Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Benefits of face-to-face communication

I practically live on the phone.  I get on the phone to talk to development team in India.  I get on the phone to speak to sales engineering team all over the world.  I get on the phone to talk to customers and support team.  Thanks to desktop sharing apps like WebEx and Microsoft OCS, I get to share documents, do awkward whiteboard drawing using my trackball, and get to see the feature requests or bugs directly as it happens on customer environment.

I cannot imagine working without a phone line and desktop sharing application.

But whenever I get to visit a customer, a sales person, a support engineer or anyone in person, I realize how much signal I am missing from just muffled VoIP audios.  It's like one of those moments when you don't realize what you are missing until you actually try it.  All of sudden you are noticing details that you did not notice from voice calls.  The information bandwidth is qualitatively different with a in-person meeting.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Google+ Sign-In

Google announced its single-sign-on service support, Google+ Sign-In.  It's a simple idea.  Just like OpenID and Facebook Connect, Google wants to be the identity platform where many applications can manage their user accounts.  This means the following:

  • Application developers don't have to worry about creating a registration page or losing passwords.
  • Google gets to learn about all user's online identities, and can learn more about where we have accounts and when user signs on.
  • Users don't have to go through sign-up process with new service, and remember just a Google password to access all applications.
Each party gets something in return.  But are they of equivalent value?

It depends on how much you as the user value your online profile and privacy.  

Monday, February 25, 2013 is going freemium

It's happening.  Pay-to-play is going freemium.  In case you haven't been following, is the  crowd-funded subscription based social network that started last year.  Having been inspired by the ideal of creating a social network where it actually caters for the users, I joined the network.

I must admit that I haven't been active on the network since joining.  I have test drove the UI and downloaded an app on my phone, but I failed to incorporate the new network into my daily social networking routine.

For a casual user like me, it's all about automating the posting to a point where I don't have to think about posting.  When I write a blog entry, it gets automatically posted to Facebook and Twitter.  When Twitter allowed posting to LinkedIn, LinkedIn was also another network where I would post blog updates, but we all know what happened with the LinkedIn-Twitter relationship.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Asking questions

It's easy to cruise through life.  When in motion, breaking the flow is hard.

But to get better at what you do, you have to break the flow from time to time.  You have to stop and question whether what you are doing is leading you in the right direction.  It could be that you are missing something that you could be doing.  You may know more about the goal.  Or the goal may have changed along the way.

When I started my career, I thought that working hard meant writing lots of code or finding as many bugs as I could.  If I was doing more, I had to be adding more value, so I thought.  I did not stop and asked whether one more line of code would make our project more successful, or one more known bug would help us ship a higher quality product.  In reality, it's neither the lines of code nor the list of known bugs that create a better product.  They are the steps to the goal.  They are means to an end in implementing a solution for our customers.  Writing more lines of code does not necessarily mean that the product will be ready earlier.  Knowing one more bug does not necessarily mean that customers will find the product quality to be higher.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sean Johnson: Intentionally

Sean Johnson is the lead of product development at Digital Intent.  He runs the Chicago Growth Hackers Meetup and wrote for Lifehacker, Technori and other sites.  He offers interesting perspective to entrepreneurship and career development through his own experience of learning how to design at the job.

He has been sharing his thoughts on his blog Sean Johnson Intentionally.  Here are a few blog posts that I found interesting:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Do it the right way vs. do it the fastest way

When I discuss features with engineers, I often get questions like this:
  • Shouldn't we do it the right way?
  • Are we creating too much technical debt to get this feature by the end of the month?
  • Instead of doing it in a quick-and-dirty way, let's do _____.
  • If there were no time pressure, we could have designed it in the right way.
These are questions that I would call design-and-speed trade-off questions.  These questions assume one thing.  The assumption is that we have to make trade-off between well designed feature and time-to-market.

