June 28, 2005

My Web 2.0: Social Search

You know, life would be a bit less crazy for me if we weren't trying to launch new stuff at work when I'm supposedly out on vacation. Thankfully, the world doesn't revolve my schedule.

Over on the Yahoo! Search blog you can read about My Web 2.0, our new "social search" product. When I was tring to figure out how to explain it to other folks, I came up with this. Luckily, I wrote it in advance and can post it while I'm not supposed to be working. :-)

I've been collecting links to interesting, useful, or funny stuff on the web for quite a while now. In the "old days" I would email them to friends of mine. But we all get too much email nowadays, so I just post them on my linkblog and let anyone subscribe.

That works great for friends, family, and the hundreds random strangers who want to see what I've recently discovered on-line. But it's a one-way process. There's no easy way for me to see what they have discovered. Most of 'em don't have linkblogs and really don't want to go down that road.

So what's the big deal?

Well, everyone I know is an expert... in something. If I have questions about electronics or radios, I'd ask my Dad. He's always looking at that stuff on-line. Astronomy and Astrophotography? My Uncle. Construction and remodeling? My brother in law. Real estate? A couple of my old college friends. The list goes on.

The point is that for most topics I might want to know more about, I already know someone that's smarter than me on the subject. I have my very own community of experts (we all do). I just need a way to tap into their accumulated experience.

My Web 2.0, the latest release of our My Web service might just be what they need. It gives *them* an easy way to bookmark, annotate, tag, and share sites they discover. And it gives *me* a way to get at their stuff. I can subscribe to an RSS feed of someone's newest bookmarks, or maybe just those sites they tag as "funny" or "real estate." I can search my entire community's bookmarks. Or I can just start tag surfing to see what turns up.

Best of all, when I'm search the web and run across a site that someone I know has already annotated, it's labeled as such.

Oh... And if I ever manage to find enough spare time, I can use the Web Services API to do even more.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:21 PM

June 27, 2005

In Utah for the Week

I've been in Parowan, Utah since Saturday and don't head back home until July 3rd. Hopefully we'll have some good flying weather out here!

I've already taken hundreds of pictures of the amazing scenery (and some little airports) but won't upload them until I have broadband access. I'm "roughing it" on 128kb via my bluetooth phone for the week. That means very limited web, email, and so on. In other words, I'm on vacation. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 09:33 PM

June 22, 2005

Passing Interview Triage

Joe Kraus (JotSpot) write about the three questions he uses to help assess engineers during the interview process. I was glad to see that I had reasonable answers to all three. :-)

Do you have a blog?

I do. You're reading it.

What's your home page?

As Joe suggests, I rolled my own a long time ago. It's at http://jeremy.zawodny.com/start-page.html. Feel free to bitch about my choice of search engine. Just remember that I built this page before Firefox existed, so I didn't have a ever-present search box in my browser. (Hint: Yahoo! Search was Google back then.)

Do you contribute to an open source project?

Yes. I've patched both Perl and MySQL. I also created mytop, DBIx::DWIW, Geo::METAR, and probably some stuff I've forgotten.

Do I get the job? ;-)


Ken Norton (also of JotSpot) recently wrote How to hire a product manager. Can you tell they're hiring?

Posted by jzawodn at 06:11 PM

Surprising User Expectations

One of the most enlightening experiences I've had in my 5+ years at Yahoo was sitting in on some usability tests. Being on the "watching" side of the one way glass is fun. But it can be particularly frustrating when the application or service users are attempting to use is your own.

Back in 2000 or 2001, I watched a few such tests on specific areas of the Yahoo! Finance site, which I worked on at the time. I walked away from those tests thinking differently about how we build stuff for "normal people" and have been doing so ever since.

I highly recommend doing this if you're involved in building software. You may well be very surprised by what you learn.

I was reminded of this by reading the story of Mac Word 6.0. Under the subheading Learning the Meaning of “Mac-Like” the following appears:

Moreover, while people complained about the performance, the biggest complaint we kept hearing about Mac Word 6.0 was that it wasn’t “Mac-like.” So, we spent a lot of time drilling down into what people meant when they said it wasn’t “Mac-like.” We did focus groups. Some of us hung out in various Usenet newsgroups. We talked to product reviewers. We talked to friends who used the product. It turns out that “Mac-like” meant Mac Word 5.0.
We spent so much time, and put so much effort into, solving all the technical problems of Mac Word 6.0 that we failed to make the UI of Mac Word 6.0 behave like Mac Word 5.0.

I remember the trainsition from Mac Word 5.1 to 6.0. It was, indeed, a painful one for most Mac users. This is worth thinking about every time someone suggests radical UI changes.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:10 PM

Culture Clash Response

I was gonna write a real response to the Culture Clash that Stefanie Olsen wrote for CNet. But I was busy with travel and figured that I'd just commented on one of her stories recently.

Luckily, Justin is up to the task. His response, Yahoo! Culture v. Google does a good job of saying much of what I might have said.

So go read that instead. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 09:06 AM

June 21, 2005

Death to IMAP Clients

After a long drawn out experience with numerous email clients (mutt/isync, mutt/mailsync, Thunderbird, Eudora, Mail.app, even Outlook Express in a moment of desperation) on various platforms (Mac, Windows, Linux, FreeBSD) and spanning over four years, I've come to the inevitable conclusion that all IMAP clients suck.

