Skip to main content

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

By Kevin Voigt and Ramy Inocencio, CNN
updated 8:25 PM EST, Fri January 18, 2013
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
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Tue June 17, 2014
London is promoting its tech stars to shows it can compete with Silicon Valley. Here are five companies to watch.
updated 8:22 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
It's not easy being Jordan and it is about to become even more difficult, again.
updated 11:02 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
At the last football World Cup, it was all about 3D. This time around, it's nothing less than 4K.
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Bob Mazzer has photographed inside London's Tube network for 40 years. He's captured history.
updated 11:29 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Iraq produces 3.3 million barrels per day and has the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. But the current crisis is putting all this in danger.
updated 8:22 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
Sandwiched in between Iraq and Syria, Jordan's destiny seems to be one of a constant struggle for survival. John Defterios explains.
updated 9:14 AM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
The gas standoff between Russia and Ukraine could have a knock-on effect on Europe. Explore this map to find out why is the EU nervous.
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Bob Mazzer has photographed inside London's Tube network for 40 years. He's captured history.
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Tue June 17, 2014
The UK capital promotes its tech stars and shows it can compete with Silicon Valley. Here are five companies that pitch to make it big.
updated 5:56 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
Banksy has condemned an exhibition of his work after organizers defended their decision to remove his art from public spaces.
updated 6:29 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
As debate rages over whether Banksys should be for sale, we direct you to the ones you can still see on the streets.
updated 9:38 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
While Ukraine's fight for freedom gets bloodier by the day and Russia faces the West's cold shoulder, one oligarch is using art to get his message across.
updated 5:14 PM EDT, Fri May 30, 2014
Index on Censorship's Jodie Ginsberg argues the "right to be forgotten" decision is too woolly.
updated 12:13 PM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
Andy McNab says being a psychopath makes us better at business, life and love. Could he be right?
updated 1:20 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
Google has revealed a prototype of its latest driverless car -- and this one doesn't even have a steering wheel.
updated 6:24 AM EDT, Fri May 30, 2014
CNN's Nina dos Santos speaks to the mothers of successful children and asks them: What's the secret of bringing up a winner?
updated 12:13 PM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
Far-right and far-left parties across Europe caused a political "earthquake," with a string of victories in voting for the European Parliament.
updated 12:23 PM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney speaks to Mihaela Carstei about the $400B gas deal recently struck between Russia and China.
updated 4:18 AM EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
The EU is struggling to identify its vision after financial crisis. The European elections are key, and Nina dos Santos says the union needs a new vision.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
CNN's Nina Dos Santos sits down with Elon Musk's mother Maye, who tells her the story of her family and their success.
updated 10:10 AM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
Boko Haram attacks have shifted the focus at the World Economic Forum hosted by Nigeria, CNN's John Defterios explains.
updated 6:19 PM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
Russian oligarch is set to lose half his wealth after being ordered to pay his former wife $4.5 billion in a divorce settlement.
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
China's ultimate goal is to reach a wide-ranging trade agreement with the EU. The EU hopes to persuade China to open its markets.
ADVERTISEMENT