All posts by scott

I’m working on a launch for my new business, and while I’ve managed to do all the work myself, from time to time I get stuck and need help. In these times I’ve often turned to Craigslist for a quicky expert. However, in this case, I’m stuck on something relatively small that I know someone out there (maybe you fair reader) can help me with.

Basically, my new site has a header element, that if you click open, it drops down like a drop down menu (floating over the content below) and fills itself with an iframe. Here are some mockups:

Header menu open

If you’re one of those guys/gals that finds this stuff super easy, can you give me a holler? I’ll buy you dinner if you can help me get unstuck (I’d much rather go to dinner than spend cash on a stranger). Comment here or drop me a mail at sgatz AT yahoo

The last four months since I left Yahoo have been amazing, largely because I threw all my plans out the window and just allowed myself to enjoy the time instead of adding pressure to accomplish something. And the results have been great. So what have I been doing for the last four months?

I got married – Well, technically, Craig and I were “registered as a domestic partner under California state law” (maybe one day it’ll be called marriage). Even though we have been together for 15 years, we thought now would be a great time to make it “legal”. Craig and I spent the better part of the last few months planning a party for a small group of family and friends up in Napa. We had the most amazing weekend, the weather was spectacular, the food & wine was out-of-this-world and most important our closest friends and family joined us and had an amazing time. I wish I could re-live it every weekend.

I’ve been traveling – New York (2 times), Philadelphia, Baltimore, Palm Springs, and tons of weekend time up in Napa. I love to travel and to catch up with old friends, and I’ve been able to do that a bunch. While these trips have been mostly work related (see below), I made sure to add weekend time onto each trip to enjoy some quality time. And when you work on the internet you can work from anywhere. Have laptop…will travel.

Starting my own company – I’ve been working on and off since January on my new company. I’ve taken lots of meetings (including a number of excellent ones about partnerships), gotten lots of good advice and have solid progress on building out the site. It’s been fun and challenging and now that the wedding is over, it’s finally time to work full-time. My next steps: a launch in the next month or so and raising a friends/family/angel round to help prove out the model. More to come soon.

Taking care of myself – I’m finally going to the gym again and I hired a trainer to help me through it all. I already feel healthier, now onto looking good too!

I keep saying that I’ll be blogging more here and I really hope to as I work through the next phase of my career. I’ll keep sharing my thoughts, but more importantly, I’ll be asking questions and (hopefully) participating in the conversation.

The power of network TV is still unparalleled online – will it ever be?

From time to time, you’ll hear reports of the death of mainstream media. Newspapers are dying, radio is on the way out, network TV ratings have shrunk dramatically etc. In most studies we learn that people are spending more time online and less with the “old media”.

All of this is true, but only to a point. The power of television, in particular, to drive behavior is still quite stunning.

In 1981, MTV launched to very small audience with an old, not very popular song as their first video: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. Record stores reported large numbers of customers asking for the song and ordered up records to meet their customer’s needs. Record company execs started calling MTV asking how to get their videos on. A hit was made.

Now, 27 years later, we have plenty of internet stories that–while not quite that large–show that the internet has the potential to do the same. e.g. Fall Out Boy clamored itself up through Myspace.

Something this week caught my eye. Hallelujah, a 14 year old song from the late Jeff Buckley has been the #1 seller on iTunes for a week. There’s been no promotion in the iTunes store. How?

Well, an American Idol contestant sang an adequate cover of the song. And then, Simon Cowell mentioned that Jeff Buckley’s 1994 version is one of his favorite songs. From nowhere to #1 overnight.

I have yet to see an example where the internet has had that kind of impact that quickly. If you know of one, be sure to let me know, but I don’t see it. I guess that mainstream media business has got some legs after all…

When you build a product, these are exactly the comments you hope to read: “Mind blowing!”, “wow”, “great”, “soooooo addicting”. When you are building any product, take a little effort up front to think of the different kinds of users – it is likely to pay off in surprising ways.

Those comments where made about the last product I worked on at Yahoo: Yahoo! Live. I think it’s an addictive product and from what I hear users think so too – it could turn out to be the most successful Advanced Products team product.

What’s interesting is where those comments came from. Dan W pointed out this great post: Yahoo’s LIVE Deaf Chat Room! about how a group of deaf users were delighted by their experience on Y! Live. Those comments above were from this post and the commenters.

This wasn’t an accident. Eric Fixler on my team (and our intern Vibha Bamba) took the extra effort to research users with different kinds of abilities and what they would need in a product like Live. They brought blind, deaf, and physically challenged users into Yahoo and let them play with Y! Live. They listened to feedback, they researched how to make flash screen-reader ready. But most important: they just took the time to think it through: what would it be like for a deaf user to use Y! Live. Turns out that was a good move. I have a friend who is a sign language interpreter and he tells me that webcams are revolutionizing the way deaf people communicate. TTD is still around, but now people will just say get on skype to video conference. Much easier and faster.

I’m proud of the work that the team did (especially Eric and Vibha) and I’m so happy to see these kinds of posts.

So have you thought about how your product will work with all kinds of users?

UPDATE: I just noticed that Mike Quoc (the PM on Live) has a blog now. He linked to another similarly great post.

When I left Yahoo!, I mentioned that there were still two products from my team in development: Fire Eagle (still not launched) and an unnamed other one. Well, my team launched Yahoo! Live today.

Yahoo! Live allows anyone to stream their own live channel. If YouTube is what happened (past tense), Live is what’s happening right now. Each channel comes with its own chat room and a “co-viewing” area where you can see the other people who are watching.

It’s a pretty amazing product (even in this early “experimental release” phase) and one of those products that the more that you play with it, the more you want to. They’ve also launched with ability to embed into your own site and a nice API.

I’m proud that I was a part of it and I’m incredibly proud of the team. From what I read, they are chasing after some bugs and the initial reaction was more than they thought (pretty amazing to max out your beta servers with zero official press mentions), but I’m confident they’ll work through all that. It’s a truly amazing team.

Read more Mike Quoc’s post at Yahoo! Next for the details.

And P.S. while the press is loving to Sh*t on Yahoo! these days, this team shows they can still launch an interesting, innovative product. And if rumors are to be believed, Microsoft is trying to buy Ustream for $50mm. I suggest they save the money – if the MSFT/YHOO thing goes through, you’ve got a great team raring to go!

Bill Scott, a former coworker and web development rockstar, has a great blog post “Virtual Pizza Pie Chart: High Tech Chartjunk” about when a chart design/technology itself becomes the star – instead of the data. He shows a horrid example from CNN:

Bill says:

What I love is how the technology completely takes over. It pops out and looks like it could hurt someone. Then it obscures the rest of the panelists. And finally Anderson is so enamored with trying to keep it from bursting again that he is using all his brain cycles to keep the 3D virtual pie chart on that silly piece of cardboard.

Bill makes me think of a metaphor I often use. Being a technologist is like being a film editor. I’m specifically thinking about personalization technologies but most technology has this paradigm.

If a film is edited well, the audience will talk about how the movie was exciting, dramatic, and the story just grabbed you – no one will say “that was a well edited film”. But if you do your job poorly, everyone will notice – “that was so choppy”, “the editing was off”, etc.

We need to remember that our job is to build technology that fades into the background so the user can focus on what really matters: the content, the community, their friends.

So I’m a very loyal Chase Bank customer, and I have been for over 15 years. I like them 1000x better then the west coast banks like BofA and Wells Fargo that charge fees to me where they bear no / very little cost. Don’t get me started about how BoFA charges me $3/transaction for using my ATM card – on top of what the ATM provider charges – in towns where there are no BofA ATMs. Paying $6 to take $60 out of my account is robbery. But I digress.

I got a notice in the mail from Chase saying (emphasis mine):

We are changing the way we manage our customer’s preferences…This change allows you more options to specify which mail offers you do not want to receive.

Now I’ve spoken my share of corporate-speak over the years, but it took me a minute to even understand this sentence. My first reaction: “thanks Chase! I really wanted more ways to tell you NO”. ;) I’m surprised that they didn’t add on “our consumer research has told us that you like checking more boxes”.

But then came the real evil sentence (next to 9 checkboxes and a signature field):

unless you tell us otherwise, you may begin to receive offers in the mail about these products and services

So chase managed to take my “NO, nothing in the mail please”, and turned it into 9 separate yeses. I guess no really means yes if you work at a bank. This is exactly how companies get the bad reputations that they do. And now with most banks becoming megabanks, they can get away with it. Sad, really.

I’ll file this away in the “if you ever catch me wanting to do this, slap me” category.

After almost 10 years leading product teams at Yahoo, I’m moving on. I’ve been thinking for a while that I wanted to take some time off and press the “reset button” on my brain, but it has been a grueling coming to a final decision. And its complicated by the fact that I really love my job and the people I work with.

Looking back over the last 10 years, I am proud of the measurable impact I’ve made on Yahoo! I’m proud of the many years I was known as the My Yahoo! guy, bringing you the features you love and growing Yahoo’s audience significantly. I’m proud of my work with RSS at Yahoo, bringing openness to My Yahoo and many other products–including an RSS ad product. I’m proud of my time as GM of Yahoo! Search when I pitched the idea and launched sponsored search and helped move Yahoo from directory search to web search model. And I helped make a few acquisitions along the way). And I’m proud of leading an innovation incubator (Advanced Products @ Yahoo!) and launching a number of interesting projects. But most of all, I’m proud of the teams I’ve built and the people I’ve hired – to this day it is Yahoo’s people that make this place great.

If you’ll bear with with me in the coming days, I’ll post some of my favorite stories of those years and give you a little inside view of my proudest moments at Yahoo and the biggest mistakes I made along the way. And in general, I hope to blog a lot more, covering product management, the industry and people management. If you aren’t already a subscriber to this blog, grab the feed.

My next step is to take some time off to catch my breath and travel a bit. Then, I’ll be off on my next adventure.

It is always tough to leave a job when you are having so much fun and working with great people. Then again, that’s probably the best time to leave. I know that I’m leaving behind a strong, talented team. My team’s major projects are going well and two will launch early in 2008. And two people whom I admire and enjoy working with are keeping the torch burning. Chad Dickerson will be leading Advanced Products and Salim Ismail (my partner in crime over last few months) will continue to lead the Brickhouse program.

All of which made it possible for me to leave with ease, and I’m thankful for that. I’m not going too far, I’m still a fan of Yahoo. I’ll help in any way I can with my teammates’ upcoming launches, I can’t wait to tell people about them.

So thank you to all the people that I’ve gotten to meet and to work alongside, you made my decade. Wish me luck as I start the next one…

One of my favorite features of Yahoo! Mail is that little hover that shows a map when you mouseover an address. There are bunch of those actions and in most cases they make Mail more useful.

Now there’s a way to add those things to your blog. The new Yahoo! Shortcuts plugin for wordpress helps you insert those things. I’m not sure how often I’ll use them, but I installed the plugin to see.

Off the bat, I’m not in love with the Yahoo! Search ones (don’t seem to add much value – a link to search?) and I’m not sure why I’d link to Yahoo Shopping when there’s no revshare program in place. I like the flickr integration, you can very easily add pictures. It’s slick.

On the negative side, it’s a beta, and buggy – I can’t remove ones from this post that I don’t like without editing the HTML – I’ll report that to the team. Also, I’d love a way to say “I never want Search Links”. Looking to the future, I’d love it if this opened up, so amazon could write a plugin to replace Y! Shopping.

If you use WordPress, check it out.

UPDATE: I neglected to say that I think this is all pretty cool and nice for a first cut. I’m excited about where this can go. And BTW, I saw a demo yesterday of something in a similar vein and I can only hope Yahoo keeps building these add-ons that make our blogging life easier.

And now here is a list of things hoping to trigger the shortcuts:

  • Yahoo! Inc – YHOO
  • 500 3rd St., San Francisco, CA
  • Nikon D-80
  • Please buy this for me: 2008 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class SL55 AMG Roadster
  • Barack Obama

I’ve been delinquent in blogging about the new Next* blog (at It’s a place to launch new interesting yahoo projects that aren’t big enough or “official” enough to get a press release or a corporate blog mention. It’s also a place for things that would otherwise fall through the cracks (not quite a fit in any existing business unit). But my favorite is that the idea is to have a place where various Yahoos have a voice, be it controversial, grumbly, or whatever.

Reading it for the last few weeks shows that they are still trying to find that voice, but I know they aren’t looking to build a corporate mouthpiece. The first sign of that attitude was the pre-launch splash screen, which made no sense, but made me laugh:

I’m psyched to see my team posting on Next*, today is a post from Ayman about Zync, give it a read.

Props to Havi, JR, Ernie, and from my team: Keith and Matt (for the design). They were even nice enough to stoke my ego by mentioning my name in the footer.

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