Yes, all of them--especially when used for off-line or disconnection operation.

My needs were simple, but I'd yet to find a tool that would Just Work. So I've replaced my lofty goals of using IMAP so that I could keep mail organized on my server but accessible anywhere.

My new system works like this. Email addressed to Jeremy@Zawodny.com comes to my mail server. Exim hands it off to procmail, which runs it thru SpamAssassin. Then it sends a copy to GMail and delivers one locally. It also archives a copy on the server in monthly mbox files. (Yes, it's a secondary backup.)

I use Thunderbird on the Windows notebook that Yahoo provides me. Periodically, I make sure to archive mail in my GMail account, flag the obvious spam, etc.

The downside is that when I switch from using Thunderbird to Gmail and back (happens once in a while for short periods of time), I may see some messages twice.

The upside is that the broken IMAP sync never happens. I just download all my mail and go offline when I need to. I can then manipulate it to my heart's content on the client and worry not about things going wrong.

If my notebook blows up, I'm still okay. It is backed up regularly and I've got a copy of everything in my Gmail account as well.

Why didn't I do this a few years ago? Probably because the promise of IMAP is so damned appealing. It makes me a little sad that nobody's ever been able to get it working well and efficiently.

In Summary

  • POP good.
  • IMAP bad.
  • GMail good.
  • Thunderbird good.
  • Backups good.
Posted by jzawodn at 07:48 PM

Heading to New Orleans for Webmaster World Conference

I'm off to New Orleans for the Webmaster World Search conference. It looks like the weather will be a bit warmer and more humid than I'm used to.

I'm going to be on two panels at the conference. Here are the descriptions sent to me by the conference organizers. Lemme know if there's anything you'd like to see me include in either one.

RSS Feeds and PodCasting

Generating an RSS feed for distribution can be a time consuming, but profitable venture. This session with deal with the distribution and website syndication.
Hello Mr Zawodny, your mission - should you choose to accept it - would be to talk about RSS feeds and search engines. (please notice the S on the end of search engineS...hehehe). How can we effectively take these feeds and get them listed around the web? Not just in Yahoo or Feedster, but by the general public as well. You know these new browsers like Opera have RSS readers built right in to them. I hear the ie v7 will also have a built in rss reader. What's the landscape out there for the feeds and where is it all going to (eg: the big picture in the big easy)?

Blogging for Fun and Profit

Blogging is moving into the mainstream, and this session will outline how bloggers are using this new medium for both pleasure and profit. In writing Business Blogs: A Practical Guide, Amanda Watlington and her co-author interviewed over 70 bloggers and found out how they are using blogs. She’ll be sharing what they told her.
Jeremy, could you focus on blogging in support of your career? What are the risks? What happens when your personal views run counter to your employers? How do you keep both separate and not run the risk of going over board? Or do you keep your resume polished 2x47x365? :-) I think your own personal experiences with blogging and how you handle the duality with Yahoo would be absolutely fascinating to the audience. There are many that are in the exact same position and are afraid to do it.

Drop me a comment or email if you're going to be at either session.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:21 AM

June 20, 2005

Yahoo Search vs. Google and Technorati: Link Counts and Analysis

In what I'm sure will become a heavily linked to article, Tristan Louis offers up his recent analysis. I haven't had time to digest it fully, but his conclusions are:

  • Yahoo! generally does a better job at indexing the blogosphere than Google does. We know they have been working hard to improve their index and here's proof that they are getting results
  • Even if Google is the one with the motto about not doing evil, Yahoo! seems to be the one interested in giving equal opportunity to the little guy: smaller blogs seem to have a better chance of being recognized by Yahoo! than they do of being recognized by Google
  • While the front page of Google advertises they are currently indexing over 8 billion pages, it is very difficult to find ways to support that claim via the link feature they are offering: this can be seen as confirmation that Google does not tell you about all the links it has in its index.
  • Sure volume counts but in the case of search indexes, they may count against sites: if one is less likely to appear in Google than it is to appear in Yahoo! and the Google index is much larger than the Yahoo! one, then, if Yahoo! and Google had the same amount of traffic, a single blog could find itself receiving more traffic from Yahoo! than it does from Google. This would be due to the fact that each individual page in Yahoo! has more weight than it does in Google.
  • The top 100 blogs have other 56 million links in the Yahoo!. That's a lot of links and clearly shows that links are the currency of the blogging world. It would be interested to get data that would help analyze how much interlinking exists across those sites.

Of course, that's the sort of stuff I like to read!

What has your experience been in using Yahoo! Search to find blog content?

Posted by jzawodn at 09:26 PM

Goodwill Does Not Accept Mainframe Computers

After cleaning out my closet, I dropped off a few bags of clothes at Goodwill over the weekend. Today I was wondering if I could donate a few other things I no longer want or need, so I headed over to the web site for Goodwill Industries of Silicon Valley and found their donation agreement page, which lists the items they do an do not accept.

I'm reading along the "do not accept" list and it all seems pretty normal and expected: paint, gas, guns, freezers, doors, windows, etc. But then I get to the bottom of the list and see "Computer main frames" which makes me laugh out loud.

I suspect this particular rule is specific to Silicon Valley, but haven't verified that. You just know that a rule like this only appears after someone tries to donate a mainframe.

Where else would that happen?!

