Twitter Newsletter Client: Product Idea

Twitter needs to do something to help grow it’s user base. There is a key problem that pushes users away.

Following Too Many People

When users follow too many people their feed gets messy. If a user tweets an average of 3 times per day and you follow 100 people that equates to 300 tweets per day. To simplify the issue let’s assume those tweets are evenly posted between 9am and 8pm (11 hours) and that you check your twitter feed once per hour. That means you need to read 27 tweets each time you open your feed. This seems very manageable considering their only 140 characters each. Things get out of control quickly though as you add more followers. When you follow 500 users you need to process 135 tweets per hour. If you follow 1,000 users you need to process 270 tweets per hour.

If you follow 1,000 users and only check your feed every 4 hours, you need to process over 1,000 tweets per session! Spending 2 seconds per tweet means you need to dedicate nearly 40 minutes per session. Who has time for that?

Filter The Feed

Twitter feeds need to be more organized. Most of the tweets in my feed include links to other content. These links are great because the people I follow become my news filter. These tweets should be filtered out of the feed and consolidated into a newsletter section. This would take the twitter feed back 10 years (happy birthday Twitter) to a time when it was mostly conversations.

When tweets with links are separated into their own section you can consolidate and rank them. This is a feature I would love to see Tweetbot implement or even Twitter themselves.

Algorithms to Live By – The Ideal Stopping Point

The second book I’ve started this year is Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths. Here are the links for you to purchase it:


This is another book that I’m listening too while I walk Maggie. I only listen to 1 chapter per day and often repeat chapters to make sure the lessons sink in. This book goes through specific examples of human behavior that are best solved using specific algorithms. It’s interesting to learn how simple an algorithm is to apply, but also obvious how difficult it may be to disregard human inputs such as emotion.

Ideal Stopping Point

The lesson deals with the ideal stopping point in reference to ‘The Secretary’ problem. This algorithm is the answer to questions such as:

How long should I look for the ideal candidate before selection?
How do I achieve the greatest probability of selecting the best candidate?

Stop Looking at 37%

The first example in this section deals with apartment hunting in San Francisco. This area is known for its excessive demand and requires a renters ability write a check faster than the competition. Apartments are often only available for a single day before they are acquired. If you plan on hunting for apartments for a month, then you should hunt without your checkbook for 37% of the month (about 11 days).

After that point you should be ready to right a check as soon as you find an apartment better than all of those you have already seen. At first this sounds incredibly aggressive. It also sounds too easy to implement. The issue is fighting the urge that you may miss out on an even better apartment. You have to fight the impulse that what you don’t know is better than what you do.

This principle applies for hiring the ideal candidate as well. If you know the duration of your search you should treat it in a similar fashion as the apartment example. This algorithm also works when dealing with a set number of candidates. You should look at the first 37% without making any commitments. I had a REALLY tough time hearing this because I am in the process of applying to positions. For companies that I track on a regular basis, I may reach out and apply on the same day they post a new position. That means I’m in the 37%. As I’m learning more about this algorithm it makes me think I should wait 2 weeks before applying to any position. That keeps me out of the 37% assuming the company plans on hunting for around a month. This also assumes the company is treating the situation the way the algorithm would. Interesting little conundrum isn’t it?

Finding a Wife

The funny example deals with relationships. If you plan on ‘hunting’ for a partner between the ages of 18 and 40, then you should date freely until you are 26. At that point you should propose to the first woman (in my case) that meets all of your qualifications (terrible word, I know). You should also propose early and often. As soon as you know she meets your standards you should propose. Don’t dilly dally. Now that you’re past the age of 26 the odds of finding the best match are only getting smaller. I laugh because I’m 31 right now. I guess that means I better go buy a ring? Don’t worry. I’m too much of a romantic to follow this procedure.

This concept of treating human situations as algorithms is extremely interesting to me. We often clog up the system with emotions and human error. Now that I understand the stopping rule (I need to learn more) I will definitely try to apply it to more questions I face. I’m currently hunting for a new residence in Boulder, CO so that will be my first chance to test the concept.

Price Your Product First

If customers won’t buy it then the business will die. I learned about the price first strategy in this article by Madhavan Ramanujam, board member and partner at Simon-Kucher & Partners. He mentions, “the Root of all innovation evil is the failure to put the customer’s willingness to pay for a new product at the very core of product design.”

Start with Willingness-to-Pay

Most companies focus on features, product / market fit, or revenue potential. The pricing strategy doesn’t enter the equation until the end, but if the customer doesn’t accept your price point then a lot of your development efforts may be waisted. If you start with discussions about price the customer is often not equipped to negotiate and will give feedback to guide the prioritization of features. To get started you should identify:

  • A reasonable price for a product delivering this benefit
  • An expensive price
  • The price that would make this product too expensive?

This will help determine the price floor, ceiling, and roof for your product. The floor is your lowest friction price. Customers think they are getting a great deal at this price. This is a good place to start to help grow a customer base. The ceiling is what a customer would pay most of the time. They need proof of value or justification since this is often the price best aligned with the value of your product. The roof is a price that is almost funny to a customer. You need to adjust the value proposition or build a stronger base before considering this price.

