Saturday, January 4, 2014

"How A Football Coach Taught Me To Product Manage Like a Boss"

Nice post on prioritization from Upworthy’s Head of Product, Mike Su (@biggiesu):

An Internet product manager has two jobs: (1) Figure out the right things to build (priority) and (2) figure out how those things should be built. 

If you can figure out your decisions ahead of time without game-time pressure, you can create a framework that everyone can agree on ahead of time, which takes emotion and stress out of the equation. In the product world, this means setting out clear strategic goals and a framework to support that. Agreement on these strategic goals independent of specific projects means decisions can be justified based on how well they support those goals rather than some arbitrary reason. 

The high-impact, low effort projects are the “No Brainer” projects we should do immediately. The high-impact, high-scope projects we call “High Risk Swings,” and we take a couple of those a quarter. The low-effort, low-impact projects we do as “Filler” projects when a developer has free cycles. And obviously the low-impact, high-effort stuff we avoid like Andy Reid avoids running the ball.

https://d262ilb51hltx0.cloudfront.net/max/918/1*YHGaocOwRMAqZqvFALxZnQ.jpeg

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

John Cleese on Creativity

I’ve just watched this incredible talk by John Cleese, a bit long but 100% worthy of your time.

Transcript here

John was one of the writers of the Monthy Python comedy show, as well as actor and director in several movies. Between “light-bulb jokes” and serious talk, he gives some great insights about how to work ourselves into what he calls the “open mode”, the mode where creativity happens.

Creativity is not a talent, is a way of operating.

  • Creativity is not an ability that you either have or do not have.
  • It is absolutely unrelated to IQ. Studies showed in investigating several professionals that those regarded by their peers as “most creative” weren’t different in IQ from their less creative colleagues.
  • The most creative had simply acquired a facility for getting themselves into a particular mood.

Working modes: open and closed.

John argues that we can usually describe the way in which people function at work in terms of two modes: open and closed.

Creativity doesn’t happen in closed mode.

  • The closed mode is where we are in most of the time when we are at work. It’s a mode where we are active, very purposeful and a little bit anxious.
  • By contrast, the open mode, is relaxed, expansive, less purposeful mode in which we are more inclined to humor and more playful.

It’s a mood in which curiosity for its own sake can operate because we’re not under pressure to get a specific thing done quickly. We can play, and that is what allows our natural creativity to surface.

We need both modes, in particular we need the ability to switch back and forth between both modes. We need to be in open mode while pondering with a problem and once we have a “creative” solution, we need switch to the closed mode to be able to implement it decisively and undistracted.

Getting into the open mode: the five conditions.

There are certain conditions that make it more likely to get into the “open mode”:

  1. Space

You can’t be creative if you’re under pressures, because to cope with them you’ve got to be in the closed mode.So you have to create some space away from those demands.

  1. Time

It’s not enough to create space, you have to create your space for a specific period of time … And it’s only by having a specific moment when your space starts and an equally specific moment when your space stops that you can seal yourself off from the every day closed mode in which we all habitually operate.

Tip: you’ll need a minimum of one and a half hour, because it takes at least 30 minutes to go out of the routine and the closed mode and embrace the creative.

  1. Time

If you stick to the problem longer you’ll be able to find more creative solutions. Don’t take the first solution, stick with it and try to find other solutions, but beware of not making a final decision at all.

What I am suggesting to you is that before you take a decision, you should always ask yourself the question, “When does this decision have to be taken?” And having answered that, you defer the decision until then, in order to give yourself maximum pondering time, which will lead you to the most creative solution.

  1. Confidence

When you’re finally in open mode the only thing that can stop you from being creative is the fear of making a mistake. Playfulness is about being open to anything that can happen.

So you’ve got risk saying things that are silly and illogical and wrong, and the best way to get the confidence to do that is to know that while you’re being creative, nothing is wrong. There’s no such thing as a mistake, and any drivel may lead to the break-through.

  1. Humor

Humor is what gets us from the closed mode to the open mode in the fastest way. It is the essential part of spontaneity and playfulness necessary to solve problems in a creative way.

Humor is an essential part of spontaneity, an essential part of playfulness, an essential part of the creativity that we need to solve problems, no matter how ‘serious’ they may be.

Creativity in groups.

It is easier to be creative if you’ve have got other people to play with … But there is a danger, a real danger, if there’s one person around you who makes you feel defensive, you lose the confidence to play, and it’s goodbye creativity.

