YouTube CEO says EU’s new copyright legislation threatens jobs, smaller creators

Oct 22 16:00:27 by

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki published her quarterly letter to creators today, which included very strong language regarding the EU’s controversial copyright reform directive. Specifically, her letter focused on Article 13, the so-called “meme ban” that states that any site with a large amount of user-generated content – like Facebook or YouTube, for example – will be responsible for taking down content that infringes on copyright. Wojcicki says the way this legislation is written could “shut down the ability” of millions of people to upload to YouTube. The legislation she’s referring to is Article 13 of the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which the EU Parliament just recently voted to back. The Directive contains several parts, including another concerning “link tax,” which gives publishers the right to ask for paid licenses when online platforms share their articles and stories. But YouTube is most concerned with Article 13, which impacts sites with user-generated content. In order to comply with the law, sites like YouTube would have to automatically scan and filter user uploads to ensure they aren’t in violation of copyright. But today, users often express themselves by sampling, remixing, and creating content using music, pictures and videos that would otherwise be considered copyrighted material. However, even though memes and parodies are protected by previous laws (in some countries), these upload filters wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a copyright violation and a meme – and they’d block content that should be allowed. This is how Article 13 became to be known as the “meme ban.” However, the language in legislation isn’t clear on how enforcement should take place – it doesn’t say, for example, that sites have to use upload filters. Others believe that YouTube’s existing Content ID system, which scans videos after upload, would be sufficient. YouTube, for its part, seems to be believe that Article 13 will require more than the existing Content ID system to be compliant. Writes Wojcicki, “Article 13 as written threatens to shut down the ability of millions of people — from creators like you to everyday users — to upload content to platforms like YouTube. It threatens to block users in the EU from viewing content that is already live on the channels of creators everywhere. This includes YouTube’s incredible video library of educational content, such as language classes, physics tutorials and other how-to’s,” she says. The CEO also says Article 13 will threaten “thousands of jobs” – meaning those of EU-based content creators, businesses, and artists. And she warns that YouTube may have to take down content from smaller, original video creators, as it would be liable for that content, saying: The proposal could force platforms, like YouTube, to allow only content from a small number of large companies. It would be too risky for platforms to host content from smaller original content creators, because the platforms would now be directly liable for that content. We realize the importance of all rights holders being fairly compensated, which is why we built Content ID, and a platform to pay out all types of content owners. But the unintended consequences of article 13 will put this ecosystem at risk. The company wants to weigh in on how the legislation is worded to protect its interests, and those of the larger creator community. Wojcicki said YouTube is committed to working with the industry to find a better way respect the rights of copyright holders, before the language in the EU legislation is finalized by year-end.   Other changes include expansion of memberships, premieres While YouTube’s comments on Article 13 were the key part of today’s letter, Wojcicki also updated the community on its priorities for 2018. This included an update on its plans to better communicate with creators, which it says it accomplished by increasing the number of product updates and “heads up” messages regarding changes to YouTube, including smaller tests or experiments, on its @TeamYouTube handle and the Creator Insider channel, in addition to its launch of YouTube Studio, where creators can read all the news and product updates. The company also said that its new “self certification” video upload flow, where creators self-describe the content in their videos for advertisers, will roll out more broadly in 2019. Newly launched channel memberships are also expanding their rollout, with the threshold now being lowered from 100,000 to 50,000 subscribers. Meanwhile, the new Premieres feature is now publicly available to all creators. Other updates focused on what YouTube is doing across education, news and journalism, YouTube Giving charity work, gaming, and more. The full letter is on YouTube’s blog here.

#1   0%      4
How do you Make Product Management Work Effectively in a Distributed Team?

