How to receive feedback with grace

Some good tips here from Kax Uson on How to receive feedback—especially when you don’t agree with it:

Validate the feedback with other people. There will be times when we don’t really trust the feedback we receive, or in some cases, the people who gave them to us. This is normal. When this happens, it’s worth cross-checking the feedback with the people we trust. I like to think of it as getting a 2nd opinion vs immediately dismissing the feedback or overthinking it.

Life beyond OKRs: Tools for goal-setting

Ok, here’s the thing. I didn’t share this talk I’m doing on Thursday when it was announced because as much as I tried, I just didn’t feel like the story was coming together. Writing this talk was much harder than some others that I’ve done, but I think I finally got there last night. So with only a few hours to spare, here you go…

In Life beyond OKRs: Tools for goal-setting I’m going to talk about our team’s foundation (principles & values), how we set goals, and how we plan and execute. If that’s your thing, come join us!

Interesting Learnings from Outages

Here’s a good post from Gergely Orosz discussing Interesting Learnings from Outages. It covers internal vs. public postmortems, how investing in reliability can have bumps along the way, and how to make the difficult decision to try and fix something on the spot, or to do a lengthy restore. This point stood out to me:

“Move fast with autonomous teams” often builds up infrastructure debt. Reddit is a fast-moving scaleup where teams move fast, and it sounded like they had autonomy in infrastructure decisions. The wide range of infra configurations caused several outages, and the company is now paying down this “infrastructure debt.” This is not to say that autonomous teams moving fast is a bad thing, but it’s a reminder that this approach introduces tradeoffs that could impact reliability and will eventually have to be paid down, often by dedicated teams.

Threads isn’t depressing, it’s just not for you

I don’t think that Threads—the new Twitter-like service from Meta—is above critique. It’s noisy, it lacks a lot of features, and there seems to be a lot of desperate land-grabbing going on by various celebrities and brands. You might even say the whole thing feels off—and there is even a fairly academic reason for that feeling. In It’s Not Cancel Culture—It’s A Platform Failure Charlie Warzel reminds us about “context collapse”:

Context collapse occurs when a surfeit of different audiences occupy the same space, and a piece of information intended for one audience finds its way to another—usually an uncharitable one—which then reads said information in the worst possible faith.

We’ve probably all experienced this to some degree—you say something and it gets misunderstood or misconstrued (sometimes understandably!) by an audience that doesn’t have all the context. Anne Helen Petersen uses that concept to explain exactly why The Thread Vibes Are Off:

Twitter was for thoughts, and Instagram is for vibes—and Threads is trying to pull your Instagram feed into a Twitter format. And I’m here to tell you: THE VIBES ARE OFF. […]

What’s happening early on with Threads is that influencers are experiencing their own kind of context collapse, where their vague, sometimes vapid messages are traveling toward a different type of audience. This is pretty much what Threads feels like to me now: a place that’s ostensibly interesting (look, so many people are already here!) but is actually totally boring. It’s “fun,” but definitely not funny.

So, like I said: Threads isn’t above criticism and there’s a lot of work to be done to improve it. But I also think it’s important for the complainers to realize that it’s possible that maybe—just maybe—Threads isn’t for us. And that’s ok. One example is the constant complaints I see (and I have as well!) about the lack of a “following-only” feed, and a lot of “how could they launch without it” incredulousness. However, to that point, Sara Morrison makes this observation in TikTok is confusing by design:

TikTok is the ultimate example of how our digital world is shifting from seemingly limitless possibilities and choice—the internet of my formative years—into a controlled experience that’s optimized to know or decide what we want and then deliver it to us. And TikTok is one of the best examples of this change.

That piece is worth reading in full, but it explains how the chronological feed might be a thing of the past—and not because companies want it, but because user data shows that they want it. This is why posts like Facebook’s Threads is so depressing—which I’ve seen quoted and mentioned a lot in my various feeds—really rubs me the wrong way. It is one big wall of snark about how bad Threads is, how it should die, and how it has no redeeming qualities at all. What’s worse is that I’ve seen lots of product people quote that piece and praise it, which I find really confusing.

Yes, Threads has lots of room for improvement. I find it too chaotic (right now) for what I want in a social network. But if you scroll just a little bit it’s clear to see that people on there are having a blast—so how about we don’t judge anyone and everyone who gets on there! Isn’t having empathy for users and curiosity around certain behaviors everything in product? Shouldn’t we be impressed and interested in what we can learn from how Meta built that product to scale to 10 million users in 24 hours without a hitch?

It’s natural to get riled up about products that mean something to us, but we have to guard against blind spots when it comes to how people who are not like us use the web. It’s ok to not like Threads, but it’s not ok to negate and mock the experience of millions of people who are clearly enjoying the product immensely. Not just because it’s unkind and unnecessary, but also because we’d be losing out on a huge opportunity to learn from how that team executes.

