve taken a while to read through every comment. And it looks like there is a lot of hostility among the contributors.

As such, I think that most of us will be able to find common ground with a few simple ideas.

First I want to speak about the amount that people are getting away with paying for jobs. $1.50 an hour is slavery. Many many many people all around the world are taught not to buy products from china, because of the inhumane conditions that are enforced on workers. Part of the inhumane conditions is the amount that they are getting paid. I’m not saying that they are not able to live off of what they earn, I’m just saying that in comparison with a US worker, the person is being seriously mistreated.

ODesks’ shareholders or craters may not benefit from imposing a minimum hourly rate, but all of the suppliers would benefit from only accepting jobs that match the minimum wage of the US… And if you want to do your comrades in Russia a favour, make sure they get a good income as well, you are doing nothing but hurting your own pocket by allowing labour to be sourced from over seas for cheaper than you are able to provide it yourself.

Next I would like to offer some incite from a suppliers point of view on the monitoring software that is available.

Personally I like the monitoring software, if I can say that I have been working (all be it slowly), and I am able to back it up with the records from the monitoring software. Well, the buyer is going to be forced to cough up. I am able to make the monitoring software work for me…

secondly “Offline Time”
Why would you ever need to go offline when you are contemplating your next piece of code, or the exact wording you are going to use in a document?
Simply open Word, and write in large easily visible letters, “I am doing XYZ, I need to know ABC before I am able to continue work” then twenty minutes later, come back to your computer, and write down what thoughts and research you have done in your absence. for example “I discovered that I can use mysql_num_rows, to count the number of rows returned by a mysql_query(“SELECT * from X”);, This is going to solve XYZ problem I was having with ABC”

Now personally I don’t believe that ODesk is responsible for the slave style labour.. I believe that it is the providers that have accepted that kind of behaviour from buyers. And to go into a little history, when you had slavery in the US. one farm with 7 slavers, and 60 slaves. Who would win when the slaves finally revolted?? Ain’t we Lucky we abolished slavery before there was a revolt?

Now one final thing, Please Please Please make the system work for you. Accept nothing but the best from your employer, and provide nothing but the best to your employer.
If everyone worked under that code of ethos, none of us would have any problems.

John says:
June 30, 2009 at 12:20 am
If you think paying a guy from the Ukraine US$18-$25 is slavery in a country where the average wage of Urkaine is around $300 US per month, I dont think so. These guys are creaming top $$ from US buyers and laughing all the way to the bank. They come and go as they please, with no obligation to get anything finished, (there is no penalty for leaving a job contract unfinished) , so from an experienced Odesk Buyer with 2000 + hours your article is total nonsense.

jobuckley says:
June 26, 2009 at 9:06 am
I’m a freelancer, working on oDesk now for about a year and a half, along with 2 other freelancing sites. oDesk is the ONLY one I keep coming back to.

Your argument about minimum wage is not relevant in a global marketplace, being from Ireland I know the minimum rate that I need to earn to get by, therefore I only work on Jobs that pay me that rate. However providers in other less well off Countries can afford to work at a lower rate as their money goes further. Minimum wage in some eastern countries is less then $1 per hour, so if you’re getting $1.50 then you’re doing pretty well!

Providers should only work on jobs where they are comfortable with the rate.

As for this webcam debate, I for one have never used it and no Employer on oDesk has ever suggested that I should. The screen snaps that are taken of your screen while you are logging time are there to protect both the provider and the buyer (He’s called a buyer, because he is buying your services, not because he owns you as previously suggested).

Take an example, where a buyer receives his employees time log to review at the end of the week as many employers do in bricks and mortar businesses. The provider has billed lets say 10 hours of work for a job that realistically should have taken a lot less. The buyer now has the option to check the screen shots and check if that full 10 hours was spent on his project or if perhaps the provider maybe forgot to log out of the oDesk team application, perhaps he’s encountered a dishonest provider who is logging time that he’s surfing on the net. NOW he is protected, he can file a dispute for the hours and show from these screen shots that the provider did not work all of these 10 hours on his project.

From the provider point of view, I am protected, because I know if I am legitimately working for the time that I have logged, then I WILL BE PAID, Odesk offer me this guarantee. No other site offers this and I’m sure that if oDesk did not have these tools then they would also not be able to offer me this guarantee.

oDesk is a great marketplace, regardless of your background or nationality, there are opportunities there for everyone.

