I read this article in Monday Note the other day and it struck me how much of a problem Facebook has on its hands. It’s about how Facebook is flat out harming it’s users through it’s core functionality and through its ads. Both are being revealed as destructive. Really good article.
This is an epic tweet storm about Apple’s development process by Steven Sinofsky. If you don’t know him, he ran the Microsoft Office business unit for over a decade. This rant touches on how to balance quality, launch dates and features, IBM, iPhone dominance and more…
1/ Apple has a software problem. Here’s how it plans to fix it. https://t.co/dJaikfRhs7 via @markgurman // Let’s take a step back and talk about the broader context and product development at scale. Lots follows…
3/ Scanning the landscape, it is important to recognize that in total the work Apple has been doing across hardware, software, services, and even AI/ML — in total — is breathtaking and unprecedented in scope, scale, and quality. Not saying that lightly or trolling. It just is.
5/ The pace of change has been remarkable. In the 10 years from when Apple acquired NeXT OS X was reinvented in a completely modern architecture. And in the next 10 years the iPhone went from that code to where we are today.
7/ Microsoft Office released ever 18-30 months from about 1990-2010 but had a shaky start so you could say that from 1995 it kept that cadence but today puts out mostly modest visible changes to be SaaS like.
9/ The only comparable project would be IBM System/360—the creation of IBM 360 hardware and software. The PC of course, but the scale (even at the time) was much less. Windows NT clearly had the scope/scale of software but had been done before (VMS) and built on PC h/w.
11/ What is lost in all of this recent discussion is the nuance between features, schedule, and quality. It is like having a discussion with a financial advisor over income, risk, and growth. You don’t just show up and say you want all three and get a “sure”.
13/ In practice when building Office (and later Windows) whenever someone on the team would panic and ask “are we date driven, feature driven, or quality driven” we would just roll our eyes and pull up a chair…This was so common we just called it conversation #37 and move on.
15/ Customers don’t care about any of that and that’s ok. They just look for what they care about. Each evaluates through their own lens. Apple’s brilliance is in focusing mostly on two audiences—end-users and developers—tending to de-emphasize the whole “techie” crowd, even IT.
17/ This approach is rather unique compared to other tech companies that tend to develop new things almost independent of everything else. So new things show up and look bolted on the side of what already exists. (Sure Apple can do that to, but not usually).
19/ There’s nothing magic about this. It goes back to a balancing act. Mature orgs just manage this the whole time. There are processes and approaches that you use so you never face the absurd notion that this is a zero sum trade off between quality, schedule, features.
21/ What I think it happening at Apple now is not more dramatic than that. What they had been doing got to a point where it needs an adjustment. Reality is that for many at Apple it feels dramatic b/c it might be first time they have gone through a substantial “systems” change.
23/ In my view the ‘moment’ is being manufactured a bit right now because of the perception that the Apple products have become less stable or…”buggy”. This is where the “signals” about the state of the world can get confusing.
25/ How does that explain general “buggy” feeling w/ so many super smart/skilled people saying products are suffering? It’s because of the depth and scale of usage that comes w/success. A responsibility.
27/ I can’t prove this but I’ve also worked on some really big projects where people said the same thing and we had tons of data. Apple has the same data. What is different is that at scale a bug that happens to 0.01% of people is a lot of people. A stadium full or more.
29/ The more a product is used the more hyper-sensitive people get to how it works. The human brain is extraordinary in how it recognizes even the slightest changes in responsiveness, performance, and sequencing of operations.
31/ But what happens to a team as complexity evolves is simply the challenge of coordination and more importantly consistency or leveling of decisions across a complex system. This is particularly acute if the bulk of the team has only known the previous few years of success.
33/ They have more data and understanding to make adjustments than anyone. The only thing I think is fair to say from the outside is that this is not nearly as dramatic as it is getting made out to be…
35/ The idea though that this is some massive shift to focus on one dimension of the overall product process: quality OR features OR date is just **nonsense**. Nothing of scale is thought of or executed that way.
