Foursquare’s Tips

“It lowers the barrier: When everyone else has written two sentences, it’s easier for you to write two sentences, so we get a wider variety of reviews from people,” Crowley says, “as opposed to that super passionate or super angry person that wanted to write three to four paragraphs. I’m glad we made the decision to have shorter snippets of content, which are more easily digestible.” Only two years ago, Foursquare boasted just 7.5 million tips–a number that has since more than quadrupled. The company is now averaging more than a million new tips added per month.”

All available via an API for free. How long until they monetize this data? Momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down:

“…what’s most remarkable is that Foursquare is outpacing Yelp in the review department, despite having a fraction of the public company’s users. Yelp has roughly 108 million users, whereas Foursquare has just 35 million.”

Source: Foursquare’s Tips Growing Faster than Yelp’s Reviews

Dribbble’s community centric prioritisation

“The priority has always been, first and foremost, to feature the work and the designer,” Cederholm explains. “We’ve intentionally kept the UI agnostic (monochrome, Helvetica type, simple glyphs) so that the variety of work being shared takes the spotlight and isn’t overshadowed by Dribbble’s brand.

“Over time, many of the features we’ve added have been a direct reaction to how the community chose to use the site. Rebounds, for instance, were being done by members simply linking their shot in the comments. We noticed that and built a UI around that to support what was going on.”

With an approach like that I can only imagine greater success in the future.

Source: The Next Web - How Dribbble became the most influential online platform for graphic designers

Developer & Product Pair Programming

Each Friday for the past couple of weeks I’ve been pair programming with one of the UI developers on the team at Hooroo. It’s not uncommon for development & test teams to partake in pair programming but it is certainly new for me in my product management role. The benefits have been clear and I would certainly recommend it.

Pair programming is an agile software development technique in which two developers work together at one workstation. One writes the code (referred to as the “driver“) while the other observes (known as the “navigator“). The roles switch frequently which increases knowledge sharing and the number of opportunities to review the current task.

Pairing at Hooroo

I’ve found product manager & developer pairing requires a slightly different role for the “driver”. Instead of mainly writing code while being the “driver”, the product manager is able to “drive” by spending time with the developer clarifying desired feature or functionality detail. This allows the developer to observe, provide feedback, and continue to ask questions in the role of the “navigator”.

That opportunity to ask questions, clarify requirements, and provide direct feedback is special because it isn’t something developers always get the chance to do with their product manager.

For the product manager and developer, the role of the “navigator” is quite similar to regular pair programming as code is being written by the developer and the impact to the UI of the feature being developed is still reviewed constantly. The conversation isn’t as technical as it would be with two developers pairing but it’s important for product managers to have at least a minor technical understanding of various programming languages and pairing is a great way to progress that.

After spending a couple of days over the last few weeks pair programming with a developer, I’ve found the main benefits to be:

  • Higher levels of focus on the feature/functionality being delivered
  • Fewer interruptions and distractions
  • When interrupted, the “navigator” (quite often the product manager) can deal with the problem while the “driver” (more often the developer) continues
  • Higher levels of satisfaction finishing up at the end of a day
  • Closer working relationships with teammates
  • Greater knowledge amongst the team on objectives and product development plans

Skeuomorphism is about relevance

Christina Bonnington for Wired:

“The next era of Apple user interface should embrace the touchscreen and trackpad inputs that have become indelible with their respective operating systems. With a generation coming upon us that may have never seen a record player, a rotary dial phone, or even a paper notepad, these nostalgic nods to times past have not only lost their relevance, but become a hindrance. Unfettered by such real world design hangups, the sky is the limit for the future of Apple’s computer interfaces under Ive.”

Common Patterns in the Launch of Successful Products

Update: The weekend finished on a high for me & the two teams I mentored with each taking away winning prizes of cold hard cash!

George McKibbin took out the $500 runner up prize with his “Pokemon for Cafes” Coffee Monsters iPhone app that placed a digital monster inside every cafe within Australia. Once a user checks into a cafe they can view that cafes Monster and feed it items off the cafes menu. It was great to work with George as this was one of the most creative uses of the Sensis API over the weekend and was well deserved of the runner up prize.

George pitches Coffee Monsters to the judges at SAPI Product Hack Camp 2012

Shopportunity was the other team I worked with closely over the weekend and they took out 1st equal and the $5000 winners prize. Shopportunity is a mobile web based app that takes the planning out of shopping.

Shopportunity integrates with popular list applications like Remember the Milk by fetching each list item and matching them up with a Sensis business. The app’s killer feature is that it will then push a notification to you when you’re out & about and near a business that sells the item on your shopping list.

The team used Christmas shopping in their pitch as an excellent example of how Shopportunity delivers value. Imagine you have put together your Christmas shopping list of items for loved ones and when you were close to a business that sold an item on your list you received a notification or email.

Think “Golf Balls for Dad” and being told when you’re near a sports store while walking to the train station after work. Genius. This means you can carry on your normal day and still get your shopping done without planning.

The Shopportunity crew

I’m still recovering from the big weekend but super proud of both teams and the awesome products they created in just 33 hours!


This weekend I’ve been involved with Product Hack Camp at York Butter Factory in Melbourne.

Product Hack Camp is run by the Sensis API (SAPI) team and is a chance for developers, testers, designers, product managers and marketers to hack together new product concepts and mash some great open data sources together. There are some great prizes up for grabs for the teams that come up with the most creative products in just 33 hours.

The #sapihack twitter stream is full of great tweets from over the weekend, check them out here.

I was asked to be a Product Mentor for the weekend and 2 teams asked me to help them out as they work over the weekend. They each have a great idea and my involvement has mainly been helping them articulate those ideas clearly and agree on the scope they want to deliver in such a short period.

Each team is required to pitch & demo their product idea to a panel of judges at the end of the weekend so a lot of my time has been providing feedback and recommendations on how they could run the demo and talk about their product idea in a way that highlights it’s potential.

As a Product Mentor, I was also required to give a short presentation to attendees about product development or management. The broad theme of the presentation was “How to make great products that are successful”.

Phil Metcalfe SAPI Product Hack Camp Talk

Presenting to the Hackathon crew…

I decided to dig into the common patterns that successful products follow leading up to their launch. Instagram’s launch story is one that very few people are aware of so I decided to use them as a case study.

I received some great feedback on my presentation so thought I’d get it on Slide Share and pass it around. Enjoy!

Common Patterns in the Launch of Successful Products from Phil Metcalfe

Audio re-routing

The latest Soundcloud mobile app update introduces some nice new features for Android & iOS devices. The new audio re-routing functionality for iPhone is particularly interesting:

On the iPhone, we added a feature we call ‘Private Listening’: when you’re playing sounds through the loudspeaker, simply hold the handset up to your ear as if you were taking a phone call and the audio will be re-routed to the phone speaker. Private listening is ideal for listening to private messages, or for sneaking a listen to some great new sounds without letting others know what you’re hearing.

You can download Soundcloud for iPhone from the App Store here.