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Episode 41 November 29, 2016 | 28min

Introducing Postlight Labs

Our co-founders explain Postlight Labs—a space for experimentation within the company.

Show Notes

A new division of Postlight: this week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade debut Postlight Labs, a recently-launched space for innovation and experimentation within the company. They discuss Labs’ inception and some of the thinking behind its mission, and then detail three products Postlight has launched already: the Mercury AMP tool, Lux, a JavaScript framework, and SOTU, a tool that helps managers check the status of a project on Slack.

Paul Ford: Hi, I’m Paul Ford.

Rich Ziade: And I am Rich Ziade.

Paul: We are the co-founders of Postlight, and this is Track Changes, our official podcast. Postlight is a digital product studio in New York City and well, Rich, today we don’t have a guest. We just have ourselves.

Rich: And that’s fine and good.

Paul: I have a cold.

Rich: I can tell. I feel a little bad for you.

Paul: Yeah, I know. My voice is really nasally so feel bad for the thousands of people who are going to listen to this program and have to listen to my voice. I’ve tried everything.

Rich: Honey. Ginger.

Paul: Everything. Everything.

Rich: What is it? Witch hazel or something?

Paul: I tried a neti gun. Nothing works.

Rich: Oh. I don’t want to be around for that.

Paul: No.

Rich: That is not safe.

Paul: It’s a bad scene. So whatever. Sinuses, the problem of dads worldwide, now brought to you live on your podcast.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: [weary sigh]

Rich: So. We do have something exciting to share, though.

Paul: Oh my God, we’re doing stuff. You know, we are gonna talk — we did something new. We’re doing something new.

Rich: We did.

Paul: We’re doing new things.

Rich: We threw an event a little while ago.

Paul: We did, and it was the event to launch Postlight Labs.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: What’s a lab?

Rich: You know, it’s a weighty thing, right? When you say labs it’s like, what are you doing? You’re not even a year old.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: You have a department in your company?

Paul: You need more departments? Because we already have engineering, product management, design.

Rich: That’s not really a department. That’s just the disciplines.

Paul: Those are the disciplines. Well they kind of, they have their own leadership, but they’re very, they function to, like, get people — get clients their products.

Rich: That’s right. So our job —

Paul: Most often. We’re an agency or a studio.

Rich: We are hired to ship stuff or help people ship stuff. And usually there is infused into that mandate is a lot of conservative thinking. There’s a particular budget that we can’t go over. There is a thing, we have to check certain boxes, otherwise it’s a failure.

Paul: Can I make an observation there, too? It’s actually hard to go fast.

Rich: Of course. Of course.

Paul: When you’re working with a client because you need consensus. You need buy in. They need to know —

Rich: Round trips.

Paul: It’s expensive to build software, so there’s a lot of gating mechanisms that you go up against them, you wait a minute, then they so go and then you build a thing.

Rich: Exactly. And we’re builders, and when you’re a builder, there’s almost a childlike curiosity and enthusiasm around an idea and how you want to see it become real.

Paul: Play. We all got into this business because we like to play with computers.

Rich: I…Yes, agreed. The thinking around labs — and it is not something that automatically just because you put a “labs” shingle up, means you’re gonna be able to do it. The thinking around it is this is a place where you can take more risks, where you can explore whether your idea can become something, or maybe will become something, and it’s a place where we actually encourage that sort of risk. And the thinking is to share out, hopefully, what we make — sometimes stuff’s left on the floor, right? A lot of labs, even labs in universities and in pharmaceutical companies, a lot of stuff never makes it out because it failed.

Paul: Right.

Rich: So stuff fails.

Paul: Failure is no big deal.

Rich: Failure is no big deal.

Paul: You’re gonna assume it, in fact.

Rich: You should assume it. If it’s safe, simple, basic, run-of-the-mill stuff, it’s not really a lab project.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And the thinking is that, you know, people at Postlight and possibly people outside of Postlight may partner up with us to go on these expeditions where riskier stuff gets designed and built.

