The world outside tech bubble is crazy

In yesterday’s Bloomberg article with an upbeat glass-half-full original title of “The mining industry makes oil giants look great”, we see one of those CEO quotes that truly boggles the mind. Apparently, if this continued for 33 months already, it’s probably considered not so bad in the non-tech world.

… since he took on the role 33 months ago the company’s revenue had slumped by an average of $350 million a month.

Just curious, how does a routine conversation with the board/investors go then? “So, how are you guys doing?” – “Not so bad, focusing on our core competencies, pissing away $350 million a month, just like the last few years” – “Great, keep up the good work then!”

Stock #options exercise window – awesome!

A couple of years back, Sam Altman wrote (paraphrase) that the 90-day stock option exercise window is complete bullshit which adds to the nonsensical ways startup employees get screwed over  – as if building a successful company wasn’t hard enough.

I’m really glad to see the sentiment is getting heard, and yes, the startup employers need to be  seriously reminded of this – here on the webs, as well as during the employment and especially the offer negotiation. And companies that adopt sane options policies need to be praised. Zach Holman started a list of these employee-friendly outfits that I sure hope will grow over time. As of today, it is:

  • Amplitude
  • Asana
  • Clef
  • Coinbase
  • Expensify
  • GitLab
  • Persista
  • Pinterest
  • Quora

P.S. Bonus points – when stock options suck and there is no way around that, here is a classic little post (not from me) on how to stop worrying and in 5 minutes maximize the deal you get for years to come.

How to unlock your phone to use it in Europe (or anywhere else for that matter) #unlock

Ok, so this one is not about hacking or rooting, just a quick 20 min to get a working unlocked phone before you go on the road (TLDR: read the last paragraph of this post)

If you are like me and are subscribed to a major mobile carrier in the US, you probably have a locked phone. Which is not a problem until you need to change carriers or travel. Travel is particularly painful, since it’s temporary and you want everything to just work – even if you are just going somewhere for business for a few days – it’s super-annoying to switch phones on the go and to scramble for the information when you need it most.

Roaming is out of question, of course, since in 2015 stupid idiots at AT&T charge $1.5 a minute and $2 per megabyte of data on the road. Maybe they designed their latest roaming plans specifically for Floyd Mayweather after following his Instagram for a while, but to me the current state of roaming seems like one of those repulsive ugly throwbacks that need to die in pain, like typewriters, life without antibiotics or charging people for 160 letters of text like you are running a countrywide fleet of real carrier pigeons.

So unlocking the damn phone is a pretty popular option. So popular in fact, that a whole industry of scammers and semi-legit unlockers has cropped up around the carriers, so I can imagine a conversation that happened at some point at the headquarters:

– What do we do boss? Our support lines are blowing up from all those people demanding to unlock their phones!
– Let’s call a cross-departmental meeting and lock ourselves up with our best and brightest minds in a war room for a week to brainstorm this urgent matter.

… a week later

– Easy: kick everyone over to our official page that offers “free unlocking”. This page should be deeply humiliating to the everyone who tries to use it: we shall disable cut and paste, make the form long and demand every entry to be typed in digit by digit.

Upon submission, we shall invariably barf up a thoroughly crafted idiotic message with something about how “we’re sorry, but we’re having technical difficulties with our network at the moment. Please try again later.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-25 at 10.09.47 PM

Our users will desperately try to re-type all numbers one or two more times with the same maddening outcome, and then, in dark despair and humiliation, they will give up on their weak attempts to escape, forever becoming our loyal slaves who shell out $1.5 a minute and $2 per megabyte of data. Our stock price will go through the roof and we will become rich!

Naturally, this approach only serves to demonstrate how stupid, stagnant and backward are the present-day major US carriers. Feel free to take a minute to call the number they give you in that error message (T-Mobile does the same), and let them know what you think about that.

Lucky for us, there is a solution. Don’t try Googling “unlock the phone” – it’s mostly overpriced scams. Just go on Ebay, type “unlock” + your model, and find a seller with a bunch of good reviews. After parting with literally a couple of bucks, an hour or two later you’ll get a code, and will be able to pop in a SIM card for a measly $20 with 3GB worth of data (that’s 300 times cheaper – screw you, AT&T!!) and a boatload of local minutes in any country you decide to visit, all on your own phone with all your apps and data.

How to create the perfect REST API documentation #apicraft #api

Somehow I’m pretty pumped about the fact that I was able to just create a markdown file that describes my API (blueprint), adjust and run my integration tests driven by it (dredd), and once everything passed, simply ship it to my partners/users/contractors knowing that it will be a 100% up-to-date, readable and actionable documentation.

I’m also pretty sure that somehow, somewhere this totally breaks HATEOAS (of the “this ish documents itself” school of thought), and that maybe Swagger or something else might handle some use cases much better, but for now I’m just going to enjoy the fact that once the tests are done, I can just point all the parties involved to one file, followed, in full confidence, by the magic word – RTFM!

Is website #5 in the world really worthless? #valuations

This has surfaced once again this year, but I’m having a bit of trouble with the math here:

Yahoo … represents the third-most visited Internet sites in the U.S. … investors are valuing Yahoo’s core business at less than zero

I do think Yahoo is a dinosaur, but hey – I think the same about Walmart but it doesn’t stop the latter from remaining the world’s largest company by revenue.

