I'd just like to add that I think it's important for Mayer or anyone else in this position to do this quickly. If you're two months into the job and you're still having "introductory meetings" with all the departments and putting together "the vision," then by the time you actually start to make any changes, it'll be that much harder because of how much your products have declined and your talent has hemorrhaged in the meantime.
You are incentivized to build grand, complex systems which will look good when you want to do a talk at an O'Reilly conference - which is exactly what winds up happening.
When I hear the phrase 'fire anyone who has architect in their title', here's what I hear in my internal monologue: Yes! Fire all the architects! Front line engineers know what every other development group is doing and can integrate their systems in a pinch! They are also across the application security requirements recently mandated in government regulation and can implement that too! No-one needs company-wide frameworks, because each development unit's home-grown libraries are good enough. Systems design? Pfft, overrated. Just check it in and break things, it's called 'agile'.
I apologise if my internal monologue sounds shrill, but your advice to 'fire all the architects' sounds similar to advice from developers to 'fire all the marketing department'.
edit: I am not an architect, this is not a defensive rant.
There's a good reason why "engineer", "architect", and "systems integrator" should not be distinct roles.
Then there are the bozos. They stand out pretty dramatically, so maybe that's why the title is a little poisonous in my head. "You're an /arrrccchhhitect?/ I'm the Queen of England, we should have lunch." (<--- not actually said :-) )
My touchstone is: If an architect is unwilling to write code then they belong in the second camp. If they're willing to write code, but don't have enough time, I look at when they last wrote code; if it's been more than a couple of years I start getting critical.
In this industry, I think it's important to stay grounded in code. You can get away without that if you're a pure career manager, but you'd better realize that you're no longer capable of designing systems at that point.
Well, no one knows what every other development group does in a company of significant size. And more often than not, no one can integrate systems in a pinch; and when it comes to integrating, the front line engineer does it. Unless your hypothetical architect has magical powers, I don't see how your point is relevant.
It's up to the other development teams to expose an interface to their services and make their libraries re-usable; and most importantly, document them and let other teams know. A company should encourage, and somewhat mandate(Bezos directive regarding no stinking db accesses, only services).
> They are also across the application security requirements recently mandated in government regulation
I don't know where you work, but the places I have worked, all mandated and non-mandated security requirements are implemented by engineers. I am curious. Care to quote me some of these security requirements of yours?
> can implement that too!
Implement what? I haven't implemented a hashing algorithm, or public-private key encryption ever, and most likely am not going to - I use tested, out of box components like I should. What's rocket science in storing hashed-salted passwords, or using SSL for transport, or PGP for offline...which engineers are incapable of? If they indeed are incapable of using bcrypt for storing passwords, well, I don't know what to say - words fail me.
> No-one needs company-wide frameworks, because each development unit's home-grown libraries are good enough
I am yet to see a company-wide framework which is relevant to anything beyond a small team, let alone useful. That said, I need to secure encode input and that other news team which takes news feed from variety of providers in multiple languages has already something for sanitizing markup. Are you implying without this architect of yours, I won't talk to the other team, or look at the code; and go in my cave to re-implement that? That makes 0 sense to me.
> Systems design? Pfft, overrated. Just check it in and break things, it's called 'agile'.
Where does this come from?
> but your advice to 'fire all the architects'
The architects in the article refer to a particular kind of person who finds it beneath himself to actually implement something, and spends his day making slide deck and uml diagrams. And yes, they should be fired, unless they are capable of and interested in implementing the stuff they swore by in their slides. Do a PoC and the engineer will take it from there. But don't come in with your ppt - you are wasting everyone's time.
So if I understand correctly, the only value-add to software development is cutting code?
Let me put this another way via an analogy: should the architect who designs your house also be required to wire the electrics, install the plumbing, and lay the blocks too? And if he/she is not interested in "implementing" (because a design deliverable is not an implementation right?), then they should be fired?
The only value add to software development is people who can do software development. If all you do is pull slides out of your ass, you aren't welcome.
> Let me put this another way via an analogy: should the architect who designs your house also be required to wire the electrics, install the plumbing, and lay the blocks too?
Yeah. Surely a building architect and software architect are comparable.
I am not interested in wiring and plumbing(tests, deployment scripts if you will), but if you come raving about how bayes classification is so sub-par, and you should use svm, you better know what is linear classification, non-linear classification(svm), and have a PoC with the data set comparable to what is being used in the application which cross-validates and proves svm is better than my bayes.
If you just read about it in some book(or blog or wherever), and can't implement it or you just think you can drop slides on me and I am supposed to do it, the door is over there - please show yourselves out and quit wasting my time. Your ppts and umls mean shit to me. If the upper management tolerates(or worse, appreciates it), do the dance for them. I am not impressed.
You just described why projects fail. Developers Developers Developers.
Architects? We don't need, we are so smart we integrate everything ourselves. Marketing? Sales? Who needs that, my github repository sells and when it doesn't, there is always oDesk.
