You Ought to Be in Pictures (on LinkedIn)

A lot of excitement tonight at LinkedIn, as we rolled out our latest release.  The big new feature this week is the debut of a Profile photo.

You can read more about the feature and the thinking behind it on my post on the official LinkedIn blog.

The press coverage has been great, but because my photo is in the sample screenshots, it has been a little strange to see my face everywhere.  Here is a quick snapshot of Techmeme – I think you’ll see what I mean.

Here are some quick links to some of the early pieces on the release.  We’re maintaining a more complete list on the official LinkedIn blog post.

Since this is my personal blog, I have a personal question to ask my readers.  I’m obviously going to upload my photo to my LinkedIn profile, and we’ve even had new headshots taken here internally.  However, there is a little debate going on between myself and our Director of Communications on which photo to use.

So, do you like the photo of Adam, 2004 (from eBay):

Or, the more recent photo of Adam, 2007 (from LinkedIn):

You be the judge.  Let me know in the comments.  Thanks!

Proof That I Don’t Like All US Coin Programs

Why am I not surprised?  George W. Bush just signed into the law the worst $1 Coin program concept ever (and that is a decent hurdle to clear).

Bush Signs the “Native Americans $1 Coin Act”.

Here is my blog post about the bill, as it was in Congress.  From another blog, some additional coverage.
I guess both the House & the Senate get two thumbs down for passing this also.  I predict this will set a record for the lowest number of coins to make it out of the US Treasury vaults, ever.

eBay Countdown Widget Launches (Beta)

Now this looks like fun…

eBay Countdown Widget (Beta)

I will self-admit, I’m more of a fixed-price buyer than an auction bidder, although I’ve done plenty of both on eBay.  But I like the idea of a smack-talking, action-packed, avatar-enabled feel to an online auction.  Captures some of the intensity and fun of a live auction, with the extra high tech coolness of a web-based widget.

We’ll see what people think, but I’m glad this idea came to life.  Special thanks for making it work on Firefox on the Mac!  Hats off to the Buyer Experience team, who I know have been cooking up ideas like this for the better part of a year.

Intel demos USB 3.0 at 4.8 Gbps. Wow.

Not sure if this will play out in commercial production, but Intel demoed USB 3.0 at the Intel Developer Forum last week.

There is good coverage of the event and the specification here on CNET.

Intel is working fellow USB 3.0 Promoters Group members Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Texas Instruments, NEC and NXP Semiconductors to release the USB 3.0 specification in the first half of 2008, said Pat Gelsinger, general manager of Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group, in a speech here at the Intel Developer Forum.

In an interview after the speech, Gelsinger said there’s typically a one- to two-year lag between the release of the specification and the availability of the technology, so USB 3.0 products should likely arrive in 2009 or 2010. A prototype shown at the speech is working now, and USB 3.0 will have optical and copper connections “from day one,” he added.

The current USB 2.0 version has a top data-transfer rate of 480 megabits per second, so a tenfold increase would be 4.8 gigabits per second. Many devices don’t need that much capacity, but some can use more, including hard drives, flash card readers and optical drives such as DVD, Blu-ray and HD DVD. The fastest flash card readers today use IEEE 1394 “FireWire” connections that top out at 800 megabits per second.

In addition, USB 3.0 will offer greater energy efficiency, Gelsinger said. It will be backward compatible, so current USB 2.0 devices will be able to plug into USB 3.0 ports.

It took me a while to trust USB 2.0 for high speed peripherals like hard drives (versus IEEE 1394 Firewire), but my recent 500GB USB 2.0 external drives have converted me.  The key is to keep them on a dedicated bus, so that USB 1.x devices don’t slow them down.

At 4.8Gbps, I’ve got to wonder whether or not 10G Ethernet will be available in the home in 2 years.  If not, I could see actually preferring USB 3.0 to either eSATA or GigE for my multi-terabyte NAS.

We’ll see.  A lot can happen in 2+ years.

Arrived in Omaha, Nebraska

Visiting for just a couple of days to meet the LinkedIn customer service team and discuss some of the exciting features planned for the rest of 2007.  I’m really excited to meet everyone in person.

This is my first trip to Omaha, and to Nebraska for that matter.  No flight problems, although I got moved to a middle seat on my leg to Denver, and both flights were packed completely.  Started a new book on the crash of 1907.

