Issue 25: That one time you failed, how Google motivates employees, a trip down Napster memory lane

And say hello to “Anne”, the Reddit moderator we don’t deserve, but so desperately need in our lives.

Resources to create better products

Minimize the Gap Between Maker and User →

A good talk about how creating great products requires us to reduce the gap between makers and users.

Reducing the gap means limiting handoffs, using lots of different data sources, building empowered autonomous teams, committing to radical transparency, and focusing on curiosity rather than pride

Knowledge Management for Product Dev Teams →

How do you ensure that your development team has access to any and all data and information they may need?

This is where knowledge management comes in. In this article, we’re going to discuss how a solid approach to knowledge management can help your product development teams consistently produce to the best of their ability—leading to massive returns for your company.

Product Manager Interview: The Failure Question →

A good framework for answering the dreaded “tell me about a time you failed…” interview question.

Resources to work better together

RemoteHQ →

This looks really interesting. “Work together in ways that go beyond video chat. Co-browse and co-edit any web app, share files, take notes, whiteboard, screen share, video chat, and more. All in a single browser tab.”

Digamo: Your 1:1 Organizer →

A personal, private organizer for all your 1:1 meetings.

The Leader as Coach →

Good article by Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scoular for HBR.

The coaching we’re talking about—the kind that creates a true learning organization—is ongoing and executed by those inside the organization. It’s work that all managers should engage in with all their people all the time, in ways that help define the organization’s culture and advance its mission. An effective manager-as-coach asks questions instead of providing answers, supports employees instead of judging them, and facilitates their development instead of dictating what has to be done.

How Naveen Keeps Track →

I love reading about other peoples’ processes to get things done. In this article the co-founder of Foursquare explains the systems he uses to start companies, remember what he reads, and prioritize his time.

This is how Google motivates its employees →

Take with a grain of salt I guess, but some interesting research findings here.

“There are commonalities across extreme teams, but the culture of each is unique,” says Shaw. “Google has created a culture that supports teams. You can try to apply what works for others and there are lessons to be learned, but there are a broader set of factors to consider.”

Technology news

How Reddit's R/Relationships Subreddit Is Moderated →

This is an amazing interview with “Anne”, the 58-year old hero we don’t deserve, but so desperately need.

She’s been leading the moderation team for r/relationships for close to a decade—long before mainstream publications started running roundups of the subreddit’s worst stories—and if you ask her, it’s not even that hard to maintain civil discourse and community. The big secret? Just delete stuff. “We maintain the community by removing as much stuff as we remove,” she told me flatly in a phone call, stating what should be obvious to me.

In Praise of Ugly and Conspicuous Security Cameras →

How “beautiful design” is making us less safe…

Research conducted in the US and UK shows that the presence of surveillance cameras in urban settings caused a significant decrease in property crimes on the streets and in subway stations, and a decrease of 50 percent in parking lots. But for that deterrence to work, criminals need to recognize the device, and the device needs to convey authority. As a research report by Arizona State University’s Center for Problem-Oriented Policing states, only an obviously visible security camera has the desired demotivating effect: “For this crime-prevention process to succeed, the offender must be aware of the cameras’ presence.” So the more attractive and inconspicuous security cameras are, the less likely they are to impress intruders.

Everything is Amazing, But Nothing is Ours →

An excellent essay by Alex Danco about what we’re losing now that everything is moving from “files” to “services”:

The constraints of mobile, plus a new generation of users that’ve never really known life without the internet, meant the benefits of skeuomorphism were no longer worth the cost. Ditching it as a philosophy, both in design and in function, freed us to go out and reinvent everything as a service. Abstract everything away into databases, links and logic, and provide it as a consumer service with all the topology and complexity hidden out of sight. 

How the music industry shifted from Napster to Spotify →

This is wonderful trip down Napster memory lane:

The service only existed as a peer-to-peer file sharing service from June 1999 to July 2001, but it caught on like wildfire. The internet was far less commonly used in 2000, but at its zenith, Napster still had about 70 million users globally (by comparison, Spotify has about 220 million today, after 13 years in operation). Napster gave users access to more than 4 million songs; at some universities, traffic from Napster accounted for about half the total bandwidth. Downloaded files from Napster sometimes brought computer viruses with them, but many, like myself, were willing to take on the risk.

 The Toxic Bubble of Technical Debt Threatening America →

Technical debt comes for our infrastructure…

A kind of toxic debt is embedded in much of the infrastructure that America built during the 20th century. For decades, corporate executives, as well as city, county, state, and federal officials, not to mention voters, have decided against doing the routine maintenance and deeper upgrades to ensure that electrical systems, roads, bridges, dams, and other infrastructure can function properly under a range of conditions. Kicking the can down the road like this is often seen as the profit-maximizing or politically expedient option. But it’s really borrowing against the future, without putting that debt on the books.

Random things I like

🗺 Digital maps might be more practical in the 21st century, but the long tradition of cartography is magical

🎲 These three “programming” board games look awesome. I would also add Mechs vs. Minions to this list.

🍿 Oh this reminds me: time to watch Heat again. De Niro and Pacino Have Always Connected. Just Rarely Onscreen.

💽 The US nuclear forces’ Dr. Strangelove-era messaging system finally got rid of its floppy disks.

🛴 A fascinating look at “Juicers” — the people who round up and recharge lime scooters.

Final thoughts

🎵 A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the 25th anniversary re-issue of R.E.M.’s Monster, and how it’s fun to listen to it again even though it was never my favorite R.E.M. album (that will always be Automatic For The People). And then I came across an article that taught me so many things I didn’t know about the controversy surrounding the album. According to How R.E.M.’s ‘Monster’ Signaled The End Of Alternative Rock the album was a lot of things, but “universally loved” is not one of them. My favorite part is this:

Many regard Monster as the end of R.E.M.’s golden era. The distinctive red-orange cover itself became a kind of in-joke, as it became a fixture at used-CD stores from coast to coast, back when used-CD stores were still a thing.

Ok, hands up if you picked this up at a used-CD store at some point in your life 🤚.

But beyond that, this also reminded me again how different music listening was before the internet. We didn’t have constant updates about a band and their inner workings, we didn’t have review sites to tell us immediately what to think. We just listened and made up our own minds. There is something I miss about that bubble, about not feeling pulled in a certain direction because “professionals” said so. How many of you are hiding your love for Coldplay because it’s not a band you’re supposed to like anymore? (Ok, that one might actually legitimately be just me)

All of that said, I will admit that one of the only good things about being in my 40s right now is that all my favorite albums are getting anniversary re-issues. Another case in point: Live’s Throwing Copper.

🐦 It’s good to finally get this cleared up: