Jeremy Zawodny has a blog post entitled Yahoo's Peanut Butter APIs where he writes

Over the weekend someone sent me email that, among other things, said roughly: "I’m glad to see that APIs weren't on the list of things Brad Garlinghouse wants to get rid of. That means you're safe, right?"
Now, if you're one of the people who's asked me what I think about all this... here's my answer: Brad is very right about some things and terribly wrong about others.

A couple of us were chatting about the memo at lunch yesterday and I realized that if I was a Yahoo! employee my spider sense would be tingling like mad. I'd also be considering talking to my peeps at GOOG and MSFT to see if they had any openings I was interested in just to hedge my bets. There are the three things about the memo that made me come to this conclusion

  1. The memo recommends 15% - 20% head count reductions. This means that Yahoo! executives are contemplating firing one in five Yahoo! employees. How is it going to be decided whose job is safe and whose isn't? Layoffs are a demoralizing affair and often don't eliminate the right people especially since the really smart people know to desert a sinking ship instead of hanging around to see if they draw the short straw.

  2. A supposed senior VP at the company seems unable to tell the difference between the audience for Flickr vs. Yahoo! Photos or the difference between Konfabulator widgets and plugins for the Yahoo! IM client.Out of touch executives tend the bundle similar products in their mind and view it as redundancy without understanding the context in which they exist. This often leads to merging of products and the pissing off of customers. If Yahoo! actually goes through with the implied recommendations from this memo expect traffic drop offs by some of their users.

  3. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. If you look at Brad Garlinghouse's record it sounds like he is actually an example of the problem he rails about in his memo as opposed to the savior people in the blogosphere are calling him for penning the memo. See the article Yahoo's Misguided Manifesto which contains the following excerpt

    Here again, Yahoo! should start with accounting for Garlinghouse's performance. Under his watch, Yahoo! Messenger let a huge opportunity for voice-over-Internet protocol, or VoIP, slip through its fingers as eBay ( snapped up Skype. And Yahoo Mail dropped behind Google's Gmail as the most prestigious Web-based email domain.

    That performance has been more chunky than smooth, yet Yahoo! has gotten off easy. Earlier, Garlinghouse was CEO of VoIP leader Dialpad, which promptly spiraled into bankruptcy, but not before Garlinghouse laid off 90 of his 140 employees. A 2002 case study of Dialpad in the Harvard Business Review discussed how Garlinghouse struggled with a failed business model while rival Net2Phone won a $1.4 billion investment from AT&T as well as deals with Microsoft and Yahoo!.

    That's right, didn't Garlinghouse's group purchase OddPost 2.5 years ago and yet still hasn't figured out how to integrate the offering into Yahoo! Mail besides making a molasses slow Web-mail experience that is still in beta? Is this the guy whose going to save Yahoo! and show it how to integrate Flickr into Yahoo! Photos or into Yahoo! MyWeb. Good luck, you're going to need it.


November 20, 2006
@ 05:51 PM




If you are a 'Web 2.0' watcher by now you've seen the hubbub over the Peanut Butter Manifesto memo which is an Yahoo! internal memo authored by Brad Garlinghouse, a senior VP at the company. The memo is a rant against the typical list of woes that face big companies (e.g. the contradiction of being spread too thin yet having too many people, duplicative products and misaligned goals across the company). What I've found most interesting hasn't been the memo but instead the responses to it.

For example, in a blog post entitled Yahoo’s Brad Garlinghouse Makes His Power Move Mike Arrington views the memo as a clever attempt at an internal coup by Brad Garlinghouse. However even more interesting is the following comment in response to Arrington's post by someone named gullova which is excerpted below

Yahoo continues to get whipped by Google because its leaders can not get the product and engineering teams to focus on the right projects.

Witness Panama (the new ad system). Yahoo has been talking about Panama since early 2004. Yet the product they are launching is barely what Google had 2 years ago.

They threw hundreds of people at Panama, hurting other projects along the way, yet ultimately they are building the wrong product. Panama is far too focused he needs of search advertisers, which makes little sense since Yahoo’s search share has been shrinking since the day they dropped Google and launched their own search engine.

Had Panama instead been about display advertising, Yahoo could have at minimum increased monetization on Yahoo, which lets remind ourselves is still the largest site on the web and which they could monetize at 0% TAC (so its all gravy to the bottom line).

Yahoo is full of guys like Brad who can articulate themselves well and give great presentations. The problem is that the engineering team doesn’t listen to them, and the executive team doesn’t make them listen.

If they really want to get listened to, they should just shut down Panama and run Google ads instead. Its not a stretch to say they’d probably make more money.

The last sentence is the kicker for me. What if instead of competing with Google by funding its own search engine and advertising product, Microsoft partnered with Google like AOL has done? One of the pros of doing this are that it would free up a huge commitment of resources in competing with an industry leader that is years ahead of Microsoft to then focus on building applications that grow its audience directly which is then left to Google to monetize. Another possible pro is that the average revenue per user (ARPU) may go up with Google AdSense + AdWords being used to monetize Windows Live and MSN audiences as opposed to Microsoft's offerings. However a couple of minutes searching online doesn't given enough public data to determine whether this would be the case or not.

The cons are many. The first is that Microsoft would be seen to be admitting defeat if it switched to using Google's monetization engine although from a purely business perspective this isn't a significant con. Another con is that Microsoft would be enriching a competitor who is targetting one of its cash cows for obsolesence. See Google Docs & Spreadsheets, the JotSpot purchase and Google Apps for your Domain which are all attempts at attacking the success of Microsoft Office and related products like Microsoft Exchange. In this case, Microsoft would be guilty of being penny wise and pound foolish. The final con and perhaps the biggest problem with Microsoft going with the Google monetization engine is that it makes Microsoft entirely dependent on a single customer/supplier [who was also a rival] for a majority of the revenue from its online businesses.

When I started this post I tried to keep an open mind about the idea but by the time I finished writing it was clear that this is a bad idea. Funny how that happens.


November 18, 2006
@ 01:40 PM

Over the past few months a number of our users have written about issues getting RSS Bandit to work in Windows Vista. A description of the kind of problems that can occur can be found in blog posts like Eric Denekamp's My RSS reader (RSS Bandit) on Vista and Arlindo Alves' My RSS Bandit on Vista. We have tracked the problem down to an issue with the SandDock GUI components that are used by RSS Bandit. In the Jubilee release we'll be moving to the Infragistics GUI components which should not have this problem. Torsten and I are committed to shipping a beta of the next release at the end of this month at which time folks running Windows Vista can test to see if this addresses their issues.

We've also started prototyping the next generation user interface for the subsequent release of RSS Bandit tentatively codenamed Phoenix. This UI will be inspired by the Office 2007 user interface. I've uploaded a couple of screenshots to Flickr. Click the images below to see larger versions of the screenshots

The goal of the Phoenix release will be to make the application look and feel like a Vista-native app.

Categories: RSS Bandit

Nick Carr has a blog post entitled Flattened by MySpace where he writes

Roush worries that MySpace "is undermining the 'social' in social networking" by encouraging companies to establish their products as MySpace "members" which can become "friends" with other (human) members: "The company interprets the idea of a 'profile' so broadly that real people end up on the same footing as products, movies, promotional campaigns, and fictional characters - not exactly the conditions for a new flowering of authentic personal expression." In earlier social networks, like Friendster, sham profiles, including those set up for commercial purposes, were scorned as "fakesters." But MySpace, says Roush, "has been hospitable to fakesters from the beginning - so much so that it's now perfectly kosher for a company (or one of its fans) to create a profile for a fast-food chain, a brand of soda, or an electronics product."

Far from being liberating, MySpace "tends to herd its users into niches created for them by the mass market," writes Roush.

I've been having some conversations with folks at work about whether social networking is a fad or a trend that is here to stay. I often respond that it is both. It is similar to the "everything is a portal" phase during the late 1990s. Every website trying to transform itself into a portal was a fad but portals were a huge trend on the Web and it is quite telling that the most popular sites on the Web today are portals like MSN and Yahoo!.

I expect that social networking is going to follow a similar path. In a little while, we'll see the death of social networking being bolted onto every website on the planet (*cough* Amazon friends *cough*) and the permanence of a small number of social networking sites on the Web landscape. Where I may differ from others is that I doubt that MySpace is going to end up ruling the roost in a few years from now. My suspicion is that the site will be crushed by the weight of commercialism such as the kind of spam that I complained about a few days ago and which Niall Kennedy described in his blog post Social network marketing, spam, and gaming. I also don't think users will be able to put up with how obnoxious the user experience is with regards to advertising. On the other hand, I think that sites that emphasize the social in the user experience and respect their users such as Facebook has done will go a long way in the next few years. I liken it to the difference between the approach that Google took with advertising and commercialization in comparison to its portal competitors.


Categories: Social Software

I just stumbled upon a hilarious post by Pete Lacey entitled The S stands for Simple. It's one of those "It's funny because it is true" posts. Below is an excerpt

SG: Oh, there is no spec. This is just what Microsoft seems to be doing. Looked like a good idea, so now all the cool kids are doing it. However, there is this new thing. I think you’re gonna like it. It’s called the Web Services Interoperability Group, or the WS-I. What they’re doing is trying to remove a lot of the ambiguity in the SOAP and WSDL specs. I know how you like specs.

Dev: So, in other words, the specs were so bad you need a standards body to standardize the standards. Lord. Well, will this solve my interoperability problems?

SG: Oh, yeah. So long as you use a WS-I compliant SOAP stack, avoid using 8/10ths of XML Schema, don’t use any unusual data types, and don’t count on working with WebSphere and Apache Axis.

Dev: And is wrapped-doc/lit explained in there?

SG: Ermm, no. But that’s okay, you’re tools understand it. Most of them, anyway.

[Found via Mark Baker]

Go read the whole thing, it is funny as heck.


Shelley Powers has a good pair of posts critical of TechMeme, a technology meme-tracker. In her post entitled Techmeme tells us to Feed the Daddy she writes

Techmeme heard the recent discussion about sites not appearing, and responds with a post (at on how to show up on techmeme. The money shot:

Early on I noticed my system occasionally missed good posts from blogs that link back to my sites. So recently I extended my system to take referrals into account. Now if your blog or news article sends a moderate level of traffic to one of my sites, it will be evaluated for inclusion. Linking certainly doesn't guarantee you'll appear, since all posts are run though the usual tests for newsworthiness. In fact, extra steps to avoid spam are now in effect since faked referrals and splogs are already commonplace. So in summary, sending memeorandum (or Techmeme or…) visitors is another way to "enable discovery of your post".

In other words, if you puff up Gabe Riviera's empire, giving it lots of Google rank, as well as do all the marketing for him (such as techmeme's primary gatekeeper, Scoble, for whom Riviera sends special love and kisses), you might be able to 'buy' your way into being listed.
I'm not sure what the goals of TechMeme are but it seems rather weird to use link exchange as a mechanism for getting sites into TechMeme's index. I doubt that will improve the 'quality' of the service and instead seems like a rather tacky 'scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours" ploy. If the intent is to determine if the site has enough traffic to be worth including, why not look at its Alexa statistics or Technorati rank [as flawed as they are] instead of requesting a tit-for-tat link exchange? I think Gabe got some bad advice there.

In her followup post entitled Feed your Daddy Follow-up, Shelley adds

I wouldn't 'fix' Techmeme. What I would like to see is a growth in sites that provide topic aggregations, each using its own metrics and filtering algorithms. The more of these there are, the more likely we'll see a more fair distribution of attention, as well as a greater variety of stories, and more timely ones at that. In history, a way to discover an unbiased view of a fact or an event is to seek out at least three separate sources of information. The same can be said of topic aggregators. More than three; I'd actually like to see at least five.

One of the biggest problems with Techmeme is that it is asserted to be the 'ultimate authority' on what are the top stories in technology (or politics for Memeorandum). Yet according to it, 30% of us spend all of our time talking about Google, 10% of us discuss new startup funding, 10% talk about Microsoft, how it is, or is not clued; probably about 15% of us talk about some variation of gadget, typically iPod and now Zune; the rest talk about Techcrunch, Scoble, Second Life, or Techcrunch and Scoble in a Second Life. I could go on, but the point is that Techmeme is based more or less on seeded terms and seeded webloggers, and it can't shake that influence. As such, it provides an incredibly skewed look at the tech area of weblogging–completely ignoring most of what is truly technology.

Techmeme serves a purpose for those who are into Google and VC and San Francisco and startups and money, and Michael Arrington and Calacanis, and Scoble and the scene there, and that's fine. But that doesn't make it an authority on what's important, interesting, or even timely.

As usual Shelley hits the nail on the head. TechMeme is good at what it does, gathering the popular or interesting links among the Silicon Valley blogger crowd. However this is just one particular view into the technology industry and specifically the technology blogosphere. Most of the content isn't particularly relevant if you aren't a regular reader of sites like TechCrunch and Robert Scoble's blog.

Me, I personally would prefer a meme tracker that was heavy on bloggers like Sam Ruby, Tim Bray and Jon Udell instead of the large number of PR hacks and VCs that populate TechMeme. Where I disagree with Shelley is that I don't think the answer is more meme trackers each with their own bias yet which will likely overlap significantly. We already have that today, if you read sites like TechMeme, TailRank and Megite. I think the future is in personalization and not more news aggregator whose bias you can't control.


November 16, 2006
@ 08:23 PM

We've been dealing with spam from every angle in my household today. As I write this, my blog is being hit by by a wave of trackback spam and is blocking around five trackback spam posts a second. I just deleted over a hundred emails from YouTube in my email inbox. It seems some bright Eastern European chap decided to run some script that suggesting that I check out a video of his band over a hundred times. My girlfriend logged into MySpace and checked out her messages only to find that most of them were from 50 Cent asking her to add 40 Glocc to her friends list.

I can understand why young people have given up on email and migrated almost entirely to IM and hanging out on social networking sites. I get about 1 legitimate email for every 20 pieces of spam that make it through my spam filters in my personal email address. If not for the fact that I've had both email addresses since the last decade I'd just have given up on them. As people have found new ways to communicate electronically, the spammers have followed. I wonder if social software sites like MySpace and YouTube realize how badly spam impacts their user experience and how much it could destroy them if they don't get it under control?


Categories: Social Software

November 16, 2006
@ 08:05 PM