Archive for rant

How To Experience Abject Failure

I know when I’m beat. I know how to cut my losses and get out. There’s a lot to be said for perseverance, but even more for not throwing good money after bad. What am I talking about? My outsourcing attempts with GetFriday.com. My God, what a disaster.

After 2 1/2 months I had exactly one – that’s 1 – single success with GetFriday. Every other task I assigned was a miserable failure. Even after getting a replacement PA who was, supposedly, experienced in web search and basic web skills I could not get even marginally relevant results when I asked for search data on specific topics.

Worse, when it became clear to me that this wasn’t going to work out it took nearly an act of Congress to get them to cancel my account. The entire affair was a disaster.

What I learned is simple – if this is the best the Eur-Asian nations can offer then we are in no danger of being overrun by a low-wage workforce. They demonstrated a lack of understanding, competence, response, and adaptability that was hard to comprehend.

I went so far as to start running my task descriptions by two of my colleagues to try and ensure I was being both clear and reasonable in my requests. The results I got were still stunningly inept.

In fairness, most of my colleagues asked the very basic question, “Well, what did you expect?” I don’t know, maybe something a little above abject incompetence? How about someone with enough self awareness to recognize when they did not understand a task and ask for clarification until they did?

If you read my experience with BellSouth tech support from 2006 you’ll see my GetFriday experience is neither my first encounter with such incompetence, nor is it any real surprise. I suspect the cultural and language barriers between a third-world workforce and US-based expectations are just too great to overcome. Or maybe it is something else. I do not know.

What I do know is that from now on I will stick with North American (and possibly European) sources for anything I want done. Given my experiences I do not think there is any non-repetitive task requiring foresight, intuition, or judgment that can be effectively outsourced to a third-world workforce. It may well be that if you can 100% script an activity, and spend enough time to get the workforce to actually read the script, and have enough patience for them to practice and fail repeatedly until they get it right, that you might eventually have some success.

But as a small business my tasks are not repetitive. At least not now. And they do require thinking – which entails all those things mentioned above. The third-world is simply not the place to get these things done.

That Queasy Feeling

You know that feeling you get when you know you’re about to get bad news, like going to the doctor when you think the diagnosis will be bad? I have that feeling and it will stay with me for the next six to eight weeks.

I spent two hours with the new accountant today. We made some real progress and I feel good about how the project is going. But it’s not over. We (the accountant, my office assistant, and me) will spend another 3-4 hours together on Thursday making sure that all the stuff we’ve done in between is right and proper. Then my assistant will go about getting the rest of the data entered.

So what’s the queasy feeling? Taxes. I get it every year at this time – when I’m forced face-to-face with the unbelievable burdens our beloved government places on the self-employed. Every person in America ought to run their own business and have to pay their own taxes for a couple of years. It ought to be mandatory – like serving in the army or something.

There’s no way in hell our tax system would be as abusive toward small business owners if everyone had to do it instead of having their employer pay taxes for them. It makes me ill to see the morons on TV commercials grinning stupidly when they say, “I’m getting money back!” as if the freakin’ government has given them some sort of bonus.

But it’s not just the Federal income tax. It’s the state income tax, the Federal unemployment tax, the state unemployment tax, the MediCare tax, the Social Security tax, the self-employment tax. Not only do I have to pay these, but my company has to match many of them. Yes, correct. I’m the only employee but I have to pay them twice. But that’s just the personal tax. Don’t forget the corporate tax, because my little one-man operation is an S-Corp.

And what does my money go for? Well, according to the Congressional Budget Office (pdf) 53% – that’s five-three – of the 2007 Federal Budget went to welfare and other entitlement programs (foodstamps, MedicAid, etc), 20% went to the Department of Defense, 18% goes to everything else – like education, roads, the FAA, etc. What’s worse, the Federal government employs 2.5 million people, most of whom are worse than useless as they do stuff that is completely unproductive and just gets in the way of the very few people left who actually do useful things. The Federal payroll is about $13 billion (billion, with a B) per month.

Being forced to face this every year turns me into a real grouch from about February thru April. And makes me completely intolerant toward my idiot acquaintances who think taxation is some sort of tool for punishing the rich. Being a Presidential election year doesn’t help, with candidates spouting the stupidest economic fantasies one can imagine and throngs of near-retards buying into it.

The only reason these dimwits can think this way is because the government has cleverly isolated them from paying their own taxes by making the employers do it. Oh, and they are all functionally illiterate in basic economics.

So I am not happy. I am a grouch. And unless you want to really ruin a conversation don’t mention politics or taxes to me until sometime around July. And if you work in some government-funded job, don’t speak to me at all unless it’s to say “Thank You.”