Product Management: Job interview checklist

I have been scanning dozens of resumes and doing initial phone screening interviews with candidates.  I have seen a very wide range of interview preparedness from many candidates, and I thought sharing a few tips for job seekers from hiring manager's perspective might be helpful for some job seekers in the market.  I'm hoping that you can be more successful in landing the in-person interview by following these tips.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Social media security

In the past week, Burger King and Jeep had their Twitter accounts hacked.  It looked pretty silly to lose control over their official Twitter handle.  Seeing some prankster's tweets on their timeline gave us something to talk about.  But in the end, it's something that could have happened to anyone.

We all know the right thing to do to avoid getting our accounts hacked.  Randomize our password, change our password a few times a year, and don't use the same password for multiple sites.  These are all well known best practices.  But who proactively changes the passwords without being prompted by the site?  Even when we are forced to change our password, we often have trouble coming up with a difficult-to-guess password because we all have too many passwords to remember already.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Motivated reasoning

In the context of the psychological theory of motivated reasoning, this makes a great deal of sense. Based on pretty indisputable observations about how the brain works, the theory notes that people feel first, and think second. The emotions come faster than the “rational” thoughts—and also shape the retrieval of those thoughts from memory.
Chris Mooney @Mother Jones

Motivated reasoning is a term that describes how our emotions shape the way we think about things, even before we have chance to rationalize about them.  It's a fancy way of saying that we feel first then look for a reason to back up our feeling.  Great marketers know this, and have been using it to market us things that we don't really need.  By making us feel certain way, we are not rationalizing why we need to buy things.  Instead we feel that we have to get it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

China became #1 smartphone market

Flurry reported that China overtook US as the biggest smartphone market in January 2013.  Given China's 1.3 billion population, it is not surprising to see China taking the #1 spot away from US.  Yet it highlights China is catching up fast to the world-wide smartphone adoption.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Product Management: What to measure

It's not easy to stay focused when you have a sales person asking for product roadmap presentation, sales engineer asking questions about beta feature capability and support escalating product issues and copying you to get higher priority from engineering team.  These are all too common.  Unless you know what to focus on, it's difficult to stay focus on anything.

We all know that idea of measurement is to fix this problem.  Measurements (also known as Key Performance Indices, KPI), when ideally implemented, should drive behaviors of product managers to focus on the area that the company needs the most.  It is meant to provide feedback to product managers so that we can change our behavior to help boost the key stats.

Easy enough.  But what should be the measurements for product managers?  What would be the most important KPIs for PMs?

Danielle Morrill: and Distribution Hacks

Danielle Morrill is a co-founder of, and was CMO of Twilio. launched May of 2012 out of Y Combinator 2012.  It's an affiliate program for everyone where users can recommend products for cash incentives from companies.

She has been writing her blog since 2007 sharing her perspectives on marketing and startups.  Recently she shared lots of insights from running  Here are a few sample entries:
She also runs Distribution Hacks where she shares her marketing insights.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Posterous to Posthaven

Posterous is shutting down.  After a year of acquisition by Twitter, it announced that it will be shutting its door on April 30th.  For those of you who haven't been using Posterous, it's a free blog site that competes with Tumblr for ease of setup and use.  I should now say, it used to compete.  It's clear now that Tumblr has won the battle.

Posterous is shutting down.
That's my excuse for posting this notice on Tumblr...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Product Management: Do important things first

When my day is driven by meetings with people in 30 minute increments, it is difficult to see where my focus is.  That makes sense.  When I'm reacting to those meeting requests, I am not focusing on things that will make a difference to the product.  If you believe in managing your resource like I do, the most important resource is time.

When I was working as a developer, I did not have this problem at all.  I would get a project to work on, I set my schedule to tackle one problem on my proposed timeline.  My manager would then take that schedule, negotiate it with me, and he would project manage to make sure that I was on track or behind.  All I needed to do was to think about how to solve the problem at hand.  One big problem and smaller problems that would lead to a grand solution.  When I sat down to do some coding, sales guys didn't ping me to ask about the product roadmap.  Business development didn't pull me in to the partnership deal that he was working on.  Life was simple.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Product idea: Tell me what I should know

There are enormous amount of data available on the internet.  Each day the body of knowledge stored on the net increases.  Given a specific question, chances are there is some data to help you answer the question.  As velocity of data accumulation increases, thanks to all the sensors that we carry in our mobile device and communication through connected devices, we no longer have insufficient data problem.  The problem of the future will be data discovery problem.

