Current Events

Flickr Stats Under Construction Animation

Flickr released it’s stats feature for Pro members today and while your stats are being crunched, they show the classic “under construction” animated .gifs. What people may not know is that there are three versions that you get in somewhat random order.

There’s more where these came from. . .


A picture is worth a thousand words – Yahoo! Shortcuts for WordPress

Yahoo ShortcutsWhen I write a blog post I make heavy use of the tabs in my browser so that I can switch back and forth between the blog compose screen and other screens where I do my research. I usually have my trusty image editor running as well so I can crop an edit any images that I use in my posts.

For the past few weeks I’ve been playing around with a new WordPress plug-in (Yahoo Shortcuts) that will cut back on the copy-paste, rightclick-save, and other context switching by bringing content and references directly into the WordPress compose area. With this plug-in running, it scans your post for potential annotations that can turn a drab bit of hypertexed links into a gloriously illustrated work of art.

For example, if I wanted to do a story about my hotel in where I recently stayed, all I need to do is include the address (3000 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, NV 89109) and Shortcuts will look for suitable information such as the map you see on this post and add it complete with text wrapping. All it took was a single click. Not only will Shortcuts search across shopping for product information, it can also pull in stock charts for companies, and Creative Commons images from flickr. The embeded graphics are beautiful so the temptation is to go overboard and embed the Shortcut “badges” willy-nilly. An alternative is to chose the “link” option which is a great way to add context to your post while keeping your viewers on your site.

Some other examples where Shortcuts does the right thing. Hover over the link to view the contextual badge:

  • A chart for Dow Jones or (AAPL).
  • Shopping preview for the Nintendo Wii
  • A search preview for Barak Obama

Once you’re done with your post, click the Review this Post button and you get a preview window where you can choose which links you want to embed, which you want to just enable with a popup, and which ones you want to ignore. This is key. Other products that automatically provide contextual links are an all or nothing affair. It’s vital to retain editorial control so you can choose which words or phrases you want to recognize. Yahoo Shortcuts does this. To get a sense of the how the plug-in works, check out the screencast.

No more tabbing over to another window or fiddling around with HTML or CSS code, Yahoo Shortcuts just brings it all in so you can work with it right there and then, all on one page.

Yahoo! Shortcuts plug-in for WordPress


Go on, cheat a little

NY Times Crossword Promotion

Yahoo has joined up with the folks at the New York Times crosswords to promote the new Search Assist feature with a contest. The idea is that you fill the puzzle out successfully and you too can be entered into a drawing for one of five trips to Hawaii. Thing is, this thing is a gimme. Next to each clue is a link to a “Hint” which runs a search in the pane below against Yahoo’s Search Assist which will serve things up for you right there and then. It’s a great way to show off the new Search Assist and may give you a new reason to work on your crosswords with the browser handy.

I found out about this via a new group on Facebook. Join Yahoo! Pilot if you want to find out about the latest stuff going on at Yahoo! I can’t believe I found something not written up by the folks over at Yahoo! Cool thing of the Day, my usual source for tweaks and trivia about Yahoo – must have caught them asleep at the switch!


Yes, but ours go to “11”

Yahoo goes to 11

If you haven’t checked out the new Yahoo Search Assist, by all means do. Someone’s finally got the clustered search and suggestive results thing right. Type something into and hesitate just a bit and the pane will come rushing out with suggestions.

On a lighter, Ryan Grove, one of the engineers who worked on the enhancements, points out that our search results now go to “11”


Now working at MyBlogLog – we’re hiring too!