I’ve actually been hoping for a trip to Omaha for over a decade, but for a different reason.  I have always planned to one year come out for the Berkeshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting to see Warren Buffett in his element, but somehow have never gotten around to it.

Maybe next year?

What a Mess. The Native American $1 Coin Act.

Oh boy.  Caught this article about The Native American $1 Coin Act.  What a mess.

In the final step before becoming a law, congress presented the president with H.R. 2358, Native American $1 Coin Act, for his signature. Introduced in the House of Representatives by Dale Kildee (D-MI 5th), and expected to be signed by the president, the bill calls for the reverse of the Sacagawea Dollar be redesigned every year to commemorate “of Native Americans and the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the development of the United States and the history of the United States.” The obverse will continue to have the Sacagawea design.

You know, this is pretty much “jump the shark” territory for coin series.  After all, it’s not like there is any demand for the Sacagawea dollar coins now.  Frankly, they haven’t even found a use for the original mintage from the year 2000.

The Presidential $1 Dollar Coins seem to have decent demand with collectors, but no one seems to be using these in circulation for obvious reasons – until the $1 Bill goes away, there’s just no reason to.

Creating new series of specialty faces on circulating coins is not a guaranteed winner… just ask the 10 people who actually cared about the 5 versions of the Nickel that went out in 2004-2006.  Oh, did you miss that series?  🙂

The US is already dealing with:

  • The end of the highly successful US State Quarter series, which finishes off in 2008 with the last five states.  Of course, H.R. 392 would like to extend it to the District of Columbia and the five US territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa, Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands).
  • The next decade of US Presidential $1 Dollar Coins, at a rate of 4 per year, through 2016 at least.
  • The next decade of US Presidential First Spouse gold coins, at a rate of 4 per year.
  • The new 24K Gold Buffalo 0.9999 pure bullion coin.
  • The 2009 Penny series to celebrate a century of the Lincoln cent.

So, my apologies to the US Congreesmen sponsoring HR 2358. You can count me out on any series based on the Sacagawea dollar.

US Mint Halts Gold Coin Sales Based on Gold Price Jump

Interesting article this week from

The price of gold has jumped in the last thirty days from a low of $648 an ounce to a high of $711.75. If you’ve invested in gold, you’re loving it. If you’re the United States Mint, you’re hating it.

The increased price of gold is affecting the US Mint’s bottom line. So much so that late this afternoon, September 13, the U.S. Mint suspended the sale of all their 2007 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated coins.

The Mint needs to adjust their prices, pushing them up higher. Here’s a listing of the suspended gold coins (at least so far) and their former prices:

  • 2007 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated One Ounce Coin, Price: $749.95
  • 2007 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated One-Half Ounce Coin,
    Price: $379.95
  • 2007 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated One-Quarter Ounce Coin, Price: $195.95
  • 2007 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated One-Tenth Ounce Coin, Price: $89.95
  • 2007 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated Four-Coin Set,
    Price: $1,379.95

The following statement was posted on the U.S. Mint web site for each of the coins they suspended:

Due to the increasing market value of gold, the American Eagle Gold Uncirculated Coins are temporarily unavailable while pricing for this option can be adjusted; therefore, no orders can be taken at this time. We expect products to be available with adjusted pricing on or after September 27, 2007.

I’m a little surprised.  After all, the US Mint is largely working off inventory that has already been created.  I didn’t think the Mint was that “margin sensitive”.  Still, in the end, it’s not surprising that a sharp spike in gold prices would make them revisit pricing.

I notice that they did not feel the need to reprice the 1/2 ounce gold first spouse coins.  Maybe they were scared to given all of the fulfillment issues.  I’m still waiting on Thomas Jefferson’s Liberty coin.

This should be a boost for anyone who did order gold coins this year.  The eBay price tends to quickly jump to the latest coin prices at the US Mint plus some margin.  So, if you got the gold eagles at a cheaper price, you might be able to sell for an immediate profit.

Getting Ready to Write an Apple Plug-in for Mac OS X

Blowing some dust off the old compiler this weekend… after about 8 years, I’m actually getting ready to write some real client-side software again.  Just a personal project, for fun.

