LinkedIn Mobile Splash Page

Every time I start the LinkedIn mobile app, I always wondered about the city street featured on the splash page. I took a screenshot of it and tried Google Image search to look for something familiar. No avail.

Leave it to a Finnish developer friend to fire back a hit to my crowdsourced query. Mystery solved! Thanks Jyrki!


LinkedIn mobile splash page

LinkedIn iPhone app splash page and Google Street View.

LinkedIn Android App

LinkedIn Android App marketing creative

The Art of Product Management

View from Product SF

Many start up Product Managers are lone wolf types. They work alone, part of a team, but the only one in that team doing what they do. Shuttling between engineering, design, sales, marketing, management and other constituents, they are the glue that ties the team together, the universal joint making sure all the momentum in one group transmits cleanly to the next so all the pieces move in unison and things get done.

Because they work alone, Product Managers have developed their own set of tools that work for them and their company. Tips and tricks on how to organize teams and set priorities are passed around like folklore on blogs and Quora posts but it’s rare to find an event that gets a room full of PMs sharing what works in real-time.

Perhaps it’s a sign of a maturing industry legitimizing a role but over the past several weeks, I have had the good fortune to attend three (!) events specifically for the modern Product Managers.

Each of these events were great in their own right but it was this past Friday’s How to Build Great Products hosted by Ty Ahmad-Taylor of Samsung and Josh Elman of Greylock Partners really knocked it out of the park.

 

What I Learned

Many PMs fell into their role before they realized that they were doing it. Especially at small start ups on a hyper growth trajectory, the PM is the first to jump in to rally and organize and bring teams together and ends up creating their job.

PMs need to have a singular focus on what needs to get done to make their product successful. This means sometimes going against corporate objectives. Hunter Walk, when he was a PM at YouTube, put priority on supporting Facebook login over Google’s own competitive Open Social login initiative. You need to look at the market as a consumer and make the choice based on what’s right for the customer, even if it sometimes goes against larger corporate initiatives.

PMs need to be entrepreneurs. Faced with a limited amount of resources, you need do whatever it takes to get things done. This often means you need to think creatively. Hunter also mentioned “learning to draft ascending ecosystems” – take an objective look at the market and if there is a way for you to bundle or integrate your product into another product on the rise. By focusing on getting the YouTube icon added to the default iPhone deck, all other conversations with carriers turned from YouTube chasing them to the carriers calling YouTube. Picking the ascending leader early was a bet that paid off.

Trust Your Strategy. Allen Blue, the co-founder of LinkedIn, described the first year of nominal growth (2,100 users after one week, 80,000 after 7 months). They reserved a bottle of whiskey for when they hit 1 million users but ended up drinking at 500,000.

PMs are problem solvers, give them meaty problems to chew on. Like Allen, many PMs come from varied backgrounds. Allen came from the theatre. Because of their non-traditional training (Hunter Walk too, was one of the few PMs at Google without a CS degree), a PMs can be the source of a unique perspective and often solution. One useful technique to use when drilling down to the essence of a problem is by using the 5 Hows which is a derivative of the 5 Whys, designed to lead you to a solution, not causality.

Srikanth Rajagopalan on building the Chrome Browser

“Speed is a feature.” This is often ignored when prioritizing tasks. Do not forget that simplicity, and it’s cousin, speed, are silent feature requests that should always be potentials for any roadmap discussion.

Build for the average user but do not ignore your super fans by hiding power user features. Chrome has a number of geeky features (Keyboard shortcuts that one could only appreciate if you, “grew up with vi”) but they are tucked away and do not get in the way of the basic user’s core experience. Deciding how to add an advanced feature is difficult. Putting it into Settings and letting the user choose is lazy. Did you know  Chrome has a detailed Site Info box?

