Issue 51 – It’s Not What You Do, It’s What You Sell

Posted on June 17th, by katestull in issues. Comments Off

My favorite article this week was this post on working as an engineer/developer (or working in tech, really); while targeted at grads, it was a good reminder for anyone when it comes to finding their path. And the other one I would read was this one: How do you create a product people want to buy? because so many people get this wrong (and remember, you are not your customer – you can’t buy stuff from yourself). – KateM

This week, I really enjoyed the post The Code You Don’t Write, which is a great look at leadership and problem-solving creatively (and it’s not as boring as that sentence makes it sound, promise!). I also thought 31 Unmistakable Signs That You’re An Introvert was surprisingly funny and, as an introvert myself, accurate. – KateS

We hope you enjoy this week’s TLN! As always, send any feedback by just replying to this note.

PS. If you can’t get enough leadership this week, did you know we are sharing tons of awesome content on the popforms Twitter and Facebook page? Fun! Oh, and the new is up, with our very first blog post too. :)

PSS. This week I will be at Velocity, so if you are there too, be sure to say hello!  I am speaking on Thursday, but plan to hang out at the Hyatt lobby bar (since what isn’t more fun than a hotel bar) when I am not attending sessions. – KateM

News to know

Leadership – From Clerks To CEOs

The Essential Hallmarks of a Good Leader
I love this quote from this article: “Leadership is an honor, a privilege and a deep obligation.” With that idea in mind, it’s important to check in with yourself and make sure you are displaying as many characteristics of effective, dedicated leaders as possible.

  • Discipline. This means holding regular business reviews, talent reviews and team meetings and constantly striving for improvement – from having a strong work ethic to making lists and doing real, detailed follow-up.
  • High standards. Abraham Lincoln said, “Things may come
 to those who wait … but only the things left 
by those who hustle.”
  • Loyalty, meritocracy and teamwork. Loyalty to employees does not mean that a manager owes them a particular job. Loyalty to employees means building a healthy, vibrant company; telling them the truth; and giving them meaningful work, training and opportunities.
  • Fair treatment. The best leaders treat all people properly and respectfully, from clerks to CEOs. When strong leaders consider promoting people, they ask themselves, Would I want to work for him? Would I want my kid to report to her?

Your Bad Boss Is Your Problem
A bad boss can make every day at work a huge frustration. But a bad boss isn’t completely out of your control, either. Managing upwards is a difficult, but valuable, skill to have and the sooner you develop the ability to do it, the happier you will be at work. By managing your relationship with your boss, you can develop your own leadership and managerial skills, and become someone who can influence without authority — which is a powerful place to be.

Mitch Ditkoff: 20 Ways to Spark Innovation in Others
“I invite you to consider another, more informal approach – simple, no-cost ways of radically increasing the odds of the people you work with becoming proactive, inspired, and successful innovators on the job.”

  • Be curious.
  • Ask powerful questions.
  • Go beyond the call of duty.
  • Celebrate small wins.
  • Decrease the fear of failure.
  • Expand their support networks.

4 Simple Ways to Make Your Employees Feel Valued [via The Daily Muse]
Making your employees feel valued and like their work is meaningful is a huge factor in increasing retention and employee satisfaction. I love these tips for making *real* connections with your employees, as opposed to doing quick fixes and shallow efforts to improve morale.

  • Be intentional with every day conversations. When you assign a new task, for example, go beyond the basic and reiterate why you truly value someone’s work: “You did a great job designing that website last week. We have a new client who seems pretty picky, and since your work is so detail-oriented, I think you’re the only one for the job.”
  • Show them that others need them too.
  • Challenge them.
  • Recognize them as individuals. To truly make individual employees feel valued, it’s OK to single them out and reward them according to their accomplishments—and with something that the rest of the team won’t necessarily get.

Email Is People
This is so true and why I make an effort to answer all my emails graciously.

Someone you know ill? Watch what you say, and to whom
Love the diagram to help you think about how not to say the wrong thing…

Teams & Process – There Is No *I* In Team

8 months in Microsoft, I learned these
This is a young engineer’s look at life inside a big company, specifically Microsoft, in this case. The author shares some of the biggest things he’s learned about working on a corporate team.

