Posts Tagged ‘Yahoo’

An Open Letter to Carol Bartz, CEO Yahoo Inc.

Google, Er, Yahoo Car Needs a Bath

Dear Ms. Bartz,

I just finished reading your demoralizing letter regarding recent layoffs at Yahoo over at All Things Digital. Although I’m only a Yahoo user, not an employee, I am a heavy user of your Flickr product — a product that I’ve enjoyed and loved for many years now. As such, I watch how Yahoo is run with keen interest, mostly because I’m worried about how your corporate leadership will affect that site which I love so much.

For your first year of your reign at Yahoo you gave yourself a grade of B-, this past year you seemed a little more defensive and gave yourself a grade of simply “pass.” You’ve had the you know what kicked out of you, of course, by most of the tech and financial press over the past few years and have come back swinging yourself in odd ways. Telling Mike Arrington to “f*** off” for instance.

The market, we know, is frequently one of the most efficient graders of all. There is no grade inflation there.

On the day that you were announced as the new incoming CEO of Yahoo, January 14, 2009, Yahoo’s stock price closed at $12.41 per share. Now on the one hand that price vs. today’s price of $16.46 looks pretty good. In fact that’s over a 32% return since you’ve been at the helm. But the thing is that you took charge coming off the worst year in the stock market in recent history so we can’t really credit all of that to you.

In fact while Yahoo has been up +32% since you took over. Your competitors have been up quite a bit more. Google is up almost +100% in the same time period. Apple is up +275%, even the old slowpoke Microsoft is up +51%. The Nasdaq Composite is up +79% and the S&P 500 is up +53%. In short, Yahoo’s stock performance under your tenure thus far has been a laggard — but you already know this.

I suppose I wouldn’t really care about the stock price of Yahoo except for the fact that I think you’re just letting one of the best products at Yahoo, Flickr, languish. In your letter to your employees you say, it’s “no secret that we’re cutting investment in underperforming and non-core products so we can focus on our strengths (like email, the homepage, search, mobile, advertising, content and more)”

Email? The homepage? search ? mobile? advertising? Yawn.

You know what I don’t see in there? Flickr. Photos. I’m assuming that you consider Flickr one of those “underperforming and non-core products.”

Do you even realize what you have with Flickr? It’s the largest well organized library of images in the world. Not only that, it has a very strong social networking component. In fact, Flickr may represent (if managed correctly) your single biggest opportunity to launch a much larger and more lucrative social network (and stock photography agency as well). Have you spent any time in any Flickr groups? They are addicting. People live in them. They play games in them. All kinds of activity goes on in them every day. And if you took the time to really explore the social side of Flickr, you’d learn this, and figure out a way to grow it.

But you know what? You haven’t taken the time to really explore the social side of Flickr. Hell, you don’t even have an account yourself on Flickr. One of the most highly visible and trafficked Yahoo properties and you don’t even have an account there. Would it be so hard to have your assistant set up an account for you and post some photos of some mountains from a family vacation two years ago?

I listened in on your first analysts conference call. On the call you mentioned that your daughter was using Facebook to share photos. There was an opportunity right there for you to plug your own photo sharing site. Flickr needs you. They need you to be a cheerleader for the site. It would be good for morale to hear you mention the site once in a while. It also seems like a no brainer from a PR perspective. I know if I were CEO at Yahoo I sure as hell would have a Flickr account. In fact I’d set up accounts really on all of the services that I was commander and chief of and I’d actually use them from time to time to build a familiarity with what works and what doesn’t.

Now here’s what really galls me. Despite the overall dismal performance of your stock price. Despite the fact that your competitors are building traction when you are not. Despite the fact that much of your best talent is leaving in droves (I know Stewart Butterfield left before you got there but you really should read his resignation letter). Despite the fact that you won’t come down out of your ivory tower to actually get down in the trenches and work with us (your users) to figure out how we can make your products better. Despite all of this. You, yes you, were the highest paid CEO in the Standard & Poors 500 last year.

That’s right. At least according to this report you made $47.2 *million*. Now in addition to paying you all that dough, you also wasted $100 million on a stupid ad campaign saying that the “internet was under new management, yours.” Carol, if the internet was under new management “mine,” I sure as hell wouldn’t be deleting my own Flickr group with over 3,000 members now would I?