Chrome Site Info

There was a panel discussion about user growth where I unfortunately had to step out for a bit but I did catch Elliot Shmukler talk about the power of shared metrics. During his days at LinkedIn, he pulled together the most important metrics into an information radiator so that everyone gets a realtime view of these metrics with just a glance. But one must not forget to focus on the right metrics. Too often a dashboard is swamped with metrics where it’s too easy to drown in data. Pick 3-5 metrics and use those to test intuition. Be careful which metrics you chose because those will be the ones you optimize for.

A funny anecdote Elliot shared was coming in one morning to find, “Belgium on fire.” User acquisition spiked overnight because an engineer, after looking at these shared metrics, fiddled with some of the contact importing settings for users in that country to see if it would move the needle. It did. That is the power of shared metrics.

Dan Olsen gave an entertaining talk about his time at Friendster during their meltdown and subsequent loss to MySpace. See slide 21 which shows how he came up with the concept of the viral loop (no one was doing this kind of stuff then) and how different points in that loop have different amplification values.

Despite succeeding in rolling out several new features that helped in user growth, we all know the story about poor database optimization that ultimately ruined the experience on Friendster so that the more users joined, the slower the site became. Dan’s learnings were that, for social networks, a large user base is a feature. People used MySpace because that was where the majority of their friends were which lead to, um, a majority of their friends being on MySpace.

 

Fred Sigman, an Art Historian & Photographer, gave an thoughtful talk about the influence of nearby atomic bomb testing on the neon signs of early Las Vegas. As a post-lunch talk, professor Sigman’s talk was perfect as the, “palette cleanser” talk before we got to the. . .

Ignite talks. These are lightning round, Pechakucha-style presentations where the slides self-advance. Highlights for me were Ken Norton’s How (not) to work with Engineers and Ian McAllister’s talk about the User-Driven Development which I’ve written about before.

Ian Mcallister

Joe Zadeh from AirBnB spoke about the hiring process at his company. Forgive the fuzzy resolution but it’s the nut of his talk which explained that all PMs that are interviewed are invited in to present on a topic given to candidates in advance. This allows them to evaluate all the candidate along a baseline for a number of things simultaneously,

  • Can they communicate effectively?
  • What’s their design skill like? Do they understand spacing, fonts, color, use of graphics?
  • Are they nervous presenting? How do they respond to questions, pressure?
  • Did they have a fresh approach? Are they an original thinker?

If the interview is for a Product Manager, they may make it about a specific problem they are trying to solve. When they were looking into adding a payments processor in South America, they asked prospects to speak that topic. By the end of the interviews, they had not only a good sense of who knew what, they also got six different approaches to integrating payments processors.

Joe Zadeh

James Buckhouse from Twitter gave an great talk about storytelling. @buckhouse came from Dreamworks and tells stories for twitter and shared his formula for how to tell a good story. It’s all about the journey to a transformation. He writes about writing on Medium at Design Story.

James Buckhouse on Story Telling

The final talk of the day was with Tom Conrad at Pandora. No slides, just a simple discussion between Josh Elman and Tom about the early days of Pandora and it’s inspiration (“I loved to recommend music to people. Building a service was a lot easier than inviting people to my dorm room.”) but also included a varient of the “let’s go shopping” style of roadmap prioritization.

  1. Every 90 days, wipe your roadmap clean.
  2. Ask everyone in the company what things the company would be crazy not to do. This includes projects that used to be on the roadmap but are now off it.
  3. Summarize each idea on one slide. Work with engineering to come up with a thumbnail estimate for how many days it’ll take for each project. If a project will take one weeks’ development by two developers, that’s a $10 project.
  4. Print out each slide and stick them up on a wall.
  5. Sit with Engineering and decide how many developer man-days you have for the next 90 days. If it’s 60 working days and you have 2 developers, and you need to reserve 10 days for maintenance, that means you have 110 developer man-days. This would equal $120.
  6. Invite a cross-representative group of people to a product prioritization meeting. At Pandora, this included someone from HR. Give each person a different colored post-it note with equal amounts that they can allocate towards projects. If there are 5 people in the room, then that’s $24 each.
  7. It will be a long meeting but, by the end, you’ll clearly see which projects are “fully funded” and those will be the ones that you take on for the next 90 days.

