Wednesday, February 29, 2012

fMC NYC 02.29

Facebook had its first marketing conference (fMC) in NYC today.  As Facebook gets ready to become a publicly traded company, they are starting to showcase their marketing platform to not just marketers but potential investors around the world.  Facebook is going directly for the online advertisement market that Google has been dominating for past decade with AdWords.

Overall fMC sessions were built around two major enhancements: Timeline for Business Page and Enhanced  Page Insights.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Google+'s challenge: don't be another Facebook

I have a Google+ account.  I had to ask my team member in India who had connection with someone at Google India to get me an invite.  I even heard of people bidding for Google+ invites on eBay back when Google was slowly rolling out its new social network back in June 2011.  Today, there was an article on Wall Street Journal about Google+ falling well behind Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace to take seventh social network site in terms of average minutes spent per visitor in January.  Is Google+ just having a slow start or is the slow user adoption symptomatic of fundamental problem?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Creative process

Sir Ken Robinson defines creativity as applied imagination.  He talks about creative process through which individual imaginations are applied to solve a useful problem.  I agree.

He has been talking about changing our education system to rise to this new challenge.  Education should not be about creating artificial competition among students.  Instead it should be encouraging each individual student to tap into their passion and to think critically for themselves.

I've been a big fan of what Sr Ken Robinson has been preaching around the world.  If you haven't seen it before, it should provide nice sidebar conversation around the power of collaboration.  After all, creative process involves people, and quickest way to get to the applied imagination is through collaboration.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pitfalls in implementing creative process

Yesterday I blogged about how good ideas are created through creative process and collaboration.  Often good ideas are found in pieces which would then have to be put through collaboration to make it complete.  Only then the idea will be ready for implementation.

It sounds all simple but in real life it's anything but.  There are many pitfalls that will derail this creative process.  I want to share a few that I have seen.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Good idea comes from collaboration

No one has monopoly on good ideas.  Although everyone knows this, it is a different matter to make use of these wealth of good ideas in your organization.  What's interesting is that ideas are often they come in pieces.  It's up to the team to get all ideas on the table, and assemble them to synthesize the best idea.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Product Management: Take risks

In order to see a problem worth solving, you first have to put yourself in the user's shoes.  Once you can feel the user's pain, then you are ready to come up with your own solution.  Come up with a way to solve the problem.  Don't consult with user when you come up with a solution.  User knows the pain, but not the solution.  If you have truly become the user, you'll see how your solution will either work or will not work.  Only if you have a clear idea of how your solution will solve user's problem, talk to your user.  User is there to give binary answer, yes or no.  Either your solution will work for them, or it won't.

When coming up with your solution, take risks.  Smallest risk that you can take is thinking outside the box when you are coming up with your own solution.  Medium risk that you can take is not talking to user to check whether solution that you have will work for them.  Biggest risk that you cannot afford to take is not feeling the pain and putting yourself in user's perspective.  If you don't do the last one, you are either not solving the problem worth solving or framing the problem in wrong way.

First understand the problem, then take risks.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

If you don't innovate, software is not the right industry for you

I spent most of today working with engineering team.  We were talking about redesigning one of our 6-year-old UI pages, and there was a question from an engineer:
Engineer: There must have been a reason why we made a decision to go with the current design.  It probably was designed to meet customer request [and therefore it must have been the right decision].
He was explaining why options on the UI page must have ended up being the way it is today.  Some customer interaction through somebody, probably product management team, must have driven the requirement to create the UI page that we have today.  He's probably correct.  But he missed a crucial point about software business.  It's that there is no staying still in software business.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tumblr for designers

I've known Tumblr for a couple of years now, and seen its steady growth over past 24 months.  It's a social blogging platform that emphasizes the design and ease of posting short blurb with photos and links.  It has been very successful in building core community of designers.  These designers in turn create beautiful content which further differentiates Tumblr from other social blogging platforms like Blogger and Wordpress.

