Snarky Comment of The Day

A friend asked me what MyBlogLog was and I said

“Its like a group of guys standing in a circle patting each other on the ass”

MyBlogLog was a brilliant idea that both People Aggregator other social networking “aggregators” should have been. A clear case where one entreprenuer was very in touch of its target customers while the others fell in love with his vision instead; the others forgot how to serve the mindset/need of the target market. Unfortunately it is also because MyBlogLog brilliantly exploited this desire for peer validation from bloggers that MyBlogLog often annoyingly degenerats into quite a self-congratulatory and incestuous circle #$*%. In the end though, $10M seems like too low a price to sell one of the best concepts of 2006. (yes, despite my snarky comment, I think the site is brilliantly executed)

Competing at the Margins

This is a familiar story... you work at a consumer internet or software company and you are trying to figure out the important features for a product you are launching. You go out and survey a large number of your target customer base and comes back with a top 10 list. Given the scarce development resources, you decided to build the product with the top 5 most important features.

you built it ... and no one stuck around ... despite a mentions in all the cool blogs and tens of thousands of dollars in google adword spending ...

So what went wrong?

Its because competition ALWAYS occur at the margins.

In many industries, espcially online given the low barriers to entry, hyper competition has commoditized almost any “idea” that one can come up with. (how many social network for high school sports can there be?). There are so much competition, only the good one sticks around in the first place. EVERYONE will have the 5 features your customers said they wanted. As such all products and websites begin to look the same to the end user ... until you dig a little bit deeper ...

The littles things are what matters. At the margin is where the winner and loser are determined.

The marginal features will determine the success and failure of a product: a simple registration process, a neat little feature, the ability to customize workflow ... whatever it might be ... It is the things that are ranked 20+ in importance (and sometimes not even mentioned at all) that will drive true differentiation. But there are so much noise and variance once you get down to the end of that list that it is almost impossible to know whether the data is significant or driven by random chance.

And this is why it is such a crap shoot to build a winning product. EVERYONE will tell you that good breaks are needed for a car ... but close to NO ONE will tell you the 20 little things you need to outsell BMW.

A product manager’s job is becoming less of a science but an art. Experience matters, gut matters ... . a holistic approach to understanding the customer experience matters ... Knowing how to crunch numbers is a BASIC requirement to become a product manager ... it takes so much more to be “good” than it used too. Ironically, we too are competing at the margins.