Buster

Buster Benson

PM, Slack

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON December 23, 2015

Discussion

Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
Hi! I'm a product manager at Slack, helping the Platform team that recently launched the Slack App Directory, bots that can be installed via the Slack Button, and a new fund for Slack developers. Before that I was a PM at Twitter working on analytics.twitter.com. Other things I've been made: 750words.com, healthmonth.com, 43things.com, and lots of things you've probably never heard of. I track all of my beliefs on Github (https://github.com/busterbenson/...) and have been taking a photo every day at 8:36pm since 2008. That's sort of a weird list now that I see it all written out. Happy to answer questions about anything! I am also happy to give bad life advice on any personal topic. Whatcha got?
Mollie Vandor
Mollie Vandor@mollie · Product Manager, Twitter
Hi @Buster! I'm gonna change things up & ask you something that normally gets reserved just for us women, because I know you and I think you can handle it. :) You have a family, a demanding career, and a bio full of awesomely creative stuff that you do. How do you balance it all, and find time for everything?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@mollie Yay, thank you for this question, Mollie! I know what my top priority is: my family. I walk my son to school every morning, and have dinner with my wife and son every night. I rarely work weekends. Those are the constraints that allow me to then ask, "what meaningful work can I do in the remaining time?" and "who do I want to spend that time with?" because they have strong competition. I have to admit that I am extremely lucky to have the opportunities to participate in creative systems that value work/life balance, that are compensated ridiculously well, and that spark my creativity and have ample room for collaboration and fun. But part of that luck was also discovering early on what kind of work really fulfilled me, and scrappily looking for opportunities to do a little bit more of it every year, for many years (I'm old). I've also had some traumatic and eye-opening experiences in my life that have helped me keep perspective about it all. Losing my father when I was 17, several failed businesses, a failed marriage, and even the struggles of keeping a relationship together while trying to raise a child help me enter each day where none of those things is happening with a lighter spirit, and a bit more excitement because I know how tough things can become.
Corey Flayman
Corey Flayman@cflayman
@buster What advice would you give to an aspiring PM who is currently working at a non-tech company, in a non-product role? What are the most transferrable skills that anyone can work on?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@cflayman Make something that 1 person loves. Or even, just tell a story that 1 other person is moved by. See if you can grow 1 person to 2, then 5, then 10. Keep going.
Kingsong Chen
Kingsong Chen@kingsongchen · Dev
Hi Buster, what is the key to Slack's great design?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@kingsongchen Great designers, great CEO, great engineers, great product managers, great customer support, great user research, great ops team, great team in general, great timing, great luck, great willingness to keep running and striving to improve.
Brian Slowey
Brian Slowey@bslow · director of sales
How do I get coworkers over 50 to participate on Slack?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@bslow Invite them to the team and then lock them out of their email accounts. j/k
Jonny Miller
Jonny Miller@jonnym1ller · Cofounder @Maptia
Hi @Buster – thanks so much for doing this! I find your Codex Vitae totally fascinating (ditto for the concepts of mortigo and your ongoing life/week chart). I have too many questions so please just pick one that you think might have the most interesting answer 😃 1. You’ve clearly done a ton of emotional heavy lifting with regards to questioning exactly what the best use of your time is (in the BIG picture sense). What was it about Slack (or perhaps what Slack could become) that convinced you there’s nothing else that you’d rather be building? 2. In your Codex Vitae, you predicted that by 2050 computers will be building better computers than humans. Do you share @Elonmusk’s concerns about the dangers for AI? If not, what’s your take? 3. Reading your blog, it seems like you’ve been through various chapters where you explore questions around what it means to live a good life. From “What goals can I set myself?” to “How do we change ourselves?” and my favourite “What will earn me the most deathbed points?” What question are you focusing on these days? Bonus: What’s the most embarrassing picture you’ve taken at 8.36pm?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@jonnym1ller These are all great questions... I'm gonna answer them all once I scan through the rest of the questions and maybe answer a few of the easier ones. :)
Jonny Miller
Jonny Miller@jonnym1ller · Cofounder @Maptia
@buster awesome, thanks!
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@jonnym1ller RE question #1: I was drawn to Slack because of the people. I've respected the founders and many of the employees for years, and have always wanted to work with them. I'm drawn to Slack the product because it's a clear expression of the personalities and values of the company. I feel like it's a company that has somehow managed to avoid cynicism, truly value diversity, have good intentions, and treat people kindly. The product is a mirror of all of that. Bringing a little bit of playfulness, pleasantness, and simplicity to our every day working lives may seem like a modest goal, but it's a huge chunk of many peoples' lives.
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@jonnym1ller RE question #2: no, I don't share Elon's views. I think we should be careful about what we build and how, but I don't think super artificial intelligence will treat us the same way we treat ants. The mistake is assuming that super intelligence will be just a more powerful version of our own intelligence, but with the same flaws.
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@jonnym1ller RE question #3: all of those same questions. They sometimes change form slightly but they're all a version of "what is all this?" :)
Mike Coutermarsh
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
hi @buster! I'd love to know. Whats the one thing you've done professionally that scared you the most?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@mscccc Signing a 5-year lease on an art gallery and bar space with absolutely no knowledge of how to run such a company was probably the scariest. The next 2 years, and ultimate failure of the business, were probably the most stressful.
Colby Nelson
Colby Nelson@colby_nelson · Product Manager, Constant Contact
In your opinion, What makes for an excellent Product Manager?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@colby_nelson This is always a tough question, but let me give it a try. An excellent product manager has to have a few contradictory personality traits: 1) A passion for trying to model how other people think. Some people say "build what you know" which implies build for how you think. However, my primary strategy for modeling how other people think is to imagine myself in their shoes. Therefore "what I know" not only includes how I think, but also how I think other people think and behave. 2) Building this model requires talking to lots of different kinds of people, and listening to them. Listening to them requires that you shut down your model of how other people think (because that will create biases and stereotypes based on your current model and not let contradictory or new information in as easily). So you have to be able to turn this on and off: "build what you know" and "forget what you know". 3) A great PM needs to have the confidence to act and take responsibility for actions even with limited information, lack of the appropriate skills and resources, etc. 4) That confidence can't be shaken by criticism and poor results. It needs to help you adjust to results, learn, and continue improving your strategy until criticism and poor results improve. There's a lot more but hopefully that's a good start.
Jason Jacobs
Jason Jacobs@pbfreak422 · CEO
@buster Thanks for doing this! 1)What does Slack do differently in terms of product that allows it to be such a standout? 2) What people processes do you and your team implement that allows such great work to be done?
Junius
Junius@juniusfree
Hi @Buster How will you spend your time if you've got one hour to solve a user problem/need? Thanks!
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@juniusfree I'm a huge fan of free-writing! I make a case for why I think it's so valuable here: https://medium.com/better-humans... but most of the time the hardest part about solving a problem is putting yourself in the shoes of the person you're trying to solve a problem for. Once you do that, often times the answer is obvious (or at least it's obvious why other things aren't working, and that's useful too).
Tom Frauenfelder
Tom Frauenfelder@tomfrauenfelder · Founder
@buster Can you tell us about the most challenging product problem you and your team have resolved at either twitter or slack, and how you did it?
Jack Dweck
Jack Dweck@jackdweck · Product Manager at Unroll.Me
Hi @Buster! Slack is quickly becoming an indispensable platform for launching apps (70+ results for "Slack" on PH). What are some of your favorites apps so far, and what are some you'd like to see built? Bonus Q: Why do you take a photo every day at the same time? 📷
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@jackdweck I'm super excited about everyone building Slack bots like Howdy, Awesome, Growbot, Birdly, and Meekan. We have a category of them all here: https://slack.com/apps/category/... I also love how products like Airtable, Wunderlist, and Envoy work. They've managed to make my daily work easier by providing the right hooks into their products. Figma is another example of a company really thinking smartly about how they integrate with Slack -- I'm hoping more and more companies start doing what they're doing. As for ones I'd like to see built... I'm excited to see more bots of course, and I'd also love to see people build better versions of the Twitter, Trello, and other apps that have been around a while. Why do I take a picture at 8:36pm every day? Basically, I want there to be a story of my life that isn't curated. So much of what we capture about our lives is curated and edited. What happens if we are at the end of our lives, trying to share our stories, and we find that our actual lives weren't captured? That's what 8:36pm photos are meant to protect against.
