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Monday, December 17, 2007

Gatz hands the baton to Dickerson…

Scott and Chad crosspost and tell the tale: Scott's story & Chad's story. I'm honored to work with these guys. Two of the classiest individuals I've had the pleasure to know. Scott, you'll be missed... and thanks for everything from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Yahoo Plugin for WordPress

As reported by Battelle, we just launched the Yahoo Plugin for WordPress. This blog, elatable.com, runs on WordPress.


The plugin is very cool. You simply author the post as you normally would. You click a 'lil button that says "Review this Post"... and all kinds of valuable goodness auto-populates the post.


For instance if I name a place, say Ann Arbor, MI, that'll be auto-detected and linked to...


If I mention a company, say Hewlett-Packard, then that too will generate goodness (I've opted for the badge at left...)


You can read more about it (and get it for yourself) here....

Open Data is Good for Democracy

I recently attended a fantastic, inspiring event... The Open Government Working Group hosted by OReilly Media in Sebastopol... I blogged about it on the Next* blog...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Me v. Ze Frank (not so much…)


Gordon Luk has a really interesting post that I'll use as a launching pad to clarify a point I often make in public lectures... In the interest of saving you a click, see below.
This reminded me of Umair's article "Why Yahoo Didn't Build MySpace..." which basically suggests that the pyramid of participation I reference is a Yahoo "strategy." Nothing could be further from the truth. Destroying that pyramid is our strategy. The pyramid is more of a forensic, backward-looking empirical observation. The very next slide in the deck is also shown below.









Lesson: Of course, I take full responsibility for these misunderstandings. Gordon and Umair are brilliant guys. So as I'm dishing out soundbites, maybe I need to slow down and make sure that I'm clearer...




Gordon says:


Do you ever have posts sitting around in wordpress for months at a time, delayed for one reason or another? This is one of them, and after re-reading it, I think I’ll go ahead and post it, but remember that it’s kind of a warp back in time to October 2006.

Yahoo! Open Hack Day was a massive, massive success, and i’m glad to have been a part of it. Now that i’ve had a few days to rest and reflect upon my experiences, I want to discuss an observation of Bradley Horowitz’s that has stuck in my mind.

Bradley’s one of the foremost advocates for social search development here at Yahoo. He’s one of the brightest minds around, and always makes my head spin a little bit when I talk with him. You can check out his Keynote presentation here (warning, this was 4GB to download!). Around the end of minute five, Bradley says some really interesting stuff. First, he showed the famous grainy video clip of a monkey trained to perform martial arts kicks in the context of what the worst-case scenario behind user-filtered content could produce. Then he went on to show some beautiful photographs from Flickr’s Interestingness, as a way to demonstrate the better side of what can be efficiently extracted from collaborative participation. His point that these photos bubbled to the top because of implicit user activity is key; as he mentions, the aggregate human cost of photo moderation borne by the user community on Flickr dwarfs anything possible by simply paying employees to review and rate them.

Ze Frank, seen in this video speaking at TED, a design conference, seems to also think hard about the new culture of participation on the Internet. Ze often invites his viewership to participate with him on various flights of fancy, including making silly faces, creating short video clips, playing with flash toys and drawing tools, etc. During his TED presentation, and also at various times on The Show, Ze talked about the hold that various groups have on the perception of art, and how many people are able to participate and create in a new culture without being ostracized by an established hierarchy. He seems to hold that the “ugliness” which seems to permeate MySpace is, in fact, a manifestation of participation outside of the boundaries of hierarchical editorial control. Thus, his position seems to be that the silliness and ugliness of the huge amount of web “design” on myspace depends heavily on perspective. At the minimum, he seemed to believe that participation culture removes barriers to experimentation that could lead to an overthrow of traditional design aesthetics.

These perspectives seem to be at odds. On one side, Bradley appears to be advocating the harvesting of social participation to come to results that select traditionally valuable content. In other words, using New Media platforms to efficiently perform the job of the Old Media publishing empires (Kung Fu Monkeys should be buried!). On the other side is Ze, who seems to be advocating not only a disruption of Old Media distribution through mass publication, but also seems to be leading a charge to disrupt traditional aesthetic values (Kung Fu Monkeys are beautiful, and should be encouraged!).

I think it’s an interesting contrast, and I worry that i’m mischaracterizing the arguments of each.

My personal viewpoint is a bit more nuanced. I believe that one day, web platforms will also be able to efficiently cluster their users based upon interests or tastes, similar to how Flickr can cluster tags to disambiguate meaning. These clusters will probably be designed not around user surveys or self-reported demographics, but instead will most likely be extracted through efficient methods of recording implicit participation information over the long term. There may well be a cluster (which I would belong to!) of folks that do enjoy Kung Fu monkeys, and there is almost definitely a cluster that find it degrading and offensive. The difference here between traditional preference filtering and clustered audiences is similar - one requires a great deal of potentially inaccurate user feedback about their preferences, whereas the latter acts more on implicit activity, and is thus more likely to produce the desired effects.

Not only would such a model be able to try and target clusters of preferences among users, but it would also allow for users to participate in cultures in which they feel welcome from the beginning.


I responded:


My argument is not so much that Kung Fu monkeys = bad, or that they should be “buried.” But in a world where “anyone can say anything to everyone at once”, our most precious commodity becomes attention. I remember sitting at the Harvard Cyberposium Conference a few years ago when someone said… “It’s getting to the point where every moment of our life can now be digital recorded and preserved for posterity…. [pregnant pause…] Unfortunately, one doesn’t get a second life with which to review the first one.”

Coming up with the right tools to help me get to what matters to me becomes essential. But I don’t want to get prescriptive - what matters to the fans of Kung Fu monkeys is… Kung Fu monkeys! And we should be providing tools that help that community as much as any other…

Another way of putting it… I’m disinclined to subscribe the a Flickr feed for the tag “baby”. Just not interested in seeing random babies, thank you very much. But my brother’s baby? My neice? Cutest baby ever! I want to see every picture of her that exists!

Death to the monoculture and long live the long tail! Long live low-brow humor, stupid pet tricks and mentos and diet coke! And Ze Frank…

My point is that tools like Flickr interestingness allow us to leverage aggregate attention for the benefit of each user. I love interestingness, and use it as a sort criterion for just about every search I do on Flickr… But Flickr also uses a social graph with varying coefficients (me, family, friends, contacts, public) to provide another dimension that helps direct my attention to the right babies. ;-)

I think my thesis is simply that in democratizing the creation of content, we’ve created a high-class problem… There’s too much “on”… 500 channels, maybe. 500M channels? Never. The flip side of this wonderful revolution in publishing, destroying the hierarchical pyramid of participation, is that we (our industry) have a burden to provide people the means of actually getting to the content they want to see… (Perhaps sometimes, even before they know they want to see it.) This ought to keep us busy for a lifetime or so…

I think you captured my view pretty much in your closing paragraph. I’d guess Ze Frank agrees with us mostly too.

Relaunch of next.yahoo.com…

A couple weeks ago our team relaunched next.yahoo.com.

Simply, it's a place where we can show you some cool stuff happening at Yahoo. I shared more on the yodel blog.

William White and team just launched this very cool embeddable music player there. Timely too... Now instead of just linking to MP3s like I did in a previous post, listening to my old band is now just click away (or even less than a click if I'd selected autoplay...)

Go subscribe to next to keep apprised of what we're up to over here...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Fall: Tempo House from Perverted by Language

Visiting family back in Detroit, and staying with dear friend Bobji*. We spent the night trading music... I hooked him up with Sufjan Stevens, My Bloody Valentine, Ry Cooder, Fujiya & Miyagi, etc. He hooked me up with Spiritualized, LCD Soundsystem, old Tones on Tail, etc. So much fun.







As the hours got wee, we discovered this gem recently added to YouTube. The Fall's Perverted by Language album is in my all-time top 10. I have numerous live / bootleg versions of most of the songs on the disc. What is so cool about this video is that it is the very performance recorded on PbL. I didn't even know a video for this existed. I've listened to the audio so many times, every squeak and squawk, click and clack is burned in my brain. Watching Mark E. Smith and gang actually perform it... so cool!

I've been having a great trip home, including time today at the newly opened Detroit Institute of Arts. Awesome, more later on that I hope...

*Bobji was the singer for Spahn Ranch (I was the guitar player, Odell was the drummer and Hobey the bass player.) We were the Detroit based Spahn Ranch, not the industrial band of the same name (that had much wider acclaim and is what turns up if you use a search engine.) Anyway, someone on the net recently digitized our first (and only) album. Here's a few songs from it: countdown & echos of the day. And here's the cover!

They also made a MySpace page for us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Pipes release, iPhone support

As reported on the Pipes Blog, Jonathan and the Pipes team just pushed a new release with features both useful and cool. I'm especially thrilled about the iPhone support (having just gotten an iTouch, thanks Mr. Hornik!)

In keeping with the endless stream of jokes that name "pipes" inspires, Jonathan created what may turn out to be one of the most important and useful Pipe of all... The Restroom Locator... A tip of the hat to George Costanza, connaisseur of public restrooms... ;-)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mansur’s passing


Today Rashi's father Mansur left this world. It was a profound event, and I'm still collecting all of my feelings about it. He was a special dog, a special being. He traveled the world and touched so many people. I'm so glad that Rashi got to have Mansur close by for the first two years of her life. She always went ballistic when he was around, kissing him to death. He was very patient, very tolerant of her...

Mansur, yours was a life well lived. We will miss you, and I'm glad a piece of you lives in our Rashi.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Brightcove v. Maven

The Boston Globe has an interesting article about Brightcove and Maven, or more specifically Jeremy Allaire v. Hilmi Ozguc. I know both of them a little bit, and have been following their respective companies for a while.

Both of them are really Virage 2.0, or at least the part of our business that we used to call VI (Virage Interactive) that Dave Girouard and Joe Hyrkin built in 1999. It's cool seeing these companies get traction. If they can really get momentum around the video ad network then methinks the journalist underestimates the potential exit magnitude.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Breaking: Stewart playing with Sonnet, taking fewer meetings

Stewart responds to the Valleywag post:
Aaaaaaaactually, I'm going on paternity leave, not leaving Yahoo! (I took some of my leave in July and found that I rushed back a little early.) I am actually going to be changing more diapers and coaxing more burps for a while (thanks for getting that right - I do love her!) but have no plans to give up the paycheck just yet -- and I even have an uncomfortable number of meetings planned for when I'm supposed to be out on leave :)

Major improvements to Yahoo Search

Want to congratulate Jeff, Vish, Tim, Eckart, Luke and Tom and the cast of hundreds who launched the improvements to Yahoo Search last night. I've seen some folks in the blogosphere underestimate the nuance and ultimately impact of this innovation. Making a change this radical is a bona fide "big deal", and there is a lot of subtlety involved. I've been using it for a bit, and am duly impressed. Kudos to the gang.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Valleywag fishes, Brickhouse thriving!

I read this post with some measure of amusement. We'll be unveiling 3 or 4 major initiatives before the end of the year, which really represent the first complete turn-of-the-crank for the Brickhouse / Advanced Products model. Brickhouse is thriving. You'll be hearing more about these soon, and though I'm quite tempted to crow about them now... I'll resist.

Regarding the departures, Pipes "graduated" from Brickhouse (and hence left my group) several quarters ago. (And Ed had actually moved on from Pipes months ago.) From concept to hand-off Pasha spent more than a year on the project - frankly longer than we generally plan for... Our model is literally based on the premise that the DNA required to innovate as a "founder" on a small team is fundamentally different than the DNA required to operate on ongoing concern within a big company. (Hence Brickhouse.) Hence this kind of turnover is not only expected, but anticipated and baked into the model. We definitely ask our "founders" to help with tech transfer and transition, which both Pasha and Ed did in a totally responsible fashion. I know they both want to see Pipes succeed.

Frankly, my group is almost designed for "churn." I've been psyched to have "spun in" folks like Marc Davis (into our Connected Life business unit), Cameron Marlow (into Yahoo! Research), Matthew Rothenberg (into Flickr), etc. It's definitely a drag when talented folks "spin out" of my group and leave Yahoo, but it happens. Sometimes they go to Google. Sometimes they come back from Google. In fact that happened to Pasha. ;-)

I've got nothing but respect and admiration for both Ed and Pasha, and definitely wish them well. We'll miss them, but Brickhouse is thriving. Go Fish!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Open Hack Day Bangalore: Oct 5-6

I'm happy to say I'm headed to Yahoo's next Open Hack Day, this time in Bangalore! It's hard to believe it's been less than a year since our first Open Hack Day with Beck. That's one long year! Many of us agree it was the "all-time best day at work ever."

I'm really excited about the fact that I'm going to Bangalore. Even though I've been to India 7 or 8 times, I've never been to Bangalore and haven't been to India in about 5 years. So excited!

