The Department of Product


Thursday, 02 November, 2023

Google Slides' superpowers, a Sublime second brain, Pinterest's PMF Plus: Tech salary report, how to manage API integrations, Spotify, Instagram and LinkedIn MAUs in context

Hi product people 👋,

This week, we came across an intriguing but beautiful new product that promises to be a simpler way to build a second brain. Sublime is a new app which allows you to curate a library for all of the information you care about in one place. Its UI is a simple white, infinite canvas and the product is designed to help you feel calmer when browsing information you’ve saved for future reference. They’ve infused some incredibly satisfying sound effects into their product design and you can check it out here.

Other products worth checking out this week include a new customer support startup called Plain. Plain describes itself as ‘CS without the BS’ and is positioning itself as a modern customer service tool to support modern product development teams. To prove that, Plain integrates with other product favorites like Linear and Slack and some of its most powerful features include the ability to embed bug report forms directly into your product along with a feature that integrates real customer data into specific support issues. The company raised $6 million in seed funding last year and is hoping to become part of the modern product team’s tool stack.

Meanwhile, earnings season continued this week and it was Pinterest that impressed the most. The company reported an 11% increase in revenues, with revenues of $753.2 million and MAUs were up 8% to 482 million, an all time high.. The company’s CEO Bill Ready used the earnings report to reiterate some of Pinterest’s unique product differentiators: visual search, discovery and the a new shopping platform were all examples of new products that were finding their “best product market fit in years”.

Finally, if you’re looking for new ways to test pricing and positioning before releasing a new product or feature, this tool could really help

Enjoy the rest of your week!


Essential reads for product teams

New from the Department of Product Substack this week:

🧠Knowledge Series – How to manage API integrations

In this Knowledge Series, we explore some of the most important aspects of managing third party API integrations so that you’re fully equipped to deal with the complexities of API integrations and everything they entails. (Department of Product)

Process – Do OKRs improve or inhibit decision making?

OKRs are a tremendous improvement on traditional output-driven project planning, but they weren’t designed as a substitute for strategy. (UX Collective)

Strategy – The essential components of powerful product positioning

Former Huawei and IBM exec April Dunford is a positioning expert and author of “Obviously Awesome”. In this talk, she teaches you everything you need to know about the world of positioning, sales pitches, and product messaging. (YouTube)

Org design – The dark side of Marty Caganization

The truth is – not all organizations are either fit or at stage to move to this empowered product team setup. Sometimes, there needs to be fit-analysis or some pre-work needs to be done before moving to an empowered team setup.  (Bandan Jot Singh, Productify)

UX – How to create a customer service bot users don’t hate

Service bots are revolutionizing the marketplace, from traditional retail and food-and-beverage to health care. These autonomous systems, from physical robots to digital chatbots, are designed to interact with and serve customers. But many customers are dissatisfied with service bots. (Harvard Business Review)

Tools you can use

  • Genvid – magically create a SaaS product demo video by sharing a test account login 

  • Groupthink – join a meeting, take notes and share a summary – even if you didn’t attend

  • AI GPT for Google Slides – add AI superpowers to your Google Slides 

  • Journal – the new journaling app from Apple which can be used in a professional context, too

New product features, launches and announcements this week

ChatGPT is rolling out some new experimental features to beta users. For product teams, one feature in particular could prove to be useful. The Advanced Data Analysis feature allows users to upload a file to ChatGPT. Once processed, users can ask specific questions about the data and ask ChatGPT to perform tasks such as creating summaries which could be shared with stakeholders or generate data visualisations based on prompts.

Adobe has filed a patent for “fact correction of natural language sentences” designed to fight fake news. Adobe’s method uses multiple AI models to break sentences down into pieces to analyze their accuracy. 

Shopify has expanded its Shop and Shop Cash products to the web. Shop is essentially a search engine which aggregates inventory from Shopify stores, bolstering its network effects. The company’s payment processor, Shopify Payments, has a ~14% market share, making it the world’s third largest payment processor.

Google Calendar has launched its new feature for scheduling meetings. Appointment Schedule allows users to create a single booking page and accept unlimited appointments at no charge.

📈 Product data and trends to stay informed

Following Spotify’s recent announcement that it now boasts over 500 million monthly active users, here’s MAUs across other products in perspective:

66% of interactions with customer service chatbots were rated 1 out of 5. Full research paper.

Amazon revenue jumped 13% in its latest quarter, ahead of expectations, as advertising and AWS drove profits just shy of $10bn. Ad revenue now stands at $12.1 billion, up an impressive 26% year on year.

Generative AI has a new use case: political campaigning. Indian PM Modi supporters have used AI voice cloning to create covers of famous Bollywood tracks. One video has amassed over 3.4 million views.

US tech salaries are at a 5 year low, decreasing 9% from $141,000 to $129,000 from 2022 to mid-2023. The number of open roles in higher cost of living markets has decreased by 19. The San Francisco Bay Area saw the most significant decrease in role volume. Full State of Tech Salaries report. 

55% of people on Zoom calls still wave to say goodbye when they’re ending a call.

Other product news in brief

Google has committed to investing $2 billion to AI startup and OpenAI rival Anthropic.

Troubled AR startup Magic Leap has appointed Ross Rosenberg as its new CEO.

Reddit is reportedly meeting with top genAI companies about a new commercial model for access to its API. If a deal can’t be reached, Reddit is considering blocking search engine access.

Without us by digital artist federicoclapis. This piece presents the Earth as an industrial sized tamagotchi we need to nurture and care for.
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Product Briefing – July 27, 2023

Shopify’s $1600 meetings and Netflix’s ad-funded success
Plus: a tool to free your mind, how to use developer tools and a summer reading list

Product Briefing – July 20, 2023

Microsoft fights AI fatigue and Roblox’s vision for a new economy. Plus: a new tool for task automation, TikTok’s new music app and Google Docs gets a notebook

Product Briefing – July 13, 2023

Gmail and Stripe punish no shows and Twilio’s new API. Plus: YouTube gets screen locks, DeepMind’s CEO talks and a note taking ‘studio for your mind’

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