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Preview: Susan Mernit's Blog

Susan Mernit's Blog

Thoughts on community, local, product development,the social graph, social media, OpenID, Web 2.0, participatory media, citizen journalism, funnel management & conversion, monetization, blogging, feminism, and tech geek life in the Bay area from a former

Updated: 2018-03-06T02:17:25.531-08:00


Oakland Thanksgiving 2


Oakland Thanksgiving 2, a gallery on Flickr.Photos from Oakland[...]

The wild trail of Saturday surfing, aka synchronicity surfaces everytime


So I am sitting here, dog snoring at my feet, devouring Coilhouse.

Reading about the staff--two (apparently) LA Russians (I have been hanging with some Russians, recently), others. Diving into zoetica's flicker stream and blog, Nadya Lev's amazing photos (and blog).

I'm slowly working my way through the pictures, thinking of how my friend Sarah Dopp would like the delicious androgny of some of the images, and I see that one of them has already been selected by Sarah for genderfork, her photo/gender queer site.

And does that mean the the Net is a big place a small place, or just a place? You decide.

(PS And if you are interested in questions of gender and identity, BTW, genderfork is just plan brilliant.)

Department of Brilliant


Just discovering the amazing photos of Brit Peter Ashworth, and the spiky pleasures of online magazine and blog, where I could read and read (and gaze at the super pictures).
If you have to be up wayy too early on a Saturday, these are a consolation.

Quote of the Day


"New love is like snow: it covers everything up beautifully. Marriage counseling is like shoveling."

--Lois Smith Brady, writing about marriage, compatability and marital counseling in the NYTimes.

Neil Budde goes to DailyMe, news aggregator and start page


As Paid Content and other report, former Yahoo! news lead Neil Budde's now made public his move to DailyMe, a personalized news startup, as president and chief product officer. This has got to be a global play, as the founder is Eduardo Hauser, former founder of AOL Latin America, another Miami-area based enterprise.

It's tempting to wonder if Budde talked to NowPublic, which reportedly has been auditioning CEOs for at least eight months before landing with DailyMe. Interesting, there was some tremendous talent at AOL Latin America, including Peter Blacker, who is now at Telemundo; it looks Neil is joining a strong and motivated team that knows how to execute (and he certainly will have ideas.)

At his site, Neil Budde, Online News Visionary, Neil shares some thoughts on the new gig:

"I believe that we are still at the early stages of digital news consumption. The ways in which users like you will find, read or watch and interact with news are still evolving and no single approach to meeting your needs will suffice. Being totally focused on translating your needs and interests into an amazing product will make DailyMe the best news destination and a great partner in the news industry."

Susan sez: It's great that there is always someone taking a run at the front door of news, one of the essential starting points for users on the net. Based on part performance, Neil and this team should have some great ideas and visible impact.

Quote of the Day


"Instead of stressing yourself out and checking and Mediabistro and then dashing around the city, try this: simply sit with a cup of chamomile tea in your apartment, read the Want Ads in the newspaper, and circle them with a big red pencil, just like they did back in the 80's before there were fax machines! Your jobless, low-income heart rate will slow in a matter of minutes, and if you recycle the paper, you lessen your carbon footprint!

It's funny because this is similar advice to what I am telling my more, um...globally ambitious friends... when I was at Davos last week. While there, as a keynote speaker, I imparted the wisdoms of Slow Wealth. I taught them how to knit, make windmills, meditate, and have a nurturing sense of patience while they slash jobs and cut back on benefits for their employees."

--from Slow Unemployed, The Underminer, published at Gawker

Susan sez: read The Underminer by Mitch Albo with Virginia Heffernan and laugh your head off between poignant sobs

Via Irina Slutsky)

New blogger welcome: Ryan Kuder jumps in


Fellow Ex-Yahoo Ryan Kuder just launched his new blog; he's going to use his social media smarts to do consulting and help companies make the new tools work.

Best of luck, dude! Hope it's glorious.

Quote of the Day


"You only get to lose your virginity once, so choose your venue wisely."

--Wisemeister Dave Winer, reflecting on the TechCrunch40/DEMO head-on, with the additional comments: "Honestly, what both conferences say about the technology industry is that it's way over-supplied with new product. "

New study: Social Networks and Connection vs. Reputation


Good data from Canadian research firm Pollara, via MediaPost, reporting that adult social media users value the views of experts (think Engadget or Lifehacker) but put more stock in what friends and family think (is this really a surprise?)

