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MIT Students Get an Education in Software Development 595

John Valenti writes "Philip Greenspun's Blog had an interesting entry for December 1: 'It turns out that most of the content editing and all of the programming work for OpenCourseware was done in India...'"
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MIT Students Get an Education in Software Development

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  • by El ( 94934 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:32PM (#7611622)
    when Indian developers are even cheaper than grad students!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      A trite comment.

      The web page is responding very slowely, so:

      Not all of our students will see this cover story in Business Week [businessweek.com] on the migration of high-paying jobs to India. But most attended a lecture in 6.171 [greenspun.com] by the folks who run MIT's latest big IT effort: OpenCourseware ( [mit.edu] http://ocw.mit.edu [mit.edu] ), which distributes syllabi, problem sets, and other materials from MIT classes (at least one semester after the class is actually given). During the lecture the students learned that, although ocw.mit.edu is

      • by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:56PM (#7611890) Homepage Journal
        ""We read a Gartner Group report that said the Microsoft system was the simplest to use among the commercial vendors and that open-source toolkits weren't worth considering."


        A PowerPoint slide contained the magic word "Delhi". It turns out that most of the content editing and all of the programming work for OpenCourseware was done in India"

        If we pay exhorbitant license fees for second-rate crapware with first-rate marketing, we don't have any money left to pay American programmers. Or apparently, even to hire American grad students.

        Closed source == money migrates to the vendors
        Open Source == money can be used to pay programmers.

        Which way do you want it?

        • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:36PM (#7612319) Homepage
          If we pay exhorbitant license fees for second-rate crapware with first-rate marketing, we don't have any money left to pay American programmers. Or apparently, even to hire American grad students.

          I am somewhat surprised that what MIT needed did not already exist as commercial off the shelf code. Their requirements are hardly very unusual, in fact since the content is not going to change much once it is put up there is not a great deal of difference between this site and any other web zine.

          What this looks like to me is a boondoggle. $2 million is pretty easy to spend on software if you go bespoke. That is the main reason why most of the open source arguments you see on slashdot are bogus. If you can pay $100K for a product that is 90% complete you are one heck of a lot better off than you are paying $0 for a product that is 70% complete, maybe on a good day.

          Open source is great provided it does exactly what you need if you have to do extensive programming then Gartner are completely right.

          Building a system around Microsoft CMS is one heck of a lot better than mucking arround trying to make CVS do this type of thing. I don't have an issue with that part. But $2 million to customize it...

          Incidentally MIT students are hideously expensive. The student may not get paid much, but the overhead charged by MIT is horrendous and the results can be 'variable' to say the least.

          • by StudMuffin ( 167171 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @06:45PM (#7613040) Homepage
            I am somewhat surprised that what MIT needed did not already exist as commercial off the shelf code. Their requirements are hardly very unusual, in fact since the content is not going to change much once it is put up there is not a great deal of difference between this site and any other web zine.

            Being a senior IT guy at the University of Michigan, being an Ars Digita alumni, and knowing intimately how Universities work, I can answer this question:

            Academic institutions LOVE to think that they are somehow different, special, gifted, unique, and dare I say it - divine.

            We like to think that no one else can know our problems and only we can solve them, and refuse to acknowledge that there are only so many different solutions to the same problem. Academic computing boils down to these areas:

            1) Registration/ student records management
            2) HR/Payroll management
            3) Content/presence management for publicity
            4) Online learning systems
            5) Security/signon infrastructure
            5) Coordination of back office components between the other five

            You can argue that there is a need for one more area:

            6) Research computing

            but that normally is a separate group from ACADEMICS.

            I am constantly amazed at how much universities spend on their systems, and how much customization they do - to the tune of MILLIONS of dollars a year. And then, on top of that, when one department decides to go another route, THEY spend alot of money, and then the institution has to eventually roll that structure back into the overall schema, costing even MORE money.

            The bottom line is that university IT systems need to be run more and more like corporate IT, and the same amount of planning, forethought, and most of all INTELLIGENCE needs to be applied.

            • Being a senior IT guy at the University of Michigan, being an Ars Digita alumni, and knowing intimately how Universities work, I can answer this question: Academic institutions LOVE to think that they are somehow different, special, gifted, unique, and dare I say it - divine.

              Actually they are not that much different from other enterprises. People simply cannot comprehend that the cost of going bespoke is vast.