Robert says:
June 11, 2009 at 1:20 pm
What is the relevance of the min wage set for the US?

In case you haven’t noticed, we live in a global economy/marketplace.

Why shouldn’t workers from countries with lower living expenses be able to compete?

Kenny says:
May 17, 2009 at 9:35 pm
I want to work for you because I know you must guarantee to pay more than anyone for any job. Awesome! When do I start? Send money directly to my account and don’t look at my work because it would be spying as you know.
oDesk doesn’t require any rate. It’s left up to the individuals involved who decide to work together. This is totally unnecessary now because Tony obviously understands how this all really works and will now be providing EVERYONE with all the money they ever wanted for any job. Thank you Tony for making everyone’s dreams come true.

Walter says:
December 13, 2009 at 4:44 pm
oDesk has started to use a minimum, it started very recently. Your are no longer allowed to set any price. In my opinion it was a result of huge increases in freelance work, but job bids prices were falling to a point that even oDesk policy of no limits were tested and required them to set limits. For the longest time oDesk stood fast on not setting any limits, or minimums, but even they could not maintain this policy.
It use to be that buyers who provided these very low bid rates were just ignored by most providers, but now even these jobs get 20-100 providers bidding on them.
I monitor oDesk jobs every day, by email and on their site, and must say that very low bids were not that common ($0.85/hour for full website design/development) a few years back, but have been in a free fall over the last 6 months, even to a point that I no longer even get interviews due to my rate being $12-15/hour, or I am now being out bid by $5-10 for almost every job. I also know from working on oDesk that bids have to be reasonable for everyone or you never get these jobs done at that rate, I have seen an increase in very unhappy buyers due to this. I has become a feeding frenzy, but buyers and providers are both sometime the biggest losers.

Walter says:
December 13, 2009 at 4:51 pm
I also wanted to add that I also hire providers, but know enough that even off shore providers should get a fair rate, and have paid my provider higher than the current freelance average minimum of $3.50/hour. I even pay bonuses for premium performances, on top of a competitive higher rate. But that has been my call and it has work out well.

Ultimately even in a global market you get what you pay for.

tony says:
May 17, 2009 at 8:47 pm
this is bunch of crap! just another way of outsourcing for cheap labor. Most of these jobs are not paid well and are most likely way below minimum wage. these sites should be banned or the prices should be hiked up to match market rates of the countries these sites reside in and not match the wages of the countries such as india and china

Kae says:
May 11, 2009 at 6:48 pm
… I just gotta say – have you SEEN THE AVG WAGE FOR THESE JOBS? There are jobs with a fixed price of 10 dollars!!! Why are you people defending ODesk???

Walter says:
December 13, 2009 at 4:10 pm
$10, you have not been looking real hard, how about these from oDesk:

Design a basic, clean and functional 4 – 5 page website for a small rustic cafe. Should have an outdoors/cabin feel to it.

Bid must be VERY CHEAP – Please do NOT bid if you are over the fixed price.

Please view attached document for more info.
Estimated Budget: $6

This one is even better:
Pay is $0.85 per hour anyone higher will be rejected

I have websites where tne developer started then left the jobs 90%completed. i need someone to complete the work on many sites.

This is a permanent job part time 10 hours per week for 6 months

Both jobs have many, many providers bidding on these two.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

oDesk is right huge increase this year in freelance work, huge increase in hours worked, huge decrease in average pay per hour worked. Aren’t stat’s great.

Kenny says:
April 24, 2009 at 7:15 pm
Allen and others,
oDesk is a tool that releases people from slavery. Have YOU developed friendly working relationships with people from a caste system and who now benefit from you treating them as equal human beings? Have YOU formed friendly working relationships with people from former communist countries? Are you working right now with Moldovans who are starting a revolution against a communist regime while producing quality work for you making a predetermined fee based on a free capitalist system provided by oDesk? Are you working with anyone like I have just described, who is creating personal wealth for themselves, and you, from a mutually beneficial agreement that is backed up by a free market system like oDesk provides? oDesk is a powerful tool like any other powerful tool. People from all over the world are applying their creativity to it to create opportunities and wealth for themselves in ways you apparently cannot imagine. I wish you could because it would benefit all of us. Anyone who would treat people as slaves will find none at oDesk.