Imagine what an insult it is to your Yahoos when you send them out a memo saying that their unit is an under-performing and non-core product. That they get to watch their co-workers laid off just before Christmas while you reap in amazing piles of dough personally. This is not leadership. Leadership would be you coming out and saying you feel their pain and that you will be working for a $1 salary next year and will continue to work for $1 per year until you can get the company turned around. Do you really need more and more millions of dollars anyways? I guarantee you it’s not going to be a thin Christmas at the Bartz household this year.

And your complaint about the fact that your layoffs were leaked ahead of your actually axing people? Get over that. Your acrimony towards bloggers, your iron clad commitment to containment and secrecy within the Yahoo ranks isn’t working. People want honesty and transparency these days. So be transparent. Be human.

I’m sorry to be so blunt and so harsh on you in this letter. I dispute both your grades of B- and “pass.” I’d give you a fail for your first two years. A failure to grow the stock price. A failure to inspire the troops. A failure to innovate. I wouldn’t care so much except for the fact that you currently own what is one of the most important and significant cultural treasures of our lifetime. Flickr. And Flickr holds so much promise and so much could be done to innovate there and it just doesn’t feel like you give a damn.

Flickr will be here long after you are and its cultural significance to our world will outlast your quarter to quarter financial results. While not being your most profitable unit by any measure, understand what it is that you have. Use its strengths. Be its cheerleader. Figure out how you can harness the social networking potential there. I’d be happy to talk with you about ways that you could improve it if you had an interest.

Best Regards,

Thomas Hawk

Update: This letter to Carol Bartz is also now syndicated over at Business Insider here.

Does Google’s Acquisition of Picnik Suggest That Google’s Picasa is Getting Ready to Seriously Challenge Yahoo’s Flickr Photo Sharing Site?

Does Google's Acquisition of Picnik Suggest That Google's Picasa is Getting Ready to Seriously Challenge Yahoo's Flickr Photo Sharing Site

Google acquired image editing site Picnik today. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but you can read the announcements by Picnik and Google on their respective blogs.

This is interesting to me for a few reasons.

First, Picnik is the default image editing software built into Yahoo’s photosharing site Flickr. While nobody has yet suggested that Picnik will be getting the boot from Flickr, it would seem to me an awkward relationship at best for a Yahoo property to be using a Google owned service for part of their offering. I suspect that Picnik gets dropped by Flickr and replaced with some sort of new offering.

But second, you have to ask yourself why Google would buy Picnik and why now.

The most logical application for Picnik at Google, would be for Google to integrate the software into their photo sharing property Picasa which competes with Flickr. The fact that Google would allocate $$$ towards Picasa right now may signal that they are getting serious about finally mounting some reasonable effort at trying to displace Flickr as the photo social sharing King of the internet.

What else makes me think this? Google Buzz. While I consider Flickr superior in a lot of ways to Picasa today, the biggest advantage that Flickr has always held over their competitors is how strong a grip they’ve had on the social aspect of photo sharing. But now that Buzz has arrived on the scene (and your Buzz photos go into Picasa albums by default by the way), it would appear that Google finally has a viable social network to compete with Flickr’s own internal social network inside of Flickr. By combining the social power of buzz, with an enhanced version of Picasa, Google could mount a formidable competing offering to Yahoo’s Flickr.

Personally I hope this is the case. Why? Because Flickr needs competition. Not only have they grown lazy in terms of innovation (because they can), they treat their users and their users’ data disrespectfully (because they can) censoring users and nuking whole communities on their site. With a stronger competitor out there it may force Yahoo to finally begin beefing up Flickr as well as treating their users better than they have been.

I’ve been actively using Picasa for the past few weeks after not really using them for years, mostly because of their integration with Buzz. They are still a long ways away from Flickr. Flickr today is a much more elegant offering with far better organizational capabilities and a huge body of work already on the site which carries weight. But with the right engineers hacking on Picasa and the right $$$ being allocated from Google, I’m pretty sure Picasa could in fact build a better Flickr. Combining the social sharing aspects of Buzz with a beefed up Picasa from Google, would be a formidable offering on the social photo sharing space.

Certainly integrating Picnik into Picasa (weird how their names are so similar) will enhance Picasa a bit. But here are the things I think Picasa should also be working on if they want to offer viable competition to Flickr.

1. Picasa should redesign the service around the concept of the photostream. By default Picasa only has album views. But people think in terms of streams much of the time. Flickr has a stream AND albums (sets). Picasa just has albums (and sort of clunky albums at that). By retooling the site with a photostream as a primary view, Picasa would feel more comfortable for people who wanted to migrate away from Flickr and towards Picasa. Picasa could still have albums (just like Flickr has sets), but a photostream should be the primary main view.

