The San Francisco way to build community


One of the things you don’t want to do when you’re trying to start a community is create a barrier to entry for potential members. The key to the survival of a community is a rich and diverse membership. One example of this is the San Francisco Motorcycle Club which has evolved and morphed through the years with only one central thread, an interest and passion for two-wheeled motorized transport. But even more than that, they have a very low-key message to potential members poking around on their website (which is endearingly 1990s-esque). This invitation just the right tone. From their website FAQs:

The San Francisco Motorcycle Club is, paradoxically, made up of people who aren’t club-types. Club-types gravitate toward associations because all they’re interested in is the posing. A club doesn’t provide them with instant gratification. Our clubhouse is kept up and filled by people who enjoy motorcycles, and since you seem inclined that way yourself, you’re likely to meet people at the clubhouse who share your interests. Stop by on a Thursday evening or for a club ride and check us out. Do not be deterred by the application process, just stop by and hang out a while. The clubhouse’s walls are covered with 99 years worth of framed photographs, banners, awards, trophies and documents. It’s a veritable museum to San Francisco motorcycling, it’s free to drop in, and you should.

You can learn more about the club and listen to a podcast of it’s history at Sparkletack.

Current Events

Recommended Podcast – Sparkletack

One of the great things about podcasting is that it’s bringing back the art of story-telling. I drive about and hour each way to and from work and this time in the car is my time when I can either get ready for the day or decompress on the way home so sometimes the stories I listen to can set the tone for the day.

This morning I heard the tale of Luisa Tetrazzini, the turn of the century Italian soprano, and how she brought hope to the city of San Francisco as it was finding its way out of the rubble of the 1906 earthquake. I’ll admit I’m a bit sentimental – the way the tale unfolds is quite moving and it’s told masterfully.

If you get a chance to listen, do! It’s great stuff.


Izumi’s Excellent Day

Izumi just told me three stories that were just too funny not to share:

The Afghans in the Locker Room

We’ve been going to this gym on the other end of the island and Zoomer’s told me a few times about these two rather Rubenesque women in the sauna that always seem to be drying their laundry or something. She could never figure it out and didn’t even recognize the language they were speaking – they always sounded angry and one of them would give her dirty stairs. Today she was at the gym and again, they were in the sauna, taking up most of the space with all their clothes again.

But today, one of them reached out to Izumi. She smiled and tried, in broken and rough sounding English, to communicate. She explained that she was from Afghanistan where, at 14 she married and proceeded to give birth to six children. "Boom, Boom, Boom" she said slapping her palms demonstratively. Pounding her chest she proclaimed, "Now, am 55 – it’s over! No more children! Zvittt!" she said while demonstrating that she got her tubes tied to shut down the factory.

Tyler and the Autistics

Tyler seems to gravitate towards autistic kids. He’s compelled by how much they can teach him. This year there is one child who is just mildly autistic and Tyler has been hanging out with him learning all sorts of things. Today, Tyler came up to Izumi and was kind of in awe of this kid. "J. knows so much! He knows about the weather and stuff, he’s going to be a scientist for sure!" Neither Izumi nor I knew that J. was autistic so Izumi shared this compliment with J.’s mother who was so happy to hear that a classmate of her child could see past his handicap and find what’s special in her child. Funny thing is, it seems like all the mothers know that J. was autistic and I guess the kids clued in on it too and kind of gave J. a wide bearth. Tyler was just fascinated and would hang out with him and J.’s mother really was touched. It’s nice to know that your kid doesn’t even have a negative bone in his body and can seek out the good and special in someone and hold it up and celebrate it.

Julia 4 a Day

Yesterday was Julia’s 4th birthday. It was really special for her as I think she actually soaked in the significance of it and basked in the little extra things that were showered on her all day. She came home from school proudly wearing a paper crown her pre-school teacher had made for her – she was on Cloud Nine and went to bed happy. When she woke up this morning, longing for happiness of the day before, she asked when she could be four again. When Izumi told her that she’s going to be four for the next 12 months and flipped though the calendar to show her how long that is, Julia’s eyes popped open, "Wow! I get to be four for the whole year!"


But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. . .

I was hoping to just let the dust settle a bit before choosing to post but then I was reminded that my last post on weird Japanese exercise devices seems to be an odd welcome to anyone looking for a perspective on the latest hullabaloo from someone focused on social media projects at Yahoo.

Early yesterday morning, I posted my befuddlement on an internal mailing list. An active discussion followed and many agreed that the quote seemed strangely out of character. Anyone who has heard our CFO speak knows that giving up the good fight is totally at odds with the Sue Decker we know.

Yahoo’s been in the business of connecting people to what they want for ten years and have gone from being a simple directory of useful links to a full suite of services that range from Fantasy Sports to Web Hosting. Not only is Yahoo testing innovative and experimental ways to search, we also provide you with answers. We’re hiring some of the best minds to think long and hard about not only what the next generation search engine will be but, more importantly, what the next generation of the internet will look like. Hint: it’s not just on your PC anymore.

One of the reasons I joined Yahoo is because I saw that they was a vision for an internet which kept people in the center. Powerful tools married to funny and sometimes irreverent design choices. You could read the documentation and see that it was written by a person. It was good to know there was a news desk deciding which ten headlines to put on When your IM client actually laughs at you, it was refreshingly goofy.

Back to the title of this post – we still have a long way to go. Sure, we all are working feverishly on search but I think the context that was missed in the Sue Decker quote was that there is so much more to do around search that is equally interesting and important. The more people I meet at Yahoo, the more I am amazed at the energy and enthusiasm for this next phase. You can see the pieces coming together – tagging, social networks, user ratings & recommendations, geographic and temporal identifiers, developer outreach, RSS in and out – everyone here is sucking it all in and amped up in anticipation of how great it’s going to be to build the stuff we only dreamed about in the past. Trust me, there’s some real cool stuff coming down the pike.

One of the great things in my job is that I get to talk to people across the company, in many different business units and regions. The excitement over social media and how open interaction with our users can infuse our products with relevance and humanity is not limited to just one department – every Product Manager is thinking through the possiblilities of what the new people-powered internet will look like and is hard at work putting these ideas to work. Yesterday, there was a mini-trade show of sorts where one group was showcasing all the great platform tools they are building and were showing them off to anyone interested just to get folks thinking how these services could play with each other. It was great to listen in on some of the hallway conversations taking place – new services being born every minute.

Yahoo has only just begun but the pieces are coming together and, as the title of this blog suggests, there’s going to be an arc that will flash two experiences together (search & community) to create a new online experience that will be a quantum leap ahead of what we have today. This new environment will have us looking back at the days of keyword searching as quaintly as we now look back to the blinking C:\> prompt of old.

Apple Core


Izumi gave Julia an apple for a snack and a couple minutes later this was all that was left! She sure doesn’t leave anything to waste.

Gallop your way to a better figure


$2,000 will get you the latest in Japanese massage chair technology. The Joba is fully equipped to simulate a leisurely ride on a well-behaved horse. Research at Panasonic, where the Joba is made, have shown that this mechanical saddle gently stimulates the glutes and lower torso and is great low impact exercise for those with bad knees (the greying of Japan has had a tremendous impact on the home health care industry).

One could image a bundle deal with a DVD featuring vistas of the Great Plains put to the music of Merl Haggard!

(Thanks to Terrie for the pointer)

Harlem Globetrotters


Tyler and I had the good fortune to catch the Harlem Globetrotters when they were at the Oakland Coliseum last Friday. Our neighbor works at and ad agency and they had a few extra comp tickets that got us right up close. Our seats were only five rows back and from there, Tyler spotted a classmate who had courtside seats (where this photo was taken).

