Web 2.0

Random quote

If you thought that nobody really talks in that certain way that various “bullshit generators” make fun of, consider this: a few weeks ago I got a voice mail from a recruiter and he said verbatim “Would you be interested in joining an exciting startup? They are called ****** and they provide a hosted on-demand development integration platform to build composite applications delivered over a thin client or you could also say they do last mile delivery of SOA apps“. I could not believe my ears and had to write it down word for word.


Fine, it’s cars then

I will now present a random car from the “I’d love to have one of these” collection:

Lancia Stratos

It’s a Lancia Stratos, famous for winning several rally world championships in the 1970s (including winning the famed Rally Monte Carlo in 75, 76, 77 and 79). It has a Ferrari Dino engine, less than a thousand road cars were made and it’s too small for anyone over 6 feet (I hit the roof when I tried sitting in one). Still, what a great looking machine.

Not sure yet

Nothing much here yet. I might use this blog to talk about the business side of Or not. We’ll see.

Automattic Yahoo

Moving On From Yahoo -> Automattic

I wasn’t going to write about this until my last day at Yahoo, but then Om Malik (the best informed man in Silicon Valley?) found out about 10 seconds after I started telling people at Yahoo, so here it goes:

After a great time at Yahoo working on projects like the new Yahoo Mail (FKA Oddpost), the new Yahoo Widgets (FKA Konfabulator) and setting up the Yahoo Developer Network, I’ve decided to move on and try out not one, but two new jobs! My main new job will be as CEO of a very exciting startup called Automattic. Formed last Fall by Matt Mullenweg and three of the other developers – Andy, Donncha and Ryan – behind the popular WordPress open source blogging software, Automattic is poised to become a leading provider of blogging services. Ever since meeting Matt over a year ago and becoming a WordPress user, I’ve been more and more drawn in by the product and its incredible community, and I couldn’t be more excited about joining them. In addition, I will also become a venture partner in a VC fund. It’s a brand new fund called True Ventures (Om kindly gave us a heads up so we could throw up a quick page) headed by Jon Callaghan, John Burke, and Phil Black (a friend of mine, neighbor, investor in my last company Oddpost). True Ventures will be focused on early stage technology investments – my favorite – and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about the VC world.

My time at Yahoo was truly fun and enlightening. I might write more about what it’s like to be inside Yahoo when I’ve had some distance from it, but I did have a great time, learned a lot of new things and will miss a lot of the really smart, nice and dedicated people I got to know and work with at Yahoo.

Happy 2006 🙂

PS: in the interest of “eating our own dog food” I’ve started a new blog at Not sure yet what I’ll use it for.


YDN Supports JSON

The Yahoo Developer Network just added JSON support for various APIs, as well as a Javascript Developer Center. Interesting side note: I just learned that the author of JSON, Douglas Crockford, works for Yahoo. He must be a modest guy because his name doesn’t show up on (which he runs) or the Wikipedia entry for JSON. And check this out, the (free) JSON license says “The Software shall be used for Good, not Evil”.


Konfabulator 3.0 Goodness

There’s a new version of Konfabulator, now called Yahoo! Widgets, available at Since Konfabulator became part of Yahoo! in August, we’ve seen some pretty amazing usage numbers (all of it organic – there has been no promotion or marketing):

  • 1.5 million downloads of Konfabulator/Yahoo! Widget Engine (not surprisingly, almost 90% of that is on Windows, the rest on Mac)
  • 10 million widgets downloaded from the Widget Gallery (
  • 50-100 widgets submitted by developers to the gallery every week (there are over 2,000 widgets in the gallery now!)

And here are the goodies in the latest version of Yahoo! Widgets:

5 new widgets from Yahoo:

  • Search widget (see above): this brand new widget is a search box that sits on your desktop (nice and small when you don’t need it), let’s you search the web, images, news, videos, etc and maximizes and minimizes beautifully to show you the results. I think I’ll be using this a lot as a way to do quick searches without opening a browser window.
  • Maps widget: the Maps widget gives you fast access to Yahoo Maps right from the desktop, like the Search widget it stays out of the way when you don’t need it and opens up to reveal more functionality when it springs into action. Very pretty and useful. I’m impressed by how quickly the maps load and scroll around when you drag them.
  • Notepad widget: this one is funny and it will be interesting to see how many people use it: you can jot down notes and they get saved to your online Yahoo Notepad (so you can get to your notes from any PC/browser), you can also blast/blog the notes to your 360 blog. I wonder if developers will find some cool ways to use the underlying functionality of storing and retrieving little bits of text for a user.
  • Contacts widget: quick access to your Yahoo address book from the desktop. Perfect for looking up a quick address or birthday.
  • Mail Checker: a simple little widget that tells you when new mail arrives in your Yahoo Mail account.

