Staffing, Recruitment, Temp workers, assistants and more through Elance or oDesk

The last 6 month I assisted a start-up in developing their first online presence, as Ruby on Rails engineers are a rare good in South Korea at an affordable price, we looked into Elance and Odesk the two leaders of hiring contractors online. I want to share in this article a few insights that I had during the last 6 month. About $10000 was spent altogether. Thanks go to Sooyong Wang of Mintech for being my sparring partner to go over my lessons and Sean Watts for introducing  me during the Seoul Business Start-up school program offered by Seoul Global Business Centers that there were platforms like Elance out there.

Is hiring contractors the right thing for you?

When I thought about hiring contractors through Elance I already had plenty of experience working with contractors and also working with remote contractors. My experience stems from working with goRailsgo programming shop from Poland, working with team members at my day job where we collaborate between South Korea, Poland, Canada, US, Argentina and more. I think I have collected a good amount of knowledge working in and with remote teams over the last 4 years.

Also I have in depth knowledge of requirements engineering, mock up design, team management, agile software development methodologies, project management, software development, automated testing. At every time during my outsourcing, I was ready to assist my contractors with issues they had with their development environment, selecting the right approach for implementing a feature or specify fine grained the task at hand to them. If you have never directed software engineers, be careful to start slow to be ready and provide the engineers with sufficient details on what should be developed. Developing a web application, no matter how simple you think it is, will most likely have many possible interpretations and arrive at solution you might not have expected unless you provide fine grained mock ups, user stories, use cases, acceptance criteria and design specifications. If you feel you are light on these skills, you should start with limited outsourcing and fine tune and learn the skills as you see it necessary to communicate with your contractors. Good contractors will already inquire about these details during the interview, so you get a hang on what you need to provide.

On the other hand, if you feel you do not have an IT project manager inside of you, IT outsourcing studios/agencies might be the right thing for you, as a team manager/key account manager will be assigned to you to work with you on the requirements and communicate and coordinate the engineers for you. The rate is higher, but the benefit is certainly that you are not left alone when it comes to directing the engineering efforts. If you have no experience in software development, developing the first release with a studio can give valuable insight on how software development works. You find studios/agencies plenty on the internet but also on Elance and oDesk.

When you hire remote contractors be aware that:

  • when you work with people in person you can share your sheet of paper or screen easily, for remote workers you need to become comfortable communicating your tasks via email, Skype, especially when you delegate you do not want to be disturbed until the task is finished, that however required to give detailed instructions, possibly resources to learn about skills to solve the task, it is important to practice detailed instructions as your contractor when working in a different time zone cannot easily check back with you or it will take another 24h to get on with the task
  • if your English is rusty and the English skills of your contractor are below average, then you two will have  a hard time. Acknowledge that your contractor is most likely not a native English speaker, make sure you loose your accent and speak as clearly as you can, check back with you contractor if he understood the task or duty he is asked to fulfill, ask him questions to assure the task is really understood
  • understand different cultures, circumstances and different mind sets, your contractors lives and work in a totally different space then you do. Power outages, internet connectivity problems, crime, living standards all influence how well your contractor can work. He has no short term influence on these factors, neither do you, accept it.
  • your contractor has little incentive to stay with your project beyond the time frame of the initial contract if a better job shows up for him.
  • you sometimes might not be able to reach them as you do not have them in the office, if the internet connection is down or power is out in the Philippines, you just do not know as fast and easy as you would when you share the same office.
  • some contractors just fill they university summer break or some downtime between  a job, be aware that they might leave you quickly once their next job starts or the summer break ends.

However benefits are also present plentiful, so it is more a matter of being aware of the pros and cons and selecting the right amount of outsourcing for the position and duties  you seek to fill. It is a great benefit when work is done while you are asleep, you can bridge a gap if an employee is sick or you are having a hard time finding the right full time employee.

My jobs on oDesk and Elance

Contractors were hired for the following tasks, each tasks differs and I think it is worthwhile to look into each one:

  • copy writing in English about Korean innovation and technology for tech blog
  • copy writing in Korean about green energy topics found in English and in Korea for green energy blog
  • WordPress administration, updates of modules, enhancing multi-language modules, fixing issues
  • Ruby on Rails software development
  •  investigation on green energy topics in Korean, copy writing in English
  • Design for Webapplication (no UX)

Elance Dashboard Odesk DashboardTowards the end of the project all contractors were hired through oDesk, I think this is just a personal preference and happened a bit by chance, as it turned out most of the contractors I kept hiring, were on oDesk, I continued to hire through oDesk and kept on Elance just those that I had hired at the start.

