Monday, April 09, 2007

ETech: Big Company Hacks at Yahoo

Written by Alex Iskold (from Read/WriteWeb) / March 29, 2007

Earlier today Yahoo launched a Yahoo Mail API. Recently we analyzed the current API and Mashup trends on the Web and noted that Yahoo is one of the big companies most active in this area. Also not long ago we profiled Yahoo! Pipes - a new tool that, we argued, treats the web as the database. We later expanded these ideas in our post entitled When Sites become Web Services. The major theme running through all these posts is that the Web is turning into a database exposed via APIs. Web giants like Google, Amazon and Yahoo! have been tapping into the large web development community, by exposing their services via APIs.

Here at ETech, Chad Dickerson, Sr. Director of the Yahoo! Developer Network, gave a session about Yahoo's experience in engaging its own engineers to utilize Yahoo! APIs in creative ways.

According to Programmable Web, Yahoo! currently has over twenty APIs. These APIs, along with additional development resources, are available on the Yahoo! Developer Network. There is plenty to dive into - from the better known Flickr, Chat and Map APIs to online Ad Management and Web Site Analytic services. The latest edition is of course the Mail API. These APIs provide a big opportunity to get creative. So to facilitate the exploration and to encourage the discovery of new mashups - and possibly products - Yahoo! management decided to call on their own engineers to play around. Or in Yahoo's lingo, to hack. The official Yahoo! Hacks program calls for self-directed projects by Y! engineers, which do not need to be approved by anyone in advance.

Yahoo's method to the madness

The self-organization is exciting and powerful, but to get results there needs to be control. Yahoo's answer is "Hack days", where developers can showcase their creations to their colleagues. Here are the rules:

  • Build something in 24 hours;
  • No Power Points;
  • Present in 90 seconds;
  • No prior review, anything goes.

These rules encourage small teams to do what they love, letting people create what they want and, occasionally, letting the bizarre out.

In addition to internal hacking, Yahoo! opened up the program to a group of external hackers and invited them in September to the Yahoo! campus for a full day of hacking. According to Yahoo! the day turned out to be a "mega success".

Examples of Hacks

What goes on during the internal hack days is kind of a secret. Chad shared an example of a rather controversial hack. It was a web site built in 'Hot or Not' style, showing pictures of Yahoo! employees and letting people choose who they think is the boss of who. The application kept track of all "mistakes" and then displayed a chart for who should be promoted or demoted. Apparently calls from the Human Resources department followed.

Another hack was a purse that would take a photo after you walk every 100 steps and then use the Flickr API to upload it online. Yet another interesting hack was created by a group of developers, who turned an old TV into a widget display. One of the widgets connected to the internet and showed (you guessed it) the current weather.


At first, this 'hack' culture might seem to be somewhat chaotic and wasteful. It is in a way, but there is also a big potential gain. By using self-organization, Yahoo! bets that while a lot of these hacks will be mildly interesting - there may be a handful that are profound and game changing for the company. Since there are so many APIs, possibilities are almost endless.

Yahoo! hacks is a great program that could lead to breakthrough ideas and products. The key question is how to add a process on top of this dynamic and fluid process, that drives productization and monetization of the best prototypes. Presumably, the really interesting solutions get noticed and get on the management radar screen. It is not clear if Yahoo! is doing this already, but it would seem that an nternal, Digg-like system where all Yahoo! employees would be able to rate creations, could be also helpful. We will see over the next year or so how Yahoo! executes this project, but the potential is definitely there.


Amazon enters PPA contextual market

AmazonAmazon announced today to its affiliates that their new PPA model has moved into Beta. Named "Context Links" the program most resembles those by Kontera and Vibrant Media. I have used Vibrant Media's Intellitxt offering on HTMLCenter and it has provided some additional revenue for the site without being overwhelming.

With Amazon's program, you just add code to your page and Amazon takes care of the rest. You are not technically "supporting" a specific product; Amazon figures out what to show. And the links are based on the words already within your content. So you might be wondering how this differs from the announcement from Google last week about their PPA offering. Pretty simple actually. With Google's PPA program, you add content to your page pushing the links. I believe Google's setup is more along the lines of the Payperpost model.