2. Picasa needs better organizational tools. Flickr’s organizer is *amazing*. In fact, it’s probably what I’m impressed with more than anything that they’ve ever done. The ability to batch organize photos is powerful. Picasa’s not as much. One very easy thing Picasa could do right away to improve their organizational capabilities would be to introduce SmartSets. SmartSets allow you to build albums/sets around the concept of tags. I can say, for instance, put all of my photos that are tagged/keyworded “neon” into my neon album/set. There could be better support this way for overlapping albums as well. I might have a Golden Gate Bridge album (for instance) that had all my Golden Gate Bridge photos. But those photos could also be in a SmartSet for my San Francisco photos too.

3. Picasa should make blogging photos easier. Flickr has super easy html code that you can easily cut and paste and then use to blog. Picasa allows this too but with more complicated tables that are difficult to custom size and are harder work to use. Picasa could easily copy flickr’s approach and get more traction from bloggers wanting to use Picasa to host their photos.

4. Picasa needs a better “Recent Activity” view. “Recent Activity” may be the most viewed page on Flickr for active users. Picasa needs a better way for you to easily and quickly view what’s going on with your photos. Likes/comments/tags/etc. in a central page view on Picasa.

5. Picasa needs a super easy to use Flickr-Picasa importer. Our photos belong to us. Not Flickr. So does the metadata (tags, geotags, etc.) associated with our photos. Much of this data today is trapped in the silo that is Flickr. Picasa should build an application that makes it super simple to (with the press of a button) transfer all of your Flickr photos (and metadata) easily over to Picasa. If Flickr won’t grant Picasa a commercial API key for this, then Google/Picasa should make a point of publicizing that Yahoo/Flickr is not serious about user data portability and a more open and relevant web.

There is a ton more that Picasa could do to compete with Flickr. Hopefully today’s announcement of Picnik is but a first step in a serious attempt by Google to build a viable competitor to Flickr.

Congratulations, by the way, to the Picnik team on today’s exciting announcement.

Yahoo! Totally You = Totally Screwed

Yahoo!  Totally You = Totally Screwed

While Yahoo! professes to care about "you" in their new multi million dollar marketing campaign, in actuality Yahoo!’s Flickr destroys user data.

Your sites, your mail, your friends, your whatever, yes totally.

…unless your site is on Yahoo’s flickr and then they can nuke it whenever they feel like it.

More information here.

An Open Letter to Elisa Steele EVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Yahoo Inc. on the New “The Internet is You,” Yahoo Marketing Campaign

An Open Letter to Elisa Steele EVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Yahoo Inc. on the New "The Internet is You," Yahoo Marketing Campaign

Dear Elisa:

Last month when you announced Yahoo! Inc’s new multi-million dollar ad campaign including the tagline, “the internet’s under new management yours,” I wrote you an open letter. While admittedly the letter was critical and even a bit sarcastic at times regarding censorship on Yahoo’s photo sharing site Flickr, I nonetheless was hopeful that perhaps Yahoo was sincere in your latest marketing message. I thought the statement was much better than the last big Yahoo marketing campaign about everybody needing to wear purple clothes or whatever, and as someone who values customer service oriented companies, I thought it was a positive statement for Yahoo to make.

Unfortunately, at this point, however, I am going to have to call bullshit on your new campaign. I assume it’s ok with you that I’m using such strong language to describe your campaign. Your boss Carol Bartz has built a big reputation as a tough talker with salty language so I’m hoping you’ll understand.

You see Elisa, despite the fact that seemingly everywhere I turn in San Francisco I see another one of your new ads on a bus shelter somewhere, the message rings hollow. It’s doublespeak. It’s inauthentic.

Yesterday, your Flickr Community Manager Heather Champ destroyed a community on Flickr that was home to over 3,000 hard-core Yahoo users. It was a community of photographers, many of whom have spent years on Yahoo in a group that was rich and vibrant. The group had over 5,000 ongoing conversations in it. It’s where many of us lived on Yahoo. The group was in part dedicated to free speech, but it was so much more than that. The group was a place where we talked about music. Where we shared tips on photography. Where we debated about film vs. digital. Where we went to ask each other for advice on what lens we ought to purchase next. It was a place where many of us went to meet each day. It was a place where offline photography meetups were organized. We actually published a magazine together. Many of us became good friends in real life.