Communication Style

Be ready to be called “Sir”, some contractors have a very eager attitude  to do business, I can only advise against hiring them. If you hear stories about sick children and it being urgent to hire them right now and them being willing to do anything, that never resulted in a good work relationship for me. Continue reading

AngelHack Seoul – Spring 2013 Hackathon

What a weekend, it was the first hackathon that I attended and it was worth so much in so many ways. The AngelHack Seoul event took place at D.CAMP and the space was well prepared for about 200 participants, only draw back was that we were split on two floors, but that did not matter much, most of the time you are busy with your team anyway. I am proud not to have slept at all during the event, but next time I am sure to bring a sleeping bag, there is always the option to grab a little sleep in between and I believe then to be more productive again.

Our team made the 3rd place, with an idea that we took from idea to presentation with demo prototype within 24h –  I find this very astonishing. The idea was settled I must admit the night before already, we had a small Skype meeting, I think that was good, so we knew what we would work on and we knew which tools we would use. We went for Laravel PHP development framework. Why? Because we wanted to be hackers and try something new, our experience with Laravel is certainly worth another article, but one thing to say, it was enough to built something that fit well with the judges.

Apprendo, our product is an online education platform bringing in apps and allowing teachers to track their students.

App+Aprendo (“I learn” in Spanish) Students are more motivated by tech devices than paper, so they are bored while they study. Budget cuts transition into higher headcounts per class, so teachers have less time for personal tutoring. Existing software is closed to external developers, so potential knowledge is lost. Apprendo is a marketplace for interactive e-learning content where teachers can choose the apps they want to share with their students and track real-time data on their performance through a user-friendly interface that allows them to discover at a glance which students should be rewarded and which may need personal assistance, teaching bigger classrooms without the excess paperwork.

I am looking forward to my next hackathon but I want to thank my team for making this event so memorable and lets see where we can take our dreams. Thank you Misuk, Guzmán, Jo and Gunn.

Best wishes go to the winners Artic Pod and 정치인들의 난투극 방.

Video of the Apprendo presentation


More pictures on Google Plus.

Thumb Nail Sketches

I have been following this great online course on Design over the last weeks and I finally go around to session about wire frames. It introduced me again to a craft I had done a long long while ago, doing thumbnail sketches first. So I am back on that.Thumb Nail Mockups - Google Drive - Google Chrome_2013-05-22_09-36-44


Downloads for print out

Working with remote Teams

For the last 3 years I have been working mostly remote and I was recently asked by 김진하 of what my recommendations or learning were, so I took the IM protocol of our conversation and share my insight with you now. The following insights are considering a start-up

englishteaching  Huboard

englishteaching Huboard


Code Climate. Hosted static analysis for Ruby source code

Code Climate. Hosted static analysis for Ruby source code

with remote employees and remote employees and part timers in the engineering team.  But many items still apply to any project work.

I want to start our mentioning the tools I have come to adopt, the tools do not matter, but no knowing them can leave you in a disadvantage that you do not need to be. It is mostly not about the tool by a specific vendor but the functionality they provide.

Daily Stand-up, my team started using Google Hangouts about 1 year ago and never have moved back to Skype or other solutions anymore, it is the best choice for doing stand-ups with remote team members. You can always create a secondary email address just for the Google Hangouts. The importance is, on time, with video! You see who is sick or who puts a frowny face at a new task, when you have voice only or are doing just emails you are missing out on visual cues. Continue reading

Ruby on Rails Security Check ListRuby on Rails Security Check ListRuby on Rails Security Check List

1. Do Not Trust Logged In Users! (Authentication != Authorization)

‘Change-affecting’ actions create/update/delete (and their corresponding views new/edit) need to be protected. So always check the current logged user is allowed to perform the requested action.

One way to do this, is to have the concept of a user owning a model and scoping find’s on these actions by the user. Or consider adding a before filter to the controller, that validates the logged in user against the action being performed on the object. For instance, create methods like can_edit?(by_user) or can_destroy?(by_user) Continue reading

SEO for Korean Websites한국 웹사이트를 위한 검색 엔진 최적화(SEO)

If you are running or planning to run a Korean website such as a blog, forum or even an online shopping mall, you must have heard of the term “SEO” at least once before you clicked on this article.

SEO is an acronym for “search engine optimization” and to put it in very simple terms, it is a technique, usually used in marketing, used to optimize the visibility of your website. By “optimizing the visibility of your website”, it means you are trying to make your website show up at the top of a search engine result. To put it in another way, you are trying to get a higher rank for your website in a search engine result so that it shows atop other similar websites.
Continue reading

Web-based Payment Solutions for Websites for Korean Customers웹사이트를 위한 웹 기반의 결제 솔루션




PayGate is a global electronic payment (e-Payement) service provider established in July 1998. The company first started off with a credit card payment system and expanded its business domain by adding other payment services such as bank-based account transfer system and mobile payment system.


To use PayGate services, one should be running a registered business, whether personal or corporate. If eligible, one should create a PayGate account, fill out the forms provided and conclude a contract with PayGate. After completing the requirements above, one needs to pay a set up fee of KRW 110,000 (VAT inclusive) and an annual fee of KRW 110,000 (VAT inclusive) to PayGate upon using its services.