  • It is not what you do, it is what you sell. You can spend days making your codebase a better place, writing more robust code and fix others’ mistakes. As long as it does not have a big business impact and you can’t ship it, it means practically nothing.
  • Not everybody is passionate for engineering.
  • The world outside is not known here a lot. I bet you’re reading what sort of latest technologies and tools are out on blogs, Reddit or Hacker News every day. It’s not common here.
  • Code reviews can be skipped, for the sake of agility.
  • Your specialties usually do not matter. Thousands get hired every year out of college and usually randomly assigned to a team (which you can’t change for 1.5 years). You are hired to do get something needed done.

Tech – Website, Redirected

Changes in rankings of smartphone search results [mobile redirects]
“Some websites use separate URLs to serve desktop and smartphone users. A faulty redirect is when a desktop page redirects smartphone users to an irrelevant page on the smartphone-optimized website.”

Redirects suck a lot on mobile, so I am kind of glad to see Google penalizing sites.  Hopefully you aren’t doing this, but if you are, then this should incentivize you to stop.

Intention revealing methods by Nick of 37signals
I feel like I put every article I come across about writing code that is easy to understand, vs. any other metric. Perhaps that is because I look at code from a month ago and it takes me 10 minutes to get back into it (and that is easy to understand, documented code *I wrote*). So I loved this tip – because it is so useful for anyone using your interface. Of course I still think the how can be important too….but good advice nonetheless:

“The most important thing about any (without loss of generality) method is what it accomplishes or why one would call it, not how it does whatever it does.”

What does O(log n) mean exactly?
Doing a little interviewing? Or maybe you just don’t remember big-Oh notation and complexities except by the words “slow” and “fast” (gasp!). The top answer on this stackoverflow thread is a fantastic little cheat sheet of algorithm complexity.

Using Git and Push-to-Deploy (for Google App Engine)
I haven’t tried out App Engine, but I love deploying to Heroku with a simple git push heroku master so I am sure others will be grateful for this functionality.

“Seriously.js is a real-time, node-based video compositor for the web. Inspired by professional software such as After Effects and Nuke, Seriously.js renders high-quality video effects, but allows them to be dynamic and interactive.”

Pretty cool, even if it didn’t work on mobile.

Hide/Show Passwords: The Missing Plugin
Being seeing this functionality a lot more on mobile recently. Excited to see someone made a plugin.

Lots of common interview questions solved in js – great resource if you are hiring webdevs and want to expand on these as homework problems.

Product – Laser Focus Customer

How do you create a product people want to buy?
I loved this post (and I have a bit of a thing for Amy Hoy – she writes awesome blogs and even if I already know the lessons, I still manage to find myself reading the whole thing).

You should always start with the audience, and make sure you can reach them. Focus on a segment and solve their problem well. So many startups build products for everyone, and that just doesn’t get the job done. You need to focus, focus, focus. I definitely started out building a product for myself with my startup, but now I have a totally different customer in mind and am lasered focus on their needs. Fingers crossed it works :)

The Secret To Building Large Websites: Website Architecture
I normally bristle at the term “website architect” however, it makes a lot of sense in this “product” focused context.  When you design the layout, navigation, and flow of your site this is an article worth referencing to make sure you crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s.

12 usability flaws that are spoiling the mobile web
This is a great list of things to check when rolling out a mobile experience. Just yesterday, I tried to check out at a site with my phone and was frustrated I couldn’t see my shipping charges before clicking “place order”. Just seems like a lot of people are in a hurry to have mobile but haven’t actually given it the same attention as web.

Why Jony Ive Is Flattening iOS 7
Though this article was written before the overwhelming negative backlash to iOS 7’s new design scheme, it is still an interesting look at the design principles that drove the new look.

Skeumorphism has taken a lot of heat for being silly recently, but the author makes some good points about when and how it works best (and, arguably, how it made touchscreen technology so widespread and easy to use), versus its newly popular flat design counterpart.

“Digital interfaces are an often-awkward mash-up of pages and machines: ‘virtual mechanical affordances printed on virtual paper.’ We have to read them as texts but also manipulate them as objects. Swinging too far in one direction gives you the stitched-leather skeuomorphic excesses of iCal and Game Center, but it also gives you an abundance of familiar sensory detail with which to orient yourself. Swing too far in the other direction, and you get the abstracted sharpness of Microsoft’s Metro, which prioritizes ‘pure information’ to such a degree that the UI is almost pure typography–but it can also feel antiseptic and arid.”

