Product & Startup Builder

On Platforms

Added on by Chris Saad.

The only way to scale - and have a chance at becoming part of the fabric of the world - is to figure out the patterns and primitives, expose them as extensible interfaces that are opinionated enough to create consistency but not so restrictive so as to strangle creativity and innovation, provide clear best practices and samples, and let builders build.

You must be willing to put your most valuable assets out there for others to take advantage of. You must leave enough money or room on the table for others to get rich.

And finally you need to be honest, earnest and clear about your intentions so that those that come to rely on you can be your partner in success.

This doesn't diminish your power or control, it magnifies it. This doesn't reduce your leverage, it extends it.

In other words; build a platform.

It's an art as much as it is a science.

#shouldwriteabook #letbuildersbuild #platforms #apis #art #bigcobenefits

New Opportunities

Added on by Chris Saad.

Today I'm searching for new opportunities.

Over the last 5 years at Echo I’ve lead product for the team who built the Echo Real-time Developer Platform from 0 to 85 Billion API calls a month, some 30+ shrink-wrapped consumer social products and the super slick drag-n-drop Echo Experience Studio with 100+ customer deployments.

We’ve powered amazing brands like Salesforce, AWS, WWE, ESPN, NASDAQ, USA Networks, Washington Post, Coke, Fanta, AT&T, Scripps Networks, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and many, many more.

It’s been an amazing journey with a passionate and dedicated team - I’m grateful and humbled to have had their trust and hard work. 

At each stage I’ve had the chance to mature my skills in all aspects of the product and startup lifecycle including rapid prototyping, agile/lean development, branding and marketing, growing teams/cultures, scale and security, developer platforms and ecosystems, B2B product/sales/support, and beautiful, easy-to-use B2C experiences (some lessons learned: http://bit.ly/1DNNqEV).

Today I’m announcing that my time at Echo is coming to a close. It’s time for me to look for new horizons!

I don’t yet have a specific project or company I’ll be doing next. But I know some of the characteristics I’ll be looking for...

  1. Smart, passionate and hungry people
  2. A product making (or having the potential to make) a big impact
  3. An opportunity for me to work my ass off to help the venture succeed

So if you’re working on something great and need help with…

  • Business and product strategy
  • Product management
  • UI/UX
  • Developer platforms/APIs
  • Developer ecosystems and App marketplaces
  • Open standards (adopting, creating, influencing)
  • Modern UI metaphors (Cards, activity streams)
  • Future of media
  • Working with brands

Then I want to hear what you’re working on and how I can help!

Drop me a line

You can also find out more about my experience at www.linkedin.com/in/chrissaad

Long term, personalized value in the news business

Added on by Chris Saad.

Just a quick thought...

Media companies are so focused on "going where the audience is" that they forget how to serve those audiences, cultivate them, inform them and build trust with them over the long term with a web and mobile product that serves the needs of the news consumer.

They say that Facebook and Twitter have "made the home page irrelevant" - while that's true, in actuality they've dived head first into that irrelevancy by missing opportunity after opportunity for true personalization and next-gen UI/UX metaphors.

News feed, social, real-time, follow, notify, citizen journalism, reputation, journalist participation - even something as basic as comments - still no where to be seen in any major outlet.

The latest example is a CNN redesign that is functionally exactly the same as it's been for decades while at the same time they invest in gimmicks over on Snapchat.

It takes two to facilitate disruption. The disruptor to innovate and the disrupted to wallow in inaction.

How telling our own stories is disrupting Journalism

Added on by Chris Saad.

It's become increasingly clear to a growing number of people that the Internet, and more recently Social Media, are empowering individuals to tell their own story... 1 tweet at a time. Victims, Terrorists, Dictators, Celebrities, Politicians, Countries and even every day citizens get to publish their message, their way, free of pesky intermediaries called 'Journalists'.

I've been writing about this, in one form or another, for pretty much as long as I can remember. Certainly since I read the Cluetrain Manifesto some 10+ years ago.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there's no place for Journalists/Editorial Voice. I believe the ultimate answer is the intersection of social conversation and editorial curation.

That being said, However, I was tickled by this post on Vox today where Senator Barbara Boxer announced her retirement using the traditional TV Journalist/Politician interview format - with her grandson playing the role of journalist.

I'm sure she didn't mean it this way, but it's a stark example of how the Journalist could be seen as disposable, interchangeable or even totally unnecessary in a wide range of traditional journalism cases.

Given this accelerating trend, journalists, and media companies, are running out of time to find their (essential) place in the future of story telling and journalism.

