The Apple Watch launch event was a spectacle. Thousands of journalists and industry luminaries lined up for entry into the auditorium, giving it almost a red carpet feel (though without the silly "who are you wearing?" questions). Once inside, the crowd hung on every word, with even journalists applauding each new announcement (something I don't believe they teach at J-school).
We'll need a new analogy. For years, people were stunned that both Abe Vigoda and Radio Shack were still alive. Thankfully, Tessio is still going strong, but we've seen the end of Radio Shack.
Radio Sh ack lost its relevance in the early 80s when IBM PCs became mainstream and the early adopters moved on from TRS-80s.
And while it never found its footing again, the sad thing is that there's an emerging opportunity that would be a great fit for Radio Shack, had it been able to reinvent itself.
The one thing that made Radio Shack special in the 70s and 80s was that their staff were tinkerers. You could ask them all kinds of questions and get real answers. Long before there was a Maker community, you had makers and tinkerers behind the counter and as customers at Radio Shack. And while most technology today is fairly simple and doesn't require use of a soldering iron nor following detailed instructions, there is a nascent market where those skills would be perfect: Smart Homes.
The Smart Home market is in its early phases. And it's complicated. Sure, it's pretty easy to install a Nest thermostat or a Dropcam camera, but which smart lock should you buy? How about the garage opener? Can you replace your expensive alarm system with a DIY version? And do you need a hub? Can you control it all with one platform or do you need multiple apps?
While it's easy to buy any of this gear online, it's still pretty confusing, even for technically savvy early adopters.
There are several retailers chasing the space, notably Home Depot, Apple, Lowe's, Staples and others. Yet none of them seem particularly well-suited for the space. Have you asked questions at a Home Depot or Lowe's lately? Apple will make elegant products, but you can't bring your house to the Genius Bar. And Staples? Really?
Smart Home gear would have been perfect for Radio Shack. You don't need a massive big box store to show it. You just need well-informed staff and an area to educate and showcase. They could have either provided or partnered with a provider of home installation services, to make it easy for people to adopt the new technologies. The typical Radio Shack employee might not have made the leap, but they could have engaged an entire new generation of tinkerers to want to work there.
But instead, the Shack decided to focus their efforts on selling mobile phones and overpriced phone accessories, driving it to irrelevance.
I’m currently recruiting for two roles. If you’re interested, reach out to me at barry-dot-graubart at interactivedata-dot-com.
Vantage is the industry leading platform for fixed income transparency, price validation, corporate actions and reference data. Vantage today is a critical part of the workflow of hundreds of hedge funds, investment managers and mutual funds.
The ideal candidate will have experience in successfully bringing to market analytics or research applications in the financial markets. Strong knowledge of the fixed income market is desired, with experience serving front- or back-office markets within financial institutions. The ability to balance competing interests in order to manage development priorities is critical. This is a mid-level to senior position.
Here's the full spec for the Vantage Product Manager role.
End-of-day fixed income pricing is no longer sufficient to comply with current regulations, driving the need for a continuous stream of evaluated prices. Interactive Data was first to the market with our Continuous Evaluated Fixed Income Pricing in 2014 and we are in the midst of adding that “CEP” stream to various products. We’re currently seeking a Business Analyst to support the Continuous Evaluated Fixed Income Pricing data across multiple products.
Successful candidates will bring a deep understanding of market data, strong technical skills (including SQL) and excellent verbal and written communication skills. Experience with fixed income data or supporting front- or middle-office functions at a financial institution a plus. This is a junior to mid-level role.
Here's the full spec for the Business Analyst role.
Both roles are based in our NYC (Tribeca) office, though I will consider candidates for the product manager role in Bedford, MA as well.
If you or someone you know might be a fit for either of these roles, drop me a note or use the job spec links above to apply directly. It's a great opportunity to help drive the growth of some of our most exciting products.
In the past 24 hours, I've received a half-dozen or more spam requests to connect on LinkedIn.
No, I'm not talking about the typical LinkedIn news stream spam, nor the random requests to connect from people whom I don't know. These are more like Twitter spam - photos of attractive young women with sparse profiles.
In this case, all of them seem to be tied to the media/content/technology industry. So, at the surface level, they seem legit. But, a quick click on any of the profiles shows them to be fake. Beyond their model-like appearances, each seems to have 4 years of professional experience at companies like Elle, People or Playboy, attended a small college in the Los Angeles area and doesn't include a single description of their job, other than a title, employer and dates. As with Twitter spam, they occasionally select interesting names - a shout-out to my new friend Natalie Portman. Here's the typical profile - this one for a Sofia Anderson:
This is just one more reason why you shouldn't randomly connect to strangers on LinkedIn. I keep my LinkedIn network pretty clean, only accepting connections from those whom I've had a business relationship with. That keeps the value of my network high and allows me to confidently refer those in my network to others as appropriate. LinkedIn has never been, and should never be, simply about growing your connections. Spam quickly devalues all of our networks. If you're randomly connecting to strangers or spammers, I don't want to be connected to you, as it simply dirties the data and makes LinkedIn less useful as a biz dev tool.
