No one likes talking about maintaining products. It gets even worse if you’re talking about maintaining products that are only used internally. But it’s something that everyone (PMs, developers, and designers) has to do. 

Maintaining products is a lot about listening and making decisions - sometimes those decisions are often unpopular and to be honest, a bit boring. 

It’s hard to get excited about adding a new column to a table or fixing a standard bug. And it’s even harder to listen to people and then tell them that the maintenance that they’re asking for right now isn’t a priority. 

But, maintenance is an important part of a product’s life. So remember that if you want to create products you also have to maintain them, no matter what. 

A few months ago I started reading Modern Farmer (print and online). It’s exactly what you might think it is, a publication about the modern farmer. They have great writing on agriculture and fun things such as Farm Dog Week. But one of my favorite things about Modern Farmer was something that took by my surprise, and that is their Instagram account

Modern Farmer each week invites a new farm to guest post on their Instagram account. The new modern farmer will introduce themselves and each day of the week will post a new photo and a brief description of the photo. I can’t get enough of it. 

The posts are casual and brief which I think also make way to a lot more authenticity. The perspective is created not just by a photo but the farmer’s raw perspective. Is it Pulitzer Prize winning journalism? No. But it’s still damn good and a great use of Instagram. Every week I can’t wait to see what farm is going to be featured and what I’ll learn from them. 

Most brands and companies use new high reach services such as Instagram in the “traditional” way - or use features that are created specifically to reach consumers. But I think Modern Farmer’s approach is unique, creative, and effective. 

I did a round of feedback sessions at garychou's Orbital NYC bootcamp today. I love participating in these feedback sessions. I don’t know a thing about the projects the people are working on and in the span of 45 minutes to an hour I try to help them as best I can. 

I think this type of feedback works extremely well.

I don’t have any context or background on their project. I haven’t put in the same amount of time that they have put in to work. This makes it easy for me to not be attached to their plans. Instead I’m invested and focused on their problems, vision, and goals.

I wish I could get this type of feedback more often and realize it’s hard to access that or make it available. garychou has done an amazing job of making this a staple of the Orbital Bootcamp - curating a list of advisors and making sure they come in at the right time. 

Maybe some day he’ll make it available for people at organizations. I know I would want it. 

I love coffee. I love the caffeine, but more importantly I love its taste. The complexity of a great cup of coffee that comes from a great bean is unlike any other. 

Fast Company recently did a week of coffee articles. One of the more interesting articles is The Multimillion Dollar Quest To Brew The Perfect Cup Of Coffee. It’s a long one, but also does a great job of giving an overview of how coffee culture has started and grown over the past years as well as who the major players are. 

Here’s a small excerpt that talks about the start of the “Third Wave”. 

Known as the Third Wave, this movement started a decade ago by a splinter group of true believers who approach every part of the coffee life cycle with meticulous obsession. Coveted “single origin” beans with unique flavors—and high prices—are harvested like wine grapes: on a specific farm in specific soil at a specific altitude in a specific climate on a specific lot, in some cases even picked on a specific day. Rather than the darkly roasted coffee popularized by Starbucks—the emblem of “second wave” coffee—third-wave roasters cook the raw green beans lightly, to bring out their distinctive profiles. Brewing for peak flavor requires scientific precision: how finely or coarsely to grind a particular strain of bean, steeped in how much water and at what temperature. All this adds up to a cup of black coffee so dimensional, they believe, that there’s no need to pollute it with milk or sweeteners—and so valuable that it can earn a price tag as hefty as $7 a cup.

I’m always excited about trying a new cafe, roaster, or brewing technique. It’s my own personal search for the perfect cup of coffee.

In fact today I went out on that search and tried a cold brew from Kings Roasters. The cold drip system used is the only one of its kind in the United States and the water used is limestone water (also used to distill spirits). You might think that’s overboard and pretentious - but I don’t care what you might think. It was the best cup of cold brew I’ve ever had. 

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while and I missed a post on Friday / Saturday so consider this my Saturday post. 

I’ve been reading The Third Plate. It’s great and recommend that you read it. 

Every part of the book makes me think about how it relates to that needs to be created and taken care of. Saying that planting vegetables is similar to creating technology products (or anything else) might seem like an extreme, but it really isn’t.

With everything we make, we should have the same considerations for its direct and indirect impacts. 

There’s a particular section in The Third Plate that explains how the poultry industry works.

The short of it is that not every part of a chicken is used, and there’s a lot of chicken that is produced. Because of this there is a nasty side effect that in turn helps keep alive a vicious cycle. Here’s an excerpt that explains it: 

Wouldn’t it be easier to cook every part of the bird?