They were just as good as I remembered them when I went to see them at Madison Square Garden when I was Tyler’s age. Amazing ball tricks and some cool stunts with a trampoline, a three-way lay up which I caught on video.



Sometimes are kids come blurt out the strangest things. Just tonight, out of the blue, Julia let us know that, "When I’m picking my nose. . .  I’m looking for diamonds."

Izumi and I looked each other just to make sure we heard the same thing then, busted out laughing.


Kill the Paperboy

Sometimes and idea gets floated that is so out of whack with current trends that you wonder if the author is just trolling for pageviews. Predicting the death of Google seems to be the latest parlor game and BusinessWeek columnist Jon Fine has the latest with his post, Putting the Screws to Google.

What if 2006 is the year big media players take aim at Google’s kneecaps? No, not with more lawsuits; the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers — on behalf, in part, of BusinessWeek’s parent company, The McGraw-Hill Companies — and Agence France-Presse have already sued the search behemoth. Rather, picture this: Walt Disney, News Corp., NBC Universal, and The New York Times, in an odd tableau of unity, join together and say: “We are the founding members of the Content Consortium. Next month we launch our free, searchable Web site, which no outside search engines can access.” (A simple bit of code is all it takes to bar all or some major search engines from accessing a site.) “From now on we’ll make our stuff available and sell ads around it and the searches for it, but only on our terms. Who else wants to join us? Membership’s free.”

This is just nuts. Of course media companies are jealous of Google’s $450 share price. I’m sure many a publisher thinks that the site was built on the back of their content and feel they should get some of the advertising revenues sold next to the search results. But to try and build your own search engine and ask your readers to come seek you out just seems as shortsighted as previous efforts to wall off information in pursuit of higher margins.

The overwhelming trend and momentum of the information economy is towards universal access. Powerful tools such as the search engines which indexes the information and social networks such as blogs and RSS feeds which act as filters to point to and annotate the good stuff only get better with greater access and distribution. With greater access everyone gets a piece of the growing pie. The more content from a site that gets indexed and added to the ecosystem the greater the share of the attention and traffic that clicks through to read the referred to articles and the greater the chance for the publisher to engage the reader and draw them in with more related material. The more good stuff is out there, the more folks will use the ecosystem as a source of information making the pie even larger.

The newspaper sites should be focused on how to convert a casual reader that might come across their site by way of search engine hit or blog post refer to an engaged reader that will click through to more information and benefit from highly relevant advertising related to what they’re reading. Trying to choke off a search engines access to their information and force readers to come to their own search engine is like laying off all your paperboys because you can make better margins by asking your readers to drive to your downtown offices and pick up the paper themselves. “Come on by, your copy will be waiting for you!” Not likely.

The other aspect of the Content Consortium that I just don’t see working is the bickering over shared costs of the infrastructure, how to effectively cooperate on ad sales, sharing profits, coming to agreement on technology, and index update times.

Would you base profit-sharing based on the number of articles you upload into the index? That would really tick off the news weeklies that have far fewer stories than the daily papers. Would the wire services get credit for one liner “flash” headlines?

Yahoo spends lots of time continually thinking how to improve our search engine. We have an entire research team dedicated to thinking about this. I don’t think a search engine is a commodity. Who’s technology will they use? How will they agree upon relevance? I can see the publishers debating this one for decades.

I could riff on and on about this but at it’s core, pulling all the news off the search engine goes against what everyone wants, except the publishers. Putting up walls or creating scarcity by killing distribution of your product is the wrong way to build a buisness but a great way to kill one.


Yahoo acquires WebJay

Yahoo announced today that it has acquired the shared playlist service, WebJay. A one man operation that is the brainchild of Lucas Gonze who will be joining Yahoo and spreading the joy. In his own words:

From the audio and video perspective, the meaning of playlists is that they’re the container format for the internet. CDs are over; mixtapes are only an analogy;

– sourced from