And if you are critical of iOS7’s redesign, I thought this quote put it into perspective:

Designers are usually the most aware of the problems in their work, and I can imagine a bunch of them in Cupertino reading Twitter during the keynote saying, ‘I told you we had to fix that before we shipped!’”  (from this article: Generosity of Perspective)

A New Framework for Customer Segmentation
There are many ways to look at customers from your marketing department, many of which are done out of routine rather than what makes most sense for impacting customers in the best way. This team decided to try customer segmentation based on what jobs the customers need the product to do, this way:

  • Step #1: Identify the contexts in which customers are using the company’s products.
  • Step #2: Combine information about transactions and customer behaviour in the contexts to describe each of the jobs to be done.
  • Step #3: Map individual customers to jobs, using the data.

“Peter Drucker once said, ‘The customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells him.’ The problem is we don’t know what kinds of jobs customers are going to need done unless we follow each customer’s journey. Big Data now lets us observe that journey.”

The Most Effective Price Discovery Question for Your Startup
Instead of asking your customer, “How much would you pay for this product?” you should be asking comparative questions that help them identify and specify what pricing makes the most sense for them.

  • Would you be willing to pay more for a new iPhone or a new Android HTC One?
  • How much would you be willing to pay for a mobile CRM compared to a desktop CRM?
  • If flash storage improves performance by 30%, how much more would you be willing to pay than a standard hard disk?

“These comparative questions establish a point of reference for the customer and force them to make a relative value judgment by comparing a new product to an existing product where value and price are known. This is much more valuable data because the opinions will reflect more accurately the feedback you will receive in the market.”

Does your product suck? Stop adding new features and “zoom in” instead
Smart advice. Focus helps across the board; not just in your day-to-day, but also in your approach to products.

5 Tools for Creating Your Own Infographics
Good list of resources for those looking to whip up some quick visualizations.

Quick Bytes

[ Links we liked ]

On working as an engineer/developer
This post had tons of good advice, like:

On finding your path:

“Figure out who your role models are, even if they’re not doing exactly what you want to be doing. Use your role models’ processes and tools in your own experiments, and credit them when you do.”

On charting your path out of a less-than-desirable role:

“Our industry includes boatloads of kind, generous human beings and plenty of organizations that will support you in having a healthy life. You just have to make a path to get to them.”

And my favorite part:

“When you internalize the idea that you’re precious and irreplaceable in a company or an industry, it’s easy to be wooed into life-altering decisions like handing over years of 80-hour weeks to companies whose work you don’t actually care about.”

The Code You Don’t Write
“Now, in a leadership position on a talented team, I find myself just as much in the business of avoiding writing code as I am in writing it. My job isn’t to write code. It never was. It has always been to make people’s lives better and more productive. I used to focus on one tool to do that. Now, it’s just one tool in a versatile toolbox. It’s not even the second or third option I reach for.

Assume you’re incapable of writing code. How would you solve this problem?

  • What if you had to solve it with money?
  • What if you had to solve it with a paper-based process?
  • How would you hire temps to do it?
  • Could you solve it with hardware?”

[ Geeking Out ]

How 3D printing will rebuild reality
The author’s thoughts on the history and evolution of 3D printing. While the content was a little ho hum, I loved the images of the pictures. And because I like to show off, my friend Jay printed these (and the box was printed with the 2 sides hinged together – pretty amazing, no?):


NASA’s Rover Finds Traces Of ‘Drinkable’ Water On Mars
Maybe a Mars colony will be in the cards after all…

Video: Cloaking Device Makes a Cat Disappear
I can’t wait for my own invisibility cloak… ;)

FreightOS: Bringing Sexy Back to the Freight Industry
“It’s simply the equivalent of Expedia/Orbitz/Kayak for the shipment of goods rather than people. We help the sellers to automate their quotes online and we help the buyers to compare prices and quality and find the best deal.”