And I'm very excited to see what innovations get cooked up there. Yahoo's Bangalore hackers have a sterling reputation, and I know the entire region is a hotbed of talent. It should rock. See you there I hope... Sign up.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Richard Stallman in Berkeley on Sept. 12

StallmanSadly, I'm not sure I can make this as I've just come to know about it. But MacArthur Genius and personal hero Richard Stallman is going to be speaking at UCB next week.

This will be thought provoking for sure. If you don't know all about Stallman (or rms) go read the the excellent wikipedia article on him.

One thing missing from the wikipedia article was that he had to hire someone to type for him because emacs (which he created) gave him severe repetitive stress injury. (Emacs is famous for "chorded" commands that wrap your fingers into pretzels.) Or maybe this was just MIT legend.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

O’Reilly and Battelle on Hadoop

Doug Cutting's presence at Yahoo is noticed and celebrated by O'Reilly and Battelle. I'm pretty proud that the good folks of Yahoo Search (and especially Raymie) made this happen. Congrats guys.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Cool word of the day: Idearrhea

Someone just intro'd me to the word, idearrhea - idea/rrhea, i.e. diarrhea of ideas. The word doesn't have much takeup yet, though there is an www.idearrhea.com with some really funny cat/kitten photos.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Marc Andreessen on Employee Retention…

Well, not really. On winning.

I'm loving this post, and did my part to circulate it amongst the leadership here at Yahoo.

Marc's comments about innovation really resonated for me... People have often misconstrued my group's mission as being responsible for "innovation" at Yahoo. I've always hated this. Once a journalist said to me, "Oh... You guys are the engine of innovation..." I paused and said, "No... We're the grease of innovation... We're not about innovating for Yahoo, but rather creating a forum for every one of our employees to become better at their craft."

That's what things like Hack Yahoo, and Hack Days are about. A program like Brickhouse is more about giving every Yahoo an opportunity to get their ideas resourced (via something we've called a Brickhouse sabbatical), than it is about an "elite" segregated group of individuals doing it on behalf of the company.

Caterina, Chad and I used to always revert to musical analogies. We're like the roadies, building the stage, working the soundboards, the spotlights, etc. We also provide a "house band" of super talented session musicians. But it's the Yahoos (i.e. everyone else) who gets to climb up on stage and shine. Caterina, Salim and Scott are like the "A & R" folks at a label - listening for talent that we might want to "sign up" and bring back into the studio for an extended session.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

BBC Post

I must admit I've got a bit of "poster's remorse" regarding the BBC blurb here.

I've got some lame excuses about why I didn't do a better job with this, which I'll spare you (ok, I can't resist... Two r/t flights to Europe and back in the course of 9 days was part of the problem.) I tried to be non-partisan, favorably invoking Yahoo competitors like Amazon, Facebook, Google, etc. I was told that the audience would be the "non-techy intelligent layperson." I didn't mean to come off as if I'd invented ubiquitous computing, didn't care about privacy, or .

I'll be more careful next time, and/or correct some of these sins on this blog.

Maybe I'm being too sensitive. Some folks said they liked it. ;-)

Friday, June 29, 2007

This sounds familiar…

From the Wall Street Journal... "Google has begun experimenting with the creation of offsite "skunkworks" operations to develop cutting-edge products and separating out parts of the business to be run as more autonomous units within the company."

Hmmm...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Best Magic of UK Hack Day? I disappeared!

Matt offers a great post on the "magic" of Yahoo's Hack Days... I had the pleasure of attending the most recent Open Hack Day in London...

For me the most magical thing about it was my utter lack of involvement. ;-) I did not help organize, coordinate, oversee, judge, etc. I went strictly as a spectator... It's so cool when an idea takes on a life of its own... The team did an amazing job, perfectly capturing the spirit of the program (but with an appropriate and unique EU flavor...)

Reminds me: Tom Coates mentioned recently that he got a kick out of seeing the name Fire Eagle starting to do the rounds... It was the silliest name he could come up with. I like it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Welcome Jerry, Yahoo’s new CEO!

Still digesting the news... but I am extremely optimistic about today's changes. Surprising myself how much in fact. But you'd need to know me to know this has everything to do with Jerry's entrance, not Terry's departure.

