Weeknotes #226

This week I did:

Kanbanning it

We’re going to start using Kanban for our product development process from next week. It’s been a few years since I’ve used it and I’m a bit excited. We’ve been discussing things like what the work in progress limits should be for each part of the process and how to communicate this way of working to stakeholders.

The evolution of technology and innovation policy

This week’s lecture was about the evolution of technology and innovation policy, patterns of uneven technological development and innovation amongst countries, the role of the state and innovation policy and the market failure argument. I find these kinds of ‘interplay’ topics quite interesting. What is the relationship between the state and the market in creating innovation? How is technology development and policy creation connected in driving innovation? Where is innovation investment most effective, in improvements and efficiency gains to existing technologies and business models or on higher risk new new innovations? Utilisng new technology has two aspects, the knowledge about the technology, which is a public good that no one can be excluded from gaining, and the non-codifiable tacit capability which is dependent on organisational routines to make use of the knowledge. That’s an interesting interplay too.

Qualitative data analysis

The other subject of study this week was thematic coding for qualitative analysis. I found this more interesting than I thought I would. The process of formalising an informal body of information, but doing so in a way that is unique to you, is interesting to me. It connects with some of the thinking around note-taking methods like Zettelkasten and Building a Second Brain. I guess the difference is that in academic research the coding must be done after the information is collected to avoid any bias whereas most note-taking methods recommend coding at the same time as creating the note.

30 to go

My digital tools list is up to 470, making the target of 500 by the end of the year easily reachable. At some point I’m going to have to decide what to do with the list. I can either continue to add to it in Notion where no one else really knows it exists or uses it, or I can think about how to make it more public and usable.

Thought about:

Which project?

With so much of my time spent on studying recently I haven’t done very much on any of my side-projects (other than think of a few others to go on the list). I feel uncertain about how to choose which ones to work on, and about starting new projects without ever getting close to finishing any. I like LaunchMBA’s idea of launching twelve products in twelve months but I know I’m not going to have time for the next ten months. And maybe that isn’t the right approach for me because it is about finishing things and maybe what I want is just the creative expression of playing with these ideas.

Layers of abstraction

I’ve wondering about how you might represent the layers of abstraction in product thinking. At the most real and elementary level the digital products we build are just a bunch of electrons that are represented (or abstracted) by 1’s and 0’s in binary code, which is further abstracted through various levels of programming languages to create a graphical user interface that people can interpret and abstract through their actions into ideas that fit into mental models at the highest level of abstraction. However you slice the layers there has to be translation between each layer. How good that translation is matters. Our ideas make electrons move. And electrons move our ideas.

Design principles

How important are design principles? Or any principles for that matter? Does having vague concepts help to provide direction, make decisions, achieve anything? One of Yves Béhar’s principles for design in the age of AI, “Good design works for everyone, everyday”, for example, looks like it makes sense. It’s hard to see how or why anyone would disagree with it. But it’s also hard to see how it could be achieved in practice. Is that the point? Are principles meant to be aspirational, a representation of something we value and so aim towards, even if we never achieve it? But then, how do you stop a principle being a cliché, or just some that sounds good but is meaningless?

Pressure junkie

Under less pressure I’m achieving less. I used to sleep five hours a night, work 15 hours a day, and get lots done. Now, with so much less pressure I’m not being anywhere near as productive. Relying on self-motivation to get myself to do things I’m not too bothered about doing isn’t working. Maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe its time to learn to live without the pressure.

Audience building

The basic business model for the internet indie maker is to start with building an audience, which means figuring out what you want to be known for and by who. I did a bit of thinking about how my audiences might be, one for digital charity stuff and the other for indie maker stuff. All the stuff I’ve written and the ideas for products I’ve started have always been purely for my interest, so thinking about audience building brought up the question, ‘Do I need an audience’? It’s a prerequisite aspect of a business model, you need to have someone to sell to, and based on the thinking expressed in Courtland’s tweet below, everyone should have their own business model.

