Insights and Comments on Global Outsourcing
May 12, 2009: 10:35 am: Steve MezakOutsourcing, India, SwB: Chapter 01

SweatshopOne of the engagement model choices for outsourcing your software development I have described in the past is the Body Shop. Another name used by Reza Imam in his recent article is Software Sweatshop!

The problem is in most cases, you don’t need just bodies (sweating or dry) to develop your software offshore. You need a team that can work together well to get the job done. The reason the body and sweat shop fees are so low is they don’t invest in a good recruiting process or effective software development methodology.

Avoid them!

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April 22, 2009: 11:16 am: Steve MezakNews

The Accelerance website and email is down this morning due to a major outage at our hosting provider Earthlink. Even the Earthlink website is down. I found the support number and called but you know how that goes - no humans actually answer the phone. A message said some Earthlink customers may be experiencing problems. I think it’s all of us.

Our phones do work and I will answer if you call. You can also reach me at my Gmail address which is Steve Mezak without the space.

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April 13, 2009: 11:38 am: Steve MezakWeb 2.0, Open Source, Events, Mobile Apps

iPhoneA couple weeks ago I attended the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. One of the sessions was on iPhone Tips and Tricks delivered by Alex Shah from Team SOA. The basic idea is that you can avoid the development time and the Apple App Store approval process for your iPhone application by creating a browser-based application using the open source Webkit software.

There is enough capability (using some tricks to get to them) to create a complete application that looks like it is a native iPhone application but is actually running in the Safari browser. Better yet, your browser-based app can run on other mobile phones and of course ordinary computers where a browser can be used.

Read the ArticleThis is an interesting approach to writing one application that can run on multiple mobile platforms. Now Google has “validated” this approach by using it for the lasted update to the Gmail service for users of the iPhone and Android phones. It’s written up in an article about how Gmail Sidesteps the App Store.

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March 30, 2009: 11:35 am: Steve MezakOutsourcing, India, SwB: Chapter 11, Reports

Gartner predicts that Outsourcing Prices Could Fall 10%. It is hard to judge the accuracy of these reports because they cover several different categories of outsourced IT services – datacenter, helpdesk and network services – besides just software development. But there is no question that business is less than booming these days and buyers are in a position of strength when it comes to negotiating prices.

If it made sense to outsource your software development globally to save money in the past, then it is even truer today. That is, if American companies are not too afraid to develop anything these days!

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March 21, 2009: 8:56 am: Steve MezakOutsourcing, IT Management, SwB: Chapter 03

A bad experience with outsourcing in the past can really give you a sour attitude about trying it again. Some people have a visceral reaction whenever they hear the “O” word - Outsourcing. Perhaps they tried to “purchase” outsourcing services in the past and negotiated such a “good deal”, they just about guaranteed they would get poor results.

Hiring an outsourcing vendor is like hiring the employees for your internal software engineering team. Yet many companies go about selecting an outsourcing vendor as if it is a purchasing process, seeking the lowest price possible for the service.

Did you ever purchase an employee for your engineering team? Of course not. Hiring an employee takes a careful evaluation of candidates through interviews and reference checks followed by a reasonable negotiation over salary.

Sometimes you have a choice between two or more employee candidates. Do you negotiate hard so you can hire one of them at the cheapest possible salary? Probably not. If you do, you risk hiring an employee that will only stay until a better job comes along elsewhere. And then you have to start the long hiring process for a replacement all over again.

Hiring an outsourcing team is like hiring employees, and it pays to be fair and equitable. Think of the offshore team as your own team, one that you carefully hire and manage over time to get excellent results. Otherwise you face getting poor quality and having to go look for a new outsourcing vendor again. And that will cause you months of wasted time.

—-

Read the Business Week articleA synopsis of this post was published on the Business Week website as one slide in their Outsourcing Advice from the Pros. This was an added sidebar with several articles focused on small businesses using outsourcing for manufacturing and professional services like software development.

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March 20, 2009: 10:25 am: Steve MezakTNT XC Ski Marathon

Paula and I just published some video clips on YouTube that she recorded during the Tour of Anchorage. Here they are:

And a couple more clips of Steve’s teammates on the course:

Click to find out why I am doing this

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March 15, 2009: 6:07 pm: Steve MezakTNT XC Ski Marathon

The jet airplane screamed overhead on takeoff as I made my way along the ski trail that passes the Anchorage airport runway during the Tour of Anchorage ski marathon. I was a well past the halfway point on the course that started at Russian Jack Park and then wound its way through the middle of the city. By now I was on the coast, heading around the outer edge of the city and well on my way to the finish line. But there was still a long grueling hill to go.