In addition, one must make a payment of about KRW 3,000,000, if the business is domestic (Korea), or about KRW 10,000,000, if the business is international, to secure an warranty insurance from an insurance company in case of delivery accidents. Continue reading

MX, TXT and other DNS lookups

I stumbled across mxtoolbox MX Lookup Tool - Check your DNS MX Records online - MxToolbox - Google Chrome_2013-01-07_10-51-03today, as the name indicates it helps checking/confirming your MX records, however it can do much more, it also helps when confirming any of the following types:

Command Explanation
blacklist: Check IP or host for reputation
smtp: Test mail server SMTP (port 25)
mx: DNS MX records for domain
a: DNS A record IP address for host name
spf: Check SPF records on a domain
txt: Check TXT records on a domain
ptr: DNS PTR record for host name
cname: DNS canonical host name to IP address
scan: Perform a port scan on the host
whois: Get domain registration information
arin: Get IP address block information
soa: Get Start of Authority record for a domain
tcp: Verify an IP Address allows tcp connections (tcp:ip:port)
http: Verify an IP Address allows http connections (http:”url”:”regex”)
https: Verify an IP Address allows secure connections (https:”url”:”regex”)
ping: Perform a standard ICMP ping  New!
trace: Perform a standard ICMP trace route  New!

T-money and Other Contactless Payment Systems in Korea한국 기반의 티머니 및 기타 비접촉식 결제 시스템

T-money and Other Contactless Payment Systems in Korea

I. T-money

T-money[1] is a physical, reloadable smartcard for public transportation issued and managed by the Korea Smart Card Corporation (KSCC)[2]. It was first deployed in Seoul when the city it revamped its public transportation system in July 2004. T-money is widely used by people of all ages to pay for public transportation such as taxis, buses, trains and ferries.

Besides being used as a tool to make payments for transportation, T-money also offers a mileage service, a service in which users rack up points and use those points as virtual currencies to pay for other services, and many others which is a result of its continual expansion to achieve diversified application and better user experience.

T-money has been expanding not only in terms of number of services but also in terms of geography. Starting off with Seoul, T-money is used virtually everywhere in Korea including Daejeon, Pohang and Jeju Island. Areas not covered by T-money are covered by Mybi card[3], for one, and other smartcards. Nevertheless, T-money has already embarked on its plan to achieve a nationwide coverage and this plan is expected to come to fruition in the near future.

In the present, T-money is the de facto payment tool that supports not only transportation but also convenience stores, restaurants, theaters, museums, computer shops, parking areas and even vending machines.

T-money can be purchased in convenience stores nationwide, selected kiosks, banks and postal offices, among many other locations. Moreover, it can be reloaded in selected local charging stations, subway stations and etc. besides convenience stores and banks. It can even be reloaded via online with the help of a dedicated charger.

There is also a mobile version of T-money called T-money Mobile. This mobile-based service is offered through partnerships between KSCC and the Korean mobile operators (Korea Telecom, LG U+ and SK Telecom).

The T-money Mobile service has three components: (1) a mobile device that supports the T-money service, (2) a sim card exclusively made for T-money and (3) T-money mobile application. The mobile device user first checks whether his or her phone supports or is compatible with T-money service. Once confirmed, the user buys and inserts the sim card exclusively developed for T-money and then downloads the T-money mobile application. Once the application is installed, the user can start using T-money via his or her mobile device to pay for services by just tapping or scanning the device on a reader.

T-money Mobile also supports online payments and P2P money transfer between T-money users, and it can be reloaded via both online (using the application) and offline.

II. Cashbee

Cashbee[4] is the reloadable smartcard similar to T-money offered by EB Card[5] and Mybi Card, the two ePayment companies acquired by Lotte Group[6].

Cashbee was first launched in December 2010. It started off as a contactless payment for transportation but in the present, it is also used in paying for products and services in stores nationwide affiliated with Cashbee. Users can accumulate Lotte points from making payment with the Cashbee card and the points earned can be used for products or services offered by Lotte.

Cashbee also offers a mobile application which can be used to make payments or reloaded Cashbee balance. The mobile app is in and of itself independent and therefore does not require an integrated chip or a specialized mobile device like T-money.

III. POPcard

POPcard[7] is yet another reloadable smartcard for transportation payments jointly launched by Korea’s leading retail company GS Retail[8] and KSCC in November 2011. In a nutshell, it’s a combination of GS25 membership card by GS Retail and T-money card by KSSC.

Its function and use is not so much different from other smartcards such as T-money and Cashbee but one thing users have to be aware of is the fact that POPcard can be purchased in a limited number of areas only, though it can be reloaded in kiosks or stations where T-money card can be reloaded.

POPcard is otherwise known for its attractive external design and its ‘limited only versions’ in which photos of famous K-pop stars are printed out as the main design.