initial thoughts on leaving Yahoo!

so yesterday I told my team that I am leaving Yahoo! after 4 1/4 years. i am torn about this move – super excited about the next step in my life and career (more on this later) but sad about the prospect of leaving Yahoo!

the company is being whipped about in the press daily and it’s not pretty. but internally, at least in the YDN group and the larger open strategy teams, there is a lot of really interesting stuff going on. since I made the decision to leave, I am asking myself every day if its the right move, if its the right time, if I am making a mistake. i have a lot invested in the pattern library and want to see it continue to grow and be an asset to the design community and am extremely proud of the people I have brought into the company. i have been driving the redesign of the Yahoo! Developer Network and hate to leave before it’s finished (I hate unfinished projects) and I want to know how it all turns out for the YOS launches. Note: I am one of those people who skips ahead in mystery books because I CANT STAND not knowing what happens.

but deep down, I know I am doing the right thing for myself and that the time is right – otherwise why would I have been thinking about this since February; why would I have been open to listening to what recruiters and other hiring managers at other companies had to say; why would I have sought out this opportunity I am about to go be a part of?

in some ways, i think its good to be torn. to leave on good terms and know that if I ever chose to come back, that the door is open. i’d much rather feel this way than to be running from the place.

over the past 4 years I have seen the company triple in size and scale, I have hired close to 30 people – some of who are still here and others who have moved on. i have done some amazing things – most notable the internal and the public pattern libraries. i have learned so much about managing, about creative teams, about brand and customer experience, about user research and really probing to understand what users need even when they dont know it and about what really makes me happy in my day to day work. i have made some great friends, met some amazingly smart people across all the disciplines and I hope that I leave Y! a better place for the efforts I have put in.

my last day is July 11th and then a brief break before moving onto a new adventure.

Making Room for the next generation

I recently went through the process of interviewing candidates for a position on my team. We decided this time though, that we had enough senior and mid-level people and that we would bring in some junior talent. This serves two purposes – bringing new blood into the organization that isn’t jaded by the work world yet and gives the senior people someone to mentor and to guide, thereby providing a growth opportunity at all the levels.

The interviews went well and we saw quite a lot of talented folks. We even narrowed it down to two really qualified candidates, eventually deciding on one to make an offer to. That part all went great.

What I noticed though, was my own reaction was different than in the past. For the first time, I felt old. Not only were these candidates young, they were kids. They could realistically even be my own kid. Yikes! What the hell happened here.

For the first time I feel like there isn’t the old fogey / learned wise one that I get to learn from – I have become that person. It’s a very disconcerting feeling to have full realization of this cycle of change, of this passing of knowledge and wisdom, of being the one on the end run of a career instead of the beginning of a career when everything is new and unknown.

I like to think I am mid-career and according to many definitions and books about such things, I am right on schedule. But that said, I am having to come to grips with this feeling and am working to figure what I do about it. I am excited to build out the team with people bringing a fresh perspective and excitement to the company. I do, however, have to remind myself to not call this new team member “the kid” or other such inappropriate terms and to be a mentor and guide.

Mind Your Reputation

I am pleased to announce that we recently released a set of 9 Reputation Patterns over on the Yahoo! Pattern Library. Written primarily by Bryce Glass, these patterns are many months in the making and reflect the work of Bryce, product manager Yvonne French, and much guidance from our former community guru Randy Farmer as well as lots of research across Yahoo! offerings and competitive solutions.

These patterns are as much best practices as traditional interaction patterns. The patterns are divided into the main types of reputation you can offer on your site to your users and they go into details around the motivation for why you might want to offer one type versus another or why you might want to combine different types of reputation.

The starting pattern is the Competitive Spectrum, which gives an overview across a range of the various types of reputation that can be offered and what motivations they address. There are nice graphics accompanying each pattern and pointers to both Yahoo! and non-Yahoo! examples for each type. It’s a great set for teams working in the social / community space and is the first batch in a larger planned set of social and community patterns.

I like to think I had something to contribute to these since for much of the time that Bryce was working on the reputation platform, he was on my team and I often had feedback sessions on the work. But really, I think its more wishful thinking than anything since the folks who worked on these are so smart and well versed on the topic.

Yahoo! Design Stencils

Earlier this year, as part of our workshop at the IA Summit, we made a robust set of design stencils that map to the Yahoo! Pattern Library and the Yahoo! User Interface Library. These stencils were made for Omnigraffle, Visio, Adobe Illustrator and PNG files for Photoshop and SVG for other applications.

We have now pushed these stencils live out onto the Yahoo! Pattern Library for anyone to download and use. They are given out under the Creative Commons attribution license and can be reused, remixed, and otherwise shared.

We will continue to add to these as we add patterns and components to the libraries.

I hope that people find them useful in helping quick start their design efforts and in helping create a bridge between design and code (all the YUI components have code to support them at the YUI site).

Please let us know if you have issues with any of these and if you have ideas for new components we should be adding to the suite.

Y! OS Finally Announced

Last year, my team was working in the Platform division and working on creating the social media platform for Yahoo! This included components related to identity, how a person is identified across the yahoo! network, reputation, relationships and something we call vitality – a person’s updates and lifestream of activity across the network or internet.

Midway in the year, we started working on concepts for off-network release of these ideas and this became known internally as our Open Strategy. We worked for weeks with some great product and technical strategists and developed interesting user stories to sell the idea up the chain.
Eventually, the Open Strategy and many of the concepts we developed became part of our corporate big bets – Y!OS is #3 and this in turn helped instigate a reorganization and realignment of the company. Matt Leacock is leading the way from the interaction design and system wide design perspective.

