March 28, 2005

Yahoo! 360 Invites Are Flowing

If you were expecting a Yahoo! 360 invite from me and didn't get one, drop me a note or leave a comment with your e-mail address.

BTW, my page is here:

Update: Stop.


Please Stop.

Don't you think that 300+ requests and over 250 via e-mail is TOO MANYY?! Are you REALLY expecting a response at this point?

Posted by jzawodn at 11:43 PM

March 27, 2005

Getting our Mojo at Yahoo? Yeah. And some new DNA too.

I've seen numerous folks commenting on Om Malik's recent posting about Yahoo: How Yahoo Got Its Mojo Back. In it he credits several things (including me and Russell--thanks Om!) for a resurgence of interest and appreciation for what we've been doing these last months.

And what it also has a couple of guys, I like to call them blog evangelists, who knowingly or not, have brought the right kind of attention to the company. Russell Beattie who recently joined Yahoo has been blogging furiously (much to my annoyance) about Yahoo and its wireless efforts. In normal course of events, Yahoo would have issued a press release, and many of us would have paid little or no attention. Jeremy Zawodny is the other and has helped the company focus on some of the newer social media trends. I have never met him, but if his blog is anything to go by, then perhaps he is spreading the open media religion at Yahoo. The blog-evangelists unlike press relations folks, only write when there is something important to say. That is if they want to maintain their credibility.

(Mental Note: Meet Om in person one of these days... Buy him a drink!)

This makes me especially happy, because it tells me we're on the right track and that some of the stuff I set out to do is beginning to happen.

Last October I wrote the following about my job change (from "MySQL Geek" to "Search Evangelist"):

Instead of hacking away on software bits, I'm going to be working to:

  • make sure our products kick the necessary amount of ass
  • better communicate what we're thinking about and building
  • incorporate outside feedback and ideas into what we're doing
  • recruit more smart people

While I can hardly take credit for a lot of what we've done, I'm very glad to be involved in some capacity. In fact, I can think of at least one example for each of those four things that we've done in recent history.

  1. Kick-ass products: Our Image Search and Video Search products. Search for Creative Commons And Y!Q.
  2. Communicate: We do that regularly on the Yahoo Search blog. The Y!Q story is an example of that.
  3. Listen: The 360 preview last week--our guests did 80% of the talking. Comments that come in via the Search blog. We've implemented several requested features in our Search Web Services. And there's some other stuff that you'll see soon enough.
  4. Recruit: We got Russell. :-) And now the Flickr team. And we're working on many more, but I obviously can't talk about them. (Wanna be next? Mail me a resume--preferably your own.)

What's this all mean?

It means we're (back?) on the right track. And not only are we on that track, we're moving faster and faster on it. If you read the Threadwatch posting Yahoo's Efforts to Outshine Google, you might think that it's all about beating Google.

They're a big motivating factor. There's no argument about that. But it's really not what gets me up in the morning. To me, there's nothing more satisfying than hearing (or reading) other people talk about the great stuff they see us doing. When Joyce says "I'm seriously thinking of moving part of my blog, if not the whole thing, over to Yahoo 360" I think, "wow... we're on to something here."

When I run across blog postings that tell the story of how someone just discovered (or rediscovered) a Yahoo service, I can't help but to smile a bit--especially if it's one of our Search services. Scoble's A tale of search engine noise is a recent example. The same goes for SiliconBeat's CC Search story.

It means we're doing stuff that matters. It means people are beginning to notice. I'm not sure what happened in the last week, but the positive noise level about Yahoo on various sites I read has increased quite a bit. It's been trending up for months now, but it feels like there we've just seen a big spike.

And we've really noticed.

What's next?

Someone could just look at this and say, "Wow! You did it!" But this is not a short term exercise. This isn't about trying to drum up noise in the blog world in the hopes that some of it crosses over to the mainstream press.

Here's what I think...

What people have begun to notice are the early results of a more fundamental change going on at Yahoo. Some have described it as re-writing our corporate DNA. That happens in a number of ways and for a number of reasons, but fundamentally things are changing in a deeper way. New people. New ideas. New products. New markets and opportunities. New features.

So, back to the question of what's next... More of the same!

(Including some stuff you might not be expecting.)

