The Cassandra Project: Towards Better Product Management via Better Forecasting
Product managers have to make bets on the future. If you think for a few seconds about the types of risk that product managers are charged with managing, this becomes obvious. Product managers — as Marty Cagan points out — must manage risk around: value risk (whether customers will buy it or users will choose to use it) usability risk (whether users can figure out how to use it) feasibility risk (whether our engineers can build what we need with the time, skills and technology we have) business viability risk (whether this solution also works for the various aspects of our business) All of these require some betting on the future, but managing value risk and business viability risk in particular require forecasting that can be especially difficult to do.…more
Hilarious Heresy: A Review of Jessica Powell’s "The Big Disruption"
If I had to pick a few words to describe Jessica Powell’s The Big Disruption they’d be the words “hilarious heresy.” “Hilarious” because the book is surprisingly funny. My wife actually kept commenting on how much I was chuckling as I read the book. “Heresy” because it’s a good way of capturing what Powell is doing in the book with all of her criticisms: she’s challenging the silicon valley gospel that tech companies are here to save the world, and given all of the attention and good will towards those companies, “heresy” feels like an appropriate label for this message.…more
Some problems with the impossibility of achieving OKRs
In many ways, OKRs are a neat way of structuring goals for a company. According to Marty Cagan, product managers should be especially interested in OKRs as a goal setting framework since they are a better way of tracking product work than a “product roadmap.” I agree with Cagan. OKRs are often better than typical product road maps. However, there’s an aspect of OKRs that I think is morally and psychologically problematic: the idea that OKRs should be impossible to entirely achieve.…more
How Startups Can Do Better Cohort Analyses
If you’ve ever looked at analytics for software products, you’ve probably run across a graph that looks like this: Graphs like this one depict cohort analyses.1 This particular graph is from Google Analytics. Apple also has one for app analytics. So does Fabric.2 Cohort analyses can be very useful. For example, Eric Reis, in The Lean Startup, recounts how cohort analysis helped his startup realize that their efforts at improving their product weren’t working:…more
How Passion for Programming Can Make us Worse at our Jobs
“Good programmers are passionate about what they do” is basically a platitude in our industry. 🙄 On the whole, this may be true, but lately I’ve been interested in how our passion for programming might get in the way of us doing well for the companies we work for and may even lead to us being worse at programming specifically. 🤔 Here are some ways I think this passion can make us worse at what we do:…more
From Panic Attacks to Yoga Mats: Startups, Leadership, and my first 1000 minutes Meditating
About a year and a half ago, I was sitting in my Manhattan studio apartment trying to write an html lexer in python. I was about half way through my batch at the Recurse Center, and I was frustrated with my lack of progress towards my learning goals and intimidated by all of the absurdly smart people around me. While writing the lexer, I got hung up on an odd piece of python syntax.…more
TDD and Startups
Kent Beck introduces TDD by Example with a little story meant to show the business value of automated testing: Early one Friday, the boss came to Ward Cunningham to introduce him to Peter, a prospective customer for WyCash, the bond portfolio management system the company was selling. Peter said…“I’m starting a new bond fund, and my strategy requires that I handle bonds in different currencies.” The boss turned to Ward, “Well, can we do it?…more
Should the Idea Person get Extra Equity?
As I mentioned in my last post, I have some ideas for a startup, and I’m excited to start working on them.¹ Unfortunately, doing a startup raises a lot of questions that I, as a former wannabe philosophy professor, haven’t really considered. Since its probably not a good idea to dive in to a venture that I don’t really understand, it seems like I should spend some time wrestling with what we might call “startup questions.…more