Pssst. Want to Buy Some George Washington Dollar Coins?

Last night, I got a very special treat when I came home from work.

My new inventory for my eBay Store arrived. Here is a pretty nice shot of the package.

GW_Dollar_Box

That’s right. Perfect, Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) original bank rolls (OWA) of the very first Presidential $1 Dollar Coin featuring George Washington. 2007 D mint mark.

You can buy one now right here on eBay Express. Save on shipping if you buy more than one at a time.

I have to say, now that I’ve torn open a roll, the coins are gorgeous. Much better than the Sacajawea dollars. The edge lettering is particularly neat, and the brightness of the coins is noticeably improved.

Get them while they are still in stock! These coins will only be produced for a few more weeks, and then they will be discontinued in favor of the coin featuring John Adams.

Update (5/24/2007): For a limited time only, I am now carrying unopened, original John Adams Presidential Dollar coin rolls in my eBay Store. Click here to buy them on eBay Express. If you are interested in the other rolls I am carrying, click here for all the coins I am currently selling.

Cross Platform Development, Round 2

Even though my blog is now over six months old, I continue to be flattered when I see links to my posts on other sites. I love clicking through each one, and seeing what the author found interesting about my comments and my site.

Most of the links incoming to my site recently have been about coins. Apparently, my write-ups on the new Presidential $1 Dollar Coin program are finding a fan base.

However, I saw an interesting incoming link from the blog of an old friend of mine, Tony Chor, who runs the Internet Explorer 7 team up at Microsoft. It’s called, Cross Platform Development, and it’s basically a refutation of my recent comments about Joost.

I left a comment on Tony’s blog, but I thought it was worth a follow-up post here.

First, let me just say, Tony has been a Program Manager at Microsoft since before I even declared Computer Science as my major at Stanford.  So he knows what he is talking about.

However, in this case, I want to explain a bit more about why I think that high-quality, cross-platform development is an excellent indicator of a great software team.

As Tony points out, writing great cross-platform code is hard. It is very easy to end up with “lowest common denominator” code. Also, if approached poorly, cross-platform development can include layers of code that hurt performance and optimization for any platform:

Also, in order to ease development, cross platform apps often have intermediate layers to factor out the underlying OS. These layers can impede performance and may prevent the app from taking advantage of native services like DirectX or Quartz. The resulting apps aren’t usually as fast as their native counterparts. Microsoft’s Mac apps certainly ran into this problem when writing cross platform “core code” apps on our Windows Layers for Macintosh (WLM) back in the mid ’90s (anyone remember Mac Word 6?)

Yes, I do remember Word 6. Ugh. What a mess. Unfortunately, that was a classic example of a very poorly implemented cross-platform framework, in my opinion. Rather than find commonality across high-level OS services, the Windows Layer Framework attempted to “reassemble” native high level services by re-aggregating low level services. Result? Great Windows application, since that was the model for Windows applications at the time. Terrible Mac application.

I know where Tony is coming from. IE 7 is a platform-specific application. They have not made the browser cross-platform, and Firefox has. Strategically, I believe this was likely a mistake, since it left an opening for a new entrant (Firefox) to enter a market that long since should have been closed. But I’m sure Tony & team have put a lot of thought into the implications of taking applications cross-platform.

It’s actually Tony’s last comment that I want to take issue with, however, in relation to my impression of Joost.

Finally, developing cross platform reduces the overall innovation a developer can provide. Building for multiple operating systems (or browsers) is never less work than building for one. The time spent architecting, coding, testing, and debugging for multiple platforms is time not spent adding new features, making the product more reliable or secure, or satisfying other user demands (or saving investors’ money).

There are certainly no guarantees of a gorgeous, OS-exploitive, fast application when you target only one OS, but it’s way harder when you are trying to serve multiple masters.

There’s no doubt that teams that can execute cross platform consistently well over time are probably great, but just think what they could accomplish if they chose to focus all that talent and energy on one platform.

This is where I have to humbly disagree. The top 10% of software engineers are not just a little bit better than the average software engineer. They are many, many times better. And in my limited experience, I have found that the great engineers can and do produce cross-platform applications that are best-in-class.

More importantly, I believe that being cross-platform makes great engineers better. Some of the best Windows engineers that I worked with in the late 1990s had a history of working on the Mac OS. There is something about an engineer who stays cross-platform that is like someone who learns multiple languages at an early age. They end up with an innate sense of architectural design and trade-offs that is so much deeper and more robust than a single-platform specialist.

