Why Sue Decker isn’t CEO of Yahoo…

The three inventors of DTrace at Sun Microsystems

So, just before interviewing Sun Microsystems’ DTrace team today (that’s a photo of them) I got a call from a source. He said “Semel is out. Yang is taking over.” This is why I am not a good journalist. I didn’t drop everything, tell the three geeks to hang on while I banged out a post, etc. Instead I went on with the interview, which was a lot of fun. It’s so nice to interview geeks who make things that transform businesses instead of marketing executives. Instead you’ll have to read the news reports and media storm over at TechMeme.

In case you’re wondering, that’s Bryan Cantril (right); Mike Shapiro (middle); Adam Leventhal, the three inventors of DTrace. Bryan’s wife gave birth to a baby boy yesterday afternoon which is why the three had cigars. More about DTrace and this team here.

Anyway, why isn’t Sue Decker the CEO of Yahoo? Because there are three separate constituencies that need a CEO at Yahoo.

1) Advertisers. They are very unhappy. I’ve talked with search engine marketers who do work for clients who take out thousands of ads on search engines and they tell me that Google’s service is easier to use than Yahoo’s and brings better results. They are customer #1 for Yahoo and explains why Semel is on the way out, why the stock price is flat, and why Decker isn’t CEO today. She simply hasn’t gotten the job done with the Panama platform that Yahoo/Semel/Decker were hoping it would be.
2) Geeks. Yahoo is losing geeks. Datacenter geeks. Networking geeks. Software geeks who’ll build the next cool search engines at Yahoo, etc. As I do more and more interviews I meet more and more people who tell me “I used to work at Yahoo.” It’s been a while since I’ve heard of a geek who’s done something the world respects end up at Yahoo. Even Yahoo’s good social media acquisition team has been quiet this year. I don’t remember meeting Sue Decker while hanging out at geek events. Maybe she gets along with developers, but the performance of Panama tells me she isn’t able to get the best from teams of developers.
3) Media types. You know, movie studios, vloggers, musicians, game designers, etc. This was Semel’s strong suit, except Semel, from what I’ve heard from several people, could barely type his own emails so didn’t quite enthuse the geekier of the creative types. I’m not sure how strong Sue Decker would be with this group, but I doubt it’d be strong. Musicians and folks like movie director Robert Rodriguez rarely get along with people who run advertising divisions at big companies.

I’d love to be wrong, though. Tell me why Sue would be a good leader to any of these three groups?

What’s really bad for Yahoo, though, is there isn’t a good CEO out there that’ll come in and be a quick fix for Yahoo’s problems. I think Jerry Yang will have to hire a CEO out of the advertising industry, since that’s where Yahoo is bleeding the most right now. The money is the main artery and that comes from ads at Yahoo. Geeks like Stewart Butterfield or Caterina Fake won’t be able to patch that up.

Unfortunately I don’t know of a good CEO for Yahoo right now. Who would I suggest? How about Clare Hart, vice president of Dow Jones?

The other lesson I take out of today’s news? Panama (Yahoo’s new advertising platform designed to compete with Google) is a failure. If it weren’t, Semel would be walking on water right now. That’s the real reason why Sue Decker isn’t in the CEO spot right now.

UPDATE: Jerry Yang (Yahoo’s temporary CEO) in his blog post, says that Panama had a “successful launch.” That’s not what I’m hearing from customers who buy lots of ads. It’ll be interesting to see what the next quarter’s numbers are.


Um, Apple, Nokia N95 has Wifi

I just saw this comparison, done by Apple, which says that the Nokia N95 doesn’t have Wifi. That’s wrong. My Nokia N95 has Wifi built in and works quite well. It’s interesting what this chart doesn’t point out too. Things missing include:

1. Replaceable battery.
2. Swapable SIM card capability (unlocked, use with any carrier).
3. GPS.
4. Quad band with 3G capability.
5. Keyboard you can use without looking at the phone.
6. Java application compatibility.
7. .NET application compatibility.
8. Flash application compatibility.
9. Offline internet connected applications.

Of course Apple wouldn’t point THOSE out because they are not things the iPhone can do.

UPDATE: Apple updated its chart to fix the Nokia error.

Social networks as “friend” Nazi (design flaws in Facebook, Jaiku, Twitter)

Oh, how I hate when social networking software tries to be my parent.