Collaborative Works

Added on by Chris Saad.

There's been a lot of talk about the impact of social media on mainstream media, democracy and politics. It's also clear that the 'collaborative' or 'sharing' economy is going to massively disrupt traditional business models and concepts of ownership vs. access.

I'd like to propose another area of exploration. Collaborative Works. That is, work product produced as a result of a broad collaboration between loosely tied peers.

Think Wikipedia.

I struggle to think of too many other great examples. Some loosely related case studies might include...

  • Facebook Groups, for example, allow a few people to curate and collaborate to create a space for others to hang out in. You can even invite people into groups as part of the curation effort. But it's very rudimentary right now and the 'work product' is fairly simple.
     
  • The Reddit community also does a good job of covering major breaking news and producing collaborative reporting and investigative citizen journalism. While the Reddit team has made some moves to bake more support for this behavior into the product, the platform was never really designed for this kind of use-case.
     
  • Kickstarter (and other crowdfunding platforms) is also related to this, in that they ask the crowd to donate pure cash to a project. But it asks very little else of its users.
     
  • Genius.com is perhaps closest to my vision. It's a platform for crowd sourcing annotations of lyrics, news and other content.

I think there's a real opportunity to take this to another level. Perhaps by applying some new user experience metaphors on top of traditional social networks to coax/incentivize directed effort towards meaningful work product.

My personal dream would be to see collaboratively produced/curated news. News that is collaboratively produced from initial idea all the way through sourcing, writing, editing, fact checking and distribution.

Something open like Twitter #hashtags but less 'shouting into the stream' and more 'composing a collective narrative'.

In the past I've suggested that adding narrative structure on top of social media conversation was the role of Mainstream Media and the traditional Editorial Process, but, except for a few bright spots, I've increasingly become disillusioned with the attempts so far. However even if there was great traditional editorializing going on, I'd still love to see what democratizing the editorial part of the process might look like.

News is not the only 'work product' that could be developed collaboratively though. I'd love to hear your thoughts. What other work product do you think might lend itself well to Collaborative Work? Let me know what you think!

The Tyranny of Choice

Added on by Chris Saad.

For the longest time I was all about Choice. Give users flexibility, power, choice I'd say. Open ecosystems create opportunities for innovation I'd say.

I've recently changed my mind. At least when it comes to the first few stages of creating a new product/company/opportunity.

It seems that the number of people with any taste and tenacity is quite small and the opportunity (especially when you're just getting started) is not about consumer choice but about product choices. Creating great Product is all about making hard, opinionated choices based on best practices, intentionality and specific use-cases/markets in mind. The choices need to be on the design side so that the consumption side (the consumer buying your stuff) does not have to think.

I bring all this up to say this.

The Android and Windows device marketplaces are still missing the point.

It seems that every device manufacturer (with a couple of notable exceptions) is committed to creating as many phones as they can in a range of colors, sizes, variations and price points.

This one has a big lens on the back. This one has a crazy massive screen. This one comes in red. This one is the 'prime' version. This one is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus Play running Android Kitkat 4.23423 on Verizon - are you kidding me!?

I follow these things very closely, and I still can't tell you what the hell is going on. I can't imagine the confusion in the mind of the regular consumer.

The opportunity for Android and Windows is to create ONE flagship phone and iterate on a regular schedule - each time getting better and better. No forks, no variations, no changes and one distinct brand.

Then, and only then, can you start to introduce some simple variations. Black or white. 16gig or 32gig.

The current overcomplicated approach seems to stem, at least in part, from a technology mindset. Version numbers, inheritance, open source etc. The problem is that cell phones are not computing devices. They are not technology. They are consumer electronics. They are jewelry.

As far as I can tell, the only vendor+product doing this besides Apple is Microsoft with the Surface. But on the Nokia side they still have an embarrassingly large range of phones with stupid names based on numbers. If anyone can explain what the numbers mean I will give them a bitcoin.

Sure Surface is still losing money, but at least they are building trust over time that this is a stable, supported, flagship product that is a viable alternative. There is no tyranny of choice.

Of course the Surface has it's own problems of trying to be both a Tablet and a Laptop - but that's a discussion for another day.

I hope now that the Nokia acquisition is complete, Microsoft's next move is turn down the noise over there and get them to focus on one device that matters.

This post was inspired by a friendly debate with the awesome Doug Crets over on Facebook.

How Apple might compete with Google on Search

Added on by Chris Saad.

Thought experiment.

Yesterday I tweeted lamenting the fact that a report shows we now search more within Apps than Google/Web Search...