True, I believe my biases are based more on entertainment applications than productivity applications. Bungie, before Microsoft acquired them, was an example of a company that produced great cross-platform games with simultaneous cross-platform release. Blizzard, makers of World of Warcraft, currently release their titles with simultaneous cross-platform release. Would their games be better, or more optimized, if they focused on a single platform? More importantly, would their releases be any more successful if they were single platform?

Maybe the difference is that an entertainment application, like a video game, has a custom interface that doesn’t have to live or work with other applications. They just take over your machine, for the most part. Productivity applications have to “play nice” – they need to look and behave like all of your other applications.

I’m not sure, but I will tell you this – I still believe that when you see rapid or simultaneous release of high-quality, cross-platform applications, in general you are looking at a very strong development team.

Many thanks again, Tony, for reading my post, and taking the time to respond. And sorry, by the way, that your site is now filled with Mac OS and Firefox ads… 🙂

Greg Bettinelli: All Growth is Sexy

People who know me also know that I am fairly competitive.  I like to be best-in-class, and I like to win.

However, sometimes you just have to admit when someone does you one better.

Greg Bettinelli, a friend from eBay, just started a new blog.  And it’s title is:

All Growth is Sexy

That is a great title.  I like the title of my blog, but man, that is a great title.

He got the quote from our recent talk that Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, gave at our recent eBay Leadership conference in December.

Greg has been a regular reader of this blog, and he’s actually cornered me a few times to either tell me he really liked an article (like this one on Employee Stock Purchase Plans), or to tell me he really didn’t like another (any post about Battlestar Galactica).

Greg is now working in the exciting world of eBay Tickets, with our new friends at StubHub.

Congratulations, Greg, on the new blog and the blog title.

Putting a Big Stock Market Drop in Perspective

I have so many things to post about today, I doubt I’ll get to them all.

However, I couldn’t let the day close without commenting on the big financial news, namely the fairly large drop in global stock markets today. The AP Wire has a nice summary of the financial metrics from the day:

It began Monday with a 9 percent slide in Chinese stocks, which came a day after investors sent Shanghai’s benchmark index to a record high close, setting the tone for U.S. trading Tuesday. The Dow began the day falling sharply, and the decline accelerated throughout the course of the session before stocks took a huge plunge in late afternoon as computer-driven sell programs kicked in, and also as a computer glitch caused a delay in the recording of a large number of trades.

The Dow fell 546.20, or 4.3 percent, to 12,086.06 before recovering some ground in the last hour of trading to close down 416.02, or 3.29 percent, at 12,216.24, leaving it in negative territory for the year. Because the worst of the plunge took place after 2:30 p.m., the New York Stock Exchange’s trading limits, designed to halt such precipitous moves, were not activated.

In the grand scheme of things, today’s move in the stock market was neither unusual nor extremely worrisome for a long term inventor with a well thought out asset allocation. However, people are not rational with money, and loss aversion is one of the best documented aspects of behavior finance. Most research available on the topic demonstrate repeatedly that people tend to value the loss of a dollar three times more than the gain of a dollar. It’s amazing, really. The joy you likely feel seeing your portfolio up $1000 is likely 1/3 the pain you feel when you see it drop $1000. That is not a recipe for rational decisions.

I’ll be writing my next article in my personal finance education series soon, most likely on the topic of asset allocation and long term investing. Days like today can be extremely stressful if you are in the stock market for the wrong reasons, with the wrong goals, or with the wrong expectations. However, days like today can be a blessing if they force you to really embrace what risk really means in terms of the day-to-day unpredictability of the stock market.

In the meantime, however, I’d like to share an article written today by Vanguard, the puts market volatility like today’s in perspective. Here are a few lines that I felt were extremely well put:

“There’s no doubt that a big drop in stocks can be tough on your nerves and your account balance,” said Gus Sauter, Vanguard’s chief investment officer. “But after a day like Tuesday, it’s more important than ever to maintain a long-term perspective…”

Tuesday’s decline put the stock market’s return so far in 2007 into negative territory. But over the past 12 months, the broad stock market has still produced a total return—price appreciation plus dividend income—exceeding 10%. That gain, coincidentally, is roughly the long-term average annual return for U.S. stocks….

“We’ve had a very nice rebound in stocks since the long bear market that began in early 2000 and stretched into 2002,” Mr. Sauter said. “So it’s not surprising to see a pullback…”

As investors digest the volatility of the market and the flood of commentary that always accompanies such events, it may be helpful to reflect that no one can say whether stocks will continue to decline or whether they’ll soon rebound. What is clear is that few, if any, investors have a demonstrated ability to consistently pick the right times to get in—or out—of the markets…

“The stock market never goes straight up,” Mr. Sauter said. “To be a successful investor over the long term, you need to understand this fact and you need to react rationally when the market doesn’t go your way.