Mmmmm... Mojo.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:10 PM

March 24, 2005

The Flickr Analogy

Earlier today, we invited a group of folks to Yahoo for a preview of Yahoo! 360. Danah Boyd wrote a bit about the event this evening.

Today, Yahoo invited a handful of “influencers” to have early access to their new product 360 degrees. Apparently, i’m one of them so i got to sit around a table at Yahoo, learn about the product and speak my mind. I have to say that i’m impressed that Yahoo folks wanted to hear all of our crankiness head-on rather than waiting for it to appear in our random ramblings online. Even better: they didn’t make us sign any NDAs so we can blog all we want. I lurve that.

And Flickr lovr and investr Esther Dyson photoblogged the event--or at least Randy Farmer and me.

There was a lot of good discussion--some of them heated. But the funny thing is how often Flickr came up. I lost count of how many times people began their points by making a Flickr comparison:

  • "The thing I like about Flickr is..."
  • "Well, what works really well on Flickr is..."
  • "The cool thing about how Flick does this is..."

Toward the end of the day, someone even said "I hate to use Flickr as an example again, but..."

So, yeah. We get it. Flickr got a lot of this stuff right. :-)

Anyway, I just found that amusing.

The event was especially interesting because I was probably the only Yahoo in the room who hadn't been inolved in the development of Yahoo! 360. So I could easily see things from both sides for a change.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:59 PM

March 23, 2005

Thoughts on The Future of WordPress and MovableType

There more I look at the blogging "market" these days, I see things falling into fairly well defined places--at least in my head. There is a already a well defined split between the hosted services that offer blogging capabilities (Blogger, TypePad, Y! 360, LiveJournal, etc) and the "host it yourself" model.

That second group is the ecosystem that MovableType and WordPress currently dominate and I think they'll continue to do so. If you further divide that into "corporate/enterprise" and "personal/non-profit" groups, I think both products will find their respective roles.

WordPress will come to be the de-facto choice in the world of self-hosted personal weblogs and low-end webhosting "value added" package. MovableType will be the blogware of choice in the corporate blogging world, both for internal weblogs and those that face the outside world.

Of course, there will be many exceptions to these generalizations, but these are the trends that I see. Matt's decision to create a WordPress Inc. shift things around a bit as well.

What do you think?

Posted by jzawodn at 09:33 PM

Respect for Web Developers

Back when I was first paid to build web-based applications (around 1998 or so), the world of Web Development as we know it today did not exist. When I began working my first post-college full-time job, things had improved a bit. I learned all that fancy JavaScript, VBScript, Applets, and ActiveX stuff. But I couldn't really put it to use because the cross-platform and cross-browser support was horrible. I swore off DHTML and went on with life, focusing more on the backend and server side stuff (Perl, Oracle/MySQL, etc).

Nowadays, Google is dazzling us with their DHTML in Maps and Suggest. Ajax is all over the place. And don't forget that little photo sharing site. It's once again cool to do fancy client side web stuff, but more importantly, it is possible to do it and cover the majority of the users and platforms.

The problem for me, of course, is that the technology has advanced 4-5 years since I swore it off. That's a lot of time on the web. So I figure that if I ever wanted to get back into it, I'd have an uphill battle.

Brad Fitzpatrick confirmed this today when he wrote:

I've been doing a lot of JavaScript the past couple days, trying to expand my horizons.

Holy crap, man.

I'm pretty smart, but this shit is hard. Between IE, Moz/Firefox, and Safari/Konq, I've seen everything. I'm now educated in quirks mode, strict mode, the different box models, the different event registration models, the different DOMs, the different ......

This tells me three things:

  1. this stuff is still hard to get right--lots of little pitfalls still
  2. I certainly would have a lot to learn or relearn
  3. webdev folks really don't get the respect they deserve

That last point it worth reinforcing. I think a lot of people who've been doing "web stuff" long enough think that web developers are the same as the "HTML monkeys" we use to refer to back in the day. That couldn't be farther from the truth.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:31 PM

March 22, 2005

Scanner Recommendation Needed

I'm in the market for a color flatbed scanner with good scanning quality and a USB 2.0 interface. I don't care how slowly it scans, I won't be doing it for a living. I do care about getting high quality, high resolution images. Bonus points for one that can do film slides or negatives, but it is not a requirement.

