Tom Foremski on Google and Yahoo Culture

Tom Foremski on Google and Yahoo Culture.

It's interesting that Tom wrote this today–the day I got to meet him in person:

Yahoo kicked the engineers aside quite some time ago. Co-founders Jerry
Yang (does he still carry the title of “chief yahoo” on his business
card?) and David Filo probably still do engineering type stuff, but the
business is handled by people who know how to run a large media

Yet at Google, there are NO media professionals! They’ve
done well so far, no one would disagree, but can computer engineers
grow a media business? This could be Google’s Achilles’ heel.

I had lunch with Tom and about 10 others people today in Palo Alto.
Sadly, I had to leave and get back to work by 2pm, but I'd have loved
to stay much longer. We talked a lot about weblogs: journalist weblogs,
personal weblogs, company weblogs, personal brands, and so on. Very
interesting stuff that I should try to summarize some other time.


Not too many people know this, but about two years ago I tried to leave Yahoo. I had been working in Yahoo Search (for the first time)
and wasn't terribly thrilled with it and a lot of things. Obviously, I
didn't leave. But I had an interesting series of meetings the day after
I told a particular VP that I'd be leaving in 2 weeks.

The end result of all that was my new (at the time)
role, dealing with MySQL related stuff full-time for all of Yahoo. And
the rest is mostly history, some of which I've documented here on my
weblog–including my move back to Yahoo Search.

However, it was during that day of meetings that I first discovered
the internal confusion over what kind of company Yahoo is. I remember
telling someone that I really wanted to go work for a technology
company, not a media company. That led into an interesting discussion
of the evidence for Yahoo being a media company vs. Yahoo being a
technology company.

Identity Crisis?

Over the next couple of days, I asked a bunch of folks the question:
“Is Yahoo a media company or a technology company.” But it's been a
long time since I've thought back on all those discussions.

Today, over a year and a half later, I see things differently.

In simple terms, you don't get to be the biggest Internet Media Company without also being one hell of a Technology Company.

So in my mind, Yahoo is both. No, the engineers are not front and
center, but that doesn't mean they aren't dreaming up and building some
really cool stuff. I only wish I could talk about some of the projects
we've got in the works. But then I would be looking for a new job! 🙁

So all I can say for the moment is “stay tuned” and keep an eye on the Yahoo Search blog, where we're going to be introducing more and more of those folks.

Maybe Tom Should Visit

Getting back to what Tom wrote (quoted above), I get the feeling he doesn't have much of a relationship with Yahoo.

A while back, Jerry Yang wrote the following in his first Yahoo Search blog posting:

While I'm not nearly as technical as I was 10 years ago (I got my hint
when David Filo changed the [root] password on me so I can't touch code
anymore), I firmly believe that the technology we are building today
makes the future of the Web even more useful, informative, and

Yes Tom, he's still one of our two “Chief Yahoo”s but he works on
the business side of things now, not on engineering. Tom seems to think
of Jerry as some sort of figurehead, but in my experience that couldn't
be farther from the truth. Though he did make fun of me for wearing
shorts to work in December, so he's not all work and no play. David
Filo is still very much a part of day to day engineering and operations.

Tom, if you think the engineers have been kicked aside, you need to
come visit Yahoo. I'd be glad to introduce you to some of the smartest
engineers in this industry. [Jeremy Zawodny's blog]

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