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.
In mid-December I bought Twitter stock for ~$45 a share. Here’s why:
I’m bulling on Twitter as a social network. I think it has lots of great use cases that almost anyone could benefit from. It will only grow in popularity once people start realizing what it is.
I think Dick Costolo is a great CEO and product person. I’ve watched numerous interview with him (including this great PandoMonthly one), have followed his path since Feedburner, and I believe he has the company running on the right track and is doing a great job.
Twitter is just now starting to monetize but I think they’ll be able to pull in a good amount of money.
When I bought their market cap was 20 billion. At 10x multiples, that means they have to have yearly revenues of $2 billion. That seems feasible for me that they’ll get there.
I was happy with my purchase. Then, on Wednesday night Twitter announced their first ever earnings since going public. What a disaster it was. First off, everyone compares them to Facebook even though they are completely different. Second, they have seemed to have stopped growing. Look at this chart:
That’s not good. They need to grow. They only added 1 million US users in Q4. Wow, that is a crazy low number.
So, while I am still a believer, I think it might be a tough year or two (or three) until they hit mainstream. Trust me, it’ll be a better world when they do.
One of my new favorite things to do is watch the PandoMonthly videos. They are really long – usually over 90 minutes – but it is a super in-depth interview with one of the internet’s big dogs. My favorite one so far is a 2-hour video with John Doerr who worked early on at Intel and sits on the board of Google and Amazon.
Last night i watched Fred Wilson’s interview. Some highlights:
He talked about how it was a huge loss for Twitter to not buy Instagram. He thought that with the trifecta of tweets, images and video, Twitter could challenge and possibly unseat Facebook. But Twitter didn’t have the assets that FB had of pre-IPO shares or valuation to be able to offer them the amount they needed, thus they lost the sale. He remarked on how it was just genius for Zuckerberg to recognize that possibility.
He talked about CEO’s of his portfolios such as the Twitter trifecta, Etsy and Tumblr. How Twitter is like the Beatles in that it had multiple creators who were all vital at different stages: Jack at stage 1 in building the product, Ev at stage 2 in building the company and Dick at stage 3 in building the business. He also points to this terrific post about how Tumblr is all about David Karp and is really a one-person product.
On that he told a story about how at Etsy, they were promoting the #2 guy to the CEO position and he went to the board and said, “hey, you’re promoting the wrong guy. That guy down the hall is beloved by the company, runs the biggest business unit and bleeds Etsy. You should promote him.” Pretty cool story of something putting the company’s interest above theirs.
Hating Saas: he talked about why he hates investing in Saas companies (1:18 mark) because they get commoditized too easily.
About bitcoin: he talked about how it is the closest thing he’s seen to a replacement for cash money and that’s why he’s investing. He’s also investing there because he’s burnt out on social.
About SnapChat: It’s not a replacement of instagram, but rather the text message (or WhatApp). It’s not a photo service but rather a messaging service. (see my thoughts on Snapchat here)
About blogging every day: He hates how media distorts his message so he’s taken it on himself to create his own media so he can control it.
All in all, some good stuff. The full video is here:
The election is over and we can get on with our lives. For me, living in Colorado meant that our television stations were nothing but ads either telling us that Romney was a bastard or that Obama was incompetent. I know people who believe those messages and I don’t want to really talk about whether they’re right or wrong. It’s just exhausting.
I loved watching my Twitter feed on election night. I have to say that for live, unpredictable events like disasters, elections, and sports, – twitter really shines. That said, i was also really impressed with the coverage on television. The big board on CNN was way more informative with actual stats than any other medium. They knew where things were going down, when they were happening, and why. Twitter was snarky and fun but TV was actually helpful.