              The MIT folk very proudly told me how they built their own system to replace the IT functions

        • If we pay exhorbitant license fees for second-rate crapware with first-rate marketing, we don't have any money left to pay American programmers. Or apparently, even to hire American grad students.

          IANAMA (I Am Not A Microsoft Apologist), but that just doesn't add up. You would certainly have less money because of the proprietary stuff purchased up front, but they're still spending money on developers after the fact. They could have used that money to hire their own grad students and wouldn't have had to re
    • by musikit ( 716987 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:41PM (#7611722)
      donno what school you went to but at the school i went to a large majority of the grad students were indian. so

      "You know you're really in trouble...
      when Indian developers are even cheaper than" Indian developers???
  • Funny (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Quasar1999 ( 520073 )
    The interesting thing is that it's not that it was crap, but rather that it was done in India. Had they had some firm in the US do it, it wouldn't make the headlines...

    There are equally good and equally bad firms all over the word that do development... India is no exception.
    • Re:Funny (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arkanes ( 521690 ) <arkanes@NOsPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:46PM (#7611772) Homepage
      See, heres why it's funny. MIT is an engineering college. They're very famous and respected. However, even software enginerring graduates from MIT can have a hard time finding work in IT these days, because they expect (and often deserver) high salaries and the IT sector is very tight right now. One reason it's so tight is because alot of development is being outsourced to India, where it's cheaper.

      So you've got one of the premier software development colleges in the country outsourcing it's software development work to India. It'd be like a medical school outsourcing it's health department.

      • Re:Funny (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dafollower ( 309272 )
        But MIT is not a premier software development school..it's a primier computer science school..and do it's graduate students really want to develop this content management system..or do something more innovative?
      • Re:Funny (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ameoba ( 173803 )
        Well, if it's like any other engineering college, odds are that a large number of their students are from India already...
      • It'd be like a medical school outsourcing it's health department.

        Apples and oranges...What would you say about MIT hiring an outside contractor to repair a wall on its campus when it has a civil engineering department? Hey...the poor graduate students in the civil engineering department could use the extra money..and it's related to their field, right?

      • Re:Funny (Score:4, Informative)

        by Columbo ( 111563 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:36PM (#7612322)
        You should note that it wasn't MIT that directly outsourced the work to India. It was, in fact, a U.S. company that was hired for the project that in turn used their Indian development resources to do the coding work.
    • I don't think the point of this is the say whether the firm was good or bad. It's just another example of technical work for the US being farmed outside of the US. It's really sad that it was a University like MIT that has tons of students that could do this work for nothing.
  • by ericspinder ( 146776 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:34PM (#7611651) Journal
    No wonder it cost so much to go to college these days, even MIT doesn't use it's own students for cheap labor these days.

    I guess that it's hard for the school administrators to soak money off a project unless it's got a big budget. Perhaps a conversation to a close friend goes like this: "Yea, we're outsourcing the project to an Indian company which is paying me to consult"

    • Cost for one year of MIT undergraduate tuition in 2002-2003: $28,230.00 [mit.edu]
      Cost for one year of MIT undergraduate tuition in 2003-2004: $29,400.00 [mit.edu]

      School runs from Sept 3 to May 21, so estimate at 39 weeks. Next, assume the student is working for 1/2 tuition credit (which a lot of colleges like to do for part time work), at ~ $14,500. Since they're working part time and going to school, lets be generous and say they work three days a week: 24 hours. You've just forked out $15.50/hour for one "cheap labor"
      • Next, assume the student is working for 1/2 tuition credit

        Have you ever heard of work-study. I haven't been to college in a number of years and I don't know what the current rates are but I am sure that it doesn't pay that well. I bet there are dozens of students saying "where can I get half off my tuition", show us that link.

        Also who says you have to pay them anything, hell, it could be a class project.

        Last time I checked MIT was an Educational Institution, that means they are in the BUSINESS of edu

  • ...is right here [slashdot.org].

    Lots of familiar points are made - timezone differences impede voice communications, geography impedes physical communications, "fire and forget" projects are not very common, etc. Seems like it can be made to work, though, if folks on the project take the time to keep the communication lines open.
  • Yeah, the first thing i did when i looked at this great effort of MIT was, where is the software!

