Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Own Off Shoring

I am not going to lie to you - I make use of Off-Shoring as a means of getting web design work done for my clients.

I just got off the phone with a web developer that I have been using for several years. A friend who owns his own IT consulting firm told me about the site called "Elance". It is an on-line market place that pairs skilled practitioners up with project opportunities.

Several years ago I had a client that needed a web site created for his transportation business. My skill set is with systems and project management. The first web site that I did in Microsoft Frontpage was "butt ugly". After they used the site for a few months they realized that they needed to do on-line order taking and that they needed a more polished web site that was attractive to their customers. I setup a project profile on Elance and then I provided the link to the existing web site as it was 'content complete'. Amazingly after posting the project in the morning this small company in India had a complete mark up web site WITH ANIMATION sent to me in less than 5 hours. I received about 80 responses to my request from all around the world - USA, various nations in Europe, South America, Asia. I ended up choosing this company after going through about 9 of the 80 responses. After being so impressed by their sample - I didn't even bother to look any further.

The production web site was based on the mock up. This is how good they were. When I showed my client the mock up - they were blown away as well. Interestingly enough they had secretly tried to "cheat on me". They had paid an alternate web site development company to redo their web site. We both were frustrated by each of our inability to communicate. He did not communicate his vision for his web site, I did not capture what he was looking for well enough. With these update, however, the work of this talented 3rd party MADE ME LOOK GOOD TO MY CLIENT.

Yes I leveraged the services of domestic talent. I employed a local graphic artist. I paid her $200 to develop a new logo and artwork for the company. Interestingly enough it was never delivered upon, mostly because of the delays with my client. At the same time the COST of the entire web site, animation included was far less with these guys from India than what an American based developer would have charged me. I only needed to do project management, communicating with the client and relaying the changes to the developer. There was both cost savings and value provided to all interested parties.

The bottom line of it all is that the INTERNET IS THE GAME CHANGER. It provides the grounds for truly global commerce and communications. I was able to talk to the developer a few minutes ago via phone and instant messenger as we collaborated.

As to my personal interests - I am frustrated in that I see many young African-American people who I would love to push my network support activities off on - thus allowing me to operate more as a manager and a deal maker. The lack of skills where I need them and the informal business relationship does not afford me the opportunity to operate in such a manner.

Where as I currently teach literacy to poor young males I would like to expand into computer literacy. With so many skilled Open Source developers around the world that showcase their talents on a daily basis - I make heavy use of their products - it is a crime that so many young people are oblivious to what is going on around them. We need to get them plugged in.

Friday, March 14, 2008

New Farming Technologies Key To Our Food Future

The recent debates regarding the applicability of ethanol as a fuel because the corn used in the United States as a source of energy is corn taken away from the food supply has prompted me to do some key research on alternative farming techniques.

The recent price increases for commodity grain products is being caused by the increase in demand around the world with a supply that is far short of this current demand. This is not going to change until more supply is brought onto the market. When we add the variable of food transportation costs it is clear that there needs to be LOCAL solutions to the food production problem. It makes little sense to transport American grain over to China or African nations because their local production is short. If this is done on a routine basis rather than in response to some exceptional condition - clearly this is a gross market inefficiency.

As I evaluated the two leading options for alternative farming - hydroponics and areoponics I was given a further set of constraints in the debate. Others were critical about the water and energy that is used in farming. Hydroponics requires that the plants roots be submerged in large tubs of water throughout the process. This might be a violation of the constraints to both not use an oversupply of water and to be able to deal with areas around the world where water is scarce.

This constraint has led me to focus on aeroponics which seemingly use less water. With aeroponics - the plants are suspended in air with their roots exposed. The water and nutrients are sprayed into an enclosed chamber as a fine mist. This allows the water droplets to penetrate into the innermost roots that might be mangled together in a mesh. This has proven to be an effective means of producing crops. This technique is surely used for plant cloning as part of scientific research.

I did note, however, that corn, the initial subject of my research does not appear to be a lead corp for hydroponic/aeroponic farming. I would assume that the long stalk of the corn plant is problematic and no doubt would need to be supported in two or three places along the stalk to be grown. Most of the plants that I have seen - tomato, lettuce and peppers - are shorter, bush-like plants by comparison.

I will continue my research. I have committed that for the summer I will augment my usual crops of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers grown on my rear deck with an aeroponic contraption of some type so that I can conduct my own research on the matter. At minimum the enclosure will keep my dog from eating my crop as he did before I roped the area off from his access.

Today my deck - tomorrow some part of Africa that is in need of agricultural innovation!!