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Code me Ishmael

Imagine Herman Melville as the CEO of a software company, and you may get an idea of what SeaCode has in mind.

The San Diego-based company is floating the idea of an offshoring operation that's just a long surf-cast from shore. It aims to station a ship 3.1 miles off the coast of Los Angeles as a workplace where "600 world-class software engineers" would write code as cheaply as programmers in far-flung India or Russia. SeaCode says that besides low costs, its shipshape operation will provide convenient access for U.S. businesses, revenue that flows stateside rather than overseas, and "unsurpassed physical and virtual security, including the protection of U.S. Intellectual Property laws."

That bit about security can't help but call to mind the historical legacy of the convict ship. Granted, that's probably a much darker image than SeaCode's founders have in mind, but maybe they could take comfort in Dickens' "Great Expectations"--after all, it was the convict Magwitch who escaped from just that sort of hard labor to provide seed money to the hero, Pip.

In any case, the photo on the SeaCode site does show a cruise ship. "Do you remember the Love Boat?" David Cook, one of the men behind the company, said in an article in The Boston Globe. "That's the kind of facility we're talking about."

Cook provides the company with its seafaring core competencies--according to the Globe, he's a former supertanker skipper. His partner, Roger Green, comes from the software business.

The code swabbies--er, jockeys--will work several months a time on the ship, and will be able to come ashore on liberty. But since they'll be classified as "seamen," according to Forbes, they won't need H-1B visas and their employer won't need to pay U.S. payroll taxes.

There's no word on whether keelhauling is under consideration as a punishment for buggy code.