8 Things I Learned at ProductCamp Austin

Reposted with permission from Stacy Dyer. The original post can be found here on Stacy’s blog.

8 Things I Learned at ProductCamp Austin

By Stacy Dyer

After so many recommendations and endorsements from my fellow product management and product marketing colleagues, I am pleased to report that ProductCamp 10 lived up to its reputation as a can’t-miss event for product management professionals. Networking, learning, and innovative ideas abounded at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin, Texas this past Saturday.

ProductCamp 10 Austin

While I knew I had already missed a few ProductCamps, I had no idea Austin was actually one of the first (following Silicon Valley) to launch an un-conference ProductCamp (2008) and that it has now spread around the globe. Comparing the perspectives of representatives from other cities with our own here in Austin was fascinating.

By far, the best aspect of the conference overall was how open and friendly everyone was. Networking is a pleasure in such an accommodating atmosphere–even for introverts!

My Favorite Learnings from ProductCamp 10 Austin:

  1. Kanban process — Forget Agile, this is the newest trend in product management! It involves managing a queue of user stories, but not grouping into sprints. Very interesting…. (via @johndeo)
  2. Avoid “Tyranny of the Install Base” — Once your product gets going, you tend to only listen to sales and your existing customers. (via @mhelmbrecht)
  3. As an extrovert, I should warn people when I am “thinking out loud.” (via @mhelmbrecht)
  4. Agile experience is irrelevant; executives consider it a check box.
  5. Content isn’t king, it’s the mayor. Audience is king! (via @thomsinger)
  6. LinkedIn Premium membership allows you to see what keywords people are searching on you and prevents others from seeing that you were stalking viewing their profile. (via @MrMillerAustin)
  7. Well written user stories should be able to be re-purposed as sales script. Write as problem/benefit; never feature/function. (via @proficientzppm)
  8. I want to be a “foxy” PM, as opposed to a “hedgehoge” (agile generalist, rather than narrowly focused and intractable) (via @PGopalan & @joshua_d)

What I Missed Most:

PowerPoint Karaoke – This session, while offered, was not actually voted in. That was a shame because it looks hilarious! It basically involves making up a story to go along with the random slides you are given and having been handed a deck by my old boss to present at a major user conference myself, I know how important it is to be able to think on your feet! I hope this is resurrected at an upcoming ProductParty soon. As a former theatre geek, this sounds right up my alley!

Presenting “Architecting a Successful Whitepaper” – Unfortunately, my colleague with whom I had planned to offer a workshop session on Architecting a Successful Whitepaper had a family medical emergency and was not able to make it on Saturday. Talking with several attendees, I am sure the material we were planning on presenting would have been relevant and interesting. And I know it would have a lot of fun! I look forward to the next ProductCamp so we can try again!

Useful links:

Throughout the day, I picked up useful links to resources, articles, and online tools. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order!

Word Cloud generators:

“Best Session” winner which I missed – boo! (I’ll have to make sure I catch Mike presenting at the next ProductCamp in July…)


Do you have a favorite resource, moment, or funny story to share from PCATX?

A Special Offer from Proficientz for PCA Alumni – Save 20%

Proficientz is offering 20% off for the Product Portfolio Management course in Austin, TX on April 9 – 11 for PCA Alumni. This course is ideal if your organization has been practicing product management/product marketing but your product portfolio has grown and there are too many competing agendas going in too many different directions that are diluting your organization’s core competencies. Register now!

What Takes One Day But Lasts 5 Years? Answer: Daily Deals – by Jan Triplett

Think Groupon, Living Social or any one of the 500 other coupon “daily deal” providers.

Think about you offering an online coupon to jump start your sales or as a great “pickme up and try me for less” for those “not yet” customers. Think what a great marketing opportunity! Think about you being an online coupon provider — one amongst a predicted thousand before the end of the year. Think about all that money! And, it all happens in one day.

Those are just a few of the “delights” of using online coupons.

Now think about how LONG FIVE YEARS are. Because, legally that’s how long you have to be willing to provide this discount or else… And the “or else” goes from lawsuits to losing your right to have a business in Texas. That doesn’t even include the federal laws, industry regulations, and more.

