Yahoo Actually Made Money in Q1, Despite Its Own Search Engine

Today Yahoo announced it had better than expected profits. This is of interest to me only because of a coincidental experience I had today with Yahoo, which now has me thinking that I might just buy some Yahoo stock.

I manage client advertising on Yahoo and today I was trying to log onto the Yahoo Stream Ad management system but my bookmark was missing.  Perhaps I deleted it by accident during this weekend’s post-Heartbleed password and bookmark cleanup session. No worries, I went to Yahoo.com to search for the login page of it’s own advertising platform. Here is that screenshot.

search engine results of using yahoo to search for term yahoo stream ads

The Stream Ads page was nowhere to be found on the first page. Annoyed, I didn’t look further on Yahoo. Next up was Bing, which shares technology with Yahoo and seemed another logical choice for locating a Yahoo product.

Bing results from searching term Yahoo stream ads

Bing didn’t bring home the winner on the first results page either. How tough can this be? Next up, Google.

Google results of searching term yahoo stream ads

Thank you, Google.  Result number one on the first page is the right answer, and Google continues to earn it’s reputation as a superior search engine. This Google vs Yahoo vs Bing contest was no contest.

If Yahoo’s search engine technology is as shabby as this real world example demonstrates, why would I buy Yahoo stock, you may ask? In the earnings call, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said they hired “300 talented engineers” last quarter. My reasoning is that if they made money with that fail of a search engine, imagine what they can do once these talented engineers properly index their very own products.

Then again, I do have that rule about never buying stock in a company whose products or services I personally do not use and recommend.

What’s the Harm in Oversharing? I’ll Tell You

April Fools! Yesterday’s post was less a joke and more a sociology experiment of sorts, an informal survey of opinions regarding online privacy and identity ownership. These two relatively new issues are both intertwined and evolving at the speed of the Internet.  Surprise Surprise prompted many well thought out opinions, but also illuminated that many people haven’t considered the technological and futuristic consequences related to digital property oversharing.

My occupation as a search engine entrepreneur and web developer requires me to understand existing and emerging Internet technologies, as well as attempt to see into the future more than most people. As a result, I view one’s digital property as that: personal property. My position is that we all have the right to share as much about ourselves as we wish. I also believe that we do not have the right to share information about others without their permission, as a matter of respect and future-proofing another person’s privacy and identity ownership aka personal property.

Many may ask, “what’s the harm?”

A personal story: we have identical twin daughters. The day Facebook unleashed automatic photo tagging via facial recognition, it mis-tagged the girls as each other in many pics.  Yes, that’s right.  Facebook’s auto-tagging “saw” their faces in Facebook accounts and guessed correctly and incorrectly who that person was, and auto-applied a name meta-tag to that image.  First, the technologist in me was fascinated. Then the humanist in me was horrified. What could possibly go wrong? This isn’t even a case of sharing someone else’s digital property, but the Internet doesn’t know the difference and either will an admissions officer or hiring manager down the road.

Facebook, et al., are not private scrapbooks. When we post content we may be sharing with a much broader audience than anyone would guess, including acquaintances, acquaintances of acquaintances, strangers, apps, data collectors and search engines. This is almost a guarantee due to pernicious and ever-changing privacy settings. Curious, why the outrage over the NSA collecting data on us when we voluntarily provide so much to the Internet at large, including, ironically, the NSA?

It is one thing to give away information about ourselves. Call me a libertarian, but it’s a different thing to give away information, without consent, about someone else. This is where the problem with photos comes in and the reason for my hypothetical scenario in yesterday’s post.  Once a picture is loaded onto a vast social network, control of that picture is surrendered. Sure, you might be able to have it removed if you see it in time, but is it really ever gone?  And if it isn’t, who has seen it, scraped it, stored it, replicated it, for some future big-data cross-corelations?

Imagine tomorrow you awoke and found that your mother or father had posted the entirety of your childhood photo album, from the first ultrasound to your awkward teen years. How would you feel? Would you be overjoyed that all your childhood pictures were now online so that hundreds or thousands of copies could be made and stored by friends, acquaintances, strangers, and autonomous data scrapers, which are also auto-tagging with facial recognition software? Or would you feel this a violation of your privacy and your identity rights?

Think on that.

The child gets no say in their online legacy. Our children are now on a path into the unknown, where they will have hundreds if not thousands of pictures “out there” by the time the get a say in the game. Facial recognition is fast enabling corporations, governments, and even crafty privateers to compile an Orwellian amount of data from these photos floating in cyberspace. We will be able to reconstruct an entire pictorial timeline of strangers very soon, from information volunteered rather than taken by force.

Please consider the consequences next time you upload a picture of a human other than yourself. That person may thank you later for respecting their future online privacy and digital identity.

Surprise Surprise

cake

Yesterday I got an email from a cousin, and it had a curious subject line: You might want to check Facebook…

I hadn’t been on FB for a couple days.  My first thought was: who died?  Just a few months ago I learned about the death of a good friend living over seas via FB. I’m relieved to report that my initial fear was incorrect. But it was weird to say the least.

Scrolling down my news feed, I put the pieces together quickly.  Someone in my family (I shall protect the person for now, though by context the sharp reader will narrow the field of suspects) uploaded what appears to be my life in photos. Hundreds, from the ultrasound shots of me as a tadpole, to my buck-toothy teen years, to as recent as this Christmas. Every school headshot? Check. Baby in bathtub? Check. It’s all there for everyone in this person’s extensive network to see and have.

I was, and still am, taken aback, unsure what to say or do about this.  So, in the spirit of “crowd sourcing” opinion, what would you do in this circumstance?

Clues That It’s Time to Redo Your Website

broken link

Today I did a competitive review for a client, assessing who in my client’s industry was doing what with their internet presence. This is a normal process I do with practically every client or would-be client. Typically in any given review I find a couple competitors with well-built, well-designed websites doing a terrific job promoting their service, brand, or product. There are few competitors with outdated, ineffective, “broken” websites, and a bunch of competitors with “middle of the road” sites that make noble but unimpressive attempts. Today’s review, however, yielded a shocking number of failing grades. Let’s examine why.


Unless this site is for a flower farm (it’s not), fail!

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They need to outsource their web design. Cats and fish? I see they are trying to tie in curiosity and “killed the cat,” but in this instance, the fish is looking to get the worse of it.

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I like their tagline:  Helping you “outsmart” your competition since 1990!

But they clearly haven’t redone their website since 1990.  Makes me wonder if they are still in business, especially with an AOL email address (not pictured to protect the innocent). AOL?!

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Notice the extra small text for terrible user experience and the content breaking the colorful boarder at the top of the footer. Also, if you have social media icons on your site, make sure they go somewhere.  All these dead-end at a broken or missing page, or have zero content at the destination.

marketwork


Saving the best for last. Notice the footer, where it kindly advises the visitor: Best viewed with Netscape 3.0 or higher or Internet Explorer 3.01 or higher.

In case you are wondering, Netscape 3.0 and Internet Explorer 3.0 browsers were released in 1996 and were out of date by 1997.

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I’m continually amazed that businesses and professionals ignore or take for granted what a positive or negative impact their website has on their business. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume most of these businesses were out of business long ago and their website is just a ghost on the internet, and I would keep shopping.

You don’t need to redo your website every year, but you do every decade.  Realistically, with the speed at which the internet is changing, you should consider redoing or updating your website every few years. Further, compounded by the explosion of hand-held devices, if your website isn’t user-friendly to phones and tablets (no big shock none in this review are), you are literally giving business away to the competitor that has optimized for mobile devices. That one clue alone, mobile readiness, is reason enough to redo your website in 2014.