David Karp is the founder of Tumblr, and it was interesting to see his interview recorded at DLD Conference.  Especially how he was able to turn a simple idea into powerful blogging platform by focusing on its community of designers.  I think it was brilliant idea to focus on designers who can create content which will attract users to curate those interesting content to their friends.

David talks about different ideas of creating revenue models to sustain their business, and it's great to hear that he's not losing his focus in creating sustainable revenue model that helps further their designer focus.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Yes, I did say I am a Google Fan: suggestions from a concerned fan

I consider myself as a typical Google user.  I have a geeky computer science background.  I understand how software works.  I still see myself as a coder not as a product manager or engineering manager.  And when I look at Google, I see lot of my engineering self in the company and their product.  Google is a wonderful company created by engineers and now run by engineers.  I feel this indescribable affinity when I look at beautifully simple Google search page.

Yes, I am a Google Fan and
I hope they get their privacy right
I guess you can say the same thing about Facebook, which is also started by a coder and run by a coder.  I think Facebook has done many great things with regards to creating rapid iterative engineering process and creating a super scalable platform.  Yet, when I look at Facebook, I wonder whether there is really a product that someone can use.  After all, network is only as good as people it connects you with.  Because real product of Facebook is handful of my friends who keep me entertained with their curated articles and creative postings, I don't feel their engineering work is shining through their product as much as Google Search does.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Product Management: Trust is not optional

So you are a product manager now?  Is that a move up [from engineering management role]?
- Anonymous recruiter

Good percentage of product managers start their product career after exploring engineering career path.  I am one of them.  Having started out as coder, I stumbled upon an opportunity to try out my product management aptitude.  I took that chance with a bit of hesitation.  I think one reason was because of lateral move.  In addition it was not clear whether product management role was something that I would enjoy or be good at.

Social media: it's real public media

Just because you own social media account, it does not mean that you want to share your personal life on your account.  You may have small number of followers on your Facebook or YouTube account, but that does not mean that what you share will remain private.  In contrary, your Facebook and YouTube account are media channels that you don't really have control over.  What you share among your friends can be shared to your friends of friends, and before you realize, it can be making national headline on the next morning news (just like it happened with father who shot his daughter's laptop for posting complaints of him on Facebook).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Don't be fooled by "don't be evil"

Yesterday Wall Street Journal reported that Google has been secretly harvesting user information from Safari browsers.  In the headline story, WSJ called out Google's action as "iPhone tracking" which was done against privacy policy implemented by Apple's Safari browser.  Google has been injecting cookie even when users on Safari browser did not opt in to such practice, and just stopped before WSJ cover story broke a few days ago.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Strange world of enterprise software

I work for enterprise software company.  Now that I have been wearing product manager hat for about a couple of years, I can see strange dynamics going on within enterprise software business at first hand.  Those of you who had enterprise software business background will know what I'm talking about.  Enterprise software market works with different rules than end-user software market.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Internet voting

I like to coin words. I am a fan of Stephen Colbert. And so I have coined the word "oxytopian" to talk about this dream of a secure Internet voting. I think that's -- secure Internet voting is a bit like the phrase safe cigarettes.
- RONALD L. RIVEST, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Today there was a story on PBS News Hour about internet voting.  This may sound like deceptively simple problem especially given the fact that there are many internet polling products in the market already.  Polling problem has been solved multiple times.  Most notably with Facebook Question, you can easily set up polling among your Facebook friends.  Is voting different from polling?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Social media is lifting all boats

Yesterday I talked about how anticipating the market is critically important in creating highly successful product.  One example is social media.  It's not Facebook driving the social media trend.  Instead it's younger generation and mobile workers who are driving the market.  Facebook was in the market at the right time as the most compelling product to become the biggest platform.

This social media trend is lifting all boats.  MySpace, the early winner in social media market, has been in decline for the past few years.  But with new ownership and focus on niche market, it's now starting to grow again.  It's the case of market growing and more people demanding contextual network where people can share information with like-minded people.