So, don't accept the request from that beautiful stranger who just reached out to you on LinkedIn. She's not real.
Most roles at technology companies are pretty easy to define. Software engineers write code. QA analysts test to ensure releases meet requirements. DBA’s set up and manage data schemas. Marketers market and sales reps sell. But ask the typical person to define the product manager role and they’ll struggle.
Perhaps they’ll say something like “they own the roadmap” or “they define the requirements”, which are certainly true, but that’s only a part of the product management role. Or, they’ll confuse it with project management, which can be a part of the role, but isn’t the primary function.
And, because the product management skills are not so clearly defined, almost everyone in a technology company, from CEO to field sales, believes they can define the product. While they’d never say “let me code that feature”, they all think it’s fair game to weigh in with “that button should be larger” or “we need a search by color feature”.
In reality, Product Managers own the full lifecycle of a product, from initial strategy through market adoption and ongoing enhancement.
image credit: Product Manager via OneDesk
By definition, the day-to-day responsibilities of a product manager will vary, depending upon where a product is in its lifecycle. But, regardless of where you are in that lifecycle, there are certain skills required to be a great product manager.
Evangelist: From the early moments of developing a product strategy, you need to get the rest of the organization behind your effort. Throughout the process, you need to communicate what you are doing and why it should be the priority for scarce dev resources to focus on. And when you approach product launch, you’ll need to rally sales and marketing, customer support and others to embrace it.
Listener: Product management is not done inside an office nor a garage. Product management is done in the field, understanding customer workflows, their challenges and their goals.
Business Process Analyst: The ability to fully understand business needs is perhaps the most critical b2b product management skill. A good product manager can explain, in simple terms, the exact customer need behind a feature request. Typically, this is done in the form of user stories. The key challenge is that customers will often try to explain what they want in the context of how they perform the task today (with your product or something else). So, they’ll say “we need a button here that loads the profile” when what they really need is to integrate data from two systems into a single view. The Product Manager’s role is to probe until they understand exactly what a customer really needs and what specific benefit that provides them.
Relationship builder: To successfully bring products to market, you need to build strong relationships with customers, with engineering, with QA, with UX, with sales, presales and training. Product management is about building mutual trust and respect with each of these groups, so you can constantly manage the balance and conflicts between their desires and the needs of the business.
Prioritizer: product management is about focus and prioritization. There will be constant trade-offs in terms of functionality, resources and timing. The product manager needs to be able to say no, or at least “not now” to feature requests from sales, marketing, customers and even the CEO.
Technical knowledge: while I’ve met a few product managers who come from a coding background, that’s not necessary for the job. But you do need to understand the technology stack and have a sense of what it takes to build something as well as understanding of how to scale to meet the needs of the business. If you don’t understand the technology, you’ll never earn the respect of the Engineering team nor will you be able to effectively translate user stories into technical requirements.
Being a great product manager requires all of these skills. You must be effective at cutting to the core of what customers need, while being incredibly focused, constantly reprioritizing and, most importantly, able to influence without authority.
And I wouldn't trade it for any other job I know.
(Part 2 of this post will explore the differences between being a product manager for a startup and for an established company)
That was a truism for most of us who grew up in the PC-era. I learned my lessons early in my career and have been religious about regular backups. In the early days, that was tape and CD; today, it's a mix of cloud backup (Mozy), external hard drive and occasionally burning files to DVDs and storing them in a fireproof safe (as a fire or storm can take out your external drive along with your laptop).
But, as we move more and more of our lives to the Cloud, backing up your data becomes more challenging.
My Evernote account has been quirky lately; any time I change networks, Evernote for OS X thinks I'm offline and I have to restart it. No big deal, but the fix that the support team proposed was to rebuild my database. Easy enough, but it brought an immediate panic. Where are my notes stored and, if the rebuild fails, how can I get them back? With Evernote, it turned out to be no big deal. I simply moved the existing notes folder to a temporary space and when I next loaded Evernote, it sync'd with my online account and rebuilt the database. But, not all apps make it that clear.
This morning, I saw a panicked post from Felix Salmon.
In Felix' case, it's not the typical, oops - I deleted files from my device - but rather it's that he's deleted an account and a number of critical notes were tied to that account.
But, the bigger issue is how we can backup and manage our information that's stored across numerous services in the Cloud. For me, that includes Dropbox, gmail, Google Docs, Evernote, Flickr, Picasa, Instagram, SkyDrive and probably others. And that number continues to expand.
