Tesla’s Autopilot Car Crash, Distracted Drivers, and a Demanding Public

The first known fatal car crash with use of autopilot driving engaged was on May 7th in Florida. This is the first of what will likely be many crashes and injuries involving partially or fully autonomous vehicles. It’s very likely true that over time, autonomous vehicles will make our roadways safer than ever before. This will be from direct benefits such as less accidents, to less obvious cascade effects from less pollution, less traffic jams holding up emergency vehicles, and much, much more that’s already been written about extensively. Motorists will be so happy, they’d be shooting sunbeams out of the exhaust if cars still had exhaust. (We’ll leave aside the reality that for now, most electric vehicles are likely juiced up from electrons being produced at coal fired power plants. So the pollution reduction benefit may have to wait. See Coal Powered Electric Cars and Electric cars and the coal that runs them)

So why is some more destruction on the way?

Well, there’s a whole lot of reasons. [Read more…]

Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business

Worth Reading?

Yes.

Why?

In the buzzword compliant world of business we so often hear about the importance of the customer. Seems obvious. After all, that’s where the money comes in, right? And yet even with better tools like customer journey maps and user personas, as consumers or business customers we still experience challenging interactions with business from brand and product level information seeking through purchase and so on.

I think this is because even when companies, (through senior management, brand or product managers), WANT to have a customer focus, they might not necessarily have frameworks, roadmaps or tools to take them from strategy to execution. This book offers ideas to do all of this. While I like to think that I’ve had a good customer focus as a product manager, the ideas here – though concept and example – offer solid methods for doing a better job in both understanding and execution.

Relationship Cartography – It’s Not Just about the Social Graph Alone

SocialGraph-1Let’s talk about Relationship Cartography in general. What is it? Well, I’m not 100% sure yet as I just made it up. The thing is, I’ve been looking at so-called Social Graphs, Commercial Graphs, Economic Graphs and more lately. And I’m struggling to find a unifying theme for these various sub-types of relationship visualizations. Maybe I’ll go into these various types in detail later on in a follow on post Types of Relationship Graphs, but for now I’d like to just blather a bit about graphs in general. You’ve probably heard of them. And maybe done a little research. Still, it’s sometimes useful to take a high level conceptual view of things to understand the parts a little better.

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Product Roadmapping and Feature Prioritization

To Go Anywhere, At Least Four Things Are Useful

1. Roadmap-1Know Where You Are
2. Know Where You Would Like to Go
3. Have a Map
4. Have a way to Get There

Any of these four may actually be challenging to acquire.

There’s probably as many ways to do product roadmapping and define feature priorities as there are product managers. Most any skilled product manager with any degree of experience is familiar with both Waterfall and Agile methods, at least in concept. Not everyone has necessarily been formerly trained in either or both. Most often, a true pro will at least seek out self-learning resources to really understand their chosen method. They may choose to diverge from full on formal Work Breakdown Structures, (in the case of Waterful), or may not be using formerly defined Scrum methods, (in the case of Agile).

Regardless of method, in most smaller development efforts some basic ideas have to start somewhere. Whether this is with a defined Product Manager role, a product oriented CEO, the Marketing Department or wherever, you’re still at the very, very early idea stage. Long before an idea even gets to any kind of Sprint planning meeting or a line item in a Project Plan, there’s probably a high level gut check first. In smaller start-up organizations, a lot of times these are first generated in simple spreadsheets; be they Excel or increasingly something shared such as a Google Docs spreadsheet. Of course, there’s been an explosion of tools from the basic idea level through the full development life cycle, but nevertheless, there’s some very basic, simple judgments that are useful first.

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Infinite Scroll – UI / UX Goodness and Some Consequences

You’ve all seen the pages. The endless pages. As you scroll down, the page keeps growing and growing and growing longer and longer; forever. Or at least until you run out of products or the user either finds what they want or becomes bored. We see this becoming more common on Home Pages for a handful of intro pages, but most especially on product listing pages whether they’re in grid or list view.

Why? And is this always a good thing?

The why seems fairly clear. Over time we’ve learned from usability, (both user observations and analytics), that users are OK with scrolling. Sure, the old thoughts still apply regarding having critical initial content “above the fold,” but for certain content types it seems perfectly appropriate to scroll along. (Just for the quick history lesson: “above the fold” originally came from the idea of folding newspapers to read what’s most important at the moment. For web pages or mobile, it’s more simply what a user would see first in the initial top of the viewport without scrolling.)

This method has obviously become a common design pattern. As of this writing, this little web site itself uses similar methods on the Home Page. And with Angular.js seemingly the code flavor of the year, scrolling has become even more common in the other case; which is most often for long lists of things, especially products.

[Read more…]

Book Review: Beautiful Visualization

Worth Reading?

Yes.

Why?

First Word: If you get this book, I don’t suggest doing so for a black & white device or a handheld. (So small Kindle is likely a bad idea. iPad would be fine.) There’s a lot of graphics and meaningful color use, so I think small screen or b&w would be a bad experience.

As to the content…

If you’re doing anything with big data, designing dashboards, or otherwise dealing with info graphics, this is a great read. We’ve had the cliche of “Death by PowerPoint” for awhile now, but the reality is solid presentations and graphical representations of data can show us patterns and clarity in data not typically available from raw tables. (Even if a lot of the weaker efforts have resulted in serious audience abuse via PowerPoint.)
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Excel Spreadsheet Google Analytics Tracking Scheme Generator

Yes, it’s a long title for an Excel Spreadsheet used to create utm tracking scheme variables for Google Analytics. I’m just doing a tiny bit of keyword stuffing here so the page gets found and people can use the spreadsheet I made if they like.

The Poor Site’s Tracking Method!

The big web sites may be able to afford the high end analytics solutions, but most sites starting out are stuck with love using Google Analytics. It’s an extremely capable product, especially in that it’s free. There’s a variety of other beacon / JavaScript based solutions out there, but I’ve found even those using these tools typically also have Google. In many cases, tracking codes are done for you. For example, if you’re using adwords and have hooked in your accounts properly the gclid variable should show up free, no effort on your part. And over time, Google has added other referrals such as social referrals to help. Moreover, increasingly third parties, (such as sharing tools like AddThis or ShareThis), also make it easier on you. Still, there are times when you just have to make your own. For those times I’ve found a sheet like the one attached below to be useful. Admittedly, it can be a pain to create your original schema and maintain things like this. But it’s not all that bad and once you have things set up, things go pretty quickly.

 

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Book Review: Why We Buy – Updated 2009 Edition

Worth Reading?

Yes.

Why?


It’s been years since I’ve read the original. This book is a must read if you have anything to do with marketing products of any sort to just about anyone. Does that seem a bit strong of an endorsement? Perhaps.

Underhill may have written this book primarily to offer up insights into the retail marketplace and the mind and behavior of retail shoppers, (as well as promote his own business), but the insights are useful beyond these goals. One basic tenet for just about anyone marketing or selling anything is to “Know Your Customer.” Underhill’s depth of experience in this area is amazing. From simple day-to-day observations to the insights he draws from them, you can get a real feel for what’s going on inside a consumer’s decision making process.
[Read more…]