This was originally published on my Substack — Product/Michael Fit.
Product/Michael Fit: Vol. 1 | Writing Like a PM, The WWW MVP, and Tech is Dangerous
My Favorite Things From this Past Week (10/26–11/1/20)
Hey all, I’m trying something new here. In this series “Product/Michael Fit,” (I’m Michael) I plan to share my favorite pieces of content from the past week, whether it’s a blog post or article, a podcast episode, a YouTube video, or anything else. Who knows? Send me more cool things on Twitter @MSilb7, and Follow my Medium profile if you’re interested in more!
Writing Like a Product Manager
I’m a recent subscriber to Lenny’s Newsletter, and I’ve bookmarked so many tweets from David Perell on writing advice. So when Writing in Public: Lenny Rachitsky & David Perell popped up on my YouTube algorithm, I had to click on it and get my notes ready. From the perspective of my current product-adjacent day job, it was super interesting to see Lenny take a product management approach to his newsletter: From using “Jobs to Be Done (JTBD)” to focus his value proposition to “pretending your users are drunk” to simplify your user experience. I also took away great ideas from David, like trying to preserve your writing flow by separating out writing time from research and editing time (reminded me of “Inventing on Principle”), watching out for the “productive procrastination” trap, and why density in your writing can be good (if clear) using the “screenshot test.” It’s a 48-minute long video, and totally worth it.
Even the World Wide Web had to Build an MVP
As a new Roam Research user, I’ve been reading and watching a good amount about onboarding, tips and tricks, etc. Computer Assisted Intuition: How Roam Research fulfills the web’s original dream is not that. This article explores the roots of Roam Research’s core concepts, from Vannevar Bush’s 1945 essay “As We May Think,” establishing that we think in links rather than files and folders, to Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision for an editable and linked World Wide Web. The most surprising learning for me was that the World Wide Web launched with a reduced feature set. Now, Roam is trying to now deliver on some of those missing features, such as bi-directional links. I wonder how much of the internet’s “MVP” (minimum viable product) we’re still working with, what companies already benefitted from filling-in the gaps, and what else from the original vision is still left to be built?
I’m new to the PG Essay bandwagon, so I have a ton to catch up on (send me recommendations). This essay on “Early Work” was super timely for me, as I’ve been trying to think about my future paths, without being too clouded by seeing things as they are now. Some of my takeaways include: Not letting the fear of perception stop you from trying something new, trying to see ideas for how they could work — rather than why they won’t, how the expectations you set are responsible for how you view progress, and the value of surrounding yourself with reliable people.
Invest Like the Best: Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal of Acquired — Lessons on Early Stage Investing and Getting Acquired
Acquired FM is probably my favorite podcast right now. At the beginning of shutdowns in March 2020, I spent a few days binging their episodes on the stories of great companies and their stories. Ben and David did a crossover episode on Invest Like the Best with Patrick O’Shaughnessy, which mostly focused on their lessons learned from the many Acquired episodes and their own investment experience. Some of the interesting topics include: What founders are needed for emerging vs legacy markets, why you can’t model the TAM (total addressable market — market size) of an emerging market, and how to get quantitative enough so that you can ask the right qualitative questions.
Every Technology is Dangerous…
I was hooked to this article from Michael Steinberger in the New York Times, from the cool little title graphic all the way to the end. My only experience with Palantir was with their intern job postings page a few years ago, but this was the first I’ve read about the founding story and where they stand now. A key takeaway for me was that the idea for Palantir came when Peter Thiel recognized that the anti-fraud software which PayPal developed could be used for national security, which sounds super noble, but the article also dives into the controversy around the company’s products. I’m still thinking about this quote from the article:
“Every technology is dangerous,” Karp says, “including ours.”
What are our safeguards against our powerful software if and when it gets in the wrong hands? Is there anything that we can or should be doing?
Disclosure: I currently own Palantir stock