But yesterday, while we were conversing there, and without any warning or opportunity to take any sort of self-corrective action, your Community Manager went nuclear and destroyed all of that user data. All of it. Every last thread. With a push of a button. Threads that were meaningful and important to us.

This was data that did not belong to Yahoo! Elisa. You destroyed something that did not belong to you. You destroyed hours and hours of peoples hard work maliciously and callously. You destroyed a group dedicated to free speech, but more significantly you destroyed a group that thousands of people had put significant emotional energy into.

And do you know what your Community Manager was tweeting mere seconds before she nuked this very popular group Elisa? She was tweeting “I hate your freedom.”

That’s right Elisa I, hate, your, freedom. That’s the image that I chose to go with this letter to you. A screenshot of her freedom hating tweet.

While I’m sure your representative got a good laugh out of that tweet, personally I found it as offensive as the fact that so much user data was destroyed so callously in the first place. You see Elisa, Yahoo already has a problem with people thinking that you hate freedom. Remember when Jerry Yang got called before the U.S. Congress and was brow beaten after you all released private emails to the Chinese Govt which resulted in a Chinese journalist’s imprisonment to this day? Remember just last week when rumors (very unfounded rumors I might add) were flying that Yahoo! had released private information on thousands of freedom seeking dissidents to the Iranian Govt?

“I hate your freedom?” Really Elisa? This is the marketing message that you as Yahoo’s Chief Marketing Officer want to send out to the world as you rip apart an online community dedicated to free speech. It’s distasteful and it’s offensive.

You see Elisa, all the money spent in the world on bus stop billboards cannot make your marketing message ring true when the real voices, real human authentic voices online, ring out that the internet (at least at Yahoo!) is in fact very much not under our management at all. In fact our feelings are not taken into consideration one iota. We, thousands of us, are tossed aside, thrown out like garbage. Our hard work destroyed by you. Not only do actions like this invalidate your message, they create enormous ill will against Yahoo that will stand for many years going forward.

A number of help forum threads (now all conveniently locked down by your staff) were created over the destruction of this group. I will quote you the official Yahoo! statement, again from Ms. Champ stated in one of those locked threads:

“Flickr is a community with fences. If you want the open range, then unfortunately, what you want to do is beyond what we allow.”

You see how that reads Elisa? It does not read that Yahoo is all about “you” at all. It’s a patronizing statement that says Yahoo is not about what “you” want. It’s about what “we” want. I hope you can see how this statement directly contradicts your current marketing slogan that the internet is under new management, you.

I’m sure you are familiar with John Gilmore, Elisa, a well respected thinker who co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a quite respected organization that fights for freedom online. John Gilmore once said, “the Internet perceives censorship as damage and routes around it.” And that’s what many of us have now done. Many of us in the community that was destroyed have now decided that we will no longer use Yahoo for our community experience. Yahoo simply cannot be trusted to not destroy thousands of hours of our work in the future. Instead we will be using community space hosted by one of your competitors, FriendFeed, a site owned by Facebook.

You see, despite not having a large glitzy “the internet’s about you,” campaign, to my knowledge FriendFeed has never censored anyone. They have this really cool feature allowing users to block somebody if you don’t like what they have to say instead. It’s great. When you do that they just disappear entirely on the site for you. Poof. Magic. Rather than pay for salaries and benefits for a team of censors, they just let their users block content that they don’t like and let me tell you, it works *alot* better that way.

Interestingly enough Elisa, FriendFeed was founded in part by the very guy who came up with the Google (another one of your competitors) slogan, “don’t be evil,” — as a marketing exec I’m sure you realize how powerful of a corporate message that has turned out to be, much more powerful than everybody needs to wear purple.

I’d hope that you could see how nuking an entire group over what was a skirmish between maybe two members in the group might not make sense. You used a shotgun to kill a gnat.

Many things could have been done to more responsibly address the Yahoo concern in question. Admins of the group could have been warned and given an opportunity to take corrective action on their own, the single offending post could have been deleted rather than destroying thousands of posts 99.9% of which were entirely unoffensive, you could have simply removed what you found offensive and locked the group down, leaving a rich collection of user data to at least exist in an archive format for future reference for those who had created it.

It did not need to be nuked.

I do hope you take a moment out of your busy day to address this situation personally Elisa because it is damaging to both Yahoo’s brand and your own campaign that you are spending significant shareholder money on.

