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Category: Yahoo 360

Enlightened Ancestor: Dr. Benjamin West

I can thank my migraines for Dr. Benjamin West.

When I am anxious or don’t feel well, I often do genealogy research to take my mind off things. I have always enjoyed learning about family history, but really got bitten hard by the bug the first time I had cancer, in 1994. I was at home recuperating, on painkillers and other drugs that made concentrating difficult, and I found message boards on AOL that were all about genealogy. And my ancestors were there! I connected with some very distant cousins and compared notes. I started learning more and more about my origins.

It occurs to me that we are all the products of our parents, who are the products of their parents, who were the products of theirs, and so on. Our parents don’t just pass genetics on to us. Even when we disagree about things like politics or religion or how to raise our children, the values of our parents are distilled into us, just like the values of their parents were distilled into them. We find that professions tend to run in families -a  certain branch of the family may tend to be lawyers, writers, preachers, doctors, architects, artists, military, etc.

An obituary notice in a newspaper from 1822 led me to him. He was named as the father of one of my 5th great-grandmothers, a woman whose origins were completely unknown to me before that moment.  The man was phenomenal, and I don’t understand why every generation after him hasn’t continued to hold him up as the pinnacle of the Enlightenment. This guy’s brain was so huge and active I don’t know how it managed to stay confined in his skull.

benj-west

Benjamin West, from the Brown University Portrait Collection

Benjamin West was born in Bristol, Massachusetts in March 1730. I think of him as the Stephen Hawking of his day. His accomplishments in math and science are truly remarkable because he was an autodidact – his formal schooling lasted a whopping three months of his childhood. He was poor and had to borrow every book he read until about 1758, when he managed to find some backers to open a dry goods store. A couple of years later, he opened the first bookstore ever to grace the commercial avenues of Providence, Rhode Island. He managed to pay for the books he so desperately wanted by selling them to other people.

He married Elizabeth Smith, daughter of Benjamin Smith, in 1753 when he was 23.  They were married for 53 years and had eight children, only three of whom survived Benjamin. The 1822 death notice for his daughter, Mary Smith West (wife of Oliver Pearce), in a Providence newspaper, alerted me to him. The death notice that mentioned her father was “Dr. Benjamin West of Providence.” Mary West Pearce died in Fayetteville, NC. Her daughter, Eliza West Pearce, married Dr. Benjamin Robinson, that guy from Vermont who tested out that newfangled smallpox vaccine on his little brother and his brother’s friends and basically got run out of Bennington for his efforts. The science is strong in my family!

Benjamin West was a brilliant mathematician and astronomer. His buddies were the founders of Rhode Island College, which later became Brown University. He loved mathematics and astronomy, and conferred with some truly fantastic minds of his day. He published annual almanacs for Halifax, Nova Scotia and Providence, Rhode Island for nearly 40 years. He didn’t have the formal schooling necessary for good academic chops, though, and before he opened that dry goods and book store, he failed at operating a school. He tutored students privately for all of his adult life.

Astronomical Genius

In 1766, something would happen that ultimately would reverse his fortunes and open some gilded doors for him. A comet appeared in the constellation of Taurus on the evening of April 9. Being a good astronomer, Benjamin took careful measurements. The next day wrote a letter to an astronomer named John Winthrop who was at Cambridge College (now known as Harvard University). He had never met or corresponded with Winthrop, but was so excited about his observation he simply had to share it.

Providence, April 10, 1766

Dear Sir:

For the improvement of science, I now acquaint you, that the last evening, I saw in the West, a comet, which I judged to be about the middle of the sign of Taurus; with about 7 degrees North latitude. It set half after 8 o’clock by my watch; and its amplitude was about 29 or 30 degrees. Nothing, Sir, could have induced me to this freedom of writing to you, but the love I have for the sciences; and I flatter myself that you will, on that account, the more readily overlook it.

I am, Sir, yours,

Benjamin West

He and Winthrop became great friends and continued to write each other. For the rest of their lives they would share observations about the night sky.

1769 Transit of the Planets

Johannes Kepler and Edmund Halley figured out how to apply the theory of parallax to determine the distances between astronomical bodies.  With both Mercury and Vanus predicted to pass between the Earth and the Sun in 1769, astronomers world-wide were anxious to test the theory . Since this was the first really good opportunity to view the transits of both inner planets since Kepler’s original accurate prediction in 1627 of the 1631 transit, everyone in the field of astronomy was excited. Captain Cook would famously observe the 1769 transit of Venus from Tahiti while on his ill-fated circumnavigation and while bringing European diseases and disharmony to the South Pacific. At the time of the last transit of Venus in 1761, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who had just finished their survey of the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, had traveled to the Cape of Good Hope to observe it. All of these men used astronomy as an important part of their lives – navigating the oceans and surveying the land required precise measurements, and measurements started with the stars.