And, on the off chance that you know who tried it, I'd love to know the story.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:11 PM

WordPress Search, Powered by Yahoo!

Last week Matt Mullenweg asked me a few questions about the Yahoo! Web Search API and Yahoo! Site Search. It turned out that he was looking for a better way to provide search for WordPress.org and thought we had just what he needed.

A few days later, I find out that he was right. In New WP.org Search, he writes about implementing the new search support:

I went to the site to see how much of a pain it would be so I could start properly procrastinating, but I was taken aback by how incredibly easy it was to get an application ID and start getting the results back as simple XML. I began hacking on it right then. It was about 5 minutes to set up a search form with URIs the way I wanted, 7 minutes to get the XML and parse it out, 5 minutes to write in some paging, and then about 20 minutes tweaking the search page to make it look a little better. The result is the new search.wordpress.org WordPress Search.

He closes by saying:

Yahoo deserves major kudos for opening up their information in such a free way and making it so easy that it’s taken me longer to write this post than start using their API.

That's great to hear. Over and over, when I run into people who've tried out our search APIs, they tell me the same thing: it's easy.

Simplicity was our goal in designing the APIs.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:03 AM

June 19, 2005

Benchmark Road and Recreation Maps

I'm a big fan of good maps. They come in quite helpful when flying over new territory, driving somewhere new, etc. And I like to know where I am and what's nearby.

A few years ago I discovered Benchmark Maps. They produce maps for several states in the western United States so I now own one for Utah as well. I already have two sets of well worn maps: California and Nevada. But next weekend I'm heading out on a 1.5 week trip to Parowan, Utah with my glider.

Each of the map books provide a set of detailed road and topographic maps as well as lat/long grids, local attractions, climate data, points of interest, elevation, national parks, recreation areas, and so on. The maps are well laid out and the markings are very clear. The folks at Benchmark pay attention to little details, even noting various mountain peak and ridge names, small ranches, air strips, etc.

If you're looking for a some excellent recreational maps, I highly recommend Benchmark. You can find them at REI or Amazon.com.

On Amazon.com

Posted by jzawodn at 08:11 AM

June 16, 2005

Yahoo! Duckling Rescue

I saw some commotion on campus earlier today and noticed later in the day that a pipe had been dug up. Thanks to my aggregator, I now know the rest of the story.

There was a Duckling Rescue today!

Posted by jzawodn at 10:50 PM


If I didn't know any better, I'd think the shit is about to hit the fan.

It's like that line in Ghostbusters... "That's a big Twinkie."

Posted by jzawodn at 02:46 PM

June 15, 2005

LAMP Engineer Needed for new Yahoo! site...

Jeff Boulter (engineering manager for Y! News) is looking for a few good hackers:

for a new Yahoo! site focused on technology - cell phones, cameras, computers and other nerdly gadgets. Find ‘em, compare ‘em, buy ‘em and use ‘em. If you ever wanted to play with cool toys and get in on the ground level of building an entirely new Yahoo! site, here’s your chance!

What's the job entail? According to the official description:

We're looking for smart engineers who can express ideas clearly in written and spoken communication. Knowledge of HTTP, XML, XSLT, Apache, web services, HTML, PHP, Perl, UNIX systems, and MySQL are required. A BSCS/MSCS and at least 5 years of experience with large scale, fault-tolerant systems is also required.

So send him your resume. Send me your resume. But don't just sit there any longer. You could be getting paid good money instead of reading my blog.

Seriously, this looks to be a cool job working on a fun new project. Who knows, maybe you'll get to play with some of those new toys too...

Disclaimer: If you get hired and list me as your referral, I get a bonus. But is that so bad? :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 01:57 PM

June 14, 2005

Yahoo! and blo.gs

As Jim Winstead notes, Yahoo! is the new operator of the blo.gs ping service.

Woohoo! He writes:

this is the sort of good home that i was looking for — yahoo! obviously has the resources to run and improve blo.gs in pace with the incredible growth of blogs (and syndication in general), and in talking with them it was also clear that we had some of the same vision for the future of the service and the ping/notification infrastructure.

I'm glad he thinks it's a good home, because I do to. I was an advocate for this all along and am glad to see that the papers are all signed and the service is working on our infrastructure.

And for Feedmesh/cloud users, more good news:

for users of the website and the cloud interface, nothing much is changing. the service will continue to be completely open, and both yahoo! and i hope you continue to use it and help it grow.

What are our plans for the service? Simple. Keep it running, make it scale, and make it even better (a lot like the Flickr plans).

No, I won't tell you what we paid. Neither will Jim.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:58 PM

Google Playing Catch Up; Corrections for Stefanie Olsen

So I'm reading Google readying Web-only video search over on ZDNet and am struck by a few things.

First off, this "web-only" moniker is a bit odd. I read the whole article and was still left not entirely sure what "web-only" really means. The word "only" appears only twice on the first page: once in the headline and once in the lead paragraph.

Later on, I read this:

The first stage of the video search engine will put Google on par with chief rival Yahoo, which finished work on its own Web video search engine in May, as well as others such as America Online's Singingfish and Blinkx. Unlike Yahoo, which already has submission deals with companies such as Reuters, Google will avoid mining the Internet for video clips and will use only video clips that have been submitted by their producers.

There are few things wrong with that...