37/ Big projects run poorly are “date driven” or “we’re getting this whole thing done (famously “second system syndrome”). Lame projects are “we’re fixing bugs” (used to call this “re-indenting all the source code”.
39/ Ultimately at MS used to have Conversation 37: • Eng wants to do nothing but fix code // BUG BUG • Sales wants new product every year w/new quotas • Press would like a new thing each month • Techies —revisit core UI, add options on demand • IT—no change, ever 🙂
41/ Some people say “oh consumer products need yearly releases” or “enterprise need constant value for SaaS”. The only thing you need is to do good products when you have them. In the scheme of things market timing except for seasonal-only products isn’t how to scale for 1B.
43/ Growth hacking or “move fast break things” sounded great until it wasn’t. This especially doesn’t/never worked in enterprise. Again, adopting a methodology absent building a great product *always* fails. “Internet time” was kind of a bust the first time around.
END/ So to me on Apple, even as an outsider, I feel confident saying that this isn’t reactionary/crisis or a response to externalities. Importantly it isn’t a massive pivot/“student body left”. It’s a methodical and predictable evolution of an extremely robust and proven system.
I made a few fun purchases in 2017. Here’s two that captured my attention…
They look ridiculous but man are they useful. I love them over all my other headphones because they
They connect to my phone every time, immediately and magically.
The charging mechanism is genius. Having the storage compartment be the charger is so smart.
Siri is nice on it. Every day, as i’m walking out of work, i pop them in my ear, hear a little noise that notifies me that they are on and connected. I then just double-tap the side of the earphone and say “Call Diane” and, having no idea where my phone is, a call is placed to Diane. It’s a big of magic.
Apparently, i’m not alone. The customer satisfaction surveys around these are off the charts – 98% from all customers with NPS of 75 and many people believing that this is the best Apple invention since the original iPhone.
I usually get a new iPhone every year so i can experience the latest and greatest. I spend hours a day on my phone and i justify the cost by this time and usage. However, this year’s lineup of iPhone X and 8 didn’t seem to be the latest and greatest. Sure there’s FaceID but having a new way to unlock my phone isn’t a reason to buy. There’s the big screen of the X, but i already have a 7 Plus which has a big screen. So, i wasn’t buying.
I WAS impressed with the new Apple Watch. It seemed that they had put the phone into the watch. This seemed like the new phone to experiment with. I also could imagine a future as: Apple Watch + AirPods + AR glasses = iPhone is just a battery pack that I never take out of my pocket. So, if that’s the case, I wanted to see what this future looked like.
I do enjoy it. Some observations
I have the LTE option so I don’t need my phone ever to get calls or texts or updates. While that’s cool and I do leave my phone at my desk at work all of the time now, I am rarely that far away from my phone. So, i never get the chance to really test this feature.
The battery life is great. I can go almost 3 days without a charge.
I do wish the watch was smaller. It’s too fat. I want a version that’s slimmer and has half the battery life. I’d be okay with that
The exercise app is the killer app for me. It keeps me putting it on every day as i want to see my steps, stands, and calories and how it measures up against other days. I’ve always been a sucker for gamification and motivates me.
PS: Shout out to my parents and wife for getting me both of these as birthday presents. You guys rock.
As a product person, sometimes you prioritize incremental improvements instead of game-changing ideas because “the big swings” take too long. This almost happened at Tinder and the “swipe right” almost didn’t exist.
Here’s an article in Wired where the CEO and CTO recount how they talked about it. Jon Badeen (The Chief Strategy Officer) came up with the idea after seeing it done in flash cards in Chegg. He then showed the rest of the team.