benjamin-wests-1769-telescope

Telescope used by Benjamin West, at Providence, Rhode Island, to observe the 1769 transit of Venus. Ladd Observatory, Brown University

There was no telescope in Providence in 1769. Benjamin West, Stephen Hopkins (the signer of the Declaration and great-grandson of the Mayflower passenger) and the Brown brothers – founders of Rhode Island College, later known as Brown University – were determined to see the phenomenon, though, so they managed to import a telescope from England at the incredible expense of 500 pounds.  They set up on the outskirts of Providence. Transit Street in Providence is named after the spot where they viewed the transit on June 3, 1769. There are photos of the telescope on the Brown University website – the school still has it.

benjamin-wests-diagram-of-the-1769-transit-of-venus

Benjamin West’s diagram of the transit of Venus, 1769, from the Ladd Observatory, Brown University

As was his habit, Benjamin West made careful measurements of the transit. He published a tract (and dedicated it to his friend Stephen Hopkins) about the event. A copy of the tract made its way to John Winthrop at Harvard, and on July 18, 1770, Benjamin West – the man with only three months of formal education – was awarded an honorary Master of Arts from Harvard. Here’s the text of the notification letter from John Winthrop:

Cambridge, July 19, 1770

Sir —

I have the pleasure to acquaint you that the government of this college were pleased, yesterday, to confer upon you the Honorary degree of Master of Arts; upon which I sincerely congratulate you. I acknowledge the receipt of your favour, and shall be glad to compare any observations of the satellites.

Yours, &c.

John Winthrop

 

American Academy of Arts and Sciences: the American Philosophical Society

That same year, Benjamin West was unanimously elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia – the American colonial version of Great Britain’s Royal Society. He would meet another author and publisher of almanacs there: a fellow named Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin West was still primarily a merchant at this time, and the Revolution was on its way. When full-blown war finally arrived, commerce dried up. He went to work manufacturing clothing for the American troops. He continued his studies and his correspondence with the other great minds, though.

Mathematics was Benjamin’s first love. In 1773 he wrote to a friend in Boston of a theorem he had developed to extract “the roots of odd powers” that was probably his greatest contribution to the field of mathematics. That’s right – he discovered a math formula that I can’t even begin to hope to understand, but other really smart people who could math really well understood it and lauded him for it. When he finally explained his theorem to other math geniuses in 1781, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences not only published it in one of their earliest journals, but unanimously elected him to membership and awarded him a diploma. It was his second honorary academic degree, and he still supported by only three months of formal education. The theorem caught the attention of the European mathematical geniuses, who, giddy with discovery, also published it. Benjamin West, already pretty cool, became seriously hot stuff.

He didn’t stop at math and astronomical observations, though. One of the biographies I found explained a physics problem he cogitated upon for more than two years in conjunction with John Winthrop and a Mr. Oliver. It had to do with the properties of air in a copper tube that was then put into an otherwise airless container. The qualities of invisible gases – basically, the scientific understanding of the very concept of the physical nature and properties of “air” – was in its infancy. Our ancestor speculated about the attractive and repulsive nature of the tiny particles that made up the matter of air – what we now call its molecules – and how they would behave under different conditions. Gravity, matter, magnetism, and ultimately the behavior of the tails of comets played into his understanding of the question. This is stuff my brain simply isn’t big enough to handle.

Benjamin West’s mind was at the peak of its illuminating brilliance as the world around him heaved. His most important discoveries and writings happened as the American Revolution was about to explode.  By the end of the Revolution he had returned to academic pursuits. He tutored students in math and astronomy. He still wasn’t rich; despite his prominence in academics he never became particularly wealthy. The well-endowed founders of what would become Brown University had not forgotten their friend, though. In 1786, he was elected to a full professorship there.

For some reason he did not begin teaching at Brown for a couple of years. Probably because of his honors and his friendship with Ben Franklin and the rest of the gang at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Benjamin West was invited to teach at the illustrious Protestant Episcopal Academy there. The name of that school is familiar to members of my father’s family.  Although Benjamin West was the direct ancestor of my Arkansas-born mother, my dad, an Irish-Italian kid who grew up in the Philly suburb of Gladwyne, went to school at Philadelphia’s Episcopal Academy while his dad coached its sports teams. (Insert refrain from “Circle of Life” here.)

Brown University awarded Dr. West his first non-honorary degree, his Doctor of Laws, in 1792. He taught mathematics and astronomy there from 1788 until 1799. Then he opened a school of navigation and taught astronomy to seafaring men. Like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, this man loved to teach other people the wonders of the universe.

I’m proud of him for another reason, too: Benjamin West was a member of an active abolitionist group in Providence.