Everyone leaving that room will have a clear view of what engineering is going to be working on better than any Roadmap document could tell them. There will be no need to brief people on what each project is because they will have heard the description of each project in that meeting.

I hope you found this post useful. I’m gathering these tips and tricks into a collection. If there are some that you feel should be included, let me know.

More LinkedIn Visualizations

A couple more visualizations that use the LinkedIn API that I missed on the previous post.

LinkedIn Maps announced yesterday creates a poster-ready view of your LinkedIn network complete with color-coding showing how everyone is related. This type of visualization can reveal interesting things about your career. In my case, it looks like my colleagues from Dow Jones are really off on their own while my Six Apart, Yahoo, and web 2.0 friends are much closer together with my more recent connections from Nokia are scattered in between.

LinkedIn Infinity uses the cooliris technology to let you look at nothin’ but faces.  Nothing really innovative about this but a crowd-pleasure nonetheless.

Finally, LinkedIn Signal, while not a visualization,  is extremely useful way to parse your social network feeds using your LinkedIn networks as a filter. This is really powerful because it lets you filter away the noise and see updates filtered by Industry, Location, School, or Company. If you add multiple filters together, you quickly get very focused results. Want to see what people in your network (and their friends) that work at Microsoft in Japan are saying about Facebook? Tick a few boxes and you have it.

All this and more are featured on the LinkedIn Labs page.

Smart LinkedIn Integration

Congratulations to whomever is turning up the heat over at LinkedIn. It’s been just over a year since they opened up their API and now we’re really starting to see the fruits of this effort.  The latest integration with Fortune on their 100 Best Companies to Work For demonstrates how a professional social network can add value to a web publication. Browse through this list while logged into LinkedIn and on each companies profile page you’ll see a list of any of your connections that work at that company. It’s like the old Six Degrees game but with a purpose. You’ll be surprised at who shows up (Hi Mark!)

  • The hackday-inspired Resume Builder takes the data you’ve already added to your profile and gives you a series of templates for a cleaner output in PDF format suitable for sending via email or printing.
  • LinkedIn Share buttons that you can add to your site works just like the Facebook Like button, crowd sourcing the curation of the web.
  • Integration with OneSource iSell product to combine their “triggers” with to help Sales teams connect with their prospects through existing relationships.
  • Bump integration making connecting via LinkedIn easier than ever.
  • A Microsoft Outlook social connector to add LinkedIn profile information to your email and contacts.
  • Ribbit Mobile integration resulting in a product they call Mobile Caller ID 2.0. It installs on your mobile phone (sorry, UK and US numbers only) and does a dynamic lookup on incoming numbers to see if LinkedIn (or other connected networks) has any information about who is calling and what they have recently shared on the social web.
  • LinkedIn Tweets, an application that has a cool, somewhat hidden feature, that creates a twitter list of all your LinkedIn connections that have twitter accounts and (and here’s the cool thing) will add new members to that list automatically as you add new connections on LinkedIn.

All this is on top of heaps of new features they’ve added to the site including the faceted search UI and the ability to customize your profile to name just a few. Really stellar work.

Finally, what prompted this whole post to begin with, and I’m not sure how widespread these emails are, was this customized visual that summarized who in your network has changed jobs. What a contrast to the old, text-heavy, anti-social LinkedIn of 2009 where “connections go to die” – the new LinkedIn is much more vibrant and connected with the world outside. Looks like they’ve taken Dave McClure’s advise from over a year and a half ago when he berated them and screamed,  it’s all about the faces.