Paul: Because there’s these big questions out in the world. Look, I’ve seen a lot of labs. I’ve looked at lots of labs over time, and there’s Bell Labs —

Rich: Right, right.

Paul: Which the transistor was, came out. And then there are these media lab environments, which tend to get in trouble after a couple of years. They get a little mandate and then they’re like, “Hey, look at this. It’s a coat hanger that will tell you the time.”

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: And everyone’s like, “Huh, that’s not what I expected from my cable television provider.”

Rich: Right. Or the get, “Hey, clever, but what’d you do here? That’s our revenue source.”

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: “You sidestepped it.”

Paul: Yeah, that’s true.

Rich: Right, you just built a thing that makes our value proposition irrelevant. And so, button that up. Put that back in the drawer. [laughter]

Paul: Yeah, let’s put that away. Let’s put that way.

Rich: So, you get — exactly. And the thing I think is interesting about our position in this is that we don’t live inside that broader mandate, which is to sell advertising or to sell units or to get subscribers or whatever.

Paul: If you had a mission for our organization, right, it’s to ship really good product really, really fast.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: So that lots of people can use it sooner.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: That’s really keeping with the goal of a labs. The danger in labs is lack of discipline.

Rich: Which sounds counterintuitive, right?

Paul: You gotta give people room and time to play, but they also have to turn that into something or share it out.

Rich: Yes. So I think this was in, this has been in our DNA from day one. In fact, we built a thing, frankly in the middle, if you think about the timing of GIF Battle. We built this app called GIF Battle.

Paul: All right, so the thing was, we were supposed to do an animated holiday card.

Rich: A GIF that we send out to everybody.

Paul: Yeah, it was gonna be an animated GIF, but somehow through the process of people being involved, it turned into an animated-GIF-chat-battle-scoring app.

Rich: Which is insane, right?

Paul: Yeah. You can go to gifbattle.zone and have a GIF battle with your friend right now.

Rich: I have to tell you I don’t really know how that got greenlit, right? Because if you add up, if you want to be really diligent about the dollars behind the cost initiatives —

Paul: Oh, it was my fault. That one was my fault.

Rich: OK, whatever.

Paul: I got it —

Rich: I just came to work and I’m like, what’s going on? There’s software getting built.

Paul: I got it moving. It was a company that was brand new and I was like oh, let’s do an animated card, and people were like, “How about if we have a GIF chat?” I’m like cool. Real-time chat is a great thing for us to signal out to the world.

Rich: This is why you shouldn’t be an executive.

Paul: I know, exactly. I hereby resign. I was like, all right, well you know I’ve project managed successfully in my life before. I’ll just product manage this. But then of course we had to go out and sell services.

Rich: Then you left the project.

Paul: I left it, but of course I didn’t really admit that I had because I felt guilty.

Rich: Right.

Paul: I felt bad, so I just was like oh well.

Rich: It sort of drifted into this funky state.

Paul: It had no product manager and everybody was trying to keep me happy because I’m the co-founder.

Rich: It was a mess.

Paul: I created a disaster.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: I spent a lot of our money without knowing I was doing it and just created a disaster.

Rich: Right. Right, right, right. But: we got it on rails. We put a product manager on it, put a designer on it, the engineers felt good about getting it done, and we got it done and we shipped it.

Paul: We actually had a great postmortem, too. It was actually, like —

Rich: Lesson learned. Lessons learned, yeah, sure.

Paul: And for me it was a chance, the first time I and the company, we were a couple months in, it was the first time I was able to show people that I could take that critical feedback, that I welcomed it, that it was like the fact that I had dropped the ball on this thing was OK.

Rich: Yup.

Paul: And that it did need a product manager who wasn’t me and stuff like that. So that, that was pretty good in retrospect. We shipped a thing. We used a very modern framework.

Rich: Yup.

Paul: We learned a little bit about each other. And…I’m realizing how much of what we do is about figuring out a process that’s gonna work even better the next time.