Oct 17 12:22:00 by

Ever since the shift towards agile practices, product teams have hung on to a set of core attributes, which range from cross-functional, to customer-centric, all the way up to iterative and independent. But there’s one aspect which should vanish from this list of must-haves: co-located. In this first of two posts, I look at how you might approach remote product management, while my next post will examine some of the tools that you can take into your everyday working to help make remote product management a success. Setting up for Success The notion that successful product teams strictly need to operate from within one room is outdated. There’s been a shift in technology – and more importantly a change of mindset among employees – which has laid the groundwork so that a remote-first approach to setting up and operating product teams is equally effective. Most people like to debate that the same teams would still “perform better” in a co-located environment over a distributed one. But that’s not the point. The point is that we should be broadening our perspective beyond the traditional status quo and challenging our assumptions about collaboration and how people actually want to work. For product managers, this means needing to rethink existing processes beyond the simple introduction of tools like Slack. The biggest mistake I see people make is to put every team member into a different location and continue with the status quo. In one product team that I was part of, we made this exact mistake. When two of our team members moved to remote locations, we kept our physical Scrum wall, the in-person daily standups, and the retrospectives in one meeting room. We then tried to circumvent their absence by sharing blurry panorama photos of the wall in a Slack channel and simply “dialed them in” for other meetings (only to complain about the bad sound quality of our speakers). Needless to say, these practices came to an end rather quickly because of their exclusionary nature. While remote team setups are a great way to break free of existing paradigms and restrictions, they can also amplify existing weaknesses. This is why I recommend that you think through the following three pillars of successful remote product teams. But before we go through them, there are two fundamental aspects of remote work which should be understood: Communication can either be synchronous or asynchronous. The more emotional a topic is, the more synchronous the channel delivering it needs to be. Home office is not remote work. By removing only one or two people from a co-located setup, you will probably only make them feel excluded as everybody in the office continues to “do their thing”. Successful remote collaboration requires the same “handicap” for every team member. These three pillars aim to give you a head start for managing a successful remote product team. They’re by no means a step-by-step catalog to follow religiously. Instead, use them as inspiration for creating your own remote product team culture. 1. Principles While implicit assumptions are dangerous for co-located product teams, they’re deadly for remote teams. Reduced exposure to emotions (like gestures and facial recognition) means it can be easy to mistake an ironic phrase in Slack for an insult. This is why remote product teams need to have a charter of principles which goes beyond “be kind”. You need to think of all the ways that behavior could be misunderstood when you lack physical context.  What about the religious use of status updates to indicate availability, a clear communication hierarchy (e.g. “text me on WhatsApp for urgent things when I’m not responding”) or simply a shared understanding about information shared in channels. Is it agreed, for example, that everybody checks the #customerfeedback and #knowhow channels once per day? 2. Tooling While tools can’t solve critical problems by themselves, the right ones, paired with a good set of principles (see above), can help you from running into some. Enabling smooth communication and collaboration across various locations (and mostly even time zones) requires the right tools. At the same time, you want to avoid falling for shiny objects (like the new Top Picks on Product Hunt) when it comes to expanding your toolchain. So, I recommend picking a set of core tools for key needs. Some examples are: Written Communication – Slack Video Communication – Zoom Issue Management – JIRA Document Collaboration – GSuite From there, the key criterion for adding new tools to this mix is how well they integrate with your core tools. You should look for the best solution within your toolchain and not the one which looks best standalone. 3. People Even though pretty much every topic can be tackled by a remote team, remote working certainly isn’t for every personality type. While at first it sounds as if nothing changes except the location of the individual, pretty much everything does. And it’s important for existing team members, as well as new ones you’re looking to bring in, to understand the requirements that remote work demands of them. For example, a certain set of hard skills becomes more important beyond the “typical” criteria for a domain of expertise. Excellent writing skills Confident and efficient work with synchronous and asynchronous communication tools But there’s also a different set of soft skills you want people to bring into a remote team: Empathy Discipline Ownership Structure While none of the above skills are exclusive traits for members of remote teams, their importance is raised significantly when it comes to assembling team members in a distributed setup. And while this article has hopefully got you thinking about how to approach remote working in your team in general, you may wonder how to exactly translate this into your daily business. Well, this is exactly what the second part of this short series on remote product management will tackle. In it I will discuss how to conduct remote user research, how to organize your (Sprint) routines in a remote team, and how to run remote workshops across multiple locations. The post How do you Make Product Management Work Effectively in a Distributed Team? appeared first on Mind the Product.

#2   7%      2
Microsoft gives Word a boost with new interactive, AI-enabled placeholders

Nov 7 19:42:19 by

Drafting business documents is a piecemeal process that sees text filled in and refined over a period of time, often with input from multiple users. Microsoft Corp. is looking to streamline the workflow with a set of new productivity features for Word that it unveiled today. At the core of the update is a capability for […] The post Microsoft gives Word a boost with new interactive, AI-enabled placeholders appeared first on SiliconANGLE.

#3   58%      0
10 Analytics Tools For Optimizing UX

Oct 27 5:02:01 by

If you own a website or mobile app, the best way to find out what’s going to work, what’s currently working, and what’s not of any use, is to use a customer insight and analytics tool for your product. These tools will give you insights related to how your user is interacting with your website/app, what is the workflow and user behavior behind every conversion, and how you can better improve your interaction with your end users. Before we continue, it’s important to understand that there is no tool available in the market that’s gonna give you foolproof answers on how you can improve your website. At most, they can collect and present user interaction data in different ways, based on which you can optimize your funnels. Nobody understands your business better than yourself and these tools are only there to help you make decisions that are backed by data.

