The role of blogging in my life

I recently read Fred’s post about his fifteen years of blogging and tweeted about why I admire Fred’s blog:

I think of Fred as an “old school” blogger, and that’s a compliment. He prioritizes writing regularly over polish. His writing is idiosyncratic. Some posts encapsulate decades of hard business lessons, some posts are about deeply personal milestones, and some posts are about last night’s Mets game. Occasionally, Fred just posts a video. Some posts are mundane and some are revelatory. I like this style of blogging because it gives you a broad sense of the actual person behind the blog, not a lopsided view based on a specific professional agenda or personal interest. I wish more people blogged this way.

I realized after reading Fred’s post that I, too, had been blogging for 15 years in one place or another and writing publicly for 17 years, and that got me thinking about the critical role of writing generally and blogging specifically in my professional career and personal life. (This is a long post because I had never really thought about it in totality!)

2003-2005: My InfoWorld column and the dawn of blogging (for me)

Most people know me through my work at Etsy (and maybe even Yahoo!) but before all that, I  had a “real” writing gig. I joined InfoWorld in April 2001 as CTO doing actual CTO work but when they noticed I had an English degree and decent writing skills, they asked me if I would write a column for CTOs. At the time, the CTO was their prime target audience. I signed up to write a weekly column at InfoWorld called “CTO Connection” (somewhat still findable via Google) that ran from June 2001 to August 2005.

I had never done anything like it before. For 4+ years and 200+ columns, I had a strict weekly deadline to deliver 580 words to the copy desk — strict word count and deadline because the column was published in print (it had to fit on the printed page) and the presses rolled at a certain time whether you were ready or not. (I never missed press time because you simply did not miss press time!) I came up with the topic every week based on what was going on around me and never really lacked for topics to write about. The words came easy some weeks and some weeks were excruciating. I built a passionate reader base at the time and regularly got fan mail and a good dose of hate mail (one known trick for creating a fury was to criticize Apple). My boss was occasionally cc’ed on the emails, particularly the ones where a reader said my column was so off-the-mark that I should be immediately fired both from my writing gig and my operational CTO gig. The feedback was constant and I learned a lot from it, not the least of which was how to handle constant, sometimes aggressive critique from the outside world while staying focused and keeping my head on straight. This came in really handy later in my career.

My real blogging career began in January 2003 when I launched a blog at InfoWorld (part of IDG) as a way to break out of my word count restriction, respond to points raised in reader mail, talk about random things of interest that popped up, and connect to the CTOs who were reading my weekly column.  Remnants of it are available at the Wayback Machine. I jumped right into blogging with no fanfare or even recognition that I was blogging. My first post was about benchmarking Apache. My second post was about a redesign we did and how InfoWorld was now running on Linux on cheap Compaq DL360s (and I mean really cheap — we bought them for pennies on the dollar from the partly-IDG-funded Industry Standard when it imploded not long before. I personally unloaded them for our sysadmin’s van.) Notably, those first two posts were on a Saturday and Sunday, which was truly radical for what had been a weekly print publication: no gatekeepers, no copy editors. The words went straight from my head to the blog. (Incidentally, Blogger was acquired by Google just a few weeks later, so it was a heady time for blogging.)

I continued blogging and even started a podcast at the very end of my time at InfoWorld (around spring 2005) though it only ran two episodes before I left for Yahoo. In the two episodes I produced (I did all the recording, production, and editorial), I would talk to a working CTO about their work and then some unique interest, often shared. With my friend Jon Williams (then CTO at Kaplan Test Prep), we talked tech and a little about playing guitar (here’s the mp3). And in the second episode with Mike Dunn (then CTO of Hearst Interactive), we talked about surfing (though this episode is sadly lost to history). I developed a lot of productive and fun personal relationships with CTOs in every industry during that time, from startup CTOs to Fortune 50 CTOs, and I still keep in touch with many of them. None of that would have happened without the writing gig. I learned that writing publicly can help build long-term relationships.

2005-2008: A special time at Yahoo! and finding the love of my life

When I joined Yahoo in summer 2005, I announced it on my new blog on my personal domain. One of the things I learned from my time at InfoWorld is that owning your own domain was the only way to truly own your voice forever and my new personal blog was the recognition of that. Yahoo! also had an astoundingly liberal personal blog policy (PDF) that was more or less “anything goes” at a time when a big media storyline was “Person gets fired from company for blogging,” like this one. While I was at Yahoo, I ran the Yahoo! Developer Network and posted on that blog, too. Even in my corporate blogging, I tended to obsess over both the content and the headlines (like this one: “Smells Like Dunkirk Spirit” about the travails of a Yahoo Hack Day in London that was weirdly interrupted by storms that caused it to actually rain indoors). Still, my personal blog output dwarfed what I put into the corporate blog. My fairly regular personal blogging from that period turned out to be a nice historical archive of some really interesting times at Yahoo. What seemed like mostly a side hobby then has become a treasured record of a special time for me, professionally and personally. I’m grateful that I took the time to do that, and on my own domain. When a book came out several years back that featured a detailed chapter about that time at Yahoo! and my and others’ roles in it, those posts also came in handy to help me recall some of the best stories and anecdotes from that period. And during that period I captured the two best stories of all: getting engaged and ultimately married to the then and still love of my life.

2008-2011: Moving to NYC and being CTO at Etsy

In 2008, my friend Caterina Fake (herself and “old school” blogger) introduced me to the Etsy team and, long story short, I announced I was leaving Yahoo! and going to Etsy to be their CTO in July 2008. You can see my excitement at moving to NYC, an excitement that has not waned even a little in the decade of being here (as I quoted John Lennon in that post: “what a bad-ass city!”) There was a companion post on the Etsy blog (then known as the Storque!) and a couple of weeks after I started in September 2008, my first communication with the Etsy community as CTO was also on the blog (executive summary: things were in bad shape and we had a lot of work to do). It’s easy to look back at Etsy today and see its success as obvious and pre-ordained but it certainly didn’t feel that way when I wrote that post. The site was crashing more or less daily at the time. In the macro world, Lehman Brothers infamously collapsed into bankruptcy just the day before that blog post. I had been in NYC for two weeks and had just stopped sleeping on an air mattress when my boxes arrived from California. There was a part of me that thought I had truly terrible timing — why did I move to the center of the collapse of the financial system for this? My memories of that time were less of the “I’m so excited about this challenge!” variety and more “what have I gotten myself into?” Reading that first post today, I can feel the underlying anxiety of the time — how many incoming execs use a “ticking time bomb” metaphor in their inaugural posts to their customers? But I was glad to have a blog where I could tell the truth and start to get to know the community. The blog was a great vehicle for that kind of writing and blogging was a really natural form of direct communication to me at that point.

We had a big rebuilding job to do at Etsy and blogs came to the rescue in another way. We used a blog called to communicate during outages, which were very frequent when I first arrived. Ironically, the first major outage happened the day after my “ticking time bomb post” and itself was down so we had to bring that back up quickly to even be able to give updates on the main site outage (this moment is preserved in the Wayback Machine). Thank goodness that one of the beautiful things about a blog is you can get it up and running and start publishing almost immediately. I was at a bar with an important recruit during that first outage and was excusing myself regularly to manage the situation from the bathroom. (The recruit must have thought I had a medical problem giving how much I was going to the bathroom.)

In my first year or so, we had to take the site completely down for 4-6 hours per week almost every week to fix some core issues (as mentioned here), and was the critical line of communication. The tone of was very much “just the facts” (“8:00am: Etsy is currently unavailable and we’re working on it”) but I felt genuinely bad about what the community had to endure during that period so we tried to make the pain at least a little more entertaining. Back then, Hulu had a bunch of free movies you could embed on web pages and I noticed The Godfather trilogy was available, so I once raised the idea of offering parts 1 and 2 on the “we’re down for maintenance” page for the simple reason that they had an almost even six hours run time. We had a lot of time to fill while we did the work and people get bored waiting. We smartly decided that Etsy seller videos on a loop made more sense. Even this simple status blog had a community feel. When one of our key ops engineer’s wife went into labor, we had to cancel scheduled downtime and posted the news and a baby photo on the blog. The Etsy community of sellers could be tough but always with an underlying sweetness and I remember this moment being celebrated. (Celebrating the birth of a baby on an announcement about site outages somehow so perfectly captures the Etsy ethos of the time).

As engineering started to gain momentum, the constant firefighting started to recede into history and we had more interesting things to talk about than just keeping the site up. In February 2010, we conceived of and launched the Code as Craft blog (still running strong) when I published the first and second posts along with the About page. In the early days, I acted as kind of an editor-in-chief and encouraged engineers to write the kinds of posts they wanted to read and I promised we wouldn’t put it through a PR filter. Every engineer had a distinct voice and I wanted to bring it out. I was also being very pragmatic. I knew the blog could be a great recruiting tool and that engineers can smell bullshit 1,000 miles away. We kicked off the Code as Craft speaker series later that year with Fred Brooks, one of the legends of computer science. The work we were doing, the blog posts with the voices of real engineers, the amazing speakers, and the work itself was a key driver of the recruiting flywheel we built at the time. The Code as Craft talks sold out in minutes, people had fun and learned a lot when they visited the office, and everyone we interviewed seemed to come in knowing what we were all about just by reading the blog. Code as Craft turned into a very strategic recruiting tool for the company. It was also really fun and a badge of honor and rallying cry for engineers on the team. When I left my CTO role to take on the CEO job at Etsy, I passed the engineering torch to Kellan and John on the Code as Craft blog and entered the next chapter.

2011-2017: Being CEO at Etsy during a time of massive growth

Enter blogs again. When I made the transition to CEO, I announced my new role on the Etsy company blog with a story about Mary Haggerty, an Etsy seller I met in an unlikely place. Then I continued to post various updates throughout the years that mark key moments of my six years as CEO — a period where Etsy grew immensely by every qualitative and qualitative measure you can think of. Etsy used to publish a “weather report” with key company data so I’m able to see in the archives that in my first month as CTO at Etsy (September 2008), everyone was excited about breaking the $300,000 sales mark in a single day and $7.93 million in goods were sold that month. By the time I left in 2017, our run rate was ~35x that. During that period, I wrote a guest post about recruiting and culture for Fred’s “MBA Mondays” series on his blog. Generally, though, I found it harder to write as regularly as a CEO, but I did find a little time to write, like this post where I had a key insight about Peter Drucker and culture change that was just dying to get out. And once you’re leading a public company, your communications as a CEO and duty to a variety of stakeholders make any communication from you potentially fraught (just ask Elon). That made the off-the-cuff, no-gatekeeper style of blogging that I enjoyed much more difficult so my personal blog went largely dormant at the time.

When my time was up at Etsy, I wasn’t able to say any final words via Etsy channels but the archive remains and I’m grateful to be able to look back and remember how the company developed and grew in the nine years I was there, from my “what have I gotten myself into” early days of intense tech pain to leading a publicly-traded company (its own kind of pain but I think of it as perhaps more noble “pain at scale.” Ha. Sort of.) It was an extraordinary time in my life and every day I think of some new reason to appreciate my time at Etsy.

2017-present: Going solo. . but not really

Post-Etsy, I was professionally unaffiliated for the first time in my working life. The most common question I got was “what are you going to do next?” My blog had been largely dormant but I had still been maintaining the domain. I realized that the blog gave me a means to (in more traditional PR terms) “put out a statement” to answer the “what’s next?” question once rather than answer it a bunch of times in email. So I wrote a blog post and tweeted it out. It felt good to have no gatekeepers again. Then I updated the post in September as my sense of what the next stage of my life was going to look like came into focus. I haven’t really been “solo” during this period as much as I’ve been working differently, i.e. not just for one organization but for many. Since my “what’s next” post I have developed a nice coaching practice working with Reboot and have been enjoying being closely involved at Cornell Tech (got some interesting stuff brewing there – stay tuned). I’m more active in my non-profit board roles at St. Ann’s Warehouse and The Jalopy Theater and School of Music. I have been able to spend time doing the deepest thinking and reflecting of my life and have a backlog of things to write about. I started a newsletter last year that went dormant when the coaching business suddenly took off so I might get that going again. We’ll see.

So much of online writing today is about short-term “hot takes” and pursuing claps and virality but I’ve learned over seventeen years of writing publicly that one of the key benefits of writing online is that it supports your own memory.  A blog post provides a contemporary voice — yours — from a specific moment that doesn’t generally allow you to either glorify or denigrate lived history any more than it deserved at the time. It’s life as it happens. Blogging is also a way of laying the groundwork for the path ahead and creating virtual checkpoints to later reflect upon to get a sense of the progress you’ve made. That’s a long way of saying that I think I’ll be doing this for a while longer.

Writing this post made me realize again how valuable is to the Internet, so I made a donation. If you feel the same way, here’s how to donate.


The 20 Percent Doctrine

In March of 2010, I got an email from Ryan Tate saying he was writing a book about skunkworks and experimental projects inside large companies, and he wanted to talk to me about Yahoo! Hack Day. Over the next year and a half, I did periodic interviews with Ryan. Ryan eventually asked me to write the foreword for the book. By then it had a title: The 20% Doctrine: How Tinkering, Goofing Off, and Breaking the Rules at Work Drive Success in Business. I loved the topic so much, I agreed to write it during the holiday season (a busy time at Etsy!) I’m happy with how it turned out.20% Doctrine

The book shipped yesterday, and Ryan’s chapter on Hack Day captures the beautifully chaotic spirit of Hack Day better than anything else I’ve read. (The big surprise when I read the chapter for the first time yesterday was the description of me as a “laid-back, freedom-loving, rabble-rousing Yahoo programmer, a sort of cross between Bill Gates and cult movie character Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski.” I’m not that smart or that cool but it definitely made me laugh!)

Below is a copy of the foreword — a big thanks to Ryan for letting me write it, and to all the Yahoo! hackers and leaders who helped make it all possible. Years later, I am still inspired by the spirit we captured with Yahoo! Hack Day, and feel really honored that I played a role in it. I hope you enjoy the foreword, and the whole book.

On December 12, 2005, the phone at my desk rang. It was the Yahoo! HR department. The phone at my desk almost never rang, so this was a bit of a surprise. I had just helped put together something really awesome, though, so I smiled and braced myself for a hearty congratulations.

The Friday before, I had organized the first internal Hack Day at Yahoo! with the help of a loosely-organized band of people around the company. The “hack” designation for the day was a tip of the hat to hacker culture, but also a nod to the fact that we were trying to fix a system that didn’t work particularly well. The idea was really simple: all the engineers in our division were given the day off to build anything they wanted to build. The only rules were to build something in 24 hours and then show it at the end of the period. The basic structure of the event itself was inspired by what we had seen at small startups, but no one had attempted such an event at a large scale at an established company.

The first Yahoo! Hack Day was clearly a success. In a company that was struggling to innovate, about seventy prototypes appeared out of nowhere in a single 24-hour period and they were presented in a joyfully enthusiastic environment where people whooped and yelled and cheered. Sleep-deprived, t-shirt-clad developers stayed late at work on a Friday night to show prototypes they had built for no other reason than they wanted to build something. In his seminal book about open source software, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Eric Raymond wrote: “Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.” There clearly had been a lot of developer itching around Yahoo! but it took Hack Day to let them issue a collective cathartic scratch.

