PUNK PM #3

The news, books, blogs, articles and social media conversations shaping my thinking this week

HOW USABLE ARE YOUR NOTES?

I’ve long been interested in note-taking and note-taking apps as a way to build an archive of knowledge. After reading a few articles from Tiago Forte on building a second brain, I’ve started to think a lot more about how I structure what I’m capturing so that it has the potential to supercharge my creativity in the future.

One really interesting approach is Niklas Luhman’s Zettelkasten which emphasises making connections between your ideas. The key to great note-taking is to make your notes as usable as possible and to easily surface them at the right point in your creative process. Done well, your second brain can become its own serendipitous stream fuelling new ideas almost on its own. Like a songwriter who picks up a guitar and feels new music flow out almost subconsciously, your aim should be to build a body of creativity that drives future creativity. As Sonke Ahrens, author of How to Take Smart Notes says:

If you do it right, these notes can be much more than just an archive of ideas. You can build up an ever-growing external memory that helps you to develop your thoughts, keeps your biases in check, streamlines your writing process, sparks new ideas and improves your learning.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that having a digital second brain is all-important when it comes to fulfilling our potential in the digital age.


BE VERY WARY OF VANITY METRICS

A conversation on the Product Management HQ Slack chat this week has got me thinking about the metrics we all use to measure engagement with our products. Like all PMs, I want people to use my product and I’ve probably been guilty of tracking metrics like DAU and MAU that have given a skewed impression about how much my users really care.

The recent scandal over Facebook’s inflated video views has brought engagement metrics into sharp focus. If Facebook are happy to fool themselves over product engagement in order to pull in more advertisers, then we’re all at risk of succumbing to the same thing.

The metrics you track shouldn’t just be polished numbers to stop your C-suite and investors asking difficult questions; they should be authentic representations of the success (or otherwise) of your product. If the numbers you’re tracking make you feel uncomfortable, then do something about it—don’t use it as an excuse to start tracking something that makes you feel better.

I published an article on Medium a while ago about the kinds of metrics you should be tracking for your product’s KPI dashboard which I think still rings true. Quick Sprout CEO Lars Lofgren has a much better take on it, though, with this article on the metrics you ought to be tracking at each stage of your startup’s journey. At its most simplistic, though, if you’re masking your lack of product-market fit with vanity engagement numbers then you’re going down.


THE IMPORTANCE OF DIVERSIFYING YOUR INFLUENCES

Visakan Veerasamy posted a reply on Twitter that really struck a chord with me this week:

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I use social media and other channels to expand my knowledge and I’m trying to make it as diverse as possible. Used in the right way, Twitter is the most powerful platform for creative compounding there is. If we’re not careful, though, it has the potential to turn into little more than an echo chamber.

As Yancey Strickler comments in this exceptional article on the dark forest theory of the internet, we’re all building our own “online bowling alleys” of people we think are interesting. The goal, then, is to build your bowling alley in a way that includes as diverse a group of people as possible. Do that, and you’ve got a genuine opportunity to supercharge your own OODA Loop through the interactions you have online.


AND FINALLY…

I’ve just signed up for Spotify Family for my wife and I and now have a Family Mix playlist in my library that recommends music we’ll both like. Our tastes are pretty similar (we fell in love over our shared love for bands like Ride and The Creation), but the whole concept has got me thinking about how we find new music in the streaming age.

When I was at school, I discovered new music by swapping C90s with my friends and buying CDs by bands I’d never heard of because I liked the cover. Algorithms have made discovery ridiculously easy, but they’re stripping the fun and excitement out of it. Anyone else up for a bit of crate-digging?

Thanks for reading,

Toby