Rich: Sure. And it really speaks to the personality, the collective personality, that was taking form at Postlight.

Paul: It’s gotta get out there.

Rich: We’re gonna do weird stuff. We’re not gonna sit around and write white papers if we’re not on a project. We’re gonna do stuff. So institutionalizing it in a Postlight labs just made a lot of sense.

Paul: You have a lot of strong beliefs about this and I agree. Shipping a product is the best way to communicate what you’re about if you are a product company.

Rich: I believe that and I believe it’s an expensive approach to marketing, I’ll admit because —

Paul: Yeah, but that’s just life. I was a pretty successful writer for years, and you know.

Rich: But that’s only a part of why we do this.

Paul: The way that people knew that they had hired me to do interesting writing projects was because of all the writing I had in the world.

Rich: Yeah, just keep doing stuff.

Paul: Yeah, I can sit there and say I have a great team that can build you anything. I’ve met hundreds of great teams that can build you anything. I’ve met, like, ten great teams that will actually ship something.

Rich: Yeah, yeah, it’s hard and it takes a certain level of discipline to do it, without a doubt.

Paul: Hundreds might have been an exaggeration, if anyone’s fact checking. [laughter] Probably more like 60.

Rich: So we threw a party a couple weeks ago, and we didn’t just want to say, “Welcome, and introducing Postlight Labs” — we wanted to launch something with it.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: With the announcement, because that would’ve been lame if we would’ve just said —

Paul: There’s kind of a great blog post about this written by a product manager at Postlight named Toy Vano.

Rich: Great post.

Paul: About —

Rich: At, by the way, for those that don’t know, there is a Track Changes newsletter.

Paul: trackchanges.postlight.com.

Rich: That you should check out and subscribe to. It’s awesome.

Paul: So we put Toy on it.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: We said, look we’re gonna do this event on October 20th, as it?

Rich: I believe that’s right. October 20th.

Paul: We’re gonna do it in our new space. We’re gonna launch Postlight Labs. And we’re gonna announce three new products.

Rich: Which is bananas, just bananas.

Paul: She made a very good, colorful spreadsheet which you can see if you go to that site.

Rich: Credit to Toy, she was thinking about all the gaps. There were all these pieces, but it wasn’t about the pieces, it was about the gaps between the pieces and pushing the forward and forward and forward and we got it done. And…

Paul: We also decided to put a little book together with excerpts from the podcast.

Rich: On top of all that, yeah.

Paul: Yeah, so what were the products? Let’s start there.

Rich: Yeah. So first — well we had this thing called the Mercury Amp Converter.

Paul: Which we’ve talked about in prior podcasts.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: But AMP is a standard from Google that loads very quickly in mobile. There’s a lot more about it, but start there.

Rich: Correct.

Paul: The Mercury Amp Converter will take any page and it will turn it into an AMP page that can load quickly. So for publishers this is a great shortcut. We launched that one, a thousand publishers signed up.

Rich: Yes, so…

Paul: A thousand separate websites are using this thing.

Rich: Yep. A lot of good conversations came from that.

Paul: Yep.

Rich: And we said, you know what? The secret sauce inside of that AMP converter is the web parser. And we have a good amount of institutional knowledge around web parsers because if you look at…the genealogy?

Paul: Sure.

Rich: Ancestry.com. What’s that called?

Paul: For the listeners — yeah, genealogy — he’s just pointing at me and saying, “Genealogy.” [laughter]

Rich: If you look at the genealogy of the knowledge and experience of some of the people at Postlight, we are, if you trace it back, Readability came from some of the brains at Postlight and some of the brains that are not at Postlight as well. We knew a thing or two about parsing a filthy, dirty webpage.

Paul: Right.

Rich: Inside of that process is what we’d call the web parser and it’s inside of Mercury.

Paul: It’s worth noting what we had was older. We had an older code base.

Rich: Correct.

Paul: We were falling back on some of the Readability work.