Some of you already know but to bring the far flung readers up to date, as of a few weeks ago, I transferred to a new team at Yahoo. I’ve been holding off on writing about my job with MyBlogLog (they’re an acquisition we made back in January) as I’ve been taking it all in, getting settled, and getting a sense of how things work. Check out the “Recent Readers” box in the sidebar of this blog and sign up. It’s a pretty cool service (and is going to get even better!)
Now a few weeks in and I’m happy to say that this is the right place for me. The team here is amazing and they’re working on things right in line with my interests, a people-centric view of the web. So what is the team behind this people-driven service like?
Eric & Todd have known each other since 5th grade and work together as you would imagine two longtime friends would. Mostly a lot of good-natured ribbing with an occasional heated debate but in the end, a shared passion for turning out something amazing. Hanging out with them each day makes me wonder what my old friends from Essex, Connecticut are up to these days.
John & Steve have been working together for many years as well and because they sit back to back they pratically complete each other’s sentences when they’re collaborating over something. They built the latest tags release from conception to release in something like a week. Friggin’ rockstars.
Robyn was brought on as the community manager and has that rare talent for striking the right balance that helps the community thrive. Read her latest post on the MyBlogLog blog and you’ll see what I mean. She’s from Georgia so her accent immediately puts you at ease.
Chris just joined the team but has already re-jiggered our memcache and drafted an API which is looking real solid. If it’s fast, Chris is happy. He’s already made an impact and I can see he’s going to be a huge help as we scale and optimize.
We’re actively hiring kick-ass engineers who want to see their work used and recognized by millions. If you’d like to work with this crew and think you’re up to it, drop me a line in the comments.


Yahoo! Pipes : A Giant Erector Set for the Web

logo_1.gifI’m not a programmer but I love to tinker. Much to the chagrin of my parents, I liked nothing better than taking things apart and seeing how they worked. The thing that made the early web so much fun was the View > Page Source command in the browser which allowed me to take apart any website and figure out how it was put together.

APIs and XML pushed that all into the background for weekend duffers like me. All the parameters that went into building an interactive page were hidden from me. Many sites would expose bits of what was going on in the URL field and I could still play around by swapping out variables that I could see in plain text but the ability to parse out the results and display them in format that I wanted was beyond my basic skills and I could only work on one page at a time, unable to string the output of one page to the input of another.

Today’s release of Yahoo! Pipes is just the product I need to begin to muck around again. Choose any RSS feed as a data source and break down the URL into it’s basic components. Drag in any of the various modules to substitute parameters, filter, join, sort, or otherwise transform the results and harness the output as an RSS feed which you can easily subscribe or embed into your site.

Pipes has embraced the View Source culture. Every published Pipe on the system can be cloned, stripped apart and repurposed for your own use. You can nest pipes inside one another or string them together so that early pipes become the building blocks for more complex routines.

Want to read a mashed up feed of the top autoblogs filtered to specific luxury European autos? No problem.

Looking for the latest flickr photos and weather conditions at Whistler? You got it.

My own itch was trying to figure out if I should buy something off of my local Craigslist, bid for it on eBay, or just buy it outright. Instead of daily searches on a series of sites, I now have one place to go.

Big ol’ caveat. This is not a finished product! Edward, Daniel, Jonathan, Pasha, and Kevin have created a beautiful platform but this is just the first step in an exciting direction which is already generating lots of debate. Pipes levels the playing field and invites the masses into the sandbox. Let’s all play nice together and bend those tubes around and make something wonderful.



Tag Maps

Introducing Tag Maps, the latest shiny toy out of the Yahoo! Research Labs. Basically they’ve pulled in the geo-coding information from flickr and extracted tags to clump together a people-powered view of the world on Yahoo Maps. Be sure to also check out Night Explorer and Trip Explorer for different views of the world.

Badges you say? But of course!


Yahoo! acquires MyBlogLog, puts a face to analytics

Holy crap this year started off with a bang! I’ve been lumbering in a post-holiday daze for the past couple of weeks but a quick succession of events snapped me out of it.

mybloglog.JPG Yahoo! acquires MyBlogLog – I’ve been using the service for quite some time now and have been singing it’s praises internally. The design leaves a little to be desired but that’s just superficial. At its core, is a gem of a concept. What better way to tap into the ego of your readers than to feature their face on your blogroll? If you’re a MyBlogLog user, you’ll see your face on the Recent Readers “faceroll” on the sidebar. Not seeing your face? Go sign up then. This service has a built-in user acquisition strategy.

I like the way their stats package is laid out as well. Left to Right you have:

  • Where Readers Came From (referral info)
  • What Readers Viewed (page view info)
  • What Readers Clicked (outgoing link)

As an added bonus you have a view of what other sites your members visited across the web as well as the other MyBlogLog communities that your members have joined so you get a real sense of your audience.