I am a huge Terry fan. Frankly I wish I'd had more occasion to interact with him directly, but every time I did I learned something... Terry is a brilliant, subtle, and generous leader... Watching him get beaten up in the press over the past year was excruciating. It was a very painful lesson in the "pile on" mentality of the popular press. It did however have the fringe benefit of forcing me to do an honest inventory of the company I've chosen to be at, our assets and liabilities, challenges and opportunities, etc. I've got a confidence now that is rooted in introspection. The new Yahoo needs committed, passionate individuals that not only "get it" but are willing to think long-term about the immense, world-changing opportunities at hand... The public thrashing we've taken and the weakness in YHOO over the last year has at least served to shake loose those that aren't here for the right reasons...

Having Jerry as our CEO is incredible... It was Jerry who personally "green lit" and funded Pipes (for instance)... When Caterina and I pitched it to him, he not only "got it," but explained it back to us in a framework that deepened our own understanding. Having Jerry as CEO is gonna be cool!

Also want to give a shout out to co-founder David Filo, who is 100% engaged (and has been continuously for more than a decade.) Filo just attended Yahoo's UK Hack Day, where he hung out at the venue interacting with hackers, supporting the event, acting as a judge, etc. Jerry and David are as passionate and involved as any founders I've seen at any company - startup or Fortune 500.

Terry, it's too soon for goodbyes and thank yous... I'm extremely psyched that you're staying plugged in and will serve as our Chairman in an ongoing way. Jerry, welcome back to (overtly) running your company and let's do this.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Lightning Strikes at UK Hack Day







Hack Day London Indoor Rain
Originally uploaded by Josh Russell

I'm at UK Hack Day, spectating and just enjoying the vibe here... Chad recounts yesterday's remarkable lightning strike on Alexandra Palace as festivities were kicking off... too cool!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Flickr is stupid, and late… but redeems itself.

I love Stewart Butterfield.

This is why I am in Berlin right now btw...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Congrats to Last.fm (CBS has a clue)

So last.fm is getting acquired, via LA Times...

I've briefly met the founders, and they seem especially clueful and nice... Good for them.

Surely much credit for CBS's major cluefulness is on accounta my friend Mike Marquez who joined a few months ago. Nice going Mike. Looks kind of expensive at a glance, but I trust Mike's run the numbers... ;-)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Tagging on MyBlogLog: transparent and accountable

MyBlogLog adds tagging. Very cool.

I love the fact that this tagging is transparent and accountable, the kind of thing you'd especially want for tagging people (v. say digital media objects.) I can see who's tagged me with what... so you'd best be careful!

Totally inspired by Cameron Marlow.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Next Open Hack Day!

I'm happy that I'll be attending Yahoo/BBC's upcoming Hack Day in the UK! Last year's inaugural Hack Day was a careeer/life hilight... This one looks to be another over the top event. It's in a "palace"... that sounds different! Check out the details at hackday.org and on upcoming. See you there.

KCRW, MBE



Provoked by Chad's post...

Krista's sister works on web stuff for KCRW in Santa Monica. Or "the home of the homeless" as Harry Shearer says at the close of Le Show.



She gave Krista the "Sounds Eclectic: Covers Project" CD... I'm loving it. I love covers in general, and for me highlights include two Neil Young soungs (Out on the Weekend and Harvest), James Taylor's Fire and Rain covered by Dido, but most remarkably an acoustic rendering of Beyonce's Crazy in Love that blew my mind. (You gotta love the line, "Got me hopin' you'll page me right now!")




Crazy in Love

Cool!
There is a treasure trove of goodness at KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic site...

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Thanks for the Birthday Wishes

Due to facebook and plaxo, a lot of people seemed to know it was my birthday yesterday and sent their good wishes. Thanks!

I had a truly incredible day. Krista and I spent a couple days in Big Sur at the Ventana Inn. It was so peaceful, and relaxing. It's not "posh" or ostentatious, but also not too rustic or primitive. It was just the right balance, subtle.

The weather was ideal. What seems to have been a heat spell for the Bay Area made it just perfect on the coast.

On the morning of my birthday, Krista had arranged for massages at the Esalen Institute. I'd heard of Esalen for 25 years, since reading about it in the Whole Earth Catalog in my midwestern suburb's public library. (BTW, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to whatever freak kept that library stocked with counter-culture handbooks during my teenage years...) I didn't know Esalen was quasi-accessible to the public (with advance reservations.)

The setting was sublime. The bath house there is set up on a cliff... The massages take place in an open air setting overlooking the stunning coastline. A gentle breeze blows through and the sound of the waves lulls you into a sublime state. Finally when you are done, you soak in the sulphur baths... that flow from a natural hot spring. While there, we watched three whales frolic up the coastline. It was absolutely stunning.

As we were pulling away, Krista summed it up - "It's actually hard to believe that such a place exists."

It was a very happy birthday!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Bob…

He married Isis on the fifth day of may...

Legally here.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Freeway Collapse


Ugh! The freeway collapse was about 1.3 miles from my house, and unfortunately between me and Sunnyvale... That means I'm liable to have some "interesting" commutes for the next few months. Fortunately, Brickhouse is open for business!

I could have just been my paranoia but the neighborhood already seemed congested today... I heard one TV announcer suggest that commuters trying to get to 880 from San Francisco could head north and exit at Ashby. This basically turns my neighborhood (Ashby, San Pablo, Hollis, etc.) into the detour.

There have been choppers overhead all day... I am surprised we didn't hear or smell anything last night/this morning.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Saved by the bark…

Last night at about 11:30pm, I'm sitting on the couch next to Rashi, who is curled up in a ball sleeping... I'm getting ready to pick up Krista from SFO... Outta nowhere we hear someone run up our front steps and knock on the door... and try the handle.

Rashi goes nuts, barking like crazy... Though she's just fifty pounds, she sounds ferocious when provoked like this... I head to the door and scream,

"Who is it?" already sensing trouble as we don't get many Sunday night, 11:30pm visitors.

"It's (garbled)..."

"Who?!"...

"It's (garbled)...", he says.

I run around to the bay window to try to get a visual, and at that point I see a cop car with the spotlight swinging from side to side on a search... I stand in the bay window, wave my arms and mouth and pantomime, "He's here!". Plus, Rashi is going ballistic and you could hear her a mile away. The cruiser stops, two cops get out... and for the next half hour proceed to arrest the dude in front of my house.

Rashi is going crazy. I've never seen her like this. She sounds like a wolf with bloodlust, and she's pacing back and forth... She's so amped up that i have to take her with me to pick up Krista.

I talk to a cop that explains that the dude just got out of prison, and he's been attempting breakins in the neighborhood. They'll take it from there... Thanks to the Emeryville cops, who actually went 50 ft. outside of their jurisdiction to deal with this BTW.

I'm still committed to this neighborhood. This is the first serious incident that touched us personally since Krista's car was stolen three years ago. Things are definitely getting better, and hopefully this was just random bad luck.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Upcoming 2.0 Launches!

I knew it was coming, but was blown away when I saw it... Upcoming 2.0 has launched.

Upcoming has been one of my favorite Yahoo sites for quite a while... I cannot believe that such a small team kicks so much ass. Congrats guys!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why the famous get famouser…

Kottke points to a great article by Columbia's Duncan Watts...

The social context of content has everything to do with it's meaning. It's one of the reasons that I think that a purely pixel-based algorithmic approach to, say, image recognition is doomed. In optimistic moments, I've said that the computer vision community may produce a 98% reliable dog detector... But what we really want is a "funny" detector... or "cool" detector... that's gonna be a long-time coming... or maybe it's already here but involves analyzing people's actions around the pixels v. just the pixels in isolation.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut… gone.

Moments ago I learned Kurt Vonnegut passed.

I don't read much fiction, but I loved Vonnegut. I even picked up his more recent stuff... Like Dylan, even when he was not at his peak, he was still worthwhile.

Sometime around 1986 he did a lecture at the University of Michigan. I somehow weaseled my way into the post-event reception. There was a receiving line to shake Vonnegut's hand. What was outta whack was how formal everyone was... the entire affair was stiff and from another century. But I knew that Vonnegut was insane. So I got in the receiving line, and when I got to him I took his hand and dramatically dropped to one knee... Looked him in the eye, and said something like "You're ideas have moved me profoundly..." It was silly, adolescent and absurd... but somehow true to what I was feeling. Without missing a beat he squeezed my hand and said, "I'm so glad." We had a moment.

Bye bye sir. Your peephole has closed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Salim Ismail joins Yahoo!

I'm surprised that we were able to keep this under wraps for so long!

