Article: A Leader’s Guide To Deciding: What, When, and How To Decide

Steven Sinofsky:

With that experience, my view is that before deciding something a CEO or exec should be clear how he/she contributes to a project or work, using one of the following:

  • Initiator: kicking off new projects
  • Connector: connecting people to others so the work gets better
  • Amplifier: amplifying the things that are working well or not so there is awareness of success and learning
  • Editor: fixing or changing things while they are being done

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.

Very interesting and insightful article. The way you choose spend your time between all types of activity says a lot about you.

Article: The Curse of Knowledge

Harvard Business Review:

When a tapper taps, it is impossible for her to avoid hearing the tune playing along to her taps. Meanwhile, all the listener can hear is a kind of bizarre Morse code. Yet the tappers were flabbergasted by how hard the listeners had to work to pick up the tune.

The problem is that once we know something—say, the melody of a song—we find it hard to imagine not knowing it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. We have difficulty sharing it with others, because we can’t readily re-create their state of mind.

In the business world, managers and employees, marketers and customers, corporate headquarters and the front line, all rely on ongoing communication but suffer from enormous information imbalances, just like the tappers and listeners.

This idea is strongly applicable in sales. In order to be successful, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the person you'll be meeting with, understand their unique perspective on the world, and only then try and help them assess whether what you have to offer may fit in their picture.

In addition to this, developing a deep understanding of your prospect's needs lets you engage in a very potent sales tool, negative reverse selling, much more effectively:

- You:"I'm not sure whether what I just told you about [your specific solution] may help you fix some of the issues you're experiencing..."
- Prospect: "Well, actually I think it would help us quite a bit with our problems in [area of concern you were discussing earlier]."

When doing this, you help your prospect convince themselves that your solution can and will be valuable to them. You help them build their own case for using your solution, which will also make a rollout easier down the road since they'll be able to clearly explain to other people in their organization why your solution is worth investing in, in their specific context.

Of course, this approach can only work if you're confident that the issue you raised was an actual issue experienced by your prospect... which was the exact point why you needed to get into their shoes.

Location Analysis of Slideshare Viewers Using DSS

I've been using Slideshare quite a bit lately in order to share presentations. While it offers interesting statistics tools, the geographic information it surfaces is a bit light. You get a view count by country, but you can't really dig any deeper:

I was wondering how to get access to more detailed information about my audience. As it turns out, Slideshare allows you to download a CSV list of the last 1000 viewers of your slides, along with a bit of additional information (name of the presentation and, more importantly, city and country the viewer is from):

Once I had access to this, the next item to tackle was to find a way to perform a more detailed analysis. In order to do this, I decided to use Data Science Studio (DSS), a product by French startup Dataiku. They offer a free community edition that you can install locally on your Mac. It works for up to 100,000 rows of data, which was plenty enough for my needs.

After performing a local install, I realised that to do the kind of work I was trying to do, I also needed to install an additional plugin: the Geoadmin plugin. I had to restart DSS after installing it - I could have saved time by installing it before running DSS for the first time. Last but not least, I also needed an API key for a mapping service. You can easily get a free one from MapQuest, which gives you up to 15,000 location lookups - again, plenty enough for my needs.

Once my setup was ready, I launched DSS and headed to http://localhost:11200/ (DSS is a web application, which means lives in your browser). Once there, the first thind I did was to create a new project and import my dataset (Dataiku has several tutorials to help you get started with DSS):

A nice touch about DSS is that it always keeps your original data as is, without modifying it. This means you can always go back in time without fear of altering your data.

I clicked on the "Analyze" button in order to create my first analysis. The analysis tab is the place where you're going to do most of the grunt work of cleaning and improving your data in order to be able to use it. In my case, there were a couple things that needed to be done before I could create the map I was looking for:

  1. First, I had to clean the data in order to remove rows that were lacking geographic data. I did this by clicking on the "Country" column, and using a transformation that removed all the rows with useless data (such as "N/A").
  2. Once I had done this, the next step was to get more accurate data to feed MapQuest. I achieved this by concatenating the "Country" and "City" columns into a new "Address" column.
  3. Once I had the addresses, all I needed to do was to run them through MapQuest using DSS' Geocode function. This gave me the latitude and longitude for each "Address" entry. I proceeded to mark them as their respective data types.
  4. Once I had this, the last thing that was needed was to add a "Create GeoPoint" step that took the latitude and longitude in input and created a... well, you guessed it, a Geopoint based on the coordinates.

Here is the resulting recipe, as well as a sample of its result:

Once I was done processing and enriching my data, I could at last get to the heart fo the subject: creating a map of my viewers! In order to do this, I headed over to the "Charts" tab and followed these steps:

  1. Set the graph type to "World Map".
  2. Put "Geopoint" in the "Break down by..." section and set the granularity level to "8 (city)".
  3. Put "Count of records" in both the "Color" and "Size" of the "Show..." section.
  4. Waited for the map to update with my data.

Here is the final result, centered on the US for better viewability:

Great! I now have access to a visual representation of my audience, city by city, all over the world!

I think I only used the tip of the iceberg when it comes to DSS' feature set, but I was able to quickly create a beautiful map that gave me way more information than what Slideshare has to offer: exactly what I was looking for.

Article: Service sunsets aren’t the least bit pretty

Signal vs Noise:

So Basecamp 3 is not going to sunset anything. Not the current version of Basecamp, not the classic, original version of Basecamp. Either of those work well for you? Awesome! Please keep using them until the end of the internet! We’ll make sure they’re fast, secure, and always available.

