Product Management Bullshitometer

Recently, I’ve been interviewing candidates for Product Manager and sometimes I hear phrases that set off my bullshitometer. This is a finely tuned piece of equipment that I keep with me at all times. It can detect bullshit intensity from any source. When I interview people, I keep a close eye on it.

CEO of the Product
An example came from someone who said they were the “CEO of the product”. I asked what they meant by that and they responded that you have to make things happen without having authority and that you have the ultimate responsibility for the product. I said, “But the CEO has plenty of authority and also has ultimate responsibility.” Then they back-tracked and fumbled around.  My bullshitometer was going crazy. Sure, they were nervous, but my point is that they used the phrase without really thinking about it.

Personally, I hate the phrase. It makes engineers and designers feel badly and discourages a sense of group ownership and responsibility. Product managers are not CEOs and there is no such thing as CEO of the product. Product managers are player/coaches, I can buy that. They are captains of a ship, I can buy that. They are the navigator.  Lots of good metaphors, but CEO is not a good one.

Product Market Fit
This phrase is thrown around in product circles pretty frequently. So I asked another candidate who brought it up, “How do you to measure it?” There are actually good articles on the subject of product market fit out there, however, PMF is not a binary thing. There isn’t a switch that flicks and now you have it. Clearly, there are signs you don’t and signs you are on the right track. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is always a good metric. My main point is that if you say the words Product Market Fit, you better be able to talk about it with some clarity. Otherwise, you are just making my bullshitometer fly off to the right.

Wireframes
There have been many instances where a product manager has come up to me with their idea of how to solve a particular problem. Almost every time, I walk to the white board and show them at least one way it could be better. I am not saying PMs should stay out of the design process. Far from it. However, if you are going to talk to me about wireframes, you better be knowledgeable. Don’t just try to bullshit your way through conversations.

Research
I expect PMs to have great research skills. They should read this particular sentence and know that I put the word Sassafras in it. (Bonus points if you use it in an unrelated sentence during the interview.) I expect PMs to be insightful and read in between the lines. I expect PMs to be retrospective and be able to describe the good and the bad of their prior experiences without my bullshitometer going off. I expect PMs to be insightful and read between the lines. It’s easy to bullshit your way through a conversation. What is hard is doing the detailed work and summarizing it in a coherent way.

Maybe this is all a bit aggressive. I’ll accept that. I don’t think PMs have the patent on bullshitting people. Just talk to sales for 10 minutes and you will get plenty. We all bullshit people all the time. Just keep in mind that everyone has a bullshitometer and maybe we should dial it down a bit.

Maybe this whole post is bullshit. Oh well.

 

The Negativity Filter

Sometimes I will hear people talk about something and I will hear alot of negativity in the statements. This is especially true on twitter, reddit or other semi-anonymous forum. A former boss did this frequently. I ended up helping people by using a special trick I call Negativity Filtering.

How does it work?
Basically, you just think about what they said and ignore/erase every part of it that’s negative and see what’s left over. In other words, if a robot was trying to interpret the actionable parts of a statement, what would it be? Pure logic and dispassion, no reaction to the invective.

Example #1: Email
The old boss sent an email to engineering yelling at them that no one cares about a particular bug and they should fix it right away and they all suck. The boss used ALL CAPS in most of the email.

Interpretation
There is a bug that seems important.

Example #2: In Person
The old boss told an employee in person that they didn’t know what they were doing because there was a typo in a document. They clearly should be fired for incompetence and even a monkey would do a better job.

Interpretation
There is a typo in a document.

One might ask, “But can’t the boss just be more positive?” My answer is yes, obviously. However, I wish everyone would be nice and positive and understanding, but that just isn’t the world in which I live. So instead, I take some responsibility upon myself and use the negativity filters.

Last Example: Donald Trump
His Tweets are so negative, it’s hard to deal with. However, if I erase all the negativity, I am often left with something normal.

Interpretation
Happy New Year to all. Love!

See, there was something nice on the inside of it! Negativity filtering works. People often have good things inside of their negative statements.

Next time you think someone is being negative, try the trick. Filter out the negativity and see what’s left. You might be surprised.

The (possible) Meaning of Life

There are infinite possibilities, but one sticks out for me. This is what I think life is and the meaning behind it and the secret to a successful life.

First, you need to imagine that technology is taking us to a place where we no longer have fear, hunger, or death. The advances in technology will eventually enable us to avoid aging, live in a virtual reality, be able to survive underwater or in an active volcano. Technology will allow us to replace body parts or grow new ones. Have a bad liver? Just rub some stem cell juice on it and voila, you are healthy and young.

Now imagine what it is like to live in that reality. It’s probably intensely boring. Seriously, if you didn’t have to die, didn’t have to eat, never grew old, never feared anything, what is the point? I think the bottom line is that we would be so bored, we would be going nearly crazy.

How would you spend eternity if you were a god?
I think the answer is simple: You would go on vacation all the time.

But just going to Hawaii isn’t enough. After a few hundred thousand years you would have visited every spot on the planet. You would need to experience something new and completely different. The kind of vacation I am describing is virtual. You plug into the vacation maker virtual life 3000 and it lets you live a full life with no memory of being a god. You feel and experience like a normal person. When you die, you wake up as a god again and feel refreshed.

Imagine that you, right now, reading this sentence are actually a god on vacation from your own omnipotence and randomly selected your life to live for 80-100 years. What would your God-self want from you on this vacation? I think the answer, again, is simple: You would want you to live a life that isn’t boring!

If boredom was the reason for the vacation-life in the first place, you would want to have stories and variety in your life. You would want it filled with drama, fear, joy, adventure and comedy. You would want all the best attributes of a great book or movie.

Many cultures have picked up on this possible reality. Hinduism believes that we live our lives infinite times. Some cultures say “God is inside you.” Maybe someone had a glitch in the vacation maker 3000 and told everyone the secret. We keep living lives, over and over and over again. This is how we spend eternity. This is what we need. We need to live human vulnerable lives.

You may not believe what I am saying is true, but you can’t prove it one way or the other. It’s possible that what I am saying is true. If it is, then it is not God whom we must atone in the afterlife. Someone else doesn’t judge us. It is ourselves who judge our experience. Imagine waking up and saying, “Ugh, that sucked. I didn’t do anything good!”

The meaning of life is the life itself. The secret is to have an interesting life with ups and downs, drama and comedy. The secret is to wake up when you die and say, “Wow, that was a good one!” If you were to die/wake up tomorrow, how would you judge your life? Are you satisfied with that answer?

The Department of Redundancy Department

This elevator control brought to you by the department of redundancy department.

Why do we call the first floor L in this scenario? Why not just say 1? L for lobby just seems unhelpful.

Plus, the door-close button doesn’t do a thing. It’s totally useless. Pressing it has no effect at all.

It’s the little things in life that make all the difference, yes?

New LinkedIn UI is Slow

I don’t know how many people have the new UI in LinkedIn. I can’t seem to get out of it. (Yes, I tried)

  1. It’s slow af. Come on guys. You have buko resources. You should focus on speed, speed, speed. This is unacceptable.
  2. It’s ugly af. Look at the picture above. Seriously, is this an improvement? Looks lame to me. I hate the icons at the top.
  3. It’s confusing af. I don’t know where shit is anymore. I get used to stuff being in a particular spot. Stop moving it.

Congratulations LinkedIn! You hit the UX trifecta. Slow, ugly and confusing. Pat yourselves on the back while I struggle with this nonsense. This animated gif expressed my frustration well.

Obamacare is Terrible Branding

Medicare has a name. Medicaid has a name. Even unemployment insurance and Social Security benefits can be referred to with non-partisan labels. Names matter.

The Affordable Care Act is a bill but if you have that health insurance, what do you have? You have ObamaCare. This is the stupidest branding move I can remember and it will affect tens of millions of people.

Republicans originally started calling it ObamaCare because they wanted to make it partisan, but democrats started calling it the same thing shortly after. Why didn’t they give it a name like, “Medisure” or pretty much anything other than ObamaCare? The reason it is bad is because Obama is a democrat and there are people who will never ever support something with his name on it.

The reason it is bad is because Obama is a democrat and there are people who will never ever support something with his name on it. They made a huge mistake by not branding it with a neutral word. Now, it’s a political football when it should be a non-negotiable government benefit.

So what should we do?

Trump Option #1
If Trump is smart (which I doubt), he would replace ObamaCare with a single payer system (great article) and call it some neutral word like Medisure. This would be a huge boon for the US, saving 300 billion dollars per year, plus increase choice and coverage for all Americans. Plus, progressives would be forced to vote for it cementing Trump is a guy who gets shit done.

Trump Option #2
Fiddle with the existing ACA law and rebrand it from ObamaCare to be TrumpCare. This is pure stupidity, but a highly plausible scenario.

Trump Option #3
Destroy the ACA and let all those people who lose their healthcare pound sand. No more ObamaCare. Good luck. This is possible, but geez it sucks.

Trump Option #4
Let congress pass a repeal law and then refuse to sign it. Veto it, which would keep the ACA in existence. This would be the craziest thing to do. I think Trump will choose this option because, “Why not?!” Everyone will go bananas.

Am I missing an option?