And don't get me started over "customers" and "clients".
To cut the sarcasm here, yes, I know that a lot of MBA's and Architects suck. As do a lot of software developers, even if they call themselves agile or know that svm is somehow related to classification.
So I do not really see where this straw man burning leads to .
>> You just described why projects fail. Developers Developers Developers.
Read it again. Software development isn't the same as the whole project.
> Marketing? Sales? Who needs that, my github repository sells and when it doesn't, there is always oDesk.
And don't get me started over "customers" and "clients".
> I know that a lot of MBA's and Architects suck.
Not what I said. "If you are an architect, I don't care about your slides and umls, unless you know what you are talking about, and can do a PoC before dumping your horseshit of slides on me." is what I said.
> As do a lot of software developers, even if they call themselves agile or know that svm is somehow related to classification.
I implemented bayes, and suppose I don't know about svm. If an architect comes raving about svm is so much better than bayes because (I read a blog/I read a book/my thesis adviser told me so/once I did a project), it's your job to prove svm is better for the problem at hand. Don't waste my time with your slides and blogs.
> So I do not really see where this straw man burning leads to .
I don't either. Your whole post is full of hyperbole(marketing sucks, oDesk, github). You are making up arguments I didn't put, and then responding to them.
Your analogy is poor.
A normal house uses well-understood materials and established techniques to build very similar buildings. And even there, bad architects, ones without construction experience, can cause a ton of trouble. Talk to a house-builder sometime.
But many software projects aren't like that. They're much more like landmark buildings: novel structures, novel techniques, novel materials. And there, architects can cause massive troubles. Look at the Sydney Opera House, at 14x over budget and 10 years late. It's a classic case of an architect with limited understanding of construction techniques and materials just making shit up.
And of course, there's the problem that systems architects do something totally different in relation to software (issuing mandates about the internals and construction techniques) than architects of buildings (visionaries about the look and use).
But if the guy doesn't know to cut code, I doubt if he can do anything advanced that can be built on top of it.
We are just saying you can't claim to be architect without coding or knowing coding.
>>Let me put this another way via an analogy: should the architect who designs your house also be required to wire the electrics, install the plumbing, and lay the blocks too? And if he/she is not interested in "implementing" (because a design deliverable is not an implementation right?), then they should be fired?
He should be able to do analogous work in software(That is he should understand and be able to implement electrics, plumbing and laying blocks in software). If he can't he is just a black berry button pushing, Slide making, glorified desk supervisor and not an architect.
For better or worse, this is not a good analogy.
Software is design all the way down, due to complexity. There is no realistic distinction between software design and software construction / implementation.
Also, regardless of whether the software architect actually does the development work, he should be capable of doing the work. Therefore an effective software architect is a software engineer.
But then I note that every small company everywhere still manages to solve issues of integration, security, code reuse, and systems design. That's because you can do all of those things in ways other than top-down, hierarchical control from a central office.
I have never seen a company where "architects" empowered to boss people around via white paper and mandate didn't cause far more problems than they solved.
If you're a developer who works on implementing site features and enhancements, this is what you see. The architect spends the next three months where every meeting his status is "I'm working on the search algorithm." That's all you know that's happening. You assume it's really cool and advanced and it requires his undivided attention, while you continue to juggle managing production issues and implementing new features on the site. Occasionally he has some question about existing search engine, and you show him how it works and due to some painful legacy decisions made earlier, it's pretty embedded in basically everywhere on the site, and everytime he just kind of grunts and scratches his beard and goes back to his desk.
Three months later the project manager taps you on the back and says, "hey, the CEO wants an estimate on how long it's going to take you to implement the architect's new search engine." Erm, okay. So you schedule a meeting with him to see what he has built so far. You don't even know what to expect at this point, since he barely asked you ANYTHING about the existing technology of the company. You're thinking maybe he built some sort of abstracted RESTful service, and hopefully the work on your end will consist mostly of translating direct SQL queries to REST calls.
But, no. Instead you get this HUGE diagram with barely comprehensible terms. Some things immediately jump out to you, like "previous search query terms" is in some sort of cylinder object you assume is supposed to be some sort of database, but you don't actually log the search queries to any database currently. And then there's all these boxes he seems like he just sort of hand-waves, like "baseline linguistic semantic engine," whatever the fuck that means. You ask him about that and he mutters, "oh yes, that is when you compare the search query term for the baseline frequency it occurs compared to the corpus," and this time it's you that grunts, but unfortunately, you don't have a beard you can stroke.
So basically, for you to "implement" this, you're going to need to do a ton of development work building data sources that don't even exist, and then implement his algorithm and find some way to make it robust and scale. So you tell your project manager, "yeah, um, whatever number we're using this quarter for estimating 'story' sizes or whatever, just use the biggest one and double it." And that's the last you hear of it until you're in some meeting a week later with the execs, and someone mentions some problem because the search engine performed suboptimally, and the CEO says, "Wait, I thought the architect already built the solution for that? Why haven't we put it into production yet?" And then you face-desk so hard you break 27 bones in your face and spend the next two years rehabilitating from your reconstructive plastic surgery.
