Meet Scott Dietzen, the New Guy at Yahoo in Charge of Flickr

Scott Dietzen from Zimbra
Photo by Robert Sanzalone.

[I’m CEO of Zooomr]

Ok, I’m sure I’m going to take some heat for this one for sure, but I’ve been watching the new re-org plans carefully at Yahoo! recently. Many of the so called “innovators” have recently been leaving Yahoo! in droves including my main man Flickr Chief Stewart Butterfield, who wrote the most brilliant resignation letter I think I’ve ever seen to his boss, Brad Garlinghouse, who as it turns out, has now been stripped of his duties as the man upstairs in charge of all things Flickr.

As the world turns, so has been said.

So with today’s re-org announcement my first bit of business was to try and decipher who the hell would ultimately be in charge of Flickr now that Brad seems to be on the outs. I never knew Brad well, but I have his business card, so I must have met him at something or something sometime back.

Best I can tell, the new main man in charge of Flickr is none other than some guy named Scott Dietzen. Not alot is known about this man. Apparently he is not famous enough yet to have a wikipedia page for himself, but I was able to track down his personal weblog, which you can visit here. You can view his Flickrstream here. Bear in mind that Dietzen is not running Flickr, he’s not Stewart’s replacement. That would be the very capable Kakul Srivastava. No, Dietzen, best I can tell is the new executive who is ultimately responsible for Flickr and is Kakul’s boss (maybe?).

Now, I know nothing about Dietzen and I’m not judging the man here at all, and there’s nothing wrong with using a competitor’s services (I’m sure tons of folks at Yahoo use Google to search the web, no?), but I did find it interesting today that rather than using Flickr, Dietzen chooses to use SmugMug to host his own photos on his personal weblog. Here’s his SmugMug account here. SmugMug of course is a pretty kick ass service and then there’s always the case that it’s good to keep your eye on the pulse of the competition thingy.

But I guess what sort of worries me more is that Dietzen doesn’t seem to have had much experience using Flickr when he now has all power over the site. I added him as a friend on Flickr today and we’ll see if he reciprocates and adds me back, but frankly, he just doesn’t seem to use it much. On Flickr Dietzen’s only got a single contact, some guy named Sam Pullara. He’s hasn’t marked a single photo as a favorite. And best I can tell he’s just not all that active on the site. In fact, he hasn’t even uploaded any photos to the site since 2004.

Now I’m not saying that someone unfamiliar with Flickr can’t be in charge of it. And I’m not saying that Kakul is not totally capable of running Flickr — I’m sure she is. And sometimes the best bosses simply leave you alone and let their very capable underlings run things best. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this new appointment didn’t worry me just a little bit.

You see, Flickr largely ought to be in the business of mining tin (read: innovation), and I’m not entirely convinced that Dietzen understands yet the importance of tin, or the importance of the tin mine that’s currently being entrusted to his oversight, given that he hasn’t set foot in the mine since 2004.

So maybe I’m wrong and Dietzen will turn out to be the tinsmith that I hope he is. But my first bit of advice would be to spice up his own personal Flickr page a bit. Maybe get a few of his photography buddies to write him some testimonials or something. And my second piece of advice is that he give Rev Dan Catt over on the Flickr team some sort of promotion. Maybe head of vice presidents or something or something. I’m not sure. Just a little something to spice up the man’s resume. He’s good people.

That’s all for now.

Update: I just received a clarification email back from Yahoo Corporate (that was fast). This note came from Jennifer Stephens, VP, Corporate Communications:

“Hi Tom –

I saw your blog post on the new Yahoo! organization and wanted to clarify that Flickr is part of Communities, which will be led by Tapan Bhat. Tapan is an SVP and will now be head of Front Doors, Communities and Network Services (his previous title was SVP of Front Doors and Network Services). Kakul will report to Tapan.

Tapan has been with Yahoo! nearly 4 years and has led many of our Open and Social initiatives including Yahoo! Buzz among others.

Can you please post this correction?

Thanks much.


I shot Jennifer an email back asking her who Bhat reports into as I’m still a bit confused if Dietzen has any oversight of Flickr or not (could he be Bhat’s boss?). Interestingly enough also I could not find a flickr account at all for Bhat. Strange that the person directly overseeing Flickr would not even have an account himself. All that dogfooding or whatever they call it back up there in Redmond.

I asked Jennifer if Bhat had a Flickr account at all or not and will report back here when I know more.

I still remain troubled that Dietzen and now Bhat seem to have little hands on experiencing what the Flickr service is all about. From my own interpretation of Butterfield’s cryptic resignation letter, I got the impression that the suits at Yahoo might not totally get the innovators at Yahoo. It would be nice to see someone who was truly passionate about Flickr ultimately in charge of improving the service.

Update #2: Jennifer just got back with me saying Ash Patel, who leads the Audience Product Division is in fact Tapan’s new boss. It would thus appear that Scott Dietzen has no authority over Flickr whatever (best I can tell) even though he appears to have taken Garlinhouse’s job who used to oversee Flickr. More to come here in a bit.

Update #3, Dietzen added me back as a contact on Flickr. Cool. Former Yahoo exec Bradley Horowitz also added me today on Flickr as well.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Tom. It’s posts like this that make me wary about using any of the Web 2.0 sites and sharing any information about myself at all. You might be happy with friendfeed and having your pseudonym-life in public, but are you sure you’re not just stalking these poor Yahoos? (Commented here before, but going anonymous this time)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Tim. It’s posts like this that make me wary about using any of the Web 2.0 sites and sharing any information about myself at all. You might be happy with friendfeed and having your pseudonym-life in public, but are you sure you’re not just stalking these poor Yahoos? (Commented here before, but going anonymous this time)

  3. Anonymous says:

    If that came through as Tim, I’m sorry, I meant to say Tom!

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    Anonymous. If Scott Dietzen is so concerned with his privacy then he probably shouldn’t have a personal website up. His site is the third Google result for his name. I wouldn’t exactly call that “stalking,” him.

    I think whether or not an executive uses a service that they oversee is interesting information to know.

  5. jeffd says:

    Doesn’t look like Dietzen’s smugmug site has been updated in over three years.

    For that matter neither has Flickr, so I guess he’s even there.

  6. Amazing story. Am following with interest. BTW, the above shot was taken in Tokyo at the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Conference in Nov. 2007 where Scott was one of the Keynotes.

  7. jacek says:

    FYI: “Prior to Zimbra, Scott was CTO of BEA Systems where he was the principal architect of the technology strategy for the WebLogic product family, which drove the company from $61 million in revenue for the year prior to WebLogic’s acquisition to over $1 billion. He was also one of BEA’s top spokespersons with customers, business partners, analysts, and the press. Scott came to BEA in 1998 via the $200+ million acquisition of WebLogic, a pioneer in Java and web application technology. He is credited with helping put together the J2EE standard, launching the Web application server category, launching the Java Community Process, and driving the web services collaboration with Microsoft and IBM. Prior to WebLogic, Scott was Principal Technologist for Transarc (acquired by IBM), a developer of distributed transaction and information sharing systems. He earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in Computer Science and B.S. in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University.”

  8. Anonymous says:

    Scott is coming from Zimbra, easily arguable as the most innovative groupware platform offered both as SaaS, and with open-source and commercial versions available for organizations that want to run it themselves. If you’re looking for a tech innovator, Scott is one. Amid the constellation of bright decisions that has enabled the company to grow into one of the industry’s luminaries, Yahoo! was smart to acquire Zimbra, and smart to promote him. It remains a question only is Yahoo! is good enough for Scott?