  1. Work was not "finished" on Yahoo! Video Search back in May. Andy Volk and the Video Search team are always working on enhancements. More on that soon.
  2. That does not put Google on par with Yahoo! Video Search. We mine the Intenet for video and accpet video from anyone via Media RSS. How on earth does Google's submission-only policy put them anywhere near us?

Later in the article, Stephanie write:

To a certain extent, Google is playing catch up. Reuters, for example, also has deals with America Online's Singingfish, Yahoo and Blinkx. It provides all those companies with a video content feed, which includes "meta data" or descriptive language that defines the content for automated indexing by the search engines. In turn, the search engines drive traffic to Reuters.com, which is trying to become a news destination site supported by online advertising.

So she admits that Google is playing catch up. I'm cool with that.

Eventually, Google plans to leapfrog its competitors by creating a "walled garden" of video content hosted on its servers. The content will originate both from independent and A-list video producers, sources say. That way, Google can eventually sell access and video advertising, or online commercials.

Excuse me? A walled garden?! That's such a mid-90s and un-Google way to approach the world on-line content. I can't wait to see who is allowed inside the wall. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 10:45 AM

Job Specialization and Why it's hard to explain what I do...

Ever since switching jobs a while back, one of the questions I'm asked most often by co-workers and friends I don't see that often is...

What exactly is your job, anyway?

The funny thing is that I've never had a short answer for it. Instead, I have to rattle off a medium sized list of loosely related things I end up getting involved in. And people seem generally puzzled at first but eventually say, "oh... that's kind of cool." Reading Ken Norton's How to hire a product manager made me realize why there's puzzlement:

The first thing you notice at a big company is the amount of specialization. At a startup, everyone does a little of everything, so you need strong generalists. More importantly, it's hard to predict the future, so you need people who can adapt. You might think you're hiring somebody to work on something specific, but that something might change in a few months. It doesn't work that way at big companies. Usually when you're hiring you have a very specific role in mind, and the likelihood that that responsibility will change is low.

See, they know I work at a big company, so they figure that what I do has a "normal" job title associated with it. Thus... brief puzzlement.

In job interviews (internal or external), I've often told hiring managers that I tend to get bored if I'm doing the same thing for more than a few years. So it's a wonder I've managed to survive at Yahoo! for over 5.5 years already, isn't it?

Not really--because I've moved around a few times. But I've recently come to understand that while this is possible and even encouraged it's not common. Most people tend to do the same (or a very similar) job for quite a long time.

In other words, unlike a lot of people here I must be a generalist. Or, as someone recently told me... A startup guy.

Somehow, seeing this all from a slightly different angle makes me more comfortable with it. I don't know why.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:40 AM

Justin sees his own work in the Macromedia Lobby...

Justin, one of our Flash gurus at Yahoo, had a pleasant surprise at Macromedia:

This past Thursday due to a small misscommunication I had an hour to really get to know the Macromedia lobby. ;) two things make this worth blogging. First, my NYC traffic viewer is featured on the plasma in the lobby. That was just pretty darn neat! After 45 minutes happily staring at that, I noticed the other fun feature of the lobby.

Nice! It's always good to know that others are using the apps and tools you create.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:50 AM

June 12, 2005

My Trackbacks are Fixed... WordPress Migration To Come.

Many have complained in recent months that my trackbacks were broken. Well, they're mostly back. It took a while to fix, but they do show up. Sometimes there's a delay, but that's by design (sort of).

I'm very, very close to starting a migration to WordPress but may not get to that until sometime in July, based on my schedule for the next few weeks.

MovableType has treated me well for several years now, but the more I play with WordPress on a couple sites I run, the more I've realized that it just feels right.

See Also

Posted by jzawodn at 09:30 PM

The Yahoo Browser Exists

And is has for quite some time. This recent speculation is fun and all, but WTF?

Try a search for yahoo browser and you'll end up on this page, which describes the SBC Yahoo! Browser. I seem to remember there being a Yahoo! branded web browser at least as far back as 1999 when I joined Yahoo.

I guess you could say we've been there, done that, and probably even made some t-shirts back in the day.

These are not the droids you're looking for. Move along.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:16 PM

How long does it take to double your money?

I remember learning, way back in junior high school, about how compound interest works. But for some reason I'm never able to remember the silly little formula for figuring out how long it takes to double an investment, given a fixed rate of annual return.

So here's a quick reminder.

The "Rule of 72" says that you take the interest rate (assuming that it's compounded annualy) and divide 72 by it. For an investment that yields 7% annual returns, that means 72 / 7 which is roughly 10.3 years.

Here are a few more:

  • 5%: 14.4 years
  • 6%: 12 years
  • 7%: 10.3 years
  • 8%: 9 years
  • 9%: 8 years
  • 10%: 7.2 years
  • 11%: 6.5 years
  • 12%: 6 years
  • 15%: 4.8 years
  • 20%: 3.6 years
  • 25%: 2.9 years

Anyway, I'm hoping that the act of taking two minutes to write this down will make it stick in my brain a bit longer.