#4   139%      2
Five Powerful Enterprise Agile Frameworks

Nov 5 13:01:02 by

Rugby Approach In their research paper titled 'The New New Product Development Game', Hirotaka and Ikujiro (both professors at the Harvard Business School) observed that the sequential approach to developing products is not best suited to the fast-paced competitive world. Instead, they recommended a rugby approach for enterprises to attain speed and flexibility to meet the ever-changing market requirements. The rugby approach refers to the Agile way (scrum) of working with practices like small batch sizes, incremental development, self-organizing teams, enhanced collaboration, cross-functional teams, and continuous learning. To put things in perspective, this research paper was launched way back in 1986! If the traditional approach was being questioned back then, it definitely needs to be relooked at now. Enterprises need to adopt agile practices to stay relevant in a market which has become extremely dynamic due to the proliferation of digital technologies. Agile practices enable enterprises to deliver solutions faster with better quality by considerably shortening the feedback loop. Scaling Blues Though most enterprises have realized the significance of Agile, most organizations, especially the large ones have been struggling to scale Agile at the enterprise level. This is substantiated by a recent survey through which it was found that the enterprises who had claimed to be Agile have admitted that they had adopted Agile practices only in certain pockets. Interestingly, smaller and nimbler companies have adopted the agile way of working and achieved considerable success in the market. These companies released products at a remarkable speed with high quality and reacted faster to the market needs. Take Tesla's case (by no means a small company now!!), which launched electric cars with the auto-pilot option when the Toyotas and Bugattis of the world only had prototypes of electric cars. By the time they launched their own electric vehicles, Tesla had captured a huge pie of the market!! To the defense of these large enterprises, scaling Agile is easier said than done. These behemoths have many portfolios, with large applications requiring multiple teams, complex systems, diverse operating environments, and multiple vendors, making their Agile transformation journey a herculean task.

#5   29%      2
How to balance customer success and revenue in sales?

Oct 26 14:48:48 by contrast

Customer success means wildly different things to different companies in the SaaS industry. Many organizations create customer success teams but there’s no clear definition as to how these teams develop long-term value for both the customer and the business. At some companies, customer success managers create resources for thousands of self-serve customers, while at others they work with a select few. Sometimes they’re just account executives with a fancier title, or the two roles have simply been combined into one. Some sales teams consider a customer success manager as the post-sale counterpart of an account executive. The result is a customer success team more focused on upselling or hitting quota than creating customer value. To build customer value, businesses need internal customer advocates who can prioritize long-term value to the customer over immediate revenue. They need customer success managers who can focus on the organization’s most valuable customers and ensure they’re using their product in the most effective way. The role of customer success teams At Intercom, our customer success team sits side by side our account executive and relationship management teams in sales. It’s the sales rep’s job to get customers on Intercom but after closing a deal, the work is just beginning. Our customer success managers, or CSMs, typically step in after a large deal has closed and provide tailored onboarding based on the customer’s specific goals. We believe onboarding a new customer successfully is just as important as closing the deal. The cost of doing either one poorly is very high. Simply put, the long-term value of successful, sticky customers is far greater to your company than the short-term costs to develop them. That’s what customer success is all about, and it can’t always be measured by your most recent quarter’s revenue numbers. “Customer success can’t always be measured by your most recent quarter’s revenue numbers” This doesn’t mean CSMs aren’t focused on revenue. We believe our work is in fact revenue producing, just not in the near-term. Through increased retention and expansion, customer success teams help businesses find the path to predictable, recurring revenue, which is critical for any organization’s long-term growth. You also build more meaningful relationships with customers along the way. Why onboarding is a part of sales You might be wondering why we have sales managing onboarding instead of marketing or support. At many companies, sales teams direct customers to their company’s knowledge base or customer support team for onboarding help. To successfully onboard your large customers, you need to be proactive and deliberate in your approach. You don’t wait for them to ask for help — that’s what customer support is for. You also don’t provide a cookie-cutter approach — your large customers most likely have unique needs. Our product education team in marketing does an amazing job at onboarding our self-serve customers at scale. But to grow your relationships and establish trust with your larger customers, it’s best to offer a tailored approach that enhances existing customer education resources. Get involved before your customers have had a chance to develop any bad habits or become closed-minded. It’s much more difficult to retroactively fix a bad configuration of your product than to create a successful one from scratch. And more importantly, you’ll reassure them about their decision to buy from you. “Selling and onboarding are fundamentally two different jobs” Some sales teams recognize the need for onboarding and task their account managers to handle onboarding as well as selling. But in our experience, selling and onboarding are fundamentally two different jobs. In fact, we’ve seen that pilots with dedicated CSM support have a higher conversion rate. By separating these two jobs, we allow account executives to do more selling. Relationship managers can focus more on upselling or cross-selling existing customers, which is easier now that their accounts are already in good health. This kind of teamwork allows our sales organization to put both company and customer goals at the forefront. 3 ways to cultivate customer success So what does customer success work look like in practice? The most effective customer success teams do three things to help their customers find value. 1. Embed yourself in your customer’s business Successful CSMs start with learning the ins and outs of the new customer’s business. We learn who our customer’s customers are; we find out what their internal processes look like. We essentially act as a consultant to define the problems our customers are trying to solve and help them apply the product or develop custom solutions. For example, it’s not uncommon for an Intercom customer to have little idea what data they should be sending to the platform. Depending on what the customer is using Intercom for, our CSMs will investigate their lead qualification, messaging strategy or support workflows to identify potential events or custom attributes that they should be sending. 2. Become your product’s superuser Customers have unique needs. To meet those needs, CSMs must be true product and subject matter experts. At Intercom, we spend several hours a week testing out new features, meeting with our product team and thinking of new ways the product can be applied. We study how sales, support, and marketing teams are evolving in different industries. The time it takes to stay on top of a constantly changing landscape is another reason to separate selling and onboarding work. We’re also big proponents of sharing customer stories to help customers leverage past learnings. When working with a specific customer, CSMs should have an encyclopedic knowledge of what other customers with similar use cases have tried. By understanding previous wins and failures, our team helps customers avoid common mistakes and achieve quicker success. 3. Prioritize product activation metrics Lastly, we use different metrics for CSM work to ensure we’re aligning ourselves with the customer’s goals. Compensation in sales is usually tied to revenue (qualifying more leads, closing more deals, etc.), which aligns sales work with company goals. But revenue indicators alone don’t reflect whether your customers are finding value. For example, if a customer wants to use Intercom to generate more leads, I should be telling them about the power of Custom Bots or qualification data. If I’m not bringing up these product features, I’m not onboarding the customer very well and that customer will eventually churn. So in this scenario, the measure of success is our ability to drive usage of Custom Bots. Other times we simply ask customers how they’d define success, and use their input as a benchmark. It’s helpful to know that a customer would be happy, for instance, if they could just increase their trial conversions by 10%. We’d focus on features that would enable them to hit that metric, and over time, look back to see if we helped them solve the job they hired Intercom to do, on their own terms. At Intercom, we believe the job of sales is two-fold: drive revenue for the company and be the voice of our customers. But each part of the job requires its own skills and mindset. The best results come when organizations invest in teams centered around customer advocacy to complement other selling efforts. When unlocking more value for customers is met with the same aggression as closing more deals, long-term revenue growth will follow. The post How to balance customer success and revenue in sales appeared first on Inside Intercom.

#6   7%      2
Growing as a Product Owner: Five Product Owner Maturity-Levels

Nov 7 12:46:13 by

The Product Owner role is implemented in organizations in various different ways. The responsibilities and authorities of Product Owners vary across organizations, departments, teams and Product Owners. This can be explained to some extend, because it is a role that people need to grow into. The role requires some specific competences and a specific mindset. In addition, for many organizations it is a new and unknown role in which people (typically management) are trying to find the right balance of responsibilities and mandate. Preferably, a Product Owner has a lot of mandate and he or she is the final decision maker for the product. In many organizations this is not (yet) the case however. In order to create clarity about the level of Product Ownership in your organization, we distinguish five types of Product Owners: The Scribe The Proxy The Business Representative The Sponsor The Entrepreneur The figure shows these different types of Product Owners visually. In this figure you'll see  the expected benefits that can be achieved, based on the authorities (or maturity) of the Product Owner. A 'Scribe' therefore has few responsibilities and authorities, an 'Entrepreneur' has many responsibilities and authorities. The image shows the growth path of the Product Owner as we often see it at organizations. Product Owners grow in their authorities and herewith, the added value of their role increases for the product, organization and customers. Having more mature Product Owners will enable organizations to experience more benefits of applying Scrum and value delivery will typically increase for the better. In the following paragraphs the different types of Product Owners are explained in more detail, and we will discuss how you as a Product Owner can take a step in the authorities that you have. The Scribe We often find the Scribe Product Owner role in organizations that are just starting out with Scrum, and/or in organizations that have not completely embraced the Agile mindset (and therefore do not apply Scrum properly). These organizations see the Product Owner primarily as someone who administers the Product Backlog, collects the wishes from the stakeholders and translates them into User Stories for the Development Team. This type of Product Owner often has none to very limited authorities. This Product Owner mainly ensures that the wishes of the stakeholders are written out in understandable language for the Development Team. In organizations where this type of Product Owner is very common, Business Analists or Requirements Engineers are often appointed as Product Owner. In such situations, the mandate often lies with someone else, such as a steering committee or a Project Management Office (PMO). The Proxy Just like the Scribe Product Owner, we often see the Proxy Product Owner (in short: Proxy) in organizations that are in a starting phase with an Agile way-of-working and in adopting the Scrum Framework. The Proxy has some more authorities than the Scribe has. The Proxy, for example, also often gets the authority to make (limited) choices in the ordering of the Product Backlog. However, the vision, the business goals, the desired outcomes/results and the scope is still being determined by other people, such as a steering committee, project sponsor or business owner. In many organizations we encounter Proxy Product Owners who used to be in the position of project manager or teamlead. These roles or positions typically already have the responsibility of bringing a project to a successful end. Therefore, it seems logical to many organizations to change these peoples' roles to 'Product Owner'. However, these Proxy Product Owners are not the final decision-makers. They typically have to ask for approval when changes happen. They have to ask for approval to change priorities. And they have to ask for approval when they want to change the planning, roadmap and Product Backlog. The Business Representative The next type of Product Owner is the Business Representative. The Business Representative is typically a representative from the business side of the organization, who knows the business context, market, customers and users well. Therefore, this person typically knows from experience what customers and users would need and/or what they would like to have. This person is typically one of the 'seniors' or 'experts' in the organization, who has connections to customers and/or users. This type of Product Owner could also be people like process owners or system owners. Although the term Business Representative suggests that this type of Product Owner comes from 'the business', this is not necessarily the case. It could also be that someone from the IT department is in the Product Owner role, with the maturity level 'Business Representative'. Examples of IT-people in this role could be information managers, architects or security experts. These people may have gained a lot of knowledge about the (technical) product, and therefore be suitable Product Owners. To strengthen this concept of having IT Product Owners... remember that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were excellent Product Owners too, and these guys really were 'IT-people'. So, the Business Representative has more authorities than the Proxy. The Business Representative is typically responsible for a part of the product, a system or a (set of) process(ess). Within this system or process, this Product Owner may determine for him- or herself which work will be carried out by the Development Team. The Business Representative is therefore responsible for the Product Backlog and he or she has the authority to manage the Product Backlog by themselves. This is however, only as long as the desired changes can be done within the budget that was allocated by other people, such as management or a steering