But the best part of this service is that it takes a very basic human instinct – curiosity – and spins it into a driver to build community in a very unobtrusive way. Once you join MyBlogLog you’ll find yourself getting automatically added to other MyBlogLog communities. No spamming your friends with yet another social network, no invite requests, it’s all transparent and driven by your behavior. The default is after 10 visits (this can be changed). What this means is that after showing up on someone else’s Faceroll 10 times, it’s assumed that you’re a frequent enough visitor that you don’t throwing your lot in with that community and your face showing up on that blog’s community page.

As you click around the community pages you’ll see faces you recognize or others that just look interesting. As my 4 year old daughter showed me, sometimes you just click on someone to see what they’re about. “Who’s that!” she said as we clicked on someone named Andi. Lo and behold – this afternoon as I write this, I recognize Andi’s avitar on my Faceroll – she saw that we stopped by and counter-clicked through to my site to see who the hell I was. If you’re reading this Andi, “Hi!”.

So hands down, the Faceroll thing is much easier to remember than looking at a random IP address or top level domains in your referal logs. It’s a great way to get to know your audience. The other great thing is that your visitors that are coming to you from MyBlogLog all have websites they claimed. You get to not only put a face to a visitor, you also get to see what they write about, what sites they like to visit, and who visits them. Of course this all means that to be an upstanding member of a community, you need to have a website that features MyBlogLog – goodbye inbox, we are now shifting the conversation over to comments & trackbacks. As MySpace taught us, no one sends email anymore, all casual conversation takes place on each other’s friends pages. MyBlogLog enables any website anywhere to become your own friends page – hello inbox 2.0!

Part of Yahoo’s mission statement is about helping people connect to their passions and communities and MyBlogLog falls right into that line. Welcome aboard Scott and congratulations Bradley and Chad for making this happen.

The other thing that happened? Apple just reinvented the cellphone. I’m off to Moscone this afternoon to check it out.


How to Wisdom a Crowd

predictionmarketconfab.jpgPrediction Markets is a relatively new field of study which embraces using speculative markets to make better decisions. The idea is that if you can abstract a complex decision into a commodity which can be traded, and thus priced, the signal that you get back from the market will cut through the noise and lead you to better decision-making.

Wednesday evening Yahoo held a confab on Prediction Markets on the main Sunnyvale campus. We heard from James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds, a hugely influential book for me, and Robin Hanson, infamous for his idea that a prediction market could be used to accurately determine the next terrorist attack. We also heard from folks from HP, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo who described how prediction markets are used within their companies. Finally, we heard from a couple of vendors of prediction market software including inklingmarkets which offers a hosted solution for companies interested in setting up their own prediction markets and used the event to announce their beta site, worthio, which applies digg-like voting mechanism to the US stock market.

answersparty.jpgIn a fortunate coincidence of timing, the very same moment 200-odd people were debating the value of running markets to gleen information and the importance of making participation simple in order to get maximum participation, Yahoo Answers was hosting an event for 40-50 of their top moderators right downstairs.

In terms of harnessing collective intelligence, Answers has been a huge success and it was fascinating to see the emotional attachment members of the service have to the site. I was lucky to catch part of the awards ceremony and saw one of the users (I didn’t catch her name or handle) actually hug one of the product managers as she came up to receive her award.

I only wish I had the foresight to invite attendees of the prediction markets confab downstairs to see what was going on. With a basic framework, a few simple rules, and the wonderful platform known as the internet, the 60 million users of Answers had created an incredibly powerful, human-powered Oracle of Knowledge that anyone with a web browser could tap into.

This was the power of community. The emotion and support of those at the party downstairs showed me more than any presentation, metrics report, or banner ad the power that you can tap into if you let people, not algorithms, define your product.

“Connect people to their passions” yeah, that pretty much sums up what we do.


If Doritos are your thing. . .

If beaming messages of Hope and Beauty are not your thing – through December 4th you can try your hand at creating the next advertisement for Doritos. Win prizes (cash and a trip to Miami for the Superbowl, having your video shown on TV during one of the coveted million dollar ad spots).

More info on the Crash the Superbowl site which gives you access to high quality graphics, music, and video clips that you can mix into your home movies using Jumpcut, the online video editing tool recently acquired by Yahoo.

Maybe we should beam this stuff into space as well.