And as long as these are the types of actions that you and your management stand behind then your current campaign is very much meaningless indeed. I do also hope that you do not allow your staff to personally retaliate against me by nuking my own flickr photostream for writing to you what is in fact a very respectful letter.

Thomas Hawk

Flickr User Posts Comments Critical of Obama on the Official White House Photostream and Has His Comments Along With His Entire Flickrstream Deleted Without Warning

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If you don’t think that Flickr should delete accounts without warning and censor political speech digg this here.

I was dismayed today to read about the latest alleged case of Flickr Censorship. Censorship (or as they like to call it “moderation”) continues to be a problem on Flickr.

The most recent case is that of Flickr User Shepherd Johnson. According to Johnson on the evening of Wednesday June 3rd, he posted comments critical of President Obama on “8 or so” photos on the White House’s official Flickrstream. He said that he posted these comments because he was upset with the language that Obama chose to use in his recent Cairo speech regarding terrorism. Johnson said that two days later his comments had been scrubbed and deleted from the Flickr photos. Johnson shared with me the type of comment that he made and what he shared with me seemed appropriate and polite.

On Friday, June 5th, once again Johnson posted more comments on photos in the official White House Flickrstream. This time comments that were critical of the President’s recent decision to try and withhold photographs of detainee prison abuse.

From Johnson:

“Well, Friday it so happens is the day the Senate voted and passed the Graham/Lieberman bill called The Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009. Which allows the Obama administration to withhold from the public photos of horrible acts used by the Bush administration in it’s so called War on Terror. This to me was unacceptable. There are so few venues where the public can air grievances with our leaders and our government. This forum being the Official Whitehouse Photostream is an acceptable (I thought) place for me to make my comments known.”

Unfortunately for Johnson at about 11:00pm on June 05, 2009 when he tried to log on to his flickr account, he found that it was terminated without warning.

Again from Johnson:

“No explanation or anything. One second I was on and then I could not access my account. When I got back onto flickr using another account I went back to the Whitehouse site and all of my postings had been scrubbed. They were gone. I had about a years worth of work on that account and they just terminated my account with no warning. Some of the photos I had on the account had no back ups so they are now gone forever.”

You can see a cache of Johnson’s deleted Flickr account here. It was a paid Pro Flickr account with over 1,000 photographs in it.

It is interesting that Johnson was also using his Flickrstream to post additional photos that he had taken of government officials. Here is a flickr photo of his of his still intact from wikimedia of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke leaving Bilderberg last year. In fact, if you look through the cached copy of his former Flickrstream you will see that a great deal of the photographs in his flickrstream were of political events, protests and politicians.

It is very unfortunate that Flickr would choose to take this course of action with one of their members. Freedom of Speech is an important thing and something that ought to be encouraged at Yahoo, not punished. Political speech especially ought to be give a very wide berth with regards to tolerance. It is even more eggregious given that this user was never even warned over the comments that he made, his account was simply irreversibly and permanently deleted. It is wrong for Flickr to do this. I’ve long argued that at a minimum Flickr ought to suspend offensive accounts temporarily (they could easily do this by simply making every photo in a user’s stream private) and allow an appeals process for grievances rather than simply acting with dictatorial power as a censor.

I contacted Yahoo regarding this latest censorship on their part and received back the following official response from their PR firm:

Flickr Statement:

In accordance with Flickr’s policy, we cannot disclose information to third parties concerning a member’s account. However, in joining Flickr, all of our members agree to abide by our Community Guidelines. These guidelines require that all of our members be respectful of the community and flag content that may not be suitable for “safe” viewing. Our members have always done a great job of identifying inappropriate and offensive content on Flickr and bringing it to our attention. We encourage all members to continue to make Flickr a safe place to share photos and videos.

Flickr is a very large community made up of many types of members from all over the world, and we respect the viewpoints and expressions of all of our members. In crafting the Community Guidelines, Flickr weighed the rights of the individual vs. the rights of the overall community, and built a system that would enable members to choose what they want to view. As with any community, online or off, there are members who may disregard the Community Guidelines. When this happens, Flickr may have to take action accordingly towards building a respectful community. For more information: http://www.flickr.com/guidelines.gne”

Update: In another forum here, Johnson has stated that he left a voicemail on Carol Bartz’s personal cell phone on the matter. He said after leaving this message that he had a returned phone call from Flickr Community Manager Heather Champ who told him that this account was deleted because he posted a photo of a prison detainee and because they accused him of “spamming” flickr. You can read the relevant forum thread here. Apparently another flickrstream where Johnson got the detainee photo was also deleted. Johnson is also stating that Heather told him that she did not know anything about the other deleted comments which may mean that they were actually deleted by the White House itself.

