Machine Learning and Digital Marketing: Melding Human and Machine

In digital, you can easily spot two opposing camps — the artists and the quants. Artists are folks like the New York Times: Pulitzer prize-winning journalists use their intuition and skill — their unique talents — to create one-of-a-kind stories, and the judgment of the Chief Editor is pure gold. Artists create incredible brand value; true loyalty — lifelong fans. Quants are […]

Are Your Company Values Just Empty Words?

I had a chance to interact with two companies recently: Homegrown and City of Bellevue Utilities. These two companies helped me crystallize the difference between “value statement on the wall” and “values that are coming through to customers.” Homegrown’s tagline is “sustainable sandwich shop.” Their About Us page has the word “organic” mentioned 22 times. It says that “stores are designed to […]

Full Price is for the Lazy, or Stop Financing Their Marketing

In life as in business, if you are willing to invest effort into something, you will do better – a lot better – than average. Today’s story is about a real-estate purchase – and how doing your homework makes a 10x price difference for services. Did you notice that you just paid your agent $1000/hour? Basic dynamics of […]

Dogfooding: Find a way to be your own customer

This article was originally published as a guest post on Geekwire; it is republished here for the readers of this blog.  In early ‘90s, while working on Windows NT, Microsoft popularized an idea to make everyone on the team use early builds of their own software. Back then, it was quite a painful request — imagine developing an […]

Hackathons at Startups: Creative ‘Fresh Air’

This article was originally published as a guest post on Geekwire; it is republished here for the readers of this blog.  Every now and again, we hear about hackathons: Startup Weekend, Facebook’s famed all-nighters, Hack Week at Dropbox. However, in a startup, it’s so difficult to imagine how organizing a hackathon can be anything but harmful: “What do you mean, […]

Measuring interruptions: How to keep your team in the ‘zone’

This article was originally posted as a guest post on Geekwire; it is republished here for the readers of this blog.  When you look at productive output from a software development team, there’s one factor that almost always predicts problems. You can have top talent; an outstanding idea; great agile process. And yet, if you don’t […]

Facebook: The personalization engine for all of the Web

This article was originally posted as a guest post on Geekwire; it is republished here for the readers of this blog.  Facebook and its third-party applications today know a hell of a lot about each us: what content we read (Washington Post Social Reader); what music we listen to (Spotify); what movies we watch (Netflix). […]

Influence of Your Work on the World

As I was finishing school, I had a dream – I wanted my job to maximize my influence. I wanted the product of my craft to touch, in a meaningful way, as many people as possible, helping them in small and large ways. It’s mostly pride and desire to maximize the control over your environment: […]

Bet on Yourself

How comfortable are you with the idea of relinquishing control over something important to you to someone who doesn’t really wish you well? How about relinquishing control over your career? Over your family’s livelihood? Whenever alignment of interests isn’t present at the workplace, that’s exactly what employees are doing – they’re relinquishing control to the […]

Shining the Spotlight on the Audience, Not the Stage

This article was originally published as a guest post at Digital Quarters, and is republished here for the readers of this blog. Every day, we go to our favorite news outlets and get our fix. We land on the same familiar sites. We seek out the kind of news that fits our fancy. We casually share […]

How to tell whether you’re a visionary or a lunatic?

For a while now, I’ve been asking myself: if you are pursuing a dream that nobody else can see, how can you be sure – after a while of trying – that you’re not crazy? That you’re a visionary, and not a stubborn lunatic that keeps believing in something that’s obviously not going to happen? […]

Line-Drawing Fallacy and Accountability

There’s a beautiful logical paradox, a line-drawing fallacy:  it’s difficult to tell when quantity transforms into quality. Which of the cuts killed an elephant?.. Which of the thousand-dollar checks made a company go bankrupt?.. It’s so difficult to tell when an incremental, continuous process turns the corner and radically changes its character, and a temptation […]

A Sense of Urgency

I’ve had a curios revelation in the past few days. My CEO, Ben Elowitz, said something really curious: the granularity of your estimates has a GIGANTIC effect on the effectiveness of the organization. If you take a task, and commit to getting it done by next week, you’re essentially setting a WEEK as an atomic […]

The Next Chapter

I announced my resignation from Microsoft today. I’m joining a startup. Here’s a snippet of the mail I sent out: Almost seven years ago, I walked into the largest software company in the world knowing basically nothing about software development. You taught me everything I know today. You taught me about ambition; about relationships; about […]

Leaky Clouds

Joel Spolsky has two timeless pieces – Fire and Motion and The Law of Leaky Abstractions that are cornerstones of what I’m about to preach in this post. Please take a moment to read those articles by Joel – they’re almost 10 years old now, but are as relevant as ever. My field, software engineering, is […]