Rich: We knew what we wanted to change and wanted to make better and wanted to actually wipe clean and do better.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And do faster. So we took this as an opportunity to write a new web parser effectively, and that’s what the Mercury web parser is.

Paul: A coder named Adam Pash too that on.

Rich: He did a wonderful job with it and that was one of the things we launched under the Labs banner.

Paul: Also, Gina Trapani did quite a bit of work on Mercury, too.

Rich: Correct.

Paul: She’s one of our directors of engineering. She was a podcast guest earlier.

Rich: Yes. The second thing we launched is a —

Paul: So wait, we should tell people what that is. It is, so you can still convert anything to AMP. That works fine.

Rich: Yup.

Paul: You can convert any webpage to a more readable version of that webpage.

Rich: Even lower than that, it’s data.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: It gets turned into data, so if you just want the headline, the author, the body of text of an article, the images that are relevant to the article, they get parsed out into an output that can then be anything. You could turn it into text-to-speech. You could use it to power your mobile app. You could migrate data.

Paul: Yeah, and what we have is the tool, it’s an API, you call it and say turn this page into data, it does it, and then what we do is we have a very simple rule system that we’ve created, what, probably hundreds now and probably fairly soon to be thousands of rules for large websites that —

Rich: Are finicky.

Paul: Yeah, that are finicky, that let you truly identify what that data is.

Rich: Yeah. Very useful tool. Hugely useful tool.

Paul: It’s a powerful, powerful tool. What we did is we took out all the dependencies that used to be in the AMP converter and we put them into…the AMP converter is now powered by the Mercury Web Parser.

Rich: Correct and that was made available and that’s free, by the way. Mercury.postlight.com. That was one of the things we released at the party under the Postlight Labs banner. Then, there’s this really cool, very lightweight Node.JS framework that we put out called Lux.

Paul: That’s right. It’s a work of a programmer named Zack Golba.

Rich: Yes. Very talented engineer at Postlight and that’s also out there at lux.postlight.com. L-U-X.postlight.com.

Paul: That’s right.

Rich: So you’ve got Mercury Web Parser. You’ve got Lux. And then we built a tool for Slack. For those that don’t know what Slack is, as you all know, email brings you nothing but trouble in your life. If anybody’s following the news, Paul.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: Don’t use email.

Paul: Ever.

Rich: Just talk to each other.

Paul: I love email.

Rich: Call each other.

Paul: Different subject.

Rich: It’s been getting a rough rap. It’s been a rough year for email.

Paul: Email can be great, but we’ll move on.

Rich: All right. Slack has taken off in a very big way. It’s group chat, and it has exploded inside of organizations and companies as a tool to communicate in real time with your coworkers, with your team members and the like. So a problem arose for the likes of you and me, Paul, and others that are outside of a project. What happens is in Slack you can organize your rooms, let’s call them rooms for a second, or channels, against the projects inside your organization. If you have project X, there’s a project X channel where all the members that are involved in project X talk to each other in that channel. And then there’s another channel called project Y and all the members talk there. At any given time right now at Postlight, there are 10 projects happening.

Paul: This has been a killer for me because one of the ways I like to know what’s going on in the organization, I hate pulling people into meetings and I hate asking people to write summaries, but —

Rich: Status reports.

Paul: I need to know what’s up in my company.

Rich: Correct.

Paul: So I’ll go in an read chat logs and the way I describe it is like listening to a conference call backwards.

Rich: It’s really hard to surmise the state of things, the broader summarized state of things, the state of the union —

Paul: Right.

Rich: Of that project —

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: By just going into the chat because it’s so low-level.

Paul: Who knows what’s happening.

Rich: It’s so the last 20 minutes.

Paul: Right.

Rich: And it’s hard to tell what’s up. So we built a tool that essentially asks that team to please could you just summarize what’s going on.

Paul: Right.

Rich: We’re gonna take that summary and make it available to people outside of that channel in a really easy way.

Paul: This is very simple, too. It’s not conceptually difficult. It’s just a little bot that says, “Hey, can you tell me what’s going on?”

