Yahoo My Web 2.0 Beta - My 6 month report
Over the last six months or so I have been playing with Yahoo!s My Web 2.0 Beta. I think it looks like potentially a very good product for getting niche communities of interest to work together collaboratively. It is also a great place for me to tag and bookmark URLs that I know I am going to need when I can't get to my own computer - particularly whilst travelling through Europe.
One thing I was very impressed with was the auto-prompting of the tags to use for a particular URL - it mixes a type-ahead-find auto-complete I guess gathered from everybody's tags, plus auto-complete suggestions dredged up from my list of previous tags.
It looked to me that it provided a really good way of pushing the hive-mind into using a collective vocabulary. One of the pitfalls of tagsonomies/folksonomies is that there is no controlled vocabulary, which leads people to tag similar things in different ways. The My Web 2.0 auto-tagging prompt could steer communities towards a more defined vocabulary, and prompting me with my own previous tags drives me towards consistency, avoiding the 'last time did I tag this kind of content "travel guide" or "travel info"?' syndrome. It would be really useful on Flickr, for example, if you got prompted to add tags you often use - that might encourage me to remember to tag my photos 'London' and 'England' in the same way that I didn't fail to tag my recent photos from IBERSID 2005 'Zaragoza' and 'España'.
I initially set my homepage at work to the Yahoo My Web 2.0 as a trial, to see how much I would use it and how useful it might be. One thing that struck me was that they have got the search buttons in the interface the wrong way round. Since Google arrive with the stripped-down-to-logo-plus-search-box homepage, virtually every search engine has copied it. Yahoo! My Web 2.0 is no different, but I keep finding I hit the wrong button. The behaviour I am used to from Google is to hit the left button to search the web, and to only use the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button, well, frankly, never. Yahoo! have laid the buttons out so the the left-button does the specialised search over your 'saved' pages of things you've already viewed, and the right button does the web search. Not only is that contrary to the interface model that the search engine with the biggest market share has established, it would be a pain to anyone tabbing through the form for accesibility issues. I hope they swap it around. At the moment hitting enter after typing in a search isn't so much I'm-Feeling-Lucky as I'm-Feeling-Restricted.
As I've posted before, I also knocked up a quick Firefox search plug-in, so that I could use it as my default search from the browser. I've been very impressed with Yahoo!'s search, and with the freshness of their index as well.
Having submitted some feedback a couple of months back I got a call from Yahoo! wanting to talk about my thoughts in more depth. It was a very interesting conversation, not least of which because it occurred to me on reflection, that come April next year a half-hour phone call with me to ask me what I think of your web product is going to be a chargeable consulting service ;-)
The main issue that kept cropping up in the conversation was how could they get this to go mainstream. I suspect it may be an uphill battle.
The tagging / sharing model worked well with geeky early adopters on Flickr because the geeky early adopters still took pictures of sunsets, puppies, stag nights and other 'regular' activities that 'mainstream' people do as well. If you look at the tag cloud of everyone's tags within My Web 2.0 Beta at the moment you get an insight into a predominantly geeky world.
In fact of the 150 tags in the everyone's tags cloud I classified 72 as 'geeky' and 76 as 'mainstream' (with a couple I didn't understand). And to be honest I think I was being a bit generous when I classified tags like 'cool', 'maps', 'security' and 'tools' as mainstream terms, as I suspect (though can't prove) that they have mostly been used in the context of 'cool tools to improve the security of Yahoo! maps' or some such.
Mind you, I'm not doing much to help the mainstream user myself, as my own tag cloud shows
I think it is going to be very hard for them to tip that tag cloud into something that you could show someone non-geeky and say "this will be useful for you". Personally if I was product manager on it and was charged with driving mainstream adoption, I'd introduce some kind of weighting against the geeky terms, in the same way that we weight the popular search terms on the BBC homepage towards those that have 'moved' the most in the search term chart, to avoid always listing 'eastenders'.