Sean Rad (CEO): We had a five-minute conversation. It was a cool idea, bt jon thought it would take two weeks to build. So I said, eh, probably not a priority. That was right after we launched. We had a whole set of wings we wanted to do
Ryan Olge (CTO) chimes win with: We wanted to do read receipts, typing notifications, all these things
Then all of the sudden it showed up in the app. Apparently Jon worked on it over the weekend because he really wanted it.
Apple announced the new iPhone 7 yesterday and announced that they are removing the headphone jack. Some quick thoughts on that…
Short Term Pain
It’s annoying to have to live in a world where my phone does not have a headphone jack as I have many different headphones laying around and to use them I have to use an extra dongle that i have to carry with my phone. Also, for people who want to listen to music and charge their phone at the same time – a common use for Uber and Lyft drivers, this is now impossible (although i did see this solution). For all of these reasons, I think it will be a pain in the ass for many people – including myself in the short term.
Moving towards the future
I do think that the wireless technology of headphones is underrated and way more advanced than we are aware. By forcing the issue and making these headphones mandatory, Apple will bring more and more great wireless headphones available. I can imagine a world in 5 years where everything is wireless.
From my use of the Echo, I does seem that the only thing between the cloud and my is voice. Having a sweet set of headphones that can access it all of the time seems like the right way to go.
The use of the word “courage”
This was totally ridiculous. Apple, even if you think it, don’t say it. When you’re causing so much short-term pain to your customer, don’t get up on stage and pat yourself on the back. That was a dumb move.
The Apple eco-system
Now all headphone manufacturers who build a lightning connector are married to the iPhone. Doing this will result in more lock-in than ever before. This was definitely part of their thought-process when coming to this decision. Apple loves the lock-in.
Back in 2010, Toby, Nader and I went into Techstars. In the Techstars bunker we took our seats next to two young guys who had a crazy look in their eyes. These two guys, Ian and Adam, were hard core robotics and mobile engineers and we liked them immediately.
The problem was that they didn’t really have a good idea for their company. After a few weeks of discussing what to do with mentors, they decided to make smart hotel room keys. Keys that could be controlled by your smart phone. It was a huge market and seemed destined to be a successful company. There was one issue with their plan: they totally weren’t into it. One of their mentors asked them “What do you guys do in your spare time?” They replied that they played games. He responded, “why don’t you do that instead?” And thus the robotic ball, the original Sphero, was born.
Five years later the balls are better, faster and in more styles (check out Ollie, he’s awesome). They just yesterday released the coolest version yet, the Droid BB-8 that will be featured in the upcoming Star Wars film.
These two guys went from nothing in the basement in Boulder to producing with Disney the coolest toy in the world. A huge congratulations to them. Well done!
I just read this article by Michael Simmons and it was really interesting. It states that that simply being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success.
The idea is that people in open networks have unique challenges and perspectives. Because these curious folk are part of multiple groups, they have unique relationships, experiences, and knowledge that other people in their groups don’t. These views lead to more and better opportunities.
The chart for this is:
It also interesting to see how this played out with Steve Jobs. He always advocated for diversity of experiences. In a Wired interview in 1995, he said:
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.
It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences.
So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.
I love this position. The experiencing of different industries, different cultures and different perspectives is a great goal to have.
This is post #11 about the Qloud experience. The previous post was about about the launch of Qloud. You can read that here.
Once we launched, we grew extremely fast. I have to say that being part of a company that is blowing up is really really fun. Everyone is constantly happy. As a product person, this is what you work for and when it happens, it feels great.
We did some things that were shady and other things were legit and very smart. Some things we did:
We wouldn’t let you use the application unless you invited 25 friends. We had a nice UI that let you quickly select 25 faces and then it would open. While extremely annoying, it worked really well.
We integrated deeply into the new feed. We knew all of our users play history, including from iTunes and we’d launch really interesting news feed items to friends that read, “Of all the songs played last week by your friends, here are the 3 not in your library. Click here to play.” This is great music discovery, right in your news feed.