I’ve found several contemporary biographical accounts for Benjamin West. They are typical of their time: purple prose and flowery metaphors abound. They all reach one conclusion: Benjamin West was a genius. He was a determinedly self-educated man who contributed considerably to the arts of science and mathematics during his lifetime. He was truly a product of the Age of Enlightenment: a self-educated, self-made man whose gifts and prominence considerably exceeded his bank account.

This discovery of my ancestor Benjamin West is exactly why genealogy research is so rewarding. And given the anxiety-provoking events of November 8, I expect to be doing a lot more of it – in between my stepped-up schedule of political activities, that is.

______

Bibliography:

American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Book of Members  (2016 edition), p. 252. Entry for Benjamin West, elected 1781, Fellow. Residence and Affiliation at election: Providence, RI. Career description: Astronomer, Educator, Businessperson, Book of Members; American Academy of Arts & Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Leonard Bliss, The History of Rehoboth, Bristol County, Massachusetts:  Comprising a History of the Present Towns of Rehoboth, Seekonk, and Pawtucket, From Their Settlement to the Present Time (Boston:  Otis, Broaders, and Company, 1836). Google Books

Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of the American Enlightenment, Entry for Benjamin West (1730-1813), pp. 1096-1097. https://books.google.com/books?id=qZ2yBwAAQBAJ&lpg=PA1096&dq

Louise Hall, “Family Records: Newby Bible”, New England Historical and Genealogical Register 122 (Apr 1968):  125-128, 125.

Martha Mitchell, “Benjamin West”, Encyclopedia Brunoniana (1993). https://www.brown.edu/Administration/News_Bureau/Databases/Encyclopedia/search.php?serial=W0170

John Chauncey Pease, John Milton Niles, A Gazetteer of the States of Connecticut and Rhode-Island:   (Hartford:  William S. Marsh, 1819), 331-333. Biographical entry for Dr. Benjamin West.  Google Books.

Unattributed, “Biography of Benjamin West, L.L.D.  A.A.S.:  Professor of Mathematicks, Astronomy and Natural Philosophy, in Rhode Island College – and Fellow of the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, &c.”, The Rhode Island Literary Repository Vol I, No. 7 (October 1814):  137-160 (337-360), http://books.google.com/books?id=HLQRAAAAYAAJ.  Google Books.

Benjamin West Papers; Rhode Island Historical Society Library, 121 Hope Street
Providence, RI 02906. http://www.rihs.org/mssinv/Mss794.htm.

Yahoo 360… Again

Two of our Yahoo 360 bloggers have managed to get through on the telephone to Matt Warburton, the Yahoo Community Manager who announced on the Yahoo 360 Team Blog that the service would “transition.” Although they didn’t get more detail from Warburton, the sense I get from the reports of their conversations is that Yahoo really has no idea what direction a blogging or social networking site will take, or even if they will retain the services as part of their suite.

This is not good news for us. It means that Yahoo is committed to shutting down Yahoo 360, but that the company has no plan, as yet, for what it will do next.

Our blogging colleague Mr. E spoke with Warburton, and apparently talked in detail about what went wrong with Yahoo 360. Warburton mentioned the plan for a universal profile, the same thing referred to in the Yahoo Team blog and in Jerry Yang’s blog. Jerry Yang is Yahoo’s CEO. (Instead of blogging on Yahoo 360, he maintains the official Yahoo blog on WordPress.com. How’s that for confidence in and support of one’s own product?) Mr. E pointed out that Yahoo 360 was supposed to have been the universal profile, and hence the name “Yahoo! 360.” Warburton, who only came on board with the company in April, was unaware of this.

Mr. E got information out of Warburton that I felt was significant. He said that there would be a transition to another blogging platform within Yahoo and possibly tools to export a 360 blog to third party providers.

Tools to export blogs to other sites is definitely good news for those of us with a lot of blogs. There are some who have 600 or more blogs. Moving them one by one to another site would be horrific. However, moving the blogs with comments intact is another issue entirely.

Many of us want to be sure to preserve the comments. Lively debate, story lines, and just plain old conversation took place in the comments to our blogs, and we want to preserve that as well. Some of us regularly get in excess of 50 comments on posts. Losing the discussions that take place in the comments is almost worse than losing the blog itself – that’s where things often get heated and interesting.

When our blogging colleague Carl spoke with him, Warburton made it clear that there was no question but that Yahoo 360 was closing. There is apparently no plea, no argument, nothing that can persuade Yahoo not to close 360.

Carl concludes that Yahoo may realize that the manner in which they announced 360’s demise was not handled as well as it might have been. Apparently they are well aware of the displeasure among 360 users. A check of the 1100+ comments to the Yahoo Team Blog clearly indicates cries of outrage, grief, and outright panic by 360 users, so if the team reads the comments they certainly should be aware of it. We, the customers and users of the Yahoo product, the people Yahoo’s advertisers want to reach, are in the dark.