    So i poked arround and its on the faq (and i seem to remember i got email from them when i asked). They made it with a microsoft CMS piece of shit software and some other stuff.

    The good part about it is that teachers just do their stuff in HTML and most of the infrastructure is basicaly static with some MSCMS stuff arround it.

    I guess there are many good things about it, but tech infrastructure is not one of t
    • If it really is a static content system with a very basic CMS framework....

      Where did $11 million go to?

      That's a $400 project you just described... assuming students would voulenteer to help set it up (which they would and probably do it well)

      Sad example of spending money "because we have it" if you ask me.

  • by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:38PM (#7611693) Homepage Journal
    I used to be somewhat aggravated about the perceived flood of jobs leaving our country.

    However, this (in addition to a weakening dollar) will eventually lead to equilibrium and a return of jobs as manufacturing is able to afford more workers locally. Additionally, it's somewhat symbolic that India has worked on a project that will ultimately allow other disadvantaged countries to develop their own technology resources off of information, hopefully returning to the pool of public knowledge rather then proprietary.

    And MIT students get a lesson in economics as well.

    • by DLR ( 18892 ) <dlrosenthal.gmail@com> on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:49PM (#7611812) Journal
      Riiiiiight. That would explain why 90% of the world's steel production is overseas. Because weakening dollar prompted manufacturers to bring it back to the U.S. since we already had existing infrastructure.

      That would also explain why it took actual Federal legislation to keep 50% of the semiconductor founderies in the U.S. when we started with 90% of them.

      This isn't about hating Indians because they're a different culture. This is about watching high tech U.S. jobs vanish overseas to some $2 a day worker so some corporate boardroom bozo can buy his 5th Rolls. My question is this: When all the people in the U.S. are unemployed or under employed because all the formerly high paying - high tech jobs are overseas, who's going to buy the $50 widgits (that cost $1 to make overseas)?
    • > However, this (in addition to a weakening dollar) will eventually lead to equilibrium and a return of jobs as
      > manufacturing is able to afford more workers locally. ...as Americans become more and more willing to work for less and less money, and more and more people end up below the poverty line, as 'working poor'.

      That's the answer, all right. As long as you aren't one of the 'more and more people'.

      > And MIT students get a lesson in economics as well.


      > If we were faultless we sho
    • The outsourcing always seemed pretty simple to me. In the US market there wasn't that much real differentiation between code monkeys and software engineers. Basic programming isn't that hard, yet in the US market people demanded a fair amount of money for it. Then along came India. They have a lot of very competent basic programmers who are willing to work for a rate that's quite resonable given the fairly low/basic level of work they're doing, so naturally all those overcharging US code monkeys suddenl
  • by TheMCP ( 121589 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:38PM (#7611698) Homepage
    Here I was, unemployed, using all my contacts to try to get in on the programming for OpenCourseware, and they outsourced it to India while I struggled to pay the rent.

    I think it's time for me to contact my state elected representatives and let them know how MIT is harming the local economy by sending work out of the country when there are top notch people unemployed here, and suggest that I'd be unhappy if the state were to give MIT any particular financial breaks or other incentives.
    • I'm pretty sure that people in India need jobs more desparately than people in the U.S., so outsourcing leads to more equality on a global scale and is therefore a good thing.
    • and then you will learn the third and final lesson. Your elected representative ain't representing you, dude. Sorry. *cragen
    • by Dutchmaan ( 442553 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:50PM (#7611824) Homepage
      Welcome to global capitalism...

      India offers a service of the same quality for a lower price... you must either lower your price or offer something better...

      Globalization has its downside you know...
      • by Daytona955i ( 448665 ) <flynnguy24@yahoo.COWcom minus herbivore> on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:06PM (#7611988)
        Same level of quality? Have you actually seen the code coming from India?

        You really do get what you pay for but the PHB saved a few dollars so he's a hero.
        • by kma ( 2898 ) on Wednesday December 03, 2003 @12:56AM (#7615730) Homepage Journal
          Same level of quality? Have you actually seen the code coming from India?

          Call me "PC" if you must, but this seems like borderline racist thinking. You are, I hope, aware that India offers state of the art technical education, right? I mean, because, otherwise, you'd kind of be shooting your mouth off about something you, you know, don't know anything about.

          So if education can't explain it, what is it? The hot climate? All that spicy food? What? Spell it out for us, Daytona955i. We're all ears.

