Leaving Yahoo – Going Mobile

On Friday I’ll hand over my badge, laptop, and Blackberry, finishing up three years at Yahoo. I’m leaving MyBlogLog in the good hands of Todd Sampson to drive the product vision and manage the engineering team and Tilly McLain who will look over the day-to-day care and feeding of the site and community.

My self-proclaimed tag line on the internal company directory is turning Yahoo inside out. This has been my personal mission since I joined Yahoo a little over three years ago. There is great stuff to be shared at Yahoo, as long as you let people get to it in a way that’s useful to them.

I enjoyed working with people who shared my passion to transform Yahoo into to a modern platform. It hasn’t been easy – opening up programmatic access to Yahoo is fraught with many built-in conflicts. Third party content licenses, traffic guarantees, and international legal constraints all make it difficult to let services flow completely free. It’s an industry-wide problem. Much of the way the advertising industry measures the impact of their online campaigns is rooted in the pageview metric which runs counter to providing the best of what you’ve got via an API call. For folks such as ComScore (who help advertisers evaluate rates) an API call doesn’t count as a pageview or roll up into a CPM so it’s a hard to argue letting people get at data without forcing them to come to a pageview to get it.

But consumer demand on the internet is like a natural force. If you don’t go with the flow, the market will route around until it finds what it needs. As with ripped music files, if you don’t provide your data via an API and figure out how to build a business off of that, folks will scrape your pages or go to your competitor. Yahoo gets this and there are many people working to provide a structured way to get at their data in a sustainable way that can guarantee that they will be able to continue to provide it. Pay a visit to the Yahoo Developer Network site to see what’s there and watch this space as there’s more in the queue.

With this as a backdrop, I was invited to take my thinking to a new company and a new industry. In a few weeks I’ll be joining Nokia and working to make their devices more socially aware. The Nokia s60, iPhone, Blackberry and Android (rumored) application stores give us developer ecosystems around each device. What will the world be like when devices can communicate with each other via social networks, across device platforms, across mobile carrier networks? Much the same way the web browser has unified communication across Mac & PC, the mobile web will do the same for “broadband-enabled” cell phones. Add GPS (location), Bluetooth (proximity), integrated camera/video and a voice interface and you’ve got a whole new set of opportunities that are just too good to pass up.

Imagine this use case. Your phone knows your alarm goes off at 6am every morning, that you drive the San Mateo bridge every weekday on your way to work at around 7:30am. It’s entirely possible for your phone to automatically check traffic conditions before you leave sometime after you awake and let you know that there is heavier than normal traffic and suggest an alternate route and read it out to you in a phone call, while you drive. If you’ve got your calendar in there, there is no reason that your phone can’t offer to call ahead and let the people in your first meeting know that you’re running late. All the pieces are in place to make this happen, automatically, right on your device. That’s the kind of service that will enhance your life, that’s the kind of service suite I’m excited to build.

Thank you to everyone who lent an ear to my crazy talk in the early days and pointed me to others who would listen and helped me build a band of believers. A nowhere near complete list of shout outs include:

Craig Forman, Scott Gatz, and Don Loeb who brought me in and set me lose on management to get the wheels rolling.

Toby Coppel, Gerry Horkin, Dave Vockell, Gil Ben-Artzy, and David Katz, who took me under their wing in Corporate Development and helped me refine my message into bite-sized Powerpoint presentations and introduced me to the Harvey Ball.

Sumit Chachra, Aaron Stein, Josh Rangsikitpho, John Lindal, Josh Blatt, Cody Simms and others who fought the good fight down in Burbank.

Chad Dickerson, Jeremy Zawodny, Steve Spencer, Jonathan Strauss, Bradley Horowitz, Jeffery McManus, and Robi Ganguly who encouraged hackery and other inspirational corporate trickery.

Thank you especially Todd Sampson, Eric Marcoullier, John Sampson, Steve Ho, Chris Goffinet, Saurabh Sahni, Mani Kumar, Manny Miller, Tilly McLain, Robyn Tippins, Raymund Ramos, Micah Laaker, JR Conlin, Greg Cohn, Havi Hoffman, Cameron Marlow, Matt McAllister, Kent Brewster, Ryan Kennedy, Sam Pullara and all the other MyBlogLog faithful who encouraged or help me build some of the things I was talking about – we released some cool stuff which really pushed the edge and continue to lead the way.

Finally, thank you to my kids who taught me to look at social networks in a new light and and my wife who kept the family ticking and the home fires burning through it all.

For those interested in peering into a subset of what inspires me, here’s a sample of my OPML file. Keep up the good work Marshall, Louis, and Mark.

