Category Archives: Innovation

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!

My blog has been a little quiet of late, mostly because my team has been heads down on building out three new products. You’ll hear more about the others (one is code named freeagle) in the coming weeks, but today is Y! Kickstart’s day.

Y! Kickstart is a professional network with a specific purpose: to connect college students, recent grads, alums and professionals to find jobs, internships and career advice.

We started with a simple focus: college students are about to go through a major life transition, finding their first job & career. For them, submitting resumes to job sites or companies seems like a black hole. College students are amazingly well networked on Facebook, but that network is about connecting with friends and is more appropriate for fun – in fact many students we talked to expressed frustration that “old folks” were coming onto facebook and forcing them to lock down their profiles or worse yet – clean up their act. Lastly, unlike someone like me who already has an established social network, these folks are just beginning to build their network.

So, enter Kickstart. It’s based on the premise that everyone does have a network: the school you went to, the frat/sorority you were in, the professional/interest group you are in, the companies you interned or worked at. Kickstart makes it easy to create and browse that kind of network. While we started with a focus on college students, I’ve already found it a useful networking tool for me to catch up with old coworkers and fellow alums.

Anyway, I could type for hours. The best thing for you to do is signup and give it a whirl. And when you do, search for me and add me as a connection.

Right now we’re in our “preview” release and we’re mostly focused on getting alumni and professionals to join. And, to give you more incentive: the US college with the most alumni signed up on Kickstart will get a $25,000 donation to their alumni program. So take a moment and reach out to all your fellow alums, you’ll be helping us out, I think you’ll find it a fun way to connect with former coworkers and alums, and heck you might even win the $25k for your school.

UPDATE 1: I neglected to mention, that like most all things from my group, this is a very early stage product. We know that it’s missing a lot, and that’s ok. I’d rather get feedback and suggestions and improve it on the fly than wait for months and months to launch – what fun is that?

I’ve just returned from my vacation in France and can finally catch up on blogging again. We had a long layover in London, so we took the Express train into Paddington Station and on the way back, I saw an amazing ad. I had read about these before, but had never seen it.

I looked out the side window of the train and saw an animation. The ad was basically a “flipbook” affixed to the wall of the train tunnel. As the train passed, the images seemed to be animated (it felt like it was timed perfectly to the train’s speed), like watching a flash animation or a TV commercial. This ad was for Microsoft Vista, so you could see Vista’s expose-like feature show a bunch of windows on your desktop.

It caught my attention and even delighted me a bit (maybe I’m wierd). The thing that fascinates me about this ad is that it is high tech become low tech again.

The concept of motion photography was pioneered by Eadweard Muybridge.

Muybridge’s photos in motion

He set out to prove that, during a gallop, a horse’s four hooves were all off of the ground at the same time. He took multiple individual images to answer the question, in essence creating the basis for motion photogaphy. Flip these images and you get a running horse.

Now, in the name of advertising, we are taking an animated image and converting it back to individual frames. I couldn’t find the exact ad I saw online, but here’s a video taken of an even better one from Japan (sorry I couldn’t figure out how to easily embed quicktime).

I’m a little sad that I now have to see more ads, but I actually like these and appreciate the creativeness. Congrats to the folks that are turning this into a business.

P.S. I just noticed while searching around that CNET just ran an article about these.