4 improved widgets from Yahoo:

  • Picture frame: my favorite widget (along with the weather widget) got even better: in addition to viewing photos from my desktop I can now see photos from Flickr and Yahoo Photos, the widget also acts as an upload tool for Flickr/Y Photos and lets me edit tags and other data in my online photos.
  • Day planner: fka PIM overview, I have not spent a ton of time with this guy but it’s basically a calendar widget that can now talk to/synch with Yahoo Calendar, Outlook or iCal.
  • Weather and stock ticker: a few little tweaks to these widgets to make them easier to use (for example the dialog to add a new stock symbol is a lot more slick now).

New features for widget developers:

  • Yahoo login: you can now build widgets that use Yahoo login and tap into a user’s photo albums, calendar, notepad, etc
  • Frames/subviews and scrollbars: widgets can now have subviews with scroll bars to show data that doesn’t all fit on the surface of the widget (the new Yahoo Search widget pictured above uses this feature)
  • XML parsing/DOM Level 1 support with XPath 1.0, plus support for XMLHttpRequest – yay!
  • Lots of other stuff like text area focus improvements, asynchronous image fetching, and as always lots of bug fixes

Also new:

  • Security: users are now asked to confirm that they want to run a widget the first time they start it up (this goes for any widget that did not come directly from Yahoo and is designed to prevent widgets from running without the user’s knowledge or consent)


PS: Now that widgets can access personal user data such as Yahoo photo albums, calendars and address books it is possible for any developer to look at our new widgets and figure out how to tap into that data as well. However, please note that the calendar/address book/etc APIs that we’re using in these new widgets are not officially supported through the Yahoo Developer Network, so proceed at your own risk (or wait for the official APIs to come out).


Two Cool Mashups

Two fun mashups I’ve recently come across: Find Lawton and Angie and Derek’s Videos. Both are simple and compelling examples of how online maps make for a surprisingly good UI into various bits of data.


Feed sharing

J Wynia has created an “OPML sampler“. It creates a nice summary view of someone’s list of RSS subscriptions. Here’s an example. This feels like a great basis for letting people share their RSS subcription lists. Instead of today’s process of having to import someone’s OPML file, subscribe to all their feeds, read the feeds and unsubscribe from the ones I don’t like, I’d like to be able to view a Wynia style summary view of someone’s OPML file and click to subscribe to the ones that look interesting.


A Digital Gap

Recently, I’ve been noticing people say things like “MySpace is just for kids – over 30 year olds will never use it” or “I still don’t get SMS, why would anyone SMS when you can just send email?”. It’s usually 35+ year olds who say those things. What struck me the other day is how they sound just like my parents who said things like “I don’t need a PC and I don’t understand why I’d ever use one”. Back then, we started seeing a gap open up between analog and digital generations. The young generation embraced PCs, the old generation tried to avoid them and stick to their tried and true ways. Now we are seeing a gap appear between the first and second digital generations. The PC generation is holding on to their PC worldview and feels that the emerging always-on, always-connected world of social networks and mobile devices is somehow annoying, superfluous or dangerous. Meanwhile, the next generation – the connected generation? – is embracing the idea of being constantly connected, their digital devices and personas are a natural part of their lives and technology is the primary means of connecting with friends.


The Center of Silicon Valley

In honor of tonight’s Yahoo Maps beta and Yahoo Maps API releases, I made a little maps mashup. Sometimes when people visit Silicon Valley, they wonder where it actually is. There is no discernible center to the Valley and you might find yourself passing through it without ever realizing you did. So I set out to find the center via Yahoo Maps. I took the 10 most valuable Silicon Valley tech companies, plotted their locations and then computed their average location weighted by today’s stock market valuation for each company. The result is here.