Neil Sample, our chief strategic architect for the open strategy gave a great deep dive talk about Y!OS at Web 2.0. This video shares the vision and details more of the concepts of the architecture for how developers will be able to build on Yahoo! and the types of APIs that will be available off Yahoo! that tap into our amazing breadth and wealth of user data – most specifically the results of the social design work we were doing last year.

I am proud to have been part of the early process of Y! OS and now to be part of the team that will be helping to evangelize and spread the word about the amazing things we have to offer a wide array of developers and publishers out there. As part of the ongoing rollout this year of the Y! OS parts, we will be publishing related interaction design patterns and best practices to accompany the developer APIs and documentation.

Keep your eyes open and check periodically.

Graceful Interfaces

Over the last couple of days, I have done some online shopping and been pleasantly surprised by a couple of small interface behaviors that made my life easier as a shopper.

Amazon []
When presented with the login screen – the information is already pre-filled (I saved it in my browser) – but the radio buttons for Do You Have A Password is set to No by default. I ignored it and hit the Sign In button. Instead of throwing an error saying I had to select that I had a password (the password field was pre-filled), Amazon just proceeded with the login and took me to my account.

They knew I had a password, and just automatically selected the radio button for me without giving me an error.

Very nice.

Mimobot []
In the process of finishing a sales transaction, they ask for traditional info – shipping info, billing info – and then give you a recap of what’s in your cart for confirmation. The site gently prompts an upsell saying that if your cart is over $150 then you get free shipping. I bit, and went and added one other item to my cart.

Clicking back into the check out process, I was delighted that the site had remembered all the information I had previously filled in about shipping and billing even though previously, I had not finished the process.

These guys got it – a nice nudge for upsell with a payoff for free shipping and then a pleasant surprise of all my data still being held mid-stream. I happily finished my transaction.

These two things are not big deals, but they make the difference in whether or not an interaction is seamless and delightful or a chore or even worse a cart abandoned mid-stream and a transaction never completed. Good things to remember when designing.

the eight types

Whitney Hess points me to the blog of Tom Fishburne who does these amazingly funny cartoons of corporate life. He has a series that describes the 8 types of creative directors, the 8 types of bad creative critics and the 8 types of brand managers. If you have ever worked with a CD or Brand person you will recognize these vignettes, or if you are a CD you will recognize the critics from your client roster.

New Yahoo! Developer Network design rolling out

Our first batch of the newly designed site rolled out today! It looks great and is the collaborative work of an incredibly talented team. Lucas Pettinati who is the UX lead for the project, Stephan Douris who created a beautiful visual language for the site, Jono Kane who prototyped the hell out of things and then worked magic on the CSS with Mich Cook, an amazing front end developer. Our PMs, Lara Daniels and Rashmi Menon who kept busy wrangling a bunch of new features that will be rolling out over the next couple of months and our Pjm Christina Brockelsby who cracks the whip on us all to keep things moving.
The YDN team – management and individual contributors alike – are passionate and talented and I feel lucky to be working with them. This is a major milestone for us and every couple of weeks more parts of the site will be launched with the new look and feel and new features including, real forums (instead of yahoo! groups), a more robust search experience, an api explorer, a more formal client relationship management system and best of all a dashboard for developers that will eventually have stats and other interesting data related to the apis they will be using. All very cool stuff.
So again, congrats to the team and check it out.

Big week ahead

See me speak at the IA Summit 2008This week we head out to the IA Summit and present our workshop on writing, using and building a pattern library and using that with code to prototype and build sites. My slides are done and Lucas is pulling everything together from the three of us presenting. It should be an interesting day and hopefully we have pulled together enough information and exercises that the attendees feel like they will have learned something.

Also this week, Yahoo! Developer Network will be launching the first batch of pages in the redesign project that I have been leading since December. It will be the first in a rolling roll-out that will most likely take until June to finish but this is a major milestone. Unfortunately, I will be teaching our workshop when the site launches so will have to cheer from afar.

No Bosses

Interesting post by VC Paul Graham. It’s an interesting essay on the dynamics of humans in groups and makes a case for working in smaller companies rather than in large ones with hierarchies. Definitely food for thought.

Getting your game on

One of my longtime colleagues and friend Matt Leacock, who is an amazing interaction designer, is also a board game designer. He often has coworkers alpha and beta test his games – which are amazingly complex but fun – so it’s been fun to see his ideas evolve as he iterates and refines the games. He has recently had a new game called Pandemic published and it is now available from Fun Again.

An interview with Matt about his design process can be found over at Christian Crumlish’s website.

still working some kinks out

this new blog is on wordpress and I am still figuring out how it all works – specifically accepting comments. so, apologies if you have tried to comment and been unsuccessful – I am working to figure out where all the settings are. Many years using MT had me trained in that system of settings. If you are a wordpress user and can offer some advice – drop me an email- erin [at]

Conducting a workshop at the 2008 IA Summit – register now!

I am conducting a preconference workshop, with my esteemed colleagues Christian Crumlish and Lucas Pettinati, on building a pattern library and using patterns and code libraries to build sites. The official title: Design patterns: from interaction to design to build

The full workshop description is posted on the conference website. I highly recommend you check it out and sign up!

It should be a fun and informational day filled with history, the lessons we have learned and advice from our experiences at Yahoo! and case studies from development and design organizations who have used our libraries to help build their sites and their own libraries for reuse.

Not Just a Number

One of the cool things about now working on the Yahoo! Developer Network, is finding out about all the cool things people are doing with the technologies and services we offer.

Not Just a Number is one of those. Featured here in a YDN Theater Video released last week, Sean Connelly and Katy Newton talk about the interactive story telling site they put together using our Maps APIs to bring a human face to the homicides happening in Oakland. It’s a very interesting project that isn’t about technology for technology’s sake.