As I wrote earlier, I expect more social media sites to become larger and social network sites to be even more fragmented.  Social media market will continue to grow, and this will force enterprise to adopt the social media.  We are yet to see this big disruption in enterprise, and it will create a huge market for existing collaboration tools and social media companies.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Product Management: Winner anticipates the market

I am flying out to Boston for a meeting.  When you fly and cannot find a Wi-Fi connection, you get to step out of constant barrage of emails landing on your inbox, and get to have some quiet time.  I've decided to use this time to think about product strategy.  It's something that I don't get to think about on daily basis.

The central question is this: as a product manager and entrepreneur how can you ensure that your product will have a big market and can disrupt existing products to become a major player?  When I look back on products that changed my life over past 20 years, I see some patterns in best seller products.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Product Camp Silicon Valley 2012

Last year I serendipitously discovered Product Camp Silicon Valley.  I think I was looking for networking opportunity with other product managers in the area, and went to UX Eye - San Francisco and Product Design Guild at at 500 Startups before discovering Product Camp.  I have to say that Product Camp is the place to meet fellow product managers, entrepreneurs, developers and designers all in one place.  I was very impressed with quality of speakers that they were able to assemble and how well it was organized over all.  Later I found out that it was run by volunteers, which made me even more appreciative.

In addition to interesting series of talks, there are lots of chance to interact with fellow product managers and share the experiences being the product owners in different organizations.  Best of all, the event is free of charge.

I highly encourage you to attend it.  It's coming up on Saturday March 24th at eBay San Jose campus.  As of now, it looks like registration is still wide open.  Take advantage of this opportunity to find out what's hot in the Silicon Valley and get connected.

Hope you see you there.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fragmented communication channels

My wife wrote an email to me saying she was concerned that we have communications issues. I immediately sent an IM asking her to clarify. She messaged me on Facebook saying not to worry but that sometimes we're not as connected as she'd like. I tweeted her that I love her more than anything. She texted me that she loves me too and was tired after a long day of work. So I leaned over and kissed her good night.
- Brian Babin, Senior Director of Product Manager at Actiance
If you are on any number of social network, I'm sure you can relate to Brian's story.  Especially roughly half of U.S. population who own smartphone will know.  We use different communication channels to talk to different people.  We use email to correspond to get promotions from companies, Facebook to keep up with friends and family, LinkedIn to maintain our virtual Rollerdex of business contacts, Twitter to get and share breaking news in real time, and Pinterest to discover and express yourself with photos.

Not so uncommon in today's world...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

You manage your own brand; create something

How to make a million dollars: First, get a million dollars.
- Steve Martin
We live in age of social media.  We all have become media owner of our own social circles.  We have friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, colleagues on LinkedIn and members on Blogger.  If you have been active on social media, you'll probably have a Facebook Page or two with fans and NetworkedBlogs account with a few followers as well.  All these channels have created an easy way for anyone to publish their voice.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why I miss my coding days

These days I often miss my coding days.  I miss the joy of putting things together and running it.  Building something with your own hands and seeing it taking a life of its own are very rewarding.  There is enormous satisfaction in seeing what you built is used by people.  It's something that you are not going to be able to describe to someone who has never coded.

Now that I have made transition to Product Management team, I rarely think about coding as rewarding and fun process.  Rather as business unit I think of coding as something to get through.  An obligatory time that you have to spend with developers to make sure the core requirements are met, and user experience stays as originally designed.  Development time is considered as long pole in time-to-market that needs to be crunched up to get to the market faster.  Business owners are incentivized to cut down the development time.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Email, killer app or first successful virus incubator?

I used to like getting emails.  Back in mid 90's I had about a handful of people who sent me emails.  All emails were either from my sister and classmates.  Checking your inbox using Pine was similar to checking your mail box.  When you found an email waiting for you, you were glad to see them.