Victor K says:
February 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm
Thanks for being smart enough to know the truth and tell it as it is.
These people who have nothing to do but PRETEND to be experts in a field they have no idea bout are just blowing into the wind. Besides, they have no idea that Moldova exists or where the heck if is!!!!!!
To these ‘experts’ who choose to critisize a system that is ‘liberating’ thousands in third world countries, I say “Get off your mighty GOD-LIKE horse and go and speak to these people who are making 10 times their country’s average before you criticize again….you BLOODY IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Mike says:
October 26, 2007 at 1:24 am
You obviously have something larger against the tech outsourcing industry. Move along child…welcome to the real world

vittorio says:
October 4, 2007 at 3:15 am
With the dollar going down the drain, where is the advantage now? But this is off the point anyway. Any solid team is based on thrust and employee involvement in the thinking/creative process. Void that and u get garbage from your employees. Meaning that Odesk is garbage that works for garbage companies to employ garbage labor. There is just no future in this model. It goes against all trends in management. The product of peculiarly small minds.
You want to see evidence? There is no list on their site of companies that do employ their services. Meaning: If I a perspective employer, how do I decide your system works? Where is your case history? What are you guys hiding? Shameful is to say the least. Cause I would rather say that this is a scam.

MeNo$100 says:
September 7, 2007 at 5:36 pm
I love how the oDesk website states ‘no credit card needed’ then thinks it OK to place a hold on your card for $100 – prior to any project being completed. Would it be too overwhelming to state that next to the ‘no credit card needed’ statement? Not sure what to think of the 11% [+] fee either.

As a web hosting provider, I need subcontracted coders and have used scriptlance.com, guru.com and the like on several occasion’s. Can’t remember having a $100 hold placed on an account or credit card before any work was completed, let alone At ALL. That forced me to close my account immediately. Even asked them to stop sending emails and they couldn’t do that. Ended up having to report their emails to SpamCop.

4 thumbs down for this service!!!

Anonymous says:
July 31, 2007 at 6:15 pm
I am a buyer on Odesk, just about to start my first project. I think odesk is great, but not sure how to take their ‘tracking mechanisms’. Frankly, I don’t need that. I can tell if a person works or not. I don’t need to be behind their backs (or shoulders) to determine that. the metrics are quite simple – results! I can estimate the length of work of a given task. (been in SW for a while…)
note that this works both ways… if you are a reasonable developer (like you said in the interview) you will complete the task within time allotted, if you are slow , it will take you more time and you lose.. and if you are really good, you will finish it faster (and can play solitaire for all I care…)
bottom line – I don’t think it’s needed. maybe odesk thought of this as a differentiating factor.

Chris says:
September 6, 2007 at 2:37 am
Hi... I worked in a company where a fellow worker was doing non-work-related activities for 80% of the day...

I Only Wish this Tool had been implemented there.

If I'm getting payed to work, enjoy my job etc... then I would be happy for my employer to keep an eye on me - this would benefit me even more by keeping my mind set on my goals, and not allow me to drift off on tangents (which is a common trait of the procrastinator and bored worker).

ODESK Employeeds may Choose to work or not

it's called FREEDOM not slavery.

Uncoy says:
February 28, 2007 at 5:40 pm
Look Allen, these guys are making a fortune in their local currencies (depending on each one’s situation).

Some of them will be offered dream jobs on the basis of their work on oDesk. And it’s a huge bonus for buyer (at whatever price)that there is a built-in human resources and project management system.

Trying to keep track of employees is a huge nightmare. Whether online or off. These guys working on oDesk don’t have to work more hours per week than they’d like.

I can’t see a loser in this situation (apart from local second-rate developers: the first tier crowd are not out of work – time to improve the skill set). And as other commentators noted, it’s not that surveillance is any better in a normal office environment. There much of the time you have a useless wanker (superviser) following you around interfering with your work. At least this way the provider is in direct contact with the boss in most cases.

My own rather more enthusiastic oDesk review is here.