Here’s what’s weird about it: the center of Silicon Valley came out to be exactly at the intersection of two major highways – 101 and 237. How poetic, in a place that cares mostly about bits and bytes the centerpoint is a freeway on-ramp 🙂



BTW, Chris Law did a podcast with me last week. You can find it here.

Technology VCs

Are Companies Really Getting Cheaper to Build?

Today’s Wall Street Journal says “Many Internet Start-Ups Are Telling Venture Capitalists: ‘We Don’t Need You'” (subscription required).

The article talks about a theme that’s been discussed in Silicon Valley for a while: “It’s a scenario playing out all over Silicon Valley — and one with potentially big ramifications for venture capitalists. A new generation of Internet companies — many offering online photo and blogging services or downloadable software for businesses — have been built for a fraction of the cost just a few years ago. That’s mainly due to the increasing popularity of cheap “open source” software and programming tools, as well as dramatic cost reductions in computer memory, storage and Internet bandwidth.”

I agree with this, but only to a certain point. Yes, it’s gotten cheaper to get an internet company off the ground, to get to a prototype or even beta stage with very little money. However, a couple of things haven’t changed:

1. Prototypes take a couple of months, but solid, scalable, feature rich software takes at least a year to build (often longer).

2. Even with a great product, it takes at least another year to reach a critical size audience and customers.

This means that even with free software, servers and bandwidth, you will need people to work for free for 2+ years if you want to start a company without VC money. Those people will need to be very smart and at the top of their field in order to succeed in the competitive internet software field, and most of them can’t go without a salary for 2 years. And yes, you can outsource some work, but the core design and scaling of your software as well as the critical distribution partnerships that will grow your audience can’t be outsourced. Finally, in addition to salary costs, distribution costs will be rising again as the competition for finite internet audiences heats up.

All in all, I agree it’s cheaper today to get a company to a beta stage where it can be sold to someone looking for a smart team with interesting technology, but to build a sustainable company will still require venture capital for the foreseeable future.


Personalized RSS Feeds

Over the years, I’ve found that one of my favorite uses of RSS are personalized, or parametrized, RSS feeds. They are feeds that track mentions of a specific topic, company or product that I’m personally interested in. I’m currently subscribed to a couple of ego feeds (tracking the (rare 🙂 ) mention of my name and blog in the blogosphere), several feeds tracking news mentions of companies I follow and six Craigslist feeds tracking rare cars for sale and some real estate I’m curious about in San Francisco.

Just for kicks, I put together this page with examples of personalized RSS feeds . One of my favorite ones, Craigslist, is a little more complicated to point to (it’s easier to just go to one of their search result pages and click on the RSS button to get a custom feed for that search, for example this feed tracks Alfa Romeos for sale in the Bay Area). I’d love to hear from people who know of other types of personalized feeds.

I wonder why the idea of personalized feeds has not yet taken off. It gets talked about, for example Dave Winer mentions it often, recently by saying “Intrusive ads, the ones that Google sells, are so so tired. Feeds containing commercial information people want, are wired”. Personalized feeds seem to deliver great benefits to users and publishers, they’re technically easy to build and the business model is compelling (as a realtor, wouldn’t you want to figure out how to show up in my personalized real estate feed?). Yet these feeds are only accessible to determined geeks at this point. I’m puzzled that no one has gone through the trouble of making them easy to publish, find and use.

Gadgets Technology

iRiver T10

Some quick impressions of the iRiver T10 as an iPod Mini replacement.

+ Seamless integration with the Yahoo Music Engine, I can drag any song, album or playlist from the entire 1+ million song collection onto the player and it just works (no extra software to install or per track charges)
+ 44 hours of battery
+ Record and radio functions (not sure I’ll use them)
– Bad packaging, one of those molded plastic monstrosities that you have to pry open with a blowtorch, I managed to cut my hand while unpacking it
– Feels plasticky when you’re used to an iPod (especially the headphones, they feel like they cost about 2 cents to make, sound OK though)
– Battery won’t charge via USB (uses a regular AA battery)

I listened side by side to an album on the iRiver and the iPod (downloaded using the respective Yahoo and Apple services) and the audio quality is very similar (they’re both good, not great).