LinkedIn 2009
LinkedIn 2011

December 9th TiE SIG meeting

I took notes at the inaugural meeting of the new TiE Special Interest Group focused on the internet. The event was titled, “Wikis, Blogs, and Other Four Letter Words” and put together by Manish Chandra who wants to create a program, “to educate and inspire people to innovate and enter the next dimension of the Internet.” If you have ideas for the future meetings (located in Santa Clara, CA), contact Manish at mchandra1@yahoo.com.

Panel Members included:

Reid Hoffman, Founder & CEO of LinkedIn
Andrew Anker, EVP, Corporate Development, Six Apart
Stewart Butterfield, President, Flickr/Ludicorp
Joe Kraus, CEO, JotSpot

What about the uploading of video files and audio files?

Andrew – it’s already happening with Podcasting where people are uploading audio files to blogs. It’s just a question of the bandwidth catching up.

Andrew – blogs are my filter. I let the interesting stories filter up through the blogosphere and use popularity rankings to point me to things I should read from the traditional media, I leverage the emergent intelligence of the blogging community. Bloglines, Feedster, Newsgator all help me filter the blogs. Better to leverage the collective intelligence of the 5 million blogs out there.

Scott Rafer invited up to show how Feedster works. As a “search engine for developers” so that less and less of their traffic will be from individuals running searches and more and more from machines that are coming to Feedster to getting information. Each search has an XML output that can feed into an application. Feedster will soon launch their job postings service that will run on the same model. The engine will be used to create streams of location-specific job postings that Feedster will sell to publications that want to repurpose it.

How do you make money on all this?

Andrew – TypePad is integrated with the Amazon Associates program. They will also integrate an ad program with Kanoodle in Q1 2005. Six Apart’s job is to enable people to use our tools to make money for themselves.

Joe – JotSpot makes money on direct revenue. By also making tool development easy and accessible, we’ll enable all the small IT shops out there to quickly develop customized apps that solve specific problems. This enables them to charge for more billable hours.

With all these tools, is this reducing face-to-face interaction?

Many hands go up to say they use IM at work to communicate to people less than two feet away.

Stewart mentions the example of someone’s son talking to a computer screen expecting to talk with his grandfather in Estonia. The computer is less a box and more a window. More and more people are looking at the cell phone screens and not talking on them.

Will Flickr, TypePad, JotSpot merge? They’re all about sharing information.

Reid – it’s the next generation of Yahoo! broken up into many different pieces.

Stewart – the average Yahoo user uses 2.1 of the 40 sites on Yahoo.

Andrew – they have already merged. You can have a Flickr sidebar on your TypePad blog. You can point to wiki post from within a blog. Integration is already there, it’s better to have things interchangeable as needed.

What challenges are there in “crossing the chasm?” Where are you on the scale of 1 to 10?

Andrew: the blog is on a “2” – Instapundit.com is now in the top ten in terms of pageviews next to all the big media sites. People are learning to read and in the process of reading, they begin to think, “I can do that too,” then, they will begin to blog. We’re still really in the “people learning to read” stage.

Joe: We’re still very early days. We believe in nerd power but we’re still way out of the mainstream. We’re maybe a “1” but other wiki tools are maybe a “0.3”

Stewart: We’re a “3” but our challenge is not to alienate the core users by taking the app to the mainstream. We’re getting close to the point where most everyone will either own or be related to someone that owns a digital camera – they will all want to share these pictures and that is when the market will really grow.

Reid – What will blogging look like three years from now?

Andrew, it will push into families just as email and IM has done so in the past. Blogs are really the third leg of communication. Blogs are used to document the “full record” of a conversation that’s going on.

Reid – What will be some of the cool apps on JotSpot?

Joe says people are now running call centers, project management, a number of other traditional apps on JotSpot. The best ones are the micro-solutions that solve specific problems for a small group of people really well. Picking up on the three years from now thread, he says that the Wiki will be just another app just like email and a shared network drive.

