i need a reality check

Moving Locations

Posted in random by josh duncan on March 8, 2009

Having been thinking about this one for a while and finally made the decision to move the site over to a hosted location so I could add more plugins.

Here is the new link (and new name):  A Random Jog


Jedi Marketing

Posted in Product by josh duncan on March 7, 2009


Very interesting interview in this month’s AMA Marketing News magazine (link not online yet but should be here) with the author of Buyology.

Martin Lindstrom discuss the science of neuromarketing and the science behind why people buy.

Some interesting quotes from the article:

The first step marketers should take is to realize that, most likely, the research studies they’re doing right now are insufficient because the subconscious mind is what’ driving [consumer behavior]

Bottom line, there was no discernible difference between the way the subjects reacted to powerful brands and the way they reacted to religious icons and figures

Lindstrom has been able to measure how the mind responds to a good story vs. a simple tag line .  He admits that there is no magic buy button in the consumer’s mind but with the right message, in the right context, the better chance you of have of getting it to stick.

Enough here to convince me that Buyology should be well worth the read.

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Vacation (with no cords)

Posted in Product, random by josh duncan on February 25, 2009

Have I mentioned I am way overdue for  a vacation (as I am sure most are these days)?

Unfortunately, the timing is crap.   There are a million things going on with my product, key launch dates are approaching, and there is an endless request for Power Points.

Nevertheless, the tickets are purchases and the rooms are booked.  It is only a short 4 day trip but I am going to do the unthinkable and not bring my laptop.  This will be the longest I have been off work email in three years.

I have to admit it feels good and terrifying at the same time.  The idea of not getting any red hot urgent issues for a few days sounds amazing.  The thought of coming back Sunday night with a thousand emails to read, not so good.

Anyway, I am off.  Will worry about that on Sunday.

Take care,


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MIAW + SmartTime

Posted in random by josh duncan on February 16, 2009


I am failing at “Making It All Work”, David Allen style.  The last week has been crazy and I have had to focus all my energies on just staying afloat.  So, instead of having my own personal review of MIAW, here are some great ones I found before I bought the book (at this rate, Allen will have a new book out before I finish):


As usual, Allen’s approach appears to be a combination of business-speak and Zen enlightenment (with a sprinkling of sports metaphors about “winning your game”). The concept of self-management alone connotes the idea that you’d manage your monkey mind they way you would an unruly underling at the office.

Buzzard Blog

I found the book full of common sense brilliance. Reading this book in conjunction with a two day re-booting my GTD system for the start of a new year was extremely helpful.

The Simple Dollar

In fact, when I put it down, my initial reaction was “Getting Things Done is stronger for engineers and left-brain types – Making It All Work fits better with right-brain types.”

Jason Spenser

Seven years later David Allen still remains a fresh and insightful voice in the field of business and personal development. He electrifies his reader with his profound and poignant down home style that is at once practical as it is philosophical.

On a side note, I am testing a new iPhone application called SmartTime.  The app lets you scheudle tasks and events and synch with Google Calendar.  It has several cool features such as filtering by tags and managing multiple projects and calendars.  I can’t say I have figured it all out yet but I am working on it.  For $9.99 it is worth checking out.

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Worth The Read

Posted in worth the read by josh duncan on February 15, 2009

Decide go / no-go before buy vs. build

Unfortunately, sometimes good product ideas can get stopped in their tracks because of a feeling that it will be too hard to build or partner for it, even though truly the investment would be worthwhile. Conversely, bad products can be brought to market because “it would be easy to do” by building or partnering, when the product maybe should not be launched regardless.

The Death Of “Web 2.0″

So why do I say it’s fading? For one, because the number of startups that contact us and include the term Web 2.0 in the subject line or message is visibly dropping (and that’s a good thing), and I hardly ever see it mentioned anymore on other technology blogs and news sites either. That’s not really tangible, so I took a look at the number of mentions of the phrase across the web, and they seem to be decreasing significantly, reflecting my feeling on this.

Be Careful What You Put In Writing

When you post something online, you’re not just talking to one other person – you’re potentially talking to tens, hundreds or even thousands of people. What you write may be out there forever, whether you like it or not.

Marketing Doesn’t Matter THAT Much in the Grand Scheme

How many times can our presentations, press releases, emails, strategy POVs, and everything in between wait until tomorrow morning? In my experience, most of the time there is no difference between the majority of whimsically-proposed end-of-the-day deadlines and first-thing-in the morning – except a date on a time stamp.

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Are You Making It All Work?

Posted in random by josh duncan on February 2, 2009


Just started listening to the new book from GTD guru David Allen, Making It All Work.  Billed as a companion toolkit to the now classic, Getting Things Done:

David Allen shows us how to excel in dealing with our daily commitments, the unexpected, and the information overload that threatens to drown us. “Making It All Work” provides an instantly usable, success-building toolkit for winning “the game.”

It is still early so check back in a bit for a review/recommendation.

I have been off and on again with GTD for quite some time.  I have found that when I am not swamped, I am too lazy to keep up with a system and when I am swamped, my system is not ingrained enough to keep up.  Basically, I am still at level 1 GTD, list management (trying to find a spot for everything hence the Tetris reference).

