The release of a new Publishing API for Medium was of interest to me. It’s no secret that I believe in both the idea of owning your own content and am skeptical of Ev’s track record with his products. Who knows what the future holds for Medium when Blogger and Twitter never made any profit with Williams at the helm.
How long can services that bring people but not profit continue dominating? I would be much more confident in a Mandy Brown led team at Editorially then Ev leading the Medium team, where the product is built off of venture backed dollars and his reputation. Will the product change significantly when investors finally want a return on their dollars? Will your carefully crafted article feature a lovely pop out ad for Ford or Snickers at some point? See ads in your Twitter and Tumbler timeline if you're skeptical.
This API points to a slightly different potential future. Whereas previously Medium could be alternate location of your content (by cross posting content you created and posted elsewhere first), now it can simply be an extension of your own site. Now, you can use it not less as a place to create content, but as a place to share content. Just another social network, albeit with far more characters allowed.
What are the benefits to this? For one, greater reach for many writers. While Ev struggles to build profitable businesses, you have to give him credit for building services that draw in people.
Forever frustrated by how much exposure my @cushionapp posts get on Medium compared to my own blog.“
He later shared the exact numbers. I’ve wondered about this as I’ve not seen many people taking time to compare the reaction and then share the numbers. Is Jonnie’s experience unique because he has a large Twitter following, which can result in a lot of followers on Medium? Or is this indicative of the overall trend?
I can tell you my own posts on Medium have gotten little attention, less than my own site. But, I’ve not put any efforts into building an audience there.
But that’s the crux of my point. With the new API for Medium, a writer can work on building an audience on their own site where they are in full control. Then, with a flick of a switch (from IFTTT and its ilk, or right from a text editor like Ulysses), you can post your content to Medium, Twitter, and any other service. It takes only a little effort to have your content in two places (or more).
What will be interesting to watch is whether Medium’s commenting and highlighting features will then come into play.
Once you’ve decided to play along and post your content there, will an author have to shift focus to Medium because that’s where the conversations are taking place? Time will tell. We’ve had a long run of blog post reactions being taken to Twitter, or, if the respondent felt strongly enough, reactionary link posts on their own site. This functioned well.
So I write this from an app with Medium integrated and enabled to my own account. But as I’m leery of giving away content, I’m also leery of a free service owning the content surrounding my writing.
A writer does not own the reactions of others to their writing, but the conversation itself is of value. If Medium goes away, or becomes something it’s currently not and you want to leave, those conversations are tied to the platform.
The web is about connections. The conversation is the vital piece to all we do here. Let’s be sure not to give it away.
Nerds everywhere have been gushing about Episode 7 since the first teaser was made available. With the release of the official trailer this week, the excitement builds to a pitch and the countdown to Dec. 18th is on.
This guy? I’m tempering my enthusiasm.
First, Hollywood has gotten very good at churning out trailers that are fun and exciting and full of promise, but end with movies that are all style and no substance. There are plenty of examples to choose from. And Disney is behind a lot of them. One of the greatest pleasures in this life is to be told a good story. But in 2015, those are rarely found in the cinema.
Apart from that, the Star Wars franchise has to prove itself to me after the failings of Episodes 1–3. Look, I was like many of you … my parents rented a VCR (that’s right) to watch Episode 4 at my 5th birthday party. One of my fondest childhood memories was seeing Imperial AT-ATs in the attack on Hoth for the first time on the big screen. I still consider the deep space dogfight in Return of the Jedi to be some of the best special affects of all time.
But George Lucas stabbed me in the back. After camping in line for 36 hours to see The Phantom Menace, in the rain, my faith in his ability to tell a story was lost. He’d clearly focused on effects and computers for so long that his ability to write and communicate a good story were gone.
And so the franchise has to win me back. I’ll admit, the trailers look good. But I’ve grown old and I appreciate storytelling far greater than CGI and lush landscapes. Is there a good story being told? I sure hope so.
I do know one thing: I enjoy the work of JJ Abrams. While some of his movies have been just entertaining (see Star Trek), others have been well told tales (see Super 8). And his greatest ability is to keep you guessing. There is always something in his stories that you’re not sure of, some puzzle to solve that keeps you coming back for more. Lost is the greatest example of this.
And so the Internet is buzzing about why Luke is not on the official Episode 7 poster and the real identity of Kylo Ren. It seems most are confident that Abrams can restore the Star Wars franchise to its 1980’s form. Me? I’m cautiously optimistic.
Susan Robertson makes the case for writing as a way to improve your thoughts. When you have an opinion, attempting to share that opinion with others in written form causes you to go through an important process.
As she describes it:
When I went to write up a rough post for the company blog about how I created the style guide we were using, it pushed me to think about how I define these tools. That rough post never ended up on the company blog, but it did get published as an A List Apart article. As I worked with an editor to shape that piece, my thoughts on style guides morphed and changed until I knew what I wanted to say about them.“
That’s the beauty of writing. You either hone your thoughts, improving and refining the opinion you started with. Or, the process of articulating your thoughts results in a change of opinion. Both results make the exercise a good use of your time.
But she also alludes to a second benefit for writing your thoughts and sharing them with the world:
I continued to think more about mobile and shared my thoughts on my blog. Those posts were the beginning for me, they were how I realized that I had a voice, that my thoughts mattered, and that sharing them was a way to start a conversation with others who were thinking about the same topics.“
The end result:
It was through writing that I connected virtually with many of the people in the industry that I’ve gone on to meet in-person at conferences.“
My own experience is the same, as I’ve shared before. Every relationship I have online, every job I’ve had with Internet based companies, can be traced back to the writing I was doing on my own personal site.
I can think of no greater benefit the Internet brings than giving us the opportunity to create, share our work, and connect with likeminded people as a result.
Patrick Rhone received an incredible gift for Christmas this past year. A friend gave him the opportunity to take a personal retreat. All he had to do was pick the time and place and everything was taken care of.
And although the act of getting away from everyone, everything, and most importantly, everything online are great on their own, his retreat came with a single room cabin, the wilderness, fresh baked bread, and artisanal cheese. That is some friend!
Patrick shared a few of the entries he made to his diary while on the retreat. Included was a vital question we should all ask ourselves:
Ask yourself, when was the last time your were alone. Not just alone in the sense of not having another person around but alone in the completest sense of having no distractions, obligations, tasks, next steps, “should be doings”, or “have to be doings”? Like me before this, I bet the answer was “never”.“
He also lists some of the benefits of this type of aloneness:
One of the interesting things about being out in nature with nothing to do but listen, notice, and ponder, is that one’s attention becomes more acute.“
In many ways a solitary journey into the wilderness is, in equal measure, a journey into the wilderness of self. Just as the path into the woods draws us further away from civilization until all one can see in any direction is nature, so too is the truth of our own nature revealed.“
I love it. And I would love this type of opportunity myself.
My wife and I have started our own ritual the past two years where we take a weekend off each summer, leave the kids at home, and spend the weekend at a local lake. Although it’s not completely out in the middle of nowhere, silence and solitude are easier to come by. And although we’re together and take the time to reconnect and enjoy long uninterrupted conversations, we also purposefully give each other the space to clear our own heads.
As the years go by, this is becoming a priority in my life. Thanks for sharing, Pat!
Allison Wagner touches on an aspect of our industry that is problematic. She gives it a clever title: the two year itch:
Some people seek professional growth where the grass appears greener and the chairs more ergonomic.“
Just a generation ago, many of our parents worked for the same organization for their entire working life. My dad worked for himself for many years, but he eventually sold his business and started working for another company. And he's still there. How many people under 40 do you know of that have this kind of history?