The situation is frustrating. It is difficult. Yahoo has blown it. Yahoo’s disorganization, and yes, its lack of a plan to fulfill the vision outlined in Jerry Yang’s Yodel Anecdotal blog post October 16, affects us all in a negative way. Change is hard enough without the change being to the complete unknown and unknowable.

I’ve been advocating that we stay put, maintain our social network here in Yahoo 360, and wait to see what Yahoo rolls out next. I’m still of half a mind to do that. With every new dribble of information, though, I’m more and more inclined to throw in the towel.

I take that back. If I’m to hitchhike out of here, I need my towel. I’m going to Multiply.com. I don’t need a babelfish to understand the platform, and it offers everything 360 does and even includes some of the features we’ve asked Yahoo to provide.

I’m going to be in both places for the foreseeable future. The foreseeable future isn’t very far away, since Yahoo plans to close 360 by early 2008. Until then, though, I will stay here. I will blog here. I will also be on Multiply and WordPress, and I may get active again on my Blogger.com account, just because I like Google products.

I encourage everyone on my friends list to follow me to Multiply.com. As of today, about a third of you already have. I hope to see the rest soon. I want us to be able to stay together.

Tomorrow, I promise, I won’t post more of this news. Tomorrow, Wench’s Virgin Training School has news of its own to announce….

More About Yahoo 360’s Closure

I was going to tell you about a blog posted October 16 by Jerry Yang, Yahoo’s CEO, but Cherei scooped me in the comments to yesterday’s blog. I’ve highlighted what I think are the relevant portions of Yang’s blog:

There’s been much curiosity and speculation about what’s been happening here at Yahoo! over the past few months. Roughly 100 days into our business review, I’m ready to start sharing some of the framework for where we see the future of Yahoo!.

After I last posted in July, we gathered senior leaders from across the company to develop a vision that we believe is truly different from that of the past. We conducted an intense review of our business, examining everything from our strategy and culture to our competitive position and how the marketplace is evolving. We knew we had to change not only our business, but also how we prioritize and make decisions. We had to shift from a siloed mentality to a more collaborative organization that marches toward a common horizon. We had to determine which businesses to invest in, and which to begin to exit or de-emphasize.

What we ultimately saw was massive untapped potential and the opportunity to achieve things few companies on the planet could accomplish. As audacious as that sounds, we believe it’s entirely within our reach with a lot of hard work and discipline, greater focus, tough decisions, a shift in culture, and faster execution. And what will drive us? Creating incredible experiences for our customers.

Based on our analysis, we’ve made important decisions. We defined a strategy that revolves around making Yahoo! indispensable to an ecosystem of consumers, advertisers, publishers and developers while tapping into three key differentiators: generating and leveraging insights, deploying open platforms, and becoming partner of choice. While these have long distinguished us, we intend to do more with them going forward. We will do so by measuring how much more “relevant” we can become for each member of our ecosystem. We believe centering around “relevance” will become a unifying focus for us and drive increased value in everything we do.

We’re placing our bets in three big multi-year objectives. Let me walk you through them, what they mean, and what kind of actions support them:

  1. Become the starting point for the most consumers: We’re defining “starting point” as being the sites that help you better manage your life and connect you to what matters most to you. Services like our Front Page, My Yahoo!, mail, search, and mobile all fulfill that role, while properties like news, sports, and finance (for example) serve as anchors from those starting points. We’ve made it our mission to provide kick-ass experiences in both of these categories to inspire the most consumers to begin their day with us. It’s critical for us to continue to invest and innovate in these offerings so that we can power and delight these consumers. Recent moves like the new Yahoo! Search, the new Yahoo! Mail, and our acquisitions of Zimbra and BuzzTracker should give you a sense of what we mean. And by tapping into our insights, we think we can significantly increase our relevance (why serve up World Series content to you on our front page when what you’re really interested in is Dancing with the Stars?).
  2. Become the must-buy for advertisers: What’s key here is our transformation from selling inventory on primarily the Yahoo! network to becoming an advertising company that delivers comprehensive, integrated, and targeted solutions on Yahoo! and beyond. Through our acquisitions of RightMedia and BlueLithium, we think we’re on track to becoming the industry’s leading open ad network. We’ll provide advertisers with the benefits of more insights, open competition, and scaleable tools and platforms. We think our momentum is building. Panama’s global rollout is nearly complete, our display business is showing signs of growth, we’ve signed on more great publishingpartners, and we’re encouraged by the traction we’re seeing in our new strategy.
  3. Deliver open, industry-leading platforms that attract the most publishers and developers: We have phenomenal technology platforms and data infrastructure, and it’s time to share. Besides building on open API for critical platforms, we’re looking at many different ways to open Yahoo!. We’re excited about what could happen when a motivated community of publishers and developers starts plugging into our most popular services. Imagine how efficient your Yahoo! Finance experience could be with portfolios integrated from your brokerage. Or how personalized your Yahoo! homepage could be with a cool third-party widget. The possibilities are endless and “open” is all part of a new way of operating at Yahoo!.