Why Xbox One and PS4 may be the final generation of consoles
Just like TV and movies, video games may become a primarily streamed service, as opposed to being disc- or hardware-based. As such, the latest console releases from Sony and Microsoft may be the last ones before video game content is streamed through third-party devices (similar to streaming Hulu through your Apple TV).

Secret life of the cat: The science of tracking our pets
Surprisingly, we know relatively little about what cats kept as pets get up to all day. Luckily, a team of big cat researchers took their tracking technology to the small scale, and found out where your pets go and what they do…

[ Wordly Reading ]

[ Edward Snowden News ]

With the prolific amount of information on the web, it is important to recall books like 1984.  Privacy is important. Make sure you know a bit about this political topic, because as leaders in technology we need to be aware of privacy concerns and the choices we make for our customers.

What We Don’t Know About Spying on Citizens: Scarier Than What We Know
“We don’t know how big the U.S. surveillance apparatus is today, either in terms of money and people or in terms of how many people are monitored or how much data is collected. Modern technology makes it possible to monitor vastly more people — yesterday’s NSA revelations demonstrate that they could easily surveil everyone — than could ever be done manually.”

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations
Would you have the courage to be named in the media and face the consequences?  This article from the Guardian portrays Snowden in a positive light…definitely a more personal side to the story.

“But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week’s haul of stories, “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.””

If the NSA Trusted Edward Snowden With Our Data, Why Should We Trust the NSA?
Edward Snowden sounds like a thoughtful, patriotic young man, and I’m sure glad he blew the whistle on the NSA’s surveillance programs. But the more I learned about him this afternoon, the angrier I became. Wait, him? The NSA trusted its most sensitive documents to this guy? And now, after it has just proven itself so inept at handling its own information, the agency still wants us to believe that it can securely hold on to all of our data? Oy vey!”

Think the way things are being handled are unfair – this guy says that the maybe these government agencies should be illegal too: Before Prosecuting, Investigate the Government

[ Just for fun ]

31 Unmistakable Signs That You’re An Introvert
“I don’t need another friend. I already have two!”

[ Useful & Productive ]

Why it is hard to make friends — and what to do about it.
I always wanted to be the girl who had 10 bridesmaids (I had none) but have always struggled to make (and keep) friends. Human relationships are hard, but posts like this remind me that even though its hard to make friends as an adult – it is always worth it when you do.

Get Free Airport Wifi With Foursquare
I never really thought about foursquare as an app with much utility, but this suggestion to use it to search for free wifi is genius.

Hate Awkward Silences? 10 Essential Tips To Be a Great Conversationalist
I am one of those people who talks to fill empty space. So while most of these tips aren’t new to me, they are good reminders. I also always tell myself if no one else is uncomfortable with the silence why am I?

The One-Minute Trick to Negotiating Like a Boss
This title is misleading, but I do like the examination of negotiation styles in this post. Are you promotion-focused (thinking about what you could gain if you win a negotiation) or prevention-focused (thinking about what you could lose)?

Turns out, promotion-focused negotiators are hugely successful (as in, save $4 million dollars on the hypothetical sale of a pharmaceutical plant), so before the next time you have to negotiate something, try focusing on what you want versus what you’re afraid of. Good tip!

95 percent of people wash their hands wrong: Are you one of them?
“The ‘right way to wash your hands’ is to wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap. Rub them together to make a lather while scrubbing them well, making sure you get the backs of the hands, between the fingers and under the nails. Keep this up for 20 seconds — the CDC recommends singing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice — and after, rinse under running water, before drying with a clean towel or air dryer.”

10000 hours is a long damn time: What are the 7 steps to genius?
Part of the reason the “10,000 hours-to-genius” idea caught on so much, this author thinks, is because it instills a huge feeling of guilt in most of us. It’s not that we just don’t have the talent or skills; it’s that we didn’t start early enough or try hard enough to be really great.

Which sucks.

But — don’t be discouraged by that feeling and stop trying to be great. After all, someone who’s done 6,000 hours of something is still probably be pretty good at it, right? Follow the tips in this post to help yourself set goals and, more importantly, achieve them.

“Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.” — Oprah Winfrey

Oooh yeah, we did it! Another TLN done — now what? You’re going to go have an awesome week, that’s what. :)

Hayirli tun,
Kate + Kate

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