La Vie Viennoise

Anonymous says:
January 25, 2007 at 9:13 pm
The complaint about the monitoring is so off … I rather know that I am monitered than my employer monitoring me and not telling me. Big companies do look in to phone records, email records, logs on servers, keylogers, etc … Happens every day all day long in the US.

centernetworks says:
November 17, 2006 at 11:58 am
So if I work for say 3-4 hours "thinking" – I then enter the time into the system – how does this affect my productivity rating?

Track the keyboard, track the mouse, look pretty for your pic, perhaps you should send them a house arrest bracelet to wear so that you know if they look or step away from the PC…

Also – faster typing = higher productivity? What makes up the rating?

dave mcclure says:
November 16, 2006 at 2:53 pm
allen: if the providers want to take time to “think” in our system, they certainly CAN.

specifically: they CAN edit the picture stream (whether or not it includes web cam shots, or whether it’s just the desktop + mouse clicks), and decide what they want to leave in.

hell, even if they want to watch *PR0N* they can choose to take it out… or leave it in.

the primary thing oDesk provides is TRANSPARENCY, and again i reiterate this serves both parties well:
* buyers can see what work has been done (or not)
* providers can show what work has been performed, so they can be paid

whether or not the buyer has an opinion about “think time” is not the critical issue here — some buyers will care, some will not. the point is that oDesk provides a way to measure and show transparency on the work performed that helps build trust, and helps improve project communication on both side.

and far from being their only option, those folks are certainly free to use products from our competition (who btw, DO NOT have our monitoring & communication tools). and while they may not have other local economic opportunities, they certainly have a world of competitive opportunities online.

again, i’d encourage you to chat with a few of oDesk providers on our forums & community and form your own opinions:

regards & as always appreciate the discussion & exploration :)

- dave mcclure

centernetworks says:
November 20, 2006 at 12:28 pm
Dmitry – how is the productivity rating produced? What factors go into it? So Master must approve Worker's time for "thinking"…

Allen says:
November 16, 2006 at 10:06 pm
Dave – so explain how this would work…. I am a provider on oDesk – you are my master (LOL) or buyer.

You hire me to do some PHP work for you. I need to now diagram the work, think about how this work will be completed, maybe sketch a diagram on my whiteboard or notepad. Do I get paid for this time? How does that time get computed into my "productivity" quotient?

Let's start with that and then I will have follow-up questions after that.

Thanks – I am glad we are discussing this and I hope that someone from oDesk will be willing to do an audio interview with me at some point.

dave mcclure says:
November 17, 2006 at 2:18 am
hi allen -

ok so let’s assume you, the programmer doing the work, have been hired to do some PHP work for a buyer (person you’re working for). you download and run the oDesk Team toolset, which records work activity, enables you to log your hours in a work diary (this can also tie your time to specific bug/features), and allows you to record screen snapshots. as you’re working, your keystrokes & mouse activity are detected, and 6 times randomly every hour a snapshot of the desktop is taken, along with the key/mouse activity, and recorded as part of the work diary. if you’re using a webcam, you can also enable video capture to the work diary (optional, not required, depends on programmer and buyer preferences).

now, if some of your “work time” is not spent doing work on the computer, you can still use the oDesk Team Memo to log a text entry of the work you’re doing offline. this becomes part of the work history available for your buyer to view & audit, and for you to record as part of your billable hours.

if you want more details on oDesk tools, feel free to checkout the oDesk handbook here, along with video tutorials:

hope this helps, and i believe someone from oDesk will be following up to chat with you about the interview request. i’m sure we’d be happy to make that happen.

thanks & appreciate the time,

- dave

Dmitry Diskin says:
November 18, 2006 at 1:41 pm
Your productivity is not being measured by clicks, never. The ratings are made by buyers, based on quality of work, communication skills, etc. When you add offline time (“thinking” time, if you want), it needs to be approved by buyer, see https://community.odesk.com/adding_offline_time

Best regards,

Dmitry Diskin says:
November 20, 2006 at 1:01 pm
You can read more about feedback ratings here.

I don’t fully get your second question/statement (about “Masters” and offline time). Offline time is not related to ratings, it is just a way to add billable time to one’s workdiary, in case it is needed. For example, if you simply forget to turn on oDesk Team client while working, and then can you add the missing time ad “offline”, and explain to to your customer why do you need it.