The big winner to me for this election was Nate Silver. If you don’t know Nate, and I didn’t until a little it ago, he’s a guy who first gained recognition for developing a system for forecasting the performance of professional baseball players. One day he woke up and wanted to the same for politicians. Last election in 2008, he built FiveThirtyEight.com (538 is the total number of electoral votes out there) and used his crazy smart algorithms to predict, with really cool charts, who would win. When the final votes came in, he correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 state and all 35 Senate races that year. Way closer than almost every one else. Continue reading “Election Thoughts: Twitter and Nate Silver”→
With a new year (i know we’re a month old already) I’ve been wondering more about what the future holds. I have a few thoughts i’d like to share and get your thoughts. They are some prediction of the technology space. Here they go:
More and More Social Networks. I wrote in 2007 when Facebook released “The Platform” that they would take over the web. Their product updates since then have great and as a result, they’ve been killing it for years and been gobbling up users (approaching 1 Billion now). However, this year I saw more and more social networks emerge. You have Path, Instagram, Foursquare, FoodSpotting and others. It’s easy for me to see now that in the future everyone will be on Facebook but that’s not where everyone will share. It will be fragmented. Depending on what you share (Food, Books, Photos, etc.), you may be someplace else and sharing with a smaller group. Facebook will continue to be a huge company but their days of being the only game in town are numbered. Social is now not a facebook-only feature. Everyone has it. The future is more about what your social activity revolves around. I’ve started to tell people that “facebook is a fad” and it’s old news. That’s not entirely true but it’s more true now than ever.
The Future of Local Publishing More and more people are trying to get into local publishing. The local newspaper has seen its classifieds, sports, world news and national news all get marginalized by other outlets (TV, internet, twitter, etc.). All that’s left is local. I used to be bullish on Patch, but that’s waning as i don’t see them innovating and it seems to be too big and too expensive an operation at each location. That may change though. With that said, here’s my prediction for what wins in a local community:
You have a site, this could be a WordPress site or Tumblr or whatever. It’s managed by one to three super-engaged people who are not pulling a salary (or a minimal one). They do two things. First, they curate all the news from papers, blogs and other local sites that are reporting in their community. Second, they accept via twitter and their site submissions of links and news. They curate both of them and then spit it out back to their followers on their site and on Facebook and Twitter. This becomes the best real-time source of news.
This works because it is impossible for one source to aggregate all the information themselves (what newspapers used to do) but it is all being covered by other people who are willing to share. The new local publisher is a connector of local interests to other web sites. I could see this being just a twitter feed or a Tumblr blog. Whatever the destination is, it’s heavily conversational and constantly curated.
Just some predictions i have. Would love to hear your thoughts.
I’ve noticed over the past year or so that the number of friends of mine who blog is decreasing. I’m seeing less posts. To me this is because Twitter and Facebook have taken all their thoughts. The “I love Tron!” thoughts are now going into status messages and not into blog posts. Which, to me, is fine.
But there’s actually been an increase in long-form posts i’m seeing. The blogs i’m reading are full of actual articles of great stuff. It’s great to get the “I love Tron” type comments on to Facebook and Twitter so the blog can hold longer form of actual thoughts and analysis.
I recently read a great article by Clive Thompson about just this topic. His theory is that something more complex and interesting is actually happening. He says, “The torrent of short-form thinking is actually a catalyst for more long-form meditation.” He states, “We talk a lot, then we dive deep.”
I just saw a great video that breaks down Led Zepplin and how many of their tracks were stolen from other tracks. While interesting, it makes the larger point which i completely agree with that “everything is a remix” today and it always has been. Taking previously created content and altering it to make something similar but also original and unique is what art’s all about.
Over the past few years, i’ve grown to love the music mashup which is when a DJ takes two or more (sometime a dozen) songs and mixes them all together to create a new song. Some of my favorites have U2+a rap song, an instrumental with Star Wars soundtrack, and 80’s classic with Jay-Z (links to all songs are below). I’ve noticed a few things: (a) that listening to these tracks is totally different than listening to the original, even though they sound extremely similar; (b) the best music mashups have a classic rock backbone and then from another tune faster lyrics on top of it.
Mashups and remixes of all kind are all over. I’m seeing it in TV shows, for instance in The O.C. where they did an episode just like the Spider Man movie or when Avatar recycles the plot from Dances With Wolves. Everyone has biases and influences so it’s rare to find something truly original. Even when copying though, you are creating something new. When Twitter launched, people thought it was just a copy of the News Feed application that was just one part of Facebook ,but it’s grown into something completely different than Facebook. I always thought a cool movie idea would be an entire movie and narrative but every lined used is from another film. Some lines are famous, and others wouldn’t be as recognizable. I think it’s a cool thought.
