About a year ago I noticed a small bike shop in Dumbo - Red Beard Bikes. I never went it, but I always liked the way it looked. Since then it moved into a bigger location. A few months ago I went in there to buy a road bike for a triathlon. 

I met with Ilya and after several visits I narrowed down my selection and purchased it. Along the way Ilya guided me through the process, educating me about the world of cycling. He didn’t mind that I brought some cycling friends with me to get their opinion also. 

When I purchased the bike we spent a good 20 minutes making sure the fit was right and getting comfortable on the bike. 

A few weeks later I had bike shoes and pedals so I went back to Ilya to get them installed. He happily put them on for me. I tried to pay him - he wouldn’t have it. 

Today I went in because I took a spill on my bike. I got another lesson in cycling, and Ilya fixed a small problem I had with my bike. He also re-taped my bars. Again, I tried to pay him - he wouldn’t have it. 

In talking with Ilya what I’ve learned is that his mission is to get more people to be cyclists. Whether they’re commuters, casual riders, club riders, or racers. He doesn’t care. He just wants more people on two wheels. I also learned that red is always faster.

His customer experience speaks to that in spades. It was a great reminder that a strong mission can drive a great customer experience. 

I was exhausted last night and forgot to post this - so pretend you’re reading this yesterday.

I was talking with someone today who asked me, “What do you like the least about being a PM?” I was totally stumped and still sort of am. 

My first thought was the scheming you sometimes do as a PM to try to change the direction of the product - but that isn’t specific to a PM role and is indicative of something bigger. 

Then I thought maybe it’s stakeholder relationships. But I quickly dismissed that one since I’ve built some of the best products together with stakeholders and really value great stakeholders I’ve worked with in the past. 

So I’m still a bit stumped about the question. But one thing I don’t like very much is how little I get to be outside. So maybe that’s it. What I like least about being a (tech) PM is how much I have to work indoors.

I talked with a product manager today about building products that push the envelope. This got me thinking about how frequently big changes come to products. Often times it’s once every year or couple of years. 

In between these big product changes, PMs usually will be working on a mix of bug fixes, improvements to existing features, and smaller scale features. During this time PMs can feel like what they’re working on is small, incremental, and for that matter inconsequential. They’re just making another obvious step in another obvious direction. 

But usually it’s the small steps that actually enable those big leaps. Without the underlying structure, or continuous improvements that increases the ability and quality of a product, the product wouldn’t be able to take big leaps. Or it would take three to five years to take big leaps.

While big changes can seem fun and sexy they also often bring instability and incompleteness. It’s the small steps that makes it possible for big product changes to both happen and succeed.

Today we added a new hire to the Shapeways product team. Greg, a long-time Shapeways employee is transitioning from his role at the LIC factory to become a product manager. While he “technically” isn’t a new hire to Shapeways, he’s new to the product team. 

I’m always excited when there’s a new hire. This means that the new hire and I get to go through how things are done. Training is always seen as most beneficial for the new hire but I think that training is far more valuable for the person doing the training. 

A new hire has a fresh perspective. They want to understand why things are done the way they are. They’re curious. So they ask some of the more obvious questions that we not might be facing. Or, they have new ideas of how things could be improved. This is a great time to reevaluate how things get done.  

It’s not very often that you get to get an objective, fresh perspective on how things are done. So when you do get a new hire I would recommend encouraging them to question and challenge how things are done during the training process. It won’t be long before they’ll get used to the way things are. 

I didn’t post anything yesterday so I’m making up for it with a short morning post.

I fell down twice off my bike this morning on my way to train. I ended up going on and started my session. Half way through, I rode to my coach Mike and called it quits for the day. I felt tired and unfocused, nothing felt right. Which is why I fell twice before I even got to my training session. 

Many of the sayings about falling down are about how it teaches you how to get back up, or is related to perseverance, will power, and dedication.

I agree with all of those lessons and have experienced them a few times. But, falling down is also a great reminder - both in business and personal life - that sometimes you need to take a break.