But back to that call from HR. I grabbed the phone, prepared to be gracious, then the HR person on the other end told me we needed to take down one of the hacks, a hack by Cal Henderson that created an API to our company directory (available on Yahoo’s intranet, known as “Backyard”) and built a hot-or-not-style “Backyard War” app on top of it. No one was ever really sure what these wars were about, but it was viscerally fun to place random co-workers in battle with each other over unknown stakes. The impromptu judging committee I had put together had given Cal a trophy for his work.

The HR person who called me had made a critical error in reasoning. While I had organized Hack Day, I by no means had any actual control over the event itself or any of the participants. I had designed it that way. There were no sign-ups in advance, no proscribed projects or areas of focus, and no central servers where the projects lived. I couldn’t have taken Backyard War down if I had a gun to my head. In the end, I think HR may have eventually gotten to Cal, but it didn’t matter. At future Hack Days, there was always a feeling of danger and although no one ever really said it, there was an ongoing secret competition to see who would get the call from HR this time. When you’re trying to get things done and change a system, expect to upset a few people along the way.

With that first event, the die was cast and the completely improvised format from that first Hack Day became somewhat of a standard. At that first Hack Day, I didn’t expect seventy presentations (remember, I had no idea who was presenting until they got started). I had originally planned to give each team 5-10 minutes to present, but with 70 hacks, I called an audible — each presentation would be two minutes or less. Years later, I found myself in an elevator at the site of a hack day and heard one hacker explaining the rules to another, “Dude, demos are always two minutes. It’s a rule.” I chuckled to myself that these “rules” had become so solidified over time.

After that, we did Hack Days all over the world, on three continents. We continued doing internal ones for employees and did our first open one for the public nine months after the very first internal one. The basic “rules” remained. People built huge numbers of prototypes to solve a wide range of problems, and the only thing that really changed from place to place was the food. We had pizza in California, samosas in Bangalore, and bad English pizza in London.

In London, we did a joint hack day with the BBC and held it at Alexandra Palace. Just after the event started, lightning struck and the power went out, triggering a fire suppression system that opened up large sections of the roof, causing indoor rain. Hackers pulled out umbrellas and simply started drawing on paper until the power came back. Once the creative spirit reaches liftoff, an unexpected indoor rainstorm just isn’t enough to stop it.

Since that first Hack Day, there have been hack days at companies like IBM. GroupMe was born at the Techcrunch Disrupt Hack Day in May 2010, funded three months later, then sold for tens of millions of dollars within a year. Hack Days are being organized by government agencies to help citizens improve government. Just recently, LinkedIn organized a Hack Day to help veterans.
People ask me all the time why Hack Days work so well. The secret of Hack Day is pretty simple: doing something is the only thing that matters at a Hack Day. You can have the best idea in the world, but if you can’t put some meat on it, no one cares. When I organized the first one, Yahoo! had something internally called “Idea Factory,” a sophisticated online suggestion box to capture ideas from people around the company. Capturing ideas in such a way sounds perfectly innocuous, but such a system has a key ideological flaw: it anticipates that someone else is going to take your idea and and do something with it, relieving you of all responsibility (except, as I learned, complaining that no one had used your awesome idea yet). Hack Day solves that problem. You’re responsible for idea and execution, and your two minutes better have a demo or you’re toast.

Hack Days separate doers from talkers. In the communications around that first Hack Day, I had thrown in a “no PowerPoint” directive to protect the event from the pernicious scourge of corporate slide decks, and that became a rallying cry. There simply was no place for the dull corporate drone of bland PowerPoints. Occasionally, someone would try to present a PowerPoint without a prototype. Without fail, that person would be roundly booed and ruthlessly cut off if he didn’t step away willingly. The cultural norms of Hack Day simply did not allow for vacuous grandstanding. Stop talking and show me what you built. We’ve only got two minutes.