committee. The Business Representative does not have an own budget to spend as desired. He or she needs to get approval for budget changes and therefore often still has to deal with a steering committee or manager. The Business Representative also typically has a list of work to be done, projects to perform or goals to achieve, which were defined by someone else. The Sponsor In contrast to the Business Representative, the Sponsor has his or her own budget. This is the biggest difference between the 'Business Representative' and the 'Sponsor'. In addition to budget responsibility, the authorities for both types of Product Owners are fairly similar. The Product Owner type 'Sponsor' is initially often filled in by business managers, IT managers and customers (in a business-to-business setting) for example. Since Sponsor Product Owners have their own budget, they typically also have more opportunities for up- and downscaling the Development Team. This doesn't mean that you should add or subtract people per Sprint! It could be however, that due to enormous success of the product, the Product Owner would like to scale up to a second or a third team. By having this flexibility and authority these 'Sponsors' can therefore accelerate and delay developments much more, and therefore they have a greater impact on the return on investment and total cost of ownership of the product. Besides the budget authority, Sponsor Product Owners also have a bigger say in 'what' needs to be done. He or she is allowed to define the work to be done, the projects to perform or business goals to achieve. The Entrepreneur The last type of Product Owner is called the 'Entrepreneur'. In practice, we also refer to this role as the 'mini-CEO'. This level of Product Ownership is what we ultimately want to achieve in organizations. This type of Product Owner can achieve the most impact for customers, users and the organization by far. The Entrepreneur Product Owner takes full responsibility for the product and also has full authority over the product. The Entrepreneur Product Owner is someone with a strong vision on the market, customers and the product. It is someone with passion for the product and is someone with strong leadership and communication skills. Entrepreneur Product Owners are ultimately responsible for the product and are therefore profit & loss responsible. Besides product development, they are also responsible for maintenance, operations, marketing, legal aspects and sales. That is why we typically refer to this level as 'mini-CEO'. It is a Product Owner who has his or her own 'mini-company' (which could be a mini-company within a large enterprise). Growing responsibilities and authorities So there are five types of Product Owners, each having their own focus, key responsibilities and authorities. With this growth model you can make an estimation for yourself which type of Product Owner you are, or which types of Product Owners you find in your organization. Remember that the (hierarchical) function within the organization only partially determines which type of Product Owner a person is. If a Product Owner used to be in a management function, he or she probably has some more authorities already. This may help Product Owners to grow faster through the maturity model, but it is not a prerequisite to be or to have been a manager! The authorities a Product Owner has are not only determined by their (previous) function. The authorities are mainly determined by the way you act. By the way the person behaves. In our experience, authorities aren't given away 'for free'. Getting more authorities needs to be earned. And the way you earn more authorities is by taking more responsibility and showing ownership. But how do you take on more responsibilities as a Product Owner? Well, actually that is quite simple... You increase your responsibilities by taking more ownership and responsibility for the success of the product, step by step. For example, develop the product vision and actively promote it amongst your team, stakeholders and management. Actively collaborate with your key stakeholders. Show how you and your team are adding value for customers and users. Make value measurable. And also have a clear view on the costs. Create transparency on these topics and show that you are taking responsibility for the product. Be proactive and do not wait until someone does it for you. So, take initiative. With this you will create more room for yourself to decide things, and thus get more authorities. Successful Product Owners that we have met take responsibility. In many cases, these Product Owners started out as Scribes or Proxy's. Many of them have developed into Sponsors or Entrepreneurs. The term 'Product Owner' isn't just made up, because the creators of Scrum 'needed a name'. The name of this role actually contains the word 'owner'. So the role is about 'owning' the product and it's about taking the responsibilities that come with owning a product. Therefore, ownership is exactly what you have to display to your stakeholders. This is not just about things like the product vision, Product Backlog and financial aspects. It's about your attitude, about your mindset and behaviors. So it may help to regularly reflect. Look yourself in the eye. Have you really done everything you could to improve the product? Are any setbacks caused by others, or could youhave done something in a different way? Take ownership! I hope this blog helps you to gain some insights into the growth path for Product Owners and some steps you could take to increase your responsibilities and authorities as a Product Owner. There is of course much more you could do, but I'm also curious about your own experiences! What type of Product Owner are you? Which steps did you take to grow? What are the next steps for you as a Product Owner? Thank you for reading!

#7   26%      1
What does Stack Overflow want to be when it grows up?