          I work with many people born and educated in India (and Asia, and Europe, and the former Soviet Union) and some of them are absolute cream-of-the-crop, as-good-as-you-could-ever-hope-to-be, top 10th of the top percentile good. Smart people are rare everywhere, but it's a huge world, and I don't ever kid myself that there isn't some hungry kid in Uzbekistan who could do my job better than me for half the money.
      • by Josuah ( 26407 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:59PM (#7612554) Homepage
        Globalization has its downside you know...

        I hardly think India sees the "downside" to this "globalization". Being forced to compete with others is not a downside. It's called a reality check. Quite simply, you're not as important and good as you thought you were.
        • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @07:14PM (#7613325) Homepage
          Cost of living in India is vastly lower than it is in the U.S. There is no possible way that I can compete with an Indian programmer on the basis of pay, unless I emigrate.

          Being forced to compete with others on a completely unequal scale is a downside. That's why the U.S. is being threatened with sanctions over its steel tariffs. It makes it really hard for foreign nations to compete. Ya dig?

          That's the fundamental problem. We have an unequal playing field, and in an environment where cost is valued over all else it isn't a competition, it's a blowout.

          I really, really hope that globalization can help India and other countries boost their economies and develop themselves into the "1st World" nations they can be*. I just wonder what damage it will do to our economy in the meantime.

          * Since outsourcing is only one half of the coin, the other half being U.S. companies sucking money out of developing nations, I don't think this is certain at all.

          • by k_187 ( 61692 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @08:50PM (#7614171) Journal
            Being forced to compete with others on a completely unequal scale is a downside.

            No, equaling out the scale is what globalization is. The idea behind the global market is that comparative advantage will take hold and the places that are better able to produce a given type of product will produce that product. One can argue whether this is the case in the current example, but what you're talking about amounts to bellyaching. What globalization is, is vastly different than what everyone is expecting it to be. Things won't stay the same and new markets will be opened up. This is what you're calling a downside (and the US with its steel tarriffs). That's the way it works. If the Indians are better at programing because of labor costs (which is how things appear), then the American programing industry will wither and die and move to India. Sorry, but tough. Economics isn't called the dismal science for no reason.
      • Get real. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by twitter ( 104583 )
        India offers a service of the same quality for a lower price... you must either lower your price or offer something better...

        The people who hired Sapient were without a clue. Instead of consulting their own faculty or students, the idiots read a Gatner report and bought Microsoft snake oil. It was a typical big dog decision, breathtakingly ignorant and a hopless waste. The whole thing will have to be redone in two years when M$ decides to move the upgrade train along and another $2,000,000 will go to th

  • by anactofgod ( 68756 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:39PM (#7611699)
    "MIT Graduates Can't Find Jobs to Pay Back Student Loans"

  • by mikesab ( 652105 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:42PM (#7611737)
    Where abouts in India did you find these programmers?
    Yours Truly,

  • by rcastro0 ( 241450 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:45PM (#7611763) Homepage
    I want back in the academic world !
    (...)about $2 million was spent on technology and the salaries of folks at MIT who oversee the technology. (...) A student asks the speakers why they chose Microsoft Content Management Server (...) The answer: "We read a Gartner Group report (...)"
  • I was lucky enuf to get there before the usual /. traffic turned it into gridlock so...

    Yeah, that sounds pretty consistent with most companies. Take a silly task, have a outside company take care of it, and it just so happens that they do everything in India. A friend of mine works for Sapient, and he says all he does is have conference calls with the other side of world! I guess if he got hired tho, the MIT grads have a good chance too!

    Another interesting spin was what a fella Rahul was saying about

  • by humandoing ( 237262 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:51PM (#7611839) Homepage
    I've been following this "outsourcing to India" thing for a while. I have come to several conclusions. The bigger picture here is NOT the fact that developers in North America are losing development contracts, this is just the continuation of a ball that is already rolling.... [read on for more drivel!]

    Conclusion 1) US companies (among others, I'm canadian, it is no exception up here) are going to have to start doing a better job of giving customers and clients value for their budget. Call me a chump, I wanna make a ton of cash just as much as the next guy, but billing someone $100-$200 US/Hour and milking them for all they're worth is not (in my opinion) a good way to do business.