I have placed the code within some of the tutorials on HTMLCenter but it is not showing links yet (links are now showing). The Context Links setup is very easy and flexible... here is a screenshot:


Will these contextual (PPA) ads work long-term? I know they have worked for me for a couple of years and so far I have not had lots of pushback on HTMLCenter. You might be wondering if I will add them to CN... not yet, still working on the optimal setup for ads for CN.

It is interesting to think about how ads have evolved. We started outside the content, then moved inside with the 300 boxes and so forth and now we are linking the internal story content. Not sure we can go any much deeper than that!


No RIAA For The Comic Book Industry

Contributed by Mike Friday, April 6th, 2007 @ 4:43AM from the and-that's-a-good-thing dept Lee writes "The digitization and subsequent illegal distribution of copyrighted media isn't just affecting movies and music. The creators of comic books seem to be going through the same business model shift as the recording and motion picture industries. As with all such changes, some people are more willing to accept it than others. Steven Grant at has an interesting article about how the comic book world is dealing with life in the 21st century. He makes some good points and clearly understands that things are not going to change unless there's some innovation in the comic book business model." He basically points out that file sharing isn't going away, and the industry needs to learn to accept it, use it for promotions, but ask people to keep buying the comic books they want. Considering that, for many, comic books are for collecting, this doesn't seem too far fetched. Though, at the same time, the industry may want to look at other changes to their business model as well, such as bundling other things into the mix as well (e.g., if you buy the actual comic you get entered into a sweepstakes to have your name used as a character in a future comic). There are plenty of ways to make buying the actual comic books more valuable than just downloading them -- and then if you use the downloads just as promotions, you can encourage more people to buy by exposing more people to the comic itself.


Apple sells 100 millionth iPod, deems experiment a success

from Engadget by Evan Blass Filed under: Has it really only been five and a half years since the first iPod rolled off the assembly line and into the initially-skeptical arms of music-loving consumers worldwide? Well since that time we've seen an entire ecosystem of third-party and DIY accessories sprout up around Apple's ubiquitous little jukebox -- from the pretty handy to the just plain weird -- along with endless humorous anecdotes, an infinite number of knockoffs, serious political, legal, and environmental movements, and of course, an almost daily barrage of wild rumors the likes of which the world has never known. So it's with mixed emotion that we welcome the 100 millionth iPod into the world (enough for almost every man, woman, and child in Mexico): on the one hand, it gives us warm fuzzies to see perennial underdog Apple come out on top for a change, but we also hope that the company employs its leadership position responsibly, such as being a little less quick to sic the lawyers on anyone who dares use the "Pod" name in vain. And as for the next 100 million iPods? Is PC-less downloading just over the horizon? When will we finally see the move to an all flash lineup? Will Apple finally take the leap and merge its prize pig with -- gasp! -- a cellular telephone? As always, only time -- and Uncle Steve -- will tell.


Why Google Isn't Stealing Newspaper Content

Contributed by Mike (TechDirt) Monday, April 9th, 2007 @ 6:45AM

from the make-it-stop dept

This is just getting ridiculous. Google may have signaled its willingness to pay up with its deal with AFP, and now it seems that newspaper publishers are interested in taking them up on the offer. OJR reports that Sam Zell, who is in the process of buying the Tribune Company, has lashed out at publishers for letting Google "steal" their content: "If all the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content for nothing, what would Google do, and how profitable would Google be?" This sounds quite similar to columnist David Lazarus' "plan" to save the newspaper industry. Unfortunately, they've got the situation completely backwards. Google is not "stealing" content. They're also not making their money off of other's content. What they're doing is making that content a lot more valuable by making it much easier to find. Google isn't making money on the content -- but on driving more people to that content (and on the news side, they don't make any money directly, since they don't run ads on Google News). It's bizarre that this is so difficult for those in the publishing industry to understand. You don't yell at the phone book for "making money" off of your contact information. You don't yell at tour books for "making money" off of other people's locations. You recognize that they make money by being a guide or a directory -- just like Google. Either way, it doesn't bode well that the guy who's taking over the Tribune Company doesn't seem to have the slightest clue how Google works or how it's helping, not hurting, the business he's in the process of buying.