Dmitry Diskin says:
November 20, 2006 at 1:12 pm
You can read more about ratings here.

Best regards,

Allen says:
November 16, 2006 at 12:40 pm
Dave, is it exactly the same slavery as jews in germany or blacks in the usa? No. But is it on that same direction, I believe so, yes.

Your comment about the money immediately made me think back to being a young kid watching the WWF – there was a guy there Ted Diabese – his big phrase was "everyone has got a price" – so what you are saying is that pay them the right wage and you can treat them anyway you want?

You state, "oDesk providers participate VOLUNTARILY, and there are plenty of other competitors out there they could be working with who DON'T have these tools."

Yes, you are right they could go elsewhere. But can they really? USA employers are over here loving oDesk because they can "spy" on their workers which is probably not allowed here.

What happens if the guy/girl want to take 20 minutes to "think" – I guess in oDesk's system, thinking is not allowed…. hmm… what does that remind you of?

I saw the poem yesterday and decided not to include it because I like Matt a lot and respect what he does. He also has written an article here.

dave mcclure says:
November 16, 2006 at 9:36 am
hi allen -

[full disclosure: i do occasional consulting work for oDesk in marketing & product areas. i also help other startups, and i'm a geek and fellow blogger]

hmm… i think your analogy is a bit over the top. slaves don’t get paid, and their work is involuntary. they also can’t quit if they don’t like the conditions. none of that is the case at oDesk.

people who work for oDesk do it as a voluntary action, and they can leave at any time. but they don’t… largely because they’re making anywhere from 2x to 10x what they might normally make in their local environment (as you note in your post above).

on the contrary, oDesk monitoring & measurement is NOT some kind of ‘big brother’ thing, it provides a way for the buyer to make sure work is being done… AND IT ALSO provides a way for the worker to make sure they’re going to be paid. it works for BOTH sides, and helps provide an audit trail for either party.

finally, while the desktop snapshots are the core part of unique oDesk differentiation, the web cams are optional. not everyone uses them, however several folks do (usually to help improve communication, in conjunction with Skype or other systems that enable videos as well as VOIP). this includes even a few folks at oDesk, so you’re incorrect that they’re not used internally — oDesk eats its own dog food, and perhaps 1/3 of the team is located around the world remotely.

in summary, the tools and features that oDesk offers are all provided to 1) increase communication, and 2) record an audit trail of the work that’s being done. oDesk providers participate VOLUNTARILY, and there are plenty of other competitors out there they could be working with who DON’T have these tools.

while you certainly have a right to your own opinion and perspective, i’d respectfully disagree with your “slavery” characterization. it’s just not accurate, and i’d say it’s a bit unfair. if you disagree, you should speak with some of the people working using our tools, and i doubt you’ll hold the same opinion afterwards. (see this poem about oDesk for a more light-hearted perspective)

regards & in any case thanks for the post & discussion. communication always helps :)

- dave mcclure

bob says:
November 16, 2006 at 12:21 pm
You know how far do you have to go to get work with a company like that?

I can understand both sides of this but the simple fact is managers do not manage their employees or their projects very well.

The first thing is HR should be taken out behind the shed for even thinking of such a situation but is HR doing their job when they have to resort to such tactics?

Companies like walmart The Largest Employer in the World have about the same approach but in a different way. Their HR Managers are so bad at hiring good people that most stores have over 100% turnover every year. Now does that matter to Walmart? No because there are enough people out there to hire that will take $6.50 an hour that the HR staff can hire anyone they want.

Now companies that use this webcam ScreenShotCam software are saying we have really crappy HR Staff and we cant find honest employees or Managers that can Manage staff and Projects.

Hire some Good People and Pay them a Good Wage and they will be happy to work for you and If you have things not getting done then the manager fires that individual if the Manager cant Manage get a new manager.

There is no reason for this software except POOR MANAGEMENT.

However companies will use this bandaid to allow them to hire anyone and even outsource to other countries where they cant have managers handeling workflow because the employees are 18 hrs away by Leer Jet.

