Good reads: Product Management

A while ago I selected a bunch of articles that have impressed or inspired me and I thought would be useful sharing. At that time I figured I could regularly post an article with resourceful or inspiring articles but I didn’t realise I needed the time to read them all myself and let them sink in so I could think about the actual value.

Starting with this post I want to theme this series with a certain topic, which helps me to maintain the quality of this series but also enables me to create a valuable resource of knowledge and learnings that will hopefully be useful for you as well.

Product Management

This list resembles a collection of articles I’ve read the last 4 months, some of which turned my perspective on building (and iterating on) products completely upside down.

  • Your app makes me fat – About giving users what they actually care about, in stead of demanding their attention to get a simple task done. The cost of attention is a great way to think about how useful your UX is.
  • Getting the V right – Think about what makes your product actually viable. You can cut away only so many features but what do you really need to release a successful product?
  • Why we need storytellers at the heart of product development – Quoting “A product is more than an idea, it’s more than a website, and it’s more than a transaction or list of functionalities.” What story are you telling as a team? What story do your users perceive from your brand?
  • Blameless Post mortems and a just culture – Etsy is famous for their platform but likely to be more respected on how they approach and write about their company culture. Here’s how to learn from mistakes you make and build a strong team.
  • Storytellers have more fun
    We forget how important stories are to people. This made me think about what story are we trying to tell with this product we’re building.
  • The Dribbblisation of design – On how design is not a beauty contest, but an important toolkit to enable people to use your product without frustration.
  • Understanding the job – (video) This is linked in the previous article but deserved a spot here as well: for what job does a user wants to hire your product?
  • How to work with designers – Julie Zhuo, Product design director at Facebook shares here insights about how to think and communicate when working with designers. (Tip: read also her other article on How to work with PMs to get the full picture and understand how you can be perceived as a PM)

Required reading

A couple of weeks ago my co-worker Matas shared a readlist which should definitely be part of this article. It was derived from this post by Robert Lenne, who is head of design at Artsy.

Product Weekly

If you are interested in more things to read around product management; my friend Niko Felger is running a newsletter called Product Weekly, which selects a few of the most interesting articles related to product management and development every week. Sign up here.

But wait! If you know of some links that are worth sharing you can submit them to Niko as well using this form.

I hope you enjoy this article, if you have any recommendations please send them over on Twitter.


Space Oddity

This is a story about the coolest astronaut in human history.

If you haven’t heard of this man yet, his name is commander Chris Hadfield (53), who was the first Canadian to walk in space. Helped by his two sons, he harnessed the power of social media to give millions of people access to space, to the incredible views he was seeing and share basic scientific experiments like showing that you can’t cry in space.

He slowly turned into something like a space celebrity, amassing a huge crowd on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit while doing an IAmA.

A space recording

After someone coined “Space Oddity” on the Reddit thread, commander Hadfield tweeted three days ago:

Here’s the video in it’s full glory:

Summing it all up

  • There was an astronaut in space doing a Reddit IAmA.
  • He shared beautiful and unique views of the earth using social media.
  • He had his two sons help him set up and manage his social media accounts and was very transparent about it.
  • Using social media, he educated people about the effects and brutality of space.
  • He sung Space Oddity in space and made a video of it.

I am overwhelmed. My inner geek, music lover and people admirer were all crying in trinity. Hats off to commander Hadfield!

PS: If you want to learn more about commander Hadfield check out this and this Guardian article.

Twenty Nice: a list of 29 things I learned

I have been reading and writing a lot the past 8 months when I came across Noah Stokes’ birthday lists. Inspired by these I figured I could highlight some learnings myself. Scanning through my scribblings I tried looking for the ones that appear to me as important or beautiful. These are probably lessons that have shaped me into who I am, it will be interesting to see how this will look a year from now.

Below is a list of 29 things in no particular order that made the cut.

  • Reading is good. Everyone should read more. There is always too much to read and too much to think about, but that is a great thing.
  • Whenever you want to introduce something new to your daily rythm, make a commitment to six weeks. Just keep at it for six weeks every day and see what happens afterwards. You’re setting a goal which is not too far away, but once you’ve reached it you’ve made the potential habit an actual habit.
  • The other person is never the problem.
  • We’re all in our own movies. Communication might get you far but you can never guess how another person perceives things. You’re in your movie and the other is in his/hers. We’re all conditioned by society and our legacy, but this only makes it easier to align our perceptions. You can never be sure you’re completely understanding someone.
  • Drink more water.
  • Idling is important. Working hard can be fun if you enjoy your job, but you still need to disconnect on a regular basis to maintain a healthy balance. We are not build for infinite endurance. Working on pet projects is not idling.
  • Lean into the Pain. Pain is a signal that you’re pushing your boundaries. If something hurts, confront yourself with it and do it again. It will make you stronger.
  • Music is all about the experience. Recorded music is just a thin rehearsal of something that has been performed earlier. A live performance generates incredible amounts of energy that inspire and fuel people.
  • Reading is brainwashing. Whatever combination of letters you are looking at, your brain will try to parse it. Reading a lot about a certain subject will likely influence your personal development.
  • Love is brutal and therefor interesting. The highs are incredible and the lows are painful, but we should not shy away from them. The pain is making us understand more about ourselves, which is all we can do. Everything else is just acceptance.
  • Trying to understand love is futile. While Plato might give you some useful metaphors, it will always be bigger and more complex than we can wrap our heads around.
  • We need to let go of the idea of always being productive. This is impossible. Try working in small bursts with a high focus. The Pomodoro Technique is an interesting method for this. The quality of our work will also increase when we’re relaxed.
  • By trying to understand more of the world, we will probably feel like we understand less. This is one of the great and humbling things about life.
  • Alcohol seems like an obligatory addiction of Western society. You will only accept this when you take a break from it and realize how interwoven alcohol has become in our social interactions.
  • I love being able to live in a city because I choose to do so, not because it just happened to me.
  • A todo list is helpful, but a tada list works better for your mood. Collect all the things you’ve done on a list and reflect on it at the end of the day. You’ve done a great job.
  • If you don’t believe in yourself you will never change.
  • Try to collect parts of lyrics from songs you like. It will train your ear to listen to music better and you will build up a small collections of beautiful sentences or word combinations.
  • We can change our behavior overnight but changing our character is way harder.
  • “Just slowly, calmly, harmoniously keep up, keep up, keep up, keep up, keep up, and it will come to you. Don’t hate it. Don’t be frustrated about it. Just keep going.” – Yogi Bhajan.
  • Find friends who do work in an entire different field than you. It will result in more interesting conversations and helps you stay curious.
  • Buy things at markets or greengrocers. Groceries with a barcode are probably not very good for us.
  • Playing video games is actually addictive. It will likely mess up your sleep rythm.
  • Spend more time in Rio de Janeiro next time. It’s a great city.
  • We are way more vulnerable than you think. Be more careful and listen to your body and gut. This is difficult when living at large. Stop and reflect often.
  • Greet kindness with kindness. Even if you don’t feel comfortable, an act of kindness deserves kindness in return. Always.
  • Books and magazines (e.g. printed media) will not go away. They will find their niches and keep on being printed, but will just grow more expensive.
  • Working with great people is a privilege. Being able to turn these people into friends is an even greater luxury.
  • Traveling is good, but we should be aware of Curse of the Traveler. Traveling should be balanced with time you spend in your home. We need time to ground and build persistent connections.