Isaac Rosenberg
Isaac Rosenberg@irosenb · Building MapHunt
@buster @jackdweck We've built an experience based on capturing your everyday life. Give it a few days and tell me what you think http://oneminute.me/
Wahyu Kristianto
Wahyu Kristianto@kristories · @kristories
Why would you take a photo at 8:36pm (weird time) each day? 836 is a weird number. Its factorization is 22 × 11 × 19, so its proper factors are 1, 2, 4, 11, 19, 22, 38, 44, 76, 209, and 418. They sum to 844. As this is greater than 836, it is an abundant number, but no subset sums to 836, so it is not a semiperfect number; therefore it is weird -Wikipedia
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@kristories I like weird numbers.
Mike Brevoort
Mike Brevoort@mbrevoort · Building Missions.ai
Hi @buster! Happy Holidays! What's been your biggest surprise or ah-ha moment from a product perspective working on Slack? In other words what didn't yet expect but were surprised to find with respect to how people use Slack.
Sonal Keshav
Sonal Keshav@sonal_keshav
@buster what are some of your favorite integrations on slack? any advice for a aspiring PM in final year of University? (PS I'd love to work for Slack) Thanks a lot for doing this :)
Bridget McGraw
Bridget McGraw@mcgrawbridget · Thingfully thing = physical + digital
@buster I heard a great podcast today (TED Radio Hour with Deborah Gordon) that discussed ants and how their organization is based on no single leader. It made me think of Slack, which seems similarly organized. How does nature inspire you in your role as Product Manager.
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@mcgrawbridget I'm a huge fan of systems thinking in general, which is largely based on observations of nature. Things like the water cycle, carbon cycle, phosphorous cycle, nitrogen cycle are all super fascinating to me. We tend to think linearly (beginning > middle > end) rather than in complete systems. In systems thinking, things never run out, they just move or fall apart or merge. In systems thinking things don't just happen: everything has a consequence, everything is balanced. It also helps you realize (as you alluded to) that there's really nobody in charge... we're all influencing each other, participating in different parts of an interdependent system. It's not about innovating and creating things from nothing, it's about being lucky participants in a creative system.
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@mcgrawbridget PS, thanks for the podcast request! I haven't heard that episode yet, I'll check it out on my commute home.
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Buster! What Slack app/integration do you wish existed?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@rrhoover Off the top of my head, here's a weird one: I wish there was a bot that could turn sentences into the kind of knowledge that is stored in ConceptNet... truples like "(I) (am named) (Buster)" where each "fact" was tied to a source that could be me, or could be some other source that I trusted in some fuzzy way. Link all these bots together and allow queries to be passed through the network, and you could quickly have a knowledge graph that was pretty impressive.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
@buster whats the coolest thing about working at Slack?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@ems_hodge the people, by far.
Avneesh Kohli
Avneesh Kohli@avneeshk91 · pm @ foursquare, working on swarm
Hi @buster, thanks for doing this! Is there anything that makes the product role at Slack unique? How does it compare/differ to how you spent your time in product at Twitter? A few others have asked this as well, but if you could impart any advice to a young person trying to make it in a product role, that would be awesome. Thanks again!
Earteza Auvee
Earteza Auvee@earteza · Team Member @Foundedx
Hello @buster , i use Slack Daily for 4 different projects. is there any plan for use Smart Calculator or Smart math Formula in Slack ? for example if anyone type 2+2 = Then Enter then it will show the result 2+2 = 4 or 2(2+3) = it will show result 2(2+3)= 10 . kind of auto formula by itself .
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@earteza That would make a great slash command.
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Hey Buster, Do you drink beer? What are your top 3 breweries? 🍻
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@jacqvon I do drink beer, but I don't have top favorite breweries. I generally like IPAs and whatever people recommend to me.
QueenLear
QueenLear@queenleariv · ConnectionAgent-Co-Founder @ButtonPoetry
@Buster you also mention in one of your answers above that you were drawn to and value Slack because of many reasons, including "truly valuing diversity". Can you expand on that? As a PM, how do you plan for/highlight and encourage diversity. Do you mean as an internal team, the community, product offering?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@queenleariv It goes back to listening. If you're only listening to people who are like you and agree with you on everything, you aren't really listening. Seeking out diverse opinions, perspectives, and voices is how you learn, and how you build a better product. It applies to the internal team, the community, the product, etc... all of it.
Jeffery and 7 others
Jeffery and 7 others@meandmybadself · Permanent Record
@buster When are you going to write/Kickstart that systems theory book for kids?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@meandmybadself I'm working on it! As of this week, I have a first draft of the pages mapped out, and just need to work on the text, then sketch a few things out, and then get feedback from a few people, and THEN kickstart.
Alexander
Alexander@alexsnurnikov · Founder / Software Engineer
Hey @Buster, what is your opinion/view on micro-management in a project/team? Any plans in @Slack to expand engineering team with remote positions or mb Toronto (Canada) area ? :P
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@alexsnurnikov Generally against, unless attention to detail really is the biggest gap in the product's success, and the rest of the team is weak on that.
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh@therahuls1ngh · CEO, Eventizy
Hi @Buster what qualities you look while building a team?
Tam Le
Tam Le@tamle08
@buster another question about your Codex Vitae: aside from "Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore" is there anything else that inspired/you drew inspiration from when coming up with the structure/process of that doc/manifesto? Will be creating my own soon!
Andrew Hoag
Andrew Hoag@ajhoag · Entrepreneur
Hi @buster I think the opportunities around the Platform at Slack are incredible, and will be extremely disruptive to enterprise IT. What role do you see the user profiles (and underlying identity) playing both within intracompany Slack applications, and possibly external company-to-company applications? Will you be making profile extensions and enhancements available to the developer community?
Steve Peternell
Steve Peternell@stevepeternell
Hi @buster - thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! My company is very new to Slack. I've been helping with the onboarding and training for our midwest office and I would love to know how Slack uses Slack (a screenshot of your channel list would be pretty cool, if shareable). Happy Holidays!
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
Thank you everyone for your great questions! I'm signing off now but might take a few more of these questions and try to answer them on Twitter over the next few days (I'm @buster on Twitter too). Hope you all have a great end of the year! This was super fun.
Frosabyrlakova
Frosabyrlakova@frosabyrlakova · World Goverment
Hello @Buster, Are you using Agile? Why? What are disadvantages of this methodology you faced with?
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@buster thanks so much for joining us. Awesome to have you hear, simple question, what is it like working for a Rocketship? Has the company culture been maintained as the company has grown excessively? Would be awesome to have you on @twentyminutevc and hear more from you!
Nick Creegan
Nick Creegan@njcreegan
Hi @buster, thanks for joining! Slack is doing some amazing, out of the box things lately. What are the top ways that you instill a creative culture amongst your product team? Anything more than the typical intangibles (encourage risk taking, etc.) that you do with your workspace or time? Bonus question -- what is the top advice you would give to a recent grad in an entry level product role? Keep up the great work @Slack!
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@njcreegan The top way is to build a team that trusts each other. Trusts each other to be willing to make mistakes, to put their real feelings forward, to try to do their best work. Trust that we'll hold each other accountable and strive to make the team stronger together. Trust takes time, requires history, some level of stability, and even some level of conflict (so that they can be resolved and growth can happen). I recently read The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team which explored this point really well.
Nick Creegan
Nick Creegan@njcreegan
How have you built out a vision for Slack while maintaining its core value as a communications platform? Thinking specifically about the App Directory -- was there any initial pushback about deviating too far from the original product?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@njcreegan The App Directory doesn't deviate from the core value at all. Teams need to interact with a bunch of different tools, but none of them work together very well. Slack can help make that happen. I feel extremely lucky that Stewart and Slack in general also share the belief that there's no difference between Slack and the Slack Platform. Our shared goal is to help the product make the lives of teams simpler, more pleasant, and more productive lives. The App Directory helps that by giving the best products out there that integrate with Slack a simple way to be found and used.
Michael Ahdoot
Michael Ahdoot@mikeyahdoot