Why you need a “product guy”

[There’s] a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to do product. It is not code for a person who doesn’t really know how to do anything but thinks he can boss engineers around. It doesn’t refer to marketing guys who had an idea. Understanding what it means to drive a product means understanding the full scope of the vision of your company. It means understanding your engineering team, their capabilities, and their priorities. It means understanding what your next move is, and what your 6th move is from every angle.

I used to think product managers were worthless. Engineering run companies are the way to go! And why not? I was an engineer with an idea, and it turned into Posterous. When someone would approach me to be a “product guy”, I laughed. Especially if they had no engineering background or track record. What do you know about shipping a product?

Now I know better. A product manager’s job is not about coming up with all the ideas and telling engineers what to do. It’s about running a process to make sure the best ideas wins.

And a designer is not necessarily a product guy. They are different roles.

A good product guy knows your product and your market inside and out. They live and breathe metrics and industry trends. They look for market and revenue opporunities.

A good product guy takes ideas from the entire team. They talk to users and partners. They put it all together to come up with a great plan.

When starting a new company, you can build the most random thing ever and see if it sticks. You have no users, there is little risk.

But once you have users and investors, you need to take educated risks. That’s not a bad thing. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

A good product guy will work his ass off to figure out the next 6 steps for the company, and beyond. And when you do take the big risks, he’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.

Wayne Gretzsky

Design for users

I had a really great experience in the bathroom at Jardiniere restaurant.

The sink in the men’s room has a two handle faucet, meaning you have to turn on the hot and cold water separately to get your desired temperature.

Except I only turned on the hot water. With no cold water running, I washed my hands in water that was about as hot as I could stand, but not too hot. It was perfect.

So why is it that most bathrooms have the hot water turned up hotter than any human can bear? Because they can.

Whether you’re building a bathroom or building a software product, it’s easy to get caught designing based on the capabilties of your infrastructure, rather than designing for what the user actually wants.

Who cares what your database schema looks like. Who cares that you can add a million checkboxes and options to let users customize everything. Stop thinking about what your product can do, and start thinking about what your users wants.

The problem with Lexus is while they created great products they know people want, they have no consistent company vision of their own

A business, especially a luxury-car business, should stand for something more than just best practices and profit taking. A great car company needs its own animating idea, expressed through the entire product line—a spirit that holds the enterprise together. Even the BMW X6 has a little 2002 in it.

Such robust longevity requires a clear heading. But Lexus’s compass is being driven berserk by the magnetism of other people’s concepts. The very principle that made Lexus a household name now looks, to me, like its undoing.

If Lexus wants to keep that No. 1 spot, beating back BMW and Infiniti and Audi and Hyundai and whatever else gets in line, it needs more RXs and fewer LFAs. It better stop trying to be all things to all people. It better figure out what it wants to be.

You might find temporary success by following, copying, chasing other products. But for long term success, you need to define your own products and company vision. Product research can only go so far.

We deal with this everyday at Posterous. We’ve never been ones to do what other companies are doing. Or, sometimes, even to do what our users think they want. We know what our vision for Posterous is, and we follow that 100%.

BMW and Apple do this very well. Sometimes you might disgree with particular choices, but they are following their corporate vision consistently.

Who knew you could get product advice from Car and Driver? 🙂

Jonathan Ive on The Key to Apple’s Success – Do something that’s genuinely better


During the hour-long chat, Ive touched on many themes and topics. The main takeaway for executives looking to try and copy Apple’s success? Don’t. Instead, Ive said forcefully and repeatedly, companies need to define their own clear, high-minded raison d’être. That should drive the actions and decisions of every employee, from the C-suite down.

For Apple, he outlined, the end game isn’t commercial success. “Apple’s goal isn’t to make money. Our goal is to design and develop and bring to market good products,” he explained. “We trust as a consequence of that, people will like them, and as another consequence we’ll make some money. But we’re really clear about what our goals are.” This focus, he continued, has driven Apple to produce only a small number of high quality products. “We try not to bring out another product that’s just different,” he said. “‘Different’ and ‘new’ is relatively easy. Doing something that’s genuinely better is very hard.”


Really interesting thoughts from Apple’s lead designer.

We’ve always run Posterous with the Apple mindset. It’s not about building something crazy and new (typical web app/air app).

Posterous is about making web publishing *better*. We focus on the product we love.

Kate is looking for a graphic design job in SF

Hello readers,

My girlfriend Kate and I are moving to San Francisco on December 1 to continue our lives together in the Bay Area (and so Garry and I can continue on Posterous together!)

She is looking for a full time job in graphic design anywhere in the Bay Area. If you have any leads or contacts, please let us know. We would *really* appreciate it.

p.s. We just signed a lease today. SF here we come!

Here’s an awesome tshirt Kate made for me: