October 29, 2005

Amazon.com uses funny date math...

I had ordered some rubbermaid shelves from Amazon recently (since nobody locally sells them). Apparently Amazon.com has trouble getting the shelves too and sent me a message asking to approve a delay. Here's what I saw.

Now, either there's a bug in their time handling (passing a zero to localtime(), anyone?) or they've got a way cool time machine. Either way, it cracks me up. Just reading the text below the weird dates makes me smile.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:26 AM

October 26, 2005

Love Spam

This is too funny...

It's the first "love spam" I've ever seen (at least that made it past the Gmail spam filter). Viewing the original headers revealed that it came from a web hosting provider, not a Hotmail account.

But it made me laugh, and it's been a long time since spam did that.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:08 PM

Heading to NYC for Media, Communications, and Technology Conference

As previously noted, I'm heading out to New York today to attend a conference called "Media, Communications, and Technology in the Age of the Blogger." I'll be on a panel tomorrow (see agenda with Jay Rosen, Evan Williams, Roger L. Simon, and Josh Manchester to discuss "New Media Meets Old Media."

There are a lot of "old media" folks at this gathering, so if you've got any words of wisdom you'd like passed along, let me know. And if you're going to actually be there, drop me a line or introduce yourself tomorrow.

Oh, keen observers will note that they inflated my job title on the agenda. Had they called me "Chief Pain in the Ass" I suspect it would have been more accurate. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 08:48 AM

October 25, 2005

According to FEMA, being prepared leads to disaster!

Sometimes a picture really is worth 1,000 words.

Or laughs.

This image was passed around at work but is legit. It comes from the FEMA web site. However, without the surrounding context, it appears to say the following:

  • Disaster leads to a Response
  • Response leads to Recovery
  • Recovery leads to Mitigation
  • Mitigation leads to Risk Reduction
  • Risk Reduction leads to Prevention
  • Prevention leads to Preparedness
  • Preparedness lead to DISASTER!

I wonder if that graphic artist was trying to be funny or scary. Or both.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:33 AM

October 24, 2005

David Clark Aviation Headsets: Highly Recommended

A good pair of headphones is one of the most important pieces of equipment a pilot can own. What constitutes a "good" headset?

  • Sound quality
  • Noise reduction
  • Comfort
  • Durability

When I was shopping for headphones a couple years ago, I read a lot of recommendations. David Clark was always at or near the top of most lists, but they offer a variety of models. So I headed to an aviation store to try them out in person.

There I was able to try on about a dozen different models. I was surprised to learn how much they vary in comfort, cost, and noise cancellation. As you might expect, the more expensive headsets tend to be more comfortable and provide better noise reduction.

I was interested in a well padded set (so I could wear them for several hours) with excellent noise reduction, both active and passive. I ended up buying the H10-13X model, which has hardwired electronic noise cancellation. But even with the electronic noise reduction turned off, they gel filled ear pads block an incredible amount of sound.

To put this in context, when flying a Citabria with poor noise insulation (there's not much fabric between you and the engine), I find that 90% of the noise is blocked by the nicely sealed ear pads. The 9 volt battery powered active noise reduction is really icing on the cake.

If you happen to be in the market for a good pair of headphones for use in a noisy cockpit, I highly recommend checking out the David Clark line.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:41 PM

October 23, 2005

Finding Used Aircraft For Sale and Classified Listings

A few friends and I are thinking about buying a used and fairly inexpensive (as far as planes go) airplane. In doing so, I've been trying to find all the on-line aircraft classifieds--at least those that seem to matter. I've found that there's no shortage of sites offering classified airplane listings.

This seems like a market ripe for a search engine to aggregate all the listings. Anyway, here's what I've discoverd so far. I've listed the sites in order based on the amount I've used each.

Trade-A-Plane.com seems to be the most heavily used. You get basic access for free, or can sign up for a subscription that provides more data, the ability to bookmark listings, and so on. The only feature I found myself wishing they had is email alerting. I'd like to defined the criteria we're using and get an alert when a matching listing is posted or changed. They have alerts available but they're not integrated where I'd expect.

Aircraft Shopper Online (ASO.com) is an easy to use site that has a smaller inventory. They advertise e-mail alerts right on their home page. ASO seems to have listings for more new or nearly new aircraft than Trade-A-Plane does.

Pilot Market has an old-school "directory" feel to it. But it doesn't offer a search feature.

AirplaneTrader.com seems to have a reasonable selection, but the search is somewhat primitive. I'd like to be able to narrow my searches using fields they haven't exposed.

Aero Trader Online also has a decent inventory but similarly lacking search feature.

So far, Trade-A-Plane is the site I've used most. It has a good sized inventory and search that lets me select multiple manufacturers at once. That's important because some airplane models have changed hands over the years, so you're never sure which of the 2 or 3 possible names they'll be listed under.

Do you know of other good sites for locaing used aircraft?

Posted by jzawodn at 12:50 PM

Slang Terms for Parts of the Body

Who needs George Carlin when you've got Body Parts Slang from Wikibooks?

In the popular jargon of many cultures, the use of sexual slang is a form of humour or euphemism that often creates controversy over its popular use. Sexual humor is seen in many circles as crude and unsophisticated, as well as insulting towards the subject it describes. Nevertheless, sexual humor has been popular since the earliest days of civilisation, and crude humor is seen as having its own place in popular culture.

There's some damned funny stuff on that page, which originated on the Wikipedia.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:15 PM

October 22, 2005

Mutual Funds Investing in China?

It occurs to me that an easy way to start investing in the up-and-coming Chinese economy is to find a mutual fund (or set of funds) managed by an experienced fund manager with a focus on growing companies in China.

Morningstar is the first place I'd start to find funds that match my interests. Using their Fund Screener, I can search their find database using the criteria I'm after (fund type, ratings/risk, returns, etc). From there I can research them individually to decide which of them are worth considering.

Morningstar seems to cover a good selection of international growth funds, however it's difficult to find those that are focusing on China without really digging deep. And searching the web for terms related to mutual funds and investing in China turns up a real mixed bag.

Have you come across any particularly good resources for researching mutual funds which invest in specific overseas markets?

My Brokerage (Charles Schwab) has some decent selection of funds available on-line, but nothing I've quite as powerful at Morningstar's fund screener.

The other option is to use an Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF), about which About.com says:

Exchange Traded Funds are not technically mutual funds, but they offer some of the same advantages while trading like a stock.

Based on what I've seen so far, there's no shortage of ETFs that focusing on emerging markets in Asia. However, my preference is to start with mutual funds before digging into ETFs too much.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:00 PM

October Web Search Referral Statistics

I was looking at some updated stats for my web site and decided to plug the numbers into Excel so that I could more easily visualize the relationships. The chart below is one of several I produced. It shows the percentage of search referrals I can attribute to each of the major search engines for the month of October 2005.

What's interesting to note is that neither AOL or MSN are "major search players" if you look at these numbers and nothing else. All other search engines combined provided more referrals than either AOL or MSN.

The gap between Google and Yahoo! is hard to interpret, since it doesn't come close to matching the publicly available market share numbers. The same is true of the numbers for MSN and AOL. They should be higher.

There are two ways I can think to explain this:

  1. People who use Google are more likely to be searching for content that's on my site.
  2. The market share numbers are wrong. Google actually generates more traffic than has been reported and MSN and AOL have been over-estimated.

I suspect that #1 is closer to reality. After all, I most often write about topics that are of interest to an audience that's more technical than average. And I suspect that crowd skews toward Google in a more dramatic fashion than the general population of Internet users. If that's true, it would seem to confirm many of the stereotypes about AOL and MSN users.

What do your numbers look like?

[Yes, I know the chart title is messed up.]

Update: Others have responded with numbers on their own sites:

Posted by jzawodn at 01:46 PM

PC Magazine Correction: My Web 2.0 doesn't require Toolbar

PC Magazine reviewed My Web 2.0 and concluded:

Though still in beta, the 2.0 version of Yahoo! My Web is a more fully realized social bookmark engine than either del.icio.us or Shadows. It's similar to the former but easier to navigate, smarter about organizing tags and bookmarks, and accessible via a toolbar you may already have.

However, in the "bottom line" section, Rick Broida says "Even though it forces you to use the Yahoo! Toolbar, My Web 2.0 currently offers the best social-bookmark experience." That's simply not true. I know several folks who use My Web 2.0 without the Yahoo! Toolbar. Instead they use the bookmarklet that's listed in the FAQ.

He repeats this assertion again in the "cons" section by saying "requires Yahoo! Toolbar or Search" which is also just as false.

I'd point this out on the PC Magazine site, but they dedicate so much space to the dozens of advertisements on that page that there's apparently no room for reader comments. Seriously. Look at the content to advertisement ratio on that page. It's completely out of whack.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:23 AM

October 21, 2005

Future On-Line Advertising Growth, based on DMA Conference experience

US Postal Service Sponsors Direct Marketing
Originally uploaded by jzawodn.

Last weekend I traveled to Atlanta to participate on a panel about "Harnessing the Buzz Power of Blogs" at the annual conference for the Direct Marketing Association. These are people who live and breathe marketing, often controlling millions of dollars worth of advertising dollars every year.

While I was at the conference less than a day, I came away simultaneously shocked and hopeful.

The Shock

In talking to some of the Search Engine Marketing folks that were in sessions on Saturday, I discovered that the vast majority of DMA folks are very, very, very new to Search Marketing. I'd go so far as to say many of them are incredibly clueless about the process, benefits, costs, etc.

Here's an example. One presenter said that many folks stopped him early on his presentation and asked him to explain or define things that he thought were common knowledge already. When the session was over, a few came up to ask questions one-to-one. At least one of them asked what the difference between "organic" results and "sponsored" results was. In other words, they didn't understand why some links are on the right or are at the top in a different color.

I was shocked by this. But it just goes to show the differences between the tech-savvy west coast bubble I live in day to day and the real-world.

The Hope

Thinking about this on the plane ride home, I realized the other half of this news is quite good. There are millions and millions (and millions) of advertising dollars being controlled by folks who've never tried search marketing yet.

In other words: There's A LOT of growth left in this industry.

Posted by jzawodn at 03:53 PM

October 20, 2005

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili with Chocolate

The cafeteria at work has a soup station that features three different soups every week. I used to eat the chicken chili, vegetable soup, and other "normal" sounding soups on a regular basis. But that stopped a while back when I became bored of them.

It had been a while since I paid much attention to what they had to offer, but something out of the ordinary caught my eye on Tuesday. Walking by the soup station, I noticed that the chili pot was labeled "black bean and sweet potato chili with chocolate."

My first reaction was disbelief. I found it hard to believe that anyone would have thought to put sweet potatoes in chili. But beyond that, I was even more surprised to see chocolate listed as a major ingredient in a chili. After that brief consideration, I realized I had no choice but to try it.

I grabbed one of the sampling spoons and tried a bit. It wasn't bad but it wasn't enough to really form an opinion. So I grabbed a bowl and headed back to my desk. (Yes, I'm lame. I eat lunch at my desk while reading blogs and looking at server logs.)

The soup grew on me. In fact, I liked it so much that I had another bowl for lunch today and even recommended it a few people on their way to the cafeteria.

Thumbs up.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:16 PM

October 19, 2005

Some Random Tidbits

I'm lazy. I let a bunch of tabs accumulate in my browser that sit for day or weeks on end. Each tab is open to a site that I want to write about in some capacity. It's time I cleared out all the tabs which are open to sites/artciles/ideas that deserve more than a quick mention in my linkblog but maybe not full-blown posts on their own.

  • Ambient Findability isa new O'Reilly book by Peter Morville that several folks have said good things about. If I manage to get through the 4 flying books on my "to read" list before the end of the year, I might pick this one up too.
  • San Francisco Bay Area Tour Maps are available for pilots flying in the Bay Area. This is something to get after I get my single engine license. I'm sure a few friends will want to see the whole Bay Area from the relatively low altitudes flown on this tour.
  • Bloggers and journalists working together is Jon Udell's story of doing screencasting and ending up on his local NPR station as a result.
  • A presentation on Open Soruce given by Brad Fitzpatrick to his co-workers at SixApart. I may have to, uhm, borrow some of his material for my upcoming talks. (With a reasonable citation, of course.)
  • BlinkList is "your ultimate personal discovery engine" because it has tags, links, and other Web 2.0 buzzwords, I guess.
  • Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes is Jakob Nielsen's attempt to turn his usability eye toward blogs. He's done a good job of providing easy to understand rationale for each point. I don't agree with all of them, but on the whole I recommend reading it.
  • Internet Stamps is what Tim Bray calls his idea for fixing web spam. This isn't new. A small group of us (including Tim) talked about this at the first FOO Camp several years ago.
  • Problems With Splogs & Time-Based Searching is Danny Sullivan's summarization of some spam and search problems, both past and present. It's well written, as usual.
  • Media, Communications & Technology in the Age of the Blogger is a conference I'm attending next week in New York City. I'll be on a panel with several other blogish folks. The web site has to be one of the worst designed I've seen in a while, so I really hope they fix that. (View source, and you'll see they used the Geocities page building tool!)
  • Seven Questions Employees Should Ask Before Joining a Startup looks like good reading for anyone considering a startup as their next job. Having gone down that road a few times, however, I know that some founders really don't want to answer some of those questions. (Ask me about my Friendster stories someday at a bar.)
  • The 10 Faces of Innovation is a story in Fast Company (I forgot they existed) that looks at the various roles which exist at Ideo.

There. I feel a lot better now. And firefox.exe isn't using nearly as much memory. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 04:43 PM

30 Day Webmail Challenge Update

It's been a little while since I last wrote about my 30 day Webmail challenge and several people have emailed to ask about the next installment. Wait no longer!

Here's a summary of my status so far using the new Yahoo! Mail Beta for my work email and Google's Gmail for my personal mail. I'll conclude with some themes that are common to both.

Yahoo! Mail

I've reported several new bugs to the Y! Mail team since I last wrote about the product. There's a new one I need to report that involves intermittent drag-and-drop problems. It's hard to describe what's required to reproduce it, so it's probably going to be one of those "come by and I'll show you" bug reports.

I recently discovered a feature that blew me away by really demonstrating the team's attention to detail. When you run a search, the results pop up in a separate tab. You can then re-sort the results based on any field you like (subject, date, folder (the search covers all folders)). I noticed that one message in the results was in my "inbox" rather than in my "yahoo" folder. Not thinking about the fact that I was in the "search results" tab, I decided to drag it to the right folder.

It took me a second or two to realize that IT WORKED. I was then suitably impressed.


Gmail still produces more errors than I'd like, but the frequency has decreased since I last complained about it. I'm still frustrated by the inability to sort search results. Other than those problems, it's going pretty well. I'm reasonably happy with Gmail.


Using webmail exclusively means that when I'm on a plane with my latptop (as I was last weekend), I cannot catch up on reading, organizing, or writing email. But that turns out to be a blessing in disguise. I now have time to catch up on the many magazines and books that have piled up at home.

A downside to web based email is the lack of integration with an address directory. At Yahoo we have an internal LDAP server that makes name/address auto-completion work great in Outlook, Thunderbird, Mail.app, etc. I miss having that. It adds a tiny barrier to emailing someone I don't communicate with frequently.

The keyboard shortcuts are different for Gmail and Y! Mail. This is annoying. It reminds me of the Windows 3.xx days when every app had it's own shortcuts (for the most part) and there was very little standardization. I wonder what it's gonna take to get CUA standards (or whatever) for rich Web applications.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:58 PM

Overusing Community

Silicon Valley Watcher Tom Foremski thinks that we're hiding behind the term "community" too much:

In the blogosphere and in the larger mediasphere, community is used in ways that clouds meaning and cloaks commercial enterprise.

During a chat after class, Quentin noted that he heard the word community constantly at the recent Web 2.0 conference, where the $2800 per seat audience applauded "community" business models and services from the $30K per vendor pitches.

I think this sacred cow needs to be slain and we should not use highly charged words or terms unless we mean them to be used that way.

We should use more culture-neutral terms which don't engage society's sensitivities.

Here's my contribution to slaying the cow: I pointed out to the class that commercial interests love online communities, because they are an aggregated blob into which you can more cheaply throw marketing messages.

I couldn't agree more!

I was on a conference call yesterday to help brainstorm ideas for a new product that we hope to launch before too long. As part of that, the product's Marketing Manager was giving an overview of the site, how it works, etc. At one point he said something like "anyone in the community will be to contribute..." and Danah had the presence of mind to challenge him on that.

What makes this a community?

That simple question turned out to be a bit difficult to answer. Using the word "community" was harder to justify in this context, but left unchallenged some might have been tricked into thinking that we all agreed there was a "real community" at work in the product.

We need to draw a distinction between a "community" ad a group of people who just happen to be in the same place at the same time—virtual or otherwise.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:22 AM

October 18, 2005

$247 gets you unlimited spam blogs

"This Is Not Simply A Blog and Ping Tool! RSS to Blog Pro Is A Full Automated Content Blogging Solution For Your Business."

Your spam business, I guess.

If you've ever wondered what kind of market there is for splog (spam blog) tools, maybe the crazy marketing hype on this site will give you an idea.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:22 PM

Giving Up or Getting Real?

In Give up control, Jeffrey Veen writes:

All of these things are probably true of the work you do online:

  1. Your web site is a tiny piece of a much larger experience.
  2. Nobody sees your web site the way you expected. Few use your content the way you intended.
  3. Everything you create online is being ripped apart and recombined with other stuff by thousands of curious geeks. Or at least, should be.
  4. The easiest way to fail is by trying to control all this.

Those can be stated in other terms as well. Here's my take:

  1. Your users are not your users.
  2. Intent and expectations are nearly impossible to manage.
  3. Your content will not always appear in context.
  4. Don't worry about it.

It's interesting to see which companies get this more than others--especially the smaller ones.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:14 PM

October 17, 2005

CNet's Blog 100

This is sort of old news, but I wanted to briefly say thanks to the folks at CNet who put me on their Blog 100 list. It's an interesting collection of bloggers they've put together. Unlike so many other "top 100" or "top 500" lists produced by the blog search engines, CNet takes the right approach: topical groupings.

This came up last week when I talked with Tony Conrad during his Sphere demo. I asked him if they produced a top 100 listing. He explained that it doesn't make sense to do that. First of all, many popular blogs cover multiple topics and don't fit neatly into a single category. But more importantly, those "overall" top 100 lists don't help most folks to discover interesting new blogs.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:28 PM

A Large Monitor Makes You More Productive

Widescreen Dell Monitor
Originally uploaded by jzawodn.

In the New York Times story "Meet the Life Hackers", we read of the results from some testing done at Microsoft:

The results? On the bigger screen, people completed the tasks at least 10 percent more quickly - and some as much as 44 percent more quickly. They were also more likely to remember the seven-digit number, which showed that the multitasking was clearly less taxing on their brains. Some of the volunteers were so enthralled with the huge screen that they begged to take it home. In two decades of research, Czerwinski had never seen a single tweak to a computer system so significantly improve a user's productivity. The clearer your screen, she found, the calmer your mind.

Hmm. Just when I'd convinced myself not to buy one of those nice Dell 24" LCD monitors. Now I've got scientific justification!

So very tempting...

Posted by jzawodn at 08:17 PM

Playing with Sphere Beta

Tony Conrad, CEO of Sphere
Originally uploaded by jzawodn.

Tony Conrad, CEO of Sphere, came by Yahoo! on Friday to give a few of us a look at the blog search technology they've been building.

He started off by explaining the company background (ties to Oddpost) and the small team that's been tackling the problem from a different angle. Unlike other engines that focus on trying to index every single blog, deal in link ranking, etc, Sphere puts an emphasis on trying to understand the content of individual posts. With that understanding, Sphere can then be smarter about finding related content from other sources, including some mainstream media.

I played with the engine a bit as Tony talked and tried to poke holes in it. Searching for "viagra" and "blog" didn't returned results that could have been far, far worse. Vanity searches worked quite well. Topical searches turned up relevant content rather than being completely biased toward the newest content. (You can sort by date, but it's not the default.)

Okay, enough background and theory. Is it good?

The interface, designed by Adaptive Path, is quite clean and understandable (see screenshot). They've added some nice features, such as a profile link that produces a small DHTML overlay with some vital stats for each blog: average posting frequency, posts per week, blogs recently linked to, etc.

In my testing so far, I see a lot of promise. Their technology seems far more splog (spam blog) resistant than many of the other engines. They don't actively filter it out, but the spam blogs end up being ranked so low that you rarely encounter them. That sounds like the right approach to me.

They currently don't offer several things that bloggers and journalists will likely want:

  1. Link-based searching
  2. RSS feeds of search results
  3. The ability to "claim" your blog

All of those are coming, if I recall Tony's answers correctly.

I'll be using Sphere more in detph in the coming days and weeks to get a much better idea how it stacks up against the other players. But so far I'm impressed.

Posted by jzawodn at 01:24 PM

This software bundling shit has gone too far...

Yesterday I ran across Russell's blog post saying that Steve Jobs' latest keynote was available online. I figured I'd watch it. I tried and discovered that I need to upgrade Quicktime, which led to Apple pissing me off for trying to shove iTunes down my throat along with Quicktime.

Screw that. I download iTunes if and when I want to download iTunes.

Before I could write about it, though, I found that JR had been through exactlty the same experience. So go read his rant and just pretend that I bitched about it too.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:41 AM

October 16, 2005

Welcome Tom Coates to Yahoo!

Yay, it's official. Tom Coates (blog) is officially part of our growing Technology Development Group.

In his own words:

So the second major thing that I should probably let people know is that I'm leaving the BBC to go and work for Bradley Horowitz in the Tech Development Group at Yahoo! (alongside Simon Willison and Jeremy Zawodny among others). My particular special skill - I gather - is going to be the power of my social media mojo, undercut with my feral design instincts. I'll be based in London but out in the States pretty regularly - and here's the best bit - playing with the Flickr team and the Upcoming crew and all the folks over at Yahoo Research Berkeley (among others). Anyway, as is probably fairly evident, this is not the kind of opportunity you turn down without a very good reason, and I've wracked my brains and I sure as hell can't think of one. So wish me luck!

Tom, welcome to Yahoo!

Posted by jzawodn at 09:08 PM

October 14, 2005

Presenting on Blogs at Direct Marketing Association Conference

I'm giving a presentation and on a panel titled "Harnessing the Buzz Power of Blogs" this Sunday in Atlanta at the annual conference of the Direct Marketing Association. Given that, what do you think I ought to include?

Put another way, if you had 10 minutes to tell a room full of direct marketers anything you could about blogs and RSS, what would you tell them?

Posted by jzawodn at 08:24 AM

October 13, 2005

Citabria Lesson #9: Landings, Landings, and more Landings

On Wednesday morning, Dave and I once again took up N5032G for landing practice. This time the plan was not to go anywhere. We stayed in the pattern at Reid Hillview and shot landings for almost an hour. Dave wanted me to concentrate on landings and get used to dealing with the tower.

We took off from runway 31 Right and shot several landings. I came in a bit high on the first few, had to slip on base and final, and touched down pretty long. But since these were touch 'n go landings, getting back in the air was quick.

On my 5th or 6th approach, the tower asked me to move to runway 31 Right. I was on short final but gave it a bit of gas and moved over. From there we stayed on 31 Right. This turned out to be idea, since nobody else was using the runway. Since traffic was so light in the pattern, I managed 10 landings and one "go around" in just under an hour.

By the end of the lesson I was quite comfortable in landing the Citabria--at leas in no wind conditions. I'm also a lot better at slipping it to burn of excess altitude. My next lesson will be a late afternoon flight down in Hollister again (see Lesson #8) for crosswind landing practice.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:05 PM

October 11, 2005

Blogs as the web evolves...

Racetrack II
Originally uploaded by melastmohican.

The picture at the right comes from one of my favorite groups on Flickr: California Desert. I like this image in particular, because you get the sense that there are times when a path is quite clear. But if you're looking too closely at things, you get distracted by all those cracks that go in seemingly random directions and lose sight of progress--how ever slow it might be.

In looking over all the feedback I've seen about adding blogs to Yahoo! News Search, I've seen a surprising number of folks confused and distracted by all those little cracks. But that's okay, I guess.

To recap, a lot of folks seem compelled to make weird apple vs. oranges comparisons. In doing so, they're missing what this is really about. Luckily, a few folks have picked up on it.

Andy Lark said:

Yahoo! News is now delivering blogs as a component of a news search result. This has major implications for PR practitioners. Suddenly those searching for news on your product get a feel for what users, the community, and the pundits are saying - unfiltered. It has equally major implications for blogging. It enables anyone with the energy and enthusiasm for a particular topic to potentially sit on the front page right alongside traditional news sources.

Dan Gillmor said "Yahoo Takes a Step for Citizen Journalists". He's right--but we're thinking beyond those folks that consider themselves "journalists" of any sort.

Steve Rubel used the headline "Yahoo! Blog Search Puts News and Blogs on Equal Ground" in his post. While they're not truly equal (yet), it's pretty clear where things are headed.

This is part of the continuing evolution of on-line media. A few years ago, everyone talked about making "static" sites "dynamic." Nowadays we take dynamic sites for granted.

I believe that blogs, as separate entities from non-blog sites, will be fairly short lived. The features that make blogs what they are (on-page discussion, chronological sorting, generous linking) will work themselves into "non-blog" sites more and more in the coming months. In other words, the line between "blog" and "non-blog" will become ever more blurry.

But right now blogs are "special" and the folks who write them sometimes expect special treatment (some more than others). But like I said last night, this was clearly aimed at everyone else. Otherwise we'd have created Yet Another Blog Search Site and expected most bloggers, PR/Marking folks, and journalists to use it. They'd be the same people already using blog search services.

Remember back when web publishing was fairly new and the term "webmaster" was very different than it is now? Many folks spent a lot of time trying to find the right "GIFs" for their site. Not images, GIFs. Back then the format, an implementation detail that users never cared about, was incredibly important. We all had to know what the heck a GIF file was and many of the tools for creating/manipulating them were primitive--much like RSS today.

Eventually we stopped talking about GIFs (and JPEGs), got better tools and used "normal people" words like "pictures" and "images" instead. That opened the door for more people to participate in creating on-line content. The same thing will happen to blogs and RSS.

To bring this back to where we started, I feel like we're trying to move that rock along in the desert. The path is fairly clear. The cracks are just distracting.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:50 PM

October 10, 2005

Blogs and News, Together At Last

While it was widely anticipated that we'd be launching a dedicated blog search engine, we didn't. Instead, we've incorporated blog results in Yahoo! News Search.


Just to mess with you, that's why! :-)

Seriously, aside from all the stuff you might read, look at it from an insider's point of view. Tasked with figuring out how to expose the growing mass of blog content in our index, we figured there were two options.

Option one is to build Yet Another Blog Search Vertical (Technorati, Feedster, Google Blog Search, etc.) that most people would never see.

Option two is to integrate the results somewhere that millions of people could see them in context.

Which would you choose?

We decided that blogs had been captives of specialty search engines long enough.

See Also: Yahoo Adds Blogs to Its News Section (AP).

Update: Dave seems to think that bloggers weren't notified in advance. That's not true at all.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:09 PM

BBC Embraces Reader Discussion

Ben Metcalfe brings news of an interesting development over at the BBC. It seems that they always get way more reader input than the can do anything useful with on their own.

The issue for this part of the BBC News website is that it has always been too damn popular. Ask the public what they think on anything from “who should be the next Tory leader?” through to “we are buying enough British-grown food?” and the response is tremendous. Too tremendous in fact – with quite often over 10,000 comments send in per day. That’s a totally unmanageable amount for the team who are on the receiving end of that day in and day out.

So why not let the community help manage the influx of opinions?

As editor of the site Pete Clifton announced yesterday, the BBC News website will be moving to a Slashdot/Kuro5hin style rating system. Gone is the pre-moderation and in comes a level playing field where everyone’s comment is posted (unless it is rude or slanderous). Now, it’s up the community to decide what’s hot and what’s not by using a standard rating system.

The BBC continues to set a good example for so many other "old media" operations.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:38 AM

Yahoo! Podcasts Plugin for Yahoo! Music Engine

You didn't think we'd launch a podcast site without also doing something to make it easy to get this stuff in Yahoo! Music Engine, did you?

The Yahoo! Podcasts Plugin does the job.

Plugins rock. And now that podcasts are finally being created by people I care about, I have to figure out when I'm gonna listen to this stuff.

Posted by jzawodn at 12:36 AM

October 09, 2005

Teens don't use Yahoo!

Jeffrey McManus posted some notes from a session about "What Teens Want" at the Web 2.0 conference. Much of it isn't terribly surprising: won't pay for music (use BitTorrent), don't trust single news sources, use the Internet to research purchases, etc.

But then I got to the last point, which hits pretty close to home:

None of them use Yahoo for much of anything (not for IM, not for search, not for shopping, not for mail) except as a sort of second-chance search when Google didn't give them what they wanted. They hate the Yahoo home page because it's busy and weighed down with ads, no surprise there.

If so, this should be a wake-up call for someone...

I'm sure we've got tons of our own research on this at work. But I haven't seen any of it (yet?).

See Also: Teen Panel at Web2, Web 2.0: Conversation with Five Teenagers, and Web 2.0: the teenagers' web ain't the geek web

Posted by jzawodn at 09:41 PM

Citabria Lesson #8: Crosswind Landings at Hollister

On Friday Dave and I took N5032G down to Hollister for my first chance to practice crosswind landings. During the mid to late afternoon most days, the sea breeze begins to push inland from Monterey Bay. When that happens, the preferred runway at Hollister switches from 31 to 24.

It's common to have a 10 to 15 knot crosswind on runway 31 that's almost perpendicular to the runway, and that's exactly what we encountered. And adding insult to injury, the sea breeze is blowing over the Flint Hills which causes a nice dose of turbulence below 1,500 feet.

My first two attempts and landing both required Dave to get on the controls and help. I found it hard to get everything in place before we'd drift away from the runway. This is understandable, since I'd never flown or landed the Citabria in a side slip before. Plus, we found that the windsock appeared to be torn. That meant you got the impression that the wind was blowing slower that it really was. Of course, down low it became pretty obvious.