In an effort to improve my GTD skills I am going to try and be explicit on what I am tracking and how I am doing it.  Here is my current system and tools:

  • Evernote – Vacation ideas, gift ideas, and other long term items that I will want to look up at some point in the future.  You can access Evernote on your computer, on the web, and even on your iPhone so there really is not an excuse not to use it even more.  So why don’t I?  It may just be me. but it seems like overkill when you are trying to quickly capture something.
  • TextPad – work to-dos. Have been using TextPad for years since it is so light weight and you can manage multiple tab lists for different projects.
  • Outlook – work calendar.  When there is something I have to get done (reports, presentations, etc) I try to schedule time in advance on the calendar to make sure I get it done in time.  I am getting better at email management but quite a ways away from “InBox Zero”
  • Google Calendar – family events.  My wife and try to put all our events online so we can track all the b-day parties, dr. apts, soccer games, and other out of work stuff.  Its great for helping to avoid double bookings.
  • iPhone Task List – for errands.  I don’t even know the name of this app but is really nothing special.  Just something to track all the stuff I need to get next time I am at Target, Costco, etc.
  • del.icio.us – web site tracker.  Used for saving good web articles, web references to access at a later time.

More to come here.

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Signs You Have Crossed The Line

Posted in Product by josh duncan on January 28, 2009

I received a few questions on my previous post, Can you be too passionate about your product?, wondering how can you tell when you crossed the line.  It’s a great question but usually hard to answer until after the fact.  Here are a few things I came up with.

You find your self saying any of the following:

  • What do you mean a billion users in the first year is too high?
  • I am sure that the usability feedback was wrong.  This thing is a breeze to figure out.
  • All we have to do is get 1% of the market.
  • 7/12 people in the focus group said they would buy this.
  • Developments first round of estimates look great.  I am sure that there will not be any changes.
  • Sales will come around, eventually….

or you are using any of the following assumptions:

  • You have decided not to use the low, medium, or high forecast estimate and are instead using the “Knock it out of the park” forecast.
  • You are fourth to market but hope to still be seen as a innovator in the space.
  • Your business case only makes sense when you capture 40% share from the market leaders.
  • You don’t have a business case….

What else?

Can You Be Too Passionate About Your Product?

Posted in Product by josh duncan on January 26, 2009

If you were putting together a skill set list for a product manager, you would probably end up with something like this (as a start):

  • Customer/market knowledge
  • Communication skills
  • Facilitation/collaboration
  • Ability to influence without authority
  • Subject matter expertise

And the number one thing to tie all of this together, passion.  Often during the development of a product, you have to be the champion to get things done and overcome obstacles.  Whether or not you are selling a new product concept to executives,  features/changes to your development team or working with sales to get to buy-in, you need to have passion to generate excitement.  If others feel like you don’t believe in your product, they aren’t going to find a reason on their own.

The problem here is that over time you can start to drink your own cool-aid and become too attached to your product.  How many times you have heard the analogy comparing product management to raising a child?  Once you get this close, you can have difficulty making decisions that are objective.  You can find yourself making justifications for your product even when the winds of change may be starting to point in another direction.

I am going to go ZEN here for a moment and borrow a bit from a great book, Seven Laws of Spiritual Success.  Chapter six talks about the importance of being detached in order to stay objective.  If you are too attached to something, you will start failing to see the big picture.

Therefore, I am going to submit that in order to be a successful (long term) product manager, you need to be:

Passionately Detached

You still need to be the head cheerleader but you also need to be able to make the tough decisions when needed.  It is really hard to have to change direction after you convinced everyone it was a good idea.  However, it will be better to make this decision the right way instead of getting it out on the market and having them tell you that you blew it.

What do you think?

Product Manager Manifesto? Oath? Something Else? Is It Worth Arguing Over?

Posted in Product by josh duncan on January 20, 2009


The 280Group blog has recently posted a Product Manager Manifesto.  The stated purpose was to help explain product marketing to people outside the realm and to express why the job can be a lot of fun:

In the course of managing my products there are thousands of small decisions that must be made and tasks that must be accomplished. The sum of these can add up to a phenomenal product. I choose to own the responsibility for making this happen.

I am an expert in all areas regarding my products: customers, the market, technology, competition, channels,
press, analysts, trends and anything else that must be taken into account in order to win.

Tom Grant on the Forrest Product Blog, not a fan:

In fact, some of the elements of the “Manifesto” border on self-loathing. I haven’t met a product manager who didn’t want to be “an expert in all areas regarding my products.” The problem, of course, is finding the time, when you’re already racing to answer the latest urgent request from Sales or Support, or you’re spending way too much time in meetings.

Tom is right that this really isn’t a call to action so, maybe it shouldn’t have been called a manifesto (note to self, don’t write a manifesto any time soon, it really seems to piss some people off).

However, I do think there has been some really great discussions over this article and lots of great comments (also see Pragmatic Marketing ).  Isn’t this type of discussion worth while to help us become better product managers?

At the end of the day, do you really think there are that many CEOs out there reading Product Manager blogs saying to themselves,

“Man, these PMs are clueless.  I’m just going to sit back and continue to make crappy products in the meantime.”

Worth The Read

Posted in worth the read by josh duncan on January 16, 2009


Shut the hell up and show some initiative.  Honestly.  You’re a Product Manager for Cheezus’s sake.  You’re supposed to be this pseudo-entrepreneur with all the responsibility for making your product a success.

This year’s Macworld and Consumer Electronics Show offered dozens of new product announcements, but only a handful will actually change how you work, play, and live.

But until we commit to treating content as a critical asset worthy of strategic planning and meaningful investment, we’ll continue to churn out worthless content in reaction to unmeasured requests.

I’ve stated before that – as the product manager – you have to be a leader (in the true sense of the word). You have the responsibility to get products out the door on time, with high quality and under budget. The kicker – and the reason you must be a leader – is the people you rely on to get the job done do not (usually) report you; they report to some other manger in the company.

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