Our new decision-making framework also informed what we’d no longer invest in. To start, we’ve de-emphasized our focus on subscription music in favor of ad-supported music, migrated Yahoo! Photos to Flickr, we intend to transition Yahoo! 360 to a more integrated Yahoo! “profile” experience, we’ve closed Yahoo! Podcasts and plan to shut down a number of one-off services, and we’re currently assessing our options for our Kelkoo comparison shopping service in Europe. We’ve identified still more areas and we’ll continue to work through them.

While our recent actions and initiatives provide the breadcrumb trail for Yahoo!’s future direction, you should now have a clearer sense of the new path we’ve charted. We’ve scripted our strategy, sharpened our organization, determined how we’ll prioritize, and zeroed in on our big bets. We’re in the midst of our transformation and seeing some initial progress. There’s hard work ahead, along with a large and growing market opportunity. If we execute as planned, I’m confident we’ll be creating substantial long-term value for our users, advertisers, publishers, and developers – and, of course, for our shareholders.

Jerry Yang
CEO and Chief Yahoo

Several 360 users have posted responses in the comments to Yang’s blog, and I want to share them with you.

You really need to take another look at 360 and how passionate its users are about it. Yahoo!360 somehow became “Myspace for grownups,” perhaps without intent, and certainly without a lot of support or communication from the 360 Team. People are leaving 360 *right now* because they’re expecting it to turn into yet another pre-teen thing come January. Look at the over 900 comments on the latest 360 Product blog post, and you’ll see how many people care deeply about this service.

How many users were on 360? Two million? (minus the thousands that have already left) Can Yahoo really afford to alienate that many people? I don’t really believe Yahoo wants to lose those users, but lose them you will if you don’t start communicating in *detail* about the changes that are coming. How many more users would there have been on 360 had the 360 Team been proactive with bug fixes and communication? How wildly popular might it have been had Yahoo been promoting it? (I started a blog on Blogger about a month after 360 first rolled out, because I didn’t know 360 existed at the time.)

Look into how you can make the passion work for you… because right now, it’s working against you.

Comment by Larry KollarOct 18th, 2007 at 4:52 pm

 

I visited some y360 a day back and felt the above emotions. I wrote here about how y360 could be striped down of the media n stuff and be presented as a bloggers delight. Giving emphasis to posts, topics/titles, tags, syndication (rss), privacy set at source (both for blogger and commenter) and all this be interconnected and being attached to profiles. I saw screenshots of mash, their is work to do i am also thinking i might not have all the puzzle bits, its a different story when you draw strategies on a paper board, the dots connect better everyday. Meanwhile i would not worry much, i mean even god removed those dino’s and started fresh, except for those roaches, god. I need to stop this music.

Comment by gag – Oct 18th, 2007 at 5:33 pm

 

I’m one of those passionate 360 users the previous commenter mentioned. I have a friends list of over 150 people, a number of whom have friends lists of similar size. We use the service every day.

Because of the way the 360 “transition” was announced, many people assume that it will degenerate into something like that horrible MASH network Yahoo is now beta testing. Despite those among us who advocate waiting to see what the new social networking/blogging/profile platform will look like, people are jumping the 360 ship in droves. Many are heading to Multiply.com, where we can have the same features we love about 360 as well as the ones we’ve asked Yahoo to provide throughout the multi-year beta testing of Yahoo 360.

The users of Yahoo 360 are adults, not teeny-boppers. They want to blog, they want to network with other adults, and they don’t want to be assaulted by MySpace-type graphics and noise. While we do get silly on occasion, we don’t want to be assaulted by silliness as soon as we log into our social networking site.

I think an integrated profile with a blog, RSS feeds, a good search engine, and customizable modules would be a great way to get people to use the service as their first stop – their home page.

Unfortunately, because of the way it was announced, Yahoo is driving away the people who would have been most loyal.

I would like to suggest some damage control.

*Assure the users of Yahoo 360 once again that their blogs will be preserved in their entirety – that means preserving the comments to the posts as well as the posts themselves.

*Explain HOW the changes will affect current Yahoo users. If you want to keep the user base you already have, they need to know that things will be better. For instance, if Yahoo were to say something along the lines of “The ‘MyYahoo’ page will now include your profile, your blog, links to your favorite sites, and improvements to the RSS newsfeeds already available” people would probably say that the transition will be good, not that the sky is falling.