Oct 22 10:52:32 by

I sometimes get asked by regular people in the actual real world what it is that I do for a living, and here's my 15 second answer: We built a sort of Wikipedia website for programmers to post questions and answers. It's called Stack Overflow. As of last month, it's been 10 years since Joel Spolsky and I started Stack Overflow. I currently do other stuff now, and I have since 2012, but if I will be known for anything when I'm dead, clearly it is going to be good old Stack Overflow. Here's where I'd normally segue into a bunch of rah-rah stuff about how great Stack Overflow is, and thus how implicitly great I am by association for being a founder, and all. I do not care about any of that. What I do care about, though, is whether Stack Overflow is useful to working programmers. Let's check in with one of my idols, John Carmack. How useful is Stack Overflow, from the perspective of what I consider to be one of the greatest living programmers? @StackExchange @codinghorror SO has probably added billions of dollars of value to the world in increased programmer productivity.— John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) September 17, 2013 I won't lie, September 17th, 2013 was a pretty good day. I literally got chills when I read that, and not just because I always read the word "billions" in Carl Sagan's voice. It was also pleasantly the opposite of pretty much every other day I'm on Twitter, scrolling through an oppressive, endless litany of shared human suffering and people screaming at each other. Which reminds me, I should check my Twitter and see who else is wrong on the Internet today. I am honored and humbled by the public utility that Stack Overflow has unlocked for a whole generation of programmers. But I didn't do that. You did, when you contributed a well researched question to Stack Overflow. You did, when you contributed a succinct and clear answer to Stack Overflow. You did, when you edited a question or answer on Stack Overflow to make it better. All those "fun size" units of Q&A collectively contributed by working programmers from all around the world ended up building a Creative Commons resource that truly rivals Wikipedia within our field. That's ... incredible, actually. But success stories are boring. The world is filled with people that basically got lucky, and subsequently can't stop telling people how it was all of their hard work and moxie that made it happen. I find failure much more instructive, and when building a business and planning for the future, I take on the role of Abyss Domain Expert™ and begin a staring contest. It's just a little something I like to do, you know ... for me. Thus, what I'd like to do right now is peer into that glorious abyss for a bit and introspect about the challenges I see facing Stack Overflow for the next 10 years. Before I begin, I do want to be absolutely crystal clear about a few things: I have not worked at Stack Overflow in any capacity whatsoever since February 2012 and I've had zero day to day operational input since that date, more or less by choice. Do I have opinions about how things should be done? Uh, have you met me? Do I email people every now and then about said opinions? I might, but I honestly do try to keep it to an absolute minimum, and I think my email archive track record here is reasonable. The people working at Stack are amazing and most of them (including much of the Stack Overflow community, while I'm at it) could articulate the mission better — and perhaps a tad less crankily — than I could by the time I left. Would I trust them with my life? No. But I'd trust them with Joel's life! The whole point of the Stack Overflow exercise is that it's not beholden to me, or Joel, or any other Great Person. Stack Overflow works because it empowers regular everyday programmers all over the world, just like you, just like me. I guess in my mind it's akin to being a parent. The goal is for your children to eventually grow up to be sane, practicing adults who don't need (or, really, want) you to hang around any more. Understand that you're reading the weak opinions strongly held the strong opinions weakly held of a co-founder who spent prodigious amounts of time working with the community in the first four years of Stack Overflow's life to shape the rules and norms of the site to fit their needs. These are merely my opinions. I like to think they are informed opinions, but that doesn't necessarily mean I can predict the future, or that I am even qualified to try. I've never let being "qualified" stop me from doing anything, and I ain't about to start tonight. Stack Overflow is a wiki first Stack Overflow ultimately has much more in common with Wikipedia than a discussion forum. By this I mean questions and answers on Stack Overflow are not primarily judged by their usefulness to a specific individual, but by how many other programmers that question or answer can potentially help over time. I tried as hard as I could to emphasize this relationship from launch day in 2008. Note who has top billing in this venn diagram. Stack Overflow later added a super neat feature to highlight this core value in user profiles, where it shows how many other people you have potentially helped with your contributed questions and answers so far. The most common complaints I see about Stack Overflow are usually the result of this fundamental misunderstanding about who the questions and answers on the site are ultimately for, and why there's so much strictness involved in the whole process. I wish more people understood that the goal of Stack Overflow is not "answer my question" but "let's collaboratively build an artifact that will benefit future coders". Perhaps SO could be doing more to educate people about this.