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Joyce Park aka Troutgirl, Scott Rafer of Feedster, Julie Herendeen of Yahoo!

We saw 360 on Thursday, and Yahoo! asked us for feedback…and told us we could blog it freely. In that spirit (and in the spirit of release 0.7 rather than fully baked thoughts):

First, it was difficult to keep Flickr out of of my mind… and one *can* be excellent without being Flickr (!). 360 – which is a great name, btw – is a blogging service with instant communications, with photos, with IM blasts, the ability to create circles of friends, and much more. That’s both the opportunity and the problem. Yahoo!’s challenge is to figure out how to introduce it in a way that will draw in the most enthusiastic early users -without confusing them - and then rely on them to spread it. It could take several paths, and those paths will affect how the service is used and by whom….and ultimately how it evolves, because it will inevitably respond to the demands of its users and get shaped by them. That’s the lesson of the long tail: one size should not fit all; it should find its natural market, and then communicate well with other sizes. So they could call it a refrigerator door product (as described so ably by jerry Michalski years ago), for keeping others up to date (but it lacks a calendar). Or they could call it a blogging tool. Or a photo-sharing tool. Or they could decide not to compete with “blogging” tools (a la Live Journal) and attract newbies by calling it an “everyday holiday letter” tool for keeping your friends and family informed. Or they could give up on the metaphors and call it 360 – for surrounding yourself with your friends and with tools to keep in touch with them.

Enough pontification, on to specifics (rather than a full review): What struck me was what I missed, which is Flickr’s ability to create shared context around shared objects. Randy Farmer called 360 a “user-centric” community tool; each user is the center of a number of concentric circles…. except they’re not really circles; they’re ellipses that all have the user at on of the [whatever the geometric terms is for the two "centers" of an ellipse], but don’t intersect (or perhaps they’re in 3D, in different planes). The user creates categories of friends – school, biking club, band practice, family – and communicates with them in that context. (The categories/ groups/circles aren't aware of their own existence, as far as I can tell; they are simply so designated by each user, so "biking frineds" is more a way of classifying individuals and determining what info about or from the user they see, than an actual group with its own collective existance.)

But my friends and their “categories” are more fluid and self-organizing than that, and I prefer to let them define themselves. I like posting my photos/captions and tagging them, and then my friends who are interested can look and comment. I don’t presume to know what interests we might share…and I might not be the center of the conversation; they can gather around the artifact (the photo) rather than around me… but the conversation is semi-public, so I can join in again if I want. Or I can join others’ conversations. There was much discussion about the need (as in Flickr) for asymmetrical relationships: Juan can list Alice as his friend and let her see his (semi-)private photos, but she can keep him as a contact (or peoplemark)... with no hard feelings as long as he hasn't begged to be her friend. Subtle differences, perhaps, but they matter in ways we can;t always predict (unless we're danah boyd!).

I know people can use Flickr to create groups, but I like the fluidity of tagging. So for some people, perhaps, Flickr groups are the natural home, rather than the people and the tags. The trick is to create something that draws people in, and then they can create their own nests with the particular colors of ribbons and strings that they prefer.

Another interesting thing is the different sense of time. I see Flickr as a place to store things and keep them alive; 360 feels more like a stream: IM rather than e-mail. I don’t know how much this is a function of age, and how much my personal predilections as a packrat, but I feel most at home in a service that stores things and emergently organizes them rather than one that lets them stream through. And I like to *discover* people, by seeing what interests them and what they say, rather than reading self-descriptions of dubious accuracy and insight.

And of course.... I like to use Flickr as my blog. By calling this "captions," I can avoid the presumption of calling it a blog... It was just a caption, sir, nothing serious!

Ross Mayfield, Ben Ramsey, sMoRTy71, and 11 other people added this photo to their favorites.

  1. caterina 110 months ago | reply

    Great post, Esther. Thanks.

  2. vanderwal 110 months ago | reply

    You are dead on with the "But my friends and their...." comments. I hope 360 includes that element. Yahoo has a great foundation to build an incredible service on top of, should they wish to do it.

  3. jurvetson 110 months ago | reply

    Julie H! We worked together at Apple. And Ralston was the VP Engr at Four11... Small world effects!

    And, Esther, spot on with the analysis. Structured groups are like a planned economy.

  4. HANs on Experience 110 months ago | reply

    Great to use Flickr as blog! Just signed up for a test account, but this gives me new inspiration.
    It is a pity that you did not include some photo's of some screens with Yahoo!360. Could have some great impact I think!
    Hans on Experience

  5. DElyMyth [deleted] 110 months ago | reply

    I'd rather say Y!360 can be (as blog) a sketchbook.
    But it can be a community, yes.
    Not the "only" site for someone, since I'll never use it to share photos, and my main blog will remain elsewhere.

    Nice as sketchbook for me.

  6. Random and Odd 110 months ago | reply

    You really answered a lot of my questions.

  7. pterandon 110 months ago | reply

    I think the whole "your user icon gotta be a photo" just underscores how much contempt yahoo has for real people.

  8. ifindkarma 110 months ago | reply

    pterandon, never attribute to malice that which can by explained by other phenomena.

    "user icon gotta be a photo" probably stemmed from legal reasons -- to prevent people from using copyrighted images in their avatars, so Yahoo doesn't get a flood of cease-and-desist letters from copyright owners.

    I know several people at Yahoo and I assure you that none of them have contempt for real people.

    My favorite feature on Yahoo 360 is the blast feature -- I can share a thought with all my friends without spamming them. Yay!

    That said, Yahoo 360 is still unfortunately not a delightful product that I look forward to going to 50 times a day the way I look forward to going to my Gmailbox 50 times a day. But they'll keep iterating and refining the application -- it definitely has potential.

  9. pterandon 110 months ago | reply

    Are you saying that the average user is incapable of creating original digital content? Are you saying that an actual photograph is more likely to be free of copyright hassles? How does Google's blog service get away with allowing any sort of user image? How can I get away with posting digital images on my geocities pages? I don't think that's the reason.

    There is something different about the quality of experience between yahoo mail and gmail, between yahoo360 and blogger. If it's not malice, not contempt, then perhaps it's a willingness to annoy, a less refined sensibility to web users' expectations.

  10. ifindkarma 110 months ago | reply

    Maybe it's just a different belief about what web-based applications should be.

    You're revealing that Google's philosophy is more in line with your own tastes. Your points are good ones, and ones that Yahoo should consider, but ultimately they have to do what they think best embodies their philosophy.

    And it's our perogative as users to vote with our time.

  11. nadiaeve2006 95 months ago | reply

    I'am new to yahoo 360 and still learning about it, this is why I'am writing so I can learn more about it.

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