    Conclusion 2) Lots of Indian guys are really smart. I hope this doesn't come as a surprise, but so are a lot of people from a lot of other ethnicities. I myself am white trash, but I know a lot of stupid canadian people too, as well as a ton of programmers in Canada who really otta be flipping burgers.

    Conclusion 3) Corporations (in general) don't care about their employees, economics, or anything else, but rather, their bottom dollar. They don't care who they have to screw out of money, so long as it ends up in their own account.

    Software development just seems to be the latest trend in an already downward spiral. It is the continuation of that which has already started as some slave child has made my Nike runners, and all the people that I try to talk to about why my phone bill is not being directly put onto my Visa bill have been fired in replacement of a computerizes lady who really can't tell me jack-all.

    Perhaps unrelated, perhaps not. This is going to get worse, not beter, while capitalists run the world. What's going to be next? Perhaps more importantly, what can we do to change it?
    • Capitalism (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 2nd Post! ( 213333 )
      If you play by the rules of capitalists and capitalism, the way to make it better is to make a corporation that makes good money with a good business model by not outsourcing and raping their customers; if you can do that, according to theory, there will be competitors who will spring up to steal your market and money by being more effective (at making money and satisfying customers), more efficient, or by offering a slightly better product/service/good.

      If you frame the problem as capitalism as the problem
    • The situation we're in now (USA/UK/*) isn't too different from the textile industry during the start of the Industrial Revolution. Back then, it took two or more weavers to operate a single loom. British companies were soon being undercut by Indian weavers. However, the English companies managed to remain competitive by improving productivity through automation. The use of power looms (via the steam engine [schoolnet.co.uk]) and the Jacquard looms [about.com] allowed factory owners to have one weaver operate two looms instead of having
  • by linuxislandsucks ( 461335 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @04:59PM (#7611928) Homepage Journal
    considerign that RMS is very close by and several OpenSource Content Managment system proejct leaders within 75 miles of MIT ..I find that it shard to believe that MIT did not even look in its own freaking backyard!

    so how big was the MS payoff?
  • by glenrm ( 640773 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:00PM (#7611934) Homepage Journal
    that people all over the world can learn from it, not just MIT students. So it seems resonable to have it be in part developed by people from another location. Perhaps it is time to examine the government policies in states like California that have cause the cost of living to get out of hand and thus the need for unreasonable salaries for any worker. The US itself may need to look at radical reform of the tax code and radical limits of government spending to compete one day, but for today just a handful of states reforming themselves will turn the tide...
  • by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:03PM (#7611965) Homepage Journal
    I had a long discussion about this topic with my brother-in-law who works on Wall Street. This was the essence of his take (and apparently other of his colleagues') on the issue.

    As an economy (such as that of the US) grows, the quality of life and jobs of the population increases/improves.

    The quality of jobs necessarily means the type of work that the population is willing to do. Jobs which were considered white-collar, and high quality slowly sink, and are no longer considered so as people get wealthier (I am talking about the entire population here--the average).

    The country then looks to exporting those jobs, so that it's population can work on something better...maybe higher level jobs.

    That is what happened to manufacturing...it was considered a menial process, and shipped out to China, while the higher quality jobs (management, etc) were retained in the US of A.

    That is what is happening to software/IT now. I thought it was an interesting take on the issue, in which case, it is just one of the pitfalls in the process of economic evolution of the industry.

    And yes, I am not an economist.

    • by DaveJay ( 133437 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @06:06PM (#7612626)
      I respectfully disagree with the basic premise of your statements above.

      Specifically, the idea that "The quality of jobs necessarily means the type of work that the population is willing to do...The country then looks to exporting those jobs, so that it's population can work on something better...maybe higher level jobs."

      At risk of seeming glib, close your eyes, reach out your arms and spin in a circle. You'll probably smack an unemployed IT professional in the back of the head. That individual, and a lot more like her/him, very much want to do the type of work that is being outsourced. The fact that most of them are not being hired is not due to their lack of desire, or (in most, not all) cases their greed, but to the fact that living in the US is a lot more expensive than living in Delhi, so the minimum that a US citizen will accept for the work is higher than the minimum that someone living in Delhi will accept.

      Similarly, when auto plants were closing in Michigan, et al, it wasn't because people didn't want to work, but because they couldn't afford to live on the salaries that Mexican workers would accept.

