Top Five Candidates for the Fifth Cylon (Potential Spoilers)

Look, don’t read this if you are worried about spoilers.  Seriously.  Why are you even reading a post about the Fifth Cylon if you aren’t curious, right?

The number of people who read my blog always surprises me.  What surprises me even more is that almost everyone who tells me this asks when I’m going to post about Battlestar Galactica again.

Since January is around the corner, it’s about time for another post.  Here we go.

First, there is a Season Four promo up on SciFi now.  If you haven’t watched it, you have to.  Now.

SyFy Portal broke a story yesterday that basically says that they’ve known the identity of the Fifth Cylon for some time.  They don’t come right out and say it, but they give a list of the “Top Five Candidates”.  I thought I’d reproduce the list here, with my own comments on their likelihood:

  • Lee Adama. Adam’s Odds = 1%. Sorry, exactly how would Adama raise a Cylon from birth and not know it?  To justify this, pretty much everyone would have to be a Cylon in one form or another.  I like this theory even less than Zak Adama… I’m giving it 1% out of respect for those who believe, and as a hedge against the remote chance of lameness on the writers’ part.
  • Felix Gaeta. Adam’s Odds = 50%. Some potential indicators that Gaeta is the one.  First, he helped the resistance, like the other four of the final five.  Seems to have always been around the one in command – either Adama or Baltar.  Sings strange music when injured, as if he is enjoying the “humanity” of pain and emotion.  Also, killed the doctor with a pen to the neck in a fairly brutal way.
  • Laura Roslin. Adam’s Odds = 4%. Sorry, I know this is a favorite for some people.  “Imagine the drama if Adama’s love interest is a Cylon!”  Maybe if Battlestar Galactica were on Lifetime I’d buy it.  But not on SciFi.  Not with this writing crew.  I’m giving it a nudge above Lee Adama because at least it puts a Cylon at the head of everything from the start, answering the question of why she was the only surviving member of the cabinet.
  • Ellen Tigh. Adam’s Odds = 20%. Not a terrible option, given that Colonel Tigh is one of the five, and the resurrection of Ellen would be an interesting cathartic moment for Saul given the murder.  Also helps explain the visualization of Number Six as Ellen, somewhat.  Problem with this answer is, well, it’s not really that interesting.
  • Cally Tyrol. Adam’s Odds = 25%. Am I the only one who was glad to see Cally die?  Really hope it’s not this one, but it adds a very strange option to the mix, since it makes their baby a product of two Cylons.  Always nice to have a Cylon hater turn out to be one.  I personally can’t imagine this as a good choice, but so many people like it, I’m bumping the odds based on crowd-sourcing.

Of course, I still like the idea of Zak Adama as the final cylon, since his ghost has been haunting the show since the beginning.  But too many people think that it can’t be a character we haven’t seen before.

Battlestar Galactica resumes on January 16th.

Connectez-vous avec moi sur LinkedIn français

Google Translate, don’t fail me now!  🙂

I’m excited to say that LinkedIn launched its third language last night: French! You can find Jean-Luc’s blog post on the LinkedIn blog.

A nice intro video is now live on Youtube:

With the exception of Jean-Luc, of course, everyone’s French is… well let’s just say they get an “E” for effort.  Fortunately, our partners in France seem to think our new French site is très bon.

A very special thanks to Sunil Saha and Ace Yamaguchi who stepped up their efforts considerably in the last two months to make this launch a reality.

It took us over five years to launch our second language (Spanish, July 2008), but just four additional months to launch our third (French, November 2008).  Of course, we now support profiles in 41 languages already.

I’m extremely excited about the global opportunities for LinkedIn in 2009 and beyond as we build out the world’s largest global professional network.

Lots of great work for our new lead for International product.  Can’t wait for 2009.

Handbrake 0.9.3 is Out! A Must Have for Digital Movie Conversion.

Handbrake 0.9.3, the best application for converting DVD video to MPEG 4 just got updated.

The new version has over 600 feature changes and improvements.  Some of my favorites:

  • A new “Apple Universal” preset to ensure universal rendering of files to play on everything from an iPod Nano to the AppleTV.
  • Ability to encode ANY source file, not just a DVD.  This is huge for people converting video from other formats using other software (like Quicktime).  One step, and hopefully a lot faster.
  • Caching of video queues to disk.  Finally!  I can’t tell you how sad it is to queue up 20 movies for conversion overnight, and then discover in the morning that a crash not only happened during the second movie, but that on restart the queue is empty!  Now, at least crashes will be recoverable.