Allison counters this reality with the other side of the coin. Tenure. What does it look like to stick around for a while? Her examples ring true for me:
Tenure means you’ve grown to know your colleague’s strengths and weaknesses, their quirks and compulsions— and they know yours. You’ve developed a rapport that only time, laughter, and shared experiences can bring.“
That sounds like a good thing! Her last point: tenure results in trust.
Most of us are never going to work where we are for the rest of our life. That's okay. But maybe we should cultivate a little more of a contentment mentality. It might help to look around and quickly count our blessings, rather than compare job postings and office pics weekly. A great job is far more than the perks.
Full disclosure: I say this as a guy who's at his 3rd company in a calendar year. Which was a learning experience in itself. When you're at a tech/SaaS company where there are long tenured employees, take note. And when you're at a company where half the team has been there less than 6 months, take note. Here at Wildbit, half the team has been on for 5 or more years.
I hope to say the same down the road.
Customer Success as a Function of Your Business
This post was originally published on the Wildbit blog and started as a Basecamp post to our team.
There are many opinions on how to define “customer success”. I come from the school of thought that this means the success of your customers. Not the success of your company, not a sales team focused on renewals and upsells. Not even customer support, which is reactive and should be a last resort.
When you aim for true customer success, you’re pouring yourself into making more skillful, educated users.
We’re not trying to make our customers be better Beanstalk users, we’re trying to make them better developers.“
Customer success is about a subtle shift from focusing on making excellent products to making excellent users. And it’s a mindset everyone on your team should have.
In the long run, if you focus on making excellent users, your company will benefit. And everyone can feel great about it!
What Customer Success Looks Like, Day to Day
The following graphic is an illustration of Customer Success as a function of your business.
There are 3 main activities that drive the team members who focus on customer success (a close relative to product management):
Research, nurturing, and validation.
This is where you dig in to the data. You review the activity of your users. Where’s the churn, the drop off points? What is the path to attrition? What are people complaining about in support? What does the path of a successful customer look like? How can you help more people find that path?
A person can fall into the trap of analysis paralysis and research endlessly. But a healthy Customer Success team should spend a hefty portion of their time digging in to understand customer's needs and behaviors.
It’s a bit of a cheesy term, but nurturing is the activity you take to help your customers get better at what they do. A lot of us are parents, so I hope the term makes sense. We care about our children and we do everything we can to equip them to have a long, happy life. They’ll also piss you off at times, but that doesn’t mean you stop caring about their success. :)
It can be the same with our customers.
Nurturing can be a lot of things. Onboarding emails and welcome messages. Behavioral triggers that get them the right information at the right time. Educational materials that help them learn. It also means just talking to them and hearing what they have to say.
Of course, you need to take time to evaluate whether your assumptions from your research were accurate. Was your nurturing activity and content successful in solving problems or meeting the needs of your customer?
The activity here is a lot like research. But it’s a slightly different focus and can involve a lot of conversation. Each email you send during onboarding or with behavioral email can result in a reply. Validation involves reviewing the activity data, nurturing results, and talking to the customers.
The chart here includes a couple of other items …
It’s cyclical (hence the arrows): there’s no end to this stuff! If you start with an assumption from your research, then move to creating a plan to nurture & educate, you eventually validate your assumption (which is just research with a different focus). From there, you start over again … you improve the current plan if you can, or move on to another improvement, another initiative, another pain point. It can always be better!
Content is crucial: it’s the background to all your success initiatives. Whether you’re creating onboarding emails, targeted campaigns, blog posts, or educational guides, you’re creating content to help better equip your customers (and potential customers).
The feedback loop: the outer circle here with the people represents the rest of the team. Whatever the success/support staff are doing, they’re the ones most often in contact with the customer. They know the pain points, where your product or service is not meeting a need. Every initiative, day to day support, should involve consistent updates to the rest of the team.
Whatever your product or service, you’ll do well when you focus on your customers. Again, when you empower people through knowledge and tools, your own success is an inevitable byproduct. And we can all feel good about making other people’s lives better.