From Johnson: “She said that [edit: posting a detainee abuse photo] was part of the reason and the other part was that she claimed that I was spamming the forum, to which I asked her if she also gave warnings to the people who posted on twenty photographs the same “That’s my President Go bama!” type drivel over and over and over again. I also had her define the word “spam”, to which she could not. She seemed very careful to place her words correctly. We talked for about two hours. I think Carol really got under her skin. Carol apparently didn’t speak with her directly, she got the trickle down effect. Oh yeah, she offered me a $24.99 gift card for a new pro account but told me my precious photos and the hard work that I put in over the past year were irretrievable. I had over 53,000 views on that account. Some consolation.”

Update #2: More from Johnson: “Heather only mentioned that she deleted the comments concerning the Abu Ghraib photo, when I asked her about the original comment on the Obama Cairo Speech she had no idea what I was talking about. I crafted my dialogue with her to find out exactly what she knew and when she knew it. That means that somebody connected with the Whitehouse, one of Peter Souza’s staff or an intern, deleted my comments originally.

Update #3: See more on this story from the San Francisco Chronicle here and Gawker here, and the Silicon Valley Insider here, and Techmeme here, CNN here, BusinessWeek here, and the NY Post here, if you prefer Italian here.

Yahoo’s New Marketing Chief Elisa Steele Doesn’t Use Flickr and How This Signals That Yahoo Management Is Out of Step With Innovation

Yahoo's New Marketing Chief Elisa Steele Doesn't Use Flickr and How This Signals That Yahoo Management Is Out of Step With Innovation

The Wall Street Journal today reported on Carol Bartz’s (Yahoo’s new CEO) latest executive appointment, Elisa Steele. Steele joins Yahoo in a newly created Chief Marketing Officer position.

“Yahoo’s marketing strategy and teams have become decentralized over time– hiring Elisa in the CMO role will quickly mobilize our plan to integrate the function globally and more effectively represent the Yahoo brand,” Ms. Bartz said, according to the Journal.

When I first read about this appointment, the first thing I did is went and did a search for Elisa Steele on Yahoo’s photo sharing site Flickr. It turns out that there is a single account under this name (completely dead and inactive) going by the handle Kangas. There is also a single photograph of Steele on the site as well.

After Bartz was appointed as CEO of Yahoo I did a similar search on Flickr to see if Bartz was active there after Bartz mentioned on a Yahoo earnings conference call that her daughter used Facebook to share photos. Like today’s appointment Bartz also was not active on Flickr. There is also a lone Bartz account on Flickr, like the Steele account also completely dead and inactive. If you do a search on Yahoo’s bookmarking site delicious for either Bartz or Steele, neither of them show up there either.

Now some people say “so what.” Who cares if Yahoo execs don’t use Flickr personally. They are busy people and have plenty of other more important things to do than to play around on a photo sharing site. But I think that having Yahoo executives not use their company’s most innovative products sends a message both to the product teams that manage those products as well as the broader public about how Yahoo executives view innovation.

Both delicious and Flickr are two of Yahoo’s most popular services. More significantly, however, both are considered to be two of Yahoo’s most *innovative* products. When delicious founder Joshua Schachter left Yahoo he made a very significant comment over at a post on TechCrunch explaining his departure:

“I was largely sidelined by the decisions of my management. So that was mostly the result rather than the cause, if that makes sense. It was an incredibly frustrating experience and I wish I was a lot more like Stewart in terms of pushing my point of view.”

Even more damning an indictment came in the form of Flickr Co-Founder Stewart Butterfield’s incredibly creative, but crpytic, letter of resignation to the company.

Now I guarantee you that both Carol Bartz and Elisa Steele have photos that they could share with the rest of the world if they chose to use Flickr. C’mon, kids, everybody’s doing it these days! Even if they don’t have personal photos of friends and family that they want to share, they undoubtedly have photographs of flowers or kittens or of the Grand Canyon from a vacation or whatever. Even if they had zero photos to possibly share on their hard drives they could at least mark a few photos of others as favorites of theirs on the site. Feel free to fave some of my photos here Carol and Elisa.