I can’t yet tell you what they do, but check out Zoozio’s clever pre-release site. Much better than the standard “we’ll be launching soon” placeholder sites.


I’m Dumping My iPod

As much as I like it, it’s time to retire my iPod. I’m switching from iTunes to Yahoo Music, and the iPod has to stay behind (because it only works with iTunes). I’d been holding off on switching because I listen to a lot of podcasts on my commute and iTunes has nice built-in podcasting support. Today Yahoo released Yahoo Podcasts and a Yahoo Music Engine plugin to go along with it – that was the final piece I needed to make the switch.

Here are my reasons why I prefer Yahoo Music (where Yahoo Music = Yahoo Music Engine + Yahoo Music Unlimited subscription) to iTunes:

1. I’m listening to a lot more music: During one year of using iTunes I bought maybe 10 new albums. In just one month on Yahoo Music Engine (YME) I’ve added over 30 new albums to my collection. One reason is that it costs $10 per album on iTunes compared to $5 a month for as many albums as I want on Yahoo (I know I’m comparing apples to oranges, but I don’t burn CDs anymore, so it doesn’t matter to me that I “own” iTunes music and “rent” it on Yahoo). More importantly, I’m finding it easier to discover new music on Yahoo than I did on iTunes (more on that below).

2. Podcasting: As I mentioned above, I listen to lots of Podcasts. iTunes has nice built-in podcasting support. The new Yahoo Podcasts product offers all the same features as far as I can tell (searching for podcasts, featured/top podcasts, subscription management, etc). In addition, Yahoo offers tagging and one-click listening which should help in discovering new content.

3. Music sharing: This is probably my favorite YME feature and it’s mostly missing on iTunes. YME allows me to browse the music collections of other users. It imports my Messenger buddy list and I can see what my friends are listening to when they are online. When I find an album I like in their collection I simply click to add it to my own (all included in the $5 per month). I’ve found lots of great new music to listen to in this way. iTunes on the other hand has been a solitary experience for me with no chance of discovering new music through my friends. The closest thing on iTunes is the iMix playlist sharing feature, but it’s kind of impersonal, you have to buy all the songs from someone’s playlist to listen to them (which gets expensive in a hurry), and YME has a better version of this feature via the YMEplaylists plugin which lets me browse other users’ playlists and play them without extra cost (more on plugins below).

4. Recommendations: YME knows my taste and recommends new music for me when I log in. The recommendations are pretty good (often pretty mainstream, but still useful) and have helped me discover a bunch of new music. iTunes has “people who liked this album also liked…” but no personalized recommendations.

5. Streaming radio: Both YME and iTunes offer genre based streaming radio stations. YME in additon has theme based stations, and more importantly it has “my station” which is based on my music tastes, as well as access to other users’ stations (I’m listening to Scottt106‘s station as I write this). I’m listening to more streaming radio on YME than I thought I would (for some reason I never used the feature on iTunes).

6. Plugin bonanza: While no music service I know of is truly open (DRM’d content, etc), YME is ahead of everyone else by having open APIs to create plugins to extend the basic YME functionality. You can check out the plugin site to see what people have built. I’ve got the unfair advantage to see a bunch of pre-release plugins through my job. I’ve been running several of them to show Flickr photos of currently playing artists, control my YME from a remote browser, browse concert dates for the artists in my collection and create collaborative playlists via Messenger. No plugins for iTunes.

7. Remote access: I can walk up to any PC with YME installed, log into my Yahoo account and start playing my music collection (only songs from my Yahoo Music Unlimited subscription, not my MP3 collection). Since I access YME both at home and at work, this has been very nifty. I also like this as a backup feature of sorts: if my hard drive fails I can simply reinstall YME, log in and it’ll re-download all my tracks. There might be a way to make this work on iTunes as well, but I never figured it out.

The iTunes/iPod combo does have great overall product fit and finish, but there are enough advantages to Yahoo Music that I’ve decided to switch. For me it all comes down to the fact that I’m listening to significantly more music (especially more *new* music) on Yahoo than I did on iTunes. I’ve got a Dell Pocket DJ on order. It’s compatible with YME (I’ll be able to load any music I want from my YME collection into the player as part of the $5 a month). I’ll report back once I’ve used it for a while. I’m still experimenting and would love to hear people’s thoughts on these products.