In this book, you will learn about many ways different organizations have tried to innovate, and you can bet they all share this: they trust that people will do awesome things when given room to do it, and they take great pains to create that room.

Happy hacking, and remember that you don’t really have to answer the phone when HR calls.

Leaving Yahoo!

I’ve thought a lot about how to begin this post, but it’s best to get right to the point (especially in light of the speed of Techcrunch). I’m leaving Yahoo! to pursue another very exciting opportunity: joining the Etsy team as CTO. I’ll save my thoughts on Etsy for later, but for now I will say that Etsy and the community it serves are all-around inspiring and I can’t wait to jump in.

(See the blog post from Etsy).

I really couldn’t be more thankful for my experience at Yahoo and to the people who made it such an amazing journey, or more excited about the next chapter in my career and life. I had an amazing run. Long-time readers of this blog might remember that I literally proclaimed one of my three years at Yahoo! as the best year of my life. In the past, I’ve told people that I’ve had all of the best jobs at Yahoo, and I have: running the Hack program, the Yahoo! Developer Network (where I had the privilege of working with the Pipes and MyBlogLog teams, too), and now Brickhouse, where we shipped both Yahoo! Live and the Fire Eagle beta. It has been an unbelievable experience. Yahoo! is a great company full of incredible people.

In each of those roles, I’ve had a unique opportunity to get to know many people inside and outside of Yahoo! Literally hundreds of people were helpful and supportive of me at Yahoo! so I am reluctant to list names. I spent a few hours on a list of people to thank and realized when I hit 150 that it was too unwieldy — the list included everyone from well-known execs to the groundskeepers who made sure the lawn sprinklers didn’t come on during Open Hack Day. Feeling gratitude to so many people is definitely a high-class problem. It amazes me that so many of the folks at Yahoo! shared their personal talents and gifts with me so profoundly. You know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In leaving, I’m confident that Brickhouse is in good shape. The product teams (Fire Eagle and Yahoo! Live) are focused and cranking. Brickhouse continues to attract new talent and strong support from Yahoo! management. I’m pleased to be handing the reins over to Mike Folgner, who was CEO of Jumpcut, where he took Jumpcut from idea to product to acquisition by Yahoo! The team won’t miss a beat without me. Tom Coates , Eric Fixler, and the other folks on the team are rock stars.

If you’re familiar with Etsy, you know they are in New York. Brooklyn, to be exact. That means I will be moving to New York. On a personal level, the quiet tug back east has been persistent recently. My mother-in-law passed away in mid-May, my first loss of someone I cared about so deeply. At the same time my mother was battling a terrible illness and spent a few months in the hospital back home in NC, only to be cured by a last-ditch treatment. When miracles happen, it changes your perspective. And how can you go wrong living in New York? To quote John Lennon in the recorded version of his not-quoted-very-often song “New York City,” — “what a bad-ass city!” That pretty much sums it up.

I’ll be in the Bay Area for a few more weeks before heading out to New York. To my Bay Area friends and colleagues, you have given me so much in my time here, I can’t thank you enough. The time I spent out in California this past ten years has literally been life-changing. To my New York friends, I look forward to reconnecting. To quote a famous New Yorker, “today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”

We're hiring at Brickhouse in SF!

We’re hiring at Brickhouse, our San Francisco office at the corner of 3rd and Bryant, where there are lots of great things happening. If you like working on small startup-like teams to deliver products like Fire Eagle and Yahoo! Live and invent entirely new things, then check out the openings below. If you’re interested, email me (chad @ this domain) and tell me why you’re perfect for one of the roles.

(Photo from our very own Tom Coates)

Fire Eagle Developer Evening: this Thursday at Brickhouse

As Upcoming says: “The first in a series of developer workshops for people who are interested in building apps using Fire Eagle – the new geo-platform from Brickhouse. For people who aren’t familiar with it, we’ll be giving a quick overview of the service plus an introduction to the API, help with OAuth and a table completely covered in pizza!”


