Yahoo! Widgets 4 is Finally Here!!! (and sleep is close behind)

[Originally posted on my 360 blog]

It’s 3AM, and this is the end of a very busy day, which is nearly the end of a very busy week that has not been unlike pretty much all of the weeks that have blurred together since the start of this year. At 12:01AM PDT, our team released Yahoo! Widgets 4, my first major product launch as a PM (this one was about 7 months in the making, as opposed to this one that took about 6 weeks). I also filed my first two patent applications today. 

My deepest thanks to everyone who helped make this happen. I’m too tired right now to go through everyone and their contributions, but it really was a team effort. It seems like the early reviewers like the new product (TechCrunchDownload SquadMashable, and Widgets Lab) and we’re getting a lot of good feedback from the fans in the forums. You can read more about what’s in the new release on the Yahoo! Widgets blog, and you can get the product (for Windows and Mac) here. I hope you’ll give it a try and let us know what you think.

zzzzzzz

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MyBlogLog Widget for 360?

If you have a 360 page registered on MyBlogLog , you should now see a “Get Widget” button t add their badge to your 360 page. The only problem is that I can’t figure out any place on 360 to enter HTML other than the blog.

So, here goes:

Welcome Vista! (and other news)

I would like to be the second Widgeteer to publicly welcome Microsoft Windows Vista into the world. And here comes the shameless plug: Yahoo! Widgets 3.1 (our current version) officially supports Windows Vista, making ours the leading Widget platform for Vista with over 3,700 Widgets available for you early adopters to start using *right now*.

Anyway, per the parenthetical in the post title, there’s also some other news that seemed to get lost in the whole Vista launch hullabaloo. Today, after 2 years, 7 months, and 16 days at Yahoo! and a little over 8 months as a product manager, I shipped my first product. (Can you believe CNET missed that?!) It’s nothing major — in fact, it’s kinda been my side project for the last 6 weeks while we work on some bigger sexier things (coming soon…) — just a Yahoo! Search gadget for the Windows Vista Sidebar and an accompanying page that aggregates downloadable software from Yahoo! available for Vista. (Note: You must have Vista actually installed for all of this to work properly)

This first definitely means a lot to me — it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I came to Yahoo!. And, what means even more to me is all the hard work put in by the people who made it happen. Thanks to Jeff, Billy, and Alfonso at The Skins Factory for your tireless efforts as well as to Brady, Marcus, Ariel, Anne, Shane, John A., Arlo, and Ed for your help. And, an extra special shout-out to Derrick and John H., who burned the midnight oil to get it all live on Vista launch day.

Making this week even better is the very positive response to the blog post Ed and I worked on over the weekend (thanks to Zealous, Brady, and Thi for their help as well). While TechCrunch called the post “surprisingly unbiased,” my favorite analysis came from a French blogger, who said it was (and excuse my rusty Francais) “a superb lesson on the transparency and authenticity of teams at Yahoo!”. It is really gratifying to see an honest and open approach to communicating with our developers and users pay off in this way. All of us on the team are extremely passionate about what we are doing, and I feel that shines through.

Which brings me to the final bright spot of this week, the team. Those of you who know me personally know that the last 8 months haven’t been the easiest. When I came into the group, there was a bit of uncertainty. But, we have continued to work hard — building great products while also building a great team. And even though we’re all working our tails off, it seems like I’m having more fun coming to work everyday because of who I get to work with and what we get to do. Yesterday, one more piece fell into place. But, we’ve got a few more spots left to fill. So, check out the jobs that show up when you do a search for “Widgets” here.

Three things to smile about this week, and it’s only Tuesday.

Hooray for Yahoo! Go Mobile 2.0

It has yet to be officially announced as far as I can tell, but the Web and WAP sites appear to be live. So, I think it’s safe to tell you…Yahoo! Go Mobile 2.0 is here!!!
Check out http://mobile.yahoo.com/go on your PC or http://us.get.go.yahoo.com on your mobile phone.