Permissionless apprenticeship

Permissionless apprenticeship is an idea from Jack Butcher, that if you want to grab the attention of folks that you admire – start apprenticing under them without even asking for permission. It’s interesting on many levels, from the obvious of using it as a way to learn from someone and (perhaps) get their attention, to seeing how the maker community responds. Of course, as is right with the indie maker ways of working in the open and sharing ideas, people from the community jump on the idea and build-out their own ways products from video courses to worksheets.

And read:

What makes a good cucumber?

I read about Gherkin Syntax to remind myself about the behaviour-driven development approach and writing acceptance criteria.

What makes a good charity?

NPC’s guide to charity analysis by Ruth Gripper and Iona Joy from 2016 is really interesting. With statements like: “The starting point when looking at any charity is to understand how it wants to change the world”, “Scale is not necessarily a sign of success”, and “the digital maturity of an organisation is likely to be constrained by its size, budget and leadership”, it seems to take a pragmatic view.

What makes an excellent charity?

The King’s Fund’s ‘Modelling excellence in the charity sector’ report from 2017 with it’s characteristics of GSK IMPACT Award winners list reads like a a bit of a how to guide for making an excellent charity. It includes ‘services strongly rooted in the community’ , ‘strategic partnerships where charities play an active role in identifying issues and finding solutions’, and ‘board skills that reflect the changing nature of the charity sector’. One of the ideas I found interesting was the mention of the ‘added-value’ charities could provide, so that when commissioned to provide a specialist service they also offer more generic related services. In the commercial world this might be called cross-sell.

Service dominant logic

In Systems Thinking in Design: Service Design and self-Services, John Darzentas and Jenny Darzentas state that, “Services have moved from being a peripheral activity in a manufacturing centred economy, to an engine for growth and society-driven innovation… Known more commonly as ‘Service Science’ its aims are to integrate findings from these different disciplines to achieve better understandings, tools and techniques for creating innovative services… Vargo and Lusch (2004) argue that services require a change of perspective or ‘logic’. having been based on a model of exchange they term ‘goods-dominant logic’. In this view, services are being treated as products, as tangible resources with intrinsic values and with a basis in transaction. That is, the customer obtains the goods/services in exchange for money, and that is the end of the interaction with the provider. In contrast, ‘service dominant logic’ (SDL) describes services as intangible resources. Providers do not provide value, but ‘value propositions’; that is customers decide whether or not to make value out of those propositions or offerings, in effect they ‘co-create’ with the service providers.

Triangulation in research

Triangulation is a method used to increase the credibility and validity of research findings. Credibility refers to trustworthiness and how believable a study is; validity is concerned with the extent to which a study accurately reflects or evaluates the concept or ideas being investigated. Triangulation, by combining theories, methods or observers in a research study, can help ensure that fundamental biases arising from the use of a single method or a single observer are overcome.” I wonder how much of the user research that is used to make decisions about websites, digital services, product development and business direction has been triangulated to any level of robustness?

Some people tweeted:

I’m a business, man

Courtland Allen, tweeted “You’re not an employee, you’re a business. We just changed all the names. Posting your resume is marketing, interviewing is sales, salary negotiation is pricing, your employer is your customer“. Like Jay-Z said, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” It’s really interesting to think of individuals in this way as it changes the power dynamic between organisations and individuals (which is changing anyway).

Invest in your future self

Julian Shapiro, tweeted, “Judge your days by how much you invested in your future self. Judge your years by how much you cashed in on that investment“. It’s not about getting stuff done, it’s about getting stuff in service of future leverage and benefit.

Nocode, no problem

Whit tweeted, “Want to build your side project for less than $100? It’s very possible. We’ve done it 6 times in the last 3 months.” and goes on the explain the tech stack for each of the side-projects. Of course, building products is the easy part. Building an audience, building them something they want, and selling it to them, that’s far more difficult.

No future but what we make

Jason Crawford offers “Some visions of the future based on different views of technology“, which of course aren’t mutually exclusive unless you state ‘when’ the future is, but all take a dualistic opinion of technology being either good or bad. Perhaps the future for humanity and technology, as we learn more about complexity and systems thinking, is to move away from simplistic narratives.