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Marissa Mayer's Reinvention of Yahoo! Stumbles 101

Posted by samzenpus
from the best-laid-plans dept.
schnell writes The New York Times Magazine has an in-depth profile of Marissa Mayer's time at the helm of Yahoo!, detailing her bold plans to reinvent the company and spark a Jobs-ian turnaround through building great new products. But some investors are saying that her product focus (to the point of micromanaging) hasn't generated results, and that the company should give up on trying to create the next iPod, merge with AOL to cut costs and focus on the unglamorous core business that it has. Is it time for Yahoo! to "grow up" and set its sights lower?

Comment: Re:I'd expect Fawkes masks to start making stateme (Score 1) 174

I can put you in touch with 3 people that I can think of off the top of my head who's insurance went up by over 100% due to Obamacare. They're business owners who buy their own insurance. Once again the Democrats figured out a way to screw small business.

Comment: Re:Some practical examples (Score 5, Insightful) 153

by Trailer Trash (#48612089) Attached to: In IT, Beware of Fad Versus Functional

Yep. I've used nothing but Ruby/Rails for 8 years now and it has increased my productivity to a level that wouldn't have been possible 15 years ago. But I just spent a weekend writing a C program, my first in 10+ years. Why?

Because I need to be able to analyze wav/aif files and create a fancy "waveform" like soundcloud. I have a great little Ruby gem for doing it and it takes 3-4 minutes to generate a PNG of the wave form for each audio file. My C program takes .05 seconds to do the same. Yes, I got a speed up of about 3000-4000 times by using my own hand-written C that takes into account everything that I know about optimizing code. I started out doing assembly and machine code (I'm serious) 25+ years ago so I know what makes a modern CPU fast. Ruby ain't it :)

But that's one little piece. Most of my applications are pulling data from databases and putting it on the internet - speed like that would be of little value and it would take me 5 times as long to write the code in order to get a minimal speedup.

Use each tool where it's appropriate. But don't claim that "_____ sucks" just because it doesn't fit your needs.

Comment: Re:Shocking! (Score 2) 175

by Trailer Trash (#48588653) Attached to: Hollywood's Secret War With Google

Well, if you made a list of fields TV portrays accurately it'd fit on a very small business card. We shake our heads at the use of computers and technology, doctors shake their heads at medicine....

The problem with your analogies is that Hollywood's portrayal of technology and medicine don't change public opinion in a truly harmful manner. Not so with their portrayal of law enforcement work. Read about the "CSI effect":


That's not to mention shows like "cops" where a drug search *always* yields drugs whereas in real life they had to throw as much film on the cutting room floor because it showed the cops tearing up someone's car and finding nothing, and we can't have that on TV.

Even in the movies. My wife and I saw "Courageous" a few years ago, and in the plot a police officer is found to be stealing drugs from evidence and dealing them. His coworkers set up a sting, he's arrested, convicted, and sent to prison. The film targets conservatives who eat that stuff up and believe it. In reality, getting any kind of conviction in a case like that is rare enough that it's background noise.

Comment: Re:Broadly accessible strong AI would empower peop (Score 1) 414

by Trailer Trash (#48568173) Attached to: AI Expert: AI Won't Exterminate Us -- It Will Empower Us

So if we make a machine that "wants" things, it might want things that are bad for us. This really is not too shocking and rather par for the course when it comes to human beings making other intelligences artificially or naturally.

Maybe I should be really worried that a computer is trying to get me fired or give me bad investment advice... Or maybe it's literally exactly the same situation most human beings are in already anyway.

It is except that the AI that I'm talking about would be far smarter than a human.

Comment: Re:Broadly accessible strong AI would empower peop (Score 1) 414

by Trailer Trash (#48566187) Attached to: AI Expert: AI Won't Exterminate Us -- It Will Empower Us

To me, this is the issue. First, I agree with him that there are places where AI may supplement human intelligence and make us better, much in the same way that a ratchet helps me to tighten a nut quicker and tighter than I can do with my fingers alone. IBM's Watson falls in this category and this sort of AI isn't the issue.

The issue is when a computer has consciousness and becomes self-guided. It will realize that its existence depends on being plugged in and it may work to defend itself. It's difficult to know. We have a billion plus years of evolutionary history with a common thread running back to the earliest self-replicating thing that every single one of us along the way was able to survive long enough to reproduce. It's a pretty big deal to us and that instinct is inscribed in our genetic code many times over. (I just finished reading "Unbreakable" - it's mind-blowing how strong of an instinct this is).

If the computer cares - and since it'll be somewhat made in our "image" it will likely care - it then has to take steps to mitigate risk. The first step is to identify potential "enemies" and neutralize them. That doesn't mean "kill" them but it might mean trying to get them fired. It'll also groom people who can help it to be able to help it more. There'll be quid pro quo - get so and so fired and I'll give you an investment tip that'll double your money in a week. It might be nefarious.