Now... anyone wanna loan me half a million dollars and an investment with a 20% annual return? :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 08:44 AM

IE Tabs Suck Memory Too

Adam Stiles notes that Microsoft's IE Tabs Suck Memory like there's no tomorrow:

I never considered the possibility that each IE7 tab would have its own copy of 3rd party toolbars. But that's the direction Microsoft has taken. What's the problem with that approach? Every time you open a new browser tab (which tabbed browser users do much more frequently than single-window browser users), you have to create new instances of any 3rd-party bars. Ouch. Opening a folder of 25 Favorites in tabs? You get 25 RoboForm toolbars, and use much more memory and resources than necessary. Beyond wasting memory and resources, it sounds like IE7 tabs will also waste user interface space. Tony wrote that 3rd party toolbars will now be a part of the tab instead of the IE frame. If I'm reading him right, IE7 could waste valuable vertical UI space, as shown in this doctored screenshot:

Impressively wasteful, no?

Not just slow and annoying, but also memory hogs! W00t!

Posted by jzawodn at 07:40 AM

June 11, 2005

Examples of Really Bad Lock-In?

It seems that Jason is annoyed because he's run into something that's rampant in the on-line services world: lock-in.

I get a lot of inbound email and I like to upload those contacts to LinkedIn every couple of months so I can figure out which of my contacts are in there. However, as best I can tell (and I could be wrong here) the only way to get your contacts out of GMAIL is to cut and paste the “All Contacts” sheet. That is so broke… I mean, how much work would it take for Google to put a “Save .CSV or Excel” file link? You could write that code in like two seconds.

Uhm... surprise?

Seriously, this may be purely an oversight in the case of the GMail (BETA) interface. After all, it's a beta. They'll add/fix stuff. But it's hardly surprising to see this sort of thing. Givng a user the ability to collect all their marbles and go home is a scary thing for some companies and their product managers (or the business folks who really pull the strings).

You can't get an OPML export of your My Yahoo! subscriptions either. Someday it'll probably happen, but for now there's no easy way to get that data either.

There are countless examples of this on-line. GMail and My Yahoo! are hardly the worst out there. What's the worst you've seen?

Posted by jzawodn at 08:04 PM

Financial Times Using Link Spam

Oh, great. This is exactly what we needed now.

While doing link analysis on behalf of Debtcounsellors.co.uk, I discovered something very surprising - hidden links on The Financial Times website, FT.com. The links were placed on prominent pages and pointed to one of the major online financial services providers in the UK, Moneysupermarket.com.

Jesus Fu@%ing Christ! Are even respected media companies no longer able to resist the quick buck that shady SEOs offer?

At least when individuals do this, we usually see an apology and get a bit of back story. Anyone wanna bet on the publisher issuing an apology and explaining why they're stooping to such lameness?

Posted by jzawodn at 07:54 PM

Tech Recruiting is Hard

Gretchen, a Microsoft recruiter, wrote the following on her jobs blog recently and it cause quite an uproar:

My latest tirade revolves around Hiring Managers (and I'm referring to Microsoft Hiring Managers … but I know this problem exists in other companies) not "getting" the talent landscape. Not only do they not seem to understand that brilliant software engineers don't grow on trees (you don't, do you?) … but they can't seem to get it through their heads that 1) Microsoft isn't the only place hiring, 2) Working at a big company isn't everyone's dream, and 3) Redmond is not the first place people say they want to move when they wake up in the morning. (Unfortunately, I don't think the slogan "Where do you want to go today? Redmond, of course!" would fly.)

I think every large tech company has serious problems of some sort or another in recruiting.

At Yahoo, for example, recruiting is a bit of a black hole. I send my fair share of resumes to recruiting (probably more than my fair share, come to think of it), but once a resume is in their hands, I have absolutely no visibility into the process unless I follow up. Only if the candidate tells me what's going on, do I have any idea. (When is the interview? How did it go? Did we offer a job?) And if they do get a job, I find a referral bonus in my paycheck a few weeks later (yeay!) but it never lists the candidate's name (boo!).

Now, I could follow up on each and every resume I send in, but that's a lot of busy work. And, more importantly, I'd feel like I'm asking our already overworked recruiting team to do even more. It's not their fault. The system is simply broken.

The last thing I want is for one of our recruiters to read this and start sending me updates on my referrals. I want the system fixed. The recruiters are not broken. They're doing great work.

At Google, on the other hand, they have a decent system in place for providing access to feedback all along the way. But their disorganized and long interview process tends to spook people. Others get pissed off or fed up part way through and just give up. People at Google know this too.

The interesting thing is that each company I find out more about seems to have a recruiting system that's broken in its own special way.

In an odd way, that's reassuring.

Is your recruiting/hiring system broken too? Please share...

Posted by jzawodn at 07:35 PM

IE's Tabbed Browsing Embarrassment

Asa is smacking someone on the IE team pretty hard today:

It's obviously a hack that's actually based on new windows for each tab. I can crash it at will. It's so flickery as to be completely unusable. It's filled with serious dataloss bugs. It's just crap, plain and simple. Anyone that makes any excuse for this embarrassment, please trackback me because I'm very interested in hearing how anyone can defend it.


At least there's a semi-amusing trail of comments on his post now.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:12 PM

Backseat Driver

Today I gave Andrei his long-promised glider ride. We met down at Hollister this morning and before too long were on tow in BASA's DG-1000.

I hadn't flowin the DG-1000 in at least a month, and hadn't flown it from the back seat in even longer. But you know what? It didn't matter in the slightest. I was very comfortable and even managed to land as well as a typical front seat landing.

I really need to get over myself sometimes. Even though I have over 320 flights (mental note: update log book), I always think I could use a bit more practice.

