Is Odesk in trouble?
For a while Odesk grew rapidly as an outsourcing portal. In Dec 2013, Odesk merged with Elance. For reasons best known to them, the joint company decided to keep the two units operating independently. It seems the Odesk management team's total focus was to grow to a level that they get acquired and they succeeded in that. Once that objective was achieved, it seems the Odesk operational team lost interest and Odesk has been in a steady state of decay ever since.
We have been both a client and an outsourcing agency on Odesk for a while. We provided design and development services for clients and we also hired on Odesk where we were short on resources. We used Odesk exclusively for quite a while till the red flags started popping up. Here are our observations:
- Refusing to address fake / spam job posts:
As an outsourcing company, we look at new jobs being posted and if it is relevant to us, we apply. It's unusual to see the same job being posted again and again. It's extremely irregular to see a whole block of jobs - like 10 jobs at a time - to be repeated several times a day. So we decided to investigate and we noticed certain patterns and URLs in such jobs. See picture:
As you can see with a very minor code adjustment, Odesk can filter out such posts where a URL and an email is mentioned. Yet they don't. I keep sending them such screenshots. They say they have forwarded them to engineering but then nothing happens. Are they deliberately allowing such stuffing? That would be inflating your data. Hmmm!
- Dispute Resolution:
Disputes invariably arise between clients and freelancers. The job of a portal is to use their good offices to help resolve if possible. In theory Odesk does that too. Yet they don't accept telephone calls and they don't make telephone calls. Only email is allowed. The people they have in that department are either the rejects of the company or brain dead. They take days to respond and even when they do, it seems they never read the points you mentioned to them the last time. It's like sending emails to a wall. It becomes a waste of energy. You are better off closing your account and moving on. The worst part is, if you write to their higher ups, nobody responds. We have sent letters, faxes and voice mails to their joint CEO now, Fabio Rosati but no response. Talk about customer service.
- Unsafe for agencies / I.T. Companies:
Most of today's smart applications and websites require multiple skills and cannot be handled by a single freelancer. That's where I.T. outsourcing companies called 'Agencies' by Odesk come in handy. Agencies like us have multiple skilled resources and are in a better position to handle complex tasks, big or small. There is a serious flaw in Odesk's operations - an agencies contractor can refund a client any amount of money without the agency manager's authorization. We have tried our best to make Odesk aware of this. At first their staff themselves cannot understand that this is possible. When we prove it to them that this is not only possible, but has happened when a rogue contractor decides to hurt the agency by doing such refunds. When they finally understand how this is possible, they refuse to do anything about it. Their answer is, this how it is, if you want to operate on Odesk, you'll have to live with it. It's just the risk of doing business on Odesk. How irresponsible! It's like a bank letting anyone from your company writing checks - even past employees - authorized or not. Hard to believe they would let this happen. Yet we have learnt the hard way that that's how it is on Odesk. If you are an I.T. Company, you may not want to operate on Odesk till Odesk decides to fix this huge security hole. Right now they refuse to even acknowledge that this is a flaw. I guess they are waiting for a lawsuit as sooner or later that's going to happen.
- Odesk Timeout:
See this picture. This is a very common picture we see on our screens when we try to reach the Odesk website. I am sure others see the same. We started reporting them and nothing happened. So we started sending them snapshots. Now they acknowledge but the same thing keeps happening again and again. It seems their engineering is over their head and are unable to handle new technologies.
- Doing nothing about Affiliate spam:
See picture. We get such emails through the Odesk email system all week long stuffing our mail boxes. Odesk can easily filter these out yet they don't. Maybe they don't care.
Maybe keeping the Odesk and Elance platforms independent is not such a good idea. Maybe they should merge the two operations and adopt the Elance platform which seems better suited for a more secure and efficient environment. At a time when their strongest competitor freelancer is making significant acquisitions and growing rapidly, it seems Odesk is stumbling. It's very unfortunate because for quite some time, it was our platform of choice. I guess all good things eventually come to an end.