How and What you Charge

There are too many monetization strategies and models to list here. A few popular strategies include subscriptions, dynamic pricing (fluctuate based on factors), or freemium models. Customers need to understand your model and know that it’s “…predictable, flexible, fair, and transparent” says Ramanujam. The way you monetize your product can be a differentiator. When everyone in your market is utilizing a freemium model, a subscription service may attract positive attention from customers. There is also room for new models. Evaluate the feasibility, scalability, and friction to customers when choosing a model to implement.

One For All is Lazy

Not all of your customers are the same. Customers may want the best in class version, immediate satisfaction, or the simple version. There are also very price sensitive customers. Package your product differently for each of these groups. Technology and the internet allow products to be repackaged, branded, and launched as several versions at once. The alcohol and beverage industry is great at this. (That’s Gray Goose vodka in those cheap plastic Kroger bottles at Costco.)

Here is a final checklist to remember:

  • Start with Willingness to Pay data
  • Cluster the data to identify segments.

  • Choose a Segment Strategy
  • It should be easy to sort customers into segments.

  • Start with 3-4 segments (or fewer)
  • Segments should be recognizably different.

  • Don’t serve everyone
  • Make sure the market size matches your financial goals and obligations.

  • Describe and Manage EACH segment
  • The differences in segments require different sales and marketing approaches.

Leaders Explain Why, Employees Ask Why

Why is one of the most important motivators in business. This idea is being popularized by Simon Sinek in his book Start With Why. When team members understand why a new process, procedure, or policy has been inn acted they more clearly understand how it leads to a positive outcome. Strategy can be a complicated thing. It’s not always obvious how ground floor processes impact the company as a whole. Sometimes new procedures at this level may appear to go against the goals of the company. During moments like this it’s extremely important for employees to understand Why.

Leaders Explain

Good leaders take the time to explain the reasons behind a decision. They understand the motivational aspects that come along with that information. We’ve all had a leader in our life that defaulted to a reason similar to, ‘Because I said so.’ This answer is not a sufficient explanation in the workplace. Parents use this reason to demonstrate power, but when a boss uses this reason it demotivates employees. The task of explaining reasons can be a strong filter on the decision making process. If a leader cannot explain why in simple clear terms, it is likely not a good decision. When a leader clearly articulates Why as it relates to all levels of the organization it is a sign of respect. These leaders are often rewarded with the respect and trust of their team.

Employees Ask

Employees need to raise their hands and ask questions when they do not understand. They should also demonstrate they have tried their best to understand the reason. The question should be accompanied by an explanation or reason they believe the decision will hurt performance and results.

Translation Effects

Have you ever played the Telephone game? You whisper a message around a circle of players and see how it changes from beginning to end. The message is often twisted to the point it is completely different from the original. It only takes 5 or 6 players in the game to see translation effects on simple messages. This concept makes it difficult to pass information through an organization. A CEO doesn’t explain it to everyone. He or she explains to the next level down and the process repeats down to frontline employees. Just as a message drastically changes in the Telephone game, a corporate explanation of Why will often change before reaches the ground floor.

This problem is unavoidable and gets worse as an organization grows. To minimize the effects, employees at all levels need to understand the importance of knowing Why and have the courage to ask questions when it is not clear. Asking questions and probing for more information are great skills that should be a part of every employees skill set. If an employee does not possess this skill, they need to be coached to develop it. When someone shows no interest in understanding Why they need to be dismissed. Reasons Why turn productivity up and spread trust.

No Bad Teams Only Bad Leaders

It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate. When you accept poor performance and there is no consequence then it becomes the new standard. This is a downward spiral that plagues individuals and companies on a daily basis. Chapter 2 of Extreme Ownership focuses on this lesson.

It’s the Leader’s Fault

The examples from the book mention that there are no bad teams, only bad leaders. If a team or team member then the leader needs to be a better coach. Coaching is something can be implemented at all levels of an organization. Employees at the same level and even those in different departments can coach one another on how to perform better. Coach-ability is a quality that is on the radar for most recruiters and hiring managers. It’s not that those people are looking for blank canvases to paint the organizations culture and lessons on. It’s more on how open a potential team member is to accepting new ideas and concepts. This is a great measure of a person’s ego. If a person is set in their ways they are often not coachable. In the fast changing world of startups that mindset can be deadly.

Identify Performance Issues Early

The best way to identify poor performance is to conduct a review. Once a project is complete, or even a measurable portion of a project is finished the team should review what went right and what went wrong. It’s also a great idea to get the opinion of someone unfamiliar with the project who can add further insight.

Do Reviews, No Excuses

It’s easy to make excuses for not doing a review. People are busy. The team needs to move on to the next project. Clients don’t pay for internal performance reviews. Teams assume everything is fine. It’s easy to tell which companies are not conducting internal reviews. They consistently get poor reviews from customers. If they are getting positive reviews then it is often about soft-skills such as communication (‘They always kept us up to date on the process’), or friendliness (‘It was a joy to work with them’), and not measurable data such as downloads / revenues / or engagement.

Reviews help teams identify the root cause of a problem and update processes to ensure it doesn’t happen again. As a leader, make sure you recognize that poor team performance is your fault and make time to conduct reviews in order to identify how you and your team can improve performance.

Here’s are links to what I learned in other chapters of Extreme Ownership:
Chapter 1