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Reading Yahoo! 360 "The Lessons of Lucasfilm"

The people at Yahoo somehow must not have read my world-famous declaration, for they invited me down to Sunnyvale last week for a sneak preview of 360. (Okay, really they invited Tim, but still, they didn't bar the door when I arrived in his stead, as would have I in their shoes.) While declaiming that we, the influencers, were not their market for this product, they were nonetheless interested in our feedback and reactions (or at least in making us feel included and heard), and asked us what they might do to make 360 more appealing to us and our crowd. The product is primarily a blog tool, but it's also a social network and a photo sharing site (but not that one) and an IM and Not-IM messaging tool and a few other things to boot. It is a platform for sharing, sharing your thoughts and identity with a select group of friends, or with the world at large, as you choose.

Opinions in the room were mixed; I came into it skeptical and left more skeptical -- not that it would do well, which it will, doomed, perhaps, to moderate success; but that I could think of a reason to recommend it or a need it would fill better than other options. (Joyce Park, once fired by Friendster for blogging, allowed that a "show everyone but my boss" setting wouldn't be unwelcome.) But you don't need me to tell you their opinions -- go read their blogs. Which is why we aren't the market; we already have identities online. Yahoo 360 is for those who don't.

It turns out that one of the lead people on the project is Randy Farmer, co-author of a fantastic paper called "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat," and thus one of my long-time heroes. Lessons recounts the experiences of Lucasfilm Games making a graphical, multi-user online environment in the mid-1980s, and it stands as a great analysis of what makes online communities thrive or fail. How better, then, to look at Yahoo 360, than to take these lessons learned nearly two decades ago, and apply them to the brave new project? Yes, let us arrange the deck chairs to spell Habitat, and see how they feel.

Reading Yahoo! 360 through "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat"