Acquisition Pressures Accelerate the Pruning of Yahoo’s Purple People

Acquisition Pressures Accelerate the Pruning of Yahoo’s Purple People

I was sitting across the table from a survivor. A survivor. You would think that a person with almost eight years tenure in an exalted technical management capacity would be elated to be telling me his or her story, but this soul was about as glum as can be; there was a veritable cloud in the room.

This interview was conducted with the solemn pledge of anonymity, for obvious reasons. Indeed, this survivor of the Yahoo upheaval chose me because I am an unknown, no account, under the radar blogger. I am sure that, eventually, other interviews and exposes will appear with attribution in various on-line organs such as TechCrunch, Boomtown, or some such.

Such as it is, I am honored to be the anonymous nobody that this Yahoo survivor chose to vent through: Continue reading

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I’m no Genius, I’m No Pundit

It’s interesting to note that all the bullet points mentioned in my Yahoo interview are being reiterated on KQED FM this morning “Forum discusses that question with a panel of experts including Michael Kanellos, editor-at-large for CNET; and Sarah Lacy, author and columnist for Business Week Magazine” – Dylan Sweeny is also a panelist.

What is the consensus:

  1. Yahoo never pulled its properties together into a coherent whole
  2. Yahoo never took full advantage of its Web 2.0 acquisitions
  3. Yahoo shied away from pursuing a more aggressive acquisition strategy when it counted
  4. Putting Semel at the helm steered Yahoo onto an ill-begotten road towards becoming a quasi entertainment portal
  5. Semel and Decker greatly expanded the upper level management of Veeps and do-nothing directors
  6. Semel continued (probably did not initiate, though) the slide from a  technology meritocracy, to an agency business model

So, they agree that there has been a bungling at Yahoo. Many callers also expressed that vehement “Purple Culture”, that is boiling over at the thought of serving a Microsoft Master.

Now, whoever pays your check gets your loyalty, but I am reminded of a quote from the interview I conducted that was intentionally omitted due to its Inflammatory tone:

“If the Redmond management clones think they are going to muscle us and change our user driven culture, I will do all in my power to thwart their efforts, short of insurrection”

Sounds like insurrection to me. Such different cultures, such divergent targets.

Yahoo Culture – What was, is, and Could Be

I am not a professional journalist. There are no ads on this blog, and I have a tiny readership. I use this blog to drive my consulting work in alternative channel marketing and product strategy. Therefore, I don’t have the kind of attributable and authoritative sources that other bloggers have on the inside of Yahoo.

What I do have is a small group of friends and professional acquaintances that are subject to all of the fear and loathing that career uncertainty brings. These folks are not VP’s or Directors, they are editors and community managers, product managers, and software engineers. I met most of them through my work at France Telecom (where I was a contract analyst for product strategy). FT opened doors for an ‘under the radar guy’, like myself. Lots of small Bay Area companies wanted to work with this EU telecom giant, but the only survivor of the internet’s halcyon days to visit the lab (while I was there) was Yahoo.

Anyhoo, when news of a round of anticipated layoffs started to surface, I wanted to collect some opinion from my small cadre of Yahoo contacts – not necessarily for a feature article on Yahoo buzz, but more for a perspective piece on the Valley’s work culture. I’m fairly certain that most folks in the techbiz are aware that prior to the Microsoft take over news, and long before the layoff news, there was a fairly rigorous re-organization taking place at Yahoo that coincided roughly with the departure of Terry Semel.

You may also recall the famous Peanut Butter letter by Brad Garlinghouse (a TechCrunch link here). The Garlinghouse manifesto was the early warning of an impending internal shakeup. Within my network of Yahoos, folks who perform the daily work at ye olde Purple Giant, all have been moved to new departments, placed under new managers, or have been bumped up or down a notch in perceived responsibilities. As a group, these salt-of-the-earth folks all received a small (though by no means symbolic) pay raise.

The following article is a smattering of paraphrased narratives collected with permission. As far as attribution, I was not able to secure the release of their identities, which is understandable in this climate of uncertainty. Perhaps, when the dust settles, said one, we can go on the record.

So, take these observations for what they are: thoughts and anxieties from the collective consciousness of Big Purple’s mid-level ranks, as paraphrased by an amateur blogger.

It’s a take on the culture of the valley we love and loathe so much: Continue reading