Mike Arrington's post at TechCrunch does a fine job of conveying why we think this is a big deal. There are a couple details that I can help clarify though:

"Tomorrow they’ll announce..."


Well, not really... I think that you just announced it Mike! Salim confirmed too! But hey, if you're looking for an official Yahoo! person with a working purple badge to actually confirm... I'll bite! We hired Salim!

He takes over from interim head...


That's not how I'd put it. Caterina's role in my group (and in Brickhouse in particular) is ongoing and formidable. She's not only been the driving force behind making this happen, but also will remain the "north star" that ensures the program rocks. As you point out, Brickhouse itself is "yet-to-be-launched" so we'll be saying a lot more about it and clarifying all this in the near future. But I couldn't be happier or prouder to have both Salim and Caterina involved. Lucky us!

In the really bad pun department... The only shame is that Salim isn't working on Y! Mail... after all, Salim Ismail... And my mentor Ramesh Jain... He's such an Artificial Intelligence pioneer they put AI smack-dab-in-the-middle of his name... Speaking of names, can you guess how many times Caterina has been spell-checked into "catering?" (Not to mention the problems she has with her last name...) Ok... I can hear you groaning. I'll stop now.

Welcome Salim!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

We are hiring!

Piggybacking on Jeremy's post...

Yahoo's Advanced Development Division is hiring. This is the team that's brought you Pipes, Hack Day, Open Hack Day, TagMaps, ZoneTag, Checkmates... and as Daniel Raffel wrote "other projects too secret to mention."

We need insanely creative, passionate individuals who are highly motivated to change the internet (and the world) as we know it. We've put together a supergroup already. You'll be working with bona fide rockstars of the industry. It'll be fun, lots of fun.

If you think you're "our kinda people", please drop us a line...

Thanks!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Tough but productive week for MyBlogLog

Caterina has a great take that puts it all in perspective.

The team seems battle scarred and tired but exit the week wiser and with a better service. Nice going. May next week be just as productive... but less... um... exciting.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Pipes!

Tim said it better than I could ever hope to...

I'm really proud that our team has launched Pipes tonight. It's still raw with plenty of rough edges... and it'd surprise me if more than a few folks will be able to connect-the-dots and see where this leads (... though Tim's explaining will surely help!) Still, it was time and the concept is "ready enough" to unleash IMHO.

My parents just arrived in the Bay Area, and so tonight I'll focus on them. In the upcoming days, I hope I'll find time to share why I'm so excited about Pipes and proud of the team. In the meantime, go smoke a pipe!

(BTW, I recommend that you check out the "Apartments near Something" pipe for an example of a smokin' pipe.)

The team themselves are the best resources for more info:
- Pasha, who deserves all the credit for both the idea and leading the team,
- Edward, whose passion is matched only by his technical skill,
- Jonathan, the man behind what may be the slickest AJAX application on the web,
- Kevin, who joined recently but completely took the design to a new level in a matter of weeks
- and Daniel, without whom this would be just another great idea that never would have seen the light of day.

And the endeavor was a Caterina Fake production, as all the above are members of her TechDev team.

There were many other supporters and contributors, but I'll avoid the slippery slope of invoking them because I'm mostly clueless.

Jeremy explains it too....


Sunday, February 4, 2007

Recommended: Street Fight


Street Fight is a 2006 Academy Award nominated documentary that chronicles the 2002 mayoral race in Newark, NJ. It's frightening, eye-opening... at times depressing... and at times inspiring. Thank god Cory Booker won the 2006 election and is currently Newark's mayor... Else this would have been impossible to watch.

Monday, January 8, 2007

MyBlogLog and Yahoo light up the blogosphere

Quentin was first and Chad gave the details here: we've acquired MyBlogLog!

I'm totally stoked about this. In describing MyBlogLog, Chad used an "audio analogy." That definitely works, but I prefer the visual one: as powerful as blogging has been, we've been blogging "in the dark." Being a blogger meant the best relationship one's got with her visitors is through her logs - "Oo oo! 18.85.236.12 visited today at 11:04am!!!" And there's the comments of course, but we know only a fraction of visitors to the blog actually leave comments. See [1].

It's like we've been partying in the dark, and MyBlogLog turned on the lights! Now we can all see who's in the room.