My third landing was reasonably successful. Instead of doing what I tried the last two times, I flew a bit higher in the pattern and gave myself more altitude (and therefore time) on final to get setup in a stable slip with the right ground track. Once I had that figured out, I could focus on holding that configuration as we descended and into the flare. The result is that I finally didn't feel like I was fighting the plane for the last 100 feet of the flight.

Next week we have two more lessons scheduled, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning lesson will probably focus on landings at Reid Hillview so that I can get used to the pattern there and dealing with the control tower telling me what to do all the time. The afternoon lesson will be another trip to Hollister to get more crosswind practice.

Posted by jzawodn at 06:47 PM

My Blog is For Sale

I'm kidding. Really, I am.

Then again, if someone really thinks it's worth $2.5 million (or heck, even half of that), I'll take it. You see, Tristan used the Weblogs Inc. sale as inspiration for developing a blog valuation metric.

In acquiring Weblogs Inc., AOL has now provided us with some numbers traditional media are willing to pay for a blog. Looking at the numbers above, one can try to guess at the value of a link from an external site. a single link on the weblogsinc network represents 0.002258559942180087 percent of the overall network.

Nathan over at Inside Google ran the numbers on several blogs, including mine. He found that mine clocked in at just over $2.5 million.

Heh. If only. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at 09:56 AM

October 07, 2005

Oracle buys Innobase. MySQL between rock and hard place?

As reported in several sources (Slashdot, InfoWorld, AP on Yahoo, Reuters), Oracle has acquired Innobase Oy for an undisclosed sum of money. This appears to be a strategic move by Oracle to put MySQL between a rock and hard place.

Innobase is the company that provides the underlying code for the InnoDB storage engine in MySQL. It's the de-facto choice for developers who need high concurrency, row-level locking, and transactions in MySQL. For many years now, MySQL AB and Innobase Oy (founded by Heikki Tuuri) have worked closely together to make that technology a seamless part of MySQL.

Like all of the MySQL code, InnoDB is dual licensed. That means you can freely use it under the GPL or buy a license for it if your usage would violate the GPL.

MySQL's public reaction right now isn't the "holy f$@%ing shit!" that likely occurred internally. Kaj Arno, MySQL's VP of Community Relations, sent out a message to many MySQL users today titled " MySQL AB Welcomes Oracle to the FOSS Database Market".

The message began by saying:

MySQL AB and the Free / Open Source database market today received some unexpected recognition by Oracle, through their acquisition of Innobase Oy.
So what does this have to do with MySQL?
Well, Innobase is the provider of the popular InnoDB Storage Engine in MySQL. One of the things our users appreciate about MySQL is its unique pluggable storage engine architecture. You have the flexibility to choose from number of storage engines including MyISAM, Memory, Merge, Cluster and InnoDB. And with MySQL 5.0, we added the new Archive and Federated storage engines.
Just like the rest of MySQL Server and its Storage Engines, InnoDB is released under the GPL. With this license, our users have complete freedom to use, develop, modify the code base as they wish. That is why MySQL has chose the GPL: to protect the freedom that users value in free / open source software.

Later on, Kaj makes an effort to calm the fears of MySQL users by saing that MySQL will continue to support all their users and work with Oracle as a "normal business partner."

The big elephant in the room, however, the uncertainty around Oracle's future plans for the InnoDB source code. Their press release says:

Innobase is an innovative small company that develops open source database technology. Oracle intends to continue developing the InnoDB technology and expand our commitment to open source software. Oracle has already developed and contributed an open source clustered file system to Linux. We expect to make additional contributions in the future.

As well as:

InnoDB is not a standalone database product: it is distributed as a part of the MySQL database. InnoDB's contractual relationship with MySQL comes up for renewal next year. Oracle fully expects to negotiate an extension of that relationship.

I expect those negotiations could be quite interesting. Maybe not next year, but the year after? Oracle could decide to put the squeeze on MySQL someday in a way that hurts their customers but not "the community" (those using the GPL version).

MySQL is now faced with the prospect of licensing technology they cannot ship without from their biggest rival. Interestingly, there's always been once piece of the InnoDB puzzle that's not available under the GPL: the InnoDB Hot Backup Tool. Without it, database administrators cannot backup their InnoDB tables without shutting down MySQL or at least locking out all transactions.

Oracle just bought themselves a whole lot of leverage with MySQL AB and a talented team of database engineers to boot.

I've always wondered why MySQL AB didn't buy Innobase Oy years ago. It always made complete sense from where I sat. But I'm hardly an insider when it comes to the relationship between those companies. Needless to say, that relationship just got far more "interesting."

I hope, for the sake of the community and the company (I've known many MySQL employees for years), that Oracle is true to their promises. But it is Oracle, so I'm naturally skeptical.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:26 PM

iWay Puts Yahoo! Maps on Your iPod


Yahoo Maps and the popular iPod Photo portable MP3 player are used together to bring you an exci ting online service called iPod-iWay. What is iPod-iWay? iPod-iWay is a powerful step-by-step directions saving tool that will export online driving directions from results by Yahoo Maps and import them into your iPod Photo. It’s an easy solution for getting Yahoo Map directions saved and displayed onto any iPod Photo or Nano, and without the need of additional software!

Cool. Check it out.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:16 PM

Niall Kennedy Suggests Buying Blog Readers

After reading through the recently released Yahoo/Ipsos RSS research, Niall concludes by saying this:

The biggest surprise to me was the value of the browsable feed in each tool's built-in listing. Blog authors should be aware of their placement within such listings and perhaps consider a paid listing for increased subscriptions.

Uhm, yeah.

Let's all go get "paid listings" to get in directories so people can find our cat pictures.

That seems so 1999 that it's not even funny. Except that it is.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:05 PM

October 05, 2005

Following On-Line Conversations is Hard Work!

"Markets are conversations"

That phrase comes from the Cluetrain Manifesto and appears frequently in blog postings and comments. The implication is that companies need to get involved in "the conversation" happening about them and their products or services.

In the years I've been reading blogs, I've heard sentiments like that over and over. While true, they are often not practical or "actionable" in corporate-speak. I'm starting to think of these notions as "blogger's wisdom" because so many bloggers assume that they're true, the implications are obvious, and the path into the future is a clear one.

I'm here to tell you that despite this blogger's wisdom, we're nowhere close to where we ought to be. Several years into this whole blogging thing, the technology and tools designed to facilitate this global conversation all suck.

Let's see how!

It turns out that "getting involved" (i.e., posting a comment) is the easy part. Finding and subsequent monitoring of the conversations is far from easy. This manifests itself in three phases of the process that I'll look at here in a top down fashion.

Broad Searches

To get a global sense of what people are saying about you, you can subscribe to a search on Technorati, Google Blog Search, Feedster, PubSub, IceRocket, etc. But what keywords do you choose? You're subscribing to specific terms, not concepts. So if you choose the wrong ones, you end up with too much irrelevant info (and overload) or you miss important posts. This is easy for "yahoo" but harder for "windows" or "iraq."

This assumes that the services you're using have comprehensive and fresh indexes. I don't believe that any of them have both. And that means you have to subscribe to all of them, wade thru the duplicates and spam, and identify those that are worth of actually clicking thru to read. That's real work. Try it sometime.

Aggregators do a poor job of making this easy. The blog search "verticals" aren't helpful either. They suffer from any number of real or perceived problems: slow and unstable (Technorati), incomplete (Google), contain lame advertising (Feedster), or are impossible for normal people to understand (PubSub).

Subscribing to Topical Blogs

If you work at Apple Computer, you'd obviously want to subscribe to as many of the Apple related blogs that you can find—the ones that write about Apple on a regular basis. But you need to find them (see previous phase). Once you do, you need to read them regularly. You'll probably start by bookmarking them and trying to remember to read them all on a daily basis. In doing so, you also have to remember what's new and what's not.

Eventually you'll have more than 20 or 30, get yourself an aggregator, and have to figure out that clicking on that stupid orange icon doesn't do anything useful. Luckily RSS auto-discovery seems to be far more common that it was a few years ago. But the subscription model is still fundamentally broken. If the "Add to My Yahoo!" button didn't exist, I'm sure tens of thousands of people wouldn't have a way to track their favorite sites.

Most aggregators make it so easy to subscribe (once you figure out how) that self-inflicted overload soon follows. You find yourself spending far too much time trying to "unbold" the folders of news on your desktop. The aggregator does little to help manage the flow of information, show you what really matters to you, and hide the stuff that's not important.

Comment Tracking

It took me a while to figure this out, but every aggregator I've seen has completely fails to make it easy to stay engaged in a discussion taking place in comments on one or more blog posts. I typically comment on a blog post and never remember to go back to see if anyone else commented on what I said. That's not much of a "conversation," is it?

Blogginng software isn't very helpful in this respect either. Few blogs offers RSS feeds for the comments on a given post. And even if they do, aggregators don't make it easy to manage those subscriptions (like automatically unsubscribing from them when they conversation dies off). Some blogs offer the option of getting an email alert when someone posts a comment on a discussion you're interested in. But they don't handle trackback or pingback "comments" at all, so you're not seeing the whole conversation.

So comment tracking/monitoring ends up as a very manual process full of repeat visits, which means it's very, very hard to scale.


The promise of the blogosphere is a loosely connected global network of conversations with an incredibly low barrier to entry. The reality is that the tools are still far too immature for the current scale of this growing network. Worse yet, most aggregators are designed to mimic e-mail or usenet news clients rather than embracing the highly connected nature of blog posts and comments, not the mention the typically short "decay" periods associated with the discussion around most posts.

What should we do?

Posted by jzawodn at 04:59 PM

JDBC Module on CPAN

This is kind of amusing. Tim Bunce just announced that there's a JDBC module available now on CPAN.

If this seems like a crack inspired coding exercise, the docs are a bit more revealing:

Why did I create this module?

Because it will help the design of DBI v2.

How will it help the design of DBI v2?

Well, "the plan" is to clearly separate the driver interface from the Perl DBI. The driver interface will be defined at the Parrot level and so, it's hoped, that a single set of drivers can be shared by all languages targeting Parrot.

Each language would then have their own thin 'adaptor' layered over the Parrot drivers. For Perl that'll be the Perl DBIv2.

So before getting very far designing DBI v2 there's a need to design the underlying driver interface. Java JDBC can serve as a useful role model. (Many of the annoyances of Java JDBC and actually annoyances of Java and so cease to be relevant for Parrot.)

As part of the DBI v2 work I'll probably write a "PDBC" module as a layer over this JDBC module. Then DBI v2 will target the PDBC module and the PDBC module will capture the differences between plain JDBC API and the Parrot driver API.

Anyway, if you're a Java geek who's "stuck" in Perl land, give it a whirl.

Posted by jzawodn at 11:26 AM

Yahoo! Hiring a Blogmaster in Southern California

I spotted this post on the Digital Squeeze today, which links to a job posting on Craigslist:

This Marketing Manager is responsible for leading the company’s efforts in developing and managing its divisional blog. He / she will work with cross-functional teams including Creative Services, Product Management, Engineering, Corporate Communications and Legal to achieve objectives in launching and managing the division’s first blog.

Huh. A "blogmaster" is a new one to my ears.

If you wanna use my name as a referral, feel free. :-)

Send your resume to amyp@yahoo-inc.com and let me know if you've got questions about working at Yahoo. Granted, I work in Sunnyvale, but how different can it be? (... Jeremy braces for email from coworkers down south about how they don't have a cafeteria or free coffee or whatever ...)

Posted by jzawodn at 10:29 AM

October 04, 2005

Upcoming.org Team Joins Yahoo!

Over on the Yahoo! Search blog, Paul says:

In just a few years, most of it spent on nights and weekends, the Upcoming team has built an excellent site with a loyal and growing following. Now that they’ve joined Yahoo!, together we’ll build a social events platform that will integrate with our existing events offering and other areas of Y!, and will continue to support all web users in an open, participatory way.

Andy says:

I've always had a warm and fuzzy feeling about Yahoo. It's been my browser homepage since forever, and I still have akebono.stanford.edu/yahoo/ stuck in muscle memory. Recently, the nostalgia has been replaced by admiration as I've watched them making smart decisions, acquiring great companies (Flickr, anyone?), and hiring all of my friends. The end result is that they're doing some of the most interesting work online, and I found myself linking to them more and more over the last year.