Well....

  1. Notice that on iOS 'Search' is branded 'Spotlight Search'.
  2. Notice the new 'Continuity' Features on iOS 8 and OSX Yosemite that involve lots of cross iOS/OSX interactions
  3. Notice the SMS Syncing between iMessage and Desktop
  4. Notice deep spotlight search on the OSX - showing content within an App in the search results (like recent documents etc)
  5. Apple has clearly shown they want to disintermediate Google by turning every search box on an Apple device (iOS or OSX alike) into a branded search experience "Spotlight" that a) they control b) mixes both web and native/app content.


Imagine taking this further in a series of incremental steps that would eventually lead the app developer community along towards a powerful end goal...

  1. Introduce 'Deep App Search' on iOS. An API that App Developers can use to allow spotlight to index their contents so they can appear in iOS search results and/or Siri or more often
  2. Introduce 'Continuity' for Search Results... When I get a result on OSX Spotlight, why can't I 'launch' it on my iOS Device and vice versa.
  3. Introduce Search Sync so that OSX Spotlight can return results from my iOS devices/Apps (and vice versa). Content that can only be seen on my phone will only allow that option in the search results
  4. All of this would presumably be via iCloud... 
  5. Apple could provide a WEB Interface to all this.. say at Spotlight.com
  6. BOOM! Apple would now have a differentiated Web Search Interface that rivals Google using...
  • A well known search brand (Spotlight)
  • Bing for Web (at least until they decided to build their own)
  • Deep/personalized results from your iOS app data. They might even be able to reach into FB if FB played along with the FB iOS App.

The challenge of developing Open Standards

Added on by Chris Saad.

A lifetime ago I created something called the DataPortability Project and, separately, proposed my own standard called APML. I also co-authored the Backplane standard. The first two were not very successful in achieving their mission. The latter is currently enjoying a medium amount of success.

During these experiences, and while observing other standards efforts (particularly in the social media and web space), I've come to be quite jaded about the Standards process

I still believe deeply in the vision of Open Standards. A world where independent parties can interoperate with each other without prior negotiation means that there's free and rapid iteration for the benefit of everyone.

Most of life as we know it is enabled by standards of one kind or another. From which side of the road you drive on to the shape and power coming out of your wall socket. The Internet itself is a miracle of technical standardization - from TCP/IP to HTML5.

The reality, however, is often times far messier and more frustrating than one would expect and hope. It's caused me to rethink some of my earlier, perhaps naive, points of view.

So, despite my love and admiration for the work and many of the individuals, I'd like to indulge in a post about the frustrations with standards and the standards community...

  1. The standards writing community tends to be mired in politics divided along minutia like HOW to organize yourself and WHICH technical approach is the most elegant and WHO is running what clique. You have to approach it in exactly the right way or risk offending someone (this post likely wont help).
  2. The community tends to be fairly academic resulting in commercial applications and/or ease-of-use taking a back seat.
  3. If any commercialization does happen, only the 'losers' in the market tend to participate so it never becomes dominant or particularly useful at solving the end goal (which is not openness, but interoperability). Even when big players participate they tend to send people who do not have the political capital at their company to adopt what's been developed in any meaningful way.
  4. For some reason engineers/implementers would rather create a proprietary format or protocol over an open standard just because the latter sounds like more work. Unfortunately often times they're right.
  5. it's easy to write a technical spec and propose it as a standard. The problem is getting consensus amongst the technical community and adoption by companies that matter. Unfortunately most standards efforts get stuck on the first part and never even begin to tackle the second and most important part. Adoption is far more important than getting every technical detail correct.
  6. As a result the standards often die on the vine or shortly thereafter.

As far as I can tell real standards tend to emerge only after proprietary innovation is created and commercialized by a first mover who wins big. Part of their competitive advantage is they get to control the implementation and iterate on it quickly. This forces competitors to fast-follow (read: copy) the conventions and models of that market leader.

This results in a kind of rough, market led convention that, while not open and interoperable, lasts for pretty much the entire cycle in which the particular technology is relevant, interesting or rapidly changing. This can take many, many years. Decades even.

Once that layer/component in the technology stack becomes conventional (read:boring) and the battle (read:unique value prop and lock-in) has moved up the stack, then standards groups can get together, figure out the common cases (which have now stabilized and been fully figured out), sand the edges and create true interoperability.

Said another way... you can't standardized the innovation before it's played out in the market and had a chance to run its course. Then you can retroactively write down what happened.

Let the hate mail begin :)