*Start actually responding to technical problems with action rather than the same, tired form letter. I have written Yahoo multiple times about the same ongoing problem with my 360 page and have never gotten any answer other than the “we’re working on it” email. It just does not take 10 months to fix a software glitch when the feature works fine elsewhere.

*Remember that your advertisers want traffic, and the best way to deliver that traffic is to have happy users of your sites. Customer service is critical. Yahoo’s users are its customers, even if the service provided is free. Respond to their concerns and problems in a positive way. Happy users result in more happy users, because word of mouth works for you. Word of mouth also works against you, and has been working against you for some time because of a lack of responsiveness to customer concerns.

*Yahoo Executives who use non-Yahoo products to make public statements do their own products no favors. The blog here on WordPress.com could be mirrored on Yahoo 360. Doing so would give the Yahoo users more confidence in the product. A big question lately is “Why don’t the Yahoo executives support their own products?” That question is followed closely by “If they don’t believe in their products, why should we?”

I like Yahoo 360 and I want to stay with Yahoo. I have built a strong network of interesting people. Wrecking the platform on which we all stand will disperse us to other places. We don’t want that, and I suspect Yahoo really doesn’t, either.

Please, give us real feedback. The company changes and the changes with Yahoo 360 affect us loyal 360 users in a very real way and on what we feel is a very personal level.

Comment by Anne OrsiOct 18th, 2007 at 6:33 pm

I realize that Yahoo!360 is a free site, and I appreciate that. I came to 360 almost 2 years ago, and have put alot of work into my site. It took me a long time to learn how to do alot of things on there.
Then, came the changes…Yahoo Photos closed down, forcing everyone to choose another venue…Flickr which was supposed to be free…but now I come to find out that nope…it was only free for a bit, and now I will have to shut that down because I cannot afford it.
Then the geniuses decided to create MASH and somehow mess everyone over and rip 360 away from us. You asked our opinion…and then do as you please anyhow even though the majority of users said they wanted 360 to stay. Mash, Facebook, and even MySpace is mostly for kids. I am 48 years old…I have no desire to be on a site that is for kids only! 360 has more adults on it than kids now.
So…go ahead & make your new sites, but keep 360 just like it is!!! Or if you really want to do something with 360…HOW ABOUT FIXING THE BUGS ON IT!!!!! Please?

Comment by Princess Vicki – Oct 18th, 2007 at 10:30 pm

I’ll get over being scooped, Cherei. I hope.

A Letter From Yahoo

I’m going to let you read my mail.

A few days ago, before the most recent blog they posted, I went to the Beta feedback page for Yahoo 360 and sent the team a message.

My message to the Yahoo 360 Team:

Yahoo 360 offers a unique combination of social networking and serious blogging without all the aural and visual assaults of MySpace and its ilk. MASH, on the other hand, is an insufficient substitute. It is lightweight, obviously geared toward kids (they have a deletion link that says “this is fugly”, for Pete’s sake), and doesn’t offer the substance of 360. Both products have their niches, I’m sure. I’m rather fond of Yahoo 360 and would hate to see it be discontinued.

I would like to see Yahoo take 360 seriously. For almost a year I have been trying to get my reviews on my 360 page to reappear. I cannot get my Flickr photostream to display. Yahoo has been completely unresponsive and unhelpful in resolving these problems.

The frequent delays in mail delivery are absurd. If the 360 mailbox won’t work, then simply link it to a regular Yahoo email inbox. Occasionally the wrong blog is displayed on people’s top pages. Quick comments disappear and reappear with alarming capriciousness. The time to load pages is agonizingly slow more often than not.

The fact that 360 has remained “Beta” for two years, and that these recurring problems aren’t being addressed, leads to the inevitable rumors that the service will be discontinued soon. Yahoo is doing itself a disservice by not supporting its own product.

If Yahoo wants to charge for premium services that might allow for Yahoo 360 to improve, it could make the whole thing more profitable. I’d be willing to pay for a more powerful blogging interface, for page counters that allowed me to see who was reading my blogs and not just how many people clicked on my top page, for controls that allowed me to set individual blog entries to private, “friends only” or public, for lists that are longer and more customizable, and for the ability to place links to the blogs of others on 360 on my top page. Unlimited RSS feeds would permit the last to be implemented.

Basically, Yahoo needs to either make a commitment to 360 or shut it down. One way or another, the issues will be resolved.

***

The Team responded shortly after posting its blog two days ago:

Hello Anne,

Thank you for writing to Yahoo! 360.

So you’ve heard Yahoo! 360 is closing? Well it’s true. After careful consideration, we have decided to close the Yahoo! 360 sites in early 2008. We always strive to provide you with the best services possible and we’ll be doing that throughout this transition.