So yes, it's not really the architect's fault. And I actually think architects, with the right skill set and organizational support, can be fantastic. At my last employer there was an architect on my team that was one of my favorite people to ever work with. If an architect is well-integrated with the team, and can work with them to actually develop what he's working on in tandem with reality and determine the right levels of abstraction, then they can be a great resource for a software team. Every time there was some feature request that made us think, "man, we're gonna need some PhD shit for that," our architect would ride to the rescue and figure out some way to solve it that was very advanced but still completely practical given the constraints of everything else, on top of providing general mentorship and design advice.
Architects can get a bad rap and in the example I just described, it's not really their fault. But, it's probably not worth continuing to pay them $250,000 to design completely impractical algorithms nobody can realistically implement, including themselves, either.
Sorry, this looks like the same line of talk used to defend MBA's. And 'Architect' titled are basically MBA equivalents of the programming world. They want to manage things they can't do or understand too well in deep.
If you can't write code, you basically can't design large software that requires tons of code to be written. Architecture isn't merely black boxes represented as classes interacting with each other.
If you are an architect you should be able to write code which you can use to do prototypes, or demonstrate a proof of concept, or verify what somebody else is trying to show you, or you would like to show them. You should be able to point out bottle necks, pain points in large software code bases and correct them. You should know how to refactor and all other best practices in software world.
UML/Black box diagram only architects, aren't architects.
Asimov's "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge" anti-intellectualism is really horrifying to behold and will be used against people who strive to know the high level and the bare metal. There is really no defense against this career-wise either except to get out in the open market where it's just you and your knowledge against the idea guys and their talk. In most organizations the idea guys like you describe will posse up because they have to.
I don't have any experience with/at Yahoo, but I imagine that there are a lot of good employees and a lot of bad employees and its important to identify which is which.
This guy: http://codahale.com/about.html
has 'Infrastructure Architect' as his job title.
I'd be wary of painting everyone who has Architect in their title with your broad brush strokes.
Or being able to building a Working Linux machine from scratch by compiling the kernel, and installing the utils. Or being able to network and administer a cluster of servers in a data center.
This is vastly different than, a guy who would just draw a block of servers on MS paint and connect them through some lines and then call himself an architect.
Sorry, not the same type of person.
if you have examples I would love to know. The variability of architects I have known has been enormous - I put them on a spectrum - everything from UML 'oh I don't need to program' waste of time to highly competant "set of principles" approach - such as why are we serving this per second data to all the clients by holding open connections to everyone of thousands of clients, let's put them on caches with 1 sec TTL all the way upto folks who live in the JvM and can debug it and explain how
can you supply examples of the phd shit solved and where it sits on the spectrum - cheers
So all the good programmers (or programmers that stick around long enough) become architects. The system actively weeds out people with lots of domain knowledge and an ability to solve problems by promoting them into architects.
Theoretically architects should be helping teams write even better code than they did before, but usually the teams ignore what the architects do, so there's a whole "us versus them" thing going on.
If there really are people at an internet company like Yahoo doing that, well, wow. I don't see how a company where such a thing even was allowed to develop could have a future in this industry.
That said, there are some very useful UML diagrams for non-architect-titled folks. For people stuck using class-heavy systems (some of which are out of their control), the UML Sequence Diagram is both useful and a very compact way to explain "what happens when the user goes <poke>":
I just paste the diagram description into my documents as "hidden text", and everyones happy.
A real "architect" who really solves business problems with technology is called a CTO
The principle is commonly phrased, "employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence."
All of us here on HN are much more familiar with smaller outfits--smaller by more than an order of magnitude that typical "enterprise" outfits.
The diversity of programming environments is actually quite vast. Here on HN we are all closer to the actual code than a significant fraction of these environments.
Having done the enterprise thing (as well as the startup thing) that is how I prefer it.
Anyway, good architects are very very important. If you want to succeed you need a secret sauce and person how can to break that secret saurce into deliverable pieces for which a good architect is worth gold.
In my country it was first thought that girls wearing burkha are modest of all. Until girls started doing all sorts of things wearing burkha just because nobody would even doubt them if they do it wearing burkha.
Similarly if you say 'male chauvinists' will always say this to women. Some day it will be taken for granted that even if you are actually wrong you can hide it behind and blame those 'male chauvinists'.
May be. But they sure won't be high-fiving him when the boss lets his incompetence slide, and bestows promotions and other benefits upon him(not related to Marissa; general scenario). If all you can see is people high-fiving for "bangin' the boss" you are seeing a very unrealistic and uni-dimensional view of the world.
Larry and Marissa in a relationship isn't something which is being pointed out. Your "high-fiving for banging the boss" is assuming it's related to being in a relationship. It's not. If she got any undue privilege, that's sad and deserves to be mocked. If she didn't, who she is sleeping with is nobody's fucking business.
