Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo Gets Googley Q&A Tool at Friday FYI and Uses It to Ask About Exec Accountability and Leaks

Well, it wasn’t as tasty as free food this week at Yahoo, but in her second official all-hands meeting with employees — now reportedly called “Friday FYI” — new CEO Marissa Mayer rolled out another new Google-inspired Q&A tool to get the company talking about what matters.

The system allows anyone at the Silicon Valley Internet giant to post questions, ideas or suggestions on a variety of topics, which can then be voted up and down.

Actually, it’s been in use internally at — you guessed it — Google for some time, and is even available to the general public in a product called Google Moderator. Mayer has been importing a lot of corporate practices from the search giant where she worked for her entire career — from free food to better swag to these weekly confabs to, now, its method of hearing from the staff.

While Yahoo previously used its Messenger product to garner questions for its less-regular all-hands meetings, this is apparently a new interactive tool built by the company’s engineers (and not using Google’s free APIs, as far as I can tell).

It seems to be working fine, and there were a number of questions that bubbled up.

That included one about Mayer’s thoughts on her current executive team — which is still largely inherited from a series of previous administrations, despite some departures recently — and also how her regime will hold them accountable.

Algorithmic accountability among Yahoo execs? Things have changed!

Even better, declared the questioner of that particular query, to whoops from the audience: “I want an honest answer!”

But Mayer was diplomatic, only saying she was “pleasantly surprised” by the top execs. She also noted that the management would have quarterly goals that are transparent to the whole company. (I won’t say they do that at Google, but — ahem — they do that at Google.)

Mayer went through a number of questions in a precise and cut-the-mustard manner that employees seem to be enjoying, overall.

One very voted-up question was about leaks to the media, in particular to this Web site, and whether a board mole hunt has been successful (obviously not). Also, of course, what she was going to do about the situation.

Apparently, Mayer said she won’t be tracking down leakers, and that this new openness will solve the problem.

Good idea, but all that lovely transparency also needs some pretty good products if it’s going to work.

And product focus most definitely appears to be the path now. Mayer also showed off the new Yahoo Mail — which has been under revamp for a while, and was started under former Chief Product Officer Blake Irving — with some good response from Yahoos (last week, it was a look-see at its recent iteration of its IntoNow video offering).

There are other interface changes that have been in the works too, likely under the direction of Tim Parsey, Yahoo’s head designer, who also came on under Irving.

In fact, a lot of what Irving had pushed, including keeping advertising technology in-house and also maintaining control of key monetization engines, is the likeliest path going forward. The ad tech outsourcing deals, pushed by the interim CEO and his strategy head Jim Heckman, are apparently gone (and so are Levinsohn and now Heckman).

Also of interest to many at the company is the increased involvement of co-founder David Filo, who has become much less quiet under Mayer. I’d expect him to report directly to her — he’s actually been reporting for years to a variety of product and tech execs, despite owning more than six percent of Yahoo.

Thus, here’s my question for the new Q&A system for next week: So, when’s Jerry Yang showing back up?


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work