And never say anything to squash them either, never say “no” or “wrong” or “I don’t like that.” Always be positive, and build on what is being said …

Creativity is like humor.

In humor, the laugh comes when you connect two common frameworks of reference. The moment of contact between to frameworks of reference.

Connect two separate ideas in a way to create a new meaning, but not random connections, that’s easy, the connections are only meaningful if they generate a new meaning. You must use your intuition to detect which connections are interesting.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

How to fix Firefox @font-face cross domain issues on Tumblr themes

While setting up this blog I had some issues to make FontAwesome work. Basically, FontAwesome is a set of icons that extends Twitter Bootstrap using @font-face imports to load an icon set.

The problem

The problem was that Firefox has a same origin policy for @font-face and since Tumblr assets are hosted on a different domain/server and it is not possible to change the “Access-Control-Allow-Origin” HTTP headers the font is not loaded by Firefox.

The solution

The solution is to embed the font into the stylesheet using base64 encoding, however, there is a particular syntax to make it work, some have already written about it, you have to include two font-face calls as follows:

@font-face {
  font-family: 'FontAwesome';
  src: url("YOUR_URL_TO/fontawesome-webfont.eot");
}
@font-face {
  font-family: 'FontAwesome';
  src: url(data:application/x-font-woff;charset=utf-8;base64, YOUR_BASE64_ENCODED_FONT_HERE) format('woff'),
  url("YOUR_URL_TO/fontawesome-webfont.ttf") format('truetype'),
  url("YOUR_URL_TO/fontawesome-webfont.svg#FontAwesome") format('svg');
  font-weight: normal;
  font-style: normal; }

How can you encode your font?

If you’re on a *nix machine you can use the included base64 utility:
cat FontAwesome.ttf | base64 | tr -d '\n

Or also the FontSquirrel font-face generator, select the expert mode and tick the “Base64” option in the “CSS” section.
Bonus tip: If you’re using only a small set of icons or “glyphs” you can use the subsetting tools of the FontSquirrel expert panel to reduce the final size of the file ;-)

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Clay Christiansen - Reinventing IT

In his Reinveinting IT talk at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2011 Clay Christiansen shared five models that improve the probability of successful innovation. Here are some of my notes from his talk:

1) Disruption

  • “Little boys beat giants by disruption.”
  • Story of steel market: integrated mill vs mini-mills. How the mini-mills took the market starting from the bottom. Integrated mills started to get out of the segments of the market with lower profit margins leaving them to the mini-mills, and gradually the mini-mills started to take each one of those beating the integrated mills with a low cost strategy. Today 60% of the market share is owned by mini-mills and there is only one integrated mill left.
  • “Low cost strategy only works when there is a higher cost competitor in your market.”
  • To beat a giant pick a small part of the market that is not the core revenue maker for the giants, so the giants will not try to fight for it, they’d rather go to optimize for their profit so they will leave it. (A sort of paradox ~ everybody wins, the bigger makes more profit focusing on higher end products and the smallest increase also their profits because they take completely the smaller market). [Oracle and Toyota examples]
  • “If you’re worried about what might kill: look down, not to the left or the right”
  • “If you want to kill a giant think: “How can we make it more affordable and accessible so that you can come in in the least demanding tears of the market and then put them on the run, instead of engage with them”.

2) Compete against non-consumption

  • Example: How the transistors killed the vacuum tubes? (RCA vs Sony)
  • Started a new dimension, creating a new measure of performance to address a market of non-consumers or non-consuming occasions.
  • The vacuum tube producers mistake: they assumed they have to keep selling to the same market, even if they invested in technology as much as their current disruptors. Instead, their disruptors created new products that could only be done with this new technology and addressed a new market, a non-consuming market. They competed against non-consumption.
  • The size of the market cannot be measured by how many products are being sold, the real indicator should be how many customers can buy them.
  • This is called the “new market disruption”: the metric of performance changes.
  • “Is there somebody out there competing against non-consumption?”.
  • The decentralization that follows centralization.

3) Supply chain distribution

  • Talking about outsourcing as a way to get killed or to kill others.
  • Example: Dell being driven out of the consumer segment of computing by AsusTek.
  • The supplier moving up the value chain is driven by the pursuit of profit and the leading company prefers to move out and leave the lower margin levels of the stack to the supplier.
  • Two metrics are usually used to measure profitability (because finance people have preached them):
    • Internal Rate of Return (IRR) leads to short wins.
    • Return on net assets (RONA) leads to reducing the assets.