Nothing fancy, but I’ve decided to see if I can’t write some useful plug-ins for Mac OS X.  In particular, I’m going to see if I can’t improve:

  • Apple Address Book
  • Apple Mail

I tend to joke with friends that when I went to business school, part of the admissions process was officially “turning in” my compiler.  To show you how dated I am, the last serious Mac OS development I did was in Metrowerks Codewarrior.

Over my vacation in August, I went through Cocoa in a Nutshell from the O’Reilly series, just to refresh my memory.  Even when I was on the WebObjects team at Apple, I primarily wrote framework code in Java, not Objective-C, so basically I’ve got to come up to speed again on:

  • Objective-C
  • XCode 2.4
  • Five versions of Mac OS X (the version I worked on became 10.0)
  • Documented methods of extending Apple Address Book
  • Undocumented methods of extending Apple Mail

I managed this weekend to get a sample plug-in for Apple Address Book working.  This wasn’t a huge feat, really, since XCode includes a sample project for this as a default install, and it’s fairly trivial to customize the three Objective-C messages that define the functionality.

If you are looking for the documentation on extending Apple’s Mac OS X Address Book, check out:

Pretty basic really, although adding a contextual menu command for certain fields is hardly the best interface.  I’ve been playing with Plaxo Toolbar for Mac, and trying to figure out how they inserted their drawer into the GUI.

Creating plug-ins for Apple Mail is much trickier, because it’s completely not supported or documented.  Well, I shouldn’t say not supported… it’s not supported officially.  However, Apple Mail does implement a plug-in architecture, and with a few quick setting changes, you can install a wide range of third party plug-ins.

Here are some cool links if you are interested:

  • Demystifying Mail App Plugins.  This blog post covers some high level tips and source code, in Python, to write a quick plugin.  Thanks to this post, I re-discovered class-dump, which lets you inspect the classes and methods for any Mac OS X application (very cool).
  • Mail Plugin Template 1.0. Aaron Harnly, you are my hero.  Aaron has posted an excellent XCode project template, with class-dump headers, for building your own Apple Mail plug-ins and installer scripts.  He even answered a simple project question for me over email.  Very cool.
  • CocoaDev.  This is a wiki site dedicated to Cocoa development.  Aaron’s code pointed me here, since it features “Method Swizzling”.  It’s a very sneaky feature of the Objective-C runtime, where you can effectively not only over-ride an method for an object you don’t own, but you can even replace the parent class method in applications that you don’t control!  Read this for specifics (very cool if you’re into programming).
  • Apple Mail Plug-Ins and Tools.  A whole directory site of Apple Mail plug-ins.
  • Apple Mail Plug-In Roundup.  This post on The Unofficial Apple Weblog covered a lot of cool plugins.
  • Mail Act-On.  Very cool plug-in that lets you map individual rules to keyboard commands.  My favorite Eudora feature, now on

So far, I have an Apple Mail plug-in that compiles and loads correctly in and logs data into the console.  But I’m going to put that in the “W” column for this weekend, given my incredible level of rust around the gears.

I’m going to be flying to Omaha this week to visit the LinkedIn customer service team… I’m going to try and use the flight time to get a little bit more working.

My biggest question now is how far can I go in terms of influencing the UI.  I already know how to:

  • Create a plug-in
  • Insert menu commands and menus into the main application
  • Create my own preferences panel & preferences file
  • Create my own window

However, if I really want to integrate,  I need to figure out how to:

  • Add commands to existing contextual menus (I can’t find them in the NIB files anywhere)
  • Add views/panes to the existing windows (ala a toolbar)

I haven’t found sample code that does either of the above yet, but I’m still looking.

All in all, it’s fun to be compiling again.

Do You Know Where to Buy/Sell S&P/Case-Shiller Housing Index Derivatives?

This shouldn’t be a hard question to answer, but I’m having trouble with it. I’m looking for an online brokerage where I can buy and sell futures and options contracts based on the the S&P/Case-Shiller Housing Index. The S&P/Case-Shiller Housing Indexes are one of the newest innovations in tracking the value of home prices across the US.

A few years ago, Robert Shiller wrote a book called “The New Financial Order,” (although I didn’t get around to reading it until last June, during the evenings between the eBay Live 2006 event in Las Vegas). Robert Shiller had written a book in 2000 called “Irrational Exuberance“, and as you can guess by the title, it had quite a bit to do with market bubbles and what was happening with Internet stocks in 2000 when it was .