But, but, but isn’t that expensive? Isn’t that hard? What about security? What about legacy code bases? Yes, what about it? Taking care of customers – even if they’re not interested in upgrading on our schedule – is what we do here. Cost of business, as they say.

At launch, Basecamp 3 is not going to have all the same features as previous versions, so some existing customers may well just want to continue with whatever version they’re on. That’s great! All the new, exciting features will still be there when (or if) they choose to upgrade.

Very interesting approach. Many services give you a bit of time to adapt (I can think of Google Apps fur Business or Salesforce, which give you a couple months to adopt interface changes), but none that I know goes as far as keeping their old services fully alive and working.

I guess having just one specific line of business makes it easier, though they still have to maintain 3 products in parallel - potentially more in the future. I guess being able to do this is one of the main reasons why 37Signals (their former name) divested all their other properties and decided to focus exclusively on Basecamp.

Article: How we lost (and found) millions by not A/B testing

Over at Signal vs Noise:

We’ve always felt strongly that we should share our lessons in business and technology with the world, and that includes both our successes and our failures. We’ve written about some great successes: how we’ve improved support response time, sped up applications, and improved reliability. Today I want to share an experience that wasn’t a success.

This is the story of how we made a change to the site that ended up costing us millions of dollars, how we found our way back from that, and what we learned in the process.

Pretty enlightening. The next time you think you don't need A/B testing? Well, think again.

Presentation: Sales & Marketing Tools for B2B SaaS Companies

The goal of this presentation is to present a set of tools that startups can use in order to implement their marketing & sales processes, from initial contact with a prospect all the way to customer service.

For each step of the marketing & sales process, a subset of existing solutions is presented, with a short overview of its features and use cases. If you're looking to build the marketing & sales machine at your company, this presentation is a good place to start!

Apple: Hardware as a Service

Two very interesting articles from analysts following-up on Apple's announcements last week. What both articles hint to is the fact that the strength of Apple's long term position is often underestimated because people do not take into account the systemic properties of Apple's offering. However, once you start considering Apple as a "Hardware as a Service" company, its position appears even more formidable than it already is.


It’s a lot easier to give the designers control when Apple’s business model is predicated on achieving high margin, not necessarily the lowest possible cost. Relatedly, all of the company’s software development, from operating systems to cloud services, exists to differentiate the hardware, not to make money in their own right, resulting in a virtuous cycle that means it is becoming more difficult to compete with Apple’s hardware products over time.

This cycle of design, differentiation, profit-taking, and reinvestment is seen most clearly in the iPhone. [...] Apple’s cycle of accelerating improvement only matters to the extent that iPhone customers perceive benefit from those improvements. It is easier, though, to perceive and value those benefits the more you use a device, and the more uses a device has; to put it another way, an infinite number of interactions with a slight improvement is even more valuable than a few interactions with a huge improvement. By extension, the mistake made by Apple bears who continually claim the iPhone is “good enough” is to underestimate just how much people use and value their phones.


Much more interesting than this value is the notion that Apple is in business to deliver a product/service mix to loyal customers and to preserve their loyalty through constant improvement and innovation. You can see strategic intent in increasing the attach rate per device of services. You can see a strategic intent in building loyalty and the right customer base which is likely to be loyal. You can see strategic intent in the iteration of the product in a way that extends loyalty and expands the solid base but also increases the $/day rate. This analysis correctly informs almost all decisions the company makes. [...]

The fact that Apple has just launched a subscription service for the iPhone makes what was clearly their strategy all along plain to see however it has been a strategy in effect for decades. It isn’t a difficult idea to embrace. It always surprises me that it’s not more commonly held.

Article: Forget about the mobile internet

Ben Evans:

For as long as the idea of the 'mobile internet' has been around, we've thought of it as a cut-down subset of the 'real' Internet. I'd suggest it's time to invert that - to think about mobile as the real internet and the desktop as the limited, cut-down version. [...]

Our mental model of how and where you used 'mobile' was that it fitted into specific, occasional places and times where you were walking or waiting or needed a single piece of information and didn't have a PC [...]

Mobile is not a subset of the internet anymore, that you use only if you're waiting for a coffee or don't have a PC in front of you - it's becoming the main way that people use the internet. It's not mobile that's limited to a certain set of locations and use cases - it's the PC. [...]

This is why thinking about 'mobile' as another bullet point next to 'SEO' misses the point: mobile becomes the platform, and it's a much richer and more powerful one. What happens when almost everyone on earth has a pocket supercomputer connected to the internet? It's not a subset of the internet - it IS the internet.

Great piece.

Article: Fluid Coupling


A more onerous issue is that companies have procedures for accepting technologies (capital expenditures) which require high degrees of interaction and decision making. In order to step though these procedures, the vendors need to have sales people who need to invest lots of their time and therefore need to be compensated with large commissions. If those commissions are a percent of sale then the total sales price needs to be large enough “to make it worth while to all parties”. As a result, paradoxically, an enterprise technology must be sufficiently slow and expensive to be adopted.

Mobility was disruptive to enterprise because the new computing paradigm was both too fast and too cheap to be implementable.

Article: 4am Panic


The 4am Panic is achieved when the work I need to complete exceeds my mental capacity to consider it. Something annoyingly biologically chemical is triggered at 4am where apparently I must uselessly consider all of my current work on my plate for no productive reason at all. Just stare at the ceiling and fret until I fall back to sleep.

You might not have the 4am panic, but you know the state because you’ve probably been there. It’s the state of constant reaction. It’s when you start blocking time off on your calendar just to keep up. You reinvent your productivity system, you write list after list after list, and you sleep poorly.

It’s worth taking some time to think about how you got here, but that’s not the point of this piece. I have simple advice and, well, it involves two more lists.