Anybody got a scanner they can recommend?

The reviews on Amazon are all over the board, and I've yet to uncover a web site for scanners that's as useful as or are for digital cameras.

Thanks for any suggestions...

Posted by jzawodn at 02:48 PM

March 20, 2005

Thoughts on Flickr and Yahoo

The first time I used Flickr, I knew it was something different and something important. It took me a while to figure out and try to articulate exactly what that was, but I took my first swipe back in September when I called it a Next Generation Web Service. In that posting, I said:

Flickr has been on my radar for a while now, but I only recently began to start playing with it. I'm impressed as hell. After my first 10 minutes of playing with it, I found myself thinking "why don't we build stuff like this at Yahoo?" In other words, I realized that we could probably learn a lot from this when it comes to building next generation applications at Yahoo. (Whether or not we do is a whole separate topic of discussion.)

Flickr has the potential to set the new standard for on-line photo sharing, management, etc. Why? Because Flickr...

  • does one thing and does it well
  • provides a clean and simple UI
  • has clear and helpful documentation
  • exposes core functionality with a documented API
  • account sign up is brain-dead simple
  • makes extensive and intuitive use of RSS
  • like, uses tags to help organize
  • doesn't spam me with graphical/animated/flash ads or try to unexpectedly pop up any sort of window

In other words, it's developer friendly, user friendly, and is a web site as well as a "service" or "platform" (in the Web 2.0 sense) all at the same time.

It was around that time that I jokingly responded to every mention of Flickr at the office with "you know, we should buy them..." And I was only half joking.

Be careful what you wish for, right? :-)

Since then a lot has happened and I've had the chance to meet the Flickr team a few times. That has only convinced me even more that they have what it takes to really change things. Combining their mix of tagging, communities, syndication, open APIs, and interactive UI with Yahoo's services and millions of users will lead to even more great stuff.

As Caterina wrote, this isn't about just throwing millions of users at Flickr or bolting Flickr onto Yahoo! Photos. Think more deeply about it. There are many parts of Yahoo that will be Flickrized in the coming months. And with more resources available, Flickr itself will be able to grow like never before.

Personally, I can't wait. I've been really excited by the potential here for a while now. And I don't mean the sort of "excited" people say when they're expected to say it. If only you could ask the people around here that I've been taking to in recent weeks.

It's such a relief to be able to talk openly about this. There's obviously more good stuff in the works. For starters, just think about how we could Flickrize Yahoo! 360 (and it's not even out yet!). Oh, and I can finally stop pretending I don't know what my friends are talking about when they ask if there's something going on between the two companies!

Sorry, Adam. You guessed wrong on this one.

To the Flickr Team

Congrats and welcome to the Yahoo family. It's a big one but you're going to be a very big part of it. You have a lot of fans here--probably even more after today. :-)

The next few months are probably going to be crazy. But if any of you have questions about Yahoo or just want to grab lunch at URL's, give me a call/email/IM. I'll do anything I can to help.

You guys rock.


More to come...

Posted by jzawodn at 12:56 PM

March 16, 2005

ETech, Yahoo! 360, Amazon, Open Search, and Generally Crazy Times

I've been so busy between stuff going on at ETech and stuff back at Yahoo that I haven't had a chance to even post here. You probably heard about Yahoo! 360 (our answer to what happens when you combine your friends, your content (pictures, lists, reviews, etc), and a bit of blogging fu). I'll write more about it later, probably but am happy to see that some people "get it."

360 was not designed to be YASNS (Yet Another Social Networking Service). The goal is not to amass as many "friends" as possible, unlike Friendster, Orkut, and others. It's about making it easier to share stuff with people who really are you friends--tne ones you already talk to, email, IM, etc.

ETech has been great. I even got to ask Jeff Bezos about his space investments a couple hours ago. What's really cool is that he comes to a conference like ETech and says around to just check out what's going on an talk to people. He doesn't fly back to Seattle as soon as his talk is done or blow people off. He's right at home among the geeks here.

Speaking of Amazon, Udi Manber of told me he's heading to Tuscon for PC Forum after this. He's taking the gps and camera equipment with him so that he can drive the streets and get more pictures for their sidewalk view of the area. We also got to chat a bit about the Open Search via RSS concept that Jeff demonstrated yesterday.

