The Department of Product


Thursday, 24 November, 2022

A new calendar app with a twist, Amazon’s Alexa troubles, Notion adds AI writing capabilities and Shipt’s Director of Product shares a framework for hiring product people

Thursday, 24 November, 2022

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Hello product people,

The market may be reaching a saturation point but that doesn’t mean we won’t share a calendar app we think is worth checking out. Ready is a new calendar app with a twist: it not only allows you to schedule and manage meetings like a conventional calendar, but it also bundles a bunch of productivity tools inside every meeting instance. In essence, the meeting itself becomes a canvas for everything relating to it. Each meeting comes with preset templates, embeds for third party applications like Figma and smart tasks that can be assigned to team members. Other features include a scrollable timeline dubbed Time Travel and Threads to manage subtasks. You can check out a demo of Ready in action here.

Another productivity tool making headlines this week is product favorite Notion. The company has announced the release of its first AI-powered features with Notion AI. Not wanting to miss out on the buzz of generative AI, Notion AI allows content creators and users more generally to write blog posts, meeting agendas, job descriptions and more. Product related use cases we have in mind include user story writing, release notes and sales decks, but we may still be a little while away from those yet. Notion AI is currently in a closed Alpha but is expected to be more widely released in the coming months once the initial testing phase is complete.

Whilst commentators are lauding generative AI as the next paradigm shift, remember when voice assistants were the future? In a grim announcement by Amazon’s Senior VP of Devices and Services, the company confirmed that the teams responsible for building Alexa will be next to face a series of layoffs. According to reports, Alexa is costing the company an eye watering $10 billion a year and with developer sentiment cooling in recent years, the company is scratching its head about where the future of voice activated assistants is headed. 

Meanwhile, TikTok has begun testing its newly developed research API. The new API is designed to allow scientific researchers to identify and assess content or trends and conduct analysis on content that is being created and shared on TikTok. The new API is part of a series of initiatives by the company’s Content and Safety Advisory Council and comes as the social network is under fire from US lawmakers who warn that the company could pose a national security risk.

Finally, if you’re looking for ways to make your presentation decks more interactive check out this new tool.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

PS – this is your last chance to contribute to the Department of Product’s 2 minute survey on salary benchmarks, working culture, skill gaps and more. Share your experiences here.



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Your product briefing


Podcast – Shipt’s Director of Product outlines a 4 factor framework for hiring PMs

Vishal Kapoor is the Director of Product at Shipt where he leads two mission critical product groups: Order Bundling, and Shopper Earnings, which together manage billions of dollars of P&L annually. Prior to Shipt, Vishal was lead product manager at Lyft and spent 7 years in product at games maker Zynga. Vishal also has experience as a software engineer at Microsoft and Amazon.

Vishal’s leadership Product Stack includes:

  1. 4 factor framework: Strategic Planning, Accountability, Communication, Collaboration
  2. OKRs for achieving and tracking outcomes
  3. Experimentation 

  (Department of Product)


Tools – Konbert – a tool to convert data into different formats

Konbert is a fast, secure and easy to use conversion tool that works both with small and huge datasets. It supports reading and writing the most common formats: CSV, JSON, Avro, Excel, SQL, XML and HTML. (Product Hunt)


Career development – How to become a customer-centric product leader

When I was a fresh product leader, we were rebuilding our mobile apps at the same time as tripling the size of the team. We had done a great job of hiring lots of Product Managers and Engineers. We had a whole new team of Engineers and two Product managers. We hadn’t had as much luck with product design and research. (UX Collective)


Tools – A CMS with high developer satisfaction

Once a CMS has become embedded into your company’s culture, it can be hard to change it later. Which CMS to use is a critical choice. In the newest Jamstack report, Storyblok was tracked for the first time and rated highly by developers. Why? Because Storyblok builds a bridge between content creators and developers – without forcing developers into a technology. 95,000+ teams already use Storyblok to scale their content operations. Watch the demo, or try it for free. (Sponsored)


New product features – Google unveils Dish Search functionality

Once you find a specific dish that you’re looking for, you can get more information about its price, ingredients and more. The feature uses Google’s multi search functionality. In the coming months, you will be able to use the “Multisearch Near Me” tool to see, for example, which bakeries near you actually offer the pastry you want so you can try it out yourself. (Google)


Technology case studies – How Shopify implements server-driven UI architecture

Server-driven UI architecture allows us to launch experiments whenever we deem necessary, and to run these experiments across different templates and layouts for merchants. This is made possible by the back end being able to control which experiments are currently being run, and which templates and layouts are to be shown for a merchant. (Shopify Engineering Blog)


UX – How to assess the usability of Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality (AR) enhances the real world with an additional layer of information. This novel technology has great potential and applications in various contexts and domains. We conducted a mobile usability-testing study with 4 remote and 7 in-person participants to get insights into issues and opportunities surrounding the user experience of mobile AR apps. For this study, we tested variety of AR applications from various domains such as fitness, entertainment, ecommerce, tourism, art and history, education, and science. (NN Group)


Twitter discussion threads 
What do product people think of Elon’s Twitter takeover?


New product launches – WhatsApp launches business directory in 5 new countries

Following a pilot in São Paulo, users across Brazil will now be able to search for business WhatsApp accounts. The directory is also rolling out in the UK, Indonesia, Colombia, and Mexico. (The Verge)


Webinar – Tony Ulwick on Product Success with Jobs to Be Done

When the product innovation process begins with ideas, the process is likely to fail. So, why not adopt a scientific approach to innovation? Join us on December 7th at 11 AM PST as Tony Ulwick, author of What Customers Want, will take you on an inspiring journey that will help you see the process of innovation through a new lens of Jobs to Be Done. (Sendbird ad)


Other product news in brief

Featured jobs

A selection of the latest jobs posted on the Department of Product job board.


Technical product lead, Shopify (US / remote)

Shopify is a cloud-based, multi-channel commerce platform designed for small and medium-sized businesses.


Senior product manager, Spreedly (US / remote)

Spreedly is cloud-based payment infrastructure that allows businesses to work with multiple payment gateways simultaneously.

All yours, all free. Enter your email to receive your briefing.

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