[Yahoo’s] 15% stake in Alibaba is now worth about $32 billion

So – even with the exuberance over China – how is website #5 in the world worth less than zero, but their own stake in website #56 in the world is $32 billion?

(Yes, Alexa is a shot in the dark, yes, some valuations are based mostly on perceived potential, and yes, I hate Yahoo services as much as the next guy, and think that Marissa Mayer could have would have should have, but still…)

Git doesn’t scale, apparently #git

Of course, that depends on your definition of scale.

I was talking to my friend at Google, and was really surprised to find out that they use a Perforce-like version control system there. Wait, I said, isn’t Perforce like, dead and buried, now that Git has taken over the world? According to him, Git does not scale to the volume and the number of LOC’s that Google needs. And then I come across this:

Question:

How does Google manage a single source code repository with 2 billion lines of source code?

Answer:

replaced p4 with a home built clone

Here is an even more amusing piece of trivia:

folks senior enough to never get used to IDEs would simply use Emacs/vim, and build our own tools for code browsing, etc.

How do you navigate a 2 billion line codebase with vi????

How much did employees make on that Square IPO?

If you are a recent midlevel Square employee, you are likely to have gotten 10k-25k RSU’s vested over 2 years. That’s about $130k-$325k pre-tax over 2 years, assuming today’s stock price. (the throwaway-authored reddit post could be completely made-up, but these numbers are not far from what I’ve seen at Uber and 3 other startups)

Folks who joined before Square introduced RSU’s (which, looks like, were issued for at least the last 2 years) likely had to pay for their stock options, and it doesn’t look pretty:

21 million options have been awarded at a value above the $13.07 closing price of Square’s stock today

“Awarded at a value above the price today” means “currently worth less than toilet paper”. Of course, those 21 mil options could have been bonuses on top of RSU’s, which would make this a bit more palatable.

If you got in a bit earlier with a strike price of $1 and an options grant of 25k, then we’re looking at $300k before tax. I have no idea what a typical options grant was in those days, again just going by what I’ve seen at 4 other startups. If you got a royal grant of 100k, then it’s closer to real money – $1.2 million before tax, but clearly that has quickly dried up in value as the strike price went up and over the current ~$13 stock price, leaving the people who joined at the later stages of the stock options program with not much.

Also worth noting is that a decent engineer with a $150k/year in salary at Square (according to Glassdoor, which unfortunately does not offer a time filter on those salaries, but let’s assume for a moment that it’s a relatively recent number) – the same engineer could probably pull $200k (or maybe even $250k) at the big 4, all things considered. That’s at least $100k extra for the 2 year period. That does not make one filthy rich, but apparently neither did the Square IPO so far.

I do believe however that it’s a viable business, and the stock price may (or may not) go up during the lock-up period significantly.

#LendingClub investment vs. the market 2015

Just a data point – started on Lending Club in October 2013. Now up to 258 notes, adjusted return rate is down to 13.73% from twenties a year ago, but that was expected. I have an aggressive approach, only invest in E-F-G-grade minus some urban legends like never loan money to people in Nevada : )

From those notes, 13 are in default/charge off, 42 have been fully paid – assuming only pre-payment at this point (2 years), and I wonder if it hurts the APY? Since those people paid early, do I get the interest for 3 or 5 years? Guess not. But again, the biggest problem so far is the lack of liquidity – if I had a need for that money, it would not be easy to get it back before the 3/5 year term.

2 years into it, seems like a good way to make 10%+ on your investment. No idea how this will hold up in case of a downturn, people getting fired and defaulting on their loans. With SPX on track to return near a big fat 0% for the entire year 2015, LC looks like a good place to park some cash. However, a sales/support guy from LC called me once out of the blue, and started throwing some unexpected trivia and advice at me like not investing more than 10% of your portfolio in them. Yes, that was their sales person, and right at the time when I was considering moving more money into that account.

More updates will follow on this page.

Google Safe Browsing 3.0 clients

I’ve been using phpGSB GSB client for a while for pretty large volumes (~100k pages/hour). Looks like it finally croaked. Hasn’t been updated since March. So here is a brief survey of what else is out there:

I’m currently leaning towards the first option, may also try Go. I know, lazy, should have just implemented my own, but there is too much other stuff to do.

a way to slowly sunset the open source competition #android

One has to wonder about the future and the motivation for the open source Android anymore. Some conspiracy-theory-inclined folks have speculated that the master plan all along has been to attract people to the open-source Android, then slowly get the thought leaders/developers hooked on Google Play Services with proprietary lock-in i mean value add. Surprisingly, leaving gaping holes in what seems to be a poorly maintained open-source alternative codebase fits right into such hypothetical plan:

Currently, there is not much that users can do to avoid this problem. They can opt to use [mobile] browsers that are not affected by this vulnerability, such as Chrome or Firefox.

…and then just let FUD as well as real security fiascos put the open-source alternative to rest. Of course, personally I’m not into conspiracy theories, but it would be upsetting if the events took a turn in that direction. As a user, I chose Android because it’s very hackable in a good sense, and because it’s open. It would be really sad to see any of that change.