An Open Letter to Bryan Lamkin, SVP, Consumer Products Group, Yahoo! Regarding “Yahoo!’s Open Strategy (Y!OS) to Make the Web More Open and Relevant”

Dear Bryan,

This morning I read your announcement over at Yahoo!’s Yodel Anecdotal Blog about your new relationship with Twitter. First off, congrats on that. While many of us have already moved on to more conversational platforms like FriendFeed and Google’s Buzz, Twitter indeed is huge. Kayne’s too busy being creative for it yet, but pretty much everybody else is there, even Oprah and John Mayor.

But there was one thing about your post that was bothering me and so I wanted to take a second and address it in a letter to you. And that was the phrase that you used in your blog post alligning this recent move with “Yahoo’s Open Strategy Y!OS” to make the web “more open and relevant.” (Emphasis mine, but to be fair, your words).

My biggest problem with your describing a Yahoo initiative to make the web more “open and relevant,” is that as a *heavy* Yahoo user, this has not been my experience. In fact my experience has been the opposite. So I read things like this and they just smack to me of pure PR spin, not as bad as Yahoo’s current Big Lie $100 million marketing campaign that “the internet is under new management, yours,” but something that should be addressed.

You see, when a company says they want to make the web more “open and relevant,” there are three ideas that immediately come to mind.

1. Uncensored.
2. Transparency.
3. Open Standards.

Uncensored. Bryan, did you know that if you live in Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, India or Korea that Flickr censors your content? India was just quietly added to the countries that Yahoo censors last year, but it’s true. Are the people at Y!OS aware of this? Because censorship does *not* make the web a more open place. It makes the web a more closed place.

Did you know that some of what is censored out of these countries is stuff like public art and sculpture or paintings that hang in museums? I’m not kidding. I took a photograph of a painting hanging in the Oakland Museum of California in an all ages gallery for anyone (even kids to see) but if you live in Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, India or Korea, Yahoo won’t let you see it. I wrote a blog post about this last year when Yahoo decided to censor another photograph of a painting that I took at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Heck, do you know that just last year here in the United States Yahoo nuked an entire group (Deleteme Uncensored) containing over 3,000 threads and conversations about things like politics and music and photography and art, without warning? As your Yahoo! staffer was deleting it she tweeted out (ironic, given today’s twitter announcement, huh) “I hate your freedom.”

Is this what Yahoo means by a more “open and relevant” web?

Transparency. Part of the transparency problem at Yahoo Bryan is that it’s near impossible to get any issues like those above addressed. Sometimes people turn to other outlets like Buzz (where if they are a high profile blogger with access to the mainstream media they *might* get their issues addressed). But generally there is no way to have a conversation about these sorts of issues. Criticism is verbotten. When people criticize, at least in the Flickr help forum, threads just get locked. Heck, I’m permanently banned from the Flickr help forum (more censorship) myself. At least I can write a blog post about some of these issues because, thank God, my blog isn’t on some sort of Yahoo platform.

Open Standards Does Yahoo support PubHubSubbub Bryan? If so, great, if not, why not? I’d like to be able to have my content at Flickr flow more freely (and quickly) over to your competitor Google on Buzz. Will you support this open technology in the future?

What about contact portability? One thing I’d like to do is to automatically import all of my current Flickr contacts over into Buzz. This could easily be done if the Flickr API contained email information where their emails (when they’ve explicitly chosen to share their email with me under their preferences) could be matched up to their buzz profiles. Does the Flickr API allow for this today? If not why not? Again, I’d ask these questions in the Help Forum instead but I’m permanently banned there.

Personally, I’d love to see some of these problems above fixed and I’d love to be able to really nod my head in agreement when I read that Yahoo is serious about a more “open and relevant web.” That would be much better than me shaking my head in disagreement and writing letters.

Feel free to have a conversation about these things in the comments below here, or I’ll also link this thread to the Yahoo! Anecdotal blog post and we can have them there, or by email, or heck even by phone. But don’t be a stranger, write back when you’re not so busy tweeting all over the place on Yahoo.

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  1. Rick Pali says:

    I like these messages, and I like how vocal you are. More and more, people gripe but never *do* anything.

    That said, I’m a little uncomfortable with how often you use the addressee’s name throughout the body of your messages. It’s borderline creepy to do in almost every paragraph. I think your messages would be more effective if you addressed the recipient by name in the salutation, and perhaps in the closing. And that’s it.

    IMO, of course.

  2. Thomas Hawk says:

    Good point Rick, thanks for that feedback. The letter was sort o stream of consciousness so I wasn’t as formal as maybe I should have been for such a letter. I took a few of the “Bryan’s” out of the letter to make it sound a bit less casual or God forbid creepy.

  3. Dave Wild says:

    It’s such a shame that these problems get in the way. You’d think that when a site like Flickr had been created that does so much right, it’d be looked after and any problems would be looked at seriously to keep it a jewel in the crown for it’s owners

    I stopped using it because it felt like it had been left to rot by Yahoo and also that it feels that a lot of my data is locked in there.

    Hopefully you’ll have more luck getting a reaction from them because they ignore the little people.

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  5. Crazy Ivory says:

    I like your way of dealing with issues like this.
    Open letters are a perfect and very transparent way of conversation on these things. I live in germany and this whole censorship thing is really a problem. I never really knew where this came from so this post is even more inforamtive and relevant to me.
    I hope you will have victory in this case…or at least you get an answer. How great would that be?

  6. […] An Open Letter to Bryan Lamkin, SVP, Consumer Products Group … […]

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