Over the years executives at Microsoft have been big proponents of the idea of dogfooding. Hell, Bill Gates won’t even let his kids own iPods and in one of his most entertaining email rants of all time rails on Microsoft’s own developers after his own frustrating experience trying to use a Microsoft product.

From wikipedia: “To say that a company “eats its own dog food” means that it uses the products that it makes. For example, Microsoft emphasizes the use of its own software products inside the company. “Dogfooding” is a means of conveying the company’s confidence in its own products.”

Now I’m not suggesting that people like Bartz and Steele ought to use every single Yahoo product. There are hundreds of different products that they could possibly use. But more importantly than them not using some of Yahoo’s most *popular* products, in the case of sites like Flickr and Delicious, they are not using some of Yahoo’s most *innovative* products. I think that this is likely both demoralizing to some of their most talented employees on some of their most important teams and that more significantly it sends a message to the rest of the world that Yahoo Management *still* does not get the innovation represented by services like Flickr or Delicious. A further confirmation of the very reason why the founders of both delicious and Flickr both left the company.

Even worse than simply Bartz or Steele not using Flickr, a quick Flickr people search of the 12 current executives listed by Bloomberg for the company (Roy Bostock, Carol Bartz, David Filo, Jerry Yang, Blake J Jorgensen, Aristotle N Balogh, Elisa Steele, David Windley, Michael J Callahan, Venkat Panchapakesan, Hilary A Schneider, and Michael A Murray) shows that not a single one of these individuals carries any sort of significant presence on the site whatsoever.

Now maybe Flickr is not the most profitable business unit at Yahoo. And maybe the $35 million or so that they bought it for is mere chump change for executives at a company like Yahoo. But Flickr nonetheless represents one of the most significant properties ever on the internet. Flickr breaks news. Flickr has some of the world’s most amazing art. Flickr represents the largest organized library of images in the world! That is something. And the fact that Yahoo executives, even in some small way, don’t really want to have anything to do with that is sad.

More here as well.

How to Turn Microsoft Around

Time, Walk, Step, TurnTime, Walk, Step, Turn Hosted on Zooomr

[Disclaimer: Arm chair quarterbacking is easy, execution is a heck of a lot harder]

John Furrier, CEO of Podtech, is out with a post saying that Microsoft needs new blood. He says that Bill Gates is off saving the world and that Steve Ballmer doesn’t seem hungry enough. He says that although he’s been a Windows user for many years that a Mac may be in his future very shortly. His post is in response to widely reported news yesterday that Microsoft’s top search executive, Christopher Payne, is leaving Microsoft.

I guess Payne leaving Microsoft doesn’t really surprise me. Microsoft continues to lose market share in search to Google. What is more surprising to me though is what seems like an almost daily slate of negative news on Microsoft. Yesterday I noted that influential analyst Michael Gartenberg was leaving Microsoft as an “enthusiastic evangelist” after less than a month (he says there is no story here but it’s still surprising to see this), also this week you had another “enthusiastic analyst” Stephanie Quilao leaving her post after 9 1/2 weeks. Stephanie was a bit more candid than Gartenberg blogging that there was no Microsoft product beyond a wireless mouse that she felt she could blog about.

Add to these recent defections Chris Pirillo’s post last week that he was going to “upgrade” back from Windows Vista to XP (not good when you are spending over $600 million to try and promote your new operating system).

More than all of this though is the informal anecdotal evidence I’ve been seeing of a shift from the Windows operating system to the Mac. I wrote about my own conversion last year. In the past few months I’ve been completely surprised at some of the names of people that have privately emailed me saying that they were switching as well. And then earlier this week over coffee with one of the top technology journalists in the world (no, not Walt Mossberg, but close up there) what did he pull out of his bag? A brand spanking new sleek black MacBook Pro less than a week old.

Now the numbers are not necessarily going to reflect this yet, but when your key influencers, bloggers, journalists, etc. begin abandoning Windows and moving to the Mac it’s like a wave and over time this wave can actually threaten Microsoft’s monopoly on the operating system. Look for Apple’s numbers to continue advancing here in the months ahead.

So the question becomes how should Microsoft turn this around?

1. The problem with the PC is the user experience. It’s not good. Especially when compared to a Mac the PC does not provide a good enough quality of experience. The main reason for this is the whole nature of how Macs vs. PCs are built and sold. The Windows operating system is an open system vs. Apple’s closed system on the Macintosh. What this means is that there is a near infinite number of hardware / software configurations for the PC.

