The Boston Globe's 61 Fresh is fascinating. The Globe has built an algorithm that aggregates tweets from 500 sources in the Boston area. Now, a lot of this is neighborhood-specific news (an example in the story linked here is about a Dunkin Donuts closing) but I suppose that's the point. The neighborhood stuff that locals tweet about is the stuff they care about and are engaged in, It's not Syria, but it's news that captures user interest. Newspapers have been trying to capture that local interest for years, mostly through the failed hyper-local sites. Maybe this is a way to get there. Now, this probably isn't an immediate money maker but it could provide something even more valuable --- insight into how users are consuming
I normally don’t write long blog posts --- who has time to read them, really --- but I am today because it deals with a subject interesting to anyone attempting to develop a website. That is: what are the pros and cons of using an offshore company for development?
I hired an offshore company through Odesk to build www.Compozed.com, a crowdsourcing site for students to get help with their writing.
Odesk was easy to use but a bit dense. There are, literally, tens of thousands of developers from which to choose. I narrowed my list by advertising for a specific skill set within a specific price range. I received 17 responses, picked three to interview, and selected a firm from India for the project.
Odesk routes all payments to the company you hire. Additionally, you only pay the company on work completed based on agreed upon milestones. So I made payments after signing off on design, initial website review and then completion. I like that because if something is amiss I haven’t paid out all of the monies due, and have some leverage if things aren’t going right.
The below pros and cons are based on my experience as an individual. Companies considering offshoring have a number of other considerations, including overhead savings, the loss of hands-on control, intellectual property issues and the like.
Cost: That’s the big, overriding plus. Offshore companies are far less expensive than U.S. firms. It’s not uncommon to get a basic website developed off shore for anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. I received quotes of up to $25K to build Compoze in the states; I was able to build it offshore for less than 10% of that. For those with limited funds, an idea, and no financial backers, offshoring is a fantastic way to get your idea developed.
Customer Service: The Customer service was solid all the way through. I was assigned an overseas contact who acted as my liason. I received prompt responses (always within 24 hours) to emails and was often able to communicate with Skype on a moment’s notice.
Time difference: My India company headquarters is 9.5 hours ahead of me. That means I often spoke to my contact deep into the night or very early in the morning EST. Since I’m a night owl, Skyping with the developers at 11 pm or Midnight wasn’t a big deal for me.
Language: Many offshore companies say they are fluent in English, but they’re not fluent as I would define it. My contact spoke decent English, but his accent sometimes made it difficult to understand him. In addition, certain words or phrases may have different meanings or get lost in translation. For example, I had to take special care to make sure words were spelled as we’re accustomed (favorite, not favourite.)
Detail: If you, the customer, aren’t a detailed oriented person, then offshoring is probably not for you. Offshore companies often build based on specific specs --- everything from fonts, to color, to type size, nav bar wording and more. Missing details could result in you getting a site that may not resemble what you envisioned.
For me, the cost savings out-weighed the other concerns.
We all know the content landscape is shifting. Trusted brands are becoming secondary to quick bites of content presented via aggregators. Some of those aggregators even add opinion to the stories, blurring the lines between objective reporting and (Now comes the next step in the transformation. Techmeme, the content aggregator, will start re-writing headlines, but not just because they think can write catchier phrases. They’ll do so to even “undermine what we’re linking to.”
I get re-writing. News organizations have re-written copy since the dawn of journalism. I even get adding content and opinion to existing news stories (I don't like it much, but I get that's what many customers expect nowadays). But re-writing to, potentially, undermine the premise? That's troubling. The copy editors --- and that's what they are --- aren't in the newsroom that produced the story. They don't know what went into the news gathering process or editorial discussions. All they know is what they read. It seems to me that changing a headline (or the body) of a story to undermine the initial concept is just flat out wrong. It misleads the public --- maybe intentionally --- and takes another step towards disintegrating the public trust.
Maybe I'm just old fashioned.