      In short, "the country" didn't look to export those jobs to allow the population to do something better -- the corporations exported the jobs so that they could get more labor for the same amount of money, or the same amount of labor for less money.

      Think of it as time travel. If you could send your money back to the 1920s, think of the amount of labor you could afford for a fraction of the price! Now, the health care, safety standards, environmental controls, and general quality of life sucked compared to current US conditions, but hey, you don't have to go back there -- only your money does. The goods and services produced by this labor come back into the year 2003 and are sold at today's marketplace rates. That's fundamentally what we're talking about here, and I suppose that's good capitalism.

      Just don't pretend it's for the good of the unemployed, i.e., they don't want to do this kind of work. If you were asked to do your job at a salary that wouldn't pay for your share of rent on a one bedroom apartment shared with three other people, you wouldn't do the work either, no matter how "higher level" they might be.

      Sorry if this seems like a rant. :)

      PS: in my original draft, I wrote "If you could send your monkey back to the 1920s..." which is, on it's own, something interesting to think about. ;)
  • by ukalum ( 682310 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:07PM (#7612002)
    Do companies like Sapient give discounts when they're going to use programmers in India? Somehow, I doubt it.

    The comments about Indian talent being cheaper would only apply here if MIT paid less than they would have had they used a company that employed American programmers. If they didn't get a discount, then Sapient simply improved their profit margin by using offshore programmers and MIT gained nothing from it, while indirectly hurting the US economy.

  • by brundlefly ( 189430 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:07PM (#7612003)
    Not all students who attend MIT are Americans; many are from India.

    Many Indians might think this outsourcing is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    Some MIT graduates return to India to work for Sapient and Microsoft.

    Sapient and Microsoft are global organizations. MIT is an American institution which educates global students and works with global corporations.

    Phil Greenspun might be outraged (and then again he might not be, his blog doesn't lean either way). I am not.
    • "MIT is an American institution which educates global students and works with global corporations."

      This is only true to a small degree. MIT is very much an American institution meant to educate AMERICANS and work with AMERICAN companies. Most of the funding for MIT's research comes from none other than Uncle Sam, who has a very keen interest in promoting American success. MIT could not possibly have the number of American students it does if it did not have a highly-restrictive quota on international st
  • It's all good... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fizban ( 58094 ) <fizban@umich.edu> on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:10PM (#7612027) Homepage
    Outsourcing is okay, people. It just drives up the quality of living in India, which will eventually drive up prices, which will eventually make it more cost-effective to do the work here.

    So, we help other countries increase their standard of living with just a bit of headache on our side.

    Anyway, the U.S. can't survive by being stagnant in technology. Our purpose is to innovate and create new technologies. Once something becomes standard and "script" it can be sent off to other countries with cheaper labor (Creating web pages is not innovative anymore, people!).

    Because of this fact, as U.S. citizens, we have to be prepared to switch careers throughout our lifetime, depending on how new technologies are evolving. For instance, the movie, computer gaming and biotech industries here are light years ahead of most other countries and good places to find tech jobs. These things are on the cutting edge of technology and not something that can be easily exported to other countries (yet). Also, small businesses (established and entrepreneurial) also need local talent as they don't have the time or money to deal with managing offshore development. Another reason why small businesses and innovation are the lifebloods of our economy.
    • Re:It's all good... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:16PM (#7612097) Journal
      ... then they will move to Africa and Russia.

      Its already happening. Indians are now viewed as expensive since they think they deserve up to 10k a year. But that nerve!

      In Russia, you could hire a Russian to do it for 7k a year. Where does it end?

      When it comes to cheap labor, there is no bottom. Only a constantly falling top price.

      Oddly when it comes to upper management and CEO's, there is always a bottom and no top in terms of compensation. Hmmm why is that?

      That means exploitation. Hey, I would have no problem if CEO's had salary caps and could compete with cheaper foriegn CEO's but this is quite unfair for the rest of us.

    • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:35PM (#7612309)
      actually, U.S. corporations are starting to have second thoughts about all the outsourced jobs:

      1. Much greater overhead to manage an oversees project, such that the savings is really 2. Huge assumed risks - confidentiality of data, true abilities and qualifications of remote people questionable, political instability & nearness & greater accessibility by terrorists in region, lack of legal venue when things go wrong
      3. faking of true status/costs/issues of projects by those who strongly reccommended outsourcing, to save face
      4. Communication problems, lack of cultural context & "common sense [by whatever definition]" knowledge
  • by halaloszto ( 703344 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:14PM (#7612075)
    some years ago MIT needed an enterprise authentication system, and developed Kerberos. today would it read some reports, and implement MS passport?
  • by GreenCrackBaby ( 203293 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:18PM (#7612125) Homepage
    What's happening in India is great, and I'm happy to see such a poor country starting to pick itself up. However, I'm amazed that American companies are getting in line to setup shop there. Sure, the savings is a huge incentive, but at the same time you are allowing them to soak up all your IP, all your American business methods, essentially training them how to run a successful company.

    That's great until the day that Indians realize that there's nothing stopping them from setting up their own companies to compete direct against the American ones. I'm actually surprised it hasn't started happening already.

    Reminds me of that old saying "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for life." That system works great -- unless you too are a fisherman.

    • I've heard it differently.
      Give a man a fish, and he owes you one fish.
      Teach a man to fish, and you give up your monopoly.

      That seems to fit better here.
    • Congratulations, you've just described a policy concept known as 'technology leverage', a concept that semi-conductor companies successfully implemented in the late-80's and 90's, to prop up the semi-conductor industries in the so-called Asian Tiger economies. It's also the same concept by which, say, Suzuki brought its manufacturing base to India, and Hitachi (?) bringing its mass-transit-trains manufacturing to India (Delhi's new metro system, for instance; the first trains there were all imported, but so
  • by penguin7of9 ( 697383 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:35PM (#7612308)
    The irony is that OCW isn't even funded by Microsoft [mit.edu]:

    MIT OCW is a large-scale, Web-based electronic publishing initiative funded jointly by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and MIT.

    That's even though Microsoft has been trying to get into MIT [mit.edu].

  • by EulerX07 ( 314098 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:36PM (#7612318)
    ...that they would outsource my job to someone that wouldn't be reading slashdot right now and would actually be working.

    Darn! Gotta go, the boss is walking this way!
  • by richard_willey ( 79077 ) <richard_willey&hotmail,com> on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:51PM (#7612483)
    ... I have a couple observations:

    #1. Odds are the reason that the development work got outsourced was simple comparative advantage. I'd rather have an undergrad or grad student working on something original and interesting rather than grunt level coding. As many people have noted, low-level jobs are being outsourced rather rapidly. I consider it a very GOOD thing the MIT isn't wasting its student's time with what would appear to be a dead end skill set.

    #2. If you want to bitch about MIT and ties to Microsoft there are much better areas to criticize. For example, the business school is a lock-down Microsoft shop. If you don't have a Microsoft OS, you can't get a digital certificate. If you can't get a digital certificate, you can't get access to anything from your home PC. I've heard a wide number of speculations about why this is so [the rest of the University has a much more liberal policies]. I've heard lots of talk that Sloan needs to maintain its own IT department to roll out like 802.11b quicker than the rest of the University. Of course those who like conspiracy theories do note that the Dean made a fair amount of money as a hired witness for MS during the anti-trust trials.
  • by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:53PM (#7612496) Homepage Journal
    Having spent nearly 10 years working on my Comp Sci degree (while working at a 8-5 job, house, etc) I've realized something.

    Universities are a bit like ancient japan.

    All departments are like little islands in a sea. Each has a ruler that does their own thing with no consideration to the other islands.

    Firstly, nobody talks to anybody. If a process can be duplicated and screwed up at the same time, it will be.

    Secondly, All processes will be documented in such a way that people from other departments will have no idea how to interpret or use them.

    Thirdly, when purchasing software licenses and/or hardware, instead of pooling all the resources to drive down costs, each department will just do their own thing.

    So, it doesn't suprise me that MIT pissed all over their own shoes.

    MIT's got students who put together a grant and bought 3000 CD's, then setup a system where students could listen to any of them over the cable network for free.

    Somehow I don't think the courseware stuff would have been that over their head.