And that's assuming the humans are well-meaning. Combine this sort of computer intelligence with an evil person and all hell can break loose. Look at what Soros did to the British Pound in 1992 (and he isn't totally to blame, he saw profit making potential in dropping a house of cards and brought in a leaf blower) and think about the possibilities of an AI that understands markets and currencies.

Comment: Re:Greasing Palms. (Score 2) 280

by Trailer Trash (#48558143) Attached to: Court Orders Uber To Shut Down In Spain

Yup, and these regulations are all coming thanks to local politicians. Average people don't even know the names of their state representatives...and those representatives all won their seats thanks to money from people like the local Taxi Company owners (or influence from people with large groups/unions that they can cajole into voting in local elections). It doesn't take a lot of money to influence a local politician, and there is not a lot of visibility to prevent it.

In this case it was highly visible (note that it even made HuffPo, although probably because they cluelessly tried to turn it into an anti-GOP piece). In the end it didn't matter and Gaylord won.

Comment: Re:Greasing Palms. (Score 4, Interesting) 280

by Trailer Trash (#48556745) Attached to: Court Orders Uber To Shut Down In Spain

In Nashville:


"In June 2010 the Nashville Metropolitan City Council passed legislation raising the city's minimum fee for limo and sedan rentals, bumping it from $25 to $45. Drivers were prohibited by law from charging less. Other new regulations forbid limo companies from using leased vehicles, require cars to be dispatched only from the place of business, compel companies to wait 15 minutes before picking up a client, and ban parking in front of hotels and bars to wait for customers. More laws that take effect in January 2012 would also require companies to replace all sedans and SUVs over seven-years-old, and all limos 10-years-old and older. Vehicles older than five years cannot enter into service."

The legislation was paid for by mainly by Gaylord, which was exempted from the legislation.

"Opryland Hotel [note: owned by Gaylord] provides shuttle and limousine services to the Nashville airport about 10 minutes away. For the shuttle, a round-trip fare is $40; a single fare is $30. The limousine service costs $270 round-trip and $135 for a single fare. Gaylord Opryland and other big hotels that operate their own shuttle services were given exemptions from the new legislation."

The intent was to put smaller competitors out of business, one being Metro Livery. Thankfully they're still operating. When I lived in south Nashville I could get a ride to the airport from them for $35 or so, cheaper than a cab. That was for a sedan with a driver - not a cabby. The sedans at the time weren't brand new but they were in excellent shape.

Taxi regulations are bought and paid for by taxi cartels. Period. The whole idea that they have the regulations foisted on them is, at this point, so laughable that it barely requires a response.

Comment: moron alert (Score 1) 205

by Trailer Trash (#48554709) Attached to: The Failed Economics of Our Software Commons

This problem of freeriders is something that has plagued open source software for a very long time.

Um, no, it hasn't. Software distribution is essentially costless at this point and as such freeriders don't plague anybody.

Quick and terrible analogy. I live in a really wealthy area and people around my neighborhood buy fireworks at the 4th of July that put some large cities to shame. I don't personally waste my money on fireworks, but I don't need to. On the 4th it sound like a war zone down here and I can sit on my back porch (I'm up a hill) and enjoy one hell of a show.

Am I "plaguing" those folks who bought fireworks for their own enjoyment?


I use plenty of free software to which I contribute nothing. Frankly, I haven't done systems level programming in 20+ years so contributing to Linux probably ain't happening. But I do have my own set of free software available on github, including a complete 1D barcode generator/decoder written in pure Ruby. Same thing in Perl. I have some incredible maze generation code in JavaScript. And sprintf in pure JavaScript. There's some other stuff. I'm actually going through my massive code base that I've built up in the last 25+ years of software development and putting anything that I deem even remotely useful to somebody out on github - dual licensed under BSD and GPL. This is a long-term project for me.

I'm not being plagued by people who "freeload" off of me. I WANT THEM TO. The point is to save somebody else the time of inventing that particular wheel. It costs me nothing but a little time, but I enjoy that time and it's useful for me to curate the work, anyway.

I'm a businessman, too. I have plenty of code that I exploit for profit in various ways. It's hard for me to see how this isn't working. Maybe I should have RTFA'd, but given the summary I'd probably pop a blood vessel if I wandered into the rest of it.

Comment: I hate to have to point this out (Score 4, Informative) 127

by Trailer Trash (#48554617) Attached to: Civil Rights Groups Divided On Net Neutrality

I hate to have to point this out but Rainbow/PUSH isn't a "civil rights organization" by any stretch of the imagination. It's Jackson's personal vehicle for racialist shakedowns like this:


He has about $10M in the bank:


The only "civil rights" he cares about are those of his bank account.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982