Yahoo and the Acquisition Food Chain

One of the big stories of the Friday about to end focuses on the acquisition of Yahoo by Microsoft. The most recent post I’ve seen reported that the WSJ’s fifth article of the day on the acquisition claims that the deal won’t happen after all.

About 24 hours earlier, the same blogger (Michael Arrington) wrote another story about Yahoo and acquisition. The acquisition in question was that of Flickr by Yahoo over two years ago. Yahoo Photos will be closed over the next few months in favor of Flickr.

That’s fine by me. I have over a thousand photos at Flickr, and exactly one at Yahoo Photos. But real Yahoo Photos users may not be so pleased about it. To its credit, Yahoo will make it easy for them to move their photos to the service of their choice, even if it means losing them as photo customers.

This is not to argue against Yahoo streamlining its offerings by eliminating duplication, as recommended in the peanut butter email. It’s to point out that such streamlining has a cost, and that it’s taken Yahoo more than two years to make this particular decision.

That illustrates why Microsoft acquiring Yahoo would be a bad idea. There would be a lot of initial duplication, and a lot of time, attention, energy, and politicking devoted to managing that duplication. It would likely bear out a point made by Don Dodge of Microsoft (although Don was discussing a different deal). Billion dollar acquisitions are very difficult to integrate and very rarely produce synergies.

Microsoft and Yahoo need to focus on not getting killed by Google. An acquisition, while it might be motivated by that need, would be likely to get in the way of meeting it. By the way, the reason I keep referring to it as an acquisition rather than as a merger is that I consider real mergers (of equals) to be extremely rare.

I’ll finish by going back to Yahoo’s acquisition of Flickr. From where I surf, the deal seems to have been followed up well. Flickr hasn’t done anything un-Flickry. It continues to add features.

For example, Flickr will “soon” allow videos as well as photos and other images. So we will soon see many Flickr vs YouTube posts… but that’s for another day, since Friday really is about to end.

Economics of Gratis

It’s not a very modest post title: The Grand Unified Theory On The Economics Of Free. That’s free as in gratis, free of charge, as opposed to free as in libre, or as in freedom.

The post in question is Mike Masnick at Techdirt. It’s more pragmatic than its title suggests. Here’s how Mike boils it down to bullets.

1. Redefine the market based on the benefits
2. Break the benefits down into scarce and infinite components
3. Set the infinite components free, syndicate them, make them easy to get — all to increase the value of the scarce components
4. Charge for the scarce components that are tied to infinite components

The post itself is a summary of a series that Mike’s been writing over the last few months. I haven’t followed it, but Glyn has, and I’m glad he linked to the summary, and drew attention to the comments it has drawn. I hereby provide the same link.

Free: The Crimea, Via the UK

I first became aware of The Crimea via an article in the Guardian.

An acclaimed indie band will next month leap into the unknown by becoming the first established act to give away an entire album for nothing… By giving away the album in its entirety on May 13, the band hope to widen their fanbase and ultimately make more money from touring, merchandising and licensing deals than they would from sales of the album.

That article was published yesterday. Since then the following things have happened.

  • The album in question, Secrets of the Witching Hour, has been made available for download from the band’s website, a couple of weeks earlier than planned.
  • The Sun, the worst excuse for a newspaper I’ve ever encountered, has published an article on the Free Crimea phenomenon.
  • I’ve listened to some of the band’s music, and liked it.
  • I’ve found this clip of the band’s first appearance on the very British and now defunct TV show Top of the Pops.

The fact that I looked for, listened to, liked, and linked to things Crimean is an indication, albeit a very small one, that their Free Crimea campaign is working.

Walt, WSJ, WordPress, etc.

Last week saw the launch of All Things Digital, a mainly-blog site featuring Walt MossbergKara Swisher, and other WSJ writers. I note this, not only because of the content,* but because of the form of the site.

Alex King posted about setting up the site, and about the people and software involved. The main software is WordPress Multi-User. I should therefore add it to the list of WPMU sites I maintain in the sidebar of one of my other blogs.

I haven’t been as thorough as I should have been when it comes to WPMU sites run by large organizations. I intend to fix that in the May update to the sidebar. Toni Schneider has done a rather better job. In particular, Toni’s post on All Things Digital was rather more timely than the current post.