So much cool stuff, so little time.

Also, while I'm doing an ETech inspired braindump of sorts, here's a mini-linkdump too:

Posted by jzawodn at 11:38 PM

March 14, 2005

Headed to ETech in the Morning...

I have a 7:00am flight tomorrow down to San Diego for the 2005 Emerging Technologies Conference. The program looks great this year. They're even letting me speak: Introduction to Yahoo! Search Web Services. That topic's a big shock, I'm sure.

Anyway, if you're in town for the conference I hope we run into each other. Don't forget to drop by the Yahoo booth to get some goodies, find out about getting a job at Yahoo, etc.

In theory I arrive in San Diego at ~8:30am and should be at the conference by 9:00am. Let's see what Murphy has in store...

Posted by jzawodn at 08:48 PM

Transparensee's Discovery Search Engine

In Grokking Transparensee, John Battelle said the following:

This is powerful stuff when you think about it, and it solves a core database search issue, at least for me: you know there is the right answer for the query you are entering, but damned if it isn't escaping you, due to the blunt nature of structured search.

He's referring to Transparensee's Discovery Search Engine. He did a decent job of explaining what it is, but it's really one of those "you really have to try it before you'll get it" technologies.

Luckily Steve Lavine (the founder and CEO of Transparensee Systems) walked me through a few demos some time ago. As their site indicates, the technology can be applied to a variety of "vertical search" markets:

  • real estate
  • dating
  • restaurants
  • many types of shopping and product comparison

It's pretty cool stuff. I expect that we'll see a lot more of this in the coming months. Searching structured databases really shouldn't be any harder than searching the web, but it often is. The "fuzzy" searching capabilities their technology adds does a good job of closing that gap.

The more I think about it, I realize that this is the perfect case of a product that could benefit from a screencast. I'll mention that to Steve.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:09 AM

March 12, 2005

What about Microsoft's upcoming contextual advertising system?

I keep reading all these speculative posts about Yahoo getting into the contextual advertising game, being "poised" to compete with AdSense, and so on.

But what surprises me is how little chatter about Microsoft I read. If people really think that MSN Search is Microsoft's only assault on the cash cow in Mountain View, there's some really good crack getting smoked.

Maybe it's time to review Google's financials and think like like the monoplist that Microsoft is. If you wanted to "pull a Netscape" on Google, would you merely attack them in the algorithmic search market? Or would you go after the real money too?

To quote their filing from last year:

We derive most of our revenues from fees we receive from our advertisers.

Luckily, they haven't forgotten their roots:

Our original business model consisted of licensing our search engine services to other web sites. In the first quarter of 2000, we introduced our first advertising program...

But I'm betting on a healthy dose of Redmond Greed to make this interesting.

What do you think?

Posted by jzawodn at 05:13 PM

To Portal or not To Portal? Wrong question.

It seems that the portalization of Google comes up now and then. I just ran across a this quote on Technosailor:

It seems Google is trying to experiment with elements of portal sites like My Yahoo! but still trying to remain in the business of purely search and rejecting the elements of portalhood that it doesn’t like. I’m not so sure you can be on both sides of the fence.

Yeah, I'd agree with that. You can't be on the fence and Google is headed to portaldom. But I think people are focusing on the wrong question, really. The question they should be asking is this:

What will the next generation portal look like?

If their current products are any indication, most things fit into a "one box" view of the world. By that I mean that each of their major properties have an obvious text input box and one or two buttons. The interaction is in one of two modes:

  1. Type into the box and hit the button. Look at results.
  2. Use other navigation to browse. Repeat.

It seems that Froogle, Logal/Maps, and Search (Web, Image, Transcript Video) are clearly in mode #1. While Mail and Groups are unevenly split between #1 and #2. That's not terribly surprising, since those two are more about communication and interaction.

In other words, you may or may not begin by "searching" but will likely end up navigating content that may have ads nearby. But I suspect that 95% or more of their current "sessions" begin with a search of some sort. After all, Google is a advertising search company.

I'm not convinced that the "one box" view of the world is going to be the primary mode of interaction over the next few years. Are you?

