RIP Dr. Dobb’s (38 of unprofitability)

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Dr. Dobb’s Journal of Computer Calisthenics & Orthodontia was one of the first magazines I bought as a teenager. It was full of algorithm hacks, exotic programming languages, and twisted challenges. Dr. Dobb’s was irreverent, enthusiastic, critical, attracting some of the best authors in computing. I’ll miss it.

The new owners are sunsetting it and setting the staff free. They promised to keep the archives up (for now).

Things they might have done:

  • Mailed their readers. They should have massive lists from 38 years of posts, comments, subscriptions. Passing along the farewell message would have been polite (and driven up traffic for a week or so).
  • Held a wake. I don’t know where the editors live, but it feels like there should be a party.
  • Pushed a copy to the Internet Archive. Let Dr. Dobb’s history survive future M&A.

If we hosted a local campaign finance awards show…

GTF-Awards-4-950x340blurI volunteered this last campaign season with OpenOakland‘s OpenDisclosure project, sharing data and making sense of politics and money in Oakland, California. In honor of our NorCal OpenDisclosure Summit last Saturday, what would it be like to host an OpenDisclosure awards show?

On the fundraising side…

  • Sweepstakes: Most Money Overall
  • Efficiency: Most Money From Fewest Contributors
  • Everyman: Most Money From Most Contributors
  • Labor: Most Money From Union Committees
  • Commerce: Most Money From Businesses
  • Local: Most Money From An Oakland Address
  • Level: Most Money In More  Oakland Neighborhoods
  • Confidence: Most Self-Funded
  • First: First To Raise $1000
  • Last: Most Money Raised Between Last Two Filing Periods
  • Infamy: Most YouTube Viewers Per Warchest Dollar (edited)
  • Kapra: Most Votes For A Candidate Spending Less Than $1000
  • Einstein: Most Interesting Ineligible Candidate

On the spending side…

  • Gourmand: Most Money On Food
  • Ink: Most Money On Printing And Postage
  • Air: Most Money On Radio And TV
  • Tubes: Most Money On Web, Email, Social, Mobile
  • First To Field: First Office Opened
  • Most Field Months: Most Field Office Spending
  • Friends: Most Money To Other Campaigns
  • Whoopsies: Most Refunds And Returns
  • Scribble: Most Money Spent On A Write-In Campaign
  • Uphill: Most Money Per First Vote

@RobertGammon to host?

I like its humor on a touchy subject.

I like that it’s timely and newsworthy (if we can get fresh data and hustle in the weeks before an election).

I like that it gives a nickname to many of the ideas we don’t talk about because they’re wordy or complex.

I like that it contributes to understanding the different ways campaigns compete.

I like that it will spin-off many sharable bits.

I like that it opens room for storytelling about campaigns.

I like it has room to change, adapting new concerns.

Overv.io’s artful data portability pledge

No strings attached

From Overv.io‘s home page:

No strings attached

We store all critical information on GitHub

These are your projects. You get to keep your data and we can’t lose it even if our servers get mauled by a grizzly bear.

No commitment required

You are free to only move a part of your team to overv.io. People who hate progress can just keep using GitHub directly. Everyone else gets to keep using their favourite tools.

And then one day you may find a flashier app

You will like each other and then you’ll stop returning our calls. And as we lay in our bed and hug the pillow and certainly not cry, well maybe a little, you realize one very important thing:

There is no data for you to pick up from our office while awkwardly trying to hold a conversation.

This is how much we love you.

Principle: Avoid holding customer data if you don’t have to. 

Bonus: Discuss a potentially distressing hypothetical event (breaking up with the site) in a human and humorous voice.  Kudos for the metaphor; post-dating breakups are less traumatic than, say, the death of a puppy at the hands of terrorists.  

Why Kevin Didn’t Open Source His Failed Startup

Kevin Menard wound down his Mogotest service after five years. He wrote a thoughtful explanation of why he did’t release his code into the wild under an open source license. It came down to a few things. 

  1. IP. Untangling third-party code to clear licenses was a big job.
  2. Privacy promises. Some customer data had been hard-coded and would need to be discovered and removed.  
  3. Cost. Nobody was willing to pay for the work. 
  4. Feelings. The prospect of returning to prepare the code for release was “a really tough pill to swallow.”  

A good read

OpenCalifornia’s OpenDisclosure Summit on Saturday in Oakland #oakmtg

I’m working this Saturday at Oakland City Hall with friends from San Jose, Sacramento, San Francisco and Oakland. It’s our first time together. We’re figuring out what we want campaign finance apps like OpenDisclosure to evolve into. How can we make boring accounting data meaningful, entertaining, and active? How can we reach more of California’s voters? Can we turn contribution envelopes and expense reports into a tool for citizenship? It’s an open meeting. RSVP.