The report says: "Of more than 1,100 adults polled in December, nearly 80% said they were very or somewhat more likely to consider buying products recommended by real-world friends and family, while only 23% reported being very or somewhat likely to consider a product pushed by "well-known bloggers."

The shift here, thought, is that social network users are going to look for family and friend comments and opinions online--in a related study, Pollara learned users considered social media channels--whether blogs, social networks, or community forums--important for sharing their thoughts on products, services, organizations, and brands, and that "57% of those 18-to-34 deemed social media tools very or somewhat important for sharing such opinions online" and 59% said SM was very or somewhat important to learn about products, services, organizations, and brands."

In line with these findings, 44% of the users surveyed said they felt that online forums are a reliable source of information--so the wisdom of crowds found in and matter, just not as much as what your cousin or office mate says.

Layoffs 3.0: Does going back make sense?


At least three people I know who were laid off at Yahoo! have either been rehired or interviewed for jobs there. It's been interesting to watch that process and think about the very personal pros and cons of returning to a company that deemed you non-essential, only to offer you a spot eight weeks later.

For one of my friends, there was a chance to manage people and great promises for the future involved; for another, the lure was security and people he already had worked with before; for a third, it's keeping options and benefits after years at the same firm.

For me, returning to Yahoo! right now would feel somewhere between complicated and impossible (no, I don't have an offer). Some of the elements that made me thrilled to join are still there: good people, very large reach, tons of opportunity to capitalize on what they already have. But there's the negatives: A company that might not have planned well in letting me--and so many others--go in the way they did, uncertainity about what can be accomplished as the inevitable acquisition continues to loom, questions about alignment and strategy of the senior teams beyond a piecemeal approach.

And then there's the big one: Is there more, and better opportunity elsewhere? (Obviously, subjective, here.) For me, heads down with my team and my role for so long (except for a side stealth Brickhouse project that never got anywhere), getting laid off was one of those shoves that makes you reassess and look around with new eyes.

On that level, I've seen opportunities beyond Yahoo, whether I accept them or not, that make me think the sturm and drang I feel about the place just isn't where I want my soul to live, and as much as I recall the high hopes I had when I started, there are better places for me to play those aspirations out, some of which I could never have imagined three months ago.

Ian Rogers leaving Yahoo for start up and other changes


Just saw the news that Ian Rogers is leaving Yahoo! for a music start up and that Karin Gilford will be taking over his responsibilities.

What's interesting to me here is the following:

a) So many great people are leaving Yahoo! and heading to start ups; Yahoo's clearly an entrepenurial starting point at some level.

b) There seems to be a movement toward promoting people who have been there for a long time; according to her LinkedIn resume, Karin G's been at Yahoo, in one role or another, since 2000, the year she graduated from college.

Valleywag's Scott Moore memo (unverified) says that Amy Iorio and Shine will report to Karin, and that Kids, Food and Astrology, which Amy formerly oversaw, will go to Karen as well, whiile Health goes to Michael Yang (at Y! since 2005 and a great guy, we worked together at a past co.) New acquisition Al Warms gets Tech and Education; I know Amy had Tech for a while.

Tea leaves reading on this one: None of these sites are meeting managements' expectations; shuffling to continue. I feel for everyone working their booties off at Big Purple, know your managers have a plan to turn the company around.

Measuring the Techmeme Lederboard and what the stats suggest


Louis Gray has a good post looking at the past six months of the Techmeme lederboard and which sites have grown in reach as others have faltered. His analysis of the big blogging sites and their increase in percentage of lead stories--TechCrunch in particular--is interesting, as is his noting how "big media" aka and "blogging/indie media" aka GigaOm, intersect.

One thing Louis doesn't examine that I'd like to see him add to this review is the growth--or shrinkage--in reach of some of the solo bloggers--both the ones he calls out like Mathew Ingram, Robert Scoble, Steve Rubel and Steven Hodson, and others who provide more reflection and commentary and less breaking news (yeah, like this blog).