Successful investing is a rational, not an emotional, pursuit. If you’ve made conscious, deliberate decisions based on your personal financial goals, time horizon, and your tolerance for risk, there’s no reason to change your plans.”

One of my favorite pieces of advice that I give about investing is that for most people, you know when you are doing it well because it will be boring. For people who do not make their living in the financial markets, it should take very little time to pick a well-balanced, diversified portfolio of assets, and then add money to it regularly. Rebalance once, maybe twice, a year, and you are done.

Cisco buys Reactivity for $135 Million

Super quick post this morning, but I’ll flesh this out later today.

However, I had to say a big Congratulations to the entire Reactivity team, and in particular, the close friends of mine who are founders. John Lilly, Brian Roddy, Bryan Rollins & Mike Hanson, a very special congratulations. Mike & Brian, I think this means your going to be working for Cisco for a while. 🙂

Here is the official press release from the Reactivity website.

Reactivity was in the XML Gateway market, which means that they made a secure, fast box that would allow the routing of XML messages. For modern distributed development, which involves exchanging messages in the XML format, a new level of security and management software is needed.

I feel very close to Reactivity, even though officially I was never an employee. The company was founded while I was roommates with John Lilly, and I even attended one of the earliest (if not the earliest) classic Silicon Valley lunches where the model was sketched out on a napkin. The idea was to build a technology business around the very best people coming out of top schools – people who wanted to start their own companies, but hadn’t found the right mix of people or ideas to get going.

Reactivity’s original mail server was my old PowerMac 8500, and I believe my old color laser printer went into the company as well. Later in life, as a venture capitalist, I was able to consult and help advise structuring during their Series B. I always felt good when I could be helpful to my friends and to the company.

Reactivity went through several generations. It began as a stand-alone product consultant and innovation factory, incubating people and startups. They were the hot place to work in the late 1990s for smart, savvy Stanford & MIT engineers and entrepreneurs. Zaplet came out of the company, as did Raplix (which became CenterRun). They became VC backed, getting funding from Peter Fenton and Mitch Kapoor at Accel. In the downturn, the company re-started with a focus on product, and their new product and platform was born.

A special congratulations to the team again. What a great way to start a day. I’m going to have an extra spring in my step all through the week.

Update:  Some nice words from John Lilly, on his personal blog, about the acquisition and about this post.  Funny.  I forgot the laser printer was called the 800 lb. Gorilla.  It was an Apple Color Laserwriter 16/600.  It was HUGE and LOUD.  Funny.

Fun Facts from the US Mint Website: Job Openings!

I don’t why I like the US Mint website so much. It’s so archaic and poorly organized.

And yet, I find myself clicking around, looking for undiscovered gems. For example, it wasn’t so long ago that I discovered the US Mint website had a whole section that outlined production numbers for all normal coins that the US Mint produces. Interesting information that is hard to find elsewhere. Where is it hidden? Underneath the “About Us” link… who would have guessed?

I have made money, in the past, by buying coins directly of the US Mint website, and then turning them around and selling them on eBay. It’s always surprising to me how many coin collectors know enough about online shopping to buy on eBay, but don’t necessarily know that you can buy coins from the US Mint online.

Well, here is my little find tonight. Not that I’m looking to move to Washington, D.C., but I guess the job market is getting hot. The US Mint now has a link to some very strange government website where you can see all the jobs available at the US Mint.

There are some fun ones here that you just don’t find elsewhere. Like this one, as a Lead Transfer Engraver. $26-$30 per hour. I clicked through, but I have no idea how you’d become qualified for this … my university didn’t offer courses in numesmatic engraving. Budget cuts, I guess.

But, as I scan the list, there are some surprising high paying jobs for the US Government. A few Project Management roles, and an Accountant position or two.

The highest paying role? Supervisory Business Management Specialist. $110K – $143K per year. This is actually quite high for a government job – it’s almost as high as the salary that a US Congressman makes!

I can’t make heads or tails of the actual requirements, but it sounds an awful lot like a general marketing management role. I love how the combination of Human Resources and US Government regulations leads to requirements for this role like:

To be eligible at the GS-15 [level for this role], candidates must have been a GS-14 for fifty-two weeks, when applicable.

Well, that clears everything up now, doesn’t it? 🙂

So, coin lovers out there, ask yourself – are you willing to move to Washington, DC? Your dream job may be out there, waiting.