Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Mistake Family

How tolerant is your organization towards mistakes? How often, have we been asked to “learn from our mistakes” and how often, have we actually (learned)?

I read a beautiful excerpt on “mistakes” from a book called “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator” that made me thinking. We make mistakes, every day in some or the other form. For example, when we wake up in the morning and rush to work, skipping breakfast – we are making a deadly mistake, one that will come back to us later… Since, I am deeply engrossed and passionate about my role of a Product Manager, and while I am writing about mistakes, the one that is closest to me is the mistakes that we make documenting the requirements.

As a Product Manager, when I see priorities shuffle in random fashion, new requirements getting added at the whims and fancies of few good orators in the team, ambiguity and delay in communication, da daa, da daa ….I shiver at the thought of the end product. And still that happens over and over again and from one organization to another.

Of the several difficult to articulate and intangible to measure and abstract in nature, responsibilities of a Product Manager, there is one that stands out as a very specific deliverable, which, ties an idea to a final product and that is the PRD (Product Requirement Document) or its variant. This is one such document, that is the bible, the book of truth, a must read for anyone building the product. However, in my experience, most of the PRDs are analogous to the roads in India – roads that are built in between the potholes. Even though most of us PMs know the value of this document and understand the visibility of this textual collection – why do we make mistakes writing it without ambiguity and not adding the utmost details as possible? We learn from mistakes. We do. If we missed writing that the system will be used by 5 simultaneous users and if it starts to burn and fume as soon as the 5th user keys in, who is to blame? So, next time, we make sure to include in the PRD the performance criterion. But, we get so overwhelmed by the mistakes of the last release that we omit adding the end criterion for another feature (for example). And so on…

Mistakes are inevitable, but we need to know how to contain them. And I am sure, each to her own pace, we learn.

Like I said in the beginning of this post, my thinking was based on an interesting excerpt, I read in a book called (and I repeat) “Reminiscences of a Stock Broker” by E. Lefevre. This book was written in 1923 and is claimed to be the most relevant to date for investors and stock brokers (and for people like me, who are generally interested in the subject). The excerpt, very succinctly said, but profoundly suggests, why we end up making mistakes, over and over again! And it goes like this ...

“Of course, if a man is both wise and lucky, he will not make the same mistake twice. But he will make any one of the ten thousand brothers or cousins of the original. The mistake family is so large that there is always one of them around when you want to see what you can do in the fool-play line.”

Friday, January 25, 2008

Where is the Problem?

If you remember this flow-chart, you can very easily do away with the Problems... Source - TechRepublic.

Click on the image for larger view.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

And Google Evolved ...

I was reading about some search algorithms and trying to find more about Inverted Index search. I happened to come across this site, which discusses about the way different search engines execute the queries and index the sites (if they do).

I was enjoying reading and trying to absorb the relevant information, when I read the following (see the excerpt, below):

"Page Ranking
There is a relatively new search engine on the Internet - Google. This uses a system of page ranking to achieve accurate search results (Google calls this technology PageRank - highly imaginative name ... not). From Google's own web pages, here is their explanation of how their system works:......"

This is when, I realized the age of the document and how different the style of writing would have been, if it were written, like now.

Google has evolved, since then!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Slashing Jobs! When will "Yahoo!" Yahooooooo?

When my offer at Yahoo! was put on hold 4 months back, given the reasons that "Yahoo! is re-prioritizing its Business Units", I understood.

Even though, Yahoo Mail maintains a high market share in the US Internet usage for December, 2007, it is very important to note that the user preferences between the top three webmails [Yahoo!, GMail and Live Hotmail] are marginal. This becomes critical when we all know that Yahoo! Mail is one of the leading business units of Yahoo.

It is also worth mentioning that inspite of the dipping share of Yahoo! in Search, Ad, Media, we have not heard a lot from the company to keep Internet users attached and Wall Street watchers happy. There have been a lot of hope lately from the Panama project, but that also could not give Yahoo! the much needed boost.

The most recent news hitting the wires is about Yahoo! laying off about 1400 - 2000 employees. I believe, the human resource is the most vigilant function at Yahoo that is taking actions on re-prioritizing. Instead, it would be a fresh relief to hear Jerry Yang unveil more opportunities and make some positive moves towards re-prioritizing - ones that will make us understand the situation, better.

Appendix 1: Hitwise Report on Internet Usage market Share 2007, December
Rank Website Market Share
1. www.google.com 5.37%
2. mail.yahoo.com 4.88%
3. www.myspace.com 4.72%
4. www.yahoo.com 3.86%
5. mail.live.com 2.31%
6. www.ebay.com 2.01%
7. search.yahoo.com 1.67%
8. www.msn.com 1.35%
9. www.facebook.com 1.05%
10. www.youtube.com 0.78%

Appendix 2: Feature Comparison of Yahoo Mail, GMail, Live Hotmail

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Frabble - Facebook Scrabble under scrutiny

When Mark Zukerberg came on CBS channel in the 60 minutes talk show last Sunday, he made it a point to show the Scrabble game and talk about how he enjoys playing it with his grand parents. Now, this could be just a gimmick. But, if he really is addicted to playing Scrabble on FaceBook, along with 500,000 other users who play each day, he will have to STOP.

The reason is simple. The quick journey to fame and money for brother pair from India is short lived. When they integrated their sleek software with the all-so-easy-to-integrate APIs of Facebook, little did they know about Copyright Infringement. Now, the copyright holder of the Board Game Scrabble has issued a notice to the brother duo and are on their way to sue them, if the notice is ignored.

When you are 21 years old, live in Calcutta (India) and if you can make $25000 per month, just through advertisement revenue, why you would think of anything that is negative – in this case, copyrights! But, wait a minute. Copyrights for a game of Scrabble? Are there not SO MANY versions available online, illegal circulating the wires? Oh, but now, there is a clear traction and these guys are making money. And this is when it hurts, the owners.

Nevertheless, this is another example of how huge and lucrative the revenue model of FaceBook is becoming. Making quick and dirty money is fine, but it always makes sense to play by the rules!

And Mark, last time when you were on channel, you had an unfinished game. Did you get to complete it?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Microsoft + Yahoo! --> Google?

Will Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo! lead the combined entity get closer to Google?

A quick glance at the stats in the Search Domain for the Top 3 players shows*:
Google - 65.98%
Yahoo - 20.88%
Microsoft - 7.04%.

Well, this is the multi-billion dolor ($$$) question that only time or the informed sources will be able to tell. Meanwhile, it is for us to speculate and watch the game.

Yahoo! acquisition will definitely help Microsoft close the gap and and boost its desperate game plan to dominate and out do Google!

A look at some more stats
Yahoo! has a market capitalization of approximately $31 Billion.
Yahoo's 1/3rd stake in Yahoo! Japan is $9 Billion.
Yahoo's 10% stake in Alibaba.com is worth approximately $1.7 Billion.
Yahoo's 40% stake in Alibaba.com's parent company, Alibaba Group, is an estimated of $8 Billion and $16 Billion.

The current valuation of Yahoo based on the Nasdaq listing does not fully reflect Yahoo’s investments, which if realized would give Yahoo a valuation upwards of US$45 Billion.

But, at $45 billion, is this game worth playing?

Another Billion dolor question! But what about the Anti-trust? Is Microsoft prepared to fight another suit?

*Latest Hitwise report of U.S. Searches (Dec 2007)
Read few more interested articles on this topic at:
2006 CNN Article: http://money.cnn.com/2006/05/03/technology/microsoft_yahoo/

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Always Ad Campaign" - An ad that can influence buy!

P&G's "Always" brand has come up with a social ad for improving the hygiene of African girls and helping them to continue their education. According to a research, as posted on the p&G website:

"1 in 10 school-age African girls do not attend school during menstruation or drop out at puberty because of the lack of clean and private sanitation facilities in schools.(1) And, if a girl has no access to protective materials or if the materials she has are unreliable and cause embarrassment, she may be forced to stay at home while menstruating. This absence of approximately 4 days every 4 weeks may result in the girl missing 10 to 20 percent of her school days.(2) The Protecting Futures program will provide products and services to help keep girls in school as well as help foster the overall health and well-being of every child in the targeted school communities.
[See the full post here.]

I recently watched this ad on television. Apart from the message that it conveys to support the cause, the advertisement has a very thoughtful and creative touch. It definitely made me say "ok, I will buy Always". As it goes with social marketing, the company will benefit financially, while adding to its karma with social campaigns. I could not get the online version of the ad and so could not embed the link.

This is an ad that rightly aligns the product, message and the buyer - "A women for a women!