* For a good example of good content, see Walt’s recent post on the current tendency of firms such as Microsoft and Sony to become hardware/software firms, rather than sticking almost exclusively to one side or the other.

1 May Get Things Organized

I use, and have previously blogged about, tools such as Backpack and Scrybe to help me get myself organized, get things done, keep track of stuff, etc. My use of such tools reminds me of one of my favorite quotations.

I love work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me. The idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.

I love organization. I can surf around Organization 2.0 services and reviews thereof for hours. But I don’t like doing the things that these tools tell me to do, any more than Jerome K. Jerome’s narrator likes doing work.

I’ve just passed in grades for the spring semester. That means I have fewer immediately pressing things to do than I have in a while. I will spend some of the rest of the week doing things I should have done ages ago. I will probably spend some of the week getting (re)organized by overhauling my Backpack and finally having a real go through my paper in-tray.

If history is a guide, I will not subsequently make good use of this reorganization and the projects, etc., defined during it. I will spend some time blown around by winds of enthusiasm and interruption, some time becalmed in procrastination, etc.

Now, time to get ready for that 1pm meeting…

Bray on 3 Years of Blogging at Sun

Tim Bray identifies five upsides of the blog site that’s accessible to any Sun employee to write about anything. I particularly like the last of them.

The morale-boost has been tremendous. Right at the moment, less than 10% of the workforce are actually committed bloggers to the extent of posting once a week or more; but the uplift from knowing that if you have something to say, it’s OK with the company for you to just go and say it to the world, that’s huge.

The downside: “it’s hard to come up with one.”

The snappy closing line (also quoted by Justin, whose post pointed me to Tim’s): “I’m pretty sure that in another half-generation or so, a company that doesn’t do blogging is going to look weird and maybe a little shady.”

Open Source: Google, MySQL, etc.

This is something of a sequel to the previous post about Google and MySQL. It was prompted by an interview with Chris DiBona, Google’s Open Source Program Manager. (The interview, by Sean Ammirati, appeared at Read/Write Web.)

Although Chris couldn’t comment on how many open source projects Google uses, he did identify “two projects that we’d miss more than any others. The first is the Linux kernel and the second is MySQL. Both are in heavy use at the company.”

Neither could Chris comment on Google’s relationship with Mozilla, other than to state that he was happy to have Mozilla involved with the 2007 Summer of Code. By the way, this didn’t come up in the interview, WordPress is also involved.

Sean remarked that:

There is little doubt that if any company could attempt to recreate applications like MySQL and Linux it is Google. However, they have instead chosen to embrace and support the various open source communities and leverage their existing application tools.

The use of open source rather than free to describe software like MySQL comes from the interview at RWW and from Chris’ job title at Google. I seem to be posting less about open source than I did at previous blogs, to the extent that it doesn’t have its own category in this blog.

Productivity: The Berry and the Weed

In a digital world of infinite distraction, it is “single-tasking”… that will save us. That’s what Tim Ferriss tells us. He backs it up as follows.

In 2005, a psychiatrist at King’s College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana. Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The e-mailers, on the other hands, did worse than the stoners by an average of 6 points.

Tim’s point is interesting, helpful, and, given the recent Blackberry outage, timely. Unfortunately, it’s not well-documented. We’re given no link or citation for the study. Is it an unpublished and anonymous study?

Tim does find time to tell us that he made the front page of the Huffington Post, although he doesn’t provide a link to his article there. And he certainly makes it clear how important it is that we buy his new book. If he thinks I’m going to buy a book by someone who doesn’t provide sources, he’s smoking something.

Bibliolescence: Introduction

Old bookI’ve recently become interested in the relationship between books and obsolescence. I’ve done some reading and some thinking, and now it’s time to do some writing: hence the neologism in the post title.

Bibliolescence refers to a book, or a particular edition of a book, being or becoming obsolete. I won’t use it to refer to the book becoming an obsolete medium for content (which I don’t see happening any time soon, by the way).

Bibliolescence also refers to a series of posts, which starts with this one. The series will get properly under way with thoughts on the book Made to Break, to which I first referred earlier this ,month. To wrap up the current post: thanks to Neal Gillis for the photo.