I came across a great post by Anil Dash on my Twitter feed today. In fact it’s very appropriate that I found out about it through my Twitter feed. Personally, I think that it’s a must read. You can read it here.

This post is timely - especially since I just finished reading The Circle and I’ve also been thinking about transparency. Anil does an amazing job of describing “public” - which isn’t an easy thing to do, but Anil excels at it. 

Public is not just what can be viewed by others, but a fragile set of social conventions about what behaviors are acceptable and appropriate.

Public is a difficult topic. As people who build technology that changes what public means and as public defenders ourselves we have to do our best to learn more about what public really means. 

I first used an iPhone when I was still a teenager. Today, I see kids, infants event using iPads and iPhones intuitively. This got me thinking about what are the possibilities of the technology long tail? 

What does long-term care look like once most people who need log-term care can operate an smart device without much effort? 

I remember seeing advertisements for “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” devices that would hook up to your phone line and dial a family member or emergency services. I have a hard time believing that smart devices will simply adopt this same approach and we’ll have applications that do the same thing.  

Once most people have access to connected smart devices and - more importantly - know how to operate smart devices you can change things. Long-term care is just one of the many areas that technology’s long tail will help improve, or disrupt. We’re already starting to see a few services like this pop-up, but I think we’ll see a ton more in the next decade or two. 

The other day I tweeted about spreadsheets and applications. 

I’ve built so many things using a spreadsheet. For example, I’ve built a to-do list, budget manager, database, CMS, and probably a few more things. In some ways, a spreadsheet is my favorite minimum viable product. It’s what lets me see how to organize the problem, and lets me take a sneak peek as to how I’m going to architect a solution and what challenges I might face along the way. 

But I don’t continuously use a spreadsheet for those very specific use cases. I use dedicated applications. The reason being that they provide an objective and complete experience that a spreadsheet can’t give. 

A product manager’s role is to solve problems. So you’d think that most PMs hear about people’s problems. That’s somewhat true. The other part is that they more often hear about people’s solutions. 

This usually takes the form of “I just need…” and “I’d like to request we build…”. A product manager doesn’t have to be one providing the solution, but they need to be the one making sure that the suggested solution is not only solving the problem at hand but that it’s right for the product, customers, and the business. 

If you’re telling your PM what you need you might have a bad PM but more than likely you’re wasting their services - and also pissing them off. 

Most solutions that are requested are bandaids to bigger challenges. I just need you to display this information in this dialog seems like an innocent enough solution. But when you learn that the information that’s being displayed is using to derive actions, you have to wonder - why not have the software suggest the action rather than leave it up to human interpretation and error. 

Another challenge is that when partners are suggesting solutions they often become more invested in their solution rather than solving the problem. This isn’t good. The person who suggested the solution now usually becomes defensive about their solution and makes it difficult for the team to move forward.

People should be invested in the problem, not the solution. This way they care about solving the problem in the best way possible, not through a specific solution. 

It seems that lately the internet of things (IoT) is everywhere. Every other day I seem to hear about a new IoT product or Kickstarter project that is going to help our lives - usually in the form of a smart home application.  

I like the internet of things, don’t get me wrong. But I also think we all want very different things from it. There will be common problems that need to be solved (e.g. Nest solving the temperature control problem) but I think other problems will require bespoke solutions.

Not everyone is going to feel comfortable buying an Arduino, hooking it up with some shields, and building a web interface to create an IoT device for themselves. But littleBits is changing that with their newly launched device cloudBit. Their tagline “Snap the internet to anything” is extremely appropriate. 

Not only has littleBits made it easy to make an internet of things device, it’s making it possible to turn dumb devices into smart devices. This means that you don’t have to purchase a new device to replace your fully functioning existing device (e.g. air conditioner, coffee maker, etc…) Granted, littleBits still has some work to do to facilitate this use case across many devices - but I’m sure in time they’ll get there. 

Providing access to technology is great, but making that technology accessible is even better, and that’s what littleBits is doing. They’ve made building electronics as easy as building a Lego set, and now they’re making it easy for us to build devices that can be connected to the internet.