Posts tagged “yahoo”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Social science meets computer science at Yahoo [SF Chronicle] – Yahoo Labs has bolstered its ranks of social scientists, adding highly credentialed cognitive psychologists, economists and ethnographers from top universities around the world. At approximately 25 people, it's still the smallest group within the research division, but one of the fastest growing.

    The recruitment effort reflects a growing realization at Yahoo that computer science alone can't answer all the questions of the modern Web business. As the novelty of the Internet gives way, Yahoo and other 21st century media businesses are discovering they must understand what motivates humans to click and stick on certain features, ads and applications – and dismiss others out of hand.

    Yahoo Labs is taking a scientific approach to these questions, leveraging its massive window onto user behavior to set up a series of controlled experiments (identifying information is always masked) and employing classic ethnography techniques like participant observation and interviews.

  • Domino’s "The Pizza Turnaround" [YouTube] – Domino's Pizza uses customer research to spawn product redevelopment, and then uses that process to promote their improved product. Note the negative quotes posted on the walls of their office.


In my recent column Persona Non Grata I point to some of the cultural problems inside organizations that personas can create, or mask. And what happens when your personas become your marketing?

We’ve recently been experimenting with search marketing on Yahoo, MSFT, and Google. Today I received a shiny booklet from Yahoo, with a note from Sharon Goodsense, Yahoo! Search Marketing Specialist (“and remember, we’re always here to help you.”)

And I’m referred to as Bashful Beginner.

Yahoo’s search marketing management interface is so completely useless that all I ever do is click and click and click until I get some result; with no mental model being built that would help me next time. I have no idea what most of the information they are providing is about or how I can use it. So maybe this book will help me, but the first two pages are the most patronizing and fake thing I can imagine. I can’t believe they went to the trouble to come up with these fake characters to represent the company I’m doing business with; it’s offensive to take my money for a service, give me an unusable product, and then hand me a cartoon character who talks down to me; if I can’t call this person for help with my problems, because they don’t exist. It’s the least transparent thing a company should do. Yahoo got off the cluetrain a while ago, I guess.

I would have (seriously) rated the grade of toilet paper

In My Microsoft Google Yahoo Stories we get some comparisons of internship experiences at 3 big tech companies. I don’t recommend the article necessarily, only to provide context for this awesome chart.
I love how the deconstruction of the experiences (related in detailed narratives in the article) into these specific categories give a blunt and amusing summary of, well, the person relating it. What categories we create to represent something qualitative tells a lot about us and how we make sense of those experiences.

Beta Blocked

Well, Yahoo’s TV page is in beta with its new facelist. Sexy. Content-y.

And useless. I don’t need to have a Rich Media Interaction with the Property and the Brand. I want to see if this episode is a repeat. The old version said very clearly
Original Broadcast Date: xx/xx/xxxx – if that was today’s date, then it was a new episode.

Sometimes they’d put (repeat) if it was a repeat, but the absence of that information doesn’t seem sufficient to verify it’s not a repeat. And reading the plot summary and trying to decide if I’ve seen that one? That’s work.

I know, users like to gripe when things get changed. But did they ask anyone how they use it, first? Or did real estate for big banner ads for the show take precedence over actionable data? I dunno.

Update: even worse…if you click on a show in the grid, say, the 10:00 pm listing for Law and Order, Yahoo shows you the “Law and Order” page, with information about the next episode. But the next one is a 2:00 pm syndicated episode on TNT. It requires much more work to get to the details of the episode I already told them I wanted. Finding the “all upcoming episodes” link and then looking through that to find the 10:00 link, clicking that and finally, the info I am seeking. Ludicrous!

Yahoo! Weather Weirdness

Yahoo has a strange bug or design flaw in their logic for adding to your My Yahoo page. It’s been like this forever and I’m amazed that they haven’t bothered to fix it.

From the My Yahoo page, the weather module lets you see your current selected cities, and also search for others. Here I’m searching for Holland, MI (where we’ll be spending the third week in December).

Here’s the results for Holland. And in the top right is a button to add this city to my My Yahoo weather.

But clicking that doesn’t add Holland. It takes me to a page where I can remove existing cities, or begin a completely new process to add any city I want.

So here I have to type in Holland, again (!), and ask for search results.

Here’s the result. Once again I have the option to add it to my My Yahoo weather.

Only this time it actually works.

Designing for Emergence

A recent BayCHI panel on Designing systems with emergent behavior featured Tim Brown (IDEO), Peter Merholz (Adaptive Path), Larry Cornett (Yahoo), and Joy Mountford (Yahoo), and was moderated by Rashmi Sinha.

My notes are up on Core77

Tim: Contrast that with physical design where you have more chances to test prototypes, with rapidly changing software, it’s too easy to do something new. Seems like a new feature got launched before a design process happened. Maybe they didn’t get to test it a little bit. Not referring to Beta, in videogames they are always testing all the time. It’s part of the design process. He prefers that to the classic Alpha Beta approach

Dirk sez Yahoo! = Wal-Mart

In Yahoo! = Wal-Mart, Dirk takes Yahoo! to task for all the crappy things they do; or more for their failure to do the great things that they could do with all their assets. And draws a comparison to Wal-Mart in the process.

I actually had to check a few times on the actual thesis of the post, because, of course, != is computer code for “not equals” so Yahoo!= suggests that Yahoo is NOT Wal-Mart. But in fact, Dirk is saying that they are.

I think his screed against Yahoo! is pretty well-founded, but I think (especially in a conversation about brand meaning), the Wal-Mart comparison is a bit distracting. Wal-Mart’s brand includes a number of powerful attributes that aren’t part of the argument – the stuff that engenders hatred towards Wal-Mart (squeezing out local businesses, screwing over employees) doesn’t apply to Yahoo. It’s hard to look at the two company’s brands without acknowledging this other aspect of their public face (despite Wal-Mart’s large efforts to divert from that). Google may own “Don’t Be Evil” (although no one believes them at all anymore and their hubris in claiming and then ignoring that may lead to some sort of downfall, if only a brand/meaning downfall), Yahoo! has not really ever stepped into that, but Wal-Mart (regardless of your feeling about the politics, and acknowledging that they have many many customers, some of whom undoubtedly love them unswervingly) definitely treads into (perception-wise) “Be Evil, You’ll Get Money” territory.

Wal-Mart also is a model for other companies in (some aspects of) how to do business. Their technological innovations in tracking inventory and shipping stuff around and adjusting prices dynamically is studied and perhaps copied (or lusted after) by other companies. What infrastructure or operational innovation of Yahoo’s is copied?

One commonality I do see is the great discomfort I felt upon entering both. A Wal-Mart store in Mountain View a few years ago was just…uncomfortable, and Yahoo’s main reception area a couple of years ago was twitch-inducing. The Yahoo! story is a bit funnier, I guess…the main reception area in their Silicon Valley HQ is a heavily branded environment. Lots of photos of previous marketing initiatives where, as far as I can tell, big stuff was covered with the Yahoo logo. Buses. Trains. Etc. A Yahoo store. Examples of co-branded Yahoo products in display cases.

Ahhhh, Yahoo is a marketing company, not a technology company. And meanwhile the lobby is filled with people awaiting their meetings, dressed up, tight smiles on their faces as the person with the checkbook comes down to great them chummily. Pheromones of fear and greed were flooding over me as I waited someplace safe. I stood near the reception desk and overhead a conversation “….I’m sorry. Mr. Potato Head is not available on Tuesday at that time. Not available until after 3.” Eventually I realized that they were talking about the name of a conference room!

Of course, once my friend showed up and we went into a normal building and the cafeteria and so on, my comfort increased to a normal level. But whoah, that reception area.

Search is broken, yes?

For all the credit we give Yahoo and Google for fighting off Search Engine Optimization (SEO) how long has it been since looking up a hotel in either search engine worked? Years, I think. If you want to search for a hotel by name, you’re going to get dozens of hits that are from hotel reservation sites (often the same site under a variety of URLs) and have to look hard to find the actual Ramada page, or the actual Hyatt page. Sure, it varies by hotel, city, chain, etc. but for the most part, the promise of those search engines to bring you what you are looking for – in this particular category of highly consistent search – is totally broken

I [hate] Yahoo, part deux

I should have known better.