Posted by jzawodn at 04:59 PM

March 11, 2005

The Hopeless Email Battle

This sucks. I'm trying to catch up on email this morning, so the first thing I did was move everything old than 30 days into an "old" folder that I'll probably never look at. But I do want it to be searchable.

However, after doing so, I still have 674 unread and 1,125 total messages in my inbox.


Time to make a "14+ days old" filter in Thunderbird and repeat the process, I guess.

Update: Okay, I did the 14+ day thing and brought it down to 412/612. That's good, but the ratio of unread to read messages got a lot worse. It's gonna be a long day.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:20 AM

March 10, 2005

Customize Google News... Why?

Maybe I'm seriously missing something and you can help me out here. I've been known to drink the Google kool aid now and then, but their stuff is so... uneven. I know, I know. It's beta. And it has been for years.

The "big news" is that you can now customize Google News and that's interesting I guess.

But I use a few browsers and several computers. Without any sort of login or registration system, though, I have to make the same customizations on each of those machines and on each browser.

What the heck?

Isn't that like having a version of My Yahoo! that just forgets your settings every time you use a new computer? That would really suck.

Other than showing off some DHTML stuff, what's the deal with offering customization without a way of making my settings really persistent?

If I'm missing the magic "login" link, please tell me where to look.


Posted by jzawodn at 10:38 PM

106 Miles #3: Jeff Winner

As with last time and the time before, last night's 106 Miles gathering was excellent.

Who is Jeff Winner? As the site said:

Jeff Winner is a principal in venture accelerator Alacrity Partners. He was most recently VP of engineering at Friendster, leading the well-known scaling and performance rewrite. Previous posts include Demandtec, eGroups, Netscape, Collabra, and Verity.

In other words, he's been around the block a few times in Silicon Valley. He's learned a lot and had much to share with us about the world of VCs, startups, scaling companies, and so on.

Much of what was said is off the record, but I think everyone learned a lot from Jeff's honesty and experiences. One amusing think we did learn is that VCs don't want to fund enterprise software startups. That's just not interesting to them at all.

Nobody was surprised by that either. :-)

There were a lot of new faces at 106 Miles this time and I hope to see many returning next time. Amusingly, when the topic of "how you learned about 106 Miles" came up at my table there were three common answers:

  1. Read about it on Jeremy's blog
  2. Read about it on Joyce's blog
  3. I'm a friend of Joyce

Blogs are the new grapevine.

Thanks again to Joyce and CommerceNet for making 106 Miles happen.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:19 AM

March 09, 2005

Lunchtime Blogging Presentation by Charlene Li

Forrester analyst and blogger Charlene Li spoke to a packed room of marketing, PR, and other interested folks today at Yahoo. Her hour-long talk covered many aspects of blogging, corporate marketing, PR, and what she believes Yahoo can do.

Luckily, she was able to skip most of the intro material since blogs really aren't new to Yahoo at this point. Instead she focused on what works, what doesn't, and how blogging is a mindset--not a technology. Amen to that!

I was glad to hear that she likes what we're doing with the Yahoo! Search blog and the new YSDN blog. Once of her recommendations to us was... get this: more blogs!

I don't think that surprised anybody. But it's always good to hear it from the outside.

Of course, she used me as an example a few times. I kind of expected that. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 04:46 PM

The Relief of Leaving a Job

I've noticed a funny thing in the last year or so. The vast majority of the time someone I know leaves a job (or is fired) two trends seem to recur:

  • A sense of relief: "I'm so glad I'm not at that place anymore."
  • A complete loss of "spare" time: "I'm busier now than when I was working full-time!"

Maybe everyone should change jobs once or twice a decade? Maybe people should ask themselves a bit more often one question: What Should I Do With My Life?

Who knows...

Posted by jzawodn at 01:11 PM

March 08, 2005

Congrats to Mark Jen, now at Plaxo

It looks like Mark found himself a new job (Plaxo) after a whirlwind of media attention and job interviews.

Congrats, Mark.

Lemme know if you want to drop by Yahoo for lunch again sometime.

Posted by jzawodn at 03:43 AM

I Love March Weather in the Bay Area

Need I say more than this?

And to think, just a couple days ago I was looking at snow in Tokyo.