Another analogy - the experience of reading blogs has been like attending a movie in the local metroplex. The cool thing about blogging is that it has democratized the process of making a movie. Now instead of just seeing blockbusters from the major studios, anyone can "make a movie." But the experience of consuming it is the same: a couple hundred strangers wander into a theater, the lights go down, and everyone faces the same direction staring at the screen. Protocol dictates little to no interaction with each other... (Isn't it annoying when there's a chatterbox in the next seat over?)


MyBlogLog turns on the lights, and invites people to look at (and dialog) with each other in addition to looking at the screen. Maybe the right analogy is a sports bar. The game is on the big screen providing the content and context. But the fun part is hooting and hollering with your mates, heckling the guys there to support the other team the next table over, etc. It's communal. It's interactive. It's participitory. It's fun.


[I've never been to a sports bar. Maybe I got that part wrong.]

This is a great way to start off 07. By the end of the month, we'll debut something equally interesting and impactful. What a great way to start off 07.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Five Things You Don’t Know About Me

So Ken tagged me a while ago, but I’ve been chilling. Now I’m back in the saddle and ready to blog into 07. I’ll have more to say RSN (real soon now) about Yahoo. It's actually been somewhat amusing and illuminating watching the media frenzy from my unique perspective.

Anyway, here are five things you probably didn’t know about me!

1. I know a lot about gardening. For the past 20 years, my family has owned Flower King, a small flower shop in Livonia Michigan (between Detroit and Ann Arbor.)


Flower King opened when I was about 15, and my first job was doing demolition, painting, hammering, sweeping, etc. - literally helping to build the place. (My family has always rented out the florist component of the business, and run the outdoor/garden center.) Then (for subsequent summers up until I was about 23) I worked there... I got to know a lot about plants, running a business, and most importantly how to talk to people. The experience of working at Flower King helped make me who I am... Things I love about it:
  • intense hours (6am-10pm)
  • short, intense season (100 days)
  • intense physical labor (loading / unloading the trucks)
  • entrepreneurship (no one to delegate to)
  • family business (forged new aspects to my relationships with parents, uncle, siblings)
2. I am 50% WASP. Most people assume I’m 100% Jewish (given my name and the way I look), but I’m actually 50% genetically. My mom’s family (Grandma Thelma Jo Jones and Grandpa James Burris) are from places in Michigan like here and here,


and they drive pickup trucks and hunt, fish, work in auto plants, love Jesus and have names like Cotton, Woody, RJ, etc. My mom’s cousin (my second cousin) is Mark Farner, who was lead vocalist and guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad, the 70’s hard rock supergroup. We referred to him “Uncle Mark” (and due to his fame, his name came up a lot more than my other second cousins.) While this statement is oft-repeated and seldom true, I am in fact "one eighth Cherokee." My great-grandfather Abe Jones was full-blooded, and was driven from Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. (Abe was "Uncle Mark's" grandfather, and also accounts for his Indian blood and tribal recognition.)

3.


I have asthma. It was fairly intense as a child (I can remember being hospitalized twice and needing to get epinephrine shots and be placed in an oxygen tent.) It’s gotten milder and milder over the years, though it could still be triggered by a roomful of cats. I keep an over-the-counter inhaler around.

4. Like Sergey, I’m an ex-gymnast. In fact at one point my brother, sister and I held “Michigan State Champion” titles in our respective age groups and divisions.


My career ended when I was doing a double back pike dismount off the horizontal bar and ended up doing 1.5 flips and cracking my head on the bar. Ten stitches and a concussion later I was seriously rethinking my career in gymnastics. I still have a nasty scar. If I’d hit my neck as opposed to my head it could have been a lot worse. Apart from the risk and danger, gymnastics was an incredible sport for my mind and body. Deep core strength, flexibility, focus... It taught me a lot, and I’ve been coasting physically for a very long time on the foundation it gave me.

5. While at MIT I drove a 1980 Honda Civic with a “Fred Flintstone”

style hole in the driver’s side floorboard.
I bought this car from a friend for $50. I spray-painted it flat black, and then had a friend do stencils on it. The damn thing ran and ran and ran... I ended up giving it to my artist friend William who drove it even more! I was in Cambridge recently, and the junkyard where I salvaged an alternator for this beast has been made into condominiums. It used to be right here.

Ok, now I am tagging Marc, Lucas, Edward, Dave, and Caterina. Guessing if some of these folks haven't responded by now, they don't want to play... but I'll give them another push! It took me a couple tries!
 
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