I won't have a problem with it unless that bestows special privileges.
> I was under the impression that the beneficiaries of nepotism are resented regardless of their sex.
They are resented, or at least they should be. If Marissa Mayer got away with being incompetent or being an asshole, she should be resented. Now she might be very competent(I have seen references to her papers), but that's no excuse for getting the extra mileage due to being in relationship with the co-founder.
X makes mistakes, but still gets promoted/awarded/recognized
Y makes mistakes, sometimes good work too but is always reprimanded. Never promoted/rewarded/awarded/recognized.
Can you imagine the rumors that would float around in this case?
Though at lower-skilled, lower-paid jobs I could see it being different.
Certainly she, out of any X number of totally incompetent past Yahoo CEOs knows what the right direction for Yahoo is. The question will then be one of execution. Yahoo on its own will die, but still has an enormous and valuable user base (much like the cable/pay TV business, which needs to flush out its lying CEOs, but that's another story.)
I know you've already been downvoted but ugh. How many men have to fail as CEO before somebody indicts male performance as CEOs? This is a ridiculous statement. She is one person. If she fails it will be on her, her board, and the company she's taking over. Just like every other CEO. Stop damningly indicting every woman for the performance of other women.
On a related note, on the rare occasion when somebody did try using yahoo properties and they found an issue or wanted to suggest a feature (e.g. more powerful mail filtering capabilities), the common refrain that typically came back was "You're not the target audience." It was as if yahoo only wanted to cater to the most basic use case. Yahoo needs hiding behind this "not the target audience" crap and challenge itself to make a product that is both powerful enough to appeal to sophisticated users and simple enough to appeal to users with more basic needs. It can be done, and I'd point to Google and Apple as examples of companies that are enjoying much success right now because they've seen the value of it.
Mayer has the product experience to do it.
What do people do most with their phones? Email, messaging, photos, news, small games. Yahoo is strong in every one of these and more established across the board than all its competitors.
She can leverage Android/Ubuntu because she knows plenty of Unix developers, Amazon is paving the way for non-Google Android products, and the new Ubuntu mobile OS is pretty amazing.
She can leverage Flickr. This is Yahoo's golden answer to Facebook's Instagram, a $1b equal. Imagine a Yahoo phone with built-in Flickr upload and sharing.
She can leverage Yahoo media content alliances to provide a great content-driven phone, with news, music, and movies. I daresay Yahoo can pull ahead of even Apple and Amazon on these fronts.
She can leverage social networking: Yahoo Instant Messenger is a leader, Games is a leader, and Social Bar had 90m users and was a significant leader of Facebook’s Open Graph.
Manufacturing and distribution can be outsourced. HTC is great for this. Start with a small phone, 3G, for mom and pop, and a $99 price point. Compete with the iPhone on price, and with Google phones on content. Subsidize like Amazon Prime.
Most important, Yahoo needs a rallying point-- a bold vision , something amazing to attract top developers and bring together diverse properties. The best way to do this is to go big.
If you're a mobile developer, who do you look to for leadership right now? Google/Android is splintered, Microsoft/Nokia seems DOA, Apple/iOS is walled, Facebook is admittedly behind, and Amazon is just gearing up.
Mobile is where all the action is happening, and it's where all these big competitors are going as fast as they can-- yet none has the mobile space well entrenched yet. This is Yahoo's perfect opportunity to bring it all together, to hire and inspire developers, and build a world-class integrated product. I believe the board knows this.
Yahoo has all the pieces to make this a home run. What they've been missing is the product leader. My money's on Mayer to do this.
Apple built a phone to build a better phone.
Google built a phone to make sure they had a solid foothold in mobile ads and the mobile web in general.
Microsoft built a phone for mobile ads and to ensure that their enterprise applications had a mobile experience that they controlled, so no one would switch to a different application because it had better mobile features or support. It should be noted that Microsoft's efforts are failing, though their tablet will probably see some success. (EDIT: That's clearly not the reason why Microsoft built phones in the first place, but I think it's a solid justification for why they still care. Windows Phone is a money loser thus far.)
Facebook doesn't have a phone. They're rumored to be building one. I don't understand why it's a good investment for them when their apps are on every phone, with contacts integration on iOS.
Amazon is rumored to be building a phone, but I don't understand the logic behind it. The only reason they have a mobile OS is because they needed a device to push their content to.
Other than advertising, I don't see a good reason for Yahoo to start building devices that are any more involved than throwing some Yahoo apps on top of Android. If they built something incompatible with an existing mobile OS, it would fail.
You make good points about Yahoo's content, but they should work on integrating that content with someone else's device.
Will you do all these on your phone? I think yes, especially given the colossal success of Pinterest. People seem to love organizing, sorting, tagging, and collaging. And with the Yahoo phone, photos can be connected with your messenger, calendar, games, and email.
That said, I think this is a bad idea for a number of reasons: 1) they can't leverage the same "total experience" OS/app combo that apple and google can. 2) they aren't in the hardware business, and google has already got a lock on all the non-software vendors. 3) seriously, phones?
