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Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Of Arugula, typoes, and handshakes

in: Create

When it comes to product design, good product managers  often say, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” In the early stages a good product manager needs to focus on the one thing that’s absolutely needed.

But that backfires when tight focus is used as an excuse for sloppiness. One thing taking all of the attention at the expense of all the other small things can backfire — specifically, when a user doesn’t have a well-formed understanding of the product or service and is searching for cues.

Small things matter a lot

Wilted arugula leafI recently opened up a bag of arugula, that bitter green of haute cuisine and yuppie punchlines. As I was about to pile it haphazardly on plates, I spied a single wilted leaf. This prompted me to dig further — what if I’d bought a bad bag? What if it had spoiled in the fridge? Sure enough, closer inspection revealed others. Even the slightest imperfection reinforced my perception that something was amiss.

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Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Bad product managers are like hairstylists

in: Anticipate, Create

The first thing someone asks me when I go to get my hair cut is, “How do you like it?”

This is the wrong question to ask. It presumes that I (not the expert on hair) have a preference that’s relevant.

(Sure, we’re creatures of habit, so we may well have a preference, and hey, we’re paying for it so we get to choose. But bear with me.)

What a stylist should be asking is questions like, “What do you do for a living?” and “how do your co-workers dress?” Perhaps they’d ask, “Do you have time to towel and blowdry it in the morning?” Or maybe they should wonder, “Do you play sports like wrestling in which hair length is a factor? Are you on a team that needs helmets?”

A good stylist would try to discern a pattern of needs (which the customer knows a great deal about) and then applying their domain expertise (cutting hair) to choose what’s best. In many companies, the people in charge of product direction are like stylists. Which causes lousy product decisions.

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Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Testing and launching a web app: What every startup needs to know

in: Create, Startups

Several of the companies I’ve worked with in the last year have gone through a software launch. While I usually focus on the business side of startups, and this post is more like something from Bitcurrent or Watchingwebsites, it’s pertinent to any web startup that needs to test and launch a successful product.

There are ten distinct stages of defining, testing, and launching a web application. Each stage has some tools you can use, involves different people, and focuses on different kinds of data collection.

Ten stages of release visibility and testing

If you go through these stages in the wrong order, you’ll waste time and money. Do them in the right order—using some of the tools we’ve found here to help you along the way—and you’ll be much more likely to launch the right product at the right time and make it easy for your customers to access you.
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Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

The opposite of startup: Observations from a remarkable week in New York

in: Anticipate, Create, Funding, Startups

I was in New York for an historic week. While in the city for three conferences and a weekend of R&R, I saw firsthand some of the changes that are happening to the financial markets. It’s no hyperbole to say that the past few days will shape the next century for much of the Western world, and they are the result of a free-market experiment gone horribly wrong.

Normally, I try to keep this blog focused on startups. But I wanted to share some of what I saw while there; I believe it holds some important lessons for entrepreneurs as well as a few guidelines for how to run your businesses in the coming drought.

On my arrival last week, I walked past Lehman Brothers mid-meltdown. Town cars were parked three deep, and suited executives with confidence-inspiring grey hair fled the guarded doors into the safe embrace of stretch Lincolns.

Towncars outside Lehman Brothers on September 16

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Monday, September 15th, 2008

Running live events: What I learned from Bitnorth

in: Create

bitnorth-conferenceroom.jpgRednod co-sponsored Bitnorth last weekend. It was an informal TED-meets-Foocamp-meets-Unconference getaway North of Montreal, and it wound up being one of the most entertaining weekends of recent memory. Podcaster Bob Goyetche wrote about it and discussed it in a recent episode of Canadian Podcast Buffet (it’s around 4:00 into the podcast) and the feedback was generally very good.

I’ve been talking to several participants about what worked and why. I’m going to try and share those here, though it’s silly to try and capture the zeitgeist of an event that was as much about participants and venue as any kind of organization. It’s a long read, as much for others to see what worked as it is for me to remember what worked when it comes time to plan the next one (and yes, there will definitely be a next one. If you want in, mail me.)

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Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Unclear on the concept of web

in: Communicate, Create

Just a quick one today.

websitemagazine.jpgI was at Web2Expo earlier this year, and Website Magazine (pictured below) was exhibiting. I find this tremendously confusing. I imagine the target market of people who like to read about the web on paper is roughly the same as the market of people whose assistants print their e-mail for them.

But what I find most curious is that web analytics provide so much better data on the effectiveness of advertising, it’s almost irresponsible to use print media to reach people. And since magazines usually make their money from print advertising and sponsorship, that’s got to be a losing game.

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