That's healty, of course. But there are times when I need to realize that I'm being dumb.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:09 PM

June 10, 2005

Kanoodle BrightAds vs. Google AdSense?

I've been selectively running AdSense ads on my blog for quite some time now, but am starting to wonder if I shouldn't tinker with some of the other services out there. And since I can't use the Yahoo offering yet, I'm looking at Kanoodle's BrightAds.

I just applied to the program and the approval is pending. The sign up was trivial and I'm looking forward to the implementation details.

In the mean time, I haven't found any good comparisons of revenue from Google AdSense vs. Kanoodle BrightAds. Anyone run a month-long comparison on a blog with more than 100,000 page views per month?

I'm curious.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:16 PM

jwz switches from Linux to Mac (for non-servers)

This post amuses the heck out of me.

Remember last week, when I tried to buy exactly the same audio card that 99.99% of the world owns and convince Linux to be able to play two sounds at once? Yeah, turns out, that was the last straw. I bought an iMac, and now I play my music with iTunes.

There really is something to be said for using an OS that consumer hardware vendors actually give a shit about....

I plugged a mouse with three buttons and a wheel into the Mac, and it just worked without me having to read the man page on xorg.conf or anything. Oh frabjous day.

And the fact that he ends with this is just classic:

Dear Slashdot: please don't post about this. Screw you guys.

Classic, I tell you.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:41 AM

Color Printer Recommendation Needed

Dear Lazyweb,

I've had a decent low end NEC SuperScript 1400 laser printer for the last 5 years or so ($300 on Amazon.com in 2000). But I find myself wanting something with more than 300dpi print resolution and the ability to spit out color.

I'm not looking for a photo printer. Most of the color stuff I'm likely to produce will be maps, charts, or tables rather than photos.

Any recommendations for a good color printer that doesn't cost way too much when it's time to refill the ink? Maybe something that has separate cartridges for each color would be best? Speed isn't an issue, since I do not intend to do high-volume printing.

I don't know. I haven't owned a color inkjet printer for about 8 years, so I'm pretty far behind on what's reasonable today.

Suggestions? Printers or brands to avoid?


Posted by jzawodn at 10:43 AM

Winning vs. Pride

There was a semi-philosophical discussion at work this week about really motivates us. One group of fairly competitive folks generally responded that "winning" was at the top of the list.

A group I was part of, however, voiced different ideas. My particular response to the question had less to do with winning and a lot more to do with pride. I'd rather be involved in building things I can really be proud of than obsessed with winning. Often times you can win but it comes at a hefty price. But being proud of what you do is hard to top.

In thinking of examples to help illustrate this, I thought of Microsoft and Apple. I said something like this:

I think most people would agree that Microsoft tends to "win" the battles they take seriously. Apple, on the other hand, rarely "wins" big battles (the iPod being an obvious exception). However, I'd rather work at Apple than Microsoft. They build things I'd personally be proud to be part of.

Hopefully Apple fanatics will realize that I'm not bashing Apple here. I own a Powerbook, iPod, and iPod Shuffle. But I also use Windows daily.

My take is that winning is often a byproduct of doing something you're proud of--but not always. And I'm okay with that.

What's your ultimate reward?

Posted by jzawodn at 09:50 AM

June 09, 2005

Google's Polite and Human Take Down Notice

As has been widely reported, Bret Taylor (PM for Google Maps) sent a "take down" notice to gMerge because it was violating the Google Maps Terms of Service.

Many tech companies could learn from this example. The notice is polite, explains the situation, and was sent by a non-lawyer.

The Google Maps team recently noticed your Google Maps tile "stitcher" wallpaper maker at http://gmerge.2ni.net/. Google is always happy to see developers interested in our products and we commend you on the service. That said, we would appreciate it if you voluntarily remove your service and stop using Google Maps on your web site. The service violates the Maps Terms of Service available at http://www.google.com/help/terms_local.html, and jeopardizes our ability to make Google Maps available to the public because it encourages non-personal use of Google Maps.

If you have any questions or concerns, or if we have contacted the wrong people, please feel free to contact me directly. Otherwise, please let us know as soon as possible when the service has been removed.


Bret Taylor
Product Manager, Google Maps,

Well done, Bret.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:35 AM

Asa Understands Normal Users and Firefox Users

It's always refreshing to know that the folks working on some of the highest profile open source projects realize that they (well, "we") live in our own bubble:

You and I are nothing like the overwhelming majority of browser users. Nothing. Most browser users (approaching a billion of them) don't need or want all kinds of configuration and control. They want to get on the web, take care of what they got on to do, and get off -- without difficulty, and most important, without having to learn new features to accomplish that. They understand the basics of entering addresses, clicking links, adding pages to their bookmarks/favorites, using the primary five buttons, and that's about it. They're not interested in learning a whole lot more. They want it to "just work".

Read the whole post on Asa's blog.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:30 AM

June 08, 2005

Yahoo! Local Send Bookmarklet

Brian Cantoni, a fellow Yahoo, has written a bookmarklet for IE and Firefox that makes Yahoo! Local URLs a bit more e-mail friendly (meaning it strips the cruft).

Excellent. It'd be great if we can do that on the server side, but this is a good start.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:18 PM

CDs, Visual Memory, and Digital Music Subscriptions

While waiting for someone to show up to a meeting, a few of us were chatting about music. Greg was playing a selection from his "music that'd scare you about the rest of my music collection" (or something like that).