Rich: Correct.

Paul: And you type, you type what’s going on and then it saves it and you can then look at it later.

Rich: Correct.

Paul: You can look at it on webpage, you can look at it inside of Slack. What it means is that we have 20 projects going on at Postlight. I can quickly ask for a status update once a week and I’ll get it and it’s asynchronous and it happens right inside of Slack.

Rich: Correct. You don’t have to go to a form or sign in to something else or whatever. It’s really streamlined. And you get this dashboard that has summaries of each of those channels, each of those projects, and it’s a great way to get a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on in an organization. It’s a really powerful tool.

Paul: It’s built mostly by a programmer named Jeremy Mack, one of our directors of engineering. A lot of design work from Matt Quintanilla, and actually the lead designer was Janet.

Rich: Janet Kim.

Paul: Janet Kim.

Rich: It’s actually a strangely simple piece of software, but solves a really filthy problem. It’s kinda, you expect a more bulleted list of features, here, but that’s the point of this thing, it kind of boils it down. It tries to boil down information.

Paul: And the funny thing with it is usually you need software to kind of be annoying.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: This one is different because I need, like, I need to use it. I’ve been using it —

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: And I go in and I hit the little bell that says, “Remind people to update.” I do it once a week and then we go in our managers meeting and we’re fully updated.

Rich: It’s very powerful.

Paul: Just get enough signal to know…like, it doesn’t let you dig down into a project and figure out what’s going right or wrong. It just is like, if people are saying it’s going well and you trust them, you now know enough. So if you run into a client on the street and they’re like, “Hey, how’s our design thing going?” [laughter] You can be like, “Great! I just was talking with the team about it this morning.”

Rich: Right. Exactly. And also I don’t know if there’s a worse feeling than walking up to the team —

Paul: Oh, I hate it.

Rich: “And saying, hey…how’s it going?”

Paul: How’s it going? It’s the boss checking it.

Rich: It’s like the dad with his tan slacks walking into the 11-year-old’s room and hanging out. [laughter]

Paul: Getting people to give you a status update —

Rich: It’s a terrible thing.

Paul: Yeah. No one’s gonna do it.

Rich: So SOTU…we’re not interested in ever making money, Paul. So SOTU is also free. It’s at getsotu — that’s G-E-T-S-O-T-U.com. And it’s free. If you are using Slack, go install it. SOTU stands for State of the Union.

Paul: That’s Labs. What do we have, we had the Mercury Web Parser on top of the Mercury Amp Converter. Lux. Lux was a longterm labor of love and we brought it into Labs and I’ve got a designer named Darrell.

Rich: Put a spotlight on it.

Paul: Darrell Hanley, a designer at Postlight, did a great job.

Rich: Really nice work. A nice look and feel.

Paul: It’s just a nice website to present this thing. Lux is great, by the way. I’ve been looking at and it reading through the code.

Rich: Wonderfully simple.

Paul: It’s this very simple way to build a web API.

Rich: Yup.

Paul: In the world of Node and JavaScript and very powerful.

Rich: It feels good to talk about stuff we did, not just, “We’re gonna have a lab with lab coats.” So we’re walking the — walking the walk? Is that the phrase?

Paul: We’re shipping products.

Rich: We’re shipping stuff and we want to keep shipping stuff. This is just the beginning. The mayhem we will — this is a phrase I throw at you sometimes. I think you throw at me, too, Paul Ford, is that we want to cause trouble. If we’re not —

Paul: Chaos.

Rich: Creating a little bit of disruption, then the Lab isn’t really doing it’s thing.

Paul: People should be worried about what we get up to. [laughter]

Rich: Fair.

Paul: They should be like, “God, those guys might screw this up for me. I should get in touch.”

Rich: Yeah. Yeah.

Paul: That’s where we’re at.

Rich: Yeah. We’re looking to get new business through fear. [laughter]

Paul: Exactly. Well, I mean, look —

Rich: It’s a different approach to business development.