— Jeff Atwood (@codinghorror) April 30, 2018 The responsibility for this misunderstanding is all on Stack Overflow (and by that also mean myself, at least up until 2012). I guess the logic is that "every programmer has surely seen, used, and understands Stack Overflow by now, 10 years in" but ... I think that's a risky assumption. New programmers are minted every second of every day. Complicating matters further, there are three tiers of usage at Stack Overflow, from biggest to smallest, in inverted pyramid style: I passively search for programming answers. Passively searching and reading highly ranked Stack Overflow answers as they appear in web search results is arguably the primary goal of Stack Overflow. If Stack Overflow is working like it's supposed to, 98% of programmers should get all the answers they need from reading search result pages and wouldn't need to ask or answer a single question in their entire careers. This is a good thing! Great, even! I participate on Stack Overflow when I get stuck on a really hairy problem and searching isn't helping. Participating only at those times when you are extra stuck is completely valid. However, I feel this level is where most people tend to run into difficulty on Stack Overflow, because it involves someone who may not be new to Stack Overflow per se, but is new to asking questions, and also at the precise time of stress and tension for them where they must get an answer due to a problem they're facing … and they don't have the time or inclination to deal with Stack Overflow's strict wiki type requirements for research effort, formatting, showing previous work, and referencing what they found in prior searches. I participate on Stack Overflow for professional development. At this level you're talking about experienced Stack Overflow users who have contributed many answers and thus have a pretty good idea of what makes a great question, the kind they'd want to answer themselves. As a result, they don't tend to ask many questions because they self-medicate through exhaustive searching and research, but when they do ask one, their questions are exemplary. (There's technically a fourth tier here, for people who want to selflessly contribute creative commons questions and answers to move the entire field of software development forward for the next generation of software developers. But who has time for saints 😇, y'all make the rest of us look bad, so knock it off already Skeet.) It wouldn't shock me at all if people spent years happily at tier 1 and then got a big unpleasant surprise when reaching tier 2. The primary place to deal with this, in my opinion, is a massively revamped and improved ask page. It's also fair to note that maybe people don't understand that they're signing up for a sizable chunk of work by implicitly committing to the wiki standard of "try to make sure it's useful to more people than just yourself" when asking a question on Stack Overflow, and are then put off by the negative reaction to what others view as an insufficiently researched question. Stack Overflow absorbs so much tension from its adoption of wiki standards for content. Even if you know about that requirement up front, it is not always clear what "useful" means, in the same way it's not always clear what topics, people, and places are deserving of a Wikipedia page. Henrietta Lacks, absolutely, but what about your cousin Dave in Omaha with his weirdo PHP 5.6 issue? Over time, duplicates become vast fields of landmines Here's one thing I really, really saw coming and to be honest with you I was kinda glad I left in 2012 before I had to deal with it because of the incredible technical difficulty involved: duplicates. Of all the complaints I hear about Stack Overflow, this is the one I am most sympathetic to by far. If you accept that Stack Overflow is a wiki type system, then for the same reasons that you obviously can't have five different articles about Italy on Wikipedia, Stack Overflow can't accept duplicate questions on the exact same programming problem. While there is a fair amount of code to do pre-emptive searches as people type in questions, plus many exhortations to search before you ask, with an inviting search field and button right there on the mandatory page you see before asking your first question ... ... locating and identifying duplicate content is an insanely difficult problem even for a company like Google that's done nothing but specialize in this exact problem for, what, 20 years now, with a veritable army of the world's most talented engineers. When you're asking a question on a site that doesn't allow duplicate questions, the problem space of a site with 1 million existing questions is rather different from a site with 10 million existing questions ... or 100 million. Asking a single unique question goes from mildly difficult to mission almost impossible, because your question needs to thread a narrow path through this vast, enormous field of prior art questions without stepping on any of the vaguely similar looking landmines in the process. But wait! It gets harder! Some variance in similar-ish questions is OK, because 10 different people will ask a nearly identical question using 10 different sets of completely unrelated words with no overlap. I know, it sounds crazy, but trust me: humans are amazing at this. We want all those duplicates to exist so they can point to the primary question they are a duplicate of, while still being valid search targets for people who ask questions with unusual or rare word choices. It can be legitimately difficult to determine if your question is a true duplicate. How much overlap is enough before one programming question is a duplicate of another? And by whose definition? Opinions vary. This is subject to human interpretation, and humans are.. unreliable. Nobody will ever be completely happy with this system, pretty much by design. That tension is baked in permanently and forever. I don't have any real answers on the duplicate problem, which only gets worse over time. But I will point out that there is plenty of precedent on the Stack Exchange network for splitting sites into "expert" and "beginner" areas with slightly different rulesets. We've seen this for Math vs. MathOverflow, English vs. English Learners, Unix vs. Ubuntu... perhaps it's time for a more beginner focused Stack Overflow where duplicates are less frowned upon, and conversational rules are a bit more lenient? Stack Overflow is a competitive system of peer review Stack Overflow was indeed built to be a fairly explicitly competitive system, with the caveat that "there's always more than one way to do it." This design choice was based on my perennial observation that the best way to motivate any programmer .. is to subtly insinuate that another programmer could have maybe done it better. This is manifested in the public reputation system on Stack Overflow, the incredible power of a number printed next to someone's name, writ large. All reputation in Stack Overflow comes from the recognition of your peers, never the "system". Once your question is asked, or your answer is posted, it can then be poked, prodded, edited, flagged, closed, opened, upvoted, downvoted, folded and spindled by your peers. The intent is for Stack Overflow to be a system of peer review and friendly competition, like a code review from a coworker you've never met at a different division of the company. It's also completely fair for a fellow programmer to question the premise of your question, as long as it's done in a nice way. For example, do you really want to use that regular expression to match HTML? I fully acknowledge that competitive peer review systems