Did I mention the financial issues? I’m talking here about financing the deal: when you get paid, paying taxes, giving money back. Want to sell your business? These liabilities can hang on and on and on.

Of course, there’s also the marketing risk — even if you don’t offer coupon.  You can have “ghost competitors” who will steal your customers from you and deliver nothing at all.

You’re not going to offer coupons? OK. Think about where the tax revenue goes. What happens to people, communities and other businesses when there’s not enough money? You know, don’t you? You may not know that those who don’t offer these discounts can get sucked in or sucked under. They can affect your staff, your operations,  and your existing customers. You name it and it has an impact. And, what’s the short and long term payoff? You’ll see. Not what you think probably.

These are just some of the dangers of daily deals. This is definitely a case of “Seller and Buyer Beware”.

You say, “I didn’t know”. It’s ok. Not many do. But it’s no excuse. At Product Camp 7 on August 6th you have a great opportunity to learn about the major “whys” and “wherefores” at the “Dangers and Delights of Daily Deals” session. I’ll even let you tell your own happy and horror stories about buying or providing these “gift certificates”. They are out there. I’ve heard ‘em. And, you’ll learn some stats that will amaze you. If you are at attorney, accountant, thinking about buying a business or selling one, this applies to you and your clients.

There are affordable alternatives to the Daily Deal or if you still think you must do this, you can at least go in with your eyes wide open. We’re going to talk about some right here in Austin and other states.

Look at your email. I’ll bet just since you’ve been reading this, there’s at least one new daily deal calling your name.

By the way, I’d hold off thinking about investing in Groupon until after you hear what I have to say about legal issues, lawsuits and losses.

This post added by guest blogger Jan Triplett discussing her proposed session for ProductCamp Austin 7. Read more about Jan Triplett.

The Changing Face of Online Entrepreneurship – by Sheila Scarborough

Not every entrepreneur with an online business is a 26-year-old male who is bald, with rimless glasses and a black T-shirt.

Some of us are 50 and female….and some of us, like me, started down this entrepreneurial path with zero business experience and little understanding of what things like “bootstrapping” really meant.

Yes, we have demands on our time that a younger, probably single startup owner does not: children, aging parents, mortgage payments, a minivan that still plays cassette tapes and an inability to live off of ramen and pizza without at least a halfway decent glass of wine to go with it.

The face of entrepreneurship is changing, and my proposed ProductCamp Austin session will cover three topics….

1) How the concept of “intersections” takes what you already know and helps you decide what sort of online business to launch.

2) How to become the go-to business in a specific niche, rather than trying to serve everyone.

3) How your age and life experience can become assets rather than liabilities, i.e., why my retired military ID card and my business partner’s liquor store help ensure the success of our business.

Here’s a 35 second Google Search Story video that may help you see some of the things I thought about as I co-founded a successful online business and, to my everlasting surprise, became an entrepreneur in my late 40’s.

Direct link to the video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-5X9aYPZy4

This post added by guest blogger Sheila Scarborough discussing her proposed session for ProductCamp Austin 7. Read more about Sheila Scarborough.

Fast Feedback That Really Helps People – by Anna Carroll

Are you using human feedback–a fabulous, free resource that your competitors are probably ignoring too–to make better, faster decisions and more money?
Come to this workshop at Product Camp and you will leave way more equipped to use day-to-day 2 minute feedback in your team to everyone’s advantage! Whether you work with partners, contractors outside the US, employees, relatives, or anyone else, I can say with certainty that you AND all of your team members have access to valuable information that’s not being communicated.

Leaders, and particularly technical leaders, are typically reluctant to share their observations with people they work with. I’ll quickly show you why this happens, why it’s a problem, and how to turn it around–to your advantage. The popular impression is that giving someone feedback is like putting them (and especially yourself) in a torture chamber. The opposite is actually true. Where HELPFUL feedback flows freely and frequently, great things happen and people are HAPPIER!

You’ll get to pinpoint your own blocks to feedback and learn how to start doing feedback in the ways that will benefit your new enterprise the most!

This post added by guest blogger Anna Carroll discussing her proposed session for ProductCamp Austin 7. Read more about Anna Carroll.