As Facebook grows and its users grow less daring and experimental, we now see cute little “thought note cards” appearing as posts. These quotations are not original. They are professional graphics that the user identifies with, selects, and posts. Going deeper into this behavior, we see the evolution of the electronic Hallmark card, and beyond, which is huge. The Internet provides gigantic opportunities as a sentiment pool which is primarily what Facebook resonates as.
There are many, perhaps most of us, who are unable to express ourselves adequately, and must find ideas, images, posters, banners, sounds, music, and yes, electronic greeting cards to enhance our intentions. I like where this is going, and hope to see the craft of composing personal greetings, expand, grow and take off in more amazing directions.
Perhaps Microsoft should buy Yahoo! They have something in common: they both try to do many things, and too many of them are second rate.
It’s the Quality vs. Quantity problem. Apple learned its lessons long ago when it came out with too many products either not ready for the market, or the market not ready for them, such as the Lisa (right) or the early PDA, the Newton. These items suffered from being ahead of their times. Yahoo!’s problems stem from scattering their energies in too many directions. Apple’s and Google’s successes stem from excelling with the one market they are competing in.
A few examples of Yahoo! missteps and bad design:
Online Advertising: I’ve tried Yahoo!’s online ad program, Overture or Yahoo! Publisher Network, which they bought to compete with Google’s AdSense. The user interface for designing ads was not as thorough as Google’s, the diversity of the contextual ads presented on web pages was poor and often irrelevant to the context of the page, and the payout rate was not as good as Google’s. Eventually I deleted all my Yahoo! ads, using Google’s AdSense entirely. What does it tell you when one of Yahoo’s own writers, TechieDiva’s personal site uses Google and other’s ad programs, and not theirs?
Account Profiles: I’ve tried many times in the past few months to update my various public profiles. A few years ago they worked, and I had images and info linked to each profile. Out of the blue, Yahoo! switched to a trendy Anime-like design of Ken and Barbie Flash based cut-out characters as choices, and threw out my old image links. Now when I attempt to update or change the images, the system hangs and times out, or gives me a message that they are not ready to accept profile images at this time. Come on Yahoo! dudes! This is basic social networking 101, or website 2.0, I should say.
Hanging Links: My most frequent use of Yahoo is Yahoo!Finance. During the tech bubble, Yahoo’s mix of financial charts, stock information and message boards made for an exciting mix. In the past year, Yahoo!Finance has changed their message boards. For a long time, when you navigated to a board, you lost the navigation menu of the stock and experienced difficulty returning to it. The same for their new beta charts. I wrote toYahoo! about it, and I see navigation is now back to normal on the message boards. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Yahoo!Mail: I can give credit to Yahoo that its e-mail works, but it is an ugly mess, full of advertising sidebars, spam from Yahoo!Messenger, and an extremely slow response time for scrolling and loading messages. I recently gave up and deleted all my Yahoo inbox messages just to try and make it more usable.
Clutter: The result of trying to be all things for all people is a massive clutter of cramped, competing stuff on main portal entries My Yahoo! page and Yahoo! Home page. Remember the original Yahoo! before all the sneaky slide on ads, when it was just a directory of many categorized web sites, and you could submit yours or others? Very Web 2.0, simple text hyperlinks, and the formula that Yahoo! grew from. Google’s search is still a clean, plain page, mostly text, with some occasional decoration, and it gives the user a focused, reliable experience. Who willingly navigates to a desktop traffic jam?
So here’s my own $0.02 plus, and I have suggestions and solutions for these and other usability problems. I can help Yahoo! clean house, simply for a few left over Semel dollars.
After discovering the photo references made in the New Yorker’s American Hardcore collage (see story below), I emailed The New Yorker bring it to their attention. A reply and apology came surprisingly fast from the Art Director of the piece, and a reasonable offer of compensation. John Ritter, the illustrator also emailed and apologized for a mixup of images during a tight deadline. Everything has been cleared up in a professional and ethical manner, and there are no hard feelings at this end.
At least half of the top 20 films are heavily CG animated or visual effects movies, including THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (2), HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (3), CARS (4), X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (5) and KING KONG (6).
It’s interesting to note the profit margins. Computer animated CHICKEN LITTLE (13) reportedly took $150 Million to make and grossed $135 Million, so it actually lost money. The horror comedy SCARY MOVIE 4 was made for only $45 Million and captured $90 Million. Doubling your investment and having fun while doing it sounds like a good thing to me.
In today’s news, Norman Pearlstine, a long time top manager at Time Inc., the magazine division of Time-Warner, will be joining The Carlyle Group a Washington, D.C. based global private equity investment firm with more than USD$40 billion of equity capital under management, as a senior advisor.
I briefly met Mr. Pearlstine while at Time Warner, when hired to work on their experimental “Full Service Network” interactive television effort in the early 90’s. When introduced as a technical lead for the New York office, he half jokingly asked me, “Are you the one who is going to save us?” I good naturedly replied that I’d try my best. We knew we were in over our heads.
The Time Warner Cable FSN project was a technical boondoggle in deep trouble and would not be able to launch their tests at Celebration, FL for the scheduled date 4 months away. From what I gather, something was launched over 2 years after our meeting, but by that time broadband internet was all the rage, and TW was eying AOL as their path to interactivity. Back in those days, I advised TW to use the Internet as a channel on their interactive cable TV service, but the idea was dismissed, although not by Pearlstine himself.
In the days leading up to the FSN’s proposed Spring 1993 launch date, I had a longer discussion with Walter Isaacson, who was then the Managing Editor of Time magazine. In order to protect my immediate superiors at Time Warner Interactive, I was not able to disclose to him how feeble the FSN effort actually was. How would that look in a Time magazine article!? Even if I had told Isaacson of the many flaws in the system, I’m not sure what good it would have done, but I regret not having a deeper, more honest discussion. So much for office politics and paranoia.
Today I continue to work as the consultant behind the consultants, advisor to the advisors. I spend more time in the real world, hands on in leading edge places, from which many of the upper echelon are insulated and unaware.
Back in the Reagan era, in order to reduce “Big Government” the President made a call for new volunteerism, and soon after, President George H. W. Bush advised America in his 1991 State of the Union Address:
“We can find meaning and reward by serving some purpose higher than ourselves — a shining purpose, the illumination of a thousand points of light.”
Not to be outdone by dad, playing the faithful optimist in his January 2002 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush called on all Americans to dedicate at least two years—the equivalent of 4,000 hours—in service to their communities, their country and the world. Yeah right!
If it can be agreed that much of U.S. government and politics has been corporatized, then recent developments point out that corporations have taken on more of the tasks that governments are failing at. Most people are working hard to make ends meet, but those who have succeeded at the capitalist game realize that it’s no fun being rich if the world is rapidly filling up with poverty, disease and weapons. They are successful thinkers and doers, who are on the forefront of new social activism and venture philanthropy.
For example, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is kicking off a national Federal Budget Priorities Campaign calling on Americans to reconsider spending priorities. The goal is to heighten awareness of the billions of dollars the Pentagon spends on nuclear weapons vs. a shortfall of spending on basic unmet needs of children.
Why does Yahoo Finance insist on publishing Robin Leach type articles about lifestyles of the rich and famous, and have the audacity to call these people, the other half? Come on now, it’s the upper crust of 5% they are flaunting in the rest of our faces. If you really care, then that is sad, since you probably also wish you could have attended Ken Lay’s funeral with all the trimmings.