We started understanding and using the link sharing networks. Lots of other apps were selling the ability to recommend users download other apps. You could buy space there and buy installs. We experimented a lot with all of them. Some were pretty cheap and effective. Interestingly, Steve Case really dug into this too. For someone with his success, we was not afraid to get into the weeds. I also give a lot of credit to our lawyer and BD guy here, Jim Delorenzo (now head of Sports at Amazon), for this success as he really figured it out.
I give Noah R-S (now Chief Product Officer at DailyMail) a lot of credit for hacking Facebook. He understood it at a level that probably only a few dozen in the world did.
We also started exploring a business model by selling links to ringtones.
Our growth was so fast that we’d get lots of calls from record labels and lawyers asking to shut us down. They saw the streams happening on Qloud and wanted it to stop. It took them a while to realize that we had co-opted YouTube for the streams.
Parking in San Francisco is a pain and I always dreaded visiting some of my friends as i knew i’d be circling for a long long time.
That is, until i met Luxe. They are an on-demand valet service. About 10 minutes before you arrive somewhere, you open the app and drop a pin at where you’re going. They will then have someone meet you there who will then take your car and park it for you in one of their lots. The valets cruise around on little foot scooters which they put into your trunk when they take your car.
Also, you can have them bring your car to a different spot than where you dropped it off. So, on a friday night if I meet my friend at his house and then we walk to dinner and then take a Lyft/Uber to a movie/show somewhere, i can then have my car delivered to me once we’re all done so I can drive home.
The price is what makes it doable. It’s $5 an hour or $15 daily max. It’s less than most garages in the city but with more convenience.
They also have a $300 monthly unlimited use rate which is also cool if you want to use it for work or if you don’t have a parking spot at home. I somehow doubt that it’s that profitable, or profitable at all as a business, but if VC’s want to fund my convenience, i’ll take them up on that offer.
This is post #9 about the Qloud experience. The previous post was about about how we used YouTube as a music engine. Read that post here.
The year is 2007 and we’re building as fast as we can our new music service. It’s going to be a full-powered music streaming service on top of a collaborative music search engine and it’s going to be sweet.
Before we launched I went out to lunch with Sean Parker (known by many of you as Justin Timberlake in the movie The Social Network). At the time he had left Facebook and was about a year into his new VC gig at Founders Fund. We sat down to lunch and the subject immediately turned to our upcoming launch. He asked, “Hey, do you know about Facebook’s platform?” I didn’t and he went to explain it to me. Basically FB needed a way to expand and what better way than have companies build their product in to Facebook. While the 3rd party companies would provide the development, Facebook would allow you to message and add their users as your users. It sounded cool.
I went back to the team and explained this upcoming launch. I got in touch with Dave Morin (yep, the Path founder used to be head of Facebook platform) and he gave us access to the platform. Our plan was to build a subset of our service on Facebook and gain some early users. Then, when we launched our new website we could make a claim that says, “We already have 10,000 users on Facebook.”
It did not go that way at all.
Launching on Facebook right when the Platform was launching was probably one of the best things we did. Because it was new, it had a bunch of early adopters. It also had a bunch of loopholes that allowed us to market and message millions of users. If you remember getting a ton of requests to join some stupid game, that was the platform. We used to do things like “You can’t install our app unless you invite 30 friends.” and people did it.
Of course Facebook wasn’t happy about this, but we weren’t going to stop. Kudos goes to our colleague Noah who really figured out how to growth hack the crap out of it.
Lessons learned: at both Kapost and Qloud, we grew because we attached ourselves to a tidal wave in the industry. In Qloud it was the Facebook platform and Kapost it was Content Marketing. Facebook eventually would shut down the platform but not until much later. Heck, even Zynga used it to become a billion dollar company leveraging Facebook’s platform. Sometimes the bright and shiny new thing in the industry is worth going after.
The next post is about the actual launch. Check that out here.