Go sign up on Upcoming!

Pumped about London Hack Day / Dopplr

It’s 2:45am on a Saturday morning and all I can think about is the upcoming London Hack Day we’re doing with the BBC next weekend. I arrive in London on Monday to begin some of the pre-event preparation. I can’t sleep thinking about it. I’m turning 35 soon and I’ve flown many miles and been many places, but I still get excited like a little kid when I travel every time. Add in the fact that each Hack Day I’ve been involved in both inside and outside Yahoo! has blown my mind in a different way and you’ve got a recipe for insomnia of the most wonderful sort.

Alexandra PalaceAnd I’m not sure even I have grasped how amazing the location is. In his post “The Ultimate Party,” Ryan explains just how special the venue is:

The event is at Ally Pally (Alexander Palace), a venue with so much tech and media history it puts whole countries to shame. In 1936 Ally Pally became the headquarters of world’s first regular public ‘high definition’ television service, operated by the BBC.

. . . then quotes from the Wikipedia entry on Alexandra Palace:

The palace continued as the BBC’s main TV transmitting centre for London until 1956, interrupted only by World War II when the transmitter found an alternative use jamming German bombers’ navigation systems (it is said that only 25% of London raids were effective because of these transmissions).

After that it continued to be used for news broadcasts until 1969, and for the Open University until the early 1980s. The antenna mast still stands, and is still used for local analogue television transmission, local commercial radio and DAB broadcasts.

Ryan continues:

How incredible is it that the people working at the forefront of the next revolution/evolution of media and broadcasting will be getting together at such a historic venue.

Anyone working in media and or technology in the UK holds Ally Pally close to their heart – I’ve spoken to BBC engineers who see it as a sort of spiritual home – a mecca of media innovation.

Wow. I can’t wait to get there!

Speaking of travel, I’m on Dopplr now. What does Dopplr do? From the About page:

It lets you share your future travel plans with a group of trusted fellow travellers whom you have chosen. It also reminds you of friends and colleagues who live in the cities you’re planning to visit.

Ping me if you want an invite.

Kids Day at Yahoo: what I learned

Bradley invited me to join him in speaking to two groups of kids today at Yahoo! The first group was 11-12 year-olds, and the second was all 8 year-olds. Bradley and I talked a little bit about what we do, what it’s like to work at Yahoo and what we wanted to be when we grew up (me: architect, Bradley: something with computers), and then we answered a bunch of questions while asking some of our own.Kids Day @ Yahoo! All I can say about these kids of Silicon Valley is: WOW! Here are some relatively unstructured notes.

What some of the 11-12 year-olds said they want to be when they grow up: large animal vet, photographer, pediatrician, Egyptologist (!)

When Bradley asked the kids if they knew what “innovation” meant, one of the kids said, “inventing new stuff.” Not bad.

When someone asked how much I worked every day and I said a lot of my work doesn’t feel like work because I enjoy it (but in a more rambling way), a kid interjected, “Find a job you love and you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life.” Very succinct!

Bradley mentioned in passing the company he started before Yahoo, and one of the kids asked, “Is your old company still alive?” (Yes.) Then, “Who bought it?” (Autonomy.) I think we were about to get into preferred stock or accelerated vesting schedules before another kid rescued us with the question: “how many interviews did you go on before you got your job?”

When we moved to the group of 8-year-olds, things got even more interesting. When we asked them how many had cell phones, 50% of the hands went up (at least) — and we weren’t talking toy cell phones. When Bradley asked them how old they thought we were, we got answers ranging from 28 to 100.

In both groups, the kids were amazingly well-traveled. No one seemed all that excited about the places we had been because many of them were born in those places and travel regularly (although the wannabe-Egyptologist had not yet been to Egypt!)

We’re always looking for product feedback, so when asked what Yahoo! should be doing, one kid said: “Yahoo! Robots would be AWESOME!”

I’ll see what we can do!