Jon Udell touches on this in his post about Facebook
: “how do I know this person?”

See, the developers who make this software really want to make it hard for you to add more friends. And what the hell is up with calling everyone a “friend” anyway.

Let’s say I want to add Fred Wilson to my social networking software. He’s NOT my “friend.” At least not how normal people define friends. He’s never been over to my house. We’ve never had a beer or coffee together. In fact I am not sure that I’ve ever met Brad face-to-face. Yet I know quite a bit about Fred from his blog. I know more about Fred than most of my neighbors. Which, admittedly, is weird. But back to the point.

I, like Jon, hate that I have to enter in Facebook how I know Fred. I don’t remember how I met Fred. It was a link from some blogger. I don’t remember who. So, I just put down “met randomly.”

How I met someone is really not the important thing, anyway. It’s what COULD Fred do for me in the future? He’s a VC. So, if my son ever starts a company (I’m too old, remember) then I might want to drop Fred a line and hook them up. But Facebook doesn’t ask me that. It just wants to know how I know Fred. I want to tell Facebook “I don’t really know Fred, but I want to.” It’s enough to make you scream if you really look at this rationally.

While I’m complaining about Facebook let me complain about Facebook’s mobile app. It’s quite sweet, actually, but only when you’re signed on. Now, unlike every other app that’s on my phone it automatically signs you off after a few hours and forces you to sign back in. What’s the problem with that? Well, the mobile app doesn’t save my password so I have to refill in my password. I hate keying passwords on my mobile phone. Dave Winer says that Facebook hasn’t been designed with adults in mind. That certainly is true. How many adults do you know who have learned to type on a phone keyboard (ie, not a Blackberry style thumb keyboard but the regular old style of 1-9, etc.) It’s a major pain in the behind.

Oh, and let’s not just pick on Facebook, shall we?

Jaiku is going to be the hot thing this week. They are shipping a new version and are throwing a big party tomorrow night and all that. I’m sure by Wednesday you’ll see Jaiku on TechMeme.

But, let’s say you add me to your contact list on Jaiku. It sends me an email. I know, for instance, that Leo Laporte has friended me there. But, now, can I see everyone who has added me to their contact list? No. Can I add everyone who has added me to my contact list? No. At least not that I’ve been able to figure out. It’s like they are saying to me “Scoble’s not wanted here because he adds “non friends” to his contact list.” Damn it, stop trying to be my freaking parent. If I want to add 1,000 people into my friends list, please let me! But no these social networks have to control my behavior.

And forget trying to import all your friends from some other social network. No, no, can’t do that! Gotta make it difficult for you to add contacts/friends or whatever you call these.

Twitter doesn’t escape here. With Twitter you have a binary choice. Are you a friend or not? Well, I have different types of friends. Don’t you? There’s my “beer buddies.” “School buddies.” “Business associates.” “People I want to meet for coffee.” “People I’ve had coffee with.” “People I’ve been to an Amsterdam coffee shop with.” Etc. etc. But, no, I can’t tell Twitter anything other than you’re my friend or not. And, since I add everyone who has marked me as a friend in Twitter as a friend too I can’t really block anyone.

So, what do I want? I want a social network that just lets me add contacts. Lets me add them for any reason. Lets me add them wholesale from other social networks. Lets me import them from Outlook. Or Facebook. Or LinkedIn. Or Twitter. Or Jaiku. Or Orkut. Or Gmail. Or wherever. And then lets me manage them on a granular level. Why can’t I add tags to each contact? Tags I pick. Not that are forced on me by some 22-year-old developer who has no idea about what a 42-year-old’s social network looks like.

Let me define different behaviors for each tag. “LOVER” tag might go into one page with a password, for instance, that isn’t publicly available. That way Maryam and I could use a social network to send sweet nothings back and forth (I can’t use any of these networks for THAT kind of social networking). “BUSINESS ASSOCIATE” could have a form that includes why I care about that person, business wise. So I could put Fred Wilson there, add that he’s a VC, add his blog, add his Twitter account, etc.

Anyway, I want to spend more time thinking this through, but I gotta go add a bunch of new Facebook contacts to my profile. Sigh.

Or am I just nuts and these social networks are all properly designed? What do you think?

UPDATE: Dave Winer wants to reboot the social network.