Products | Dominik Mayer – Products, Asia, Productivity

Leading Product Without Disempowering  

As CEO of Meebo, Seth Sternberg, now Product Director for the Google+ Platform, went from full control to no control. Neither worked well.

But then it clicked. I came upon a way of managing product where the founder maintains product direction, even at quite a detailed level, without disempowering. It turns out it’s all about cadence of feedback and expectations.

His solution shares similarities to the Pixar Braintrust.

Foursquare and Swarm  

Jon Evans:

Foursquare, which started life as “the check-in app,” is ripping check-ins out of its eponymous app and moving them to its new ambient-social app called Swarm. […]

Which leaves it seeming more than a little unfocused. The main Foursquare app has essentially become a Yelp competitor. Swarm is now a side business, presumably because check-ins are no longer a growth industry, and haven’t been for some years now.

This pivot kept me scratching my head. I was probably one of the last geeks to start using Foursquare. I liked how I could tell the app where I am and what I like and it would then show me what to do.

With the split I have to check-in in Swarm and then jump to Foursquare to read more about the venue. What a waste of time.

My close friends are using neither Foursquare nor Swarm. They do not check-in to show where they are. Socializing has never been my use case for checking-in.

I stopped using Foursquare short after the split.

Myths About Apple Design  

Storehouse co-founder and ex-Apple designer Mark Kawano:

I think the biggest misconception is this belief that the reason Apple products turn out to be designed better, and have a better user experience, or are sexier, or whatever . . . is that they have the best design team in the world, or the best process in the world […]

It’s actually the engineering culture, and the way the organization is structured to appreciate and support design. Everybody there is thinking about UX and design, not just the designers. And that’s what makes everything about the product so much better . . . much more than any individual designer or design team.

He shares some more insight into the design process at Apple.

Start Early  

Mark Gurman:

Apple’s approach to developing hardware from the home is yet another indicator of the company’s integrated hardware and software philosophy. Like with iTunes arriving before the iPod and the Health app arriving on iOS before the iWatch, Apple is creating a Smart Home ecosystem via its software and planting its feet in the category before introducing actual hardware.

It’s similar to the way they launched iBeacon. At first they made sure that every device is equiped with Bluetooth Low Energy. When they released iOS 7 there were already hundreds of millions of capable devices out in the wild.

Unlimited Drive  

Unlimited storage for $10/month. I’ve heard this before…

Major disappointment Bitcasa used to promise the same.

I hope Google is more reliable.

Cool Suit  

Kyle Vanhemert:

At a point when humans need to take a sober look at our energy use, we’re poised to use a devastating amount of it keeping our homes and offices at the right temperatures in years to come. A team of students at MIT, however, is busy working on a prototype device that could eliminate much of that demand, and they’re doing it by asking one compelling question: Why not just heat and cool our bodies instead?

Interesting concept. I was thinking about a cooling suit when I was walking through the extremely hot and humid climate of Southeast Asia.

For inside use it’s probably more sustainable to retrofit buildings with better insulation.

Google Domains  

Greg Kumparak:

Google is promising full phone support for Google Domain customers, making it one of very, very few Google products with a support number tied to it.

And that’s the problem with Google.

Years ago I bought domains via the free version of Google Apps for your Domain. I wanted to cancel one of them but the “renew subscription” checkbox would always changed its state back to checked. There was no way to contact Google. I posted on Google+, wrote people working at Google, called the Google office in Munich. No way.

I had to use the free trial and upgrade my account to the paid version in order to get a human to talk to me.

I hated that experience and moved all my domains to GoDaddy. Only then, Google would send an E-Mail with a telephone number. And up to now I get E-Mails like this one:

Our records indicate that the payment for registering your domain [DOMAIN] was unsuccessful.

Payment failures happen for a variety of reasons (such as insufficient funds or an expired card). You can update your payment information to resolve the issue.

Please log in to your account and update your payment information. If you take no action, your domain will not be renewed on [DATE].

There is no domain…

So for me, Google and domains has been a very, very unpleasant experience. Not sure I want to trust them with a new one.

Selfie Stick  

Simply slot your device into the end of it and you’ll get an extra 1ft+ of reach, kind of like a pointer, only used for maximising Facebook Likes rather than learning things!

Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam. In the past three weeks I’ve seen this thing everywhere I went.

Secret Sex  

Whether Secret comes up with a problem-free system for filtering certain content on its platform that certain users don’t want to (or shouldn’t) see remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure: This app is in a complex, long-term relationship with adult content.

I don’t get this article. I don’t know what it wants to tell us. That you get higher click rates when you write about sex?

Design Changes in OS X Yosemite  

Here’s a quick look at the visual design changes in Yosemite and my impressions of them.

I like the new look but Min Ming also points out some glitches that should be fixed before the release.

Tweaks With Paper and Origami  

This is how Facebook built much of Paper. Matas and other designers used Origami to create unusually complete prototypes, and then a group of software engineers reproduced and refined these prototypes, building software they could ship to a world of phones. […]

Tweaks is a bit like Origami. But rather than providing a way of quickly molding prototypes, it lets engineers instantly shape and reshape an application after they’ve actually built it with software code. Both designers and engineers can test changes to an app without having to recode and recompile it. Instead, they can open a menu that lets them adjust all sorts of specific behavior, including the way the app’s smorgasbord of interactive animations responds to movements and finger gestures.

These are some pretty interesting tools.

How Feedback Helps Pixar Make Great Movies  

The Braintrust meets every few months or so to assess each movie we’re making. Its premise is simple: Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems, and encourage them to be candid. The Braintrust is not foolproof, but when we get it right, the results are phenomenal.

Pixar’s president Ed Catmull gives examples of how the Braintrust changed movies like WALL-E, Toy Story and the yet to be released Inside Out.