Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In-Office Out-of-Office Replies

Have you been getting a lot of e-mail lately, responding to your e-mail, telling you how often the recipient answers their e-mail?

You know, the mails that say: Dear Colleague, [polite explanation] I am checking and responding to my mail twice daily. [more polite explanation]. If you need urgent assistance [contact someone else/text me]. [yadda yadda yadda] Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. [additional politeness to cover for my telling you to sod off] Sincerely, [sig]

To avoid being accused of plagiarism, I acknowledge that this text is copied from The 4-Hour Workweek. Also, to be perfectly fair, Tim Ferris isn't completely to blame. Eben Pagan also deserves credit for these increasingly common autoresponders.

So, let me get this straight: you are making better use of your time by sending me extra mail to read? Hey, thanks, man. At the very least you could make it 1 sentence instead of 3 friggin paragraphs.

I'm not saying I don't understand. All I'm saying is "DUH." I know the difference between e-mail and instant messaging or SMS/text messages.

It is true that since the advent of the Blackberry, some people do have an e-mail infusion and answer at every hour of the day and night. For those people, the only cure is twitter. For the rest of us, the default is that Instant messages require Instant answers, and e-mail doesn't.

For those of you who work with colleagues who think that e-mail is an instant gratification machine, let me offer at tip to counter Tim and Eben. My tip is: don't send an autoresponder or any response until that time of day when you answer mail. People will get used to it, and if they complain, deal with them on an individual basis. Spare the other 90% of us your long-winded autoresponders.

Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness.
It will help us to serve you better.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Down and Out(sourced)

This is a modification of a post I made to Digital Eve Israel (the women's high-tech networking group), following a posting by one of the members who was looking to outsource some writing to India. A number of respondents tried to explain that outsourcing to another country when our compatriots have the skills and it would be better for our economy to keep the jobs here.

Following is my response.

Many responses to the post on outsourcing to India have been defensive and talked about "doing the Right thing" and outsourcing locally. Some of the posts have hinted or stated that the Indian writers are not as good as local writers. To my mind, this kind of post is akin to killing the messenger.

Let's face it: some jobs are particularly susceptible to offshoring. In particular, if you are outsourced or freelanced already, you can bet that offshoring is a natural progression from what you are doing. Writing is definitely one of those jobs.

You can argue about the quality. I believe that if you are one of the top people in your field, you won't be terribly threatened by the offshore market. How do you know you are one of the top people? You know you are the top in your field if you are charging more than 25% above the average. If you are thinking those expensive guys are a rip-off, you aren't the top in your field. Sorry.

So, assuming you are an average freelance writer, it is inevitable that offshore writers will eventually be able to offer similar services for a better price. That's a fact. It isn't good or bad, and it isn't good or bad for a company to pay less for the same service. It's just the way things will go. If you are angry about that, great. Anger can be a call to action.

The call to action is to give a good, hard look at your career going forward. If it seems that you are in a job that can be offshored, create a strategy so you won't be out of work in 5 years. It might be re-training to a different job. It might be training Indians to do your job and then being their agent in Israel. It might be opening your own business on the Internet. Hope isn't a plan. Arguing that it shouldn't be this way isn't a plan.

My basic belief is that the way commerce works is that there is work for everyone. I also have a basic belief that most of us can find a satisfying and meaningful job, or at least something that they don't hate. I'm not saying most of the world can find that kind of job, but if you are reading this blog, you are in the category of people who has a choice in the kind of employment you can find. You are in the category of people who could start their own business if they chose to do so. There really is enough to go around, but it won't happen when we are guarding ourselves and defending against what is "out there". It will happen when we create value in the world.