2HRS2GO: Yahoo! Finance's new Ignore is bliss

4 min read

Why didn't Yahoo! Finance think of this sooner?

"OH YES!" proclaimed one of several like posts on the message boards of Yahoo! Finance today. "I'm back to discuss intelligent posts. ... I've got about 20 ignores already on the blocks."

An Ignore function on Yahoo! boards? Finally.

Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) has never released specific figures on its stock message boards, but based on the sheer volume of posts, it's safe to say that Yahoo! Finance has the busiest community site in its field. For instance, Yahoo! has more than 40 messages so far today on a relatively small issue like Tivo (Nasdaq: TIVO), while other sites such as The Motley Fool, AltaVista's Raging Bull, and the Silicon Investor site run by Go2Net (Nasdaq: GNET) each have three or less for the same stock.

Considering that "Ignore" has been a standard feature for years on Web message boards, it is amazing that Yahoo! Finance waited until today to install it.

(ZDII and ZDNet don't have Ignore buttons for their Stock Talk forums or TalkBack lists, but there's a difference. ZDNet News, unlike Yahoo!, moderates its community forums. ZDII doesn't have a moderator, but also doesn't ask message posters to register as a "member", so there's no "account handle" to be blocked.)

Yahoo! says it simply didn't bother with Ignore until demand became sufficient.

"It wasn't something that we were ever opposed to," says a Yahoo! spokeswoman. "We just finally reached enough of a plane where users asked for it."

When you're the biggest portal on the Web, I guess you can afford to wait for awhile to put in useful features. Other websites haven't had that luxury. They claim it as a differentiating point: Silicon Investor and Raging Bull tout their communities as sources of higher class conversation, as opposed to Yahoo! Finance's blend of useful posts, advertising spam, bad information, lies and insult-laden flame wars.

"Ignore was actually on our message boards when we founded the company," says Tara Burgess, manager of community development for Raging Bull. "That's how we drew people to the site. All the people came here because they were looking for quality."

Silicon Investor also has Ignore buttons, but largely relies on its paid subscription requirement "to keep the riff-raff out", as Go2Net President John Keister once told me.

Quality or not, sheer size alone will always make Yahoo! the busiest message board source. At least now you don't have to pay attention to garbage posts from idiots hiding behind names like BigStockPusher or Eat_My_Muffin. "People will often change their behavior because they don't want to be ignored," Burgess says.

I have the sneaking suspicion that Yahoo! let crap posts continue because it wanted to build a sizable base of traffic. Having done that, the company can now afford to let users start filtering messages. Yahoo!, of course, won't touch that issue publicly.

"We don't make predictions about traffic increases or decreases," the spokeswoman says.

Yeah, ok. I'm sure Yahoo! does make those predictions. It just doesn't tell anyone outside the company.

The company also doesn't want to be accused of message board totalitarianism. Even now, Yahoo! is taking a light-handed approach to Ignores -- unlike Raging Bull, where posters are actually ranked based on favorable or unfavorable responses, Yahoo! Finance doesn't provide any way for a user to gauge his Ignore feedback.

So far today, the reponse as been "tremendous" and "overwhelmingly positive", the spokeswoman says. I can't disagree with those sentiments.

The new Ignore might reduce some of the community color (or off-color). If you're amused by juvenilia -- I am -- Yahoo! Finance might become a less interesting place to visit. But there are plenty of other places to find entertainment.

Other issues:

  • Tivo.
  • So what was I doing on the Tivo message board in the first place? Just wondering what the reaction was to yesterday's announcement that rival ReplayTV has backed off its IPO.

    Tivo optimists would say their company has demonstrated it's the clear market leader, thus explaining why ReplayTV had no appeal for Wall Street.

    Even if that's true (and I don't think it is) a market with only one player is hardly a market at all. Even Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) has viable, publicly-traded rivals on the desktop, despite what the U.S. Department of Justice claims. In any case, Microsoft certainly didn't start out as the desktop OS leader.

    No, it's not Tivo dominance that killed ReplayTV's IPO plans. Instead, blame a lack of investor enthusiasm for the entire digital recorder industry, as exemplified by Tivo itself: TIVO shares have fallen 47 percent since June 19, compared to a much smaller 2.5 percent drop for Nasdaq Composite Index. 22GO>