The Department of Product


Thursday, 13 April, 2023

Music labels fight AI voice clones and the next big TikTok trend Plus: a new product to integrate passwordless authentication, user testing gets ML friction detection and Facebook’s 10 year roadmap revisited

Hello product people 👋,

UserTesting is the latest company to share its vision of how AI can improve product development. This week, the company unveiled a new feature that uses machine learning to automatically detect friction in user journeys. ML models are trained to look for indicators such as excessive scrolling, clicking or other indicators, as well as ‘intent paths’ which work by identifying the user’s intent and assessing whether or not the user was able to achieve their intended goal.

But while this kind of data model training may be perfectly legitimate for product development, there’s one industry that’s not too happy about how its application could destroy its business model. 

“Data laundering” is a new term coined to describe activities that include training AI voice clones on large data sets without necessarily getting permission from the original copyright owner. And the music industry has woken up to the threat it poses to artists. Under US and UK intellectual property law, the practice is legal for non-commercial purposes. But now, the Recording Industry Association of America and record label Universal Music Group have written to streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music to express their fears that data laundering plus generative AI could lead to new tracks or albums that sound exactly like an artist’s work. 

Google research paper shows how music can now be created from simple text descriptions alone, and recent examples of Gen AI clones include original tracks using Jay Z’s voice under the hashtag #notjayz.

Could copyright laws evolve to allow artists to ‘own’ their digital voiceprint? And what happens if fans prefer the AI generated music?

In other news this week, the latest VC funding reports show that European startup investment dropped 66% year on year in Q1. Startups raised a total of $10.6 billion in funding, with seed funding dropping 25% on the quarter. It’s hoped that now that most of the major cuts in big tech are over, earlier stage startups could start to see a return to growth as investor confidence grows.

Finally, if you enjoy co-browsing with peers to review designs or brainstorm ideas but would rather not share your entire screen, this new tool could help.

Enjoy the rest of your week!


Process – How to conduct discovery kick off workshops

Starting discovery with a structured kick-off workshop can create alignment and set your discovery efforts up for success. (NN Group)


Tools you can use – Drag-and-drop passwordless authentication

Easily add passwordless auth like magic links, passkeys, and social logins to your app with Descope. Simplify onboarding, improve conversions, and nip password-based cyberattacks in the bud. (Sponsored)


Tweets to ponder

Facebook’s 10 year product roadmap published in 2016. Aside from the nebulously worded ‘lasers’, much of this is still fairly accurate. A symptom of lack of agility or proof that long term planning is preferable for larger corporates?


Talks to watch – Why the 6 month AI pause is a bad idea

DeepLearningAI presents a conversation with Andrew Ng and Yann LeCun as they discuss the proposal of a 6-month moratorium on generative AI – and why they think it’s a bad idea.


Technical case studies – How Lyft’s Machine Learning boosts developer productivity

As more big data frameworks come into the landscape of data science, we need to choose the best tool for each part of the job. One of the important pieces of the LyftLearn platform is to provide data practitioners the flexibility and simplicity to choose the best tool for each job. (Lyft’s Engineering Blog)


Interview – Tim Cook on shaping the future of Apple

As Apple CEO, he has defied his skeptics and refashioned the world’s most creative company on his own exacting terms. Now, in a frank conversation, he offers new insight into his leadership—explaining why he sees himself as an outsider, how he asserts Apple’s values, and what he does to keep from staring at his iPhone all day. (GQ)


Insights – 3 ways companies are getting customer experience wrong

Most businesses profess to having a “customer first” philosophy. And many have created their own customer experience (CX) function to fuel higher customer retention, brand reputation, and recurring revenues. But, many companies’ CX strategies have fallen out of sync with post-pandemic customer realities. (Harvard Business Review)

New product features, launches and announcements this week

Product-centric analytics company June has launched new AI-powered features including the ability to query using plain English and save useful queries to share with team members. 

Substack has launched Notes – a new feature that allows Substack writers and readers to share snippets of content or recommendations. The feature is heavily inspired by Twitter and comes following a spat between Substack and Twitter where Elon Musk accused the company of ‘trying to download a massive portion of the Twitter database’ to bootstrap it. 

WhatsApp is adding contact editing directly inside the app for the first time.

Tiktok has launched a new GIF-like video stickers feature which allows users to either choose from a preset of stickers or create their own from their video libraries.

Discord is launching an in-app soundboard that will allow users to play sounds in a channel. Each server’s owner can upload a series of sounds for the rest of the server’s members to use on a voice call. Other new features include Super Reactions – which allow users to add extra large animation emojis in text chats. The new features are available for the company’s Nitro subscribers.

LinkedIn rolls out ID verification features which will be made available free to all members. These include the ability to verify your workplace using a work email.

Insights and trends to stay informed

Stanford University’s annual AI Index Report shows AI repository publications dropping to 20.54% for the European Union and UK, 25.48% for the US and China rising to 11.87%.

Other data points worth noting from the report:

  • AI systems can now correctly answer visual reasoning questions with 84% accuracy

  • AI outperforms humans on reading comprehension, registering a score of 91.3%, higher than the 89% human baseline

  • Developers who use Github Copilot took 56% less time than the developers who did not use Copilot

Forget BookTok, WitchTok and FitTok, the next TikTok trend is… WaterTok. Creators are obsessed with hydration and they’re going deep on ways to make drinking water fun. Pina Colada water anyone?

NFT creators have earned more than $1.9 billion in royalties according to the latest State of Crypto report from Andreessen Horowitz.

Stripe processed more than $817 billion in total volume in 2022, up 26% year on year, according to its annual letter to investors.

💵🧠 5 essential fintech terms worth knowing

If you’ve found yourself working on a fintech product or dealing with Stripe integrations for the first time, here’s some payment terms you can add to your product brain:

  1. Payment gateways are third-party services that facilitate the secure transmission of payment data between merchants and customers.

  2. PCI compliance refers to adherence to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, a set of requirements designed to ensure the security of credit and debit card transactions. If you use a payment gateway, this removes the burden of having to be PCI compliant; the payment gateway is PCI compliant instead so that you don’t have to be

  3. Tokenization is the process of replacing sensitive data with unique tokens to reduce the risk of data theft during payment transactions.

  4. HTTPS, TLS and SSL are encryption protocols used to protect the confidentiality and integrity of data transmitted over the internet during payment transactions.

  5. Payment APIs and webhooks – Payment APIs allow developers to integrate payment functionality into their products. Payment webhooks are notifications that typically inform merchants of payment events.

Other industry news in brief

TikTok’s parent company Bytedance has posted record profits with earnings of around $25 billion dollars, according to reports.

Apple’s long time brand steward and communications exec Katie Cotton has died.

Silicon Valley Bank’s chief risk officer is departing, just months after taking up the job. SVB’s chief audit executive is also reported to be leaving the business.

Microsoft exec Joseph Staten is leaving the company.

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