RIP Resolver Systems

“Remember us.” Tombstone pages stay behind after your product or company is gone. Here’s a simple, effective one from the gang at Resolver Systems Ltd..

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Resolver’s tombstone does a few things well:

  • Clear headline
  • Logo to confirm you’re in the right place
  • Dates
  • What happened and why
  • What you can do if you want to contact someone or get support

Tombstones are briefer and less biographical than product obituaries. Easier to write, too.

Reworking the #ProdMgmt Manifesto

Brian Lawley, CEO & Founder, 280 Group LLC, wrote the awesome Product Management Manifesto in November 2014: This is a page to constructively critique it, line by line…. 

I am a Product Management professional.

  • “I am” vs. “We are”. Isolated from the start. 
  • More of a “pledge” than a “manifesto”. A manifesto is a list of harsh truths, an agenda, a call for action. This is more an HR a-day-in-the-life job description than Martin Luther or Karl Marx call to action or appeal for moral outrage. 

I am dedicated to bringing great products to market. Products that delight my customers. Products that are massively  profitable for my company. Products that help change the way people work and live.

  • Launch oriented. Should be full product life-cycle responsibility with duty varying by stage.
  • Assumes products all face outside; many product managers work with products that have internal customers. 
  • Assumes my employer is the one with the product. Doesn’t account for product managers who consult.
  • Assumes the goals of the customers (delight, change the way people work and live) and the “company” (profit). Our job is to uncover goals and align products with those goals. 
  • No mention of societal duty. Some products delight customers and injure them (tobacco products) or cause other harms (pollution, climate change, distracted driving).

In the course of managing my products there are thousands of small decisions that must be made and tasks that must be accomplished. The sum of these can add up to a phenomenal product. choose to own the responsibility for making this happen.

  • By responsibility, do you mean I should be fired if others don’t make those decisions well or execute them well? 

I am an expert in all areas regarding my products: customers, the market, technology, competition, channels, press, analysts, trends and anything else that must be taken into account in order to win.

  • This sets up a false expectation: nobody is an expert in everything. Product managers are experts in the product management process. 
  • I aspire to basic literacy in all areas; expertise is what I get by working with others. 

I have a strong vision for my products, and develop winning strategies that align with my company’s goals and ensure that our investments of time, money and energy are well‐spent. 

  • Many product managers work in service of others’ visions. 

I am committed to using the best methodologies, tools, templates and techniques available to be more efficient and effective at my job.

  • Not the best, just the best available? Actually, I prefer the most mediocre available, with a dollop of nostalgically poor practices and tools. 
  • Why a commitment to the implements of the job vs. the results of the job? 

I have a plan for my career and I will further my professional status by attending training courses, becoming certified and reading books, blogs and newsletters to learn best practices.

  • Certification? Really? This works for roles that don’t change much. Accounting. Plumbing. Is product management like that? 
  • Consider the importance of people who don’t self-identify as product managers or who step into the role for a short while. Closes off the path of random acts of product management or learning through experience and mentorship.
  • You left out “… available from 280.” ;-)

I am the voice of my customers, and represent them in every critical decision that is made.

  • They have their own voices.
  • Sometimes your voice goes against your customers; complying with immoral laws, shutting off lifesaving products, pimping personal data. 
  • Assumes your voice correctly channels your customers.
  • They are not your customers. They might be the product’s or the company’s customers, but they are not yours.

I am a leader. I develop strong alliances with everyone that I need to in order to ensure the success of my product. This includes salespeople, engineers, support, customers, channel and business partners, management, the Board of Directors and anyone else necessary. Some of these people will be very difficult to work with, but I will find a way to make everyone successful as a team.

  • Needs a better definition of leadership than alliances and team formation. 

refuse to settle for mediocrity, and I will be tenacious and professional in my approach to getting the best possible results. 

  • Some people have mediocrity thrust upon them. 

believe that Product Management is one of the toughest, yet most rewarding jobs in the world. Though I will face great odds and challenges I refuse to become jaded or negative.

  • What about when being jaded and negative is all that keeps you from needing a ten-step program? 
  • What about coping with failure? Most products fail, repeatedly, and die, horribly. 
  • What is rewarding about product management?

Though I have all of the responsibility, it is highly likely I have little or no formal authority. Therefore I will do whatever it takes to persuade others to do what is right for customers and my company.

  • Whatever it takes. Looking forward to workshops on exploiting guilt complexes, optimizing for blackmail, when to deliver sexual favors, and making meaningful threats. 

This could become a useful credo for the profession. Let’s see.