Brian Bailey

Dreaming up Uncommon in Common, a front porch for Internet. Product manager at Pingboard. Formerly Return Path and Gowalla.

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Horizontal and Vertical Communties

Communities take many different forms, but most can be classified as horizontal or vertical.

A vertical community is driven by aspiration, a mix of wish and ambition. There is a desire to emulate and embrace what the best of the community represent.

Vertical communities rely on celebrities at the top of the scale. Sometimes these are celebrities in the pop culture sense, but every community has a form of celebrity, the people who attract the lion’s share of interest. They are the reason most try a service and why they return.

Celebrities define success for the community and motivate those who aspire to achieve the same status. Vertical communities often have a score of sorts and a person’s status relative to others is fluid.

The heart of horizontal communities, on the other hand, is affinity. People are drawn by a sense of belonging and commonality. There’s an...

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Is there anybody (else) out there?

Every few months, it seems a new, beautifully designed project launches featuring interviews and profiles of designers.

Cheers and high fives to anyone who pulls it off. Bringing something new into the world is a great thing.

I’m struck, though, by how many of these feature the same group of designers, people who speak and write in high profile venues and who have been profiled many times before. They, too, are wonderful people who have earned their success. Their stories, perspectives, and advice are very valuable.

But there are so many other voices out there. Designers are some of my favorite people. I’m amazed by (and envious of) their talent, but they are endlessly fascinating people, with a unique way of looking at things and wildly diverse interests. Even better, they are humble and honest about their craft and struggles.

We would all benefit from widening the...

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One Year Later

One year ago, my sister, Laura, passed way. Such a sad time that was, so much hurt and heartache at the loss of a uniquely wonderful person.

Trying to process it all that weekend, I wrote Saying Goodbye to a Sister. I included a link to a memorial fund, as her medical expenses had grown quite large.

And that’s when the Internet gave me one of life’s great gifts, the gift of slowly coloring the edges of a dark and painful experience with goodness and warmth. More and more, when I look back, I think of those things, good deeds in a weary world.

I’m grateful for people like Om and Semil, so genuine in their concern and offers of help. Someone posted a link to the post on Hacker News of all places, and next thing I knew, strangers were donating to the memorial fund. Friends gave beyond their means.

Daniel wrote “I’m placing Laura under People I’m Sad I...

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What Project Management Tools Are Missing

If you’re building an app or website, you’re likely using a tool to manage the process, such as Basecamp, Trello, Pivotal Tracker, GitHub Issues, or Sprintly. Some teams use a combination of these (one for big picture planning, one for specific tasks, for instance) and also incorporate more specific apps like InVision for design feedback.

Each of these has its own approach to tracking tasks and progress, sharing images and documents, and enabling discussion. Once you choose the best tool for your team and establish a workflow, you can turn your focus to building great products.

A few months later, it’s common to encounter increasing frustration with your choice and start to wonder if you made a mistake. Conversations start happening in other tools, a Google Doc becomes the de facto backlog, and people start adding work to the project tool after they’ve finished...

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On Board

Next month, I’m thrilled to join Pingboard, a new Austin startup.

Pingboard sets out to solve one of the core problems faced by small and medium size companies: how to add, update, organize, and harness employee data. The problem looks like disparate Google spreadsheets and a hodgepodge of information silos; the result is overworked studio managers and disconnected employees.

I’ve had the privilege of working on interesting products during my time at Gowalla and, more recently, Return Path. My focus has been on consumer apps, but I’ve long been fascinated by products that solve problems for people at work. Watching and learning from great services like Intercom, Sifter, Basecamp, Asana, Slack, and Editorially is an ongoing pastime. As a product manager, I’m eager for the challenge of creating tools that make the hours we spend at work easier, more productive,...

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Meetings Shouldn’t Be Free

If a company’s most valuable asset is the time and talent of its employees, why is it easy to schedule lengthy meetings with multiple participants? Increasing the cost and effort involved in arranging meetings would make them rarer and more valuable.

Though meetings are often necessary and productive, they can become the default response to uncertainty. If there are questions or unknowns and the next step isn’t clear, a meeting is organized with everyone who has a stake in the decision or might contribute to the conversation.

The problems with meetings are well known. They are typically longer and include more people than needed. The decision making process is sometimes made more difficult, not less. Also, meetings interrupt work and focus, meaning the time before and after what’s blocked out on the calendar is negatively affected as well.

What if there was a cost...

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Picking Up Where You Left Off

A challenge in any side project is the limited amount of time you can dedicate to it. Evenings and weekend are always shorter than you wish they were, and that time is usually already filled with friends and family, errands and excursions, and the rare break from our tools of choice.

The small and inconsistent amount of time itself isn’t the primary challenge, though. It’s how that breaks your flow and momentum. Whatever the side project is—a novel, piece of furniture, open source project, app, travel journal, garden, or website—when you find a free moment to work on it, the first thought is, “Now, where was I?”

Day jobs are great at maintaining that context hour after hour, week after week. Everything is familiar and the thread between what you worked on yesterday and what you should work on next is strong.

Take a week off from your day job, though, and you...

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The Block Plan

My house is swimming in college brochures and data as we search for the perfect school for my son. Since I loved college and am fascinated by the academic world, I’m enjoying this part of the process a lot (more than the part when we drop him off at the winning school, I suspect).

I’m especially intrigued by the ways colleges distinguish themselves. There are a handful of schools that operate on a block plan (the most prominent one is Colorado College). I had never heard of this approach and though my son remains unconvinced, I think it’s very clever. Not just as a way to run a school, though, but potentially as a way to run a business.

The block plan works like this. Each students takes a single course at a time and the entire campus operates on the same schedule. The classes meet Monday-Friday and last for 3.5 weeks. They end at noon on Wednesday of the fourth...

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A Festival, Not a Conference

With the debut of the PanelPicker, South By Southwest Interactive season is here once again. There is much to love about SXSW. I have many fond memories of attending and now that I live in Austin, I can’t help but enjoy the benefit of so many amazing people coming to town.

I fully understand those who avoid Austin each March, though. At the massive scale it has reached, the best and worst of the web are equally represented. There is a good chance your favorite sessions will be filled to capacity or you’ll enjoy it from the floor. You’ll will pay outrageous amounts for a hotel room and count yourself lucky.

Two things may improve your SXSW experience. The first is be intentional about who you want to catch up with. Telling someone you’ll see them at the opening night party or around town doesn’t work; the chances of bumping into someone are miniscule....

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A Window on the Web

South By Southwest Interactive released this year’s PanelPicker. Each year, sessions are posted online for people to vote for which ones they’d like to see (votes count for 30% in the deciding process).

Nearly 3,000 talks and panels were submitted. They provide a small window into what a cross-section of people involved with the web and technology are thinking about (or perhaps, what they think others want to hear about).

I used the search tool on a long list of words and companies and found a few interesting stories within the results. You might, too.

Keyword | Total Number of Panel Matches

  • social 867
  • community 602
  • content 559
  • mobile 481
  • future 436
  • startup 332
  • story 332
  • network 293
  • advertising 280
  • Facebook 168
  • Google 160
  • launch 160
  • big data 153
  • Twitter 142
  • responsive 137
  • love 128
  • smartphone 104
  • distributed 98
  • venture 96
  • privacy 93
  • politics 87
  • location 84
  • journalism 80
  • ...

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