Friday, December 28, 2012

Kansas City Wil Myers for James Shield trade analysis

Recently the Kansas City Royals made a huge trade.  They traded Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, and two other prospects for James Shield and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays.

The trade has been widely panned by the media and critics.  The Royals traded a significant amount of their future for a push to try and make the playoffs.  Wil Myers was the #28 2012 Baseball America prospect and Jake Odorizzi was the #68 prospect before 2012.  The question is, was it a wise trade?

I can't recall who said it (although I believe it was Billy Beane), but there's a saying that you shouldn't pull off big blockbuster trades and trade top prospects until you are "close" to being a playoff contender.  You don't do it when you're far away.

Does Kansas City GM Dayton Moore think he's close to being a playoff contender?  In 2012 the Kansas City Royals had a run differential of -70, scoring 676 runs and giving up 746.  The Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox were ahead of them at +56 and +72 respectively.  It seems like a pretty big gap to make up.

However, it's not impossible.  I always recall the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, a team that went from last place to first place in just one year.  How did they do it?

The 2008 Tampa Bay Rays scored 774 runs compared to 782 in 2007.  So their offense was largely the same.  Evan Longoria came onto the scene in 2008 and was brilliant, but it appeared to make up for down years from several other players.

What made them a division winner was their pitching.  They gave up 273 FEWER runs in 2008 than 2007 (671 vs 944).  This gave the Rays a run differential swing of 265 runs (-162 to +103).

How were they able to make this transition?  The short answer is they revamped their bullpen, got Matt Garza, and all their young pitchers started playing better.

In 2007 Andy Sonnanstine had a 5.85 ERA over 130 innings.  In 2008 he had a 4.38 ERA over 193 innings.  In 2007 Edwin Jackson had an ERA of 5.76 over 161 innings.  In 2008 it went down to 4.42 over 183 innings.  James Shields and Scott Kazmir performed largely the same, but Matt Garza and his 3.70 ERA was an upgrade over all the remaining starters who had an ERA over 6.00 in 2007.

In the bullpen, Dan Wheeler, Troy Percival, and Trever Miller were brought in and provided better innings out of the bullpen.  JP Howell was converted to a reliever and pitched great.  Jason Hammel was moved into the bullpen and pitched better as well.

So boom, a better pitching staff lead to a better run differential and a first place finish.  The question is, how close are the Kansas City Royals to making the same turnaround?

On offense, the Royals are teeming with young talent.  Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas were highly rated prospects before 2011.  Hosmer had a great rookie season but seemed to regress in 2012.  Moustakas had an ok sophomore season with 20 home runs.  Alex Gordon and Billy Butler will be entering their age 27 seasons and reaching their prime.  Alcides Escobar had his best season at age 25.  Salvador Perez also had a great sophomore season with a .798 OPS.  If the younger hitters can mature and do better, add in a few minor upgrades (I think it's imperative they replace Jeff Francoeur), the offense has a real chance to improve in 2013.

On pitching, James Shields, Wade Davis, and a full season of Jeremy Guthrie should be an upgrade over much of the starting pitching they had in 2011.  Luke Hochevar could have a rebound year.  He seemed to have been a tad unlucky with a BABIP of .318 last year (despite reaching a career high in strikeouts with 144).  Luis Mendoza pitched reliably in 2012.  If Ervin Santana can come back to some reasonable form, it's not that bad of a staff.  It's not a scary pitching staff, but with a pretty good bullpen from 2012, it's not hard to imagine the pitching staff performing a lot better.

So the pieces of the puzzle appear to be in place for a Kansas City Royals team doing a lot better.  Is it in enough to win the division?  It doesn't seem like it given how much Detroit is a powerhouse.  However, they appear to be in good shape to atleast hit .500, and perhaps make a run at a wild card spot.  Like many things in life though, everything must align correctly for the Royals.  Much like Tampa Bay in 2008, they require many of their young players to mature and play better.  Without that, they won't have much of a chance.

Update 10/1/2014:

With the Royals making it into the playoffs in 2014 and just winning the wild card, I thought I'd look back at this and see how the Royals did in 2013 and 2014 compared to 2012.

2012 Runs Scored - 676
2013 Runs Scored - 648
2014 Runs Scored - 651

2012 Runs Allowed - 746
2013 Runs Allowed - 601
2014 Runs Allowed - 624

2012 Run Differential - -70
2013 Run Differential - +47
2014 Run Differential - +27

Effectively, the offense didn't change much in 2013 and 2014, but the pitching got a lot better.  Not so different from the 2008 Rays.  James Shield pitched like an ace as expected.  A revived Ervin Santana in 2013, strong performances from Yordano Ventura & Danny Duffy in 2014, solid innings from Jeremy Guthrie in 2013/2014, were a big part of the turnaround.

Elmo's Comedic Genius

I wrote about the comedic genius of Cookie Monster before (here) and have recently discovered how Elmo is equally genius.  This skit on Jimmy Fallon is absolutely brilliant.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Livermore Outlet Mall Analysis - Competing with Vacaville and Gilroy Outlets

So a new outlet mall just opened up in Livermore (Paragon Outlets).  I don't know everything about retail shopping and brands, but it seems pretty damn nice.  It's headlined by the Saks, Bloomingdales, and Neiman Marcus department outlets.  There are also outlet stores for premium brands like Prada, Aramani, Burberry, Barneys, Kate Spade, Coach, and others (which to be very honest, I had never heard of the brand Kate Spade and did not know about its popularity until I saw a line of 20 women lined up outside of their store at 10pm).  There are many "middle tier" stores that I shop at like Gap, Banana Republic, Jcrew, Lacoste.

Anyways, I ran upon this article about the affect the new outlet mall would have on Gilroy and their revenues.  There was the following quote:
"“I think they are far enough away that there isn’t a lot of angst here that they will create competition,” said Susan Valenta, Gilroy's Chamber of Commerce CEO.  "
This quote got me thinking, is it really true?  I know that there are people out there that do the following analysis for a living, but I'm going to play business analyst and see what I can come up with.

As far as I can tell, there are two other major outlet malls in the bay area that are at the same level of Livermore's, one in Vacaville and one in Gilroy (although many believe Livermore has more/better stores/brands, but we're going to ignore that).  There's one in Napa, but its much smaller than the others so I'm not going to count it.  (Update: Someone reminded me that the Great Mall in Milpitas is sort of like an outlet mall.  But I'm not going to count that either, it's really a half outlet mall and half normal mall.)

