My Reading Philosophy in 17 Guidelines

I like Tracy Durnell’s Reading Philosophy in 17 Guidelines, especially this one:

Treat my To Be Read list as a stream to dip into, not a to-do list. I know I won’t get to all the books on my TBR.

It reminds me of an article from 2011 that I come back to often—The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We’re All Going To Miss Almost Everything:

Now, everything gets dropped into our laps, and there are really only two responses if you want to feel like you’re well-read, or well-versed in music, or whatever the case may be: culling and surrender.

Culling is the choosing you do for yourself. It’s the sorting of what’s worth your time and what’s not worth your time. It’s saying, “I deem Keeping Up With The Kardashians a poor use of my time, and therefore, I choose not to watch it.” It’s saying, “I read the last Jonathan Franzen book and fell asleep six times, so I’m not going to read this one.”

Surrender, on the other hand, is the realization that you do not have time for everything that would be worth the time you invested in it if you had the time, and that this fact doesn’t have to threaten your sense that you are well-read. Surrender is the moment when you say, “I bet every single one of those 1,000 books I’m supposed to read before I die is very, very good, but I cannot read them all, and they will have to go on the list of things I didn’t get to.”

The Product Culture Shift

Here’s a great post by Camille Fournier about The Product Culture Shift, and how every part of an engineering culture needs to change when product managers are added to traditional software infrastructure organizations.

To start, let’s be clear about one thing: as tempting as it might be, just hiring product managers won’t fix this problem. Even if you could find enough good product managers who want this type of job, which you can’t, product managers are only useful when they are paired with willing engineering teams. If the engineering teams don’t feel a sense of ownership for delivering a great product to their customers, product managers are unlikely to close that gap, and they will more likely turn into glorified backlog groomers than true product leaders.

Dear Alt-Twitter Designers: It’s about the network!

Excellent post by danah boyd, reminding us that with social networks it all comes down to nurturing the network dynamics, not the technical features.

That’s the thing about social media. For people to devote their time and energy to helping enable vibrancy, they have to gain something from it. Something that makes them feel enriched and whole, something that gives them pleasure (even if at someone else’s pain). Social media doesn’t come to life through military tactics. It comes to life because people devote their energies into making it vibrant for those that are around them. And this ripples through networks.

Manage the What, Not the How

Molly Graham makes a key distinction about good management in the post Manage the What, Not the How:

The key to exceptional management is to get great at defining the “what”. As a leader, you need to know how to create alignment, how to clarify what you expect, and how to communicate all of it. 

She goes on to explain that a big mistake she sees some managers make is to focus too much on how work is done. And when you do have to get involved in the “how”, do it through coaching:

When you intervene, you intervene with coaching. You can say, “That email you sent seemed abrupt,” or “You missed these two points that were important.” You can share examples to learn from. You’re giving feedback and then letting them try it again, not jumping in to micromanage.

Reading Well

I love the point Simon Sarris makes here about the importance of reading fiction, and how it’s useful for work purposes as well:

I also tend to stress fiction because I think, especially among my professional peers in the industry of software, that there is too great a fondness for non-fiction. I think this arises from a belief that superior knowledge of the world comes from non-fiction. This thought is attractive to people who build systems, but over-systematizing and seeing systems in everything can be a failure mode. Careful descriptions and summaries miss too much of the world. Hard distinctions make bad philosophy. Reading fiction helps you become an unsystematic thinker, something that is equally valuable but more elided by some engineers. It is easy to maintain an intellectual rigidity. It takes more care to maintain a loose poeticism of thought.

Why the remote-work debate stays so heated

Allie Conti frames the remote work debate really well in this post. In short, how someone feels about remote work and “return to office” is extremely personal:

I’ve given you this narration of my personal experience because, for all the talk of productivity and metrics and company culture, the topic of returning to the office is intensely personal. My needs and desires, for a variety of reasons relating to my age, finances, circumstances, health situation, and lifestyle, might be very different from those of workers who fall elsewhere on any of those axes. Some working parents have said they might value flexibility at school-pickup time. Some workers of color have raised the benefit of being free from in-office microaggressions. Recent college graduates may want to go into the office to make friends. And of course, not all workers are able to work remotely. The physical space in which one works, or hopes to work, intersects with one’s most personal choices. It collides with and reveals what people value most.

It feels like we should find ways to cater for both types of preferences. Hybrid work environments are far from an ideal solution, but it is one way to meet in the middle.

How Process Impacts Your Culture

Josephine Conneely has some excellent thoughts on the feared P-word in How Process Impacts Your Culture. I especially like going back to the purpose of adding process when evaluating what you have in place:

The aim of process in its purest form is to:

  • Facilitate ease of doing work: Design methods for teams to effectively work together, make decisions, and achieve their goals.
  • Reduce risk: Ensure company doesn’t fall foul of legal & compliance obligations or go bankrupt.
  • Ensure consistency and fairness: Aim for all customers and employees to have a similar experience in their interactions with an organisation.

The Product-Led Growth Trap

Oliver Jay wrote a 3-part essay about what he calls “The PLG Trap”, where product-led growth companies grow to a certain point and then suddenly sees that growth slow with no obvious ways through the slowdown. From the introduction to the essays, Oliver says this usually happens after an initial (and initially successful!) expansion into the enterprise market:

Quite simply, despite the complex security and administrative features you’ve launched, your product has not evolved to becoming broadly “enterprise-ready” for the majority of your enterprise prospects.

At this point, you may feel trapped–the PLG Trap. You’ve set growth expectations externally and internally based on how revenue (in particular, from the upmarket segments) has grown in the past few years.

However, what drove revenue in the past, in terms of your product offering as well as your sales and marketing motions, is unsustainable. There is no more bottoms-up, low-hanging fruit to feed the larger sales and marketing engine you’ve built. To pursue sustained revenue growth, you must tolerate a lower efficiency…only to now be punished by the public markets in what appears to be the beginning of a recession.

The essays go through several reasons why companies fall into this trap, and also how to avoid it by making smarter decision about sales, marketing, and product roadmaps early on.


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