The interest there would be to see how the solo blogger's focus and reach fares as the blog networks get stronger--as online media increasingly fragments, it's as interesting to watch the people in the middle as the ones at the top--at a certain point, the behaviors around who's at the top--and how they scale up--become increasingly predictable. It would be neat to note, however, if that second and third tier get more traffic and reach--or less-because of their association with the big guy's stories.

Looking at VentureBeat's rise in the Techmeme stats as they're fueled by investment dollars suggests a resources=traffic correlation that is worth checking further.

I'd also like to know how much of the big blogging networks traffic is being bought and how much is truly viral or organic. Are TechCrunch, GigaOm, and others seeding their traffic with SEM search terms? And if not, are the big media players going that route? Techmeme doesn't account for marketing, only linking, and yet reader acquisition is always a factor that has to be in play.

Twitter & Friend Feed: The Pleasure of Permissions


So, when I set up Twitter in earnest a few months ago, I originally wanted to use it only for good friends, people whom I cared "if they brushed their teeth" as I put it to myself. To that end, I made it permissions-based; you have to ask to follow me.

I did the same thing a few weeks ago when I set up friendfeed.

What's been interesting about that is that because I set up a permissions-based system, I have a much livelier and more engaged sense of who is *following* me than who is reading this blog, either here, or thru a newsreader. While I'm basically approving all(except for obvious spam) requests, responding to individual requests means I get to take a second, if I wish, and actually respond to the individual--in other words, I can look at their RSS feed, their FB, their twitter and try to understand if this is someone I'd like to be reading or following as well (and it is, about 50% of the time.)

So, for me, permissions-based following is supporting a greater sense of exchange with new people, and also giving me a sometimes ego-gratifying chance to notice when people whose work I respect, but may not know personally, want to read me(0r at least get the feeds).

And Facebook? Facebook is fast becoming the small, unfocused cousin of LinkedIn--while the tools are great (groups, events, notes); I'm losing my sense of focus of who I am linked to and why--in many ways, it is becoming a huge affinity and social web tickler file for my life, not much more.

Thinking local: Tools, Information vs. Reporting, Objectivity vs. Accuracy


I am thinking about information vs. reporting, and how communication is power (think about twitter and how intensely it's becoming the drug of choice for the digital, uh, elite inside the bell jar.)

Richard Sambrook of the BBC made a statement last week helped catalyze some ideas I've been thinking about about journalism, blogging, community and sustainability. Richard said (and this is a paraphrase): "In the future, what will matter is not objectivity, but accuracy." In other words, the idea of reporting as a detached and objective priesthood will fall away, but readers will still want and need accuracy in the information they share.

Another way to look at this is that it's not only knowledge that is power, it's the ability to communicate. And how, for those who are not bloggers, do you give them the tools to do so?

I'm thinking about this alot in the context of local and community, in particular.

What are the places where local news, something there isn't always enough of, in print and on the net(especially on the net) can actually be replace by local information? Where citizens can speak instead of journalists or even bloggers? (Not everyone wants to blog, folks.)

In other words, it is enough for an attendee at the school board meeting to file an account, or do you need a blogger or a journalist to do so? And what tools do each of them need?

To put it another way, when I look at some communities--like parts of Oakland--I see that their needs t communicate what's happening there-between the locals and to the greater world--just aren't met by the press. So how could it work in those communities if the goal was to provide more access to tools to spread more information? Would we see social change and improved quality of life? A more cohesive sense of community among particular groups? Between groups?

And how do you support--and teach--accuracy, anyway? Is BlogHer an example of creating vertical niche communities with power? Are there best practices there to transfer to local? Where are the differences?

I am really interested in this question of community, sustainability and value--if you have sites to point to, things you've read that will help me better understand information, news, community on a local or groups level, please post in the comments, or send them my way.

The April Fools Collection


  1. TechCrunch: Mike Arrington going to sue Facebook over use of his image
  2. jwz: 10th year anniversary--Mozilla first home now back online.
  3. Problogger--Get paid per tweet
  4. CNET: TechCrunch acquires TigerBeat, will rename it CrunchKids
  5. GMail: Be on Time, Custom Time
  6. Google & Virgin airways: Human settlement on Mars (Susan sez: Google is so big it now gets more than one April 1st joke, eh?)

What else has caught your fancy?

April 1: It ain't just laughing


Today was kind of a tough day; there was a death in the (extended) family, lots of work to get done post weekend, and some hard choices to work through. I'm also getting ready (or trying to get ready) for an out of the country trip next week.)

In many ways, I feel like leaving Yahoo! has brought me to this new inflection point in terms of where I really want to put my time and what I want to focus on.

One way to look at that is to ask "What do I want to work on in the next year and how can I have the most impact?" Another way is to say "What do I want to have accomplished 18 months-2 years from now?" A third is to say "What will most fully use my skills and my best talents to create meaningful product, experiences, business, change?"

Of course, asking the questions is easy; the answers are always guesses when you start, and you hope you don't regret the choices you've made as they become realities, later.

I'm about to make some big choices about what I focus on in the coming year, and like those relationship choices on Facebook, "it's complicated."

(Or, to look at it another way, it's crystal clear and it's just time to stop dancing around and get in line for the future.)

Happy April Fools, everyone. Let me see you keep laughing.

Blogher: New column now live


The latest Blogher column is up; it's a roundup of some new(er) voices in the sex and relationships arena.

Shine and media: Jason's not quite right--but he is right


Jason Calcanis has a post today about how the launch of Shine suggests that Yahoo is not taking care of its media partners. Jason's point is that it's crazy for the Yahoo Developer Network to solicit the business of media partners to deliver services (and sell ads) at the same time Yahoo is launching a site that is going to seek advertising from the same sources (like consumer packaged goods companies).

He writes: "Maybe this is Yahoo's plan to save itself? Maybe if the launch media properties and kill off search and the adnetwork they can convince folks they are Newscorp 2.0?"

Couple of responses here--Jason is right in that there is double dipping going on here--Yahoo wants to sell services to the people they are also competing with for ad dollars, but that's nothing new. And not unique to Yahoo--MSN has been selling ads for partners--and filling with similar ads--for a while, for example.

What is more relevant in Jason's comments. IMHO, is the question of how aligned the senior teams at Yahoo are. One wonder to what extent the Developer Network execs, for example, actually talked to the Media Group exec about how these strategies fit together.

Will Shine succeed? Only time will tell.
Will publishers get pissed off? I doubt it.
Does Jason have a point? Well, yeah, but....not enough to keep anyone up at night.

Shine goes live--Will women rush there or what?


Yahoo's Shine, helmed by former print editor Brandon Holley, just launched this am, after weeks of beta testing. The goal here, if it isn't obvious, is to create the most compelling start page on the web for women, all ages;to that end it's a riotous tumult of soft lifestyle features with fashion, parenting, home, dating, relationships and just about any other *female* topic you'd see on a magazine news stand laid out prettily on the home page. In other words, there's no finance, instead it's Work + Money; there's no news, there's a cheat sheet on top news items.It's going to be interesting to see how this site does. On one hand, it's nice to see the multi-year discussions of women and their value to Yahoo (4o million of their users are female)turn into something; on the other hand, I wonder how useful it is to create a site is that specifically is for women, rather than women friendly--and which such broad scale(pun intended).You see, Shine feels so fluffy that for me, I can't see it becoming my daily start page--in truth, it's so niche, or so mega-aggregator niche--that it feels not that smart, or not smart enough for me, my friends, or any of the women I know to use as the destination site. I think The Huffington Post would be a great site for Yahoo's team to take lessons from--that site is clearly women friendly, carries great news of interest to women and yet isn't a pink ghetto for the home maker (which Shine kinda feels like on Day 1.)More compellingly, Shine is encouraging female bloggers like Back in Skinny Jeans Stephanie Quilao, to contribute content; in return the site will send traffic back, a powerful reward from the Yahoo Network people powerhose(or is that firehose)? There's also going to be third party content--more girly, girly stuff, of course--from lots of magazine publishers, including Glamour,,, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar, Women's Health, and Good Housekeeping.So the question is-who is going to use this thing? Or who will it take traffic away from (besides Yahoo's old school front page?) Will the women who use PopSugar come over here ? (Nah.)The HuffPost ladies? (Nah). Blogher women? (Surely not.)Conclusion: Yahoo needs to cannibalize its own traffic to retain audience it is losing. Will that strategy work to make Shine a success? Only if canned-magazine style content is what women actually want, vs. the true user generated content and authentic voices Shine's audience can find elsewhere on the web.Susan sez: Get those advertisers in there quick, before the audience dwindles.[...]