Come on companies WakeUp

junji says:
November 17, 2006 at 2:25 pm
on the contrary bob, companies in odesk do have project managers, and I myself am a provider for odesk and submit daily report on my activities to the manager, although it is not necessary but it keeps them managers abreast of what is going on. The web cam thing has been on in odesk ever since it started but I don’t remember anyone that I know of ever really using it, I’ve never even used the webcam — not ever. What I am concerned about is the keyboard stuffs and the sites that you browse, the screenshots, but I do have reasons why I go to other sites other than the assigned site to fix while i’m logged on to the odesk tools; simply put it looking for an inspiration — just not the keyboard strokes, well… actually it counts how many keyboard strokes not the exact text and mouse movement and mouse clicks.

Employers or buyers (i just don’t get it why they call them buyers… hmmm…. that makes them our masters… YES Master…. ;) ) don’t really care what you do, I even leave my PC on — while logged on to odesk and step back to gather my thoughts on what to do next while the pc stays idle for even a couple of hours, one time I was so stumped i wasn’t doing anything at all(I had to log off and sleep it out, it’d be pretty unfair to charge clients while your sleeping). In the end employers want the end result of what you do, that’s the bottom line.

Mario says:
November 16, 2006 at 6:09 am
yes, it sucks. These marketplaces should be based on delivered results, not on actual work time. Also, there is design and problem solving. You can do that (stronger: you can do that better) while driving or while taking a shower.
However, give it for granted that a certain amount of people will be ok with these requirements.

Matt R. says:
November 19, 2006 at 5:40 am
I understand agree, almost. I agree that it sucks to be paid for time and not for results. Sometimes thought it is helpful to be paid hourly, and not by the job. As far as monitoring goes, I disagree that it’s something that only people in countries with lower paying jobs would do, millions of people in the United states put up with being monitored daily. Not by cameras or software but by a human being possibly in the same room as them (a lot like a slaver I suppose, they hovered over those put under there charge and whipped ‘em when they didn’t do it, right?) But slavery isn’t a matter of making sure your employee is working, it’s a matter of forcing someone to work and not paying them for it. If anything this is much less of a form of slavery then things I’ve seen, such as when an employee is hired on salaried and then made to be oncall in order to keep there jobs, after which being made to work in excess of 100 hours a week permitting an average of only a little over 9 hours of liesure/sleep/eating/anything else that a human needs to do per week. I don’t know, but it seems like making sure a person gets paid for every hour they work seems a little more fair than making sure you get every last ounce of a persons strength in work while only paying them a pitance.
You noted that a large portion of the people working for hire at oDesk are probably foreign and put up with the monitoring because they can’t get anything else. Isn’t it the same in the United States. I don’t know about you, Allen, but if my boss wants to pop in while I’m working to make sure that I’m working, he will. Also, the company I work for has made it clear on there computers that anything you do on the computers can be monitored (doesn’t mean they do, but if they wanted to they could put keylogging software on the computers). I work in the Data Center for this company, and I haven’t seen them go to these lengths yet, but they don’t have to. Like I said, if my manager decided he wanted to know what I was doing, he could walk in and see. So is that slavery? The company that is paying me to work, should have the right to know that I’m working when I claim I am, shouldn’t they? At one point, they considered putting cameras in the Data Center, not just to monitor us, but to show off our hi tech DC to the world. (I think they decided not to, because with the way some of the people working here look, um… well you get the picture, and tbh, i’m probably one of the worst, hehe.) I understand and agree with you that people should be payed for results, but if a company wants to pay people for there time rather then there results, that’s up to that company. I can see benefits in this field to getting paid by the hour too. If I am hired by a company to design a large and complicated website and I do it as a contract job, I would look at how much time and effort I would have to put in to the site and that is what I would charge the company, but what if I start designing the site, and the company starts telling me that I’m not doing things as they want them done, having me redesign large portions of the site and adding perhaps days on to my original estimate of time and effort, after these things start happening I might go to the company and tell them this exceeds our original deal and I will require higher compensation. That would seem reasonible to me, surely, but to the company, it may seem like I’m just trying to rip them off. I do half a job, and I ask for more money, getting paid by the hour and with them seeing me work, would negate this because now the company can see that I’ve spent a specific time working, and they can see that they are paying for the work. For small projects, getting paid per job is fine, but with multi-month or multi-year projects, hourly would ensure both parties that things remain fair.