In his new book, Shiller argues that risk in the 21st century will be manageable by leveraging the innovations from the 20th century around risk management towards the truly large risks that individuals bear. For example, every individual bears a disproportionate amount of “local housing market risk”, because most of their assets are tied up in a house whose value is tied to the area of the country where they happen to live. Shiller also provides examples like “livelihood risk”, where people currently bear a huge risk that the profession that they are trained in will be unmarketable or less valuable in future years and unless you are in a particularly safe market, New York Sublets for example, then you might be in hot water.

Shiller proposes several steps towards solving these problems for individuals, beginning with the definition of well known, well defined indexes to measure them. Then, with derivatives like futures and options, these risks can be hedged by individuals as needed.

For example, a young software engineer could buy a put-option on the 20-year future income of a US-based software engineer. If it turns out that software engineers in the US have lower income in 20-years, the put should help hedge some of that risk, and potentially even fund re-training if needed.

Well, quickly after the book was released, Shiller followed through with indeces defining the local housing prices in 12 major US markets, and one aggregate index across them.

They are called the S&P/Case-Shilling Housing Indexes, and they are defined and marketed by Macromarkets, an interesting company to say the least:

MacroMarkets LLC is a growth company on a mission to add liquidity to valuable economic interests and important asset classes throughout the world. Our principal focus: to cultivate new markets which facilitate investment and risk management via innovative financial instruments.

The firm is led by a seasoned management team with over 100 years of collective Wall Street experience with structured products, exchange-traded funds, housing markets, mortgage- and asset-backed securities.

MacroMarkets holds multiple patents for MACROS®, a novel securities structure that can be applied to any asset class that can be reliably indexed. It also possesses exclusive licensing rights to The Case-Shiller Indexes® for the purposes of developing, structuring and trading financial instruments.

In May 2006, in partnership with MacroMarkets, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) successfully launched Housing Futures and Options for U.S. residential real estate. This landmark development created the first exchange-traded financial products for directly investing in and hedging U.S. housing. Various over-the-counter (OTC) U.S. housing-linked derivative financial products will also be originated and traded this year. Like the CME Housing Futures and Options, these OTC products will be linked to and settled upon the S&P/Case-Shiller® Home Price Indices.

So, I was interested in checking out the prices on potentially hedging local home prices in the San Francisco Bay Area for the next few years. I was just curious whether or not it would make sense to do on an individual basis. After all, Herb Greenberg says California real estate prices may dictate the movement of the national economy this time…

Problem is, I can’t find a quote for these futures or options, and I can’t find a brokerage where I could potentially trade them. This article suggests you can, and I found ticker symbols for both futures and options on the website. But I can’t seem to find a quote service or brokerage that understands them.

So, I’m asking my readers… anyone know the answer here?

Office 2.0 Panel Wrap-Up

I thought I’d post a quick follow-up to the Office 2.0 conference, especially since I mentioned the appearance on this blog earlier this week.

The Office 2.0 conference is dedicated to exploring the use of Web 2.0 technologies in the enterprise, and I was a bit surprised by the dedication and passion that many of the attendees and fellow panelists had for the topic.

There are a few summaries of the panel that I participated in, called “Social Computing”, already online.

To stick with Jeremiah for a second, his blog calls our panel, “the best panel I’ve seen in a long time.”  In particular, Jeremiah appreciated both the atypical format of the panel as well as the fact that we spent some time talking directly about Facebook and the question of the blurring of social & professional lives, particularly among the millenial generation.  Here’s the direct quote:

While I despised the vendor pitching from one panel on mobile (Attention moderators, control your panelists, respect those who paid to attend) the best panel I’ve seen in a LONG time was the one moderated by Shel Israel, focused on Social Computing, the esteemed panel included: Anil Dash of Six Apart, John McCrea of Plaxo, Adam Nash of LinkedIn, Shiv Singh of Razorfish, Athena von Oech of Ning. I enjoyed the format, it wasn’t the usual Q&A, but each speaker (moderator included) were able to present their ideas and concepts up front, great format. As expected, Anil elevates the conversation to a strategic discussion, it’s always a pleasure to hear him. Many of these vendors are from social networking companies, and although Facebook wasn’t on the panel (those guys are hard to get) the conversation persisted around Facebook. As with most vendors, if they don’t have a ‘facebook strategy’ they pass it as a fad, or are nonchalant attitude. I clearly see the threat for some of these vendors, hence my focus on the topic. I like the shift the panel took, towards the impacts of social computing (social networks, blogs, media, live web) tools towards society, in which Buzz Bruggemen piped up from the audience that he only had business contacts, not personal contacts on Facebook. In response, I tickled the panel for their opinion on personal/business lives meshing, especially with the millennial generation. The panel answered back, that those who had both merged were rare.