400,000 people make money on eBay. Joe would love to spawn a network of small time developers to create and make money off apps that they sell that run on JotSpot.

Reid – What of photo sharing in three years?

Stewart says that photo sharing will become a new notification method. Instead of a phone call to say that she arrived safely, someone might post a picture of their luggage arriving. Photostreams will act to document movements (he cites the example of him taking a picture at a Giants game and then someone in San Francisco giving him grief for not stopping by while he was in town).

He goes on to say that he likes the fact that whole communities are developing around specific tags. Vintage 50’s toys and these groups sharing their favorite toys via Flickr – people connecting.

Reid: Isn’t a blog just another way to publish a web page? Why is Six Apart charging?

Andrew answers by telling the story of how Ben and Mena were pulled into supporting Movable Type for enterprises by their customers that wanted an upgrade cycle and official support for the product.

Reid: What of Open Source? What do you tell developers? Why should they develop to your platform?

Joe says that you can do much more on JotSpot as far as integrating with enterprise systems than you can using open source tools. One attraction of open source is that it’s “hackable,” JotSpot has tried to retain this so that applications that are built on it are easily modified. They also have made JotSpot inexpensive so that it is easily accesible. They were inspired by Six Apart’s pricing for TypePad where you can get up and running for under $5.

Reid: Where does the money come from? Flickr doesn’t charge like other photo sharing sites such as Ofoto or Shutterfly, what’s the financial plan?

Stewart says we don’t really think of ourselves as a competitor of Ofoto, Snapfish, etc. because photo finishing is expensive. These finishing sites give away sharing as a way to sell finishing services. Flickr will sell better sharing tools as a way to differentiate. Many households have digital cameras so there is a market for the pro-sumer digital camera geeks that Flickr can address.
82% of the 2 million photos on Flickr are public – there is an opportunity to sell advertising around tags related to the public shared photos.

Reid is posing the questions. Are these new apps, (JotSpot, TypePad, Flickr) a platform?

Andrew is talking about the TypePad app as being an extensible platform off of which simple applications can be built. He talks about how Typelists that list books from Amazon tie into web APIs but via a simple, web-based front end.

Joe talks about two articles. The first is the Chris Anderson’s Long Tail piece in Wired. The second is Situated Software by Clay Shirky. He believes there is a long tail in the software business. A vast majority of business is run on the backs of simple Excel spreadsheets that are shared via email, not the large, bulky CRM or SFA apps. Joe feels that there is a need for a platform to share information quickly and easily.

Stewart talks about what happens when you release your API into the wild. Within a few days there was an iPhoto plug in that allowed Mac users to upload photos to Flickr. Leveraging the talents of the community has helped him support the larger community with better tools. In general, outside developers can do a better job that you can yourself.

Stewart is showing his Flickr page.

55% of their users came to Flickr via blogs that were pointing to Flickr pages.

He is showing how to search and add metadata. The process of adding metadata is “collaborative and social,” because Flickr can bring together commonality through your network of contacts or common metatags. He also is showing how you can add tags to photos of your contacts.

Stewart has 400 contacts.

The ability to tag needs to be social – the failure of current machine translation shows that automated tagging has a long way to go.

Now he’s showing the top tags on Flickr and then is drilling in on tags associated with India.

Andrew is now showing BoingBoing as an example of a blog that runs on Movable Type.

He then shows Mighty Goods as an example of how a blog can be turned into a front end for an affiliate business.

As an example of a quick & easy extension of a developer network, he is showing the Pay Pal site that runs on TypePad. This shows how developers can quickly get the word out to their developer network without investing in an infrastructure to support it..

He then points to his own site where he’s moblogging this event from the perspective of a panelist.

The event is going to be back-to-back demos. Joe is currently demoing JotSpot.

He is showing how the JotSpot version of a wiki can easily transform itself into a platform for “rapidly building lightweight, customized application” that integrate data from your local hard drive, your network, and across the internet.