Using Google Maps, the following are travel distance times from a number of Bay Area locales to these outlet malls.  Presently, the new Livermore Outlet Mall is not on Google Maps, so I will use the Target across the highway as my destination point (Livermore's outlet mall is the south exit off the highway, Target is the north exit at the same spot.  I also forced Google Maps to reroute the Target directions to use the same exit instead of a 1 minute faster local road.).

City To Livermore To Gilroy To Vacaville Closer to Livermore than Gilroy Closer to Livermore than Vacaville
San Francisco 49 mins 86 mins 66 mins 37 mins 17 mins
San Mateo 43 mins 65 mins 85 mins 22 mins 42 mins
Foster City 40 mins 64 mins 84 mins 24 mins 44 mins
Redwood City 49 mins 60 mins 93 mins 11 mins 44 mins
Palo Alto 51 mins 52 mins 96 mins 1 mins 44 mins
Mountain View 45 mins 46 mins 99 mins 1 mins 49 mins
Cupertino 49 mins 42 mins 103 mins -7 mins 54 mins
San Jose 42 mins 35 mins 97 mins -7 mins 55 mins
Milpitas 36 mins 44 mins 90 mins 8 mins 54 mins
Fremont 31 mins 52 mins 82 mins 21 mins 51 mins
Castro Valley 20 mins 68 mins 68 mins 48 mins 48 mins
Oakland 37 mins 80 mins 56 mins 43 mins 24 mins
Walnut Creek 28 mins 82 mins 46 mins 54 mins 18 mins
Concord 34 mins 87 mins 44 mins 53 mins 10 mins
Pittsburg 44 mins 98 mins 51 mins 54 mins 7 mins

So what do I get from this chart?

Not surprisingly, anything in the East Bay is now significantly closer to a major outlet mall.  Many East Bay communities that were closer to the Vacaville outlet than Gilroy's will find themselves closer to Livermore's outlet now, even the Northeast cities like Concord and Pittsburgh will still find themselves closer to Livermore than Vacaville.

As you move South, towards Fremont & Milpitas, the Gilroy Outlet was significantly closer than the Vacaville one, presumably getting all the business from this area.  The Livermore one is now significantly closer for many of these areas and you would expect could take away those shoppers.

If you live in the South Bay closer to the San Jose area, this is where the Gilroy Outlet finally becomes closer than the Livermore one.  However, it's not significant.  For both San Jose and Cupertino, the time travel savings is only 7 minutes.

As you move north on the peninsula, Gilroy gets further away and Livermore gets closer thanks to major highways/bridges (most notably 92).  It's basically a wash once you get up to just the Mountain View and/or Palo Alto area.  Once you get into the Foster City and further North area, Livermore's outlet mall is over 20 minutes closer.

So it appears that for pretty much most of the bay area, Livermore's new outlet mall ranges from a "bit closer" to "much closer" than the Gilroy or Vacaville outlet malls.  Even in the areas where the Gilroy or Vacaville outlets are closer, it's not enough of a time difference to make up for any major brands and/or stores shoppers really want to aim for.

Conclusion? Gilroy & Vacaville should be concerned of increased competition if they are only thinking of distance to location.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why you invite single guys to baby showers

Not so long ago I mentioned to my colleague's wife that I went to a friend's baby shower (lets call her Samantha).  Somewhat surprised she asked me why I was invited to a baby shower, because traditionally men are not invited.  The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Why wouldn't you invite men, it's like receiving free money."

Samantha: "What?"

Me: "Guys, especially single guys, don't know what they're doing.  They don't know anything about baby stuff.  So point them to the baby registry and they will spend their vast disposable income for you.  In the event that they can't find the baby registry, or don't want to go to the store, they give you a gift card to Target or something.  In other words, free money."

Samantha: "Damn, I need to invite you to my next baby shower.  But I'd feel bad, you probably wouldn't enjoy the party, it's very girly."

Me: "If you invite 1 single woman to the party, your obligation has been met."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Albert Pujols - Terrible year but still better than most

As much of a down season that Albert Pujols had this year (30 home runs, 105 RBIs, .285/.343/.516 split), here are the top wins above replacement (WAR) of first basemen in 2012:

Joey Votto - 5.6
Albert Pujols - 4.6
Edwin Encarnacion - 4.5
Prince Fielder - 4.5
Adam LaRoche - 4.0
Mark Texeira - 3.6
Adrian Gonzalez - 3.3
Ryan Howard - -1.2

Some of these guys were injured, so I don't want to criticize too much, but Pujol's year doesn't seem to bad by comparison anymore. He did much better than many of his highly compensated counterparts.

AL MVP Miguel Cabrera vs Mike Trout

This year, the AL MVP battle will pit Miguel Cabrera vs Mike Trout.  It's one of the more fascinating MVP battles in recent memory.

On the one hand you have Miguel Cabrera, the triple crown winner.  By any traditional statistical measurement, he should win the MVP award.

On the other hand you have rookie phenom Mike Trout.  He annihilates Cabrera in WAR 10.7 to 6.9.  It's just not even close.  Mike Trout beat his closest opponent in WAR, Robinson Cano, by a healthy 2.5 margin (10.7 to 8.2).  Trout's performance was so good, only 22 other times in MLB history has anyone matched it or done better.

This vote will really pit advanced statistics against traditionalists.  In 2010, when Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young award with a 13-12 record, I thought award voters had finally adopted the use of new statistics in voting.

However, that contest wasn't like this one.  The allure of the triple crown will make it very hard for people to vote against Miguel Cabrera.  I think it'll be fascinating to see how the 1st place votes will be split.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Favorite Advanced Baseball Statistic

My favorite advanced statistic in baseball is WAR.  It stands for "wins above replacement".  It's gotten a lot of coverage this year due to the MVP race between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout.

The calculation of the WAR statistic is relatively complex, but the idea behind the statistic is simple.  How much is a player worth above a replacement quality player?  (A replacement player is generally considered to be a high quality minor league player or perhaps a bench player).

The statistic is normalized around 0.  If a player's WAR value is > 0, the player is performing better than a replacement player.  If the player is performing < 0, a team would be better off replacing that player with a replacement player.