I’m probably going to write up something a bit more formal for the official LinkedIn blog on this topic, but as a personal note, I’m proud of the panel for taking on real meaty questions head on, even though a 45-minute window really isn’t enough time to do the topic justice.

For me, the event was my first chance to take some of the vision and excitement from my first few months with LinkedIn, and share it with a public audience.  I’m more convinced than ever that the most important aspects of our professional careers are our reputation, experience, and connections to those who we know and trust, and who know and trust us.  LinkedIn is extremely focused on building a platform that enables professionals to be more effective on a daily basis, and based on the comments of those who came up to me after the panel, it’s clear that this vision resonates with people who are passionate about Web 2.0 in the enterprise.

Avenue Q Was Phenomenal at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco

It takes a lot to get me up to San Francisco.  But last night was worth it.

For our anniversary, Carolyn & I went up to the city to catch the last night of Avenue Q.  It was phenomenal.

I think it goes without saying that every musical would be better with dirty puppets.  But I honestly don’t think that five seconds went by at the musical where I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying myself.

If you haven’t seen Avenue Q, you need to find a way to see it.  It’s that funny.

As a side note, there was one unrelated, surreal experience at the Orpheum Theatre last night.  At intermission, there was literally no wait for the women’s bathrooms (there are three).  But there was  a line at least fifty guys long for the one and only men’s bathroom in the basement.  I barely made it back to the show on-time.

More that one woman commented on how strange it was to see no line for the women’s room, and this huge, wrapping line for the men’s room.  There was visible and audible snickering, and I think some form of revenge fantasy play going on.  I have to admit, I was immensely frustrated.  I guess I’m just an “equal opportunity” rather than an “equal outcome” kind of guy.

I’m sure the Orpheum was well intentioned, and  decided to alter their design to accomodate women, but they over-shot.  For all I know, maybe they’ve decided their most important customers are women, and making them happy is the top priority.

In any case, Avenue Q was phenomenal.

The New Downtown Sunnyvale Is Under Construction

There has been heavy construction at the site of the old “Sunnyvale Six” mall all summer. Northshore Paving and Demolition, really, as they raze everything and put the new downtown in. There have been delays for the past few years, due to some contractual difficulties with previous contractors, but things seem to be really moving now.  Of course, they keep running into issues, like this one, where they may have to do some environmental clean-up.

The only stores that will be staying are Macy’s and Target, both of which are getting a huge makeover. Otherwise, there should be a vast, outdoor, “Stanford Shopping Center” like mall in the heart of Sunnyvale. Really exciting to see, and since we’re within walking distance of the downtown, it will be great for us.

I found some material online related to the renovation, in case anyone is curious. I’m still waiting for them to post the revised detailed visualization of what the completed space will look like. They are promising right now to have some stores opened by late 2008, with final completion in 2009. This is part of the revitalization of all of downtown Sunnyvale. It should be gorgeous when it’s done.

According to this write-up in the San Jose Mercury News:

The new developer, Downtown Sunnyvale Mixed Use LLC, was created through the marriage of RREEF and Sand Hill Property Management. Its plans also include a multiplex, about 299 housing units all outfitted with the latest from, 991,000 square feet of retail space, 315,000 square feet of office space and a hotel of up to 200 rooms, planners said.

Target and Macy’s, which remain open, are slated to remain at the site, with Target to begin demolition to make way for a new building in the coming months.

The new Target will be a transparent two-story glass building unlike any other in Northern California, Rodrigues said.

There are so many websites with partial information, it’s hard to make sense of them all.

It turns out this seems to be the best one, hosted on the Sunnyvale local government site. Here is the Sunnyvale Town Center website. Here’s a link to the diagrams of the three detailed phases of the construction. Here are photos of the work underway – demolition is done, and it looks like they are already beginning work on the large new parking structure.

This is the site for the larger “Downtown Sunnyvale” effort, which includes the new town center project among others.