One area that they might want to pursue though is cameras, not phones. I'm talking Canon/Nikon here...dslr's are begging for cloud integration and Flickr is right there. That would be 1-2 years out though, and Mayer may not have that time.
Short term solution though would be to ruthlessly cut the fat and focus on high value products. I'm assuming she has a good idea of where she wants to take the company already, but the question remains if the board will let her. You don't go through as many short term CEOs as Y! has without realizing that they aren't being allowed to call the shots when it matters.
Ultimately hardware is too high risk and low reward, especially when you're not firing on all pistons and basically in a something of an existential funk in many of the current business lines.
A person makes a suggestion and goes on to explain how it would work, why it needs to be done, etc... Never mind that his point is worth exploring, but you come out of nowhere and claim the idiocy of his proposition without 1) explain why, or 2) putting forward an alternative.
I cannot say you are exactly what is wrong with online societies, but your attitude is exactly that and your previous comments prove me right. All negative.
Seriously, Friend, change your attitude towards life.
The competition would be with the Google/Amazon branding, but Yahoo! already has a relationship with millions of customers, many of whom already own Android devices. Give them better Yahoo! integration into their existing devices + the future option of migrating to a Yahoo! branded device.
I'm sure in the real-world, executing any of the advises will have unknown repercussion.
1. It's hard to fire 10k people _correctly_ and expect things to still work without crushing morale (you may fired potential heroes as well), or perhaps even being poked by government over job losses?
2. I'm not sure a 23 years old hot-shot developer exist. No way Jose. There may be some smart and talented 23 year old, but they're by no mean "hot shot developer". You may get a better result by hiring a 26-32 years old developers. But not fresh grad. Unless your point being to work them like there is no tomorrow, a typical scenario in Silicon Valley startups. Or: today's mess will become tomorrow problem, so you're back to square one with Yahoo! sooner or later => uncontrolled legacy codebases. [Nobody will come out and say that Yahoo has one of the best codebase out there, even Flickr is notoriously bad].
3. Rounding up the smartest people in the planet is hard to begin with, making sure they all can work together without brushing ego is even harder (especially when everyone wants to leave their mark), finally, expecting rainbows and unicorns to show up is magical I would say.
5. Yeah, whatever, BYOD, use standard toolset, sure. If sys-admin needs their BB, be it.
The rest are generics and nothing to complain/argue/discuss.
Yahoo! should definitely shed its fat: people and products, no doubt. Next they should think hard on what needs to be done with the successful products they have left. Once stabilization and culture are in place, then you can start doing something more extreme. Rocking the almost tumbling boat seems to be a recipe to drown everybody.
It's one of those, "yeah I meant that" if it turns out right, and, "no, I'm clearly enacting poe's law", when it's wrong scenarios. "I'm clearly joking wink".
Anyway, you could have reduced all of those ten points in to a single bullet point and I still would have upvoted this story.
> Make a huge sign with the phrase ‘the premier digital media company’. Then make a video of you running a bulldozer over it crushing that sign. No one knows what that phrase means. Come up with a goal that people can actually visualize.
This is sooo true. Marissa needs to grab this opportunity and ride the Yahoo-bull-horn for all it's worth.
Ignore investors... Reinvent the entire company that you have stepped up to take charge of.
Don't do what BB's spineless CEO did, and start throwing out quotes like "not much has to change". http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-01-22/Blackberr...
Marissa needs to change everyones perspective of what Yahoo was, and what it can be.
Yahoo are still on my shitlist from the whole FB debacle. Mayer has already shown that Yahoo can still be "cool", so reinvent everything that once was the old Yahoo.
</end major rant>
I know they have a random collection of services (news, photos, mail), but if they were to disappear tomorrow, would anyone really care?
Every morning I go in and look at the dashboard, which shows the email addresses of the last 10 new signups. About 6-7 is gmail, 1 yahoo, 1 hotmail. There's usually 1 that's a custom email like from an unknown domain.
I don't have hard stats as I don't have access to the user db, but I've been playing this game for 1+ month every morning, and it's the same pattern all the time. This is for early adopters.
Also, from personal experience, most of my acquaintances, whether technical or not, are migrating from yahoo/hotmail to gmail. It's pretty common for me to have to remove somebody's old yahoo email address from my contacts because they finally got a gmail address.
The Yahoo pitch may not be important for people who use Yahoo mail, but it matters to investors, and most of all it matters to recruits. What should Mrs Meyer say to people to make them want to work for Yahoo?
They valley makes fun of them because the valley doesn't value profitable businesses, the valley values consumer craze for a product.
They also own flickr, which I'm sure you knew.
I am quite certain that people would care if these things, along with their @yahoo.com email addresses disappeared tomorrow. I'm sure you knew this too, because email is central to our online lives at this point.
So okay, you actually do know what yahoo does. What you don't know is their purpose. Google's purpose is to index all the worlds information (and then slap ads on it, but first one, then the other.) Apple's purpose is to make really great products, and then market them so well that people think they're even greater.
So, given what we know yahoo has, what's a consistent product story they could tell that would answer the question that comes up again and again?
"Maximize shareholder value" is not a company. A company needs vision, it needs to do something or build something. A company needs profit, and preferably lots of it, yes, but it also needs a guiding philosophy that informs the markets it enters and the ways it enters them. You can call it "marketing fluff", but it's what makes the company what it is. For the best companies, profit is part of the vision, but it does not subsume the vision.
Google and Apple are both very successful companies, but they're both very different. You can deride the difference between them as marketing fluff, but I call it "successfully executing on vision."
That's an incredibly reductionist view
Maybe with 2nd or 3rd generation leaders Google et al will be maximizing shareholder value for the sake of maximizing shareholder value. But not yet. They're still doing what their founders want them to do.
The mere pursuit of profit is always fatal in the long term because it's essentially a short-term outlook that leaves you rudderless.
Look at the car industry as an example. Toyota has been consistent in its pursuit of customer value, respect for staff, and waste reduction, with profit coming way down the list of priorities. GM, on the other hand, is where the modern increase-shareholder-value school of management originated. Toyota is now the world's largest car company, and GM would have died without a government bailout.
But you're right, it seems like an obvious strength to capitalize on.
An 'internet portal' is still very valuable to non-techie users: it provides them a reasonably structured way to access internet services and goods. My email? Here. Stock? There. News? All over the page. Photos? You got it. Chat? Games? Calendar? The weather? Search? As long as it's good enough, it's right there so, sure.
Of course, no future-looking company wants to compete in that market with their own similar product, so until that space gets completely 'disrupted' (what Google tried to with by ripping it to pieces) or 'reinvented' (social networks being the latest incumbent) or completely 'moved' (to a different access model like mobile), many people will continue existing solutions like Yahoo.
We recently released one of our Facebook games on Yahoo. The numbers were not groundbreaking or headline material, but it still surprised us that they were meaningful.
"No more BlackBerries as the official devices at Yahoo."
How is this even possible in 2012?
That said, I agree with OP that it should be done, if it's possible. Maybe if you wait until after you lay off 10k employees, you'll have less devices to migrate ;-)
But, if her job was to build next-generation web-hosted services, her notion of what was possible, normal, and bleeding-edge in the mobile web space would be hopelessly out of sync with the hundreds of millions of Android and iOS users out there.
I'd say anyone in that position really ought to be trying stuff out on multiple mobiles to get a good feel for it, while using the phone of their choice (even if it's a Nokia 3310).
RIM does seem to have a marketing problem as it seems most Blackberry users have only ever used the old built in house Java based browser. This is due to the fact that WebKit has only been on the newer devices and you can still get older devices so users that used to have a Blackberry, but have had an iphone for X years probably only experienced the Java browser. If someone gets a modern Blackberry from their IT department the WebKit browser that it comes with is good and can hold its own.
For all this talk, everyone forgets that Yahoo is (still) profitable! Unlike Nokia or Blackberry, they have a fighting chance, financially.
As a personal phone they are obviously well behind the curve.
More importantly, if you're a cutting-edge developer, do you really want to work at a company that's going to treat you like that?
We're going to innovate! Blow the competition away! Be cutting edge!
It would be like putting them all on dos and expecting them to make websites for the future.
I think this might be the single most important item on the whole list.
Yahoo is a web company, which means they're a mobile company. Having the official company mobile phone be something that's old and crusty and unpopular is dangerously stupid.
I agree that that it probably shouldn't be official policy to have Blackberries for employees, but if you're going to allow Android and iPhone, you might as well allow Blackberry for those who still want to keep it. It's not like we're talking about an IE6 type of burden here. The BB9900 browser is not crusty at all.
You say the BB9900 has a good browser experience. Pulling it up, I see the typical BB form factor with a half-sized screen and a keyboard. I don't care how objectively good that is, it doesn't match what Yahoo's users are using.
Beyond the browsing experience, apps are becoming more important all the time, and approximately nobody is building BB apps. Anybody at Yahoo using a BB phone, no matter how good or how recent, will get a deeply skewed view of what their users actually experience and expect.
It's my biggest issue with BBs now, especially when you think about how great they used to be with battery life.
Admittedly I have a twitter client that gets updates regularly, plus three-digit emails a day, plus usually a fair few calls... but still I feel it should last way longer.
There was quite a controversy when people discovered that joining their company's domain gave them the ability to remote wipe the device.
If there's one word that ties all of their more popular services together, it's "social". Tons of people still use Yahoo! Games, Y! Messenger, Flickr, Del.icio.us – all incredibly social communities. And Yahoo! Mail is still widely used.
I think their issue is that they lack an underlying framework from which these services should be stemming. With proper structure and integration, they could really give Google and Facebook a run for their money. Google has been trying for ages to utilize their Gmail userbase to bolster their social plays, and it's worked with varying success. Yahoo! has both the email userbase and the social communities; they just need to find a way to tie the two together into a cohesive social platform.
