Skip to main content

'4-hour' work guru on China outsourcer: Bad karma

By Kevin Voigt and Ramy Inocencio, CNN
January 19, 2013 -- Updated 0125 GMT (0925 HKT)
Author Tim Ferriss of 'The 4-Hour' book series dislikes tactics used by a U.S. programmer who outsourced his work.
Author Tim Ferriss of 'The 4-Hour' book series dislikes tactics used by a U.S. programmer who outsourced his work.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Strong reader reaction to story U.S. programmer personally outsourced work to China
  • Readers cited "The 4-Hour Workweek,' which advocates outsourcing individual work
  • Author Tim Ferriss tells CNN that "Bob" went wrong by breaching company security
  • Ferriss: "Creating security breaches isn't a good career move. It's also bad karma."

Hong Kong (CNN) -- CNN readers had a mixture of admiration and disdain for "Bob," the anonymous U.S. programmer who outsourced his work to a Chinese firm for one-fifth of his paycheck.

The incident was investigated by Verizon after a client company noticed the firm's computer system was regularly being accessed from China. Investigators found the employee had "physically FedExed his RSA token to China so that the third-party contractor could log-in under his credentials during the workday," according to Andrew Valentine, a senior forensic investigator for Verizon.

"This guy must have read the `4-Hour Workweek' book. He was doing exactly what the book recommends," wrote one CNN reader, a sentiment echoed elsewhere.

"Heard this on CNN this morning and thought the same exact thing -- he must be a Tim Ferriss fan!" wrote a reader identified as Sarah Avayou.

U.S. programmer outsources own job to China, surfs cat videos

"The 4-Hour Chef" author Tim Ferriss
"MeatEater" returns this Sunday

Ferriss, however, isn't a fan of the tactics of "Bob."

The author of the blockbuster time management book series -- which advocates personal outsourcing as part of his formula for earning more in less time -- said subterfuge and allowing someone unauthorized access to the company computers is not the way forward.

"Productivity should benefit the collective, not put it at risk," Ferriss told CNN by e-mail. "As much as I love cat photos, creating security breaches isn't a good career move. It's also bad karma."

An average day for "Bob" included watching cat videos and logging into eBay and Facebook. He would then send an end-of-day report on the work he paid a company in Shenyang, China, to do for him.

"The 4-Hour Workweek is about maximizing your per-hour output -- increasing personal effectiveness. It's about creating abundance and not about screwing your employer," Ferriss said. "This is why I work with some of the fastest growing start-ups in Silicon Valley (Evernote, Uber, etc.): they want maximal leverage."

Is there a way "Bob" could have done this without jeopardizing his job?

"If you want to structure a remote-work agreement, voluntarily work several consecutive Saturdays and measure your output increases (e.g. deals closed, client hours booked, etc.)," Ferriss said. "Use data and a logical argument to show your bosses that you can contribute more while being location-independent."

Ferriss also advises: "If you want increased power and negotiating ability within your organization, increase your per-hour output. Focus on the 80/20 Rule: identifying the 20% of activities (also products/services) that produce 80% of the results you or your bosses want.

"Track (or create) metrics that allow your supervisors to measure your performance improvements and contributions," he said.

Still, many readers admired the unknown -- and now unemployed -- programmer.

"It reminds me of a quote from 'The Night Of The Generals' that went something like 'What is admirable on a grand scale is abhorrent on a small scale'," commented another CNN reader known as Davidji, referring to the 1967 movie about a Nazi murder investigation during World War II. "CEO's do this every day and they get stock options and their picture on Forbes front cover."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea -- the three countries facing the biggest health crisis -- are also facing huge bills to try and contain the virus.
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 1316 GMT (2116 HKT)
Twitter has lost its position in the top 20 coolest brands for the first time in three years.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
As the crisis in Iraq escalates, CNN looks at how Iraq could crack down on ISIS' oil riches under the guidance of its new oil minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0842 GMT (1642 HKT)
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is Turkey's new president . So can he revitalize its economic fortunes?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Experts share their tips on cities they see as emerging financial hubs...they're not where you think.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1340 GMT (2140 HKT)
Growing numbers of us are willing to serve as bank, teacher or travel agent to people we have never met, and entrust them to serve us in turn.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
The European Union is stepping in to save its dairy from going sour.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1236 GMT (2036 HKT)
Europe's deteriorating relationship with Russia has hit the region's growth, even before new food sanctions begin to bite.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
With cyberattacks on the rise and here to stay, it's a modern-day challenge for people and businesses to get smarter about preventing them.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
Airstrikes, rebels seizing control of oil fields, plus a severe refugee crisis are a recipe for market panic. So why are Iraq oil prices stable?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
Peer-to-peer finance lets businesses bypass bank loans. Creative companies with quirky ideas find new lending models advantageous.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1524 GMT (2324 HKT)
Evidence points to pro-Russian separatists as perpetrators of the attack and Vladimir Putin is facing questions, David Clark writes.
September 3, 2014 -- Updated 0952 GMT (1752 HKT)
CNN's Jim Boulden looks on the future of online shopping.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1440 GMT (2240 HKT)
The biggest Ebola outbreak in history is taking its toll in Western Africa, hitting some of West Africa's most vulnerable economies.
ADVERTISEMENT