We realize that you, our 360 consumers, have put a lot of effort into building sites and sharing these with your community. As we work to fully package migration options for your social network on the Yahoo! suite of services, Yahoo! 360 will remain an active vibrant site for your network of friends. We make the following three commitments:

– We will preserve your 360 blog content and community;
– We will put the right mechanisms in place to move your blog content;
– We will give you ample notification before this transition begins in early 2008.

We at Yahoo! remain dedicated to social networking and community building businesses worldwide. You’ll be hearing more details from us soon. In the meantime, more detailed information is available on our 360 Product Page at:

http://blog.360.yahoo.com/product_360

Note: If you have not checked in a while, please update your email information to ensure you receive all communications from Yahoo! 360. To update your email address, click My Account at the top of any Yahoo! 360 page. Verify your password, and click Edit next to Member Information to update your alternate email address(es), if necessary.

Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! 360.

Regards,

Kyle

Yahoo! 360 Customer Care

For assistance with all Yahoo! services, please visit:

http://help.yahoo.com/

New and Improved Yahoo! Mail – better than ever!

+++++++++++

There is hope. Yahoo may indeed make things better. While we prepare our contingency plans, let’s remember that we may not have to implement Plan B after all.

Life After Yahoo 360: No, I’m Not Going to Cut and Run. Yet.

The Yahoo 360 Team’s blog yesterday said a lot more than it really said. Yahoo is “transitioning” 360 in early 2007 to “a more integrated Yahoo! experience.” On the surface, that sounds like a good idea. But the next sentence says something ambiguous: we “can still use all the features of Yahoo! 360 until this transition takes place in early 2008.”

What does this mean? It means to me that Yahoo 360 will be absorbed into something different. It won’t exist as we know it today. We may or may not be familiar with the new features, and we may or may not like them. The new Yahoo profile/blogging platform may be good, and it may not.

The team’s blog goes on to say that “Yahoo! 360 will transition to a new universal Yahoo! profile that will be closely tied to other relevant services across Yahoo!, and will include improved blogging capabilities.” Improved blogging capabilities are definitely a good thing. I’ve thought for a long time that Yahoo 360 could stand to improve its blogging interface. Most of us compose offline because there’s no way to save drafts of blogs, and the way we have to insert photos is cumbersome at best. A spell check would be nice, too. Yes, improvements to 360’s blogging capabilities is definitely good news.

Yahoo wants to keep us here, and assures us that our blogs, friends lists, and other content will be moved smoothly to the new platform. That’s good, but the question remains: What will that platform be?

Many of us who have looked at MASH were horrified right from the start. I’ve stayed and added and removed modules, but I’m closing my profile down. I’m really disgusted with it. If you haven’t seen it, click the link to my MASH profile and surf around. There are some really silly things going on there. It’s just too juvenile for me. I really don’t want to be associated with the word “fugly” and there’s no way to remove it from the page. It’s puerile. I’m 45, for pete’s sake. I don’t say “fugly.” And I really don’t need another pet. Two huge dogs and two little cats are plenty for me. If Yahoo thought MASH would appeal to the more mature 360 market, they were sadly mistaken in my humble opinion.

Because of the rumors of 360’s demise, and frankly because of its limitations, a number of us have been looking at other blogging and networking sites, hoping to find a place that better fulfills our needs. With the news that 360 is going to be replaced with something different, it only seems prudent.

For a long time I’ve cross-posted my blogs on WordPress.com. I like the blog interface. It has limitations, too, but all in all it’s easy to use and the site itself is easy on the eye. It’s not a social networking site, though, and I miss the comments that get made on my blogs here on Yahoo 360. While it may be a good place to park a backup of my blog, it’s probably not where I will end up permanently.

I’ve also cross-posted on Google’s Blogspot and on Live Spaces. Blogspot is very similar to WordPress, and has the added benefit of being a Google product. Blogspot has no social networking. The networking on Live Spaces is so difficult to do that I gave up, even though I did connect with a 360 friend and another person there. I had a MySpace page but closed it down several months ago. Honestly, the noise and the glitter graphics got to me. It seemed juvenile, although not so much as MASH. MySpace is also cumbersome to use, and full of spam.

I’ve looked at other social networking sites. Hoverspot.com was awful. There were more trolls and troglodytes there than on Yahoo IM. Someone told me about Hot or Not. Talk about a meat market! Facebook has been in the news a lot lately. I’ve connected there with real life friends, college classmates, law school classmates, as well as my teenage nephews. It’s lightweight, though, for the serious blogging I want to do. It has some features I like, but not enough to hold my interest. I’ll probably keep my profile there, but Facebook won’t be my blog home.

As I was reading the comments on the most recent entries of the Yahoo!360 team blog, I kept seeing references to a site called Multiply.com. I went there, and I have been pleased with it so far. I’ve sent everyone on my list an invitation. If you don’t get it, it’s either because I don’t have your email address or it went to your spam box.

