Folks in the media have definitely noticed one of the things i love most about Yahoo! – it’s invested in bringing together all of the smart folks and interesting companies under one roof. I’ve been working in Yahoo! Research Berkeley for four months now and in that time, i’ve watched as people throughout the company have become more and more aware of what it means to make and think about social media (from both top-down and bottom-up directions). There’s also been a huge push at rethinking how innovation happens. For example, there was hack day where folks from across the company came together and hacked up interesting and innovative projects in a matter of one day. Recently, the company has started releasing small mash-ups rather than waiting for things to be connected to full-blown projects. The weird thing is that i don’t even know a fraction of what gets released on a daily basis.
Yahoo! is going through a really strange transformation right now and it’s intriguing to be a part of it. It’s a big grown-up company full of “adults” who have been working in a structured form for quite some time. With all of the acquisitions and recent hirings, they’ve been bringing in an entirely new branch of folks – the “kids.” You can feel this around the campus. Walk into most cubes and people are quietly coding away. Walk into land-o-Flickr and there’s an explosion of energy, streaming commentary, and rapid-fire iteration (much to the dismay of their neighbors, i’m sure). The new “kids” swirling around Yahoo! are tasked with bringing in the innovative spirit, shaking up corporate culture, and marching to our own creative drumbeat. The grown-ups around Yahoo! are not quite sure what to do with many of us, but the energy we bring seems to be appreciated. Yet, meetings are often a bit peculiar as we try to find common language and process for working together. (And, just like good “kids”, i’ve noticed that many of us have a rather foul tongue that still shocks the “adults” on a regular basis.)
I often hear people talking about how Yahoo! is buying up Web2.0, but i don’t think it’s just that. It’s not only about tagging, social bookmarking, sharing, etc. It’s about rethinking the innovation process when handling social technologies. Take a look at some of the characters recently hired/acquired – Caterina Fake, Stewart Butterfield, Joshua Schachter, Andy Baio, Cameron Marlow, Chad Dickerson, Tom Coates… These aren’t even your typical Web2.0 crowd – these are creatives with attitude who have no problem telling corporate what they think and pushing for changes that they feel are essential.
Before mainstreamification, Yahoo! used to stand for the people who were rather quirky. It’s rather nice to see it moving back in that direction. And it’s quite fun to watch it from the inside and contribute to that effort. (And damn do i like the fact that so many of the folks i respect are landing there.)