Current Events

The Unseen Great Wall

The Great Wall of China

This weekend’s Sunday New York Times features the striking photo seen above, spread over two pages. Most people experience the Great Wall, “on half-day tours from Beijing to the Badaling or Mutianyu sections of the Great Wall, which are 40 to 50 miles north of the capital” but the author of The Great Wall, Our Way chose the road less traveled and hiked along a remote section of the wall further to the North that have been essentially untouched for 500 years.

Current Events

The Product Manager is not the CEO

A lot of people describe a product manager as a CEO of the product or the “owner” of the spec, but I think that over-ascribes influence and authority to the product manager. The best teams operate in a way where the team collectively feels ownership over the spec and everyone has had input and been able to suggest and promote ideas. The best product managers coordinate the key decisions by getting input from all team members and are responsible to surface disagreements, occasionally break ties, and gather consensus (or at least ensure that everyone commits to a plan) when decisions get made. It’s not about building what the product manager thinks is right. This isn’t to say that product managers shouldn’t have great ideas of their own, but the goal is not to find a team that executes on their ideas blindly. Instead, the best product managers build a process to collaboratively decide on the right priorities so the whole team is bought in.

Josh Elman on medium

This role of negotiator between parties is the most difficult aspect of being a Product Manager. In most organizations, you are not negotiating from a position of strength. Most of the people you depend upon to get your product built do not report to you. You cannot use brute force to get something done and must convince (or cajole) them which is why consensus building is such an important skill for an effective product manager. Metrics, experience, reputation and even humor are all are helpful tools to have in your quiver.

Further down in Josh’s post he writes,

Great product managers understand the very tricky balance between getting it right and getting it out the door.

This is the one time in the product lifecycle that PM needs to step up and, “act the CEO.” For better or worse, the decision to launch a product, warts and all, lies solely with the Product Manager. In order to get the team (and company) on board, the decision should come after careful consideration with the core team. Once you’ve got the team on board, you can take the decision out to the stakeholders in the company including senior management. After that, at some point, you flip from a consensus-building mode to a, “the team has decided we’re ready and we’re giving you the FYI.” You have enough agreement to stop taking input for a pre-launch punch list and adding the feedback to a post-launch list.

Each company has it’s own tolerance for bugs. On the one hand you can be Facebook and “Move fast and break things,” on the other you can end up like Microsoft and Apple before them and launch your phone without support for Copy/Paste.

If it’s good enough to fly, it’ll reach escape velocity and successive bug fixes will handle any course adjustments. If it’s fatally flawed because key details were overlooked, it’s doomed to failure. Only the Product Manager can make the call on when their product is ready for prime time and their reputation will be made or broken based on that launch.

Photo of Gene Kranz, NASA flight director during the Apollo program

Gene Kranz

For further reading on Product Managment, see


Ten Types of Facebook Likes

The Facebook “like” is a simple social action loaded with meaning. The act of Liking something online while sitting alone at the kitchen table in your boxers is, on the face of it, a solipsistic act, but it’s really much more complex. One click on that link causes a complex web of behaviors that ripple outwards across your social graph. By Liking something you are not only pushing a social signal to the author of the post, you are also signaling to all others that view the post that follow.

Social signals are often misunderstood online so it’s important to remember that a Like is not always just a Like. It could be any one of the following types of Likes.

I Saw It Like – this is the most basic type of Like. You want to let the author know that you saw their 49 photos of their trip to Costa Brava and therefore do not need to be reminded when you see them next. A simple click here allows you to cut off the conversation with a quick, “Oh yes, I saw them,” so you can move on.

Pile On Like – we all tend to swarm around causes. The Pile On adds your name to a long list of people as a way to add weight to someone’s mission. A friend posts how she was indignantly treated by the pizza delivery guy. Quel dommage! This is the perfect opportunity to add your name the pile. Satisfyingly non-commital. We feel your pain.

Like To Remember – we live in a busy world and our newsfeeds are always in motion. How to remember that clever t-shirt folding video that you saw? With this type of Like, it’s more because you want to retrieve it later, not really because you “liked” it. It’s a one-click ReadItLater link.