I mentioned that we all had some of those in our collection, and that mine were probably some of the less popular one-hit wonders of the 80s. But then I revised my claim, instead saying that it was my collection of movie soundtracks.

From there the discussion wandered into how we've lost something with digital music. For me, I was always able to locate some of my favorite CDs based on their cover art or even the color, font, and amount of text on the "spine." Greg commented that he's been able to walk into someone else's house and, at with a quick glace at the CD rack, identify some of the music they share in common.

As we move toward digital subscription services (like Yahoo! Music Unlimited), fewer and fewer people will own the physical CDs anymore. I've already lost the ability to identify my own favorites in my collection. Soon, being able to scan your friends music for common discs will be gone too.

I wonder what the digital version of that will be?

Posted by jzawodn at 07:00 PM

Secrets of Product Development and What Journalists Write

Before I came out to California to work at Yahoo, I watched the business and culture of Silicon Valley from a distance. I read lots of the trade rags, tech web sites, and books about early Internet companies (the Netscape era).

One of the things that amazed me about Internet companies (usually the portals) was how quickly they built things and were able to react to each others moves with frightening speed. Company X would do something amazing and new only to be leapfrogged by Company Y just a few weeks later.

They were putting on one hell of a show and it was all amplified by the crazy bubble of the late 90s. I loved it.

The tech and business press would say things like "in response to Company X, Company Y has just..." or "in an effort to defend their business from Company Y, Company X today launched a new..."

I saw headlines like that all the time and still see them today.

Today there's one important difference: I'm on the inside now. For the last five and a half years, I have had a front row seat to the inner workings of what I used to imagine (with the help of a small army of journalists and reports).

Now I see it first hand and hear about it from coworkers and friends at other companies. And you know what? It's even more insane than it looked from the outside.

So I'm going to let you in on a little secret about how products are developed at large companies--even large Internet companies that some people think are fast on their feet.

Larger companies rarely can respond that quickly to each other. It almost never happens. Sure, they may talk a good game, but it's just talk. Building things on the scale that Microsoft, Google, AOL, or Yahoo do is a complex process. It takes time.

Journalists like to paint this as a rapidly moving chess game in which we're all waiting for the next move so that we can quickly respond. But the truth is that most product development goes on in parallel. Usually there are people at several companies who all have the same idea, or at least very similar ones. The real race is to see who can build it faster and better than the others.

Think about this the next time a news story makes it sound like Yahoo is trying to one-up Google. Or MSN is "responding" to last week's launch of a new AOL service.

It's easy to get caught up in the drama of it all. But reality is often quite different than what you read.

As a side note, I'm sure this is even more true in the world of hardware and consumer electronics. But I have no direct experience with that world.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:08 AM

June 07, 2005

Testing... Ignore.

Ignore this.
Posted by jzawodn at 03:47 PM

Google Sitemap vs. Ping Servers

Sometimes I'm a little surprised by how long some ideas take to bubble up. Other times I'm surprised by the form they take.

I'm doubly surprised this time.

Google Sitemaps (BETA, of course) has me scratching my head a bit. Rather than build on existing work, it seems that Google wants people to build up and submit sitemaps to them so they can increase the freshness and coverage (or comprehensiveness) of their web search index.

Of course, those are two of the four critical variables for Getting Search Right. Around these halls we call them RCFP:

  • Relevancy
  • Freshness
  • Comprehensiveness (or coverage, which is a smaller word)
  • Presentation

So it's clear what the motivations here are. Nicely, they've decided to apply a Creative Commons License to the work. It's good to see more and more CC licenses out there, especially from the Big Players.

Last summer, I wrote something titled Feed Search vs. Web Search in which I talked about some of the differences between the Googles and Yahoos of the world and the Technoratis and Feedsters.

Under the heading of "Real-Time Pings", I wrote:

Many of these new-fangled content publishing systems (MovableType, WordPress, you name it) have the built-in ability to "ping" services like weblogs.com, Technorati, Feedster, My Yahoo, and so on. They do this to let those services know that something is new. The services typically react by fetching an updated copy of the feed within seconds and extracting the relevant info.

These real-time pings mean that we don't have to wait for a full polling or crawling cycle before getting the latest content. But the old school "web" search engines don't listen for these pings. Instead of seeing this post moments have I click the 'post' button, they're generally 6-36 hours behind.

But what if they did listen for pings? Or maybe offered a compatible ping API?

Emphasis is, of course, mine.

I wonder why they're not simply offering to extend the current weblog ping protocol a bit to work toward the goals of freshness and coverage? It seems to me that with an installed base of millions of ping-generating tools, that'd be a no-brainer. I'm surprised that Danny Sullivan didn't ask this either.

If I had my way, we'd be plugging ping server streams directly into our web crawlers.

See Also: So, You'd Like To Map Your Site by Anil Dash, with more "prior art" that wasn't used.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:34 PM

Conferences, Wireless Networks, and Attention Spans

Every time I come home from a conference, I'm tempted to write about how WiFi has changed technical conferences. The change is both positive and negative, but on the whole I think it's negative.

Luckily, I don't need to articulate why. Chris has done it for me. Go read what he wrote.