    I took a class in management of software engineering projects and we had to build a web interface that would allow students to access their grades, add/drop for classes, give them billing information, etc. We managed to crank out that system in one 15 week semester. We all got A's and the system worked great for over 5 years and it cost them zero. Even the server it ran on was a retired desktop (350mhz pentium 2)

    It didn't get retired until the university moved away from their aging db system.( Digital unix based collegate DB system)

    Tragically, the expensive commerical system they replaced it is horrible and disliked by everybody.
  • rest in peace, american software development.

    long live global software development.

    i can give you for a $1.00 what you pay someone else $10.00 for.

    what would you do?

    fighting globalization is like fighting the tides or the rising and setting of the sun, it is inevitable.

    i see the regular stream of stories like this one here on slashdot and i see the fear and horror implicit in them.

    yes, my friend, you will make less, you will be fired, it really, really is the end of the golden age of american software development- and that is good! for now it is a global thing, you will sacrifice so that the world may benefit. only if you are stridently inward and protectionist and reactionary do you not see how this is a good thing overall.

    you can't do anything about it, nor should you try: don't waste your energy fighting inevitable change.

    "God give me the serenity to accept things which cannot be changed;

    Give me courage to change things which must be changed;

    And the wisdom to distinguish one from the other. "

    so what would you do if you weren't working in software?

    ask yourself that seriously now, american software developer.

  • by Brad Lucier ( 547713 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @06:09PM (#7612655)
    We recently had a similar discussion among the CS faculty at Purdue recently. It was prompted by the following:
    [insert name of large US company here] is not recruiting CS undergrads from Purdue or in the US, generally. This is true for a number of other multinational companies. The stated reason? Those companies can get graduates of similar quality from schools in India, China, Russia, and elsewhere in the world -- and they can be employed after graduation for 1/3 of the cost of a US employee. This is why [said company] is relocating their IT operations outside of Northern Europe and the US. They still recruit from the very best undergrad programs in the US, but even that is in smaller numbers.
    My response:
    Companies like to turn their economic inputs into commodities, and add as much (chargeable) value as possible to their outputs. To them, programmers are commodities (by using "standard" languages, having mediocre goals, demanding interchangeable skill bases, etc.), and commodities compete on price alone. If we want our graduates to be able to compete in such a market, we have to make sure they have skills that raise them above the "commodity" level.
  • by pgreenspun ( 64424 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @06:48PM (#7613068) Homepage
    Hmmm... I never thought this little blog entry would get Slashdotted. Really I hadn't intended to criticize the decisions MIT made. The project met its goals on time and under budget. The selection of 100 percent Microsoft tools was apparently a smart choice. Had it been my project I would have perhaps added some goals, e.g., more of an online community aspect for the front-end and easy to package up all the software behind the service to give away to other schools. These goals might have led to some different decisions on tools or perhaps not. Actually one nice thing about Microsoft tools is that you are guaranteed that most people will be willing to adopt them.

    One of the things that we try to teach in the class (textbook is online at http://philip.greenspun.com/internet-application-w orkbook/ [greenspun.com] if you're curious to see what the students suffer through) is that being a good code monkey/CS nerd isn't sufficient to function well as an engineer. We try to give the students some experience with taking vague client specs and turning them into precise requirements, with presenting their work clearly, with constructively criticizing others' work in meetings, with conducting and learning from user testing, etc. The rationale for this is laid out in http://philip.greenspun.com/teaching/one-term-web [greenspun.com]

    So it was actually very gratifying that our guest speakers came in and demonstrated that state-of-the-art American IT development projects no longer involve plain-old-programmers in America. Our students need to learn this early so that they can plan their careers and further education accordingly.

    • In MIT's words [mit.edu]: For the "proof of concept" pilot...the Web pages of the MIT OCW site were built by..."brute-force HTML." Utilizing Web content editors such as DreamWeaver, a team of programmers from MIT and Sapient...designed and built the first 32 subjects. However, that model was not scalable for 500 courses, so MIT OCW has implemented a Content Management System (CMS) in order to achieve MIT OCW's long-term publishing goals. The CMS we have been using since the beginning of 2003 is a customized implement
    • WTF? (Score:3, Funny)

      by theolein ( 316044 )
      I'm not even American and I shudder with rage reading this bullshit. So basically what he is saying that he and his crew were simply too fucking lazy and stupid to do anything else than use Microsoft's software because Gartner, which is known to be the biggest bunch of brainless thieving fucks in the so called consulting industry, said to do so, and then to go and outsource the whole fucking thing to save the extra money that was spent on buying Microsoft software.


      But the best and m

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb