Category Archives: Random Thoughts

I like to have one-on-one meetings in more casual settings, and anyone who works with me has probably heard me say “let’s take a walk and get coffee” (meaning a walk to the local barista for a cappuchino).

Dave and I often do walks around South Park for our meetings. In our Sunnyvale office, I’ve done a few meetings walking along the top of the old garbage dump (it’s now a nice hill with a running path). Thanks Caterina!

Today though, I had the topper. Bradley and I met while sitting on the swings in South Park. I swear there was a four year old giving us dirty looks for using the playground for business purposes.

Where’s the wierdest places you’ve had meetings?

I’ve been wanting to get out and attend more conferences lately. I’m not usually a big fan of conferences, but I’ve been feeling like I want to meet more/new people and hear different perspectives on things.

So, my coworker Mike and I attended Clickz’s Video Advertising conference today. This is clearly a field that isn’t figured out yet, so I thought it might be one of those “get to hear early insights” kinda days. Boy was I wrong.

I had low expectations for the morning sessions (the interesting sessions were set for the afternoon) but even those expectations were missed. On both morning panels, there was only one clueful guy who actually seemed to be aware of what was going on on the web (there’s this thing called myspace, and another thing called YouTube people). I sat through excruciating demos of million-dollar budget “interactive websites” that looked like they were an artifact of 1999. And what was worse, these people were giving advice to people in the audience. “People want slick, professionally produced, immersive interactive experiences”. (never mind the lack of authenticity, the slow download time, etc). Someone later in the day even demoed a downloadable app that played a custom video. How smart.

Anyway, I stuck it out in the hopes that the Yahoo speaker and the Google speaker would rescue the day. Usually google’s speakers run rings around everyone. Didn’t happen.

Then, my absolute favorite moment of any conference EVER happened. There was a panel of people demoing “new technology” in the space. Nothing was really new, each panelist more boring than the last. Then a presenter said that he wouldn’t be demoing anything. And then, it happened, the conference organizer and moderator sarcastically said:

[I paraphrase:]
Well, this panel couldn’t get less entertaining if it tried.

Wow. I guess she knew this wasn’t going well. I left shortly after that. I hope my next conference is better…

You may have seen the notes from Daniel, Chad, Bradley or Jeremy, but our part of Yahoo is hiring (like crazy) and we’re looking for the best and brightest to come join our team.

As you may remember, I run a group called Advanced Products at Yahoo!, and I’m lucky enough to be in the position to hire a lot of people. We’re looking for passionate, execution-oriented people who love to build great products (at the version 1.0-level) and who have the experience, skills and smarts to make our team even better than it already is. We’re looking for all types:

  • Engineers – you have great experience launching products, love working on bright team and have the technical chops to go with it. We code in all sorts of ways (depends on the project), but we do a lot in AJAX/HTML/PHP/MySql.
  • Designers – you’ve designed and launched products from idea generation and prototyping to understanding users, designing wireframes and creating visual design comps. You should have a strong understanding of user-centered design principles, excellent visual design skills and an entrepreneurial approach to designing, building, and launching products.
  • Product Managers – you’ve launched products big and small and now you are ready to roll your sleeves up and be part of an entrepreneurial team. You get excited about products and how to market them and can’t wait to launch your next big success. We need someone to guide the product from end to end – idea to launch to eventual handoff to our business units.

And it’s not just my own team looking, its all of the Advanced Development Division (Bradley’s team) so you can work alongside the people that brought you Mixd, Yahoo! Pipes, Yahoo! Podcasts, Hack Day, Flickr, and many more kickass products.

Drop us a line using this address: add-jobs [at] yahoo-inc [dot] com

Today I stumbled across the announcement of the new Palm Treo 750.

Back in October, I asked our mobile team here for a Windows Mobile phone to do some testing. Their response “oh, here’s one take it”. It was a Treo 750. While I love gadgets, I hadn’t read about the 750, so I didn’t even know it was an unreleased demo phone I was using. I thought it was just a new phone that I didn’t know about yet. Kinda cool that I got a three month advance on everyone. Thanks Yahoo!

Well, anyway, I have to say I instantly fell in love with the Treo 750. I own a 650 and the 750 seemed to fix all the things that annoy me about my 650. It is lighter, it has a rubberized case, so I don’t have to get an extra “skin”, and it is slightly thinner. All of these things accompish my number one goal: make it fit in my pocket more easy. The phone I used had Windows Mobile on it, and while it was fast and reliable, I really do not like Windows Mobile. Microsoft continues to misunderstand the market completely. The start menu is a horrible way to change apps. Palm does it much better and I’ve seen others do it much better (Blackberry’s scroll wheel comes to mind). Using this phone made me realize that I will never use Windows Mobile.

Now, I’ll just have to wait for the 750p with Palm OS, and then I’ll be lining up at the store…

Photo from flickr: HammHawk

Last night the New Orleans Saints played their first home game since Hurricane Katrina in the newly remodeled Superdome. I think it is very important the world see that New Orleans is (slowly) coming alive.

I went to New Orleans over the Labor Day weekend this year; friends and I had planned to go last year at this time, and when Katrina hit, we all made a pact to come to New Orleans this year. What I found was a city that was (like NYC after 9/11) a bit conflicted. New Orleans relies on tourist dollars for a large part of its economy and it was clear that they really need us to come back.

  • About 90% of the businesses/restaurants in the French Quarter are now open. Damage in the quarter and the Marigny wasn’t very bad, and some of these businesses took the time to remodel or otherwise improve during low traffic times. On Canal St. the ratio was more 50/50 and as you reached the outskirts, we drove for miles without seeing any businesses open (we saw a McDonalds in a pile of rubble, a frame of a supermarket and a Pizza Hut with the roof blown off). Other friends actually drove to East N.O. and the now infamous 9th Ward and reported seeing miles and miles of devastation. But, truth be told, when you visit N.O. you would never have visited those areas anyway.
  • I arrived on Thursday night and found the French Quarter to be relatively quiet. Bourbon St was pretty empty and I could imagine businesses are suffering. I found many stores had little signs “open only Fri, Sat, Sun”. As the weekend progressed, the quarter came to life, but it was still less than when I’ve been there in the past. For example, finding restaurant reservations was really easy.
  • I met a guy who’s been living in a FEMA trailer with his parents, and his brother and sister-in-law, 5 people in a teeny metal box. He described it: “it’s like one of those trailers you go take for a weekend camping trip, except that we’ve been living in it for a year”. The surprise was that he was resigned to it without being sad about it “it is what it is”. The good news for him and his family, they were in the process of painting and furnishing their home. Probably as I write this they are moving into their rebuilt home.
  • My favorite story was talking to someone about Halloween last year. All around New Orleans, all the buildings have spray painted X’s on them marking the date the building was searches, survivors found, and any animals inside. (BTW, we spent a lot of time drinking in a place that had 3 cats after the storm). So, this guy and his friends all dressed as houses. They got T-shirts, dipped them in brown dye (to about 1/3 of the way) to look like a water line and then painted the fema markings on them. A fun costume that made light of what had to have been a very difficult time. It was this spirit I found in a lot of people, and it makes me believe New Orleans will come back.

So, I’ll tell you what I’m telling everyone. The areas that tourists visit are back in gear or on their way back, but they need YOU. Without the dollars to support the businesses, they’ll go out of business.

Book a trip to New Orleans. Contribute your dollars to their economy. Go and have fun, listen to Jazz, have jambalaya and listen to people’s stories. It is still a fun place, the people are still strong and high sprited. But as we said about NYC after 9/11 – it’s time to come back.

I’m off to NYC for the Syndicate Conference. At December’s conference I gave a keynote, this time I’m happy to just be able to enjoy the conference as a participant. My colleagues Peggy White (GM of Y! Finance) and Chad Dickerson will be doing the speaking this time around.

If you’ll be there, let me know and at least say hi. I’ll try to do some booth duty at the Yahoo! booth and you’ll find me lurking in all the interesting panels.

It’s rare that I hear overly dilbert-esque things at work, but just a few minutes ago, I walked by two people who were staring at a desktop PC’s tower which was laying sidewise on a desk and seemed to have some sort of mud on it (really).

I didn’t hear the question, but the person I knew must have asked something like “can I actually get a desktop computer that isn’t muddy”…

And the IT person (my assumption) said:

Well, let me ask my manager and manager’s manager to see what we can or can’t do

Funny enough, I was on my way down to the post office on campus to mail my taxes – I dutifully filled out four forms to mail off my check to the IRS & California. Hopefully that’ll be my last big company moment today.

This weekend I travelled to Las Vegas on Southwest Airlines and I noticed a very simple principle at work. If you don’t know, SWA doesn’t have assigned seating. Instead, you get a letter (A, B or C) and they board everyone with A, then everyone with B and so on. Southwest created this “competition for letters” to get people to the airport early and to ensure on-time departure. But for me, it demonstrates something else.

You might think that the SWA gates would be a madhouse, but in fact they are very orderly. People arrive and begin to lineup into three lines (A, B and C) in a quite orderly fashion. People in each row are cordial to each other asking “is this the line for B to san diego?” and exchanging niceties and often that question allows people to break into a friendly conversation. If you were to look at the gate area from above, you’d see what looks like three branches on a tree, they curve around the furniture and the walls, but they are a line.

Contrast this with what I saw at an America West Gate. A throng of people surrounded the doorway to their gate, each trying to push past each each other so they could get to their seat earlier (even though they know they are guaranteed to sit in the same seat no matter how quickly they board). If you looked down from above, it’d look like a half circle completely filled with people.

It struck me that this is a lot like community on the web, if you give people a little guidance and a benefit, they’ll actually organize themselves just fine. On SWA, the benefit of being orderly is a smoother travel experience and a good seat and the guidance is telling people where they stand — those that are in line C know that no amount of pushing will get them good seats and those in A know that they are gonna be in a seat they like no matter what. On AW, they don’t ask anything of the traveller, they don’t trust the travellers to line up, they treat travel as a solitary experience “every man for themselves”. And it shows.

On the web, we’ve seen some really interesting communities grow: flickr, delicious, craigslist. All of them give benefits to people in the community (tags make it easier to find stuff, the tools allow you to connect with friends or meet new people or sell stuff, etc) and all give a simple amount of guidance “to get those benefits, we’d like you to tag, post, rate, report bad stuff, etc”. And you know, the community organizes itself. Those communities police themselves a bit. There’s abuse (“people cutting line”), but its buried deep down in the site because the community won’t rate it or will report it. Those communities help me find where the good stuff is, because, that’s what they’d want someone to do for them. And the sites actually ask people to do it and reward people for doing it right. Really quite simple.

So if you are working on an online community, are you trusting the community to organize itself? Are you giving them a clear benefit? Are you simply asking for what you’d like to see? When you see good behaviour, do you email the person and say “thanks?”. If not, go take a flight on SWA, then re-think your answers…

So today I went into my WordPress control panel and discovered 11 comments (and 53 spam comments) sitting in my queue waiting for approval.

 I had WP set to email me when I got comments.  I got no email, so I just assumed you were all a quiet bunch. 

Turns out when I got upgraded to WP 2.0, somehow the email thing got shut off.  So I apologize to all you great commenters who talked about my previous posts.  Those comments are now live. 

BTW, I only got three votes for yesterday’s rant (including one from my dad) – all said they want more “angry scott”.   What do you think?

So, it seems as though I’ve fallen into that blogging slump. This is the point in a blogs life where you’ll see a post (just like this one) that says “sorry I haven’t posted in a while I’ve been busy”.   That post is usually followed immediately by another one 6 months later saying “I guess this blogging thing isn’t working out”.

Well, I have been really busy and the holidays took a bite out of my free time.   But the real reason I haven’t been blogging lately is that I promised that this blog wouldn’t be a negative one.  It wouldn’t be a place where I diss Yahoo or its competitors.   But lately, all thoughts popping into my head have been a bit on the negative side.   Here are some subjects for posts that I wanted to write, but didn’t:

  • Upon the launch of Google’s Mobile Homepage their Product Manager can’t find anything good to say about his own product, so he disses Yahoo and just makes shit up.   Be proud of your own damn product, talk about that! He mentioned the word Yahoo in the press more than his own company.  And the press/analysts ate it up without checking the facts.
  • Google takes a faux stand – The DOJ enforced subpeonas for search records. Most search engines complied with the court order. Google didn’t. Their excuse: it’s proprietary info for their company.  The press (not Google) calls it protecting privacy.  Search engines gave up info WITHOUT user info – no privacy violation here, move on.   BTW, have you ever been to google’s lobby? They project what people are searching on the wall.   The DOJ just wanted that.  Maybe the DOJ should go sit in Google’s lobby for a few hours.
  • Real Player needs to rethink their music service – I won $15 of free music on Real’s music service.   Cool!   So, I download the service.   2 days later I finally worked through all my installation issues.   Then I go to use the service.   Gosh, maybe I’ll just give up that $15.   The process is far from seamless.   Even though I don’t think iTunes is awesome, they clearly got the easy to buy thing down.  Real isn’t even close.

I also have a bunch of more positive and/or constructive blog posts in my head now, so I plan to start blogging again.    But I need your comments.  Do I allow myself to rant on this blog – do I write those posts above?  You tell me, post a comment!