Open source. It’s out there, and my bet is that you’ve already run into it in some form probably without even noticing it. Its prevalence in the real world is palpable — there’s open source software, hardware, books, journalism, politics — even an open source soda dubbed “OpenCola” has been seen in the wild. And after taking a hard look at the latest trends on our April Elance Online Work Index, it’s clear that this whole “open” idea won’t be vanishing anytime soon.
But what does the term “open source” actually mean? Some believe, “It’s free as in freedom, not free as in beer,” while others say, “Sometimes, it’s free as in beer, too!” Others preach, “It’s the open sharing of knowledge,” and some others yell, “Free code!”
With all of this open source talk floating around, it’s easy to get mixed up with what the term really means. Here’s a quick primer to get you started.
In order to be a part of the open source crew, there are 10 rules in the Open Source Initiative's definition that one must follow. But the main pillars behind the idea are these three points: (1) there must be free redistribution (meaning your code can be shared freely), (2) the original source code must be obtainable in a reasonable fashion, and (3) you must allow modifications and derived works. (See the full definition here.)
Let me try to quickly put that into perspective: The Facebook population is now 24 times larger than the population of New York City, equivalent in size to 1,904completely-sold out shows at the gigantic Wembley Stadium, and would be the fifth largest country in the world if it were its own country. Or as I like to think of it, 199,999,700more people that are out there awaiting to befriend me.
The numbers are impressive to say the least. What's even more incredible is that the site took less than five years to reach this landmark, and its current growth rate is even more outlandish – 100 million new users in only 8 months.
Now, if you're a Facebook cynic and you think that the app “gold rush” has come and gone, just rewind and review those numbers again – the gettin’ is still good, my friends. If you’re a business, a simple yet clever Facebook application can bring new customers, engage old ones, and spread word about your company in a viral fashion, or if you’ve randomly just thought of an innovative new app, it may end up being a more lucrative endeavor than you expected.
Zazzle: The online store that specializes in selling user-customized shirts, mugs, posters, cards, and more launched an impressive Facebook app that has built an even more impressive following. The Zazzle Facebook App allows users to display their customized store directly on their profile page. Case study: I get to show off my super cool T-shirt designs directly to my friends, my friends become a little bit more fashion forward and can reflect on my awesome art skills, and Zazzle gets a viral marketing campaign. Bonus: Zazzle throws me a bit of cash for anything that sells. If done properly, a Facebook App can get a huge number of new eyes on your products with minimal effort and upkeep. Who doesn't want that?
A new month means new Skill Tests here at Elance HQ, and if you’ve been patiently waiting to show off your knowledge on a series of newly available skills, now is your chance. Don’t forget, Skill Tests are always free here at Elance, so if you’ve got a little spare time, give it a shot. Believe me, it can make your profile page really stand out from the rest. And without further ado:
Adobe Photoshop CS4, one of the new tests added this month, isn’t just any run-of-the-mill year-over-year upgrade. Adobe has made some major changes on the exterior paint job as well as under the hood. Some of the new features include (warning: technical jargon ahead) a new “Adjustments Panel”, a “Masks Panel”, extended depth of field, fluid canvas rotation, significant upgrades in 3D object handling, content-aware scaling (very neat), smoother panning and zooming, and more. One more thing: Photoshop CS4 is the first ever version to fully support 64-bit processors (Windows only — Apple fans will have to wait until CS5).
Work at your own schedule. Get comfortable at the workplace of your choosing. How much work and how much money — you call the shots. You are the boss. This all may sound tantalizing to the business-suit wearing nine-to-fiver, but there are a number of things to consider before diving head first into the freelancing pool. We've asked Ilise Benun, co-founder of Marketing Mentor, to give us her insights on living the life of a freelancer.
“I know how to do X, so I’ll just make a business out of that and life will be good.”
You probably said that to yourself when you first thought about freelancing. But if you’re totally new to the concept or have been toying with the idea a little while now, know this: It isn't quite as easy as it seems.
