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the porous city - tech - product management

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Four pitfalls of hill climbing
hmmm
But actually ends with a defense of hill climbing for product optimization.

Another good post about WeChat
When One App Rules Them All

WeChat has millions of "official accounts" - they're described as "apps within apps" here, but the author goes on to clarify that they're really web pages. Pages that WeChat gives APIs to handle payment, access to location, messaging - think of the amount of dev work it would take a typical mobile site or app to recreate that. Then think of how much more cumbersome and risky it feels to hand out credit card info or your email address to another site with janky UX and unknown data handling policies. As someone with a bias toward decentralization, it's terrifying how much more sense it makes to have a single provider mediate interactions this way.

What happens if Android tries to build in the same set of capabilities in at the OS layer? Or lets you swap in and out different identity/payment providers?

Great moments in product management
Scene: videoconference to discuss design of new dependencies feature
Me: I should warn you, I have a fourteen-year-old CS degree and I just went on Wikipedia.
My tech lead: (sighs deeply) Let me guess, topological sort.

Ignore this and die
"People's trust in the cloud in technology is based on a trust that it will work predictably and at their direction." - @grimmlem

Still learning the basics
Good product managers find and champion great ideas more than they create them. Raw creativity is great, but in this role taste and empathy are probably more important.

Why I'm still excited about feeds
Since moving to San Francisco and talking to people about joining the tech industry, I've been asked several times "so, what would you find it exciting to work on?" When I answer "feeds - you know, RSS, Atom that kind of thing" I invariably get a blank look. Maybe if I develop my thoughts I'll do a better job communicating my enthusiasm.

I use a feed reader daily. I use it to keep up with blogs that I'm interested in, of course. I've written before about how it changes the definition of a high-value blog, from high-volume to good signal to noise ratio.

That's the canonical geek use case for feeds. It's not going to take the world by storm, even with simpler tools.

But there are other things I use feeds for. I use them for anything that I want to check regularly that has a feed available:

  • My friends' Flickr photos (based on my Flickr contacts)
  • Comments on my Flickr photos
  • Local events (based on my last.fm profile)
  • Comments on MetaFilter threads that I care about
  • Trips my friends are taking (through Dopplr)

This is starting to look a lot like Facebook, right? And one way to look at Facebook is a feed reader in a social context. The design is nicer than MySpace's, but what really distinguishes Facebook is that central news feed. "Like" is a really simple method of subscribing to a feed, and becoming friends with someone subscribes you to multiple feeds about their activity.

Facebook's popularity means that hundreds of millions of people are looking at a feed reader every day. Many of the applications built on the platform are only possible because it's such a good interface for consuming feeds. Suffice to say I don't think Facebook is a fad that's going to die out. People's activity online is increasingly going to revolve around subscribing to, consuming and interacting with feeds.

But short of building a Facebook competitor, what are the opportunities for cool new applications? Watch this space.

Superb presentation on getting a job in product management


There isn't a lot of good information online about product management, at least compared to related disciplines like engineering, design and marketing. This presentation by Shreyas Doshi is a straightforward, fearless look at what it takes to get a great product manager role.

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