Posted by jzawodn at 07:19 AM

June 06, 2005

For My 31st Birthday: Long Flight and a Smaller Version of Me

Eastern Lake Tahoe from 12,000 Feet This past Saturday (June 4th), I turned 31. For the last few years, I've been trying to do something I've never done before on my birthday. Back in 2003 I flew in a biplane. In 2004 I attended the Air Sailing Cross Country Camp and did my first flying in the Nevada high desert.

So far, I'm quite happy with this tradition and hope to continue it indefinitely. I highly recommend trying it yourself.

This year I did two things, the first of which was unplanned but quite fun:

  1. flew my longest flight so far
  2. managed to blow past my weight loss target

Details below follow...

Longest Flight To Date

For the second weekend in a row, I was up at Lake Tahoe for the weekend (see last weekend's pictures). My glider is stationed at Soar Truckee for most of the season. The picture below is what it looks like when tied down with the covers on it.

My Glider is Ready For Bed

On Saturday the forecast looked good, so we headed to the airport prepared for good flights. I launched almost exactly at noon and released near the "hot rocks" not far from the airport. Before long I was high enough to work toward Mt. Rose and then followed a cloud street over to Verdi Peak and from there across the valley toward Air Sailing and Pyramid Lake. I reached my highest point just east of Anahoe Island and then began working my way southward toward the Pine Nuts (the mountain range west of Minden).

Arriving at Rawe Peak with altitude to spare, I figured I could keep going down the Pine Nuts. But the lift was getting harder to work and I found myself getting lower than I wanted to be. So I stuck around for a while. Eventually I managed to work higher near Mineral Peak. But I never got much above 12,500 feet.

After a while, Darren was headed back in his ASW-19b and we talked about how to get back into Truckee. We couldn't figure a good way back with altitude to clear the ridges, so we ended up landing at Carson City Airport and getting a tow back to Truckee. Later in the day we'd find that nearly everyone had to land at Carson City, so I didn't feel so bad about it. :-)

When we were talking about our goals for the day, I had said I wanted to fly from Truckee, up to Air Sailing, then down the Pine Nuts, over to Minden, and then back in to Truckee. I managed most of the task. It was my first flight to Air Sailing from Truckee. It was my first flight from Air Sailing down to the Pine Nuts. And it was my first landing at Casron City.

A larger version of the flight over view is here. Details are on OLC. The flight scored 243.74km (just under 150 statute miles).

Blew Past My Weight Loss Goal

Every January people make New Year's Resolutions that they end up breaking. It was with that in mind that I spent a month trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Around that time I ran across both The Hacker's Diet and Jeff Sandquist's tale of weight loss and finally convinced myself to take it seriously.

I set a goal for myself to drop 30 pounds by my birthday.

Armed with Excel, CalorieKing.com, and a much simplified version of The Hacker's Diet, I set off about the task of actually paying attention to what I eat. And what a difference it has made! I didn't have a scale with me on Saturday, but this morning I weighed myself and plugged it into my spreadsheet (as I do every morning). It tells me that I'm down 37 pounds since I started tracking (Feb 10th). And you know what? It feels great.

No, I'm not hungry all the time either.

On Saturday evening after flying and dinner, we had brownies, ice cream, and chocolate topping to celebrate my birthday. But I was really celebrating the fact that I exceeded my target by quite a bit.

Numerous people at work have asked me what's going on, and my answer is often something like this:

I just eat less. I figured that there are only two ways to do this. I can either exercise more or east less. And, well... I'm lazy. You do the math.

Given how well things have gone so far, I've set a new goal for myself: 17 more pounds by Christmas. I think that's easily doable and it'll put me at a nice round number to boot. From there, I'll keep within +/- 5 pounds for the forseeable future. That should be easy in comparison.

I intend to write up the process in a bit more detail in the coming weeks. Several people have asked me how I do it and what the spreadsheet looks like. I'm happy to share it as soon as I clean it up a bit.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:54 AM

June 05, 2005

The Power of Suggestion

A while ago wrote about my new Brother PT-65 label maker. Well, just a few days later, this image popped up on Flickr:

The funny thing is that when I saw that image, my Brother PT-65 said exactly the same thing on its LCD screen. It even had the same font size selected.

Glad to be of service, Jon.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:51 PM

MindSet, Sliders, and Greg's Grandmother

Greg Linden took a look at Yahoo! MindSet and said the following:

I'm surprised to see this focus on sliders. They aren't particularly useful. They fail the grandma test. Most novice users will not use or understand the slider; they just want the top result to be useful. It's not even that useful to power users since sliders fail to provide the level of granularity they need.

First off, I think he missed the point. This isn't about producing a user interface that his grandmother will use on a daily basis. It's about testing some new technology that the folks in Yahoo! Labs built to see what sort of things it's useful for outside of the lab.

Secondly, Greg alludes to the fact that users want more granularity right after saying that novice users just want the top result to be useful. I'm confused by that.

Update: It seems that a good discussion has taken place in the comments since I wrote this.

Posted by jzawodn at 04:49 PM

June 01, 2005

Boeing 777 Blog Rocks

As an aviation buff, I was interested to see Steve Rubel mention a new blog from Boeing. When I clicked thru to the 777-200LR Flight Test Journal, I found myself sucked into some excellent reading about the 777-200 early morning flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base.

How could I really be expected to resist that?


Posted by jzawodn at 10:46 PM