I’m pro-remix. I think more people should try it. Personally, I have a goal for myself over the next 12 months to actually create a music mashup of my own where i can actually use the tracks i enjoy the most to make something original. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Here are my favorite music mashups that i’ve posted on my music blog where i post one good song every weekday:
Speed. Fred sees speed more than a feature. Speed is the most important feature and he argues that this is more important with mainstream users an early-adopters who are more forgiving. Everyday users have no tolerance for slugish apps. I heard the same thing from Google when they presented at Techstars. They measure everything and if it’s slow, they fix it. Fred mentioned pingom as something they use to measure every portfolio company.
Instant Utility. If a user has to spend too long to configure the service – it won’t catch on. YouTube is a great example of how it won by providing instant feedback rather than delaying the gratification.
Voice. Consumer software is media today. Consumers approach in the same way the approach magazines, tv shows, etc.. Software has to have a personality and if it has no attitude, then it won’t catch on.
Simplicity. Just one main feature at launch. Fred points to Delicious as a perfect example of this. Make the app super simple and then go from there. There are lots of good posts on how to focus on this.
Programmability. Make your app accessible from other developers. This means read+write API’s and if’s not “write” it’s not an API and might as well be RSS. Allow other developers to add energy, data and richness. In Fred’s mind this is absolutely essential and he’s hesitant to invest in anything that isn’t programmable.
Personalizable. You want make your app infused with your user’s energy.
REST URLs. Make your app easy to navigate – give everything a URL. This also makes is discoverable from Google.
Discoverable. There are millions of web pages and web applications. This point means SEO but it also means that your app itself should be self-promoting. This means social media and branding.
Clean. This is UI requirement. You need to be able to come to the page and be able to immediately determine what to do and what’s going on. It has to be inviting and simple.
Playful. An app should be fun to use and it’s use should encourage future use. Weigh Watchers is a good example as it establishes points and goals and getting the points and acheiving goals is something that should be embedded in each application
There one more interesting point he spits out at the end about the name and brand of a company. He talks about how important it is to him that the company purchases the actual name of the company. For example, Foursquare was playfoursquare.com and they insisted that they change. He also insisted that del.icio.us become delicious.com.
The 10 principles are interesting to think about and a good checklist for any startup to have. I’ve definitely been guilty of ignoring some of these in my past work. Interesting stuff
Was watching this video today (below) with the Twitter COO. When asked about the advertising strategy, he says:
You will see an advertising strategy from us in the very near future. And i think that it will be…um…fascinating and completely non-traditional and people will love it…. The genuis of Google when Google first rolled out ads was that the ads were also the kinds of things that people were looking for. So we want to do something that is organic and in the flow of the way people already use twitter and not here are the tweets and here are the ads. So it’ll be very organic. It’ll be very cool and people will love it when they see it.
This is exactly the right strategy. I know from experience as does anyone who’s every tried to sell traffic to ad agencies that the banners are not working. The click-throughs and engagements are low. The IAB unit needs some help and the best way to help is to generate ads organically within the content. What Twitter’s strategy is, i’m not sure but i did see this video today where Steven Fry suggested that tweeters can sell access to their accounts. That would be interesting.
Here’s Twitter COO below. The ad discussion is at 17 minute mark
This is an interesting chart that i found on Seth Godin’s blog here:
As he says: “The challenge is in designing structures and transparency that will attract the good guys while burying or repelling those that seek the new technology (because they can’t find anywhere else to go). In other words, you either need to move the top left to the top right (not easy, but possible*), or educate the bottom left of the grid in how to contribute to the culture (really difficult indeed). The best new media (like blogs and possibly twitter) open doors to people who didn’t used to have a voice. The worst ones (like blogs and possibly twitter) merely create new venues for scams and senseless yelling.”
People like to bemoan new technologies but it’s just lazy to criticize the entire sector. Some innovations move you ahead (upper right) and some introduce new problems (lower right)