My One Hope For Yahoo

Now that Marissa Mayer is at the helm of Yahoo, I have just one hope for Yahoo. That they not waste their time and resources trying to build a mobile phone or social network. They are huge and diverse already, to the point where nobody knows if they are a tech company or a media company. They have an almost 0% chance of winning either and Yahoo has a ton of important work to do if it wants to turn itself around. It would be nothing more than a distraction.

It will be interesting to see what happens. Her first mission should be to fix the culture that killed Flickr. Unless she does that, Yahoo is a lost cause.

How Yahoo Killed Flickr

Gizmodo has a great essay on how Yahoo killed Flickr. I think this excerpt is a pretty good summary:

It was a stunning failure in vision, and more or less the same thing happened at Flickr. All Yahoo cared about was the database its users had built and tagged. It didn’t care about the community that had created it or (more importantly) continuing to grow that community by introducing new features.

It’s worth a read. It’s a textbook example of how not to build/manage a product. Yahoo isn’t in it’s current situation by accident or chance. The upside is there’s a bunch of good lessons for everyone inside and outside of Yahoo here.

Love or hate what Facebook is doing, they are essentially the antithesis. Every decision Facebook makes is seemingly about growing the community and features that increase engagement. There are of course many other ways to fail.

The Internet is a network/community of cooperation. If you forget about the network/community factor, you’ve lost.

User Generated Content Ownership

Since the creation of the <form/> elements people have been wondering about the ownership and copyright of content created online. From email and message boards in Web 1.0 to blogs and Twitter in Web 2.0 the same fundamental questions remain.

Lately, Twitter has been the focus. Twitter is actually pretty clear about it’s claims to user generated content:

  1. We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide to the Twitter service. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours. You can remove your profile at any time by deleting your account. This will also remove any text and images you have stored in the system.
  2. We encourage users to contribute their creations to the public domain or consider progressive licensing terms.

It’s pretty clear that Twitter is taking a hands off approach, but it doesn’t let users decide what they want. I’m personally a fan of Creative Commons so my suggestion would be to let decide in their account settings how they wish to license and choose between CC licenses. That of course makes retweeting complicated to put it nicely (it’s more like a minefield). That’s likely the reason they avoid the licensing issue. Sure you can put some sort of an icon next to the tweet to indicate the licensing, but what if someone retweets it? Or modifies it ever so slightly? Is it a new tweet? How many characters must change for it to be a new one? This is where it gets murky.

Yahoo owned Flickr choose to solve this problem by letting users choose what copyright they want to impose, and include a Creative Commons option. A very graceful solution though admittedly their situation is much simpler than Twitter’s since they don’t have to deal with complexities like retweeting which would make things very complicated.

WordPress.com isn’t as clear in regards to it’s claims (or lack of) to copyright. Though they are far from locking people in considering you can delete stuff at any time and download your entire blog and move it elsewhere. Matt‘s been pretty open about giving users choice including the ability to leave WordPress.com. There is of course room for improvement to clarify their stance on copyright ownership.

Even Google has been criticized for copyright concerns regarding services like Google Docs.

They could adopt the Richard Stallman stance to “intellectual property” (his airquotes), though that would alienate at least as many as it attracts.

While Twitter might be the hot topic today it’s hardly a problem exclusive to Twitter. It’s an issue for virtually any site out there that accepts third party content. It gets more complicated when content can be remixed and redistributed.

The reality is people should know what rights they are giving up by putting content on these or any other services, but people rarely do. Perhaps a great Creative Commons project would be to create the same simplified icon/license system but for websites that allow users to submit content. The licenses would indicate what the impacts of the Terms of Service jargon are in plain English. It’s essentially the inverse of what they do now. Label the service as well as the content.

So what’s the best solution?

The Art of Souvenirs

This photoset titled souvenirs has been circulating around the web for a few weeks now. It’s amazing. Pretty much how it works is the author took pictures of famous places, with a souvenir perfectly framed in the picture to overlay the situation. Just like the stereotypical picture of the Leaning Tower Of Piza, and the tourist holding it up. What makes it so cool is that it’s extremely well done.

Katrina Relief Online

I’ve been compiling a little list of some ways you can help online. There is a lot going on, so if you find one I haven’t mentioned, leave a comment so I can add it.

  • Flickr Auction – the popular photo sharing site is holding an auction for prints of some donated photo’s. There’s quite a few reflecting some very talented people. If you’ve got some space for a photo and want to help out, this is a great way.
  • eBay is using PayPals to collect money for United Way.
  • Amazon is collecting through it’s “Honor System” making it easy to donate to the Red Cross through your Amazon.com account. Google is pointing to this.
  • Yahoo is also collecting for the Red Cross through it’s website.
  • MSN (Microsoft) is collecting money for the Red Cross.
  • Apple made it easy to donate through it’s iTunes service (link opens in iTunes).
  • Comcast notes a dozen charities which you can donate to (some accept online, some don’t).
  • WritersCafe.net has been pushed rather extensively by Fark.com
  • Major League Baseball (MLB) will be holding collections on September 7th (or a day of a teams choosing for teams away on that day).
  • AOL is linking to a bunch of charities through NetworkForGood.com.

Feel free to add.

No more Spam!

Google, MSN, and Yahoo… plus a ton of blog developers sat down and came up with a fix. And there talking about rapid rollout on this one. Google Blog has the details.

Basically you need to have your blogging product of choice ad

<a href="URL" rel="nofollow">LINK</a>

to any link a visitor can add themselves (trackback, comments, etc). That will tell the search engines not to boost their rank based upon the linking. As a result spamming weblogs will serve no purpose. There will no longer be a page rank increase.

I’ve already hacked WordPress to cover part of this. It won’t do within comment fields, but will do so when you enter a website into the URL field when filing a comment.

Sorry spammers, the world decided: GO AWAY. We don’t like you, never have, never will. Your a bunch of “businesses” with unethical business plans (I have business in quotes since most aren’t even businesses, they are just people trying to scam someone out of some cash).

Thanks to:

Google, Yahoo, MSN, LiveJournal, Scripting News, Six Apart (MovableType), Blogger, WordPress, Flickr, Buzznet, blojsom, Blosxom .

It’s good to see widespread coordination.

Now what about email spam? When will they come up with a DomainKeys, SPF, solution.