The website says it runs on 73 phones from Nokia, RIM, Motorola, and Samsung (though, I have been testing it out on a Nokia 6682, which is a “supported” phone, and it has had serious memory issues — but, I think that’s because the 6682 is a pretty wack phone). So, unlike v1.0, normal people (i.e. not geeks with Symbian or Windows Mobile devices) will actually be able to use it.

I’ve been playing around with the product for the last couple weeks, and I have to say that it’s the first thing in a long time that I’m really psyched about. And, not just because I work at Yahoo!. This is legitimately something I want and want to use *every*day. And, everything about the launch, from the website to the download flow, seems to be well thought out and designed to make the user smile.

I wish I could say I was directly involved in this project, but I haven’t worked on it since June. Congratulations to everyone who has been. I know how hard you guys worked for this, and I hope you are as proud of the final result as I am. Way to go!!!

Inside the Mind of (a) Yahoo!

For better or for worse, Yahoo! has always been a pretty siloed organization. Each major Business Unit is very much a reflection of its leader’s personality and style. While the famed re-org promises to reduce the number of these silos (and make them more aligned with logically distinct business objectives), it shows no signs of reducing the autonomy of BU leadership — which is a great thing in my book.

The head of the BU in which I work, Connected Life, is Marco Boerries. And he is one of the main reasons I’ve remained at Yahoo! through all of the shit that has gone on in the last 18 months or so (there’s a big part of your answer Kareem). This is where the siloes come in handy — no matter how crazy things have gotten in YMG or with Panama, those of us in Marco’s world have been able to focus on our goals and have largely had the tools to achieve them.

For those of you not in the know, the mission of the Connected Life BU is to extend Yahoo! “beyond the browser” — specifically, that means mobile, digital home, and the PC desktop. Working in Connected Life is all about taking bleeding edge products and technologies and bringing them to Yahoo!’s mainstream audience, which is extremely challenging but always exciting. And, to my initial point, it’s also a lot about executing on Marco’s personal vision for how consumers will use Yahoo! across devices. Now, normally that would irk someone as headstrong as me — having to follow someone else’s lead. And at times, Marco and I have had some pretty heated debates. But for me, and a lot of other people I respect, it’s pretty hard to disagree with most of what Marco wants to get done.

Back in November, Marco was asked to deliver the opening keynote at >play. It provided a rare public glimpse into the philsophy that drives the vision behind some of the most interesting (IMHO) things going on at Yahoo! today. I posted about it at the time, and vowed to put the full deck up at some point.

So, here it is: http://straussnet.gorjk.com/random/PlayKeynote.pps

(Note to Y! Legal folks: this is information that has already been vetted by PR and presented in public)

And in the tradition of Ian‘s fantastic BarCampLA1 preso, here’s the text-only version:

“It’s the Consumers, Stupid!”
Technology = Consumer Empowerment
The Internet is the Ultimate Democratizing Innovation
Delivering Consumers What They Want is the Best Strategy
Case Study — Digital Music:
iPod/iTunes/iTMS = total vertical integration ->
Plays for Sure = completely open ecosystem ->
Zune = total vertical integration

There is Another Way
You don’t have to build everything yourself, but you can’t leave it all to chance either
Through close partnership with industry-leading network operators and OEM’s, Yahoo! is extending our consumer-centric view across the value chain

What Consumers Want
It’s Not About Bringing the Device to the Internet
It’s About Bringing the Internet into the Device
Device-Optimized Experiences Leverage Features Unique to the Device
Example — Flickr:
Mobile Phone = Upload -> TV = View -> PC = Manage

What About Content?
Publishers want their Content Distributed as Widely as their Business Model allows
The Internet is Lowering Costs and Enabling New Business Models
Content Delivery is no longer a Publisher Pain Point
Content is no longer Scarce
Consumers care about the Relevance of Content, not it’s Source — “Tier 1 to Me”
“Context is King”

Social Relevance is the Key
Too Much Choice is the new Consumer Pain Point
Attention Management is the new Frontier of Innovation
The Evolution of Attention Management — Web Content:
Editorial = Y! Directory ->
Automated = Google Search; Y! Search ->
Social = del.icio.us; Digg; Y! MyWeb; Technorati

Notes:
– “Context is King” comes from a presentation Randy‘s been giving inside Y! and has promised to blog about (going all the way back to this post)
– “Attention Management” is a term I first heard from Ian
– 9 days after Marco delivered this presentation, Bear Sterns released a report called “The Long Tail: Why Aggregation & Context and Not (Necessarily) Content are King in Entertainment”

Community “Products”

Rant Alert!

I just finished the first of my three planned white papers last night, and decided to let it percolate a bit before moving on to the next two. It is currently a six-page screed on microeconomic theory in the digital age, and I will likely post some portions of it here soon. In the meantime, I thought I would catch up on some blogosphere surfing and MyWeb bookmarking (come on Yahoo! marketing, where’s the verb for that? MyWebbing? Gong!). And after reading through a couple of posts linked to from Kareem’s highly-underrated blog, something just snapped.

I work at Yahoo!. We are the leading community on the internet both in size and breadth of tools. And, we have some brilliant people who really get community (shouts out to: Ian, Michael, Russell, Randy, Stewart, Caterina, Danah, and Cameron, among others). But we also have some people who seriously don’t get it. They see community as a means to an end, not the end in itself. They are jealous of MySpace and Facebook and whatever the next big fad will be, because of their rapid audience growth.

Audience is what matters to these people because audience is what you sell in conventional advertising [oh, wtf…I’ll succumb to the 1.0/2.0 cliché – I guess it’s only a cliché because it works], let’s call it advertising 1.0. As Google has taught the world, advertising 2.0 is about selling intent. In the pre-digital age, audience put through a number of filters (like content association, demographic information, etc) was used as a proxy for intent. Advertisers weren’t really happy with this approximation, because they knew it was an inefficient means of buying what they really wanted – access to consumers with a certain intent. But, that was the best that conventional media could do, so advertisers settled. As John Wanamaker said approximately a hundred years ago, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” I won’t go further into advertising 2.0 other than to say that it is coming faster and faster. What makes advertising 2.0 relevant to this particular rant is the fact that it favors monetization of communities, not just audiences.

Getting back to the people who don’t get the “it” of communities; the way you can tell these people is that they talk about “user-generated content” way too much – they treat it as some kind of panacea that will fix the problems inherent with trying to port conventional media business models to the internet. The worst of these offenders use the term so much that they have taken to saving time by abbreviating it…from this day forth, I vow to walk out of any meeting in which someone actually uses the term “UGC” in anything but an ironic context. (Ok, I probably won’t really do that if there are executives present…but, that person will be put on my moron list).

Derek Powazek puts it much more eloquently than I ever could:

User: One who uses. Like, you know, a junkie.
Generated: Like a generator, engine. Like, you know, a robot.
Content: Something that fills a box. Like, you know, packing peanuts.

So what’s user-generated content? Junkies robotically filling boxes with packing peanuts. Lovely.

Calling the beautiful, amazing, brilliant things people create online “user-generated content” is like sliding up to your lady, putting your arm around her and whispering, “Hey baby, let’s have intercourse.”

Amen brother! Derek goes on to suggest the term “Authentic Media,” which I like a lot and hope gets memeified. Authentic media definitely jibes a lot more with all the web and media 2.0 theory around which people are beginning to coalesce.

Anyway, back to the rant at hand. The reason I ironically titled the post “Community ‘Products'” (yes, my over use of quotation marks is often meant to denote irony), is that I don’t believe big companies can succeed at community products. Big companies, like Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, and even AOL, contribute most to the community value chain by building community platforms, on which the community builds its own products. Isn’t that the real underlying goal of online communities, to incite scalable self-sustaining user-behavior? If you define the product as what the end-user actually consumes, the value of any community product to a given individual user tends to be proportional to its focus on his interests. On social networking sites, like Friendster, Yahoo! 360, MySpace, Facebook, etc, what the end user consumes is a combination of content produced by the host, the community, and himself. The more that product management rests in the hands of that user, the more focused the product will be on that user’s

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