It was really hard to calculate what happened to Marissa Mayer this week. Given all of the press coverage and opining on what she will do for Yahoo (or won't, depending on where you sit), what it means for a female CEO her age to be pregnant (something Fortune saw a need to cover as breaking news), and the retribution by at least one jilted journalist who expected a tip (or leak) and never got it, there is a lot of wreckage to plow through to see if anyone survived.
Here's a disclaimer (that probably should have accompanied most of the bloviation about her move): I don't know Marissa Mayer. I never met her. We never shared a seat on a chairlift or waited together for a flight to take off. We never chatted at Sun Valley, Cannes, at some Sand Hill Road cocktail party -- or anywhere else, for that matter.
I expect she did a kickass job at Google; but frankly, I can't even be sure of that, since I never worked with or for her and don't know anyone else who did either. All I know is that whenever Valley Wag or some other equally smarmy site did a "top ten best-looking women in the online industry" list, she was always near the top. I'd have given her my vote for sure.
It has been interesting to listen to people who clearly don't know what the hell they are talking about debate the merits of her ability to manage toward content, technology, product and/or media. Never have so few words spawned so many meanings, none of them adding any clarity to the discussion.
There was spirited debate about whether she was a "symbolic" hire to impress Wall Street and Madison Avenue, and whether she really has the right background to reignite interest in the moribund portal (that still somehow has 700 million registered users). And there was the inevitable speculation about whether Ms. Mayer's career had topped out at Google and she needed to leap over to Yahoo to become a CEO.
It has also been amusing to see her every early utterance split open and examined like an autopsy, as if Ms. Mayer were hauling stone tablets down from Mount Sinai with a game plan for the salvation of all humanity. The poor woman will need some higher-power help for sure if she is held to account for the answers she gave reporters before she even set foot in the door at Yahoo.
Similarly, I am certain that everything she does in the first six months, from choosing to breastfeed or not to somehow keeping Ross Levinsohn and Michael Barrett, and choosing which Google folks (if any) she will install in key jobs, will be pored over and examined like leaves at the bottom of a tea cup to see if they reveal anything critical about the future of all mankind.
Things haven't been this deliciously lively around the online industry since someone screwed up the Facebook IPO. The bottom line is -- she will either be successful, or she will be tossed onto the swollen heap of Failed Yahoo chief executives.
Can we go back our regularly scheduled programming now?