Photos aren't just an island anymore ... not just something only uploaded when you plug in your camera. They're connected to everything else you're doing ... and your photo library is sourced from a variety of apps uploaded in real-time as you go about your day. To grow Flickr they either need to enhance the community (maybe in the way 500px has done) or transform it in a way that doesn't piss off the people that go there for professional-quality photos while at the same time carving out a space on the site to accept and leverage photos of what someone had for lunch.
This is actually what people mean when they ask "What does Yahoo! do?" When you ask that question of Google, for instance, you notice that all the technical branches can be relatively easily argued as coming back to search, and all the monetary branches come back to ads.
Thousands of middle managers throughout the organization would be out on the street -which is probably a good thing?
 At one point Yahoo had 300+ VPs (source http://allthingsd.com/20070928/day-73-the-sleepy-attack-of-t...) , so probably not an exaggeration
I seriously doubt this is going to come naturally to an ex-Googler.
They ought to look at some open source projects and find ways to improve and monetize them. Lucene (bah to solr) might be interesting.
Upon Jobs return to Apple, he asks the product managers to present their current product offerings. They're detailing all sorts of minutiae, differing versions to address different sub-markets, yada yada yada. Jobs waves them all off, draws a grid and says they need four products.
It certainly seems that Yahoo could use a moment like that.
The inertia is so ingrown there the only way is to cut out the "lifers" who were given their incentives in equity and clog up the system with incompetence or resentment.
Fixing the quality of the articles would surely have me coming back for more. I remember reading a fitness article about "5 myths of fitness" or some stupid title like that. One of them was that "muscle weighs more than fat". They said it was a myth because a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat...I was just mortified that it was allowed to be published on a site like Yahoo. By that logic bricks and feathers weigh the same because a pound of bricks is the same as a pound of feathers...
However I do not know if there is a easy way (a "litmus paper") that could say she is 5x better. In all seriousness, I'd like to ask how to make such a determination. I think this advise looks good on paper, but really really hard to implement.
Quantitatively? Not my area, but you could boil it down to something as simple as "number of features shipped in a quarter." However, I think the real value comes in when you're talking about non quantitative analysis of these coders.
What awesome, innovative products has Yahoo! shipped in the last year? What are they doing to make Yahoo! Mail better than GMail, or to make people stop laughing if you give them an @yahoo.com address? No, registering ymail.com does not count for much.
A single, highly productive programmer that's shipping useful features, inspiring ingenuity within the team, giving back to open source communities and, at a high enough level, giving interesting tech talks at conferences/hackerspaces/etc, can easily be as useful to the company as five average coders. Maybe not 5x as productive, depending on measurement, but definitely that much more useful. Rock stars, when they aren't full of themselves or throwing that term around like little kids, really can make giant differences.
Think about it - would you trade five of your company's management team for Paul Graham? I sure as hell would.
 Okay, Hadoop is pretty cool, but even that is based off of Google research.
Why did a CAD/CAM software company acquire Socialcam? That should've been Yahoo. I think they'd do well to snatch up a bunch of small co's or individuals and make them ridiculous offers that are almost entirely stock-based.
If Yahoo came to me tomorrow and said "we'll pay you a million bucks in two years time, but it's ALL going to be in YHOO shares," I'd:
a) Very seriously consider it, and
b) Do everything in my power to ensure that the stock price goes up.
Here's the thing: That Yahoo even has TV widgets is why I will never talk to them.
If Mayer can shut all that bullshit down and actually do a small handful of things well enough for people like me to consider talking to them, I think she'll be one of the greatest CEOs in technology.
(I realize this post is embarrassingly self aggrandizing, but seriously, what kind of self-respecting engineer works for Yahoo?)
Yes it is.
> what kind of self-respecting engineer works for Yahoo?
The kind that created Hadoop, YUI, YQL, Yahoo BOSS, etc. etc. I'd be pretty proud to work on any of those projects.
But I'm not a back-end engineer and I haven't dealt with web technologies at all. The only one of those things I've ever considered using is Hadoop and I didn't even know Yahoo had anything to do with it. Needless to say, none of those technologies are things I would be working on.
I typically write embedded and high performance C/C++ applications and I specialized in video at the time. I'm not going to jump ship for a position in some also-ran fiefdom in a directionless corporation writing embedded JVM UIs.
And that's the problem. Most people who are good in that niche aren't going to risk it with Yahoo vs some other firm or by starting their own company. Simply put: Yahoo can't win at that game because they can't attract the talent. So why do they even play at it?
The only respectable answer I've heard concerns loss of security of changing jobs when you already own a house in the valley, send your kids to private school, lease a Lexus, etc.
YUI makes my life easier.
At this point I must know 50 ex-Yahoos, but I don't know a single person there anymore.
Edit: ok this is almost cool http://freetubetv.net/tvwidgets.php/ but it seems like it's taking someone else's content and delivering it to other people? That seems about as productive as https://xkcd.com/1060/
But it was actually this: http://connectedtv.yahoo.com/
Basically, somebody at Yahoo said 'it's like the app store!' and got the green light to write something nobody cares about.
Later in my life, I actually bought a Samsung TV with Yahoo widgets (not that that was a feature I cared about), and it was an ugly clunky GUI on top of a bunch of applications that didn't really work. Then the UI would freeze. And the app would lose its state, including your position in whatever it was playing. Also, if you turned the TV off, the app would forget everything. And nobody fixed any bugs after the first 3 months because it was an abortion of a project.
So ya, I'd say I dodged a bullet.
But speaking of non-existent Scotsmen, the headliners, or fellows as they'd be called at Sun always stay way longer than the nobodies. I'm talking about the rank and file engineers. What bright young kid would look at an offer from Google/Apple/NVidia/AMD/Intel/AMD/PowerVR/etc. and say 'No, I'm going to Yahoo, I'm really going to be respected there'.
There's so much potential here. I'm still very excited to see what Yahoo will become.
That's insane though. It's hard to imagine a single programmer being worth a million dollars a year to a company.
AdWords is worth, round numbers because I'm lazy, $100 billion a year. One million dollars is 10^-5 times AdWords. Want to make a guesstimate as to how many engineers are associated with 10^-2 improvements in AdWords in a given year?
Hire someone who you think is a kickass dev for 200/hour and when they stop being worth it, get rid of them. Seems way more economical than the current setup.
But maybe (probably) I'm the one who is crazy.
Good point regarding team-based acquisitions though.
No one knows what that phrase means because no one knows what the hell Yahoo! does anymore. Honestly, why does this company exist? What purpose do they serve? What is their focus? Hire the brightest engineers to build what?? Yahoo! should have died a long time ago. It's just riding a dwindling wave of its past glory.
Yahoo's history is riddled with failures to predict where things are going or failure to react correctly to when they do see. Consider that Instagram has taken off in an area Flickr has been in since before Instagram existed. The list goes on.
People are frustrated when they see a buisness that has the money and background to do great stuff and consistantly fails to deliver. There are many mature tech buisnesses that deliver profits and new product successes (IBM, Google, Intel, etc). Why invest with yahoo?
Put another way: if yahoo wants to coast on their current base, they should stop trying to expand. Otherwise they need to start seeing some ROI.
However, Yahoo isn't a credible platform company. Microsoft is. Google is. Apple is.
While Yahoo open sources a lot of its internal components, heck, it was one of the earliest adopters of OpenID - my StackOverflow account still uses my Yahoo login - this is not the same as building a platform. Android is a platform. Google apps is a platform. AWS is a platform. Even AdSesnse is a platform. Twitter is a platform.
Here's my outline:
1. Yahoo needs to protect their base. Customers might move away from Yahoo mail when eventually people get their own domain names, or when they want to edit documents online on Google Docs. Yahoo should court the small businesses who already use Yahoo to spend more money with them.
2. Yahoo needs to aggressive court developers to leverage Yahoo signins, Yahoo mail to provide new services. If Yahoo would handle the payments, it would be even better. A 30% cut would make Yahoo a great affiliate for many devs trying to get traction.
3. On the Ad front, there is much Yahoo can do to copy Google in terms of display ad networks - once Yahoo has successfully courted smaller businesses.
Or maybe let the employees vote on it. Collectively, they probably have a much better idea than Marissa Mayer (or any one person) which products are dogs and which are going somewhere.
A better way to extract information might be a prediction market: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prediction_market
Really. The author is a former Y! employee who's experienced firsthand what he thinks are a lot of the reasons behind the company's decline, and you step in with a snarky one-liner that basically says everything he's written is invalid.
Make a huge sign with the phrase ‘the premier digital media company’. Then make a video of you running a bulldozer over it crushing that sign.
Yes, Yahoo, you're not a media company, you're a technology company. You don't want to be a media company. Media companies make shitty profits (see AOL, Time Warner, NBC), technology companies make amazing profits (see Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple).
Remember Carol Bartz? http://techcrunch.com/2010/05/28/ok-seriously-what-is-yahoo/
I can see Yahoo Answers being a far bigger brand, News could be important as well as Flickr if as you said they actually develop it. Any products that aren't being improved after a certain amount of time should be killed.
G+ = Consumer profiling
Picasa = Get people sharing their photos on G+ (Now with tagging!) so that they can be profiled
GMail = Consumer profiling
GDrive = cannot tell since they insist on showing the pages in Japanese despite my browser telling them otherwise. But I wouldn't be surprised if they analysed your files for profiling (cannot read the japanese TOS to tell.)
GMaps = Location based advertising, consumer profiling
Android = Muscle in on mobile advertising and consumer profiling
Almost every one of their services can be tied back to "How can we improve our profiling of consumers so that our ad-networks are more effective"