Microsoft took a little heat earlier this year when they gave a bunch of bloggers free high end Ferrari PCs with Vista on them. Why did Microsoft give these bloggers these PCs instead of just mailing them free Vista upgrade discs? To ensure the quality of their experience. If they didn’t these same bloggers might have ended up having experiences like Chris Pirillo did and writing that Vista was crap.

They say a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link and the same is true of computers. Apple has the luxury of being able to test limited and known configurations on their products. Combine this with an almost manic commitment to user experience and you get a better product.

Microsoft of course can’t just reverse course and piss off all of their OEMs and start building their own PC, but what they can do is create a Microsoft certification whereby thoroughly tested systems receive a special Microsoft seal of approval. This would be reserved only for PCs that met the most rigorous testing requirements. Microsoft should even offer to provide the actual customer service and support for these PCs (if they are built perfectly enough there won’t be many calls, eh?). These certified PCs *can* cost more money. People will pay a bit more for a better experience.

2. The problem with Live.com is that it lacks compelling content. Robert Scoble says that he told Microsoft to buy Flickr three weeks before Yahoo actually did. Flickr is compelling content. Flickr was one of the best buys of the decade. For $35 million Yahoo got something that now has over 7 million registered users, over 20 million monthly uniques, over 400 million photos (and the best organized photo library in the world), and something that is going to actually (eventually) provide Yahoo a big leg up in image search.

But there are so many other great companies out there still to buy (hint Yahoo, Google and IAC have been buying a lot of them). I don’t use live.com because I don’t give a crap about having a homepage that shows me the news and weather and stock quotes. Live.com *had* a lot of potential. Now it is pretty much dead.

Given the choice between building or buying Microsoft almost always chooses to build. And yet where is the Flickr of Microsoft? Where is the digg of Microsoft? Where is the Pandora or Last FM of Microsoft? Where is the upcoming.org or Involver of Microsoft? Where is the Podtech of Microsoft? Where is the Twitter of Microsoft? Where is the TechMeme of Microsoft? I don’t know if it is just too bureaucratic a place to build cool things that I want to use but they are not being built. These social networks have particular application in search that has not even been realized yet today.

Microsoft is sitting on $29 *billion* in cash and short-term investments. Rather than buying sleepy little companies, Microsoft needs to begin beefing up it’s arsenal with properties that people will actually use and love.

In the next year Microsoft should spend $3 billion buying everything cool that it can get it’s hands on irrespective of the busness outlooks of the individual internet properties. By combining these properties into something cool they *can* build a presence yet on the net.

3. Open an incubator in San Francisco. As part of spending $3 billion to buy a host of great internet properties the key thing is to let them run independently. What Microsoft should do is just create this kick ass campus in San Francisco. They should have a cafeteria like Google does and feed these people and encourage them to spe
nd 24 hours a day there. It could become a think tank of sorts producing some of the best stuff on the internet. Why San Francisco? Because this is where these things are being built these days.

4. Get their evangelism back on track. Scoble was a big loss for Microsoft. Gartenberg would have been an interesting choice to try and fill his shoes but now he’s gone as well. Microsoft needs to, in conjunction with the above efforts, get the right evangelists in place to then promote their new initiatives. Top bloggers, journalists, analysts, etc. should all be considered. Rather than one or two top evangelists though they should hire about 30 of these connectors and also give them direct access to the executives making the business decisions at Microsoft.

Fundamental to the four changes above is a realignment of how Microsoft views businesses. It means going from a structured corporate environment where each purchased company must have a compelling profit/loss case made to an environment where the vision of the future takes as compelling a seat as short term profitability. It also means adopting a new spirit that not only accepts but encourages and rewards self criticism. Less the company line and corporate mantra and more innovation. Roadblocks to innovation (including short term profitibilty) need to be removed. Processes need to be streamlined and Microsoft needs to redefine itself as a place where talent comes, not where talent leaves.

Honestly I’m not sure that any corporation can turn itself around the way that Microsoft needs to. Even Yahoo while acquiring the right internet properties still can’t seem to integrate them in the ways that they should. Like I said before arm chair quarterbacking is frequently a lot easier than executing.

You can digg this story here.

Flickr Turns 3

Love

Damn, three years sure go fast. I still remember the Flickr Fiesta celebrating their first year down at the Yahoo Campus. And then Flickr Turns 2 last year at the Adaptive Path offices and then this year even bigger at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Thanks to Flickr for hosting yet another kick ass party.

You can check out my complete set of shots from Flickr 333 here.