This morning I had a Twitter conversation with garychou and Tina about getting feedback on what you work on. Better yet, what you build. You can get most of the back and forth we had on Twitter here

There were a couple of important things that came out of our conversation. Maybe they’re obvious, maybe they’re not - I wanted to share them either way.

When you’re in the early stages of development whether or not you’re receiving positive or negative feedback doesn’t matter. It’s far more important to ensure that you’re receiving valid feedback. You can act on positive or negative feedback - you can’t act on invalid feedback. It gives you absolutely nothing. 

But more importantly show what you’re making to who you’re making it for. If you’re making something for artists, show it to artists. You can abstract this even further. If you’re making something for the internet, show it to the internet. And one more abstraction gets you at if you’re making something for people, show it to people. 

When I was in high-school I played in the pit band. Every year we would play the music for the yearly musical that was put on by the drama club. Over the course of a few months we would learn the entire score and perform for two nights. 

For four years it always went the same way. We would practice once to twice a week and kind of glance over the music. Then when there was two weeks left to a dress rehearsal we’d get serious. Suddenly the music started sounding a lot better. Careless mistakes were avoided, and we didn’t miss a beat (pun intended). The day before dress rehearsal we would be in great shape. 

Whether it be a product, project, or high school musical, a sense of urgency is important. It’s what keeps everyone on the team sharp and efficient. 

Nothing’s really changed since those days in high school playing in the pit band. No matter what I’ve worked on or who I’ve worked with instilling a true sense of urgency is difficult. But there are some tactics that can be used to simulate - as best as possible - a sense of urgency. 

Schedule demo days. The earlier and more public the better. Everyone wants to show off their hard work and be recognized for it. Formalizing a demo date gives everyone on the team an objective to work towards to before the “real date”. You can even schedule a few so that you can show progress throughout the course of the project or product development. 

Get objective feedback. Again, the earlier the better. No matter how good the vision of the product is, or how you’re excited about working on a product nothing motivates a team like hearing real life objective feedback. If the team hears a customer say that the current version of the product isn’t good you can bet that they’re going to want to fix the product for that customer, and quickly. 

Reinforce the vision and raise awareness. When you think you’ve talked about the product enough, that’s probably when you should talk about it some more. A product vision has to be reinforced early and often until everyone understands and can repeat that same vision. By reinforcing the vision, awareness across a team or organization also increases. Soon, it’s not just the team working on the product that’s excited about it, it’s the whole damn company. That’s sure to make any team feel that what they’re working on is urgent (and important). 

I’ve found that there is no substitute for the real thing. But simulating it as best as possible does come somewhat close, and leads to far better results. Sometimes, more than just a few days before the product goes live. 

For the past few weeks I’ve read a Five Thirty Eight article every single day, and I’ve been loving it. I can’t remember the last time that happened with any media outlet, or for that matter dedicated site. 

I’ve been a fan of Nate Silver’s “style” since before Five Thirty Eight - but when he started Five Thirty Eight I was both excited and skeptical. I wanted his style to be applied to not just politics or sports, but many other areas. But, I also knew that he wouldn’t be able to write every article on his own. So I figured he’d hire writers, they would be good but wouldn’t be able to execute Nate’s style the same way. I’ve been proven pretty wrong. 

Every article on Five Thirty Eight feels as if it were written by the same writer. The approach to the article and the quality of the analysis performed is always dead on. It’s pretty amazing. You might think this is a bad thing but I think it’s great. Especially when you’re trying to deliver a very specific style of writing - or to be even more accurate, journalism. 

The other thing that has made Five Thirty Eight special for me is that it’s one of a kind. It’s goal is to present information and data that makes it accessible to everyone, and then lets everyone make up their mind. They don’t rely on which argument is better, or strong opinions, they rely on data and I like that. 

Five Thirty Eight has done an excellent job in not only executing a clear vision for their publication, but also filling a huge void in journalism. If you haven’t ready anything on Five Thirty Eight I recommend you do so right now. 

Everyone wants to do the right thing. So we struggle to answer the question, “What’s the right thing to do?” 

We ask ourselves this question about products we build, retention methods, marketing tactics, technology we develop, and so on. But in trying to answer the question, it’s transformed into a question about success. This can make the wrong thing feel like the right thing without anyone is noticing. 

Having success is important, but I don’t think it should ever come at the cost of doing the right thing. And if you want to do the right thing, you have to figure out what the right thing is. 

Only thinking about what the right thing for success is can make you focus on the wrong things. 

It’s harder to figure out what is the right thing to do in general. You have to think about a the people, the customers, and the business. But I think it also makes being continuously successful that much less of a struggle. 

Note: How to think about what you need to do the right thing for (people, customers (product), and business) comes straight out of Ben Horowitz’s book The Hard Thing About Hard Things. It’s the best way to date that I’ve found to think about things like this. 

I found this post on my Twitter feed earlier this week - you can read it here. It’s an interesting post on attempts to use design and technology for social good. 

This type of “social good” work makes the design process ineffective. Poverty and racism, etc. are not poorly designed systems. They are systems working exactly as they were designed.

Regardless of how you might react to the post I can guarantee you it will make you think. It puts things into perspective. While design and technology might help solve problems, the people who can build the design and technology for social good don’t really know the problems. 

