Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

Feature creep – why apps get too complicated

When an app has too many features and pop ups, most users get confused and frustrated. This is feature creep: when the product’s core functionality becomes hidden in too many options and things to do.

Feature creep happens when a team is determined to stay productive, but loses sight of its strategy. Sometimes stopping is better for the product than doing more.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Feature creep is problematic for two main reasons: it confuses users and it costs money. This is because product teams have to be paid to design and code, and you also have to pay cloud costs to store your pointless features.
  • Feature creep happens when there is a pressure to produce, which is contrary to the ability to focus. It can be easier to present new features as productivity to investors and corporate bosses, rather than saying that the product team took time to review results and reflect.
  • To prevent feature creep, go back to the fundamental product development questions...
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Learning effects: why getting more users isn't the only key to success

You've probably heard about network effects, but they aren't the only thing you need. Learning effects build the ultimate moat against your competition.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • You get better at speaking a language the more you practice and correct your mistakes. It is the same with algorithms: they get better with time and training.
  • The more time and data you have to train an algorithm the more accurate the algorithm’s output will be, and also, the more complex the problems it can solve.
  • “Learning effects can either capture or add value to existing network effects or generate value in their own right.” – Competing in the Age of AI, by Marco Iansiti and Karim Lakhani
  • Companies that have been training machine learning algorithms for longer are at a competitive advantage. Strong learning effects make it impossible for competitors to catch up.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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What makes platform businesses SO successful

Facebook disrupted the media market forever. The Apple App Store created the app economy, valued at $6.3 trillion today. What makes platforms like these SO successful?

In this episode, you will learn the core concepts behind platform businesses, so you can identify platforms in the making or build them yourself.

This is the beginning of a mini-series on platform fundamentals at Tech for Non-Techies.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Platform businesses have been around for millennia. A market square is a platform business. Technology just allowed these businesses to reach more scale and make more money than ever before.
  • Most traditional businesses are pipeline businesses. A pipeline business employs a step-by-step arrangement for creating and transferring value with producers at one end and consumers on the other. For example, Ford makes cars and sells them to consumers.
  • Pipeline businesses grow and prosper if they have Supply Economies of Scale. If Ford makes lots of...
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What is coding? The quick guide for non-coders

The terms coding and programming are ubiquitous, yet many non-technical professionals do not know what they mean in practice. Why are there different coding languages? What do developers actually do?

This is what you'll learn in this episode.

Learning notes:

  • Data is information that you can use to do something with. For example, your shopping list is information that you use to remember what food to buy when you go to the supermarket.
  • Technology is what you use to create, store or communicate that data. In our shopping list example, it could be pen and paper, or the notes app on your phone. 
  • In order to make software, you have to tell a computer what to do. You do this via a programming language. All digital technologies are created by using specific coding languages to turn data into useful outcomes.
  • Python Java, C++ and Ruby are the most popular languages  today. But, there are 256 coding languages in use today.
  • Binary code, also known as ...
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What UX designers do and how to work with them

”Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it's this veneer — that the designers are told, 'Make it look good! ' That's not what design is. It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works,” - Steve Jobs 

In this episode, you''ll hear from Sarah Doody, a UX designer who has worked for the likes of Vice Media and Dow Jones. Today Sarah runs Career Strategy Lab, a school for UX designers. 

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "User experience design is how you interact with a product, whether it's digital, physical or a mix of both," Sarah Doody.
  • When hiring a UX designer, think about the outcome that you want, rather than the process. E.g. Do you want a prototype to test an idea? Then you don't need the same level of attention to graphics as you would for a design you would give to developers. 
  • If you want to transition into a career in UX design, your experience in another...
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How tech companies bring new ideas to life

If you have an idea for a new product in a traditional business, you will probably have to work on an extensive plan before you do anything else.

This is not how it works in tech companies. When the likes of Airbnb and Slack bring new apps or features to market, they use the Sprint Method. It is a methodology developed by Google Ventures to bring new ideas to life and test them quickly and cheaply.

Learn how this works in this podcast.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • The aim of a sprint is to test an idea for a new product to find out whether it is worth investing more money in. For example, you can use a sprint to test an idea for an app by creating a prototype. If users like what you’ve made, only then should you hire developers.
  • Each sprint should focus on one idea to test. Do not try to test multiple ideas in one sprint.
  • To figure out where the biggest risks in a new idea lie, ask yourself: if this time in a year, this project failed, why would it have done so?
  • A sprint...
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Intro to agile for non-techies

Agile is now a ubiquitous management term, but few people understand what it means in practice.

For some products, agile is THE BEST system, for others, it is THE WORST.

Listen to this week’s episode to find out what it is, how it works in practice, when to use it and when to avoid it.

You’ll hear how WhatsApp used this methodology to release its first product, and learn how to use it yourself.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • There are two methodologies to make things: waterfall and agile.
  • Waterfall came from manufacturing and construction and emphasises planning in order to release a perfect product. For example, if you’re building a house, you need to plan ahead and only let people move in to live in it when it is complete.
  • Agile methodology is an iterative process, used by software developers. Simple changes get released frequently, in response to user needs or technological changes. The product is by definition never complete, because it is always changing.
  • ...
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Why cloud computing isn't just for techies

You’ve probably heard the term cloud computing, but like most non-techies, you’re not sure what it means. In this episode, you’ll learn what it is and how businesses use it to solve problems.

You’ll learn from DJ Johnson, who works at Microsoft Azure. DJ started his career as an NBA player and transitioned into a career in tech.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Cloud computing allows businesses to rent space to store data. Previously, companies had to store data on their own servers, which was much more expensive.
  • The two biggest players in cloud computing are Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
  • As a non-techie, first identify business problems and then see if technology can fix them.
  • For example, during Covid when suddenly many people ended up working from home, one of DJ’s clients suffered from major time lags in their communications. Their internal messenger service was taking 3 days to deliver a message! This was making customers...
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There are no lone wolves in tech: all products are interconnected

Every app and site is made up of lots of different tech tools and languages. Like a house, one part is built on top of another and they need each other to function. If one part of the structure breaks, the rest can fall down too. 

These are called dependencies. To keep a product working, all the dependencies need to work together. This is part of the invisible work that software engineers do.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • A tech stack describes all the tools and programming languages used to build an app or a site. Some of those tools are custom made, some are rented as licences and others plug you into a bigger ecosystem.
  • Examples of bigger eco-systems that many products depend on are the Apple App Store, Google Play and Amazon Web Services. If one of these ecosystems has a problem, the apps and sites they support will have issues too. An app on the Apple App Store depends on Apple, hence the term dependency.
  • Product teams have to update...
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What on Earth is growth hacking?

Why do some products go viral and others die a quiet death? The answer lies in growth hacking. 

Growth hacking is a type of marketing that combines working on the product, which is an inside job, and working on promotion, which is an outside job. It is a new discipline born with the tech sector, and growing in popularity today.

Learning notes from this episode:

    • The Dropbox growth hacking case study is still seen as the Holy Grail in the sector. The team created a double referral program to grow 3900% in just 15 months.
    • A growth hacking effort is always done by a multi-disciplinary team, and will often involve a product manager, a designer, a community manager, engineers, someone with a marketing or PR background, and maybe a data scientist.

    • Traditional marketing is outside facing: billboards, TV ads and articles in the press.  Growth hacking is different because it looks at the inside of the product, and adjusts it to grow users and revenue.

    • PR...
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