I’m going to take a week off to re-charge before the new gig kicks off at the Nokia offices in Mountain View. I’m looking forward to working with one of the original Yahoo bloggers, Russell Beattie. It’s been awhile since I’ve been a regular in the South Bay so if you’re interested in getting together, drop me a line.

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53 thoughts on “Leaving Yahoo – Going Mobile”

  1. Congrats! Nokia has changed so much over the past century and a half — from wood pulp to cell phones — they can't really shy away from exploring what's next. Tyler and Julia will expect to have their own cell phones now.

  2. Congrats bro! I know how hard you fought the good fight, and how difficult it is to finally let go of all the great things you and your awesome team were able to accomplish despite all the artificial hurdles you so politely apologized for. I'm excited to see what crazy ideas you let loose over at Nokia. And, thanks for the shout-out (and especially for keeping me out of the PPT section 😉 ).

  3. Strauss is just jealous that he doesn't rate the PPT section. Congrats on the new gig, you are a strong social soul that Y! is unfortunate to lose. Good luck, and Onneksiolkoon!

  4. congrats ian…that's awesome. openness is tough, but you guys did quite a lot in the face of some pretty severe roadblocks… lunch at the plex again soon?

  5. Thanks everyone! @Dave, when did you learn Finnish and, where are you working these days anyway? @don loeb, you're on! I hope you guys still have those drinks in the coconut shells you were serving up last time I was there.

  6. Definite Congrats are in order. As well as a sincere thank you for all you've done with MBL and Yahoo! in general. You will be missed. I'm happy to hear you're move for a couple of reasons; 1) I'm excited to see what you come up with and 2) Now I have someone at Nokia I can bitch at. Yay!

  7. Congrats on the new position Ian, and no doubt about it, MyBlogLog is losing an asset. I hope it works out and I know you guys are going for goodbye drinks, don't forget to invite me!

  8. HEY YOU PIKACHU!!! 😛 words totally cannot express how lucky i feel to have worked with you over the past months, you know im gonna miss the heck out of you. i wont lie, i am totally jealous and SO PROUD of the projects you have ahead. knock em dead rockstar! later gator 😉 XOXO Tilly

  9. Congrats! Please look up Adam Greenfield when you get to Nokia. He and Nurri were the driving force behind the First International Moblogging Conference in 2003 which brought so many of us together.

  10. Congrats on joining the club Ian…btw, look up my good friend Crispin Vicars who's with Nokia doing BD in Atlanta if you get a chance.

  11. Ian, congrats! You did some fantastic work at Yahoo, and look forward to following your career at Nokia. All the best.

  12. Ian, It was great working with you at MyBlogLog. We are gonna miss you a lot. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

  13. Very happy with the wonderful news. As you know, I have a soft spot for Nokia since I've had their phones for quite some time. Looking forward to hearing about your new projects, and if you need a busy non-geek mom to test new features, I'm game! Omedeto!

  14. Ian — Congrats! I know you will miss Yahoo! and the MyBlogLog team, but I am sure you will enjoy new opportunities and challenges and Nokia. Great to have your thinking in the mobile world!

  15. We will miss you terribly, Ian. I don't think most developers understand how important it is to have a product guy with vision and guts between them and the Suits … I hope Nokia gets it, and really lets you crank it up full volume.

  16. There's not much else to say hasn't already been said, but congrats! It was good working with you at Yahoo. Too bad we never sucked you into YDN, but you did great stuff at MBL. Enjoy Nokia.

  17. Ian, Continued success to you and my your new pursuit bring you only the very best in this vast universe. From the City Lights.. Michael G. Perry

  18. Wow…thanks for all having something to do with Yahoo's NEW look and feel. After seeing some nice stuff at MyBlogLog, can't wait to how Nokia responds :-) All the best!

  19. this is fantastic, totally you…Hey, can you enable the gps function on kiddie phones? I might be more willing to get Will one (he keeps begging) knowing that 1) I'll know where he is and 2) when he inevitably loses the phone, I'll have 1/2 a chance of getting it back…

  20. It's a bummer to see you leave MBL. I'm hoping your next endeavor will be as satisfying and challenging as your last. Good luck Ian.

  21. Nokia is really doing some great things (trying out the N81 via their WOM campaign right now, though my trial is almost up). Man, you are amazing and your presence here will be deeply felt. We'll miss you and I hope you and the family enjoy Helsinki!

  22. congrats Ian. I didn't get to send you off a few weeks back, but I would have said that yahoo isn't as strong without you, and that I enjoyed working with you at YPN and in SF the last three years. Have a blast at Nokia!

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