I love this statistic because of what it represents.  So much decision making in our lives comes down to a simple judgement of "Can I do better?".  For example:
  • Hiring Employees: "Sally is a good candidate, should we hire her or keep on interviewing more candidates?
  • Firing Employees: "Joe is a bad performer, but still accomplishes a lot of stuff.  Should we keep him?"
  • Job: "Company A has a ton of problems, should I stay or go?"
  • Job offers: "Company X just offered me Y thousand a year.  Should I take this offer?"
  • Dating: "Suzy is a great gal, but is she the right one for me?"
Unfortunately, in the normal world, its far more difficult to calculate a statistic for "current value" vs. "replacement value", but it's what we do in our heads all the time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gangnam Style Foreign Language Surprise?

So I don't need to write much about Gangnam Style, it's a huge hit

Some folks I know are surprised a song sung mostly in Korean could become such a hit in America.  Other than the occasional, "Hey sexy lady", the song has no discernible lyrics to a native English speaker.

My response to the surprise was, "Why not?  It's not like some other non-English songs were hits."  What were some other hits that came to mind:

The La Bamba cover by Ritchie Valens is 100% in Spanish yet considered one of the most classic American rock songs.

99 Luft Ballons by Nena was in German before it was in English.

The Macarena by Los del Rio was in Spanish before it was English. But even the English version maintained the full chorus in Spanish.

I didn't know about the following until doing some internet searches, but apparently a the song Sukiyaki by Kyu Sakamoto hit #1 in the US in 1963, yet was sung entirely in Japanese.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Bourne Legacy Disappointment

I was quite disappointed in the movie.  It isn't bad and it sets up what should be a few good movies down the road, but was just disappointing.  Here are some the reasons why:


1) It's all about the drugs

After Aaron Cross nearly gets killed in the beginning of the movie, you think he might want to get revenge on his handlers?  Nope.  What does he want?  Drugs.  I couldn't help but think during the the movie that badass Aaron Cross is just a junkie, "Where are the chems?", "Do you have any chems here?", "How can I get more chems?".

Similar to the "midichlorians" in Star Wars, the drugs also removed some of the allure of the Treadstone/Blackbriar programs.  Rather than brainwashing and training the agents, are they just druggies?

2) Aren't spys supposed to be secretive

During the end chase, the Larx-3 agent punches a bunch of citizens and attacks cops.  He does it multiple times.

I thought these guys were supposed to be spys and hide and be "ghosts" (I think they were referred to this in the first movie).  Now this isn't to say that Jason Bourne didn't get the attention of the police, but he did seem to make a number of attempts to not get engaged.  In the Bourne Ultimatum, the asset kills Simon Ross via sniper rifle.  Larx-3 could have done the same thing too, but he decides he wants to chase them on foot.

3) Where's the super spy fight

Every Bourne movie to date had a cool fight between Treadstone/Blackbriar agents.  No fight in this movie.  In fact, Aaron Cross had a little trouble against the normal agents he fought in the house.  I was just waiting for him to fight Larx-3 at the end of the movie.  Only to find Larx-3 was taken out by wiping out on his bike.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

This is how you lose a sale Best Buy

There have been numerous articles written about why Best Buy is losing business (I recall reading "Why Best Buy is Going out of Business...Gradually" recently).

Today I went to Best Buy to buy a tablet.  I had my credit card ready and was going to make a purchase.  All I was debating was which one I wanted.  Most importantly I wanted to try out some tablets to see if the ~7 inch tablets would be good enough for me or if I needed one of the ~10 inch ones.

Several of the floor model tablets were broken, prohibiting me from trying them.  When I alerted the staff, they apologized, saying that someone had broken one of them several days earlier.  I'm like, "But I can't buy one until I can try it."  He apologized again ... and that was that.

So this is how you lose a sale Best Buy.  I ended up wandering into a Verizon store and was able to try out the tablets I wanted to try.   Verizon would have gotten the sale if they carried the WiFi only versions, but they did not.  I guess I'll pick up the one I wanted at Frys or maybe I'll just buy it on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vendor Communication Frustrations

It's common for me to find firmware bugs on vendor hardware that interacts poorly with software written in house.  My assumption is that vendors sell their software as a "value add", only test their hardware with their software, and have limited care for third party software.  Once in awhile the vendor fixes hardware issues in their software, so the issue is technically in the third party software, but it's not the third party's fault.

When I report a bug in the firmware, it's common for a vendor to respond with something akin to, "It works for our software, it must be your software."  It's a normal, yet frustrating, response.  In addition, to get the problem resolved often means getting through layers of support before reaching an engineer that understands the situation.

Over time, I've come up with a few mechanisms to handle this type of issue with vendors more quickly.  Here are some of them:

A) Add packet dumps or equivalently "advanced" debug information in the ticket.

I'll add information to the bug that is reasonably complex or difficult to understand.  The common example is something similar to a TCP packet dump.  I add something in the ticket with arrows (e.g. "See here --->") and something like "this 0x8 should be an 0x5".

Due to the complexity of the information, the ticket is typically passed up the food chain more quickly.  In addition, it sometimes does not matter what software was running to generate the TCP packet dump.  I can just say it was their software, they would never know.

Ironically, I sometimes have nicer/better debugging information (or even the flat out solution) I could put in the ticket.  However, I often elect to put the more confusing information in the ticket b/c it ultimately resolves the problem more quickly.

B) Be very specific in your requests

It's better to ask for very clear specific information.  A normal request might go like this: "I noticed an OEM piece of information on your motherboard.  Can you please describe what this means?"

While this is a perfectly reasonable request, it leads to the wrong answers.  A common answer might be, "Use our software X, it can show you all the information", which is of course not a useful response.  Or you might get "That information means FOO, you need to do BAR for your system", which might be true, but isn't what we're really looking for.

It's better to be very specific with your request, for example  "I noticed the following OEM piece of information: 0x20 0x18 0xA2.  What is the mapping of OEM hex to English.  0x20 = ???, 0x18 = ???, 0xA2 = ???."

C) Site standards/specifications that can't be challenged

I'll site standards/specifications, making it clear that if they wish to counter my claim, they will have to know what they are talking about and prove it to me.

For example, I might write, "Please see the following packet dump.  Clearly the X field violates section 1.2.A of the specification, second paragraph, third sentence."

This type of statement is so specific and advanced, it will typically skip lower support levels.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How Coding WTFs Happen

I love to laugh at the coding gaffes on TheDailyWTF, but I know that I shouldn't laugh, because I know the coding gaffes could happen to me by chance.  I saw a code snippet like this one awhile back in code I work with.

switch (val)
  case ENUM_A:
  case ENUM_B:
  case ENUM_C:

I remember this pretty clearly b/c I know exactly how it reached this point.  The code used to be like this:

switch (val)
  case ENUM_A:
  case ENUM_B:
  case ENUM_C:

However, as code was condensed and options eliminated, people removed only the portion of code that was necessary to remove.  Only after looking at the code from a distance does someone finally realize this should be condensed to something far more reasonable (and removing the unnecessary enums too):


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Immature Programming

The other day I came upon the following article:

"Microsoft Apologies for "Big Boobs" Coding Gag"

The short story, a Microsoft programmer had put "0xB16B00B5" (i.e. "big boobs") in some Linux kernel code.

I thought this quote in the article summarized my thoughts on the subject
"At the most basic level it's just straightforward childish humour, and the use of vaguely-English strings in magic hex constants is hardly uncommon. But it's also specifically male childish humour. Puerile sniggering at breasts contributes to the continuing impression that software development is a boys club where girls aren't welcome."
I couldn't agree more.

Then I paused for a second ...

While I like to think of myself as having always been the consummate professional, I suppose I was once younger and more immature.  I was once told the following "cool" hex string by an older programmer and put it into some code maybe 10 or so years ago:
#define _MAGIC  0xcafebabe
IMO not as bad as "big boobs", but not exactly good.

So when I was told this "cool" hex string, a younger version of me thought nothing of it.  The fact older colleagues also thought it was cool, probably established the idea this kind of thing was acceptable.

A now older version of me now would pause and think "I probably shouldn't."

So what's the lesson learned now that I'm a tad older?

A) I shouldn't encourage this by teaching it to younger engineers

B) I should never accept them in patches or let them get through code reviews.

Update (8/1/12):

Sigh, the ghost of 0xcafebabe affected me another time somewhat recently.  A colleague of mine had programmed:
When I had to write a new plugin, I copied his code to start the new one.  What did I put at the top of the file?
Well, the best thing I can do is admit the mistake, change the code, and be more conscious of this in the future.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Statistical Pet Peeve - The Divorce Rate

Since I was in highschool and talked to friends about various social issues, the "divorce rate" in America is brought up at some point to discuss social issues.

The "divorce rate" is a statistical pet peeve for me. The reason is that the statistic makes no sense. What is the divorce rate? Is it

  • The divorce rate of currently married couples?
  • The divorce rate of married couples in the past year?
  • The divorce rate of 1000 people over the first 5 years of marriage?

It's terrible. The major issue is that there is no time limit or length of time over which these statistics are measured. A "successful marriage" is normally considered one in which one spouse eventually passes away (i.e. "Til death do us part"). So if a couple gets married, then one partner dies the next day, it's considered a successful marriage because it did not lead to divorce (technically, I suppose it's a successful marriage even if someone is murdered by their spouse). However, a couple married for 50 years before deciding to get divorced is a failed marriage.

One of the most cited statistics in divorce is "50% of marriages end in divorce", which is a completely miscalculated statistic. Apparently, the statistic was generated by the fact 1.2 million divorces occurred in 1981, while 2.4 million marriages occurred in 1981. [reference]

I'm not a statistics person by trade, so I don't know what the best statistic would be. I think a statistic measuring average marriage length would be a pretty good one. Or perhaps just statistics that inform you of time frames. For example, "X% of marriages end in divorce within 1 year" or "Y% of marriages last greater than 10 years" would be far better statistics.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How will the Wii U fare in the market?

E3 is this week and Nintendo is unveiling the new Wii U.  I have a feeling the Wii U is going to fare pretty poorly in the market.  Here's my reasoning with an analogy.

Some people wonder why first person shooter (FPS) games never sold well on the original Wii.  Despite having more systems out there than Xbox 360 or PS3 (~95M to 66M to 64M as of this writing), many of the best FPS games on the Wii just don't sell well.  As an example, the top two highly rated FPS games on the Wii are Metroid Prime 3 and GoldenEye 007 (90.16% and 83.77% on  Vgchartz shows Metroid Prime 3 sold about 1.62 million units while GoldenEye sold about 1.65 million units.  Several of the Call of Duty games have sold over 1 million units on the Wii, with Call of Duty 3 topping out at 2.15 million units.  I couldn't find any other FPS games on the Wii that sold over 1 million units.

In comparison, the sales numbers for FPS games on the Xbox 360 and PS3 blow these numbers out of the water.  I count ten FPS titles that have sold more than 5 million units on the Xbox 360 and five FPS titles on PS3 that have surpassed 5 million units.  There are tons of FPS games on both that have surpassed 1 million units.

Why the huge difference in sales?  I think the answer is simple.  If you are a fan of FPS games, you probably already possess a system (Xbox 360, PS3, or PC) that already has a ton of FPS titles that you would enjoy.  With so many great FPS titles on those systems, you have little incentive to buy a Wii to play them.  The Wii owners aren't FPS gamers.

If by chance you own a FPS popular system and a Wii, why would you want to play an FPS title on the Wii?  The second highest rated FPS on the Wii is Golden Eye at 83.77%.  The Xbox 360 and PS3 both have dozens of FPS titles rated above that.  So the sales of FPS games on the Wii are for those few customers interested in FPS games but do not possess one of the other FPS gaming devices.

I believe the low sales of FPS games on the Wii will be an foreshadowing of how the Wii U will fare in the market.  From all reports, it appears that the Wii U's hardware is only comparable to the Xbox 360 and PS3.  It is not superior.  While the tablet controller is a nice feature, it doesn't appear to have the same appeal that the original Wii had.

If you are a consumer who enjoys non-Nintendo video games (i.e. not Mario, Zelda, etc.), enjoys HD video streaming (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), you probably already possess the Xbox 360 or PS3.  This is especially true given the fact those systems were released in 2005 and 2006 respectively.  I'm not sure what the incentive will be to own a Wii U for most consumers.  Add in the unknown price for the Wii U, a likely price drop for Xbox 360/PS3, a set of launch titles (Mass Effect 3, Assassins Creed 3, Ninja Gaiden, etc.) that will also be on Xbox 360/PS3 (or already are), I don't have confidence in the Wii U's wide adoption.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Buying History for Your Organization

Back when I analyzed the market for then free agent Albert Pujols, there was one component I didn't touch on.

Growing up in the St. Louis area and growing up a Cardinals fan, I sometimes take the legacy/history of an organization for granted.  The following are the Cardinals retired numbers excluding managers, owners, and Jackie Robinson, along with it are extra notes: HOF = Hall of Famer, GG = Gold Gloves awards, MVP = Most Valuable Player awards, CY = Cy Young awards, AS = All Star appearances.  The first number on counts is the number of career times with an award/appearance, and the second number is the number of times done as a Cardinal.

#1 - Ozzie Smith (HOF, 13/11 GG, 15/14 AS)
#2 - Red Schoendienst (HOF, 10/9 AS)
#6 - Stan Musial (HOF, 3/3 MVP, 20/20 AS)
#9 - Enos Slaughter (HOF, 10/10 AS)
#14 - Ken Boyer (1/1 MVP, 5/5 GG, 7/7 AS)
#17 - Dizzy Dean (HOF, 1/1 MVP, 4/4 AS)
#20 - Lou Brock (HOF, 6/6 AS)
#42 - Bruce Sutter (HOF, 1/0 CY, 6/2 AS)
#45 - Bob Gibson (HOF, 2/2 CY, 1/1 MVP, 8/8 AS, 9/9 GG)

That's 8 Hall of Famers, 5 MVPs, 2 Cy Youngs, 24 Gold Gloves, and 80 All Star appearances as Cardinals.  It includes a player that would be regarded as legendary (Stan Musial).  Only one is not a Hall of Famer (Ken Boyer), and only one of these players might not be considered most famed for his time with the Cardinals (Bruce Sutter).  It includes two members of the 3000 hit club (Stan Musial, Lou Brock), a man with a legendary 1.12 ERA in 1968 (Bob Gibson), and what most consider the greatest defensive shortstop of all time (Ozzie Smith).

In contrast, lets take a look at the the Houston Astros.

#5 - Jeff Bagwell (1/1 MVP, 4/4 AS, 1/1 GG)
#7 - Craig Biggio (7/7 AS, 4/4 GG)
#24 - Jimmy Wynn (3/1 AS)
#25 - Jose Cruz (2/2 AS)
#32 - Jim Umbricht
#33 - Mike Scott (3/3 AS, 1/1 CY)
#34 - Nolan Ryan (HOF, 8/2 AS)
#40 - Don Wilson (1/1 AS)
#49 - Larry Dierker (2/2 AS)

This is a different group of players.  Nolan Ryan is the only Hall of Famer and he may be more famed as a non-Astro (making more All Star appearances with other teams).  Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio still have shots at the Hall of Fame but it's unlikely anyone else in the group has a shot.  There are fewer MVPs (1 vs 5), Cy Youngs (1 vs 2), Gold Gloves (5 vs 24), and All Star appearances (15 vs. 80).

Now lets look at the Anaheim Angels.

#11 - Jim Fregosi (6/6 AS, 1/1 GG)
#29 - Rod Carew (HOF, 18/6 AS, 1/0 MVP)
#30 - Nolan Ryan (HOF, 8/5 AS)
#50 - Jimmie Reese

Nolan Ryan may be considered by some to be most famed as an Angel, but Rod Carew is most famous as a Twin.  After that, it's not much for the Anaheim retired numbers.  I won't bother counting the various stats, as it's much worse than the Cardinals and generally worse than the Astros.  There's a few players that could have also had their numbers retired (Garret Anderson or Tim Salmon come to mind), but there aren't any MVPs on their resume, just a few All Star appearances.

There are many clubs with similar histories without many Hall of Famers.  So the question is, how much is that kind of history and legacy worth to an organization?  How much is would they be willing to pay for it?

I can see an organization like Anaheim wanting to sign an Albert Pujols to try and add that type of history to the organization.  There are only a few players that come along in baseball history that will amass the number of home runs Albert Pujols will amass.  Barring some catastrophic injury, he's guaranteed to hit 500 (joining only 25 others).  600 home runs is a very good bet (joining only 8 others), and 700 might not be out of the question.  How many players come around in a generation that will get 3000 career hits?  Albert Pujols is very likely to reach that number too.

For an Anaheim and many organizations, having Albert Pujols do that in their uniform would be something very special.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Albert Pujol's Terrible Start - Should Fans be Worried?

Albert Pujols is off to a terrible start in his Angels career.  As of this writing he's hitting:

.224 BA, .280 OBP, .316 SLG, .596 OPS, 0 HRs

Yup, that's a big zero home runs for the man who's currently 37th all time in home runs.  It's significantly worse than his April 2011 slump where he hit:

.245 BA, .305 OBP, .453 SLG, .758 OPS, 7 HRs

The question is, should Angel's fans be concerned?  It's interesting that there are instances of Hall of Fame caliber players having ridiculous slumps in their careers.

One that comes to mind is Frank Thomas. From 1991 to 1997, Frank Thomas averaged:

.330 BA, .452 OBP, .604 SLG, 1.056 OPS

Then in 1998-1999, Frank Thomas was just not himself.  In 1998 he hit:

.265 BA, .381 OBP, .480 SLG, .861 OPS

and 1999 wasn't that much better.  Then all of a sudden he was back to form in 2000:

.328 BA, .436 OBP, .625 SLG, 1.061 OPS

Injuries and age slowed down Thomas' production the rest of the way, but at the age of 38 he was still able to produce a .926 OPS with 39 home runs in Oakland.  He even put up 26 home runs and a .857 OPS when he was 39 years old in Toronto.

Another player I remember having a year long slump was Mark McGwire.  From 1987 to 1990 he averaged:

.255 BA, .358 OBP, .515 SLG, .873 OPS, 38 HRs

then in 1991 he had a terrible year:

.201 BA, .330 OBP, .383 SLG, .714 OPS, 22 HRs

I remember Mark McGwire sat out the last game of the year, for fear his batting average would dip below .200.  Then he rebounded and was pretty normal again in 1992:

.268 BA, .385 OBP, .585 SLG, .970 OPS

while he had injuries, we know the story of the rest of Mark McGwire's career, culminating with leading the majors in home runs 3 years in a row from 1997-1999.

The last (and most recent) example I could think of was David Ortiz in 2009.  Through the month of May, David Ortiz had this horrific line:

.185 BA, .284 OBP, .287 SLG, .570 OPS, 1 HR

since then, David Ortiz has continued to be the solid DH slugger he always has been.  He finished 2009 with a .794 OPS, had a .899 OPS in 2010, and a .953 OPS in 2011.

The short story of these examples is that great hitters typically do not disappear and fail to hit in the future.  They may have to grind through some injuries as they age and perhaps adjust as they age, but crazy slumps do occur.  Perhaps Pujols is dealing with the pressure of $250M contract or he's having difficulty handling the new Los Angeles media.  Long term though, he should be fine.

Update (5/14/12):

I forgot about the case of one of my favorite players in baseball, El Grande Donkey Adam Dunn. From 2004 to 2010 Dunn averaged:

.253 BA, .381 OBP, .533 SLG, .914 OPS, 40 HRs

He's not Albert Pujols, but those are great slugging numbers for any power hitter to put up.  Then in 2011 he had a line that was embarrassing.

.159 BA, .292 OBP, .277 SLG, .569 OPS, 11 HRs

Adam Dunn is not Albert Pujols, but how does a player go from about a .900 OPS to sub-.600 OPS for a year and getting benched?  Stress over a big contract?  Trouble adjusting to a new league?  Who knows.  What we do know is he's recovering quite nicely in 2012.  Through the time of this writing Dunn is hitting:

.248 BA, .390 OBP, .607 SLG, .997 OPS, 11 HRs

So he appears to be pretty much back to normal.

Update (6/10/12):

I noticed something funny w/ Albert Pujols of late.  On 5/15/12, the Anaheim Angel's hitting coach was fired.

Through 5/15/12 Albert Pujols hit:

.212 BA, .248 OBP, .288 SLG, .536 OPS, 1 HRs

from 5/15 to 6/9, Albert Pujols hit:

.322 BA, .394 OBP, .678 SLG, 1.072 OPS, 8 HRs


Monday, April 9, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Ending - Did Bioware drop the ball?

There's been a lot written about fan outrage on the ending of Mass Effect 3. While I had heard about the bad ending prior to playing the game, I didn't find the ending to be that much of an issue. Perhaps my expectations had been lowered, or the more likely case is that I was not as invested into the Mass Effect universe as others. I was curious as to what the fan outrage was over and if the outrage was warranted and started reading up on the topic. As far as I can tell from reading random articles online, there seem to be four main issues with the ending. SPOILERS BELOW.

  1. The ending story.
  2. When Shepard discovers the meaning behind the Reapers, the story conclusion is a tad disappointing, however I wouldn't consider it repulsive. I had heard that one review said the ending was very similar to "it was all just a dream". It's certainly not that bad. I recall the ending to one game (I think Grandia 3) where the end boss said his goal was to "destroy love". Now that's an awful ending.

    Perhaps the ending could have been tweaked to be similar to the Matrix Reloaded. Shepard could have been told the true nature of the Reapers and chosen to let the Reapers continue their destruction, perhaps in exchange for saving his and his crew's life. That certainly would have made the ending story choice more interesting.

    I'm not going to rag on Bioware too much for the story ending. With the end of the Mass Effect trilogy, no ending would please all of the fans. The ending to the story was average and acceptable in my eyes.

  3. The ending battle.
  4. I think fans have a legitimate gripe here. After playing the game for 20-30 hours, and taking on various side missions to gain "war assets" for the final battle, the end battle appears to be unchanged based on your decisions. During a final battle in which you are protecting some missiles, you could have had some help from Geth, Quarian, mercenaries, Salarian, etc. forces based on your decisions in the game. Perhaps Grunt, Samara, etc. could have come to help as well. However, none of that happened. It was all just on you.

    As a comparison, lets look at another Bioware game, Dragon Age: Origins. In the game, you are similarly trying to ally races/people to battle the Darkspawn. Based on your decisions in the game, you can have extra/different allies help you in the final battle (elves, golems, mages, etc.). It makes your decision making in the game more meaningful.

    Given Bioware's history of having the game's story affect the end battle, I would say Bioware did drop the ball here. It is certainly not what people expected of a Bioware game.

  5. The ending cinematic.
  6. This is where I think fans are the most irate. Regardless of your decision making at the end, the end cinematic is largely unchanged. There are minor differences, such as the Reapers leaving earth or being destroyed, but 80-90% of the cinematic is identical regardless of your choices.

    I wouldn't say Bioware dropped the ball here. In previous games by Bioware (that I can recall), the ending cinematic hasn't been gloriously different either. Even other contemporary games, such as Fallout 3, have had only minor differences in the cinematic ending too. It's hard for me to say that it was something expected by fans.

    This isn't to say Bioware couldn't/shouldn't have done better. For example, they could have added an extra 30-60 second cinematic at the very end to show how your decisions affected the world. If you didn't cured the Genophage, perhaps a look 100 years in the future show the Krogan have started a new war with the Salarians. Or perhaps if the Geth and Quarians didn't make peace, a new organic vs. synthetic war occurs.

  7. Ending plot holes
  8. Well, I think Bioware definitely messed up here. Especially with the ending crash of the Normandy on another planet. How does your crew end up back on the Normandy after your battle on Earth? Especially given some members of your crew were blasted in the final fight.

So overall, do I think Bioware blow the ending? I wouldn't say they did. Fan expectations were through the roof for this game. I imagine some amount of disappointment was bound to occur. However, Bioware could had a number of embarrassing goofs and definitely should have done better.

I would say the disappointment was similar to the disappointment for Dragon Age 2. A quote from RPG site [1] said, "the discussion about Dragon Age II doesn't need to be "is it good?" - It is - but needs to be "is this what fans wanted from a sequel to Dragon Age: Origins?"

The same can probably be said about Mass Effect 3. The game is really good, that's not in question. But is the ending what fans were expecting? The answer seems to be an emphatic no.

[1] -, through Wikipedia

Update 4/11/12:

Ok, I've now learned about the "Indoctrination Theory" for the ending of Mass Effect 3. The theory is really interesting. If it's true, it's actually brilliant, but mean. After giving people a massive game of "choices" and "decisions", you end the game saying, "Aha, you actually did not control your decisions. This is a video game."

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mike Trout & Bryce Harper, the next Andruw Jones & Vladimir Guerrero?

Baseball America's top 100 prospects for 2012 had Bryce Harper and Mike Trout listed as the #1 and #3 prospects in baseball respectively. In 2011, they were listed as the #1 and #2 prospects. The baseball world is carefully watching their progress and comparisons between the two will likely be shared for much of their careers.

I couldn't help but think of the last time there were two highly touted outfield prospects at the top of the charts. Andruw Jones and Vladimir Guerrero were listed #1 and #9 respectively on Baseball America's top 100 prospects in 1996. In 1997 they were #1 and #2. They were similarly compared to as they reached the majors and began to mature. If I recall correctly, Andruw Jones was considered the more well rounded prospect of the two while Vladimir Guerrero was the better hitter. It's not so dissimilar from the comparisons of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper (Harper being the better hitter with Trout being the more rounded player).

Now that they are both approaching the ends of their careers, it's interesting that Jones and Guerrero pretty much met all of the expectations people had of them.

Andruw Jones was an incredible center fielder during his prime, amassing 10 gold gloves. As of this writing, he has 420 career home runs, 1255 RBIs, and a career OPS of .827. He had a quick decline when he entered his 30s, which put him in more of a backup role and may limit his HOF chances, but that's about it.

Vladimir Guerrero did end up the better hitter of the two. As of this writing, he has 449 home runs, 1496 RBIs, a .318 BA, and a .931 OPS. He won an MVP in 2004 and finished in the top ten of MVP voting an additional 5 times. Wow!

Hopefully there will be similar careers for Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

Update (10/4/12):

Wow, I don't think anyone thought Mike Trout and Bryce Harper's careers would start off like this.

Bryce Harper, at 19, finished the year with 22 home runs, a .270/.340/.477 split, and a 5.0 WAR.  For a 19 year old, that's amazing.  As a comparison, Ken Griffey Jr. had 16 home runs, a .264/.329/.420 split, and a 2.9 WAR in his age 19 rookie year.

Mike Trout was a completely other story.  He's in a dead heat with Miguel Cabrera for the AL MVP in his rookie year.  He finished his rookie year with 30 home runs, a .326/.399/.564 split, and a 10.7 WAR.  Some feel he might be the best player in baseball already.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Apple's Dividend - Why All the Excitement?

So earlier this morning Apple announced a dividend. I don't understand the fuss.

A) It's simply what mature/big companies do. Perhaps Apple's culture and customers had a tough time accepting this? Perhaps it's part of what Tim Cook wants to do as CEO at Apple? Make Apple a bit more mature?

B) The dividend is very average. At $2.65 a quarter, that gives us a yield of 1.7%. It's good, but nothing stunning. By my calculations Walmart is at 2.4%. Microsoft is at 1.9%. GE is at 2.9%. It's higher than Cisco & Oracle, which started issuing dividends not so long ago (both were around 1 percent).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Young Amy Poehler on Conan O'Brien

A came upon these videos of a young Amy Poehler performing as Andy Richter's little sister on Conan O'brien. I couldn't stop laughing, Poehler is great in these.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Infiniband - You Gotta Have Pretty Good Game

A long time ago I saw a t-shirt from an Infiniband company that said the following

"Infinband - Fast, Cheap, Easy"

my thought process when first reading this was:

  • Fast - Yup, it's fast.  Definitely faster than ethernet.
  • Cheap - Yeah, way cheaper than ethernet.
  • Easy - Ummm, no, you gotta have pretty good game ... and a wingman would help.

Now, I'm sure there are some market analysts at Cisco, Intel, IDC, etc. that did some fancy market analysis to figure out why Infiniband did not grow at the rates people predicted.  My guess has always been that it was because Infiniband isn't easy.  It's just way too different than ethernet, leading many institutions to not bother with it because it wasn't worth the hassle of learning, retraining, coming up to speed, etc.

I sometimes like to think of the issue with an Infiniband expert trying to explain Infiniband to a knowledgeable ethernet user. 

Ethernet Guy: So I installed all the hardware, loaded the drivers, but nothing is working.
Infiniband Expert:  Did you run the subnet manager? The subnet manager sets up and routes the fabric.
Ethernet Guy: Is that an option on the switch?
Infiniband Expert: Maybe, it's a piece of software that may run on the switch or a server. 
Ethernet Guy: Where is it on my fabric?
Infiniband Guy: On your network, it's a daemon running on a server.
Ethernet Guy: Ugh, but server configuration is handled by a different group.


Ethernet Guy: What are GUIDs in Infiniband?
Infiniband Expert: The GUIDs in Infiniband are like MAC addresses.  They are NIC specific identifiers.
Ethernet Guy: Ok, then what's a LID.
Infinitude Expert: A LID is sort of like an IP address.  It's the software based identifier for a port.
Ethernet Guy: So why does my Infiniband NIC have a LID and an IP address?
Infiniband Expert: You get the IP address from IP over IB.  It's a separate driver.
Ethernet Guy: So I need to load 2 drivers for one NIC?
Infiniband Expert: Yup
Ethernet Guy: So how do I see the LID for my NIC.
Infiniband Expert: You can use one of many tools, like ibstat.
Ethernet Guy: Why isn't it in ifconfig?

I could go on and on, but the point is it's so different that the learning curve is quite steep.  There's new ways to debug problems, new ways to route, new advanced configuration, new tools to learn, etc.  For the majority of institutions, the performance gain of Infiniband must be immensely superior to justify the cost for retraining, transition, inefficiency, maintenance, etc.

How many institutions found Infiniband to be "immensely superior" for their needs?  It seems to be not many.  I can imagine this conversation happening in many companies:

Manager: Hey, Engineer can you take a look at this Infiniband thing.   The sales people say it's super fast for the price.
Engineer: Sure thing, I'll play with it.
<1 week later>
Manager: So how is Infiniband?
Engineer: I can't figure any of this out.

and that's the end of Infiniband at that company.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Intel acquires Qlogic's Infiniband Assets - End of Infiniband?

So today, it was announced that Intel had acquired Qlogic's Infiniband assets for $125M.  My immediate reaction was, "uh oh, is the age of Infiniband in HPC over?"

Why would this be the end of Infiniband?  Here's my analysis and thinking on the topic.

In 2005 there were five early players in the Infiniband market worth mentioning: Topspin, Voltaire, Mellanox, Pathscale, and Silverstorm.
  • Topspin was acquired by Cisco in 2005 for $250M. Cisco shut down their Infiniband R&D in 2009.
  • Silverstorm and Pathscale were acquired by Qlogic in 2006 for $60M and $109M respectively (total $169M). Pathscale's compilers were sold for undisclosed amounts (or atleast I can't find the number online). Given they are undisclosed numbers, its unlikely the numbers were big.  So Qlogic likely couldn't sell their Infiniband assets for even the price they paid for them.
  • Mellanox acquired Voltaire in 2010 for $218M.
So that takes us to the beginning of 2011. What was once 5 major players (or 4 if you count the merged Silverstorm/Pathscale as 1) became 2. The growth of Infiniband as a data center solution to replace Ethernet did not appear to be happening.  Naturally, consolidation occurred.

So no worries yet for Infiniband, there were still 2 major players left.  Well lets look at the financials.
  • Mellanox has been profitable for awhile.  Last year (2010) they profited $13M on $154M in sales.  Analysts say that Mellanox had huge sales this year at $258M.  Going off old income statements, $50-$60M of that is from Voltaire, so that's some decent growth.  Of course, a non-trivial portion of this profit is not from Infiniband, but from Mellanox's Ethernet sales.  How much?  Unfortunately I can't find breakdowns.
  • I couldn't find breakdowns in revenue/profit for Qlogic, but given the sale of their Infiniband divisions was for $125M, it indicates it wasn't much (Qlogic had a market cap of $1.6B starting today).
  • As far as I can tell from data sheets, Voltaire never had a single profitable year.
I'm not some fancy financial analyst, but what I derive from this is that the total profitability of Infiniband is somewhere on the order of $25-$50 million globally. It's enough for there to be businesses out there and enough for there to be a market, but it's not a lot.

So the big question is, why did Intel buy Qlogic's Infiniband assets?
  1. Were they interested in the ~$5M profit that Qlogic's Infiniband assets could net them?  I doubt it.  (I derived the ballpark $5M because this article puts Mellanox as owning about 85% of the Infiniband market.)
  2. Perhaps Intel thinks they can do some bundling to increase the profitability of Infiniband.  Hypothetically, put them on Intel motherboards.  It's certainly possible.  But how much gain can they really get for a market that appears to not be interested in Infiniband?  Turn the $5M into $20-$30M in a few years?  It seems hardly worth it for an Intel.
  3. Intel thinks they can turn Infiniband around as a data center/HPC solution and make it far more popular.  If this were 2005, I would be willing to believe it.  I think the lack of wider adoption of Infiniband is a bit cemented.  Newer/better Ethernet solutions are now catching up too, so it's not the same market as 2005.
  4. Support Infiniband as a community service.  With Mellanox having 85% of the market, there was a decent chance Qlogic's Infiniband could eventually sink.  Without a competitor and decent prices, the HPC community could buy less Intel chips.  There is a good argument for this, although I think the odds of this are low.  Intel could completely ignore the HPC community and they would still buy tons of their chips.  Perhaps less overall, but is it enough of a difference for Intel to do a $125M community service for them?
  5. This is an aqhire move, designed to give Intel the talent necessary to make the HPC networking product they really want to make.  While it could be based on Infiniband, it's unlikely to be standard Infiniband or standardized as Infiniband. There are very few companies/groups out there that know how to make HPC networking equipment, and the Infiniband group at Qlogic is one of them.  They could have bought Cray, but they'd be buying a lot of software assets they probably weren't interested in
My gut tells me its #5 above.  As an additional argument for this point, in 2011  Intel hired away a ton of HPC talent including Chief Architect of Blue Gene from IBM.  Did they hire a whole bunch of these elite HPC executives and architects to help push commodity Intel chips and hardware like they have in the past?  I doubt it.

So how is this the end for Infiniband?  Well, if my guess above occurs, you'll only have Mellanox as the player in the Infiniband market.  While I have respect for Mellanox, I have a hard time believing they are going to care about standardizing their hardware or pushing changes to standards groups if they are the only ones manufacturing it.  Eventually, Infiniband would become synonymous with whatever Mellanox produces, and Infiniband itself will be gone.

Update (4/26/12):

Heh, from #5 above:
They could have bought Cray, but they'd be buying a lot of software assets they probably weren't interested in 
and what do ya know, Intel bought Cray's interconnect assets earlier this week.

With that acquisition, that's a lot of networking HPC expertise to be buying up and absorbing.  Perhaps this enhances my argument that Intel is gathering forces to create a new HPC interconnect technology?

One colleague suggested that Intel might be trying to have a "portfolio" of different products.  It's certainly possible that they are, but it doesn't seem like something they would want to do.  Having a portfolio of products is more up the alley of an HP or an IBM.  It'll be interesting to see what Intel does, but the full manifestation of this will probably not be seen for years.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hiding on LinkedIn

I ran into an article today on BusinessInsider titled GET HIRED: What 6 Hot Tech Companies Want To See In Your LinkedIn Profile. There are other similar articles out there that discuss how to use LinkedIn effectively to find a job.

I used to use LinkedIn pretty heavily, subscribing to a lot of groups, following the messages, and answering some questions from time to time. My profile was pretty filled with info. I even used to add links to my blog and other relevant sites.

One day I gave up on LinkedIn. I quit every group that wasn't exclusive (for example, my research group from grad school is exclusive to alumni members). I removed everything from my profile except for previous employers and schools. I even generalized my job titles to remove keywords.

Why? Headhunters and recruiters were getting really annoying. I was getting atleast 1-2 e-mails and phone calls a day. If I got job postings that were atleast somewhat relevant to my skills, experience, and interests, I wouldn't mind. However, it appeared most head hunters simply spam job postings to as many people as they can. Headhunters/recruiters seemed to scour groups to find people to contact and would e-mail people based on specific keywords in their profile.

For example, my job title at one point was listed as "Linux System Software Engineer". What job postings would I get? I would get job postings for "System Administrator", "System Engineer", "Linux Field Engineer", etc. Basically anything that matched any keyword in my job title. When I was unsubscribing to groups, I realized that one of the groups was even started by a recruiter.

So, I now hide on LinkedIn, keeping a shell of a profile so only ex-coworkers and friends can find me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA/PIPA Blackout vs. EFF Blue Ribbon Campaign

When I was in highschool, a bill was passed in congress called the "Communications Decency Act". I don't remember all the details, but basically it required ISPs and websites to block "indecent" material from minors on the internet. Eventually the bill was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Before it the bill was defeated, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) organized a blue ribbon campaign, asking people to post a picture of a blue ribbon and to "darken" websites in protest. (Darken here meant just making the background of your website black instead of white.) I remember virtually every major player in the internet participated in this protest. I remember atleast Yahoo and did, and they were probably the two most visited websites in the US at the time.

While the blackout protest by Reddit and Wikipedia is on the extreme end, I would have expected most major players to protest SOPA/PIPA in a similar small way. For example, Google's protest with their black-box doodle was tasteful and simple. (It is interesting that Google only did this on They chose not to do this on Youtube.) Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, Ebay, Twitter, etc. could have done something very similar.

It got me thinking. Could it be the internet has changed so much, it's just hard to do something like this nowadays? Fifteen years ago a simple HTML color change was all that was necessary to change Yahoo's homepage. But nowadays, it might take a huge engineering undertaking. You have to make sure the change will appear correct on gajillions of browsers and mobile devices. Perhaps Google was able to protest only b/c they had a "doodle-change" option already engineered in place?