Everything a customer can see is part of the product. Your website, email, customer service interactions, receipts, and boxes are all part of the product. The best products create a seamless and complete experience by focusing on the details of the product. 

There are two products that I recently experienced this with. Coincidently they’re both food related products. Those products are Tonx and Good Eggs

Tonx, is about providing fresh roasted and delicious coffee to customers. The slogan on their packaging is “We source. We roast. We ship. You brew.” Every package comes with a coffee card that is beautifully illustrated and includes the roast date, location of the coffee, and a great description of the flavors you’ll experience. 

Good Eggs wants to grow and sustain local food systems worldwide. Their welcome letter tells a story about your groceries. The journey that they embarked on to reach your door step and what direct effect your purchase has on local farmers and foodmakers. Their packaging is reusable and is designed to encourage you to reuse the packaging by returning it to Good Eggs. 

Without any of these details Tonx and Good Eggs would just be another product trying to outshine their competition. But through these product details they’ve made me fall in love with their product, and I will be their customer for a long time - unless they break my heart. 

I met Scott about three to four years ago. I can’t quite remember. What I do remember is talking with him for a long time about games at the W hotel next to the Moscone Center during GDC.

He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met in the game industry. That night at the W, Scott played one of the games we had been working on, listened, and gave me amazing feedback - all while everyone was partying downstairs at the bar. 

That night Scott also told me about what he was working on. He recently left his job at Microsoft to start Heart Shaped Games and make his own games. Scott talked about creating games with incredible passion. The first game he was working on was Hero Generations. A few weeks later I was playing an early version of the game and I loved it. 

Today, almost three years later Scott is still working on Hero Generations. He’s released a Kickstarter project to fund his final vision for the game and I of course will be backing it. You can watch Scott’s Kickstarter video at the bottom of this post.

It’s rare to see this combination of passion and persistence but it’s clearly present and Scott and Hero Generations. I wish nothing but Scott the best of luck and have no doubt that Hero Generations will succeed.

It’s not common to hear a startup talk about their rigorous training program. You hear about the late hours, passion, and success stories. There are stories about being agile and hacking things together. So once you join a startup it seems natural to be able to jump right in and be productive from the start. But that doesn’t make total sense. 

There’s a chapter in The Hard Things About Hard Things titled Why Startups Should Train Their People. Here’s a great quote from it. 

People at McDonald’s get trained for their positions, but people with far more complicated jobs don’t. It makes no sense. 

The entire chapter is a great read, I recommend it. 

I’ve never put together a training program. I’m not even quite sure what I would put in it. But, I am hiring a product manager so it seems like the perfect time to think about this. I’m going to use Ben Horowtiz’s Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager as a starting point and expand off of that.

I’m going to start writing the “training program” on a Hackpad here. If you’re interested in contributing, don’t be shy - do it. Feel free to add topics you feel should be covered in the table of contents. 

I’m not sure I’ll use this training program in any official capacity. But I am certain that as I write it (and you contribute to it) I’ll become a better manager.

I took the Metro North to White Plains today. On my way there I found out there weren’t any F trains running uptown. I finally got on an F going uptown on the A line. I wouldn’t be able to transfer to an uptown 6 to Grand Central. By the time I got to 14th St I knew that catching my train was going to be close.

I ran from Bryant Park to Grand Central (and made good time). There were two minutes to spare. I rushed to the lower concourse and was going to buy a ticket but there was a long line of people at both machines. So I decided that with a minute left I’d rather hop on the train, buy a ticket (even if it was at a slight upcharge), and be on my way.

Once the conductor got to me I asked him to buy a ticket. I went to hand him my credit card. But that didn’t work. You can only pay in cash. There aren’t any mobile credit card processing machines like on the airlines - just cold hard cash. He told me I was off at the next stop.

But I wasn’t just going to “give up”. I had one last ditch effort. I asked the two women sitting across from me if either of them had Venmo. After all, the Lucas ads were plastered everywhere - maybe they worked. I told them my story and was hoping that I could use one of their rides on their ticket or pay them later. This didn’t work either. Neither of them had ever heard of Venmo and weren’t interested in helping.

So I got off at Harlem, bought a ticket, and waited for the next train. The subway detours didn’t bother me but the MTA not offering credit card processing on a MNR train did. I also couldn’t help but be dissapointed in the women I asked for some help. I immediately thought that I would have had better luck with absolute strangers on the internet. Or for that matter - I would have been able to pay with a credit card in the first place. Maybe next time I’m on the MNR I’ll give the conductor a Square reader.