P.S. If you are more of a visual person, here’s a 16-second Youtube video summarizing this post.

B2B Product-Led Sales Guide

Elena Verna presents a great guide to product-led sales for B2B products here here:

In a traditional top-down sales approach, the sales team is motivated to close the largest and newest deals to account for the high acquisition cost and ensure profitability.

In contrast, in a product-led sales approach, the sales team gets involved with the account much earlier in the problem lifecycle, and the initial contract value is smaller. It’s important to note that in top-down sales, the buyer is typically captured during the high maturity stage of the problem. In contrast, in product-led sales, the account is acquired earlier in the lifecycle. Therefore, the landed annual recurring revenue (land ARR) is not comparable between the two channels. Product-led sales’ primary goal is to expand by continuously growing with the account, which is where most of the revenue is generated. Overselling the account during the initial contract can be detrimental as it may disrupt the expansion journey.

There are a couple of other recent posts on product-led sales that I found useful:

What Does Intellectual Humility Look Like?

I think all of us could do with a bit of help increasing our intellectual humility, since “when it comes to our beliefs and opinions, most of us are much more confident than we should be”.

People who are intellectually humble know that their beliefs, opinions, and viewpoints are fallible because they realize that the evidence on which their beliefs are based could be limited or flawed or that they may not have the expertise or ability to understand and evaluate the evidence. Intellectual humility involves understanding that we can’t fully trust our beliefs and opinions because we might be relying on faulty or incomplete information or are incapable of understanding the details.

Read on for some recommendations on how to be more mindful of our own intellectual blind spots—and not just because it’s worth pursuing truth:

Despite our sense that we are usually correct, we must accept that our views may sometimes turn out to be wrong. This kind of humility isn’t simply virtuous—the research suggests that it results in better decisions, relationships, and outcomes.

Google Search’s Death by a Thousand Cuts

Matt Rickard reminds us that it’s worth considering the long-term effects that putting public APIs behind paywalls might have on search engines:

Large models are trained on public data scraped via API. Content-heavy sites are most likely to be disrupted by models trained on their own data. Naturally, they want to restrict access and either (1) sell the data or (2) train their own models. This restriction prevents (or complicates) Google’s automatic scraping of the data for Search (and probably for training models, too). Google will lose results, site by site—it will be Google Search’s death by a thousand cuts.

Airbnb and the future of product management

I am finally catching up on the big “Airbnb canceled PMs” debate of 2023, and like most online arguments the whole thing seems pretty silly to me. First, here’s a good overview from Aatir Abdul Rauf, in which he publishes the full quote from CEO Brian Chesky:

“…The designers are equal to product managers. Actually, we got rid of the classic product management function. Apple didn’t have it either.

5-second applause

(smiling) Let’s be careful. Hold on.

We have product marketers. We combined product management with product marketing and we said you can’t develop products unless you know how to talk about the products. We made the team much smaller and we elevated design.”

Aatir does a great job of putting the quote in context of the entire talk, so it’s well worth reading. The TL;DR is this: “Airbnb didn’t kill PM. They relabeled it and consolidated their team roles.” That seems like a completely reasonable organizational change to make within the context Airbnb is in, and considering the thought they clearly put into that decision. It definitely won’t work for every organization, but it’s also clearly not some kind of thought leadership mandate that they want to force on the entire industry.

I say good for Airbnb for making a decision that aligns their organizational design with the way they believe they can design and develop products most effectively. One last plug for Aatir’s post: he does a great job explaining the Product Marketing function, and what product managers can learn from it.

Now, the real topic I want to get to with this post is this idea of merging PM into other roles. That concept has been around as long as the profession itself. As with so much in product, it’s not inherently good or bad, it’s about the context of the change. Here’s another example (that I happen to agree with). In Melissa Perri’s response to the controversy she made a slightly different case that the PM role will start to merge with the GM role:

Product Management has always firmly sat between business, tech, and the user/customer. In SAAS companies, the Product Management role has always been about figuring out how to grow the business by solving customer problems with the right software. In other companies that are not software-native, you saw this same act being done by GMs of the business, but just with the tools available to drive the business at the time – sales, marketing, and human operations. What does a GM look like in a product-led business? Someone overseeing the teams that build the things you sell.

As more and more companies become predominately software companies, I believe the Product Management role and GM roles are going to merge. You won’t be a great GM unless you deeply understand software, along with understanding your domain. Product Management was never purely about “tech” and if companies were treating it so, of course, they didn’t see the value of the role.

The point is that organizations will always need someone who understands the product, customers, technology, and the broader market—and guides conversations towards what that all means for priorities and what to work on to help the business grow. In the current SaaS environment we’ve settled on that role being filled by product managers. That’s great, but it might not always be so, and that’s ok too. It doesn’t mean we’ll lose our jobs. It just means we’ll keep evolving.


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