Quote of the Day


"I just write and talk about sex. But every woman on the Internet gets called slutty and ugly and fat (to put it lightly) no matter what; all we have to be is female. In dinner conversation, my friend Lori reminded me of the Oscar Wilde quote, "Give a man a mask, and he'll tell you the truth." I restated it for the Internet, replying, "Give a man a mask, and he'll slit your throat." The application here is, "Give a man (or a woman) an anonymous account, and he'll eviscerate your self-esteem.""

--Author, blogger, columnist Violet Blue writing about how internet trolls, especially those who think porn star ideals comprise what beauty is, screw up women's self-image, sexuality and self-esteem if they buy into that bullwash.

(Susan sez: The whole column is worth a read, enjoy.)

Scott Karp gets $2.7MM for Publish2


Just heard Scott Karp has gotten $2.75MM in funding from Velocity Interactive Group to build out Publish2, his social bookmarking service for journalists. This is thrilling news for me for two reasons:
1) Scott is a super bright and talented person
2) It's inspiring, proof that the force of an idea and the courage of acting on it can lead to success (not that Richard McManus and Mike Arrington didn't show me that earlier).

A nice quote from Scott:
"I’ve come to see the experience of bootstrapping a company as akin to marathon runners who train at high altitudes, where the air is thin, which forces their bodies to increase the number of red blood cells and improve oxygen delivery to their muscles. Having trained their bodies to achieve a high level of performance with very little oxygen, returning to oxygen-rich sea level can yield significant enhancements in performance.

It’s time now for Publish2 to come down from the mountain."

Scott, this is a race well worth running.

Quote of the Day, and then some


"There are no more boundary any more between "species." What's a cat is a dog and vice versa. All media is social and all social is media. End of story. Whether content is created by the Pros or the Joes it all has influence, even if it's small."

--Steve Rubel, writing about how all media, these days, is social.

Susan sez: I agree with Steve on this, but it's important t note that while all media is social, the way we access media has completely changed. IE TechCrunch may have rthe authority nce reserved for John Markoff in the NYTimes, but it got that way through the wisdom of crowds, not because Mike had a decent product and controlled or had the best distribution in the region, which was a critical factor in making newspapers succeed. This is a profound shift.

Also, in the past year, we're shifting again, so the influence of friends recommending stories to one another has become more significant--these referrals have shifted from the automated meme of Techmeme to the hand-rolled links that FriendFeed and FB notes offer, among many others.

In other words, similar destinations, different journeys.

Aril 23rd: From MySpace to Hip Hop conference


It's in the middle of the Web 2.0 Expo, but the conference danah boyd, mimi ito and others put together to share their findings from their McArthur-funded research on youth and digital media is going to be just too good to miss.

Called From My Space to Hip Hop: New Media In the Everyday Lives of Youth--Silicon Valley, CA, it's billed as a public forum on how digital technologies and new media are changing the way that young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life.

Here's the link to the free conference.

Getting into growth: StatWatch


Louis Gray did me the kindness of including this blog in his stats review of well-read tech blogs.
Not surprisingly, but a bit to my chagrin, my blog's the laggard in a fast-growing category.

However, now that I'm one month out of a demanding job at Yahoo!, I've been putting more effort into the blog and would like to see the readers grow--Louis, hope you'll check back in a bit and see how we've grown here.

Coming up: A redesign, more frequent postings, and some news about future directions and interesting things going on.

Questions:News, Local, Community and the future


A koan of questions:
  • What makes local community sites successful?
  • How do news, activism, and information fit together?
  • Will as many people read as post?
  • What makes local community sites and services sustainable (Besides the passion of their founders)?
  • As news media fragments, fails and consolidates (think about how almost all the newspapers in the Bay area are currently owned by Dean Singleton), what will take its place?
  • What is difference between information sharing and news on the local level?
  • Are communities adequately served in their need to share information with those who are part of them? Are their opportunities for discourse?
  • How can online tools empower more people in more communities?
  • What does empower mean in a local context--are there a set of key behaviors to support?
  • Revenue and business models--What will fund quality local online news and communities?

    Folks, what are the other questions you're asking about local online news and community? What are the best case studies you're seeing? Please post here.