Have you seen Mrs. Accountability’s latest post, the one contemplating the glories (or not) of Fiverr? It’s pretty interesting.
She’d mentioned that site over the phone a while back, shortly after the episode with the friend of the “who needs enemies” variety. So naturally, I shot right over there to see what it’s about.
What you find when you arrive at Fiverr is a list of offers of services and small products for five bucks a pop. Some of these (like graphic design) actually could command a decent rate, and some (like images a computer program can toss off in 10 seconds) ought not to. Based in Israel, Fiverr is an international enterprise, and presumably many of its vendors are living in countries where $5 will buy a week’s worth of food.
A similar program (presumably owned by the same outfit, given the identical site design) is called “Twenty Fiverr”; people who think they’re worth more offer the same kind of services and products for twenty-five bucks instead of five. Here’s a guy, for example, who promises to provide seven “quality” articles in less than 24 hours, using a program that generates pap-filled, verbose, redundancy-laced, and vacuous squibs, and he’ll do it for a bargain $25.
I have a lot of beefs with this model.
First, as a self-employed skilled worker who has nothing to sell but skill, experience, and time, I highly resent being undercut by people who are willing to work, it seems, for little more than an ego trip. This is something that for years has kept rates down for writers and for graphic artists, especially those who do business within the publishing industry. Publishers know that some people who can construct a basic article will do it for less than minimum wage — some will do it for nothing — just for the joy of seeing their names in print. The result usually has to be completely rewritten, but that’s what the assistant or associate editor is for. At both of the magazines where I worked full-time, a large part of my job entailed sitting down at a computer and, starting at Word 1, rewriting articles by freelance “writers” from beginning to end.
Many magazines have two or three contract pay scales. Unemployed or moonlighting journalists who actually do know how to research and construct a competent article are paid a living wage. Everyone else gets crumbs. Some publishers simply will not pay a living wage to anyone, because they know plenty of amateurs will do the job (or something like the job) for next to nothing.
It’s the intellectual equivalent of off-shoring. In the case of Fiverr and Twenty Fiverr, it probably is literal off-shoring, too. As an individual buyer of services and products, my sense is that those of us who resent corporate off-shoring of American jobs have no business doing the same to American contract workers. Buy American. And pay something more than slave wages, if you expect to see your country’s standard of living remain above the Third World level.
When one person does a job, even a poor job, for less than fair pay, that person drives down pay for five, ten, or twenty other people for whom work is a living, not a hobby. In my book, that’s wrong.
Second, you really do get what you pay for.
Let’s take a look at the “high quality” article that squib-generator built, using a set of key words relating to weight loss. Here’s its lead:
Weight loss is a confusing topic. There are so many different people and articles telling you so many different things, it can be quite difficult to wrap your head around them all. This article will aim to lay down the essential and necessary basics of weight loss in hopes to clear the fog that surround it.
Does that make you want to keep reading, as a lead should? It makes me want to run away…but let’s stand our ground and take a hard look at the thing.
“Weight loss is a confusing topic.” No, it’s not. Weight loss is a process, not a topic. In any event, as statements go this one adds nothing. Right off, we know we’re dealing with a writer who is either a moron or an amateur. Or, in this case, a machine. Even machines can beat around the bush.
“So many different people…so many different things.” Nice use of redundancy to pad space! Is it likely that a person would say “many identical people telling you many identical things”? If the inserting opposite term creates an absurdity, then the adjective in question — “different,” in this instance — is probably redundant. Here, it is redundant to the power of two.
“Difficult to wrap your head around them…” I should say so, unless your head is made of Silly Putty. Our electronic author first coins a cliché and then turns it into a grotesque image. Note that it injects another cliché (“to clear the fog”) in the following sentence.
Cliché is the least of the next sentence’s offenses, though. First, instead of telling us anything significant or intriguing, the electronic author vows to try to give us a few fundamental pointers on the mind-numbing topic of weight loss, with no promise — only “hopes” — that whatever follows will enlighten us. This kind of pap a lead does not make. Then it ends with a faulty idiom (“in hopes to clear”: a native speaker would write “in hopes of clearing”) and a grammatical error (“the fog that surround”: subject-verb agreement).
Come to think of it, the entire article is replete with grammatical, punctuation, logical, and idiomatic errors:
• “Easier” used as an adverb (Electro-author meant “more easily”).
• “Change subtle habits that will increase the amount of walking one has to do”: if the habits increase the amount of walking you do, why would you want to change them? Possibly Electro-author meant “develop” or “build”?
• No comma after “but” used as an introductory word (some people think it’s bad form to use a conjunction to begin a sentence, but that rule doesn’t apply much in journalistic writing).
• Lettuce that’s “more green”…heeeee!
Writing style is, to put it kindly, nonexistent:
• Neither the second nor the third section shows any sign of paragraph transition.
• Verb mood jumps from declarative to imperative in paragraph 5, for no discernible reason.
• Complex ideas are touched upon and sometimes given a cursory example, then dropped with no clue to how the advice might be interpreted or used.
• The final paragraph regurgitates the first one, adding nothing except another hilariously grotesque image: “too many hands in the soup.” Careful not to choke on those knucklebones!
At Twenty Fiverr you get seven such “quality” articles for $25…not a bad price, to make yourself look like a moron to whomever reads one of the things.
My momma always used to say that you get what you pay for. But it wasn’t until I moved into the first house I bought by my little self, as a single woman, that I truly came to appreciate that old saw.
The house had washer and dryer connections, and it must be said that one of the chores I hated most in life was schlepping my laundry to a coin-op laundromat. First order of business was to install a new washer and dryer.
Being the naturally submissive type, though, and hooked up with a very dominant gentleman, I allowed myself to be persuaded to buy a low-end Monkey Ward washer and dryer. The two machines looked good at the outset: extra large, nothing fancy but evidently serviceable.
The dryer lasted about a year. Soon as it went off warranty, it crapped right out. Annoyed (and by then wise to the fact that boyfriend was pushing me into doing things I knew better than to do), I had to go buy a new one at Sears.
The second model was far from top of the line — it was a mid-range Kenmore, well liked by Consumer Reports. Twenty years later, it’s still out there in the garage running well. From the day I tossed the first load of wet laundry into it, the thing worked better than the Monkey Ward cheapo ever did, and it still works.
By purchasing a piece of junk first, I caused myself to pay significantly more than it would have cost to have just ponied up a reasonable price for a reasonably good product in the first place!
If I’d replaced the junk with another cut-rate product, I’d probably be on my fifth or sixth dryer by now, to the tune of four or five times what a single decent appliance cost.
The personal finance message? Bully for you if you can get a generous mark-down on a good product that started out at a fair price. The blade cuts two ways: paying a lot more doesn’t always buy a lot better quality. Paying a fair price — not the lowest though not necessarily the highest, either — is likely to get you services that do the job well and products that work and hold up over time.