15+ years later things are different.  Much different.  I get about 120 - 150 emails from people and another 150 - 200 emails from bug tracking system alerting defect change history.  In total I get about 270 - 350 emails a day.  That's just on my Outlook client.  Then I have my personal email accounts which collect about 50 - 100 emails a day from 3 different email accounts.  And I know that I'm just an average user.  I bet that most heavy users get hundreds more emails, if not more (probably Fred Wilson falls in this heavy user category when he blogged about getting drowned in email).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pinterest: social photo discovery site

Have you heard of Pinterest?  Are you on Pinterest?  I started to hear about them a few weeks ago, and their mention spiked around the last couple of weeks.  So I decided to give it a try, and see it for myself what the fuss was about.

Pinterest is a social photo discovery site with clean design;
If you felt Facebook is too complex and doesn't have enough product photos  to browse,
Pinterest is design just for you
One line description of Pinterest is a social photo sharing site with design sensibility.  What Pinterest got going for it is its clean design and easy way for new user to get started (what I would call on-boarding process).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why I think Facebook can grow even bigger

Like most of you I get more tweets than I can ever handle on my timeline.  While I was doing a quick scan through all tweets on my Home page, I got a tweet pointing to an article written by Jason Hiner, titled 'Let's be honest, Facebook is a badly overpriced photo-sharing and gaming site'.  I took a look at what he had to say and a few comments.

What I realized after reading was that there is a general misconception about what Facebook is about and what it means to every social media products.  Facebook is not about photo-sharing and gaming.  Yes, it has started as photo-sharing site for Harvard students and has enjoyed the big wave of user subscription thanks to casual viral games by Zynga.  But Facebook is not entirely about them.  It's about connecting people and making easy for people share information.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ann Lee: Lessons from China

While I was driving back home, I tuned to NPR this evening.  It so happened that Ann Lee, an Adjunct Professor at NYU and the author of book 'What U.S. Can Learn From China', was speaking at World Affair Council.

She started her career as bond trader shortly after her MBA, but decided to leave Wall Street after seeing how brokers and dealers were participating unethical trading practices that ultimately resulted in 2008 financial debacle.  During the talk, she talked about a couple of interesting points to think about.  Her main thrust of argument was that U.S. has a few things that is fundamentally broken, and can learn from China in fixing those problems.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Product Management: Being a product owner

Today I am going to talk a bit about product management discipline.  Since I switched over from engineering manager to product manager, I continue to learn how to become a better product manager.  I want to share what I've learned from my daily practice of product management from time to time, and interesting articles that I curated from the webmy sources.

One thing that I came to appreciate is how important for product manager to own the product.  Owning the product means that you are the ultimate person responsible for making YOUR product successful.  Whatever stands between successful product and where your product, you have to fix.  That's what it means to own the product.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fake Facebook accounts

Yesterday Barracuda Labs released amusing infographic about fake Facebook account characteristics.  Some interesting stats were most of fake accounts were created using female identity and often those fake accounts did not have consistent status update history.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What comes after Facebook IPO?

While I was reading today's Wall Street Journal coverage of Facebook IPO, I started to think about what might be coming up for social networks after Facebook IPO.  If we were to make some broad prediction of social network trends, what would they be?

As Sheryl Sandberg outlined three clear trends, I think there are quite clear trends that will accelerate into post Facebook IPO era.  Here is what I see happening.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Social network definition revisited

Recently I started to think about the question: what makes social network work?  What is sitting at the core of social network that makes it different from other types of networks?  What is the basis of all social networks?

I started to wonder about this question because I think knowing the core essence will help me understand where the focus will be to continue its adoption and predict what will come out of social network as the next trend.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

All Things D: Dick Costolo

All Things D had an interview with Dick Costolo the other day.  He talked about how Twitter is butting heads with Google about Google search ranking of Twitter results, and spent several minutes clarifying recent Twitter's announcement withheld tweets based on country location.