Mood: 😖. Didn’t anticipate how the week would go down. At least I managed to recover in the end, unlike this poor fellow.
🌹 What am I grateful for this week?
There’s a concept that Eric Ries refers to called the second founding — when an established company has to retool itself to develop a new breakthrough product. In a way, I’m feeling that wind shift within Red Badger as we continue to develop the Mission Beyond initiative. Product or not, being swept up in the wind of a grand experiment is exhilarating. It could all still fall on its head. But the pull it’s creating across different departments and our advisory board is now becoming hard to ignore. Half the fun is not knowing exactly how it’s going to turn out! 😁
🌵 Where did I get stuck this week?
Meanwhile, I got caught off guard this week with what should have been a simple confirmation conversation, turning into an inflection point for a much longer discussion that I’d planned for. If I think back on it, I knew the undercurrents were there but I (incorrectly) assumed they would be perceived as under control. Which then put me in the position of needing to backtrack with others until I was able to address things.
Was there a moral to be taken from that situation, though? It’s not done till it’s done, sure. But probably more important is not to take alignment between aligned parties as a given. The transitive property works well in math, less so with people’s positions — so don’t skip the work of aligning with every party when it counts.
💡 What stuck with me this week?
I’ve been dogged by performance hiccups lately on my Mac, with my Bluetooth headset frequently de-syncing during calls (including my keyboard and mouse) and leaving me scrambling mid-meeting more times than I can count. While it’s probably just poor engineering of Catalina’s Bluetooth stack, as I never had it this bad on Mojave, for a while I was suspicious of the OneDrive sync client as I often caught it toiling away on my music.
You see, I used to rely on OneDrive’s streaming web player during my heyday on the XBM team — cloud sync was one of my feature areas, along with platform areas like the UI shell, metadata matching, ransomware (sorry, I mean, DRM) and eventually the online music marketplace. Gradually Microsoft decided to retire these features in stages and eventually the Xbox Music Pass entirely, but I was happily making use of a breadth feature we’d implemented in partnership with OneDrive to keep streaming my library.*
Anyway, it just reminded me of how “sure” we were with our “strategy” heading out of the Zune era and into the Xbox One launch, which went something like:
You Can’t Be An Entertainment Company Without Music
And laid our plan of attack into phases of parity (cloud storage, ad-supported streaming, a music marketplace), “succeeding” (more, better, faster?) and “winning” (by leveraging our user base, catalog, and amazing technology… not sure how though). I didn’t think too critically about it at the time because, hey, I wanted to win! And we should trust the business team, this being their area of expertise.
But it’s clear, looking back, what an ill-formed strategy this was. The headline implication didn’t even follow — were we really trying to be an entertainment company? We were a platform player. The moral here is much clearer: an inaccurate diagnosis will lead to an inaccurate prescription (as well, see the corollary from here).
Don’t let a desire to win blind you from thinking critically.
📚 What did I discover this week?
I continue to enjoy the perspectives shared in others’ weeknotes — to me, the way they often lack the polish of a full-fledged article makes them all the more engaging. Which is why I was happy to discover Parabol is effectively doing weeknotes at a team & company level with their Friday Ship series:
Friday Ship - Parabol Focus
Read writing about Friday Ship in Parabol Focus. The latest from parabol.co, a software company creating products to…
Funny how antitrust views have changed since the Windows/Internet Explorer bundling saga. 2020 feels the wild west by comparison. This is a great analysis of the current state of Apple’s anticompetitive behavior with iOS.
Rethinking the App Store
It seems appropriate that the first ruling in Epic v. Apple was a split decision: Fortnite remains out of the App…
Jake Birkett’s GDC talk had been on my watchlist for ages. Some part of me would love to be an indie game dev in another life — it’s great to hear from someone who’s walked the path. Love the humor, humility and focus on data.
And this one comes courtesy of the #ocd channel in our Slack. Did you ever stop to think about whether those emoji scissors actually work? As it turns out, some people do. And then do extensive research on the subject.
Which emoji scissors close
Ah, scissors. They're important enough that we have an emoji for them. On your device, it appears as ✂️. Unlike the…
🌱 What am I looking forward to next week?
At last, we’re gradually starting to reopen our Old Street office and offering our teams a space to work together again if they choose. I’ve got a mini-workshop booked in for Friday as a result; it’ll be really nice to get some face time in with folks I’ve only seen on a screen for the last few months.**
I’ve been a fan of the Emma personal finance app (it’s filled the hole that Mint left when I left the US) and the small things they do to make money a bit more, like the weekly quiz. I was wondering what had happened to an annoying gimmick they had pushed a couple months ago called Gummy Bears that seems to have faded into the background. I figured there was a rightful user revolt, and then came across a forum thread of theirs where perspectives had been discussed at length.
The linked exchange in particular really impressed me. This is what user feedback is all about! A founder laying out their idea, assumptions getting challenged, and an insightful debate ensuing that everyone can gain empathy from.
It’s a great example of lived ‘agile’ — actually connecting with the voice of the customer. In Emma’s case, a thriving community is the net result.
*Eventually this too was sunset, and I’m not really sure what’s up with Groove these days. Probably the only visible remnants from my time there are undergirding the Microsoft Films & TV apps. But hey, that’s what you sign up for when you work in software — things come and go.
**Another hot topic of discussion lately: with colocation becoming a possibility again, what will a hybrid model of in-person and remote teamwork look like? How can we capture the best of both worlds? I hope we can land on a strong point of view to differentiate ourselves in the months ahead.