Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Outsourcing CS homework?

Those creative, enterprising Americans are at it again! They've outsourced boring, low value-added tasks like learning C++ to foreigners! Thanks to yankee ingenuity we'll grow our GDP through real cutting edge innovation, like organizing raves or inventing new ways to dispense shots. Who needs all that math anyway? :-)

WSJ: ...But what the computer-programming student who goes by the handle "Lover Of Nightlife" did last month, as the fall semester raced to a close, could only have happened in the age of the Internet: He went online to outsource his predicament.

"This is homework I did not have time to study for," he said in a message on a Web site devoted to outsourcing computer projects. "I need you guys to help me."

Attached was a take-home final exam for a computer class that Mr. Nightlife Lover wanted to pay someone else -- presumably, someone from a place where people can't afford a lot of night life to begin with -- to take for him.

This bit of commerce took place on Rentacoder.com, a Web site that has been mentioned before in this column as an example of globalization in all its blood-curdling efficiency. Rent A Coder enables people -- usually Americans -- who need computer programs to put them out to bid -- usually for cut-throat prices by Indians and Eastern Europeans.

But if U.S. companies can go online to outsource their programming, why can't U.S. computer students outsource their homework -- which, after all, often involves writing sample programs? Scruples aside, no reason at all. Search for "homework" in the data base of Rent A Coder projects, and you get 1,000 hits. (An impressive number, but still a tiny fraction of all computer students, the vast majority of whom are no doubt an honest and hardworking lot.)

A few examples: "I need a simple console-based program and a PHP script written that uses the openssl library." "I need 2 algorithms filtering -- median and Gaussian." "A C++ program that will implement a billing system using threads. Needs to be completed tonight if possible."

Indeed, some programming students appear to be outsourcing their way through college. "Pascal Rookie," from Colorado Springs, Colo., has put five school projects to bid. And while he may be a plagiarist, at least he treats his helpers well: Mr. Rookie has received the highest marks possible for a buyer in the eBay-like rating system used by Rent A Coder. "A pleasure to work with him," said one.

You can't tell from the site how much was paid for the help, but usually it's well less than $100.

11 comments:

frog said...

Brilliant. It would be good if I can outsource my life:-)

mike reardon said...

If you think of America as the Ancient Romans, and China as the Greeks, and India as the Phoenicians, this idea is scaleable to the national level.

Gaining Roman skills, in leveraging servants knowledge, creativity and innovation, is probally the next forty years of America's history.

They may end owning the Empire, but we at the center of civilization will still enjoy the uses of our servants knowledge and creativity.

steve said...

Mike,

Your analogy has merit. But keep in mind that working class Americans may not benefit nearly as much as the elite.

Eventually we will end up with a cosmopolitanized elite at the top, and a lot of disgruntled US workers. Compare the partners at a typical VC firm or hedge fund (lots of Chinese and Indians along with caucasians) with who is losing their jobs at GM and Delphi.

mike reardon said...

These students, should keep the skills of having someone do their work for all the rest of their work lives.

If an engineer 10 years out from school, and no longer at the cutting edge of the profession, uses the same trick of putting work on his present project up for bid. And get his project done before its deadline, his bosses won't complain.

And IBM using the talents from accountants in cities in India, sells solutions for back office work in Bakerfield, Ca. on demand. It is all about using Asia's expanding talents, in work we are not willing to invest our time and effort in accomplishing.

Many VC's in the Bay Area are expanding Asia's capabilities or creating solutions pipelines into all the advanced nations to use these abilities.

It is not only taking greater profit from the lower wage products and services, today's gift to businesses. We also need to use their lower wage talent and innovation to expand our economy. And finding the tax breaks to add investment into our economy, now needs to come to fill in America's employment, and massive demographic financial hole at the end of this decade.

And also GM and Delphi, are the Carthaginians battling a superior power, the Japanese auto industry.

Alex R said...

Doonesbury had a relevant strip a little while ago...

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