American Knowledge Workers are in Trouble

I need some research done for a project at We’re developing a database of popular Open Source software and instead of starting with a blank database, I wanted to research the top 150 or so projects to kick the database off. This requires at least a working knowledge of the technology space and good research skills. Something the average college graduate can handle just fine.

I asked around my network, no one is really interested in helping out. Mostly because I don’t really have much of a budget for this. I considered doing it myself, but before I started, I decided to post a request for research help on I figured this would take me 15-20 hours to do myself (so maybe $1500 of my billable time taken up), so looking for a specialist to bid on it certainly couldn’t hurt. It’s free to request proposals so what the heck.

So on a Wed night, I spent 5 minutes submitting the following proposal:
I need a spreadsheet compiled with the top 150-200 Open source projects in use in the world with a brief
summary of each to include:

Contact information
project start date
primary use
interesting facts
mailing list information
current product status.

This list should include at least 35 entries that are Open Source Operating systems such as Linux Distributions, etc.

I would prefer this in a spreadsheet with good formatting.

Excellent written English should be used for the delivery of this research.

I checked the box that said I don’t care where in the world this work is performed, but I did specify in the description that excellent written english is important.

In 12 hours I got a few bids. This was the first one from a guy in India:


My bid is $100 for researching 150 open source projects. The info will
be provided in an excel sheet and will list the following fields:

1. Project Name
2. Contact Email/Contact Form URL
3. Website
4. Project start date
5. Software Category
6. Interesting facts
7. Mailing list
8. Latest version


1. Project start date may not always be available for all open source
projects/products. In a number of cases it may simply be a year or a
2. Since I will be researching the top open source projects, I guess
they will all be in active status(hence no need for current product
status). I have instead put in the version field
3. A number of products are now coming up with online support forums
instead of mailing lists. In that case the field mailing list will
contain the URL of the support forum.
4. I do believe that there will be 35 open source operating systems.
However, it is possible that some are very small. Shall I still note
those small projects to get to the 35 mark?

Tell me what you think about my bid and if you feel that
something has been left unaddressed.

Estimated time to completion = 1 week after the award of the project.

(name removed by Michael to protect privacy)

There are several things that struck me right away:

1. This proposal was responded to by writing the requirements back to me in his own words. This is a HUGE plus. It demonstrates a clear understanding of what I’m looking for. When I reread my proposal request, he actually better defined my requirements than I did and made some excellent points about the probability of the data I’m looking for.

2. Elance has a feedback system. This person, who is not in the US, has 100% positive feedback on 123 projects on 31 of those are repeat customers. This is a VERY good sign. People went back to him.

3. $100 is cheap. This person is going to spend at least the same amount of time I would, 15 to 20 hours, so this is about $5/hour. Given that the requirements were demonstrated to be understood very well he’ll probably do a better job than I would and I’m an Open Source Expert.

We’re over here in the US bailing out car companies that make cars people don’t want to buy, we produce almost nothing any more, and we whine about everything.

The rest of the world is quietly moving up by working hard at a bargain price.

2 thoughts on “American Knowledge Workers are in Trouble

  1. Thinking out loud here…maybe he has already done something very similar and is repurposing the data for you? Not that there is anything wrong with that, but he may only be spending a couple of hours to tweak something that already exists. Even at that though, $100 is a bargain if the data is good.


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