That’s my opinion, and you are free to disagree. Just don’t expect the current way companies around the world operate (that is monitoring employees by means of management and other things) to end.

rexrobards says:
April 25, 2007 at 1:33 pm
In the USA, the model for slavery is the agricultural slavery of the plantation system that existed before the American Civil War. In that system, even though slaves were sometimes beaten or even killed by their masters, there were laws against such abuse. But, what is more applicable to the discussion of oDesk (and those “buyers” who use it), is that agricultural slaves were an investment and slave owners had a financial interest in preserving the health and well-being of their property. Slave owners had to provide shelter, nutrition and health care to their slaves because the failure to provide these things could result in a financial loss for the owner.
The oDesk model is much more like the situation of holocaust victims in the fascist labor camps of the second world war. Those slaves were worked by their masters without regard for their health or nutrition since those who died under the whip could be readily replaced at very little cost to the exploiter (i.e. the Nazi SS and the corporations that owned the factory attached to the labor camp – Auschwitz was a synthetic rubber factory – the owners of the factory paid a fee to the SS for the procurement of labor).
oDesk plays the role of the SS in this new model for labor organization. The function of oDesk is to procure labor at the lowest cost and to monitor the workers to achieve the highest possible (documentable) productivity.
The “buyers” play the role of the factory owners. Just as it was at Auschwitz, buyers have no concern for the health or well-being of the provider. No thought is given to whether $15 per hour will pay for tuition loans, rent, groceries, utilities, or transportation – much less health care. The buyer is only interested in obtaining labor at the lowest cost and if the provider ends up homeless or in bankruptcy court, a replacement is readily available at the same or lower cost.
oDesk is not slavery – it’s fascism.

pbosakov says:
November 19, 2006 at 4:20 pm

You have an interesting point, but by your definition, working on a desk in a company office would be considered slavery simply because the boss can come in and check on you.

I believe that oDesk’s solution is simply bringing distance work closer to “actually being there”.

They also allow you to charge for “offline time”, which could include anything like phone calls, creative process, meetings and other things that cannot be measured in clicks.

I’ve been using oDesk for about a year, and I have been on equal terms with all the clients that I have worked with. They were perfectly understanding when I informed them about delays or periods of absence. I experienced nothing that I would call slavery. Besides, sending webcam images is optional and I usually turn it off – never had any problems because of that.

Tony Wright says:
November 20, 2006 at 7:54 pm
Banks and retail shops have cameras monitoring the tills to avoid theft. The boss glances at monitos as he walks around to make sure people are on task. Factory workers have quotas. Salespeople have goals that their jobs depend upon. There are piles of network/client monitoring solutions out there that many major companies use. Lots of Fortune 500 companies limit web browsing to company resources only.

This isn’t slavery, it’s oversight. And a business owner has a right to oversee as much or little as he wants (and a worker has a right to walk away from the job at any time).

centernetworks says:
November 20, 2006 at 8:20 pm
Jobster, eh?

Mike says:
November 20, 2006 at 7:55 pm
> And this is where the slavery aspect begins.
> When we think of slaves of the last 1000 years,
> there are several things in common. The most
> common is the fact that the “masters” would
> watch them to make sure they worked.

Heck, I want to work for a company where nobody cares whether an employer worked.
We are not slaves, slaves are not we!
From each according to ability – to each according to need.

danf says:
November 22, 2006 at 5:04 am

Small businesses don’t throw employees into long training programs, give them room to grow and review them after six months. They need to work closely with their people and see deliverables immediately. You might call that ‘intrusive’, but it seems a lot more common-sense to call it ‘small’.

Which makes small firms that can neither gamble on employees nor afford top graduates such a good match for Ukrainian, Moldovan and Indian developers who can’t show extensive credentials but can immediately prove their abilities when they get to work.

We’re talking about work, after all, that would not happen if not for services like the one you’re sizing up. Employers wouldn’t find anyone they could afford to hire – and developers wouldn’t have a place to build their chops. I think it’s no wonder that a company solving that problem finds so many defenders…

e says:
January 8, 2007 at 12:41 pm
I used to work a large telecom company and they monitored our screens all the time. and then used to play them back to us, when being disciplined. there is a ton of monitoring software out there, as well as filtering software. I hated it, but being on other side now as an employer I can understand it. same as talking on the phone all the time.

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