Posted by jzawodn at 03:35 AM

Yahoo! Search APIs Inspire WeatherBug APIs?

Steve Rubel just sent me a note to point at this post on the WeatherBug blog:

The main reason the Yahoo API story grabbed my attention is because I have always thought about creating a developers API for WeatherBug. There are so many applications that can be developed with WeatherBug data, but there is no way that we have enough time and resources to develop them all on our own. So, why not give developers out there a chance to develop their own applications using our data?

Cool. It's always refreshing to see someone else look at a project you helped with and realize that there are good reasons for them to go the same route.

Maybe it's time to nudge the Yahoo! Weather folks a bit too? :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 03:22 AM

Beer in Japan

Some of the little things about visiting Japan amuse me the most. As an example, while browsing a store on Sunday we came across Diet Beer:

Diet Beer

And the fact that Budwiser is an import in Japan, and therefore more desirable by some, takes a bit of getting used to as well.

Budweiser is an Import in Japan

All in all, I had a good trip. I'll surely have more to say about it in the next few days.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:53 AM

March 07, 2005

Well, that didn't go as planned.

At 3:30pm I decided to take a 2 hour nap so that I'd be able to get back on a normal sleep schedule this evening. However, I was more tired than I realized.

Apparently I managed to completely disable the alarm when it went off and I didn't really wake up until 11:30pm. So I did manage to get 8 hours of sleep in but now I'm quite out of sync.

Let's see how much I can get caught up on e-mail before I decide to head to work in another 7 hours or so. And maybe I'll figure out why people are so shocked that I prefer tools (desktop search, in this case) that work with the other tools I already use.

Heh. I suspect this whole sleep thing will end up being a multi-day battle.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:49 PM

Hello GDS, Goodbye YDS

Finally there's a desktop search product that's actually useful to me: Google Desktop.

I had tried the previous version of GDS a bit, as well as the company dog food (Yahoo Desktop Search or YDS). But both lacked the ability to search the most important asset on my computer: my e-mail archive.

Being one who does not use Outlook, that meant I was on my own until now. The latest GDS release has the ability to index Thunderbird mailboxes.

This is the killer feature for me. My computer just got twice as useful. It's funny how sometimes it just takes one feature to completely change your mind about a product, isn't it?

Thank you, Google.

And yes, before you ask, I have pointed out how useful this feature would be in YDS to anyone who'd listen. More than once. And no, I can't tell you if you should expect to see it or when that might be--so don't ask.

Any bets on how long it takes for someone to write a Thunderbird Extension that adds a GDS search box to the interface?

Hopefully I'll be able to stay awake long enough for the indexing to finish. I slept for about 3 hours on the 10 hour flight back from Tokyo and am now rather out of sync with the local time zone. There is much to catch up on, not the least of which is sleep.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:58 PM

March 04, 2005

Made it to Japan, snow and all!

Well, our plane got in about 3 hours late due to weather and congestion at Tokyo Narita. A large part of the cause was a snow storm. It's really weird seeing snow on the ground here.

I didn't sleep more than 30 minutes the whole way, so it was pretty easy to get to sleep and wake up at 6pm. The Boeing 777s with individual LCD screens at each seat are quite handy. I watched 3 movies on the trip here--none of them great, but they sure helped pass the time.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:29 PM

March 03, 2005

Headed to Japan to visit Yahoo! Japan

In about 5 hours I hop on a flight from San Jose to Japan. I'm visiting Yahoo! Japan for a few days. I'll arrive Friday evening and am participating in a Search Symposium that Y! Japan is hosting on Saturday. I'll give two brief presentations about Search and be there to answer questions.

I think I'm on my own Sunday, so if the weather cooperates I'll probably get a one day subway pass and roam the city a bit. Tokyo happens to be quite friendly to non-Japanese speaking visitors--well, at least those who can read or speak English. There are lots of dual language signs. Maybe I'll find the Japanese version of my book in a bookstore. :-)


Monday I'm in the Y! Japan office for most of the day before I catch my 6pm flight back home. Amusingly, I'll arrive home before I left. Aren't time zones funny?

I'll try to post some pictures while I'm gone. If I'm lucky my sleep schedule won't be too screwed up.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:08 AM