Lazy Like – this is another common type of Like. Writing something witty, especially when you’re late to the game and the one snappy comeback you had ready was hidden under the View More link – your wrung out but still want to contribute – it’s late, you’re lazy – Like.

Shine a Light Like – it doesn’t happen too often but every now and then something drifts across your feed that you just know no one else will see unless you breath some social air onto it by clicking Like. Maybe it’s that brilliant one-liner from your long lost surfer buddy from Chiba who usually only writes in Japanese. You want your friends to know him and his brilliance. You could Share but that feels like robbing him of something so you click Like.

Ironic Like – sometimes something is so awful that a Like is in order as the online equivalent of the Hardy Har Har. Someone listening to Katy Perry’s Firework Death Metal overdub? Like.

Like My Shit Like – God Dammit! I was so excited when I finished work on a animated mockumentary takedown of Sean Parker’s Redwood Wedding that I posted it at 3am as soon as it was done. Everyone was asleep so they missed it and now some big sports event is going off so all the conversation has pushed your video even further down somewhere below the copyright notices. It’s a last resort and a real noob move but you’re clicking Like on your own stuff just to put it back into rotation.

Condolences Like – while most times Facebook seems like a Happiness Competition, sometimes sad things happen and people post about them. Everyone knows you don’t “like” the fact that someone lost their job or didn’t get into their top choice school but you are sending good vibes and “I’m thinking of you’s” their way. That’s a Condolences Like, not to be confused with a . . .

Mercy Like – remember that loud PR girl you met in Austin that was discovering social media for the first time? She was so into you and was so grateful for all the tips and tricks you were sharing with her. She took out a little notebook and wrote down a bunch of URLs that you told her and she went home and got that dream promotion she told you about. She’s so grateful, a kid who just got the hang of her bike without training wheels. It’s such an *interesting* world out there! Did you know Samsung paid off their settlement to Apple with 30 trucks of nickels? Even though you know it’s not true, it’s easier just to click Like. Go get ’em kid!

Absence of Like – what does it mean? You know someone saw your post but they didn’t like it when you specifically shared it because you knew they would like it. . .but they didn’t. Existential Cognitive Dissonance.

Thanks to Adam Kazwell for sparking the conversation over lunch and all the folks on the Dev team at GigaOM for the extended exploration of Katy Perry overdubs during a lull in the action.

Current Events

Society for Model and Experimental Engineers

The Makers of Things: The Society is a film by Anne Holiday about one of the oldest model building clubs in the United Kingdom. From their website.

Established in 1898 the Society has a long and distinguished history. We have a headquarters building in South London but our members are spread throughout the country and indeed throughout the world.

General meetings are held at Marshall House, usually on the first Saturday of the month. These cover a wide variety of topics of general interest to model engineers and those of like mind.

The Society has survived two world wars and has seen the introduction of technology that was barely a dream in 1898: the motor car: aeroplane: wireless & television and computer. At the same time the tools and equipment we have available have improved beyond recognition.

And from Anne Holiday’s post on a site page promoting The Makers of Things, a short film in which she interviews members of the society.

SMEE isn’t like any other engineering society. It’s a community united by a passion for making things and testing ideas. Their unparalleled devotion to their craft is evidence of a universal truth that’s relevant to us all; we learn only by doing.

I think of these guys as the original makers, the original geeks. It all started here.


Current Events

Town & Country Time-Lapse

Two stunning time lapse videos that are worth seeing. For full enjoyment, click and expand into full screen and turn up the volume.

The first is by Simon Christen who has been following the San Francisco fog for years. Thank you Mie for forwarding on this link. I agree, it’s a beautiful city we live in.

Adrift from Simon Christen on Vimeo.

Simon says on his page, “I spent many mornings hiking in the dark to only find that the fog was too high, too low, or already gone by the time I got there. Luckily, once in a while the conditions would be perfect and I was able to capture something really special. Adrift is a collection of my favorite shots from these excursions into the ridges of the Marin Headlands.”

The second video is by two friends that meet each other on Vimeo and shared a love for time-lapse photography of Yosemite. It really is a majestic place.

Yosemite HD from Project Yosemite on Vimeo.

I went on a spur-of-the-moment hike last weekend and am in awe of how beautiful it can be.