4) Target the job, not the customer

  • Milkshakes example. They studied the customers and asked them “what job are you hiring you the milkshake for?”.
  • Focus on the jobs that your customer needs to get done, rather on trying to convince your customers that your solution is the right for them. This is very similar to the lean startup and customer development methodology.
    • Example: a job is sending something from one place to another, it’s a jobs that has existed for centuries, however the way that we solve it now, FedEx, is very different from the way it was solve centuries ago, horse-couriers?.
  • “The customer rarely buys what the company thinks its selling him” Peter Drucker.
  • Three level in the architecture of a job:
    • What’s the job to be done? (Functional, emotional and social dimensions)
    • What experiences in purchase and use must we provide to do the job perfectly?.
    • What and how to integrate?
  • Integrating correctly to get the job done means:
    • Jobs are stable over long periods; they’re not vulnerable to product lifecycles.
    • Products are easy to copy but integration creates defensible differentiation.
    • Customers are happy to pay a profitable price.
  • “The job rarely changes, what changes is the way that we solve it”. This is related with the uber-required condition for entrepreneurs: “Be in love with the problem not with the/your solution”.
  • Focusing on the job rather on the product will reduce the probability of having a “one-size fits none” product.

5) Catch the tide of decommoditization

He didn’t make it on time to talk about this one, I’ll try to look for it in his book “Innovators dilemma” another day.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Notes: The game layer on top of the world

This is a set of notes taken from TED Talk given by Seth Priebatsch, founder of SCVNGR and LevelUp, called The game layer on top of the world.

  • Last decade was the decade of social, where the social layer was built. The next decade will be the decade where the “game layer” is going to be built.
  • The social layer is about connections. Already “owned” and built by Facebook and there is little more to innovate.
  • The game layer is about influence.
  • He mentioned 4 game dynamics, each one followed by 3 examples: one more traditional, one extracted from games, and one that could be improved.
    • Appointment dynamics
      • Happy hours, is the most popular form of appointment dynamics.
      • Farmville, return to the game every 12-24 hours to water the crops.
      • Vitality.
    • Influence and status
      • Platinum Credit Cards.
      • Modern Warfare Levels.
      • School Report Cards.
    • Progression dynamics
      • LinkedIn profile completion progress bar.
      • World of Warcraft.
      • Rewards on SCVNGR.
    • Communal discovery
      • Digg, the community discovers good content.
      • McDonalds Monopoly, collecting game pieces.
      • DARPA Balloon game, find balloons across USA.
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Blogging to learn by learning to blog

“Hello, World.”

I’v been wanting to start a blog for a while now, I always found some excuses to delay it: “I have to write my own blogging engine…”, “I will need too much time to keep it updated…”, “I need to improve my english first…” but the real reason was fear (yup, sounds like the lizard brain). It seems I finally overcame it.

Certainly I’m neither a good writer nor I have the english proficiency that I would like, but the effort I’m going to put in will compensate it and hopefully will help me to improve in both aspects.

I’m betting also on quality over quantity, I’ll try to write few articles but with good quality content and insights and try to keep the verbosity at minimum levels.

Why I’m starting a blog?

I’m not going to lie, I’ve read those “You should start blogging now!” articles, but what really made me click was that some weeks ago I found some interesting perspectives about blogging to learn. And so, my motivation will be to use this as a learning tool rather than a personal branding one.

With this philosophy in mind, I intend to transform my daily obsession of reading and consuming tech news (last time I checked I had over 100 RSS feeds on Google Reader) to a more “healthy” and analytical habit of selecting the best and the more relevant articles, share them and add some insights about them. I’m aware that producing content is much harder than consuming it but it is much more rewarding intellectually.

Sharing my notes

Some time ago I read an article about taking notes to improve learning and decided to follow its advice. So I changed my habits while reading books and watching (non-fiction) videos and started to take notes and extract the best parts to later compile a summary that I can use to remember the main ideas. This has helped me tremendously to increase the amount of things I can remember after reading and also helped me to distinguish the really valuable content from the rest.

I’m also planning to share here the notes I take and keep a sort of archive; making them public will make me put more effort into it.

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