First of all, happy belated May 2-4 to my friends and family back in Canada. I hope you all had a chance to enjoy the long weekend and the usual festivities that go along with it!
As of today, I have been in India for about 18 days and now that I’m actually sitting down and forcing myself to think about my time here so far, I notice one thing that stands out in my mind. Last year in Cameroon I was almost obsessively counting days and keeping track of how long I’d been away and how much time I had left. Quiet or lonely moments were always filled with thoughts like, “Okay, so, only 87 days left until I am reunited with my beloved Canada.” Then the next day I would think “Shit, only 86 days to squeeze everything I can out of my Cameroon experience.” I was all over the map, but no matter what, I was always playing the number game.
Here, it has been almost the exact opposite. It took me a few seconds just to figure out how long I’ve been in India (the fact that my math skills are quite poor didn’t help either…May 26…subtract…May 8…ummm….18 days?). In either case though, sometimes I feel like I’ve been here forever, but at the same time it still feels very much like I just arrived yesterday. Sometimes it also feels weird and surprising to stop and think “hey, you’re in India right now!” I guess once you start to settle into a routine, its amazing how quickly that crazy fact can slip to the back of your mind.
So while the dates on the calendar have flown-by I have start toed feel like I’m in a time-warp or stuck in stasis. I’m not really sure why this is. I’m also not sure if there is something I can do to make me “un-stuck” or if I should even bother worrying about it. In either case, theres not much I can do about it now, so instead I’ll quit rambling and give you what you’re waiting for- a link for this post’s song called Sheela Ki Jawani, a popular Indian song I’ve been hearing frequently:
Welcome to the World of Globalization and Outsourcing-Life here in India is still moving along, I’m still alive and well here and of course I have a few stories for you. First though, I think I still owe you an explanation about my job and what I’m doing here-my “purpose” here in India so to speak. However, I haven’t gotten around to it untill now for a few reasons.
First, when working abroad for foreign companies or organizations you never REALLY know what you’re doing or what it will be like untill you arrive. There is always a risk that it won’t be perfect or that it might be a bit different than what you thought you signed up for. In my opinion, its part of the adventure, the mystery, and the experience. If you take the risk, you should be willing to take the result with little or no complaint. So, I haven’t spoken too much about my job so far because, to be honest, it hasn’t been all that great, ha! However, I’m not typically one to complain or to look on the downside of things. I’ve been waiting to find a way to present my job in a positive light, but instead I’ll try to give you the straight facts.
Second, I also needed to spend a few days just figuring out how this company actually operates. Its the most random business concept I have ever come across, the process is really weird to wrap your head around, and in my opinion the product is a little questionable. However, the company makes money and due to the natural forces that govern the business world and the free market, if an activity or an entity earns money without breaking any laws, it more or less has a right to exist untill it ceases to earn money. Techworks is an excellent example of this phenomenon.
Third, in a lot of ways, my actual day to day work has been so random at times that I haven’t even known how to present it to you. Even I find the fact that I came all the way to India to do it hilarious. It just goes to show, you NEVER know what life will bring your way. In either case, I’ll make the most of it.
Alright, so now I think you’re primed and ready for the legendary Techworks.
Techworks does content writing and online journalism and works with clients from around the world. What this means, is a company, a website, or a news agency, possibly from the U.S., the U.K., China, you name it, will contact Techworks with an order or Techworks will make a bid to do a writing project online. The client sends the project to Techworks by email then the employees at Techworks create content for websites, news articles, or editorials based on the preferences and specifications laid out by the customer. Its outsourced writing more or less.
For example, if the owner of a website in the U.S. wants to have an article written right away at a low cost, its something that can be done almost instantly from halfway around the world thanks to the wonders of the internet. Even when it is the middle of the night in the U.S. one of the many many news websites based there can have their site updated with the latest news by having an Indian (or an intern) write the news for them at a low cost. In this way, the press never sleeps in our globalized world. This outsourcing of news is best described using the term KPO or knowledge process outsourcing. Check it out on wikipedia for more information:
So, how does it work in practice?
When a hot story takes place somewhere in the world, the customer will give their preferred topic and might provide two previously written articles or sources about the topic. These items are sent to Techworks, employees there read the news (usually about stories, places, and people they know nothing about), and then they re-write the news in their own words under a tight deadline. One article shouldn’t take more than an hour to do-quantity is always more important than quality. Once it is completed, the article is then sent back to the customer, and a payment is sent to Techworks. There is a brief check to make sure that the article appears to be “unique” and “original,” then the article is published, usually online under someone else’s name, sometimes even on “credible” and “legitimate” news sites around the world. So basically, someone in India might be writing local news for a website in Canada, but someone else is given credit for writing the article (infact, I even wrote a story about the Ronald McDonald house in London Ont., how Random!).
Does this sound a little preposterous? It did to me too. This is known as ghost writing, another concept you can check out on wikipedia:
Know what the craziest part is? KPO and ghostwriting are both commonly practiced in news and content writing in this day in age. Its actually a big business in some places in the world and there is a long chain of writers, companies, customers and outsourced work wrapped around the globe. Have you ever noticed that there are a ton of different websites that offer news articles, usually on the same limited range of topics, and usually written by people who would never need to be experts or have any firsthand experience with the topic? Think of the number of articles floating around out there about bogus “health studies” that show that coffee causes cancer.
Makes you think about you’re reading online, doesn’t it?
Alright, so now you know the basics. Now its time for you to learn about another aspect of the business-SEO, also known as search engine optimization. SEO uses tools that allow you to know which key words are most commonly searched on google. The purpose behind knowing these key words is to use them to increase traffic to your website. For example, if there are certain words or phrases that are searched frequently around the world and you know them, you can make sure that the content on your website includes those keywords. In doing so, you improve the odds that your website will come up as a top hit on a google search. Now, this is a legitimate practice and also an interesting way to get an edge in online marketing or to draw more attention to your website. However, the customers of Techworks use SEO in an interesting way. Some of these customers may create random websites that serve little purpose but include content with these key words just so that their website gets a lot of traffic. They will then use this useless, yet frequently visited website as cyber advertising space to sell all sorts of online products to gullible people.
SEO article writing has become may area of specialty. I have been writing articles for a poor quality mens health website, which I have been lead to believe is trying to sell some sort of natural antidepressant to ecstasy users. Now why would I think that? I have been given the task of writing poorly researched articles on a variety of topics relating to ecstasy use. In each article, I am supposed to subtly slide in the phrases “natural antidepressant” and “ecstasy addiction facts” as often as possible, even when it is completely unnecessary for the actual article. The only reason we do this is because it will make the website more likely to come up on a google search. So, this means, the next time someone searches on google for “natural antidepressants,” “ecstasy effects,” “ecstasy addiction,” or “ecstasy facts” there is a good chance that they might stumble across an article written by me. It is also very likely that this site will attempt to sell some sort of cheap online product.
Believe it or not, some of the articles and key words I’ve had to use have been even more random and ridiculous!
So yup, thats my job in a nutshell. I don’t think I could even make up something better than that. I flew to India to write outsourced news articles and SEO content about drugs and just about anything else you can think of for customers from around the world.
Not your typical summer job now is it?
Now, beyond my actual “work” there might be an opportunity to challenge myself in a professional and international environment and try to get something out of this experience at Techworks. I’ll give you a hint, a fitting headline for this future post would be “Matt the Middle-Man.”