Click to Enlarge

Earlier that morning a bus took us from our hotel to the start line for the 25 km race. The 40K and 50K skiers started at a different part of the city and left on an earlier bus. The temperature was 12 F (-11 C) according to the thermometer in the SUV that my wife Paula drove over to see me off. Click to EnlargeShe was armed with video camera and cowbell. Paula had her own “tour of Anchorage” as she drove to the start and two of the four aid stations along the course to video tape my passing and cheer me on.

It was cold but I was dressed warmly with thermal underwear (and my padded sliding shorts, of course!) two shirts, ski pants and coat. I also wore two hats and Team in Training tattoos on my face. My heart rate / GPS monitor was also on me and I even remembered to press the start button at the beginning of the race to accurately record my time and distance.

Team in Training TattooBy the end of the race my coat was unzipped to dissipate body heat and to display my race number–1972–which was pinned to my shirt underneath and to the Camelback pack on my back.

And off we went! I was in the sixth wave of stride skiers that left at 9:40am. Up a hill, past the parking lot and down the trail to the center of Anchorage; we were on our way. There were several teammates in my wave but I soon pulled out in front of them.

A few minutes later my heart rate monitor chimed. My heart rate went onto Zone 5 when it hit over 170 bpm – too high for so early in the race. Coach George’s admonitions to relax and go slow echoed in my head.

But I didn’t feel like I was pushing myself or that I was going too fast. The course was fairly level with a few low hills for some ups and downs. Skiing at sea level was definitely easier than in the Sierras at 7,000 feet! But I didn’t want to wear myself out in the first five kilometers.

CamelBackIt was so cold that soon after the start of the race, the mouthpiece on my Camelback froze after only a couple of sips. I was careful to blow the water back into the bladder after each drink but enough water trickled down to freeze and clog the hose. Luckily I had a sports drink bottle inside my warm coat that I was able to refill at several aid stations. Later I heard another teammate say she was able to thaw her Camelback mouthpiece by putting it inside her coat. I wish I had though of that!

Gu with 2X CaffieneMy Clif bars also froze, or at least were extremely hard to chew. I had them in my right coat pocket and ate only one during the race. This was not a big problem since the Aid stations along the way had lots of orange slices, banana pieces and Fig Newtons.

At least my Gu packets in my left pocket stayed gooey and easy to eat. The packet directions say to eat one Gu packet 15 minutes before the race. I selected one with a double caffeine dose which seemed like a good idea for the start.

I had three goals in joining Team in Training to ski the Tour of Anchorage:

  1. Click to EnlargeRaise some money for the LLS
  2. Actually finish the race
  3. See a moose

I am happy to say I accomplished them all! In fact I first saw part of a moose right after leaving the starting line. After a few minutes on the trail, I saw a few skiers stopped ahead of me. They started moving again as I approached and I got there just in time to see the tail end of a moose go off into the woods.

About 5 km later I saw a whole moose. I was approaching one of the short tunnels the trail goes through under several streets of Anchorage (snow is spread in the tunnels so we can ski through) when I saw several of my fellow marathon skiers banging their ski poles together to make noise. Skiers backed up as we watched the moose through the tunnel. He moved on but not before I snapped his photo you can see in my previous post.

All Alone in Anchorage - Official Tour of Anchorage Photo Proof
All Alone on The Tour of Anchorage

For most of the race I was skiing alone and I concentrated on “throwing” my center of gravity up the trail, one leg at a time. Skate skiers were passing me all the time but none of my striding teammates caught up. Click to EnlargeOccasionally I would pass some other stride skiers and sometimes they would get ahead of me when I stopped for food or water at an aid station. Then I would pass them again. The funniest thing I saw were some young women skate skiers dressed in ski clothing and tutus. I felt underdressed.

CowbellIt was terrific to see Paula along the trail. Hearing the cowbell and the encouragement from her was a real motivator. Even a few other spectators and passing skate skiers would shout Go Team. Very cool!

My heart rate alarm went off a few times especially when climbing a few hills. During training my average heart rate was around 154 bpm. The average during the race was 167 bpm. That’s the power of adrenaline and double caffeinated Gu. And I needed it on that last hill of the marathon. It was a slow and steady grind for several kilometers before the end of the course.

Click to Enlarge
Steve’s Heart Rate, Distance & Elevation During The Tour of Anchorage

At the pasta dinner the night before the marathon, our team manager Julia described how she had trouble finishing a Century Bike ride a couple years ago. “It was mile 99 and I just bonked. But another teammate came up behind me and started reading the names of the honorees I had written on the back of my jersey. That gave me a second wind and the strength to finish the race.” Julia said.

I am happy to say that I only had to think of our honorees once during the marathon and it was on that last hill. It wasn’t very steep—just a long climb. When stride skiing, you can climb hills in the tracks by quickly moving each ski forward in the tracks. It’s like a combination of marching and jogging while wearing skis. On short distances it’s not too strenuous. But on a long gradual hill it is tiresome to say the least.

Click to Enlarge
Up the Last Hill to Approach the Finish Line

I finished 107th out of a field of 123 men and 19th out of 21 men in my age group (age 50 to 55). My official race time was 3:43:42.1 according to the timing chip I wore. The fastest time was 1:24:41.7 which I would like to have seen! Wow, that’s more than twice my speed on the course.  The slowest time was 5 hours and 15 minutes for the men.

Click to EnlargeTeammate Lisa Minn finished 64th among the women with a time of 3:29:57.5 and about fifteen minutes faster than me. Lisa left the starting line two waves before me and I never caught up with her! She was second in her age group and won a medal at the award ceremony.

We were all proud of Lisa but winning these races is not that important to us Team in Training participants. We were all in the bottom half of the standings and usually at the very bottom. I certainly had no illusions of winning the race. To me the most important things were getting in shape and to actually get across the finish line alive (and seeing a moose).

A more serious competition amongst my teammates is being the top fundraiser on the team. At race day I was at number five. That means only four of my teammates have had more donations so I am close. I met my goals of finishing the race and seeing a moose. I even exceeded my original goal of raising $5,000 for LLS. Maybe I aimed too low? You can help me and our team go even further.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is a good cause and 75% of your donation goes toward finding a cure. Make your contribution online until the end of March with this link: http://pages.teamintraining.org/sf/touranck09/smezak

Click to find out why I am doing this

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March 8, 2009: 5:27 pm: Steve MezakTNT XC Ski Marathon

I completed the 25 km Tour of Anchorage ski marathon today. It took me about 3 hours and 45 minutes. I think that was a pretty good time since I thought it would take me over four hours based on my speed during training.

Click to Enlarge
Steve Approaching the Finish of the Tour of Anchorage

And the actual distance according to my GPS device was almost 27 km.

I kept a pretty good pace but did not feel overly tired. About 15 km into the race a muscle in my right thigh started to get tired. But no excuses - this is a race!

The most exciting thing that happened was seeing a moose on the trail. I got a pretty good shot of it before my fellow skiers shooed it away.

Moose on the Trail

The 25K course for the Tour of Anchorage trail first went through the middle of the city. In the photo, the moose  is on the other side of a tunnel under a two lane road in town.

As I approached the tunnel, I saw the other skiers banging their ski poles together. What the heck? I thought. Then I saw the moose on the other side.

That was my only brush with massive wildlife. Although one of my teammates that skied the 40K course said she saw a wolf on the trail.

I’ll provide more details later about the race later. Thanks to all who donated! And for those that have not - it’s not too late!

Click to find out why I am doing this

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: 7:35 am: Steve MezakTNT XC Ski Marathon

I’m in the hotel room and will head down to the lobby in about 30 minutes to get on the bus with my skis. I’m a little nervous but was able to eat a good breakfast and take my vitamins. I’m ready to go.

Click to Enlarge
Before getting on the bus with my teammates to ski the 25K marathon

About a month ago there was a race at Lake Tahoe that some of my teammates participated in. “Are you skiing in the race?” One teammate asked another.

“Well, I’ll be skiing with a number on.” Was the reply. That’s my attitude about today’s race.

Last night at our carb-loading pasta dinner, Coach George said we should relax and enjoy the race. “You have accomplished so much to get here. You will all do well but don’t let your desire to perform in the marathon overshadow everything else. Don’t give it that power.”

Good advice.

Weather Forecast: the temperature is about 15 F right now but the sun is not up yet. It’s supposed to be cloudy and warm up to 25 F / -4 C with a 15 MPH wind.

And there is a chance of moose. I’ll have my camera ready.

Click to find out why I am doing this

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March 7, 2009: 9:18 am: Steve MezakTNT XC Ski Marathon

Arrived in Anchorage on Friday afternoon and got checked into the Marriott hotel. Not exactly roughing it but it IS cold outside dropping to the single digits at night and getting up into the twenties F (< 0 C) during the day.

Click to Enlarge
Getting Our Skis at the Anchorage Airport

I did a little skiing on Friday afternoon on the coastal trail near the hotel. The wind made it it feel very cold! I went and bought a ski mask at a local outfitter shop in case I need it for the race.

Click to EnlargeForecast for Sunday, marathon day is clear with light winds at 25 F / -4 C.  Perfect conditions!

Not so perfect is the early awakening of bears around Anchorage. The City bears awaken early article in the Anchorage Daily News describes the recent sitings. Oh well. As the article says the moose are more dangerous anyway. One of our coaches had to stop because of a moose on the freeway on-ramp while leaving the airport.  They are definitely around.

A moose was seen on the trail during a previous run of the Tour of Anchorage. A teammate smacked its rump while skiing past.  Bad idea. They will charge, kick and stomp. The moose ignored that past teammate but we have been warned to keep our distance and do not approach or touch them. “Please Do Not Goose the Moose”

Click to find out why I am doing this

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