If nothing else it calls for those of us who are involved in design and technology to be responsible about what we build. 

The title says it all. Today I hiked 12 miles on the Appalachian trail with Gillian and Raphael.

It felt incredible to get away from the city and out into nothing. Nothing was fighting for our attention. There weren’t any phones buzzing or crowds to manage.Just quiet, the trail, and us talking. 

I also find that hiking just brings everything back to basics. You eat and drink what you have - the choices are simple. There’s also something to be said about traveling using your own power. 

It was a perfect day.

I’ve been doing some thinking about what a problem marketplace might be and thought I’d share my billeted ramblings.

- Kickstarter is a marketplace for ideas
- You fund people’s ideas and their project, device, event can be made reality thanks to people who believe in the idea.
- Other companies are also doing this.
- indiegogo, ramen.is assembly made are all similar and based on ideas
- you can find ideas to work on or find ideas to buy into or back
- There’s been success through these idea funding platforms or idea marketplaces
- Could the same approach be taken for problems?
_ There are plenty of problems that need help or the right people to come up with a solution
- Closest I’ve seen to this is Catchafire and Crowdrise
- Catchafire helps skilled professionals connect with non profits or other interests to help them
- Examples are “Need help with a Public Relations strategy” or “We need help creating a membership strategy”
- I think this scratches the surface of what a problem marketplace could be
- Crowdrise helps raise money for charity but there isn’t a charity for every type of problem
- Some problems exist on a very specific level and don’t have an organization associated with it
- The difficulty is in creating a structure that helps solve problems
- There are problems you don’t know how to fix or how much it will cost to fix

If you’ve done some thinking about a problem marketplace or are interested in talking more about it, get in contact with me.

This post was meant for yesterday so when you’re reading this pretend it’s Thursday.

The other day I was talking to someone about how I work with my team (developer, QA engineer). But the more I thought about it I don’t just have a way I work with my team - I have a way I work with every member of my team.

If another developer, designer, or QA engineer came on board I’m sure that the way we would work together would be very similar but there would be slight nuances that would be different.

Usually when someone new is introduced to a team the first thing that is talked about is what the work is that needs to be done. This could work out just fine if clear expectations are set by everyone on the team but even then everything isn’t covered. What results can be confusion and conflict amongst the team.

Instead of focusing on the work immediately I think it can be helpful to talk about how you work and how new team members work.

With some designers I make wireframes as a foundation to have discussions on. Other designers prefer to make the wireframes themselves. Both approaches are fine by me, but if we don’t understand each other’s approach things won’t go so smoothly. The same goes for developers.

The work is important and we are all eager to build, but before we get to work we should understand how we’re going to work.

This post is going to seem obvious. But often times the most obvious things are the ones forgotten. 

When you’re building a product, everything you build should be for your customer. 

Even more specifically, when you’re building a platform everything you build should be for the people on your platform. 

This means that when you’re building, you’re building “for the people”. I know this sounds a bit “fight the man” but it’s true. Platforms grow because people use them, and people use platforms because they find them valuable. So it’s easy to see that everything you build is for the people. 

But, it can also be easy to forget the people. When you’re building you might start to have your own ideas about what you can or should build. This can quickly lead to building things that the people using your product don’t need or want. That’s why it’s important to always go back and see how what you’re building is affecting the people you’re building it for.

At Shapeways, we’re building a marketplace. So a question we constantly ask ourselves is how is this improving our shop owner’s performance? Everything we build should help our shop owner’s become more successful. If it doesn’t one could argue that we should revert the change. Thinking like this doesn’t just help us think about what to build, it also helps us gauge our success. 

The same approach can and should be applied to any product. We’re building for the people.

I’ve been following Tindie for over a year now. It was founded by Emile in an interesting way. He posted the idea for Tindie on Reddit and after receiving a few positive responses he decided to build it. Two years later, Tindie is doing well, really well. 

Over the past two years, Emile and other Tindie employees heard the same two things over and over again. From the Tindie blog

For customers, it is difficult to find products with so many in such broad categories

For sellers, it is hard to list products because a product could easily go in multiple categories

Today, Emile and the Tindie has acted on this feedback by introducing markets. 

With markets Tindie is getting rid of traditional categorization techniques and empowering any Tindie community member - customers and sellers alike - to create their very own categories. I just created the Drone market, and could use some help unlocking it.

Every market has market moderators. Market moderators have the ability to remove products, and edit the market. 

By putting the control into the hands of the community, Tindie has empowered for community members to be their very own merchandisers and tastemakers.

Sellers who want to distinguish themselves can create their very own market, or even partner with sellers with similar products to form a coalition.

Customers that have a particular interest for a specific type of product can easily create a new market, which in turn could attract new sellers and products. 

I think there are huge benefits in the type of collaboration and power that Tindie has given to its community. There’s no doubt in my mind that it could be a bit harder to manage, but the results also have the potential to be extraordinary. 

It’s only fitting that Tindie markets are very similar to Reddit, the platform where the idea for Tindie was initially conceived. By drawing inspiration from Reddit and how Reddit thinks about community I think Tindie has paid homage to Reddit in the best way possible.