I just wrote an extensive bug report to Yahoo, and filled out a detailed form about my account and my system and all that, and after submitting it, find out that Sorry, but we’re experiencing temporary technical trouble. Please wait a few minutes, then try to send your inquiry again.

And my form is gone. The Back button trashes it, they haven’t saved it.

Isn’t this a problem that was solved years ago?

First of all, why is Yahoo so lame that they can’t fix this? Second of all, how can they have problems that prevent them from receiving bug reports? Because this is exactly what happened last time I had a problem.

Forget who is more innovative, Yahoo or Google, let’s think about who is more basically reliable?

I [hate] Yahoo

Yahoo is the latest incompetent organization for support.

I’m having very frustrating problems with my Yahoo email account – not the free stuff some people have; SBCGlobal/Yahoo is my ISP, I pay for ’em.

I really only use that account for Undercover, the Rolling Stones mailing list I run. The problems became much clearer when list traffic picked up dramatically over the last few days. Email from members – myself included – was taking hours to get to the distribution list. I went through a process to “whitelist” with Yahoo, but they rejected us, since it’s a mailing list, not an ISP (or something? I don’t quite understand what the problem was – they want it all to trace back to a unique IP address – ironically I’m having almost the opposte problem with AOL, but that’s a separate post).

Here’s what they told me

Since your emails are not sent from a dedicated IP address used solely for your mailings, we cannot systematically exempt your email from our SpamGuard technology.

Please be aware that Yahoo! Mail users are able to set their own preferences for the manner in which they receive your mailings. If the recipients of your messages want to ensure they receive your emails in their Inbox, you may want to ask them to set up a filter in Yahoo! Mail specifically for your emails, or have them add your email address(es) to their Yahoo! Address Book.

The problem goes back; I actually had problems with all the admin messages the list software generates being tagged as “bulk” by Yahoo and no matter how many times I tagged them as “not spam” they’d still end up as bulk. I finally gave up on their filtering software and had them just deliver all the bulk email to me. I couldn’t override their insistence that it was all bulk. Nothing like having something like that out of your own control.

But anyway now my own messages are ending up in the bulk folder. When I post to my own list, it ends up as bulk, and all the other subscribers are finding the same thing.

I put my own address in my Yahoo address book. Which makes no sense, but okay. When I send email from my client software (i.e., I use Eudora, but the same idea as using Outlook) it ends up as Bulk. When I sent it from their web interface, it doesn’t. That seems totally weird.

I responded to the whitelist rejection with this info. Today I got this response.

Subject: Re: Customer Support Request Site Change

Dear SBC Internet Customer,
Our Support Request site has recently changed.
Please submit your question or comment via our new online form available at
Thank you for contacting SBC Yahoo!

Why the heck am I getting email from Ameritech, a company I’ve never done business with? I clicked on their link and am given an opportunity to contact support. And then it asks for my password. I get really nervous – isn’t this a standard phishing technique? I spend a few minutes convincing myself the site is legit, and go through the process of entering all my contact info and then typing up the problem in detail, and I hit submit.

“We’re sorry; there’s been a techincal problem. Please wait a few minutes and try again.”


And when I hit “back” on the browser, all the data I’ve typed in is gone.

This is so incredibly frustrating. Really hair-tearing out stuff. Argh. Yahoo, you sux!

Update: Maybe they did process my response (after that billing@ameritech message telling me they didn’t) because I just received this


Thank you for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care.

We appreciate the information you have provided and are looking into the
delivery issue you reported. Please be assured that we’re continuing to
take steps to make Yahoo! Mail the best email service on the planet.

Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care.

Update: Seems that my emails getting flagged as spam may have stopped as of May 16, 3 days after I first posted this? I never heard back about any resolution, but I notice that was the point at which the symptoms ceased. Who knows?


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