So, what are the services that allow us to manage and backup our cloud-based services? I could set up some rules in IFTTT to move files around, but what I really want is an easy platform that lets me backup, restore, move and access files no matter where they're stored and in what format.
What tools are you using to manage and backup your cloud data?
facepalm image courtesy striatic
UPDATE (5/26/14): Rap Genius cofounder Mahbod Moghadam has been fired.
Community site Rap Genius sets as their mission to annotate the world - or to become the Internet Talmud. That's a lofty goal and perhaps a worthy one, particularly if they expand into poetry, literature, political speeches and more. But it's also a thorny path, as you look to a community to interpret the words of others.
Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam learned that today when he decided to annotate and publish the "manifesto" of UCSB mass shooter Elliot Rodger.
Defenders of Rap Genius will note that the words of mass murderers are often published and analyzed. But, for the most part, that doesn't happen immediately. Ann Rule's biography of Ted Bundy, The Stranger Beside Me, was published in 1980, five years after his arrest for multiple murders. Moghadam's annotated version of the Manifesto was published just a day after the shootings, at a time when the names of some of the victims have still not been released.
Making the matter worse, Moghadam's comments seemed to reinforce some of the rawness of the crime itself. In perhaps the most egregious example, in a reference to Rodger's sister, Moghadam's comments try to interpret the shooter's feelings towards her, saying "My Guess: his sister is smokin hot".
(image credit: Gawker.com)
While this text was later edited out of the Rap Genius post, it was at best insensitive and inappropriate, particularly since social media has been dominated all weekend with the #YesAllWomen hashtag.
But the core issue, in my view, is that, while the immediacy of the web enables, and often encourages all of us to "publish" events as they happen, that doesn't mean that we should.
Traditional news outlets have editors who set policies and help journalists make decisions about what information should be shared when. Those of us (including bloggers like me) who do not have a background in journalism, nor editorial oversight, must make those decisions ourselves. And while I'd argue that having a layperson try to interpret the meaning of a mass murderer's comments, with no context nor professional experience, is a wrongheaded effort, the timing of it becomes a key factor as well.
Just a week or so ago, there was great debate about whether it was appropriate that the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City sell high-priced trinkets at a gift shop. Personally, I've been more offended by the politicians who have spent the past 13 years grandstanding in front of the site, but I can see the view of those who were upset by the gift shop. Yet, the Holocaust Museum has a similar gift shop that generates no such outrage. And a major difference, in my view, is the passage of time.
If Rap Genius wished to annotate the manuscript a year or two from now, it wouldn't generate much attention. Of course, it wouldn't generate many page views either, which was clearly a driver in getting it posted today.
But the immediacy of the web requires us to gauge public response to our actions and to decide what we want our role to be in doing so.
Everyone knows that passwords are a horrible way to protect your information, but until finger scanners or other systems are in widespread use, we don't have much choice. And, even where finger scanners are used (Android and, on a limited basis, iOS), you still need to provide a backup password for when the swipe doesn't register.
There are a handful of basic rules for passwords which we all know by now:
Yet, despite the fact that we know these rules, most people break them all the time. It's simply too difficult to remember dozens or hundreds of passwords.
The best approach is to use a secure password manager. Personally, I'm a fan of 1password. Their protection is about as strong as you can find, they have a simple browser plugin, and they support multiple platforms and devices (OS X, Windows, iOS, etc). Other password managers include LastPass, KeePass and oneSafe. I strongly recommend you use one of those tools. But, for those who don't want to pay for a password manager, or choose not to use one for other reasons, there are still ways to keep secure.
Here's an approach that I'd used previously, before I adopted 1password. It's free. It's fairly safe. And it's still easy to remember the password for hundreds of websites.
1. Start with a basic password you'll remember but that's not that obvious. For this example, I'll choose falcon.
2. Always capitalize one letter in the word. Now it's faLcon.
3. If possible, change one of the letters to a number. How about faLc0n
4. Add the current year to the password. faLc0n14 (or better yet split the year into two parts - like 1faLc0n4). Then, each January, update the password, so it becomes 1faLc0n5 in 2015, etc.
At this point, you have a fairly unique password that consists of a mix of numbers and letters, does not represent a word in the english language, etc. It can still be beaten by brute force (i.e. a computer trying tens of thousands of combinations) but would not be easily guessed.
5. Now - here's the key part. For every website, take the 1st 2 letters of the URL and insert them at the beginning or end of your password. So, for Facebook, the first 2 letters are fa. If I put the f at the front of my password and the a at the end, my Facebook password becomes f1faLc0n4a. For Yahoo, my password would be y1faLc0n4a, etc.
Now, I recommend you modify this approach to your own requirements. Perhaps you put the numbers in the middle of the base word. Or, maybe, instead of the first 2 letters of the URL, you take the last 3 letters before the .com suffix. Make it your own. But there's no excuse for using weak passwords or using the same password on multiple sites.