The Dis-United States of America – Secession

Sep 03

It’s not uncommon that people’s views change over time, even with respect to promises they’ve made. Every day our courts of law are full of parties to contracts who haven’t satisfied the terms they agreed to fulfill. There are many arguments used to justify this breach of contract. Some of these arguments include fairness, changes in circumstances, non-conformance by the other party and even something as simple as a change of opinion. Regardless of the reason, a contract is a contract and a breach is a breach, or so say the courts of law. From an objective position it may be tempting to argue that many of these breaches are trivial, and that the contracts themselves are trivial to begin with. That doesn’t change the fact that a contract can be deeply personal and significant to the parties who originally entered into it. It’s also important to recognize that the courts are also busy from morning until night dealing with breaches of implicit contracts. These negligent claims stem from socially perceived “duties to care” which are generally accepted. This largely comes from common law. When it comes to the Constitution of the United States, a contract established and entered into by all citizens of this country, and which directs the affairs of the people, the government and the several states, is it possible to undo the contract and the obligations associated with it? Can an individual or a state argue against further need to comply with the terms imposed by the Constitution? From this standpoint it’s possible to examine the circumstances under which arguments might be made in favor of secession. A Platform for Secession Reference has already been made to some of the reasons that parties to a contract justify non-conformance, such as fairness, change in circumstance, breach by the other party, change of opinion, disagreement about the intention or meaning of the wording, ambiguity with respect to the terms, etc. It may be true that much of this confusion and disagreement could be avoided with increased clarity in the original contract. It is precisely that premise that has motivated lawyers to create contracts that are many pages long, spanning hundreds of pages in some cases. Despite these...

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Effective Virtual Communication with Outsourced Workers

Aug 12

After completing my ethnographic study of outsourcing through oDesk, I put this short presentation together to give a high level overview of the study and it’s outcomes. Here I include the Prezi presentation and a YouTube video of me presenting it. And here’s the...

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Ethnographic Study of Outsourcing through oDesk

Aug 10

This semester in Organizational Dynamics we were required to conduct an ethnographic study. That means a study of the methods and means that drive communication within a group of people. On the largest scale this can include an entire civilization. In our case the focus was to be a company of our choosing. I chose my own software company, and since I employ primarily outsourced workers through oDesk, I chose to focus on the online communication that drives my business and enables me to compete in an industry where I would otherwise be under-capitalized. I think you’ll find it a worthwhile read. You can download the study as in PDF format here: Ethnographic study of outsourcing through...

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Proposal for an Ethnographic Study of Outsourcing through oDesk

Jul 20

For nearly four years I’ve done a good deal of outsourcing for my software company. In the process I have employed people from a half a dozen countries, on both an hourly and project basis. For the last year and a half I have almost exclusively used oDesk to source and manage workers for my business. There are both economic and communication drivers that led me to prefer oDesk to its alternatives and to hiring directly. That being the case, I still heavily supplement the communication tools provided by oDesk to hire, train and manage my outsourced workers. Mechanics of Communication In this ethnographic study I’ll first explore the mechanisms provided by oDesk to facilitate the hire, train and manage process. I’ll then review the ancillary systems I developed to supplement oDesk and improve worker productivity. oDesk Worker Profiles oDesk worker profiles include a combination of several different types of information including worker provided details, oDesk test results, timing, duration and payments from past jobs and employer provided reviews. The amount of attention a worker gives to all of these information types directly impacts his prospects for getting hired. oDesk Interview Process Employers may post as many jobs as they want. Workers are then free to place bids on those jobs. When an employer is creating his job he can give guidance about the type of worker he wants, including the selection of thresholds related to the information on the worker profile. If an employer is interested in a proposal, he advances to the interview stage by sending a message to the worker. The interview then proceeds by way of messages through the oDesk site. Occasionally the interview communication process will expand to include the use of Skype or other chat or calling software. oDesk Messaging After hiring a worker, oDesk provides a messaging facility to enable communication. This functions very similar to email, but has the added advantage of retaining communications, including attachments, on the oDesk site. Changes to email or disputes about what was communicated can be proven through oDesk without relying on external tools. oDesk Work Diary oDesk provides a work diary tool that monitors the worker and tracks hours worked. It is installed on the workers...

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Anthologize for WordPress to Create PDF Reports

Jul 17

I’ve found that most of my course projects are best completed in segments. I publish most of those segments individually here on my site. This allows me to interlink between segments and to provide for a detailed and focused approach to each segment individually. By the end of a course, I have all the content ready to compile into a final report of some sort. The question comes up, how do I build that report. I could transfer everything into LaTeX and render an APA style report. I could probably copy and paste it into Microsoft Word too. Before I went to that much trouble, I instead went looking and found a WordPress plugin that would create a high quality PDF report comprised of a set a posts that I choose. I found Anthologize for WordPress. Creating Reports from Website Posts First I needed to identify the posts that should be part of the report. Anthologize made this easy. I can create as many Parts as I like. A Part is like a Chapter. I can then add to each Part as many Posts as I like. I can also sort the posts and even edit the content to better accommodate the printed output. The original post is left unchanged.   I then click Export and am able to choose items such as copyright attribution, authors, dedication and acknowledgements. I can also choose physical aspects of the output, such as page size (letter and A4), font face and size and where to put line breaks.  Once complete, it is possible to export the posts in the following formats: PDF RTF ePub HTML Anthologize TEI The HTML output doesn’t seem very useful, since the original content is more or less HTML, and almost certainly online and available already. However, some programs, like Word, can open HTML for editing, so there may be a use case. The one I spent the most time with was PDF. PDF Output The PDF renders nicely, including images and tables. There was a quirk with the table plugin I use that rendered poorly when any cell was empty, so I had to make sure there was filler content in every cell that didn’t have data....

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Economics of Litigation of the GNU GPL

Jun 30

The GNU General Public License (GPL) has been a hot topic, for both good and bad, ever since it was introduced to the world by the Free Software Foundation by Richard M. Stallman. Regardless of which side you argue, there has been very little case law or legal precedent established in the intervening years. One major reason for the dearth of cases related to the GNU GPL is that it is an economic zero sum outcome. As the focus of my final paper in my Business Law class, I chose to explore what litigation there has been and what it established with respect to the GPL. Surprisingly, of those cases that did involve the GPL and were started, very few actually ended up in court. In other words, they settled out of court. Here is my final paper. You can download it here: Economics of litigating the GNU General Public License...

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