Given all the enormity of ever growing data set, we need an efficient way to surface the data when we need them.  It's almost like thinking about how data can be presented to us when we need them.  Think about how our lives will be different if our device understands where we are and what we are doing, and serves us the relevant data that we might need.

Let me give you an example.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Someone else's opinion about Quora

Since I wrote about Quora pivoting to blogging platform, my good friend forwarded me a link to a long opinion piece on Quora.  It was quite long, and since most of you, I figured don't care enough to read the entire article, I thought I would share a quick outline.

Basically the writer is making three points against Quora for the following reasons:

1. Quora moderators are not doing the right job to promote greater participation from wide range of contributors because they are often more interested in being politically correct than allowing open discussion to take place.

2. Anonymous contribution is perceived as less valuable than ones with author info.

3. Q&As are not available for everyone to view without logging in to Quora.

4. Quora caters to a handful of user categories and alienates the rest of users, hence suffers from lack of diverse viewpoints.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Communication != Exchange of information

"Communication is a learned skill...  They [people] are mistaking exchange of information for communication." 
- Richard the caller to KQED Forum

Last week KQED Forum had 1-hour segment discussing online dating culture.  During the call, one caller named Richard called in and made the above comment.  It was in the context of how communication tends to happen over electronic medium, and that is not necessarily the same as communicating with people in face-to-face meeting.  The caller was suggesting that there are who aspects of communication that we don't think about too much these days, and we need to practice to get better at it.

It gave me a pause.  Communication as exchange of information sounds logical, yet it feels like there are some things missing.  What could be missing?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Product Management: Thoughts on feature bloat

As a product starts getting customers, it develops a clear narrative for the user.  "What is the product about?" question can be answered simply by the answers your customers gave to you: "What does the product do for me [customer]?"  At the end of the day all that matters is how customer is using the product.  What doesn't matter is how many features you jam into the product.

This seems like an obvious thing to figure out.  But it gets tricky because customers, competitors and market are always in motion.  There is always that customer who comes up with the next feature request that would keep him happy.  There is always that competitor who is looking to take your customers away at the moment when your product feature stays still for a few months.  There is always that market unknowns where a couple of college dropouts working on the next big thing will undercut much of what you have built so far.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Jordan Cooper: Startups, VC, Hyperpublic

Jordan Cooper is a VC and an entrepreneur who founded Hyperpublic.  He has been sharing his experience of launching and running Hyperpublic on his blog:

Here are blog entries that I found interesting:
For those who might wonder about what Hyperpublic did (it got acquired by Groupon Feb 2012), here is the TechCrunch interview with Cooper.  In short, it was an open localized database of place, people and things.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Product Camp Silicon Valley 2013: March 23

I want to invite product managers, entrepreneurs and students to Product Camp Silicon Valley 2013.  It is an annual event for those who love to build new things.  It will have sessions to share ideas about how to build products more effectively and it is a great chance to network with other product managers and entrepreneurs in the valley.

I attended the last 2 years of Product Camp.  I can tell you that it has been a great opportunity to meet new people in the industry and find out the questions that fellow product managers are grappling with.  I gained a lot, and I plan to attend the upcoming Product Camp too.

The best part of it all is that it's entirely organized by SVPMA members and volunteers, not to mention that it's absolutely free to attend.  It's a truly amazing event, and I want to invite you to experience it yourself.