Paul: We got a couple new Labs projects underway. We’re gonna share those out. We’ll talk about them when the time is right. We’re starting to collaborate with other companies that want to do Labs project.

Rich: Which is very cool. We would love to find partners to do Labs stuff with.

Paul: It’s a neat way in terms of our larger business, right? You can come in and do something fast with us over the course of a couple months.

Rich: Test the proposition or whatever.

Paul: Then take that back to your company and just say, “Look. Here’s what it looks like. Here’s how it works. Here it is on your phone. Should we go forward?”

Rich: Yes.

Paul: Nothing makes an argument better than a product people actually want to use.

Rich: Yeah.

Paul: It’s much less expensive than actually building the whole thing.

Rich: Yup.

Paul: So that part’s good.

Rich: You know, here’s the other thing worth sharing, Paul. We put Labs out because we built a bunch of stuff and we want to let the world know we’re a labs type of place.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: But there’s still a lot of scaffolding up as to what Labs is internally. For example, is Labs a space? Do you move into a room that has a big sign on it that says, “Labs,” so when you’re in the Labs, you’re literally, physically in the Labs?

Paul: Is it?

Rich: Is there a jury that decides if something is greenlit to be a project. These are —

Paul: Will there be?

Rich: These are the open questions!

Paul: I think right now it seems to be that we need some sort of way to determine what comes into Labs.

Rich: We do.

Paul: We do. Right now the ultimate argument of where money gets moved around in the organization are mostly you and me.

Rich: This is the other thing worth pointing out. There is no grant. There is no foundation that is funding Labs stuff. We are funding our own Labs stuff.

Paul: What’s gonna be disruptive? What’s gonna be interesting? What’s gonna teach us how to work together?

Rich: Exactly. You’ve called me a rapacious capitalist in the past, Paul Ford.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And I just want to point out that we could be taking a lot of this money home.

Paul: [whispers] I know.

Rich: But instead we’re gonna buy lab coats and we’re gonna buy beakers and we’re gonna do lab stuff.

Paul: We are.

Rich: Capitalists take money home. I think. I’m not sure.

Paul: I don’t know what the hell we are. This is post-cap. I don’t know what this is.

Rich: This is a post capitalist Labs — [laughter]

Paul: All I want is not to be bored. That’s the only reason that I did this with you.

Rich: We get to keep doing it, right?

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: That’s the whole thing.

Paul: I just want to not be bored. So far Postlight has delivered admirably.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: I’m never bored by this company.

Rich: For better or worse.

Paul: For better or for worse.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: It is interesting.

Rich: You know, we’re looking at how other labs work. Obviously there’s labs on a massive scale like Microsoft Research and things like that, but there’s also —

Paul: Those look so much fun. You just walk down the hall and you have a cup of coffee and you’re like, “Hey, Mike. How you doing?” He’s like, “Oh, getting my concept graph in order.” “When’s that gonna go out?” He’s like, “Well, working on the paper. Probably Q4 2019.”

Rich: You know, I was actually talking to someone at Microsoft recently.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: And they were telling me how a lot of the stuff that materialized out of Microsoft like Photosynth, all these weird products. They’ve got some cool stuff. People often don’t look at the corner of Microsoft.

Paul: No, Microsoft Labs is for real.

Rich: There’s a lot of really cool stuff.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: A lot of it is not through formal process. It’s just 17 engineers at, like, Red Robin.

Paul: Oh, really?

Rich: Deciding they’re gonna do it, and all of a sudden, some concepts have been proven out and the managers or whoever, however it’s structured, just get out of the way. They’re like, “All right. You know what? Finish this.” And they just let them keep going. That’s the classic engineering mindset. They’re gonna fix the mail merge part of Word, but after 7 o’clock they all gather and they’re building this thing that does crazy stuff with photos or can pick up, you know, facial gestures or whatever it may be and they can’t help themselves.

Paul: So look, I’ve got an idea. I come to you. Let’s tell people how Labs actually works. I come to you and I say, Rich, we gotta do something about distribution.

Rich: OK.

Paul: So what is distribution?

Rich: Well that’s a very broad term.

Paul: Let’s just say distribution, it’s like, I want to get more people reading web content.

Rich: OK.

Paul: OK, so what can we do with Labs?

Rich: Lots, right? I mean, right now…

Paul: That’s how it works ladies and gentlemen.

Rich: No, I mean, look, you’re backing into a much bigger conversation around where most content is ending up these days and doesn’t seem to make it out anymore.

Paul: People do come to us with very broad questions.

Rich: Very broad questions.

Paul: What do we do about distribution? There’s all these centralized places like Facebook or Twitter or whatever and we want to do something new.

Rich: Exactly.

Paul: OK, so where do we start?

Rich: I think then you have, I don’t want to use the word brainstorming, because it’s deeper than that —

Paul: You get in a room.

Rich: You get in a room and it’s more, sometimes you can even probe more technically as to the feasibility of an idea and whatnot.

Paul: You figure out the goal, too. You’re just like do you want more audience? Do you need more money? What is the thing that we’re actually going for here?

Rich: I think this is the place we want to be at, right, because what’s fortunate about where we are is that I don’t have to go asking daddy for…

Paul: No.

Rich: If you have that great idea inside of a large organization and you want to bring it to life, you can just imagine the maze, both financial and political, you’re gonna have to walk through to get that sign off. It’s incredibly, incredibly difficult. I mean —

Paul: Well, you’ve got to move people around, too.

Rich: You’ve got to move people around. You’ve got to sell it.

Paul: Yeah.

Rich: A lot, to different stakeholders for people to sign off, because people don’t just think about is that a good idea. They think about, “Do I want my name near this when it blows up in four months? So I’m not gonna come near it.” And what happens is they chip away at it. They’re like, “You know, that’s really good, but forget that part three.”

Paul: “It shouldn’t be yellow.”

Rich: By the time you come out of the other end of that maze, the thing is not what it was in the beginning.

Paul: So you come to us, right and you could just be somebody coming off the street, you could be coming from a company, you could be an employee at Postlight, and you say, “I want to think about ways to get more traffic,” or more whatever. We sit down and we’re like, here are the ways that some people have done it in the past, and you come up with a little hypothesis. You’re like, if we could go out and test this, that would be good. That’s what you say. And then you go and you say, what are the things that are freely available? The open-source tools, the frameworks —

Rich: What can you pick up off the shelf? Accelerate this.

Paul: What’s the fastest way to get this done? Where can we add value by gluing those things together?

Rich: Correct.

Paul: And you go out not with the actual product, but with the thing that you could use to test and understand the market.

Rich: Right.

Paul: That’s what the minimum viable product really is.

Rich: The idea is keep them short and tight. Iterate. If it sticks, keep going. That’s another thing with noting is that we don’t just send these out into the world and hope for the best. If it takes off, we’re gonna put muscle behind it. If something actually has traction and we see real interest in it, I could see us continuing to put energy towards it or find other partners to help us put energy towards it.

Paul: You know what? It just takes a while, too. It goes out and it’s like a couple months while you have to figure out what this thing is like now that it’s really in the world.

Rich: Mmmm hmmm. Exactly. So lots to learn, even though we’re out there. Even though we’re scratching the edge, there’s still tons to learn.

Paul: All right, let’s go to a whiteboard.

Rich: We’ve got many.

Paul: If anybody wants to talk to us, they should just send an email. We’re listening.

Rich: [email protected].

Paul: [email protected]. They can hit us on the web at postlight.com and they can go to iTunes and rate this podcast. Give us a good rating, please.

Rich: We’d like five stars.

Paul: Even though my voice is kinda rough with this cold. I’d still appreciate a good rating.

Rich: Yes.

Paul: I’m Paul Ford.

Rich: Rich Ziade.

Paul: And this is Track Changes.

Rich: Thanks all. Have a great week.

Paul: Bye.