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“Sweatshop software”?

TechCrunch UK � Blog Archive � Virtual Worlds, Real Potential – Imaginary Numbers?

Mike Butcher’s doing an excellent job with TechCrunchUK – now one of the most readable and interesting places to keep abreast of the UK’s web2.0 scene. In fact Mike’s has moved away from the “look – shiny things!” simpering coverage of much of Web2.0 and has turned TCUK (is there a t-shirt there? “Who gives a TCUK?”) into a technology and entrepreneurship news service.

Typical of his coverage is this little nugget of commentary (in a story on Virtual Worlds and their real-world economic imapct):

Anshe Chung (the first 2nd Life real life (R/L) millionairess) uses 50 people in China to build habitats (is this sweatshop software?), and over 10,000 people are making real money trading on the site.

This is an insight with which to conjure. It shows the frictionless, boundary-less nature of digital skills, the speed with which one can outsource and the rapidity with which a service model can be developed and deployed.

On a day that the UK Government’s Small Business Service their exhortations to industry to make “design” part of their competitive strategy one has to wonder how grounded is their thinking. One “creative designer” can develop a service and have that in production and on sale in a literal blink of an eye. Whether this is virtual services to remote users in an invented world; writing software; providing support; researching and subediting or – perish the thought – taking industrial designs and manufacturing them elsewhere. Anywhere. Maybe not even ‘in real life’.