Go here to read more and download it now.

One small negative – the new version no longer bundles DVD decoding.  It seems that one of the contributors had requested the change.

No worries, however.  If you have VLC 0.9.x installed, Handbrake 0.9.3 will find it and use it’s DVD decryption library.  You can download VLC here.

Memories: The Leonard Speiser Mask & GoldenPalace.com

A couple weeks ago, there was a great reunion party for many eBay Product Managers & User Experience Designers from the past decade.  I didn’t get an exact count, but at least 70 people were there, including many of the early Product Managers from before I joined the company in 2003.

I was happily reminded of an event that I absolutely would have shared on this blog at the time – if I had been writing this blog at the time.  It seemed worthy of a posting now, three years later, especially since it comes with some dot-com bragging rights.

The event?  The time I sold a Leonard Speiser mask to Golden Palace Casino on eBay for $400.

speiser01_pic_1011

Strangely disturbing, isn’t it?

Details

The auction was put up in May, 2005, shortly after the official “going away” party for Leonard, which we held at the Tied House in Mountain View.  It was a large event, and we took up the back room.  There was food, drink, and the requisite roasting of Leonard “see attachment” Speiser.  (We’re not rolling back, we’re rolling forward!) It also included infamous video from a particular usability test, on permanent re-run.

It was a fun time, and as party favors everyone was given these hand-made copies of Leonard’s face, taken from his Halloween rendition of Harry Potter.  They were just color copies, stapled onto rulers.

On a lark, I listed one that night on eBay, hoping to raise money for his going away present.  I had recently launched the first version of eBay Pulse, a popularity page ranking queries, stores, and most watched items on eBay.  (There is actually a patent pending on the latter).  Through a grass roots email campaign, I got a sufficient number of eBay employees to watch the item, propelling it onto the “Top 10” list for most watched items on eBay.

At that point, Golden Palace Casino found it.  At the time, they were buying up crazy items on eBay as a form of PR, starting with the famous Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich.  Yes, I know the memories are coming back to you now.

After some furious bidding, they won the item for $400, providing enough cash to buy Leonard an engraved video iPod (the hot item at the time).   He claims he still has it.  🙂

In any case, we delivered the item, signed, to Golden Palace, and they posted it on their website.   It’s hard to find now, but a little Google sleuthing uncovered it.  Here’s what they had to say:

A handheld sign, made from a ruler and a cut-out of Leonardï’s head, was sold on eBay for $400.00. GoldenPalace.com bought the item, which was made for Leonard Speiser, an eBay Product Manager who was leaving his job. In order to raise money for the send-off party and roast, the sign was auctioned off on eBay. The sign has staples in it to roughly make a slot for the ruler, which you use to hold it up.

Itï’s funny to see actual eBay employees putting items up on eBay, but we are assured that: “this listing in no way, shape, or form represents any type of official eBay business. This listing is purely a loving gesture for one of the truly great members of the eBay community.”  Leonard will apparently be greatly missed by many, and they are trying to raise money for a going away present, to be given to him at the party. All the online casino got for their money is the sign and ruler; nothing more, nothing less.

Leonard Speiser went on to found Bix.com, which was acquired by Yahoo in 2006.  Leonard is still there, as you can see from his current LinkedIn profile.

Just in case he tries to feign ignorance of this whole event, I have proof he was a party to it:

speiser01_pic_100

This is such a fun memory, really symbolic of some of the best times at eBay… I’m really happy that I’m getting a chance to capture it here.

New Dutch Architecture Five (5) Euro Coin, Programmed in Python

Yes, I said Python.

First, special hat tip to Mario Sundar for finding this lead.  Mario is not a coin collector, but he reads my blog often enough to know that I have a special interest in coins.  This one is a beauty, since it combines creative visualization with a unique engineering tale.

Here is the coin design:

dutch_coin_design

Here is a brief description, from the Dutch Mint website, on the coin design:

A new 5 euro commemorative coin pays tribute to the history of Dutch architecture. Both our historical architecture as well as our innovative conceptual architecture and modern design are popular across the globe.

The Architecture five-euro coin was designed by artist Stani Michiels (b. 1973). The design on the obverse of the coin pays tribute to the history of Dutch architecture, with the portrait of Queen Beatrix being distinctively constructed using the names of important architects from Dutch history. The artist used the internet as a popularity-meter to determine the names’ order of appearance.

The reverse of the Architecture five-euro coin draws attention to the striking fact that many Dutch architects have also included publishing books on architecture in their professional activities. To illustrate this phenomenon, recent books on architecture rise up from the sides of the coin like buildings. Through their careful placement they combine to outline the Netherlands, while birds’ silhouettes suggest the capitals of all the provinces.

This blog post, however, from the designer, is where the real beauty lies.  It’s too long to reproduce here, but it goes into significant depth about the design inspiration, concepts, and visualization at work.  If you have a background in design, you will appreciate it.

Here is the summary from the post, and I think you’ll see why this contest winner gets substantial geek cred, as he goes into detail about the technology used in the coin design:

The whole design was done for 100% with free software. The biggest part consists of custom software in Python, of course within the SPE editor. For the visual power I used PIL and pyCairo. From time to time also Gimp, Inkscape and Phatch helped quite a bit. All the developing and processing was done on GNU/Linux machines which were running Ubuntu/Debian. In the end I had to collaborate closely on location together with the technicians of the Royal Dutch Mint (coin factory). So all the last bits were done on my Asus Eee PC. (I am still wondering why Asus doesn’t offer Ubuntu on its netbooks.) The Eee laptop took a bit longer (30 seconds instead of 3 seconds to generate a whole coin), but did the job just fine. For looking up the number of hits on the internet, I rediscovered Yahoo, which provides a much better api for automatic querying than its competitors. Of course the jury judged only the design and not the software used as others used Maya, Illustrator, …

And the winner is…
I am proud to announce that I won the competition! So soon 350.000 Dutch people will use the fruits of free software. I would have loved to release the coin under the GPL, which could maybe solve the financial crisis. However for obvious reasons I was not allowed to do that. There will be also special editions for collectors which can be bought world wide: a massive silver edition for € 30,95 and a massive gold edition for € 194,95. They will be probably sold out quickly as these are real collectors items. The coin is released in all Dutch post offices to the public the same day as the Intrepid Ibex: 30th October 2008.

You can purchase the coin here at the Royal Dutch Mint.  They seem to still have the gold version available, but no sign of the silver version.  Maybe it sold out?  If you find it, please comment here with a link.

LinkedIn and Reid Hoffman: Recession Ready

I don’t usually post every article here about LinkedIn, but this BusinessWeek piece is worth reading:

LinkedIn and Reid Hoffman: Recession Ready

The online version is an extended version from the print magazine.  I think the only reason to read the print version is the unique and slightly intimidating picture of Reid across the center spread.  🙂

Here is my favorite passage:

It was at the bleakest stage of the dot-com bust, in 2002, that Hoffman began to build his empire. He had been a key partner at PayPal, the online payment company ) bought that June for $1.5 billion. Flush with his share, he looked for next-generation investments—and found himself nearly alone. “The common wisdom was that the consumer Net was dead,” he recalls, and “that it was controlled by Yahoo, eBay, and Google. I thought it was just beginning.”

So he devised a strategy. He would start a company to run the business side of the social Net—LinkedIn—and he would participate in the consumer side as an investor. “The huge majority of things I have invested in are massively successful,” he says. Many of the investments, of course, are still locked up in companies, including Facebook and LinkedIn, which haven’t yet gone public. The return on Hoffman’s holdings hinges largely on how they navigate the coming downturn. Still, he continues trumpet the economics of Internet businesses. “This is the only time in human history when, for somewhere between $5 million and $30 million of capital investment, you can create a sustainable ecosystem for 10 million-plus people,” he says.

When discussing his career, Hoffman can sound positively utopian. He says, for example, that he left academia for business because he wanted more “scaled impact” in his quest to make the world “a much nobler place.” He regards LinkedIn as a system where the good are rewarded by the community for their deeds, while liars and cheaters are exposed.

I feel exceptionally lucky to work for Reid and to benefit from both his experience and his unique strategic insight.  When you remember the issues the PayPal team had to navigate, and the timeframe in which they did it, it’s an even more impressive story.  How many companies managed to IPO successfully in 2002?

Check out the full article if you haven’t already.  More to come.

Two More First Spouse Coins for Sale

As I wrote last week, I’m saying goodbye to my First Spouse coins.  I’m moving through the series step by step.

The first coin sold for about 10% over the original purchase price last year.  Since that’s roughly the cost of eBay & PayPal fees, let’s just say that owning the coin did no damage financially.

This week, I have both Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson’s Liberty up for sale.

Bidding is on eBay all through the week.

Enjoy.