If you’re serious about taking advantage of the “freedom” inherent in freelancing, the only way to make it work is to be realistic, because unrealistic expectations can cause extreme disappointment. So if that’s your aim, read on and take a look at the real world of freelancing; it may save you a lot of time in the long run.
Myth #1: You’ll be a creative (or techie, or other professional) running a business. Reality: Being a successful freelancer starts with the right mindset. You must see yourself as an entrepreneur providing services, not a designer, developer, writer, or any other skilled professional making money from your skill or talent. This is a subtle but important distinction. If you see yourself as a professional who provides services, or, better yet, a solver of problems, you’ll realize that what you do commercially for others is based on their need. And focusing on the needs of the market — instead of on yourself — is a direct path to a thriving business.
Myth #2: You’ll be free to do whatever you want. Reality: Freedom is a double-edged sword. In theory, it’s true that you are free to do whatever you want, however, some of those things that you don’t want to do – like bookkeeping and marketing – are essential to the survival of your business. If you ignore them, you may singlehandedly undermine your own success. You are certainly free to do that, but it’s not a very good idea.
Updated: Voting has now ended. Check back on May 19 to see the results. Thanks for your support!
Fellow elancers, big news here!
We’ve just learned that Elance has been selected as a finalist in the Commerce category of the 2009 Webware 100 Awards. This honor should be shared by all of us as it recognizes not only the evolution of Elance in facilitating online work, but more importantly it acknowledges the millions upon milllions of dollars of work that has been delivered by the expert professionals on Elance to the benefit of their business clients around the world.
High fives all around.
We’ve come a long way since opening our doors in ’98, but if you think we’re content with this, think again. As the leading site for online work, our job is to constantly improve Elance by advancing ease-of-use, building trust, delivering timely customer support, and ultimately ensuring that the expert services providers on Elance deliver great results to their clients day in and day out. And we're just getting started.
So, if you're new to Elance or have been around since the old days, or if your feeling inspired, please drop a vote in the ballot box and help us show the rest of the world that Elance is where businesses go when they need to get work done online.
Ready to vote? Click on the big button on the right to head over to CNET to get your vote in. Polls close at noon on April 30, 2009, and winners will be announced on May 19, 2009. Until then, vote your online-working heart out, and we’ll be sure to join you in the winners circle next month.
Elance, the leading site for online work, today releases its April edition of the "Elance Online Work Index", ranking the hottest skills in-demand on the Web today based on data from more than 100,000 jobs posted on Elance over recent months.
The April Online Work Index reveals that IT and marketing skills continue to dominate the online work landscape as the Top 10 graphic clearly demonstrates.
Beyond the general demand for technology and marketing skills, businesses are clearly chasing domain expertise in open source technologies, help with delivering world-class user experiences, and insiders with savvy working with social media.
Open Source on the Rise: The overall trend of businesses migrating to open source technology solutions is stronger than ever with PHP (#1) programming now topping the Index followed closely by MySQL (#2). Demand grows for a variety of other open source skills including Joomla (#18), Drupal (#48 - up 10 spots), osCommerce, (#49 - up 20 spots), Ruby on Rails (#73 - up 27 spots), and Linux (#74 - up 13 spots).
In the dog-eat-dog competitive business jungle where digital-ubiquity transcend time and space, the fundamental ideology underpinning business operational efficiencies are changing so fast it's enough to make your brain's CPU crash.
Translation: If you’re not getting work done online, you better get on it, pronto.
But, even though you have too much to do and not enough time to do it, sometimes it's not easy to know where to start when it comes to lining up experts to help you get it all done. We’ve brewed up a list of 100 jobs that will give any business owner 100 easy places to get started.
Don’t have the time to invest in one of these projects? That's the whole point. Every single item listed can be completed with the help of an expert Elance provider. Easy money.
Some of the movers and shakers on the list include:
Website Design:If you don’t have a website for your business, you need to get with the program. In most cases, customers and prospective clients expect you to have a website even if they don’t actively use it or refer to it. It may sound odd, but recent research shows that most people assume that a company with a website is larger and more stable than a company without one. You don’t need to be a graphic designer to build an effective website. Focus on growing your business while a skilled provider creates the look and feel of your site. Site design is one of the most popular jobs online today. You can have a new site designed or give an existing site a makeover in just weeks or even days. Just make sure your site is an extension of your corporate identity; you’ll spend money creating it, so be sure it works for you.
You're deploying a custom Drupal platform to a major website and the deadline is approaching. You're crafting innovative and effective marketing campaigns for an up-and-coming Web 2.0 startup. You're burning through almost 100 Excel spreadsheets of seven-figure digits for a high-profile accountant. You're a well-oiled machine running at the speed of light.
You're living the fast-paced life of online work.
At some point, everyone needs to recharge — even those with the biggest batteries. What do you do to slow down, unwind, and get away from it all? I've asked the experts (you) to fill us in on what rituals work best to come back feeling fresh.
Frederick Pohl, Web Developer, Pohl Media — "We like to go to the beach and the Springs, go to the park with our daughter, and enjoy cooking on the grill a lot — being in the sun. Music is an essential part of unwinding and helps to regain focus too. I always go back to traditional art, pencil drawing, and printmaking, which were my early beginnings in art."
Julie K. Welch, Writer, Jane Content — "I typically work 70-80 hours per week, so in order to unwind, I take several mini-trips throughout each quarter — 2-3 week long trips. Then I participate in a variety of local charitable and social activities. In the evenings, I also attend yoga classes and run. Overall, I work to balance everything I need to get done within a week while minimizing stress."
The social-networking, micro-blogging, global-instant-messaging service has businesses, individuals, corporations, celebrities, dogs, cats, and more reporting their lives in under 140 characters. Even we’re giving it a go.
Using "tweets" (seriously, that's what they're called) to help drive actual business is still something of a global experiment, so it's hard to say what the rules are, let alone an actual playbook. But here are a few innovative ways businesses are Twittering.
Kogi BBQ: Half taco truck, half Korean cuisine, and 100 percent down with the Twitter game, this fusion Korean BBQ truck is a prime example of using Twitter to market a great product in a clever and unique way. The diner on-the-go travels all over the greater Los Angeles area, but the only way to find out where it will strike next is by following the truck’s Twitter feed online (@kogibbq). The feed, currently with almost 10,000 followers (myself included), leaks out the location only several hours in advance, creating a fanatical, cult-like following of hungry bulgogi seekers. I’ll be having the Korean Short Ribs, thank you very much.
If you somehow haven’t heard of it by now, then you’re probably living in a cave or something that's equally dark and dingy. The buzz surrounding the Kindle has set the world on fire with a newly-found interest in eBooks, especially here around the Elance offices. I'm personally suffering from "Kindle Fever". Not surprisingly, the effects of the eBook craze are surfacing on Elance — we’ve noticed a growing spark of interest in eBook creation with new job postings.
Now hang on there, partner. Before you post a job to convert your unofficial “Twilight” sequel into a Kindle-compatible format, consider these three important factors.
Choosing a File Format
Let me get a little technical for a second. When choosing a file format, you're first going to have to decide between two main eBook concepts: “reflowable” vs “fixed layout”. A reflowable file (AZW, MOBI, PRC, TXT, and HTML file formats) will essentially “word-wrap” your text to fit your screen, regardless of if it’s a cell phone, PDA, or full-on eReader. A fixed-layout file will be presented exactly the way you set each word or picture, meaning that users will have to manually scan horizontally and vertically to progress through the page (PDF and PostScript). If layout is not a huge issue to you, a reflowable file is probably a better choice, but if you have tables, charts, or other location-sensitive content or need to give readers access to 1:1 printing, then a fixed format will probably suit you better. The Mobipocket Developer Center has a great page that explains this in further detail. Remember to also check your eReader's file compatibility as well as other popular devices' compatibility. For example, the Kindle can read AZW (Amazon's proprietary format), MOBI, PRC, and TXT and also has limited HTML, Word doc, and PDF support through an extra software conversion tool.