aren't for everyone, and thus the overall process of having peers review your question may not always feel great, depending on your circumstances and background in the field — particularly when combined with the substantial tensions around utility and duplicates Stack Overflow already absorbed from its wiki elements. Kind of a double whammy there. I've heard people describe the process of asking a question on Stack Overflow as anxiety inducing. To me, posting on Stack Overflow is supposed to involve a healthy kind of minor "let me be sure to show off my best work" anxiety: the anxiety of giving a presentation to your fellow peers the anxiety of doing your best work on a test the anxiety of showing up to a new job with talented coworkers you admire the anxiety of attending your first day at school with other students at your level I imagine systems where there is zero anxiety involved and I can only think of jobs where I had long since stopped caring about the work and thus had no anxiety about whether I even showed for work on any given day. How can that be good? Let's just say I'm not a fan of zero-anxiety systems. Maybe competition just isn't your jam. Could there be a less competitive Q&A system, a system without downvotes, a system without close votes, where there was never any anxiety about posting anything, just a network of super supportive folks who believe in you and want you to succeed no matter what? Absolutely! I think many alternative sites should exist on the internet so people can choose an experience that matches their personal preferences and goals. Should Stack build that alternative? Has it already been built? It's an open question; feel free to point out examples in the comments. Stack Overflow is designed for practicing programmers Another point of confusion that comes up a fair bit is who the intended audience for Stack Overflow actually is. That one is straightforward, and it's been the same from day one: Q&A for professional and enthusiast programmers. By that we mean People who either already have a job as a programmer, or could potentially be hired as a programmer today if they wanted to be. Yes, in case you're wondering, part of this was an overt business decision. To make money you must have an audience of people already on a programmer's salary, or in the job hunt to be a programmer. The entire Stack Overflow network may be Creative Commons licensed, but it was never a non-profit play. It was planned as a sustainable business from the outset, and that's why we launched Stack Overflow Careers only one year after Stack Overflow itself ... to be honest far sooner than we should have, in retrospect. Careers has since been smartly subsumed into Stack Overflow proper at for a more integrated and most assuredly way-better-than-2009 experience. The choice of audience wasn't meant to be an exclusionary decision in any way, but Stack Overflow was definitely designed as a fairly strict system of peer review, which is great (IMNSHO, obviously) for already practicing professionals, but pretty much everything you would not want as a student or beginner. This is why I cringe so hard I practically turn myself inside out when people on Twitter mention that they have pointed their students at Stack Overflow. What you'd want for a beginner or a student in the field of programming is almost the exact opposite of what Stack Overflow does at every turn: one on one mentoring real time collaborative screen sharing live chat theory and background courses starter tasks and exercises These are all very fine and good things, but Stack Overflow does NONE of them, by design. Can you use Stack Overflow to learn how to program from first principles? Well, technically you can do anything with any software. You could try to have actual conversations on Reddit, if you're a masochist. But the answer is yes. You could learn how to program on Stack Overflow, in theory, if you are a prodigy who is comfortable with the light competitive aspects (reputation, closing, downvoting) and also perfectly willing to define all your contributions to the site in terms of utility to others, not just yourself as a student attempting to learn things. But I suuuuuuper would not recommend it. There are far better websites and systems out there for learning to be a programmer. Could Stack Overflow build beginner and student friendly systems like this? I don't know, and it's certainly not my call to make. 🤔 And that's it. We can now resume our normal non-abyss gazing. Or whatever it is that passes for normal in these times. I hope all of this doesn't come across as negative. Overall I'd say the state of the Stack is strong. But does it even matter what I think? As it was in 2008, so it is in 2018. Stack Overflow is you. This is the scary part, the great leap of faith that Stack Overflow is predicated on: trusting your fellow programmers. The programmers who choose to participate in Stack Overflow are the “secret sauce” that makes it work. You are the reason I continue to believe in developer community as the greatest source of learning and growth. You are the reason I continue to get so many positive emails and testimonials about Stack Overflow. I can’t take credit for that. But you can. I learned the collective power of my fellow programmers long ago writing on Coding Horror. The community is far, far smarter than I will ever be. All I can ask — all any of us can ask — is to help each other along the path. And if your fellow programmers decide to recognize you for that, then I say you’ve well and truly earned it. The strength of Stack Overflow begins, and ends, with the community of programmers that power the site. What should Stack Overflow be when it grows up? Whatever we make it, together. p.s. Happy 10th anniversary Stack Overflow! Also see Joel's take on 10 years of Stack Overflow with The Stack Overflow Age, A Dusting of Gamification, and Strange and Maddening Rules.

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No matter how big or small your user research project is, if you are going to do user research, you want to make sure that you are doing it right. You don’t want to waste your time doing research that does not truly represent your users’ opinions and behaviors. That is a waste of both your and your research participants’ time, and it’s bad for business. The first step in doing user research right is to understand best practices for the method you are using, and why best practice is, in fact, best practice. If you understand this, you can ensure that your own user research is truly relevant, you can evaluate the validity of other people’s research results, and you can explain the benefits of...

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