Just like the past couple of years, it will be held at eBay.  Date will be March 23.  Each year the registration is limited to about 1,000, and they get filled up pretty quickly.  Please follow the link to register:

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Technological changes are closer than they appear

Yesterday I had a chance to chat with a couple of fellow product managers at SVPMA.  We talked about fast changing mobile technologies, social media and digital privacy.  It was interesting to share stories on how we work and play using the latest technologies that we take it so granted.  Being able to pinpoint our location using GPS system, looking up friend's phone number at moment's notice without ever having to memorize the number, and keeping up with profile changes among professional contacts at all time are some examples of what technologies enable us to do.

When I look back at my own technology purchases, it looks something like this:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

It's broken, someone please fix it

The other day I wrote about creating an open bug tracking system.  Instead of tracking bugs that users find in software, the idea is to track bugs that we sees in our every day lives.  Think of Bugzilla for our lives.  We all can report what is broken.  And the hope is that someone looking for startup idea or weekend hacking project can take some ideas and solve some of them.

So I decided to set up a Tumblr site to document these bugs.  It's called It's Broken, [Someone Please] Fix It (

I made it so that anyone can submit their bugs as well.  I hope I see lots of bugs that we run into in our lives.

Looking for bug reporters and startup idea seekers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Time spent on Facebook is on its way down

Pew Research released its survey results of 316 Facebook users asking whether they have taken a break from using the site.  About 61% of all Facebook users took several weeks off from actively using Facebook in the past, indicating that their Facebook activities are on the way down.

There were many reasons.  Most frequently cited reasons were not finding time to be on Facebook (21%), not interested in using the site (10%) and irrelevant content (10%).

Pew also reported the usage slowing down the most significantly among younger users (18-29 of age) than older populations.


Pew Research's survey results match Garry Tan's quick poll showing wide range of social network adoption among younger users and Josh Miller's personal observation of tenth graders picking up new social networks as early adopters.  Younger users have been moving away from Facebook and looking for easier more mobile-friendly social networks like Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Blogging: Importance of learning from feedback

When you blog, it's difficult to get any reader.  Even after you get some readers, it's really hard to get honest feedback from the readers.  So when you get some feedback, you hold on to them, try to analyze what each one meant, and see if you need to make some course corrections.

Good news is that I have been getting a few feedback.  Bad news is that I have been getting some honest feedback.  One in particular stuck with me today from Reddit /r/startups:

"This blogs fails . You shouldn't be encouraged to be stupid, it should be encouraged on any idea, how do you validate you can not only execute but find customers. You can talk about a billion crazy ideas, but doesn't matter if you can't execute or don't know how to "

I thought about it for a bit.  What is going to be my response?  Should I reply at all?  Then my focus gradually shifted to the substance of comment.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Will Smith's secrets to success

"The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I'm not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things you got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there's two things: You're getting off first, or I'm going to die. It's really that simple, right?"

- Will Smith

I have seen this Will Smith's quote from a few places before.  And the other day I accidentally discovered Smith making the quoted remarks on YouTube.  It starts 2:36 into the video below:

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Steve Sammartino: Startup Blog

Steve Sammartino is a founder of and a long time blogger of Start Up Blog.  He has been sharing his lessons learned from running his own startup through his blog since 2006.

Here are a few interesting blog entries that I found:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Golden rule for your career

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I'm sure everyone has heard of the Golden Rule.  It teaches us how to happily coexist with people around us.  Treat others with respect, and it comes right back at you from them.

It is the basis for building trust with anyone.  Offering generosity and good will are the best ways to build trust, and based on that trust other wonderful things happen.  Communication, collaboration and execution all become easier once you have the trusting relationship with the person.

In a professional relationship, treating each other respectfully is a good start, but the focus is little different from non-professional relationship.  From a professional standpoint, everyone has one goal in mind.  We all want to be successful at what we do.  We want to get better at what we are doing.

Netflix's freedom & responsibility culture

I stumbled upon Reed Hastings' guide on Netflix's culture guideline.  128 slides of PowerPoint presentation outlines how Hastings has been running Netflix and kind of culture that he has been promoting internally.

It's an interesting look at how Netflix hires, measures and promotes their employees.