Last night I was lying at the edge of this Multiply.com pool and testing the water with my fingers, not sure I want to risk getting off-balance by dipping a toe.

I found that I could upload my photos, which is more than I’ve been able to do on Yahoo 360 for quite some time. I can’t get my Flickr photostream to work here at all, and I’ve even paid for an account. Go figure. Uploading the photos was kind of slow, and belatedly I realized that I was making a new photo album when I intended to add to the one I had already created, but perhaps there is a way to combine albums. I’ll poke around and find out.

There is a place on Multiply.com for reviews. My reviews disappeared from my Yahoo 360 page almost a year ago and repeated complaints to customer service have been politely ignored with the same form letter at least six times. I’ve given up.

There is a place to add music to a profile page. I’m not sure I like that, unless it has a start button that a visitor will have to hit to play the music. I listen to my own music as I surf the Internet and when I’m mellowing to the soulful sounds of Miles Davis I just hate being blasted out of my complacency by Rob Zombie. Don’t get me wrong: Rob Zombie has his place, just not in my listening zone. At least, not for long, and not involuntarily. I don’t even like it when people put imeem music in their blogs unless it’s one I can control myself. Probably my migraines have something to do with that – startlement hurts when my head throbs. So does cacophony.

The migraines probably also have something to do with why I hate glitter graphics, and since html is allowed in guestbook entries here on multiply.com, I’ll undoubtedly see more of them than I like. Some of my headaches are brought on by the same things that induce seizures in epileptics. Windshield wipers, strobe lights, flashing icons, and glitter graphics all fall into that category. Maybe I’ll post a notice begging for a glitter-free zone on my page there. I did that on MySpace, but it was largely ignored.

I like Multiply’s blog interface. I’ve never figured out how to do bullets and numbered lists on the Yahoo 360 blog, so that will be a nice feature. I want to explore the “attachment” feature, too. I’m not sure what it is.

The photo interface on the blog looks to be much easier than Yahoo’s. I can add a photo directly from the web, from my computer, or from a photo album I’ve already put on Multiply.com. I can apparently put the photos wherever I want in my blog, too. I like that.

The polling possibilities have up to ten choices. If we’re voting in a blog contest that’s not enough, but frankly I like contests where everyone just participates. I’ve not got a competitive bone in my body. Really. Ten choices is plenty for most purposes.

It’s possible to import blogs from several blogging services, but unfortunately Yahoo 360 isn’t one of them. The Multiply team’s blog says they are different because they care and they respond. I’ll test their truthfulness by asking them to figure out a way for us to import our 360 blogs before the service shuts us down. The comments to blogs will undoubtedly be lost, but maybe there’s a way to preserve even them. We won’t know until we ask. Maybe if enough of us ask, we’ll actually receive. Wouldn’t that be a nice change?

Speaking of comments, Multiply.com has a nifty feature called “Live Replies.” According to the FAQ section, Live Replies will cause comments to appear in real time, without us having to refresh the page to see them. When we’re having a blog party that will mean that the comments will work like a huge group chat! Speaking as one who has been known to blow up the occasional blog, I can say for sure that that will be a blast!

Another thing about the comments is that they allow replies to specific comments, and the person posting the comment as well as the page owner can delete it. There is a spell check on the comment dialog box, and even after posting a comment the comment can be edited. What a nice feature! I haven’t seen that one anywhere else.

Today as more of my friends accepted my invitation to Multiply.com, I’ve discovered that I can set email alerts to receive notice about changes to people’s pages, and I can reply to the changes right there in my email. That means if someone comments on my blog or my guestbook, I can see it in my email and post a reply from the email, never having to go to the blog at all. Likewise, if someone posts new pictures or a blog, I can get an instant email and check it out. I’ve enjoyed this today, but it’s been a slow day at work. On a busier day, it might be a distraction.

There’s a networking option for creating groups of users with similar interests and affiliations. That is a good feature of Facebook and MySpace that I can see being put to good use here.

The links module on the top page works like a blogroll. Another thing to ask the Multiply.com team about is adding RSS feeds. Links to feed sites will work to an extent, but I like to see changing headlines. That was something that never really satisfied me about Yahoo 360’s feeds. I haven’t dug around the site enough to know if adding other modules to the profile page is possible.

There’s an interesting messaging system, which seems to be similar to the bulletins MySpace does. The nice thing is that you can see messages posted by the community as a whole, by just your closest contacts, or some midrange between the two. Not being a fan of chain mail, I’m not one to read a lot of bulletins and messages, but occasionally there’s an announcement that we want to make to a larger group – something like “Hey, I want to suggest a blog contest” or something like that. Private messages are also possible.

I know there is more to the site, and I just started exploring it last night. So far, Multiply.com gets a tentative thumbs up. We’ll see if it stays that way.

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