Instead, the end result is a food system that plays out like an ongoing national tribute to Rube Goldberg. The overproduction of grain helps enables the overproduction of chicken, which lowers the price of chicken, which means even more chickens are raised to make up for declining revenue. That leads to even more unneeded chicken. So it’s fed to other animals it probably shouldn’t be fed to, like fish (which are increasingly farm-raised, in part due to the offshore pollution caused by producing too much grain). And then the overproduced chicken gets dumped to places like Mexico. To compete, Mexico turns to the same kind of system, the get-big-or-get-out system that feeds on itself; produce more chicken at lower prices. Laid-off poultry workers seek work in America, often illegally, which drives down wages and helps poultry companies produce… more chicken. 

I meant to post this yesterday, but it stayed in my drafts.

This past month we had a new product manager (Greg) come on board who previously worked at the Shapeways LIC factory. He’s been on board for two weeks and already is doing great things.

The great thing about hiring from within is that Greg already has intimate knowledge with our product offering. He knows how things work, and has also experienced what works and what doesn’t work from a completely different perspective. It gives him the ability to ramp up and get going very quickly. In his third week of work he’s already working on a new feature that requires a deep understanding of our products and systems. 

It’s not always that you can hire from within. But if you can find someone with the right instinct, capabilities, and ambition that’s already working at the organization I think it’s a recipe for success. It shows the rest of the organization that there are different paths available, that people are valued, and it gets the organization an employee who’s can start being effective a lot sooner. 

Today Estimote announced Estimote stickers. They’re smaller than the Estimote beacons making them a lot more portable but are equipped with low energy bluetooth sensors, accelerometers, and temperature sensors making them just as, if not more useful than the beacons. 

What I love about these stickers is that they’re lightweight. To make a device a smart input all you have to do is stick on an a sticker. This means that it’s easy for anyone to use but also means that you can rely on objects that you already own or exist. 

Estimote has done a great job of making the hardware a very low barrier to entry and it seems like their next step is to make the SDK a low barrier to entry as well. Making it easy for any Estimote user to program actions using input from stickers or beacons.

Estimote stickers evens the playing field for anything to be connected and “aware” in a very simple way. Their price and ease of use make them really accessible. There are a few conventional ways that stickers can be and are already being used. But, what I’m more excited about is the ways that we haven’t thought about using them yet. 

If there’s one thing that everyone can improve on, it’s listening. It seems like a simple enough thing to do, but often enough is ignored. For as easy as it seems it is to listen, it’s even easier to not listen. 

Listening isn’t just about not talking though. It’s about hearing and understanding what someone else is saying. Preventing yourself from having a gut reaction to what someone else is saying and instead processing it and then responding. And even then, sometimes a response isn’t always necessary. 

I know that I still have a lot of work to do with regards to listening. It’s a skill that I’ll always continue to develop, and the payout both in business and in my personal life are huge. 

When you first start building a product it’s simple to figure out what you want the product’s value proposition to be. But after working on the product for a few months, or even years you might find that the strengths of the products aren’t aligned with the value proposition. 

Maybe what you thought your customers would value isn’t what they truly value or perhaps the market changed and there’s a new value proposition hidden inside the product you’ve built. 

It’s important that once a year, quarter, or even month that you take a look at your product and understand it’s strengths. The strengths the business sees, the customers are talking about, and that you see. 

If the strengths don’t align with your value proposition it’s time to get to work. 

Last night Gillian took me out to eat at Luksus to celebrate my birthday. We had been there once before and it was incredible. This time was no different and it solidified that Luksus is my favorite restaurant that I’ve ever been to. 

Luksus is lead up by chef Daniel Burns. He previously was the head pastry chef at Noma, and headed up R&D for Momofuku restaurants. 

Every time we’ve been to Luksus we always try to sit at the chef’s table. Watching Burns and his team (two others) work their magic in a tiny kitchen is mesmerizing.

Unlike other kitchens the crew and kitchen is a lot smaller. It makes for a very intimate kitchen experience. Watching these three cook you could see the level of trust and respect they have for each other and for the food. It makes you anxious and excited for the food. 

And the food is unbelievable. It’s almost a direct translation of the crew’s attitude and work. Unpretentious, simple, intimate, and incredible.

My favorite dish last night (and it was hard to choose from) was made of sweet potato leaf, watercress, and cured yolk, in a chicken tea broth. I could have that dish every day for the rest of my life for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and die a happy man. 

Burns and his team do incredible things to the food they work with. They make each ingredient stand out on its own but also work extremely well together. The result is something that only a team with an intimate understanding, trust, and respect for what they do could accomplish. 

Watching Burns and the crew cook was a great reminder that behind every great product is a great team that trusts each other.