Quality, not Quantity

shutterstock_92502325

When I went off to college, cell phones were called “car phones” and were the exclusive domain business elites. The Internet?  That was called “Telnet,” with cryptic commands on a black or greenish screen. When I wanted to call home it was either collect or on a “long distance” account.  It wasn’t cheap.  They charged by the minute. College students quickly mastered the calculation of long-distance-minutes to beer-fund. Buying a stamp (29 cents) and writing a letter were the best bang for the buck. A letter also was more meaningful to receive.

I’m not going to wax on about the good old days, because I love and surround myself with technology.  That said, the digital communication almost never has the same impact upon the recipient as does the hand-written word. It’s a matter of intent and sincerity. Writing on paper is slower.  You have to think about the big picture of the communiqué, as well as actually spell. The writer has given the gift of time, and usually has shared a more intimate and sincere message than the majority of our digital exchanges.  The result is a higher quality exchange and connection.

The proliferation of pocket computers (aka smartphones) attached to an almost magic global instant-delivery system is exacerbating, not satiating, our appetite for immediate communication and information consumption in super-sized proportions. The expense is down, the convenience is up, but the effect on quality is usually deleterious. Technology isn’t the enemy; it’s just become an obstacle. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Today challenge yourself to half as many interactions but with twice the depth as usual. Broadcast less, communicate more. This doesn’t mean you have to hand write a letter, though the recipient wouldn’t be ungrateful if you did.

When Email Marketing, Check Your HTML

Reminder of the day: When engaging in email marketing, check your html on all the major email clients to ensure your message is rendering exactly as desired.

The following image is from Entrepreneur Magazine’s weekly digest. Note the middle spot, which is “Sponsor Provided Content.” Someone paid quite a bit to have their message garbled. This is how it looked in Gmail, the most popular email provider.

bad html in email

While you cannot account for very possible browser based email service or app/client, you should at least test the big three (gmail, hotmail/outlook, yahoo) yourself, as well as consider services such as Litmus and Email on Acid. Remember the carpenter’s rule: measure twice, cut once.

 

Digital Hoarding

too many photos

It is estimated that five percent of the US population are hoarders. Perhaps you’ve seen them in their cluttered natural habitat on the A&E reality television show Hoarders. If you’ve missed Hoarders, imagine houses full of junk, old newspapers, empty boxes from five years ago, whatever, up to the ceiling. (Confession: I have not seen this show either, as I haven’t had TV/cable since 1996.)

Being labeled a hoarder isn’t just a pejorative. As of May 2013, the DSM-5 includes “compulsive hoarding” as a legitimate disorder, including the following criteria:

  • Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions.

I would like to offer an additional criteria:

  • The aversion to losing a moment or experience, which drives the compulsion to over-photo and over-share photos of said moment or experience, thereby missing out on the actual moment or experience, and then keeping all these “experiential possessions” cluttering about.

Digital hoarding afflicts many more people than traditional hoarding because it’s not the fire or safety hazard of ceiling high magazine stacks along a hallway. Also, it’s fun and is encouraged by the gamification in play on popular social media platforms, where broadcasting your “brand” elicits a positively addictive serotonin feedback loop.

You may be asking yourself, “Am I a digital hoarder?” Try this experiment:

Take a trip down memory lane on your favorite online platforms and apps, noting what you posted last week, last month, last year. Exactly what were we thinking when you took the picture? And then, why did you feel the compulsion to broadcast it to the world? And why on earth are you preserving it if it may be deleted? Remember that hoarders have an aversion to discarding that which is of little value. And how much of what we post has value to the future us or society?

Not one to ask anyone to do that which I have not done, this exercise was rather shocking on my first pass.  After wondering who or what had secretly inhabited my brain at one time or another, my account got a good cleaning.  The cluttered junk drawers that were my social media accounts were looking very clean for the first time in years.  And they have stayed that way.

I’m advocating that we all help out a friend or loved one. Pass this post along. Advocate for good taste and high standards, for yourself and those you love, instead of subjecting them and the world to your digital hoarding.