Today I started looking for a triathlon bike. I stopped by a couple of different bike shops and found a bike that looked promising. I took it out for a spin. It seemed like it could be a good bike, but I wasn’t sure. So I texted my resident expert bike friend Natalia

I sent her a few photos of the bike. A few messages later she was going to stop by with another one of her friends (a bike expert as well) on their way to Red Hook. Nat and her friend Simon checked out the bike I was looking at they decided that it wasn’t right. We walked a few blocks to another shop and found a bike that they thought would be perfect for me. 

If I didn’t have Nat and Simon by my side I wouldn’t know what to do. I would’ve probably walked away with the bike that wasn’t for me. Information is more accessible than ever but, there’s still nothing quite as powerful as receiving information personally from an expert. 

I interviewed a developer today who said something that got me thinking. I asked them what their favorite product was - something that I ask everyone who I interview. Before they answered they started to warn me that the answer might be very general. I expected the answer to be their smartphone (it’s the most common answer). But then he surprised me by saying the internet. 

I’ve never really thought of the internet as a product - but it absolutely is. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and every other possible web service to some extent is a feature of the internet. 

Their answer really changed my perspective or for that matter made me not take the internet for granted. After all, it is a product that someone developed. 

After hearing their answer, I was really excited to ask them my follow-up question. What has made the product - in this case the internet -successful? 

We ended up having a group conversation about this question which was great. In the end I walked away thinking that what has made the internet successful is access (and redundancy - which is enabled through access).

The internet empowers anyone or anything with access to it - and it’s an amazing product. 

Today’s post is short. It’s been a hectic week and I have to leave soon to meet new people.

I spent 45 minutes this morning sitting in a room by myself. It was quiet. I could think. I could concentrate. I got work done.

It’s not that I can’t get work done unless I’m in a bare quiet room by myself. In fact I often prefer to work around other people. But the change of environment was welcoming. It felt relaxing to be alone and have a break from external stimulus.

There’s a lot of noise (and signal) surrounding us and we can’t help but process it. It is after all right in front of us. Sometimes it’s just nice to be quiet and alone.

I’m back in the hiring process. So for the foreseeable future I’ll be spending a significant amount of time reviewing candidates and their applications. 

It never ceases to surprise me the lack of attention that is put into a candidate’s application. The application is how recruiters and hiring managers get their first impression of a candidate. 

While spelling and common grammar errors can be overlooked (I sympathize with these) there’s no excuse for not reading the job description.

At the very least read the job description in detail and follow the instructions on how to apply. Ignoring the instructions on a job descriptions will immediately take you out of the running. 

Yesterday I had virtual coffee with Julia from Tindie. It was the first time we’ve met. We had a great time talking to each other about similar challenges we faced. It was great to hear her perspective on similar challenges and how she tackled them. I’m pretty sure the feeling was mutual. I mentioned to her that we should make virtual coffee a regular thing. 

Meeting new people is a great way to broaden your own perspective. So often we limit who we talk to, both intentionally and unintentionally. While our co-workers, friends, and family are great people they don’t exactly represent very different perspectives than from the ones you’re used to. 

Meeting and talking with Julia was a great way for me to expand my general perspective. Often times I find it very easy and comfortable to shield myself from having new conversations with new people.

But, meeting new people has amazing benefits. It can help you validate, innovate, and sometimes even relax. There’s great comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in the struggle. 

The past couple of months I haven’t made a real effort to meet new people. I’m hoping I can change that in the next couple of months.

I build consensus every day. It’s a natural part of a product manager’s day to day. I build consensus with our development, operations, marketing, and even our own product team. I consider it the most important part of the product process. If you can’t get your co-workers to agree with the vision (or at least understand the vision) or each other, there’s no question that the product will suffer.

Consensus building is also one of the hardest things to do. It can be a tedious process. I’ve often found myself dreading it.

It’s easy to get in the habit of avoiding consensus. You start to decide that an improvement is small enough that it doesn’t need consensus. Or maybe you decide that you don’t need to change the way the product works. It will be a controversial topic and take a long time to achieve consensus across all the people that would be involved. The product seems to be just fine after all.

This type of thinking is cancerous. You can find easily find yourself in a position with a product that doesn’t meet the mark and a lot of stakeholders that have lost their trust in you and the product.

If there are too many people to build consensus with, trim the amount of people down. Find the key people that can represent the larger group and work with them.

When you can’t seem like you can get anyone to agree on anything go start with the basics. What are the goals? What are the problem statements? Find common ground there and build off of that.

We spend a lot of time thinking about how to improve our products but often overlook how we can improve the way we build products. Step back and improve the way you build consensus.