Gordon says:

The opportunity to join forces with Y! ultimately bespeaks all of our sincere interest in making a useful, interesting events substrate on which a flourishing, social community can naturally grow.

Leonard says:

I have to admit that this seemed a bit unlikely to me when this possibility first came up, after all, we were just getting started. But after our initial talks, it was obvious that Yahoo! had the same passion we did, and most importantly, that they both got, and shared our vision. Moving forward, we now have the freedom, resources, and support to pursue the event space on a whole different level, working with some of the brightest and most motivated people in the world. I'm not sure you can beat that combination.

Welcome aboard, guys!

Posted by jzawodn at 10:03 PM

October 03, 2005

Three Computers Dead in One Week

Damn, this getting downright scary. And annoying.


Last Monday my work laptop drank some water and was replaced with a new one. Rather than reusing the old hard disk, I got a copy of all my old data. That's good except for all the re-insatlling of applications and reconfiguration I needed to do.

That's what really prompted my 30 Day Webmail Challenge.


Later that week, Jeffrey Friedl's server (regex.info) became unresponsive. I'm heading to the colocation facility tomorrow morning to look at it. I live 7 minutes from his server and he lives in Japan. You do the math. :-)


Last night my Dell 8400 froze up and then wouldn't boot into Windows. Today I ran the diagnostics and they confirmed what I expected: dead hard disk. Luckily I had a semi-recent backup, but there's still a lot of stuff to re-install and configure.

I called Dell tonight. They're sending me a new disk and I'll install it myself. They offered to have a tech come do it (yay for the warranty) but I've been building computers since I was about 14 years old.

While I was in the BIOS, I noticed that the system has onboard RAID. I didn't kow that before. I guess I'm going to be installing another disk that Dell won't know about so that I'm a bit more protected in the future.

I wonder what will break next...

Posted by jzawodn at 11:54 PM

Going to Web 2.1 this week?

Yes, I said 2.1, not 1.0 or 2.0.

A half day unConference and networking event for discussing what Web 2.0 is, what it's missing and what we want from Web 2.1
A BrainJam is a new type of event (inspired by BarCamp, Gnomedex, TechCrunch BBQ and WebZine2005) that brings people from diverse backgrounds together to focus on a few key questions, sharing knowledge, collaborating, solving problems, demonstrating cool tools, networking and hopefully making the world a better place while having fun. You only need to bring your mind, your past experience, some new Insytes and something for note taking. The event coordinators supply you with a general direction for the conversation, WiFi access, some collaboration tools and an opportunity to create magic.

<blink>Is it just me, or is this starting to become quite amusing?</blink>

See Also

Posted by jzawodn at 03:47 PM

Going to Web 1.0 this week?

Yes, I said 1.0. Not 2.0.

The big, sold out, $2800 per person Web 2.0 Conference takes place this week, but forget about that. The real web technology event not to be missed is Merlin Mann’s gig, the blink tag worshiping Web 1.0 Summit. Merlin is the snarkalicious "mann" behind 43 Folders, 5ives and other web goodness.

You can find details at upcoming.org and if you're still not convinced, check out the format for the event:

Proposed format for brief, non-primarily-drinking-and-socializing portion of the Conference:

  1. You sign up on a sheet to do your presentation
  2. I hold and manage a timer (duh)
  3. You have 2.0 minutes to make a case for your 1.0 technology or squirrely business model
  4. Whenever you say "monetize," "font face," or any of a variety of secret 1998 words, everyone drinks
  5. Repeat until a) 20 minutes, b) we get bored, or c) every person in the room completes a first round of funding

<blink>So, who's going?</blink>

Posted by jzawodn at 02:31 PM

My OSCON Talk and InformationWeek Interview

A few things popped up last week that I forgot to mention. Luckily a few other bloggers noticed them and that reminded me to say something about 'em.

OSCON Talk: Open Source at Yahoo!

At this year's Open Source Conference, I had the chance to spend a few minutes on stage after Kim Polese (Spike Source) and before Jonathon Schwartz (Sun Microsystems) to talk briefly about Open Source at Yahooo!

The talk is now available on IT Conversations, a kick ass service.

I see that Jonathon's talk is there now too.

InformationWeek on Open Source in the Enterprise

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk with Larry Greenemeier from InformationWeek. He was gathering information for a story on Open Source in the enterprise and wanted to learn more about what we've done at Yahoo.

His story, Open Source Goes Corporate appeared last week. There was apparently some room to fill, 'cause they included a picture of me. Larry also wrote up some of the background material in a blog post called Why In The World Would Big Companies Use Open Source?

Posted by jzawodn at 02:14 PM

October 02, 2005

Zimbra Collaboration Suite: Mail, Calendar, and Contacts Done Right

I just watched the on-line demo of the Zimbra Collaboration Suite, an AJAX client that takes existing web-based mail, calendaring, and contact management applications to their next logical step.

The integration appears to be well thought out and not bolted on after the fact. And the feature set is impressive. I love the fact that it has a "conversation view" out of the box.

Anyway, check out the demo. I hope to see more and more of this stuff creeping into Yahoo! Mail and Gmail over time.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:52 AM

Give up your Browser or your Applications?

Jonathon Schwartz wrote the following in a recent blog post on The Value in Volume:

Or finally, as I did last week at a keynote, ask the audience which they'd rather give up - their browser, or all the rest of their desktop apps. (Unanimously, they'd all give up the latter without a blink.)

I have no doubt that you could repeat those results in any number of conferences. It's pretty clear that there's way more useful stuff "out there" than "in here" (my desktop).

My 30 Day Webmail Challenge is part of a larger goal. I'm very interested in knowing how little software I need to install to live happily on a computer. The more I can do online, the happier I suspect I'll be most of the time. It turns my computer into just another appliance.

Don't get me wrong. There are tradeoffs here. I can't do email offline anymore. But I'm finding that it doesn't matter. The fact that I'm using web based mail now exclusively changes the way I handle email. (more on that later)

Now there will always be a few applications that I need to have available to me, but I'm hoping that I can get them all onto a single USB "thumb drive" that I can carry around.

Maybe the network really is the computer?

Posted by jzawodn at 08:23 AM