Horrible UX - Spotify

posted Dec 27, 2012, 7:19 AM by Vishal Jain

I sent this note to Spotify the other day. I'm shocked that a company with such public ties to Facebook could have such a horrifically poor interface with Facebook connect - one that clearly breaks the terms of security and privacy for facebook too.

my note to Spotify below:

Hi -

I'm not sure if your UX team is already working on this, but you should consider the user flow for signing in when you are of the "Facebook Login" case where you have always logged in using facebook.

I am now trying to login from another computer, and downloaded the spotify app, but it asks for my facebook login and password. This is NOT the workflow that Facebook intended with facebook connect, i would NEVER trust you with my FB login and password, that is only to be stored on Facebook's databases, not to be shared with 3rd parties like you. That is the entire reason why facebook login exists, so that you can authenticate VIA fb, not using my password.

So now i enter my facebook email, and the spotify app still asks for my password. There is no way i'm going to enter my facebook password in your application, so should switch to MOG?


Stupid Boss Syndrome

posted Nov 3, 2012, 7:08 AM by Vishal Jain

every person, at some point in their career, is going to work for someone more incompetent than they are. even if you're dumb, you're going to at one point have a boss that's even dumber than you.

this juncture can be a defining point in a person's career. do you fight with your boss and demonstrate that you're right and they're wrong? or do you make them love you? and then slowly, and with clever subtle but soft cues, let them discover that you are right?

Conversation with Jim / The CEO/CTO relationship

posted Oct 29, 2012, 10:24 AM by Vishal Jain   [ updated Oct 29, 2012, 10:28 AM ]

Below is a conversation between me and my friend Jim on the CEO / CTO relationship, and how it played out in a RockingChair startup,

me: in the classic ceo/cto model... do you think there's an issue of the fact that the cto is really doing much more hard work than the ceo (pre-customer acq) and that inevitably this would build resentment/inequality/imbalanced motivation between the two?

6 minutes
12:41 PM Jim: haha
12:42 PM the ceo should not be doing less work
  theres a lot to do
 me: it's a fact of life that engineers work harder than anyone else
  other jobs are just easier
 Jim: thats crazy
12:43 PM since you're not an engineer you can't imagine liking engineering; engineers typically can't imagine liking selling
 me: it was way easier for me to go out and interview people about totter than it was for frank to build the damn thing in 10 days
 Jim: err wrong
  he likes it
  you like what you do
  plus that's not a "classic ceo/cto"
12:44 PM me: i've done both. i know what the work imbalance is. yeah in that case i paid him, but that's precisely because i don't think he would have pulled through in a ceo/cto model because he would not have been able to blame the fact he worked harder than me on that i was paying him
12:45 PM Jim: let's not get into it now, but a ceo shouldve done more :P
12:46 PM me: haha it's not like i would take it personally. i do think that if you take people out of the equation for a second, at that point given the goal was to build and test a prototype, that the total amount of effort -- even if it were a 1-person team -- would have been 75% technical, 25% business
  the one way i made up for it was by investing a lot of my time motivating frank.
12:47 PM i literally spent 10-hours a day on skype with him, keeping him in line. i think that's how we finished the gargantuan effort so quickly.
  i was the craiglist slap-in-the-face girl ;-)
12:50 PM Jim: sure, but instead of playing it safe with the tdc test, (ie, a test that can have no terrible result) it might be better to set up a pilot with a company where if you don't deliver it's a big deal
  that's a deal that's hard to do and the job solely of the "ceo"
12:52 PM me: yeah, i guess you don't always have to wait till the prototype's done to start selling. theoretically you can sell-in a beta test with an expected completion date, and use that completion date to push engineering. problem is then these imperfections creep in where you trade off features based on your first beta's needs vs your vision.
12:53 PM Jim: 40-70
 me: true
 Jim: whats the point of doing something you're 100% sure you can do?
12:54 PM ooo, i think that's my new motto
 me: yeah that's quotable
  and only tangentially stolen from colin powell ;-)
 Jim: right

The Truth About Creativity When Vacationing

posted Oct 23, 2012, 5:46 PM by Vishal Jain

Enough people have cited the fact that creativity strikes often when people leave their normal surrounds. When they go on vacation to Aruba, when they stay up late one night and take a shower the next morning, when they think of Aruba even if they are in their cubicle.

One question worth asking is why. It struck me earlier this week that the reason could be that environmental cues trigger repetitive neural firing patterns. So if you sit in the same place, see the same people, smell the same smells - you are cuing the same old ideas. But when you disrupt these cues, you allow your neurons to react to new circumstances and forge new paths rather than having old firing patterns reinforced. That pathway innovation leads to conceptual innovation.

So being on vacation, or changing your environment in any fundamental way, leads to creativity perhaps because of their disorienting affect on habitual neural patterns.

"Rhythm of Greatness"

posted Aug 28, 2012, 8:50 PM by Vishal Jain

A priori, there appear to be two differing perspectives on greatness. The first is that great productions are the result of monumental ambitions. A great leader, a wonderful new promise of the future, a belief in a new vision that disrupts the old.

The Arab Spring exemplifies this sudden and disruptive change to the status quo in the Middle East, resulting from a perfect storm of civilian frustration and technological facility. Likewise the Taj Mahal represents the inspired effort of a king and his passion for respecting his queen's memory.

However, this opinion of greatness suggests that the people behind a great production are motivated purely by a new and outstanding vision. In other words, a break from the pattern, with no predictability. But we all know that since the days of bricklayers and laborers, people have used "work songs" to keep themselves motivated to complete the repetitive work of building a large production, following a "rhythm".

So is an inspired vision enough to commit multitudes of people to constantly engaging day after day, month after month, on a monument? I doubt it. We often fall in love with a great idea but then when we immerse ourselves in the sweat and labor of realizing this vision, our fascination fades. People revert to their natural rhythm of working.

Greatness, i argue, is the consequence of a visionary process. The pattern-breaking, monumental ambition must be quantized, and repeated. If the thinking and the work-process and the audacity of pattern-breaking itself can become the new status quo, then this new pattern becomes the work song of the weavers of greatness. This repeatable act that aggregates into a monument is what i call the Rhythm of Greatness. Humans do accomplish great things when inspired in new ways, but human also require a rhythm to keep to the beat of progress, and thus the original inspiration creates the most value when we quantize and institutionalize it.


posted Jun 9, 2012, 2:02 PM by Vishal Jain

I have mixed feelings about using "revenue projections" to try and predict the future. I suppose in cases, it's necessary, because you want to give an investor a sense of how much money you might make in a certain period of time. Maybe it would be more useful to create 95% confidence intervals around how much money you would make, so that across a number of investments, there is no egregious miscalculation of expected sales.

Corporate Politics and PepsiCo Leadership

posted May 31, 2012, 5:19 AM by Vishal Jain

Had an interesting experience yesterday at a talk in NYC by Salman Amin, the new Global CMO of Pepsi. I guess it was just a general "career success" talk thing. But basically he just summarized general platitudes and managerial cliches as if a computer had generated his speech. I'm not discounting his intelligence - it probably takes a genius to navigate the political waters of Pepsi and make it to a position like his.

It got me thinking about why stating the obvious with no originality in your opinion is actually the best way to present yourself as a leader in a speech versus a "worker". Instead of speaking in abstracts, let me offer a few examples:
1. He said "about the only thing I can promise you will be constant in your life is change." (Um, ever heard the idiom "the only constant in life is change?", google it...)
2. He said you have to learn from your failures. (i challenge you to name one famous person who hasn't said "you learn from your mistakes")

Initially, you might look at his talk, and when considering how you would present it differently, think to write something like, "We're seeing that the potency of core chemicals in products is actually allowing us to simplify our products to contain FEWER chemicals, to essentially package our beverages as water with only a tiny concentration of powerful vitamin and flavoring agents instead of having a more "syrupy" mix of more dilute ingredients." Maybe not the biggest insight ever, but certainly more original and specific to his expertise and experience.

But if you heard someone say something so technical and narrow, you would walk away thinking "wow, that's a smart dude, i bet if i gave him an assignment he'd blow it away!". You do not walk away from a speech like that thinking, "that guy must be a great leader".

When you hear the more general, platitudinal, unoriginal statements of Salman Amin, however, you can see him as a general manager. Why?

First, making general observations about life -- as general as possible -- makes you seem wiser than making specific observations. It's almost as though you have to have had more life experience to be able to take all your specific observations and add them up to a generalization about life. Even if the observation is completely unoriginal, it speaks to your values and your core beliefs about the world, which gives people an impression of your LONG-TERM point of view. 'This is the kind of guy Salman is' versus 'This is what Salman thinks about beverages'. His platitudes tell you that he is open to change and adaptation, and he is humble because he acknowledges his own failures.

In other words, it's more important to say agreeable things that position you as a "fair" person, that it is to be original and intelligent in your speeches.

A Thought

posted Apr 23, 2012, 3:58 PM by Vishal Jain

I have only one short and quick thought today:

Business is... directing a finite amount of capital toward a desired amount of productivity from a finite number of people.

It is also very difficult.

Gods Among Leaders

posted Apr 8, 2012, 7:34 PM by Vishal Jain

Among the many great inspirers and motivators of men, there are a few who tower above the rest. They are leaders who are already martyrs when they are still alive.

I can't say i have ever spent a great deal of time with one. But i hear about them and see them in action when they are public figures, and their personal success in achieving whatever goals they had in mind are usually testaments to their uncanny leadership ability.

What defines these "gods" among leaders? Well, they are the few who manage to inspire greatness out of typically mediocre people.

Many of us believe that most humans can accomplish just about anything. If a guy thinks hard enough he'll set academic records, if he strategizes hard enough he'll excel in politics, and if he fights hard enough he'll win wars. But when you are paired with a guy who hasn't opted to invest that much energy, and hasn't accomplished much their entire lives, it often feels like you are carrying deadweight.

And yet, there are certain powerful leaders who are able to connect with laggards, even though for us even their lack of communication skills would be a barrier to progress (you can't even explain what an unmediocre job would be, let alone expect them to accomplish one). Great leaders can unlock an unexpected understanding, an emotional motivation, among the otherwise apathetic to give everything they have to a cause and contribute to a culture that learns and improves in furthering this cause even if every single member of team did not join as motivated as they became.

I think Procter and Gamble is an example of such a culture. They have built an intuitive and uncontestable discipline in brand marketing that proves its value in market share. Yet, i would not say that every person who joins Procter and Gamble is necessarily as talented as a McKinsey consultant or Goldman Sachs analyst when they join the company.

Whoever shaped their brand management team must have managed to take what appeared to be sophisticated secrets guarded by only geniuses, and simplified them to thinking processes anyone can follow, and inspired regular people to do extraordinary things to execute these processes.

It's easy to motivate an intelligent person to take on a difficult task. It's also possible, with enough practice, to help a motivated person find reason to direct their motivations to be in parallel with your own. But it is very rare and impressive when a person can take an unmotivated person and make them so motivated about a cause that they become leaders they never knew they were.

I don't know how they do it yet, but i hope to one day have the universality of appeal required to make "ordinary people do extraordinary things".

Management, Part II

posted Apr 5, 2012, 11:31 AM by Vishal Jain

I had an awesome discussion a few days ago, with a friend and fellow entrepreneur in NYC, Jared D, about people with esoteric jobs. It got me thinking about a person whose job would be really enigmatic to me, in an industry that seems sexy but isn't very well-understood by most of us.

I picked an executive at Showtime. I've been impressed by the enormous upswing in the quality of Showtime programming recently, and as the success of originally scripted dramas took the popular spotlight away from reality TV shows (Glee replacing American Idol in pop culture), a parallel shift saw Showtime stealing HBO's formula for original scripted shows and doing it better than them. I thought it would be interesting to know who the person was that was responsible for the creation of Dexter, The Borgias, and other well-loved dramas.

I know a writer would usually come up with the concept for a TV show, but of course it takes a company with a lot of money to turn it into a production, and someone, somewhere, has to be the ring leader that greenlights a production, hires the right writing editors, casting directors, actors, directors and videographers to make it amazing. (details here:

So i dug around and found this lady: I was immediately struck by her story because she reminded me a lot of myself -- immigrated to the US when she was 6 years old from a developing country, with mother and sister, to reunite with father who had moved here earlier, then went to college in New England, entered the marketing world in the creative industry, had a senior mentor who believe in her, and ultimately went from corporate managerial roles into creative development. Kind of scary that every single one of those details is identical to my own story.

Regardless, when i watched the video, i recognized a certain facet of her demeanor that made my realize how she had inspired such incredibly work. I just watched her and saw myself being able to work for her. I saw a person who would only listen to me if i were passionate about an idea, and would only ask me to do something if it had enough creative leeway for me to invent my own value out of it.

It made me think about the problem of management i mentioned earlier, on a more task-oriented level. I know this is getting abstract, so i'll explain with examples. If Pearlena were my boss, i would pitch a tv show idea to her. She would probably pick out one interesting thing about it, point out that she saw opportunity there, and ask me to move it further along development. If i didn't have an idea, and she had a task for me to complete, i imagine she would say something like, "there's a lot of interest in period pieces these days, and in music-related shows like The Voice. Can you do some digging around and see what thoughts you have that combine the two, maybe talk to a few producers?". And i would have enough latitude within that assignment to come up with my own spin on the assignment, but moreover, would be inspired to pitch her my best idea, because at the end i know she would say something like, "Great work Veesh. Let me think about these and get back to you." And then she would evaluate the other 15 assignments she gave her other reports, and let us all know which of the final ideas she chose to move forward with.

Granted, she is in a creative industry, and it's arguably easy to inspire people to bring their best when the task is for them to create something on their own. But i think that tactic can be applied to any kind of company. Sure, it helps to have extremely motivated, ambitious, creative employees to begin with. But if you want to get the most of out someone on a particular task, it might help to position your task as if you were asking them to create a movie.

If the task is to create a pitch deck for a VC for example, try something like, "I want to pitch this VC that is really technology-savvy and is a former entrepreneur himself. Do you think you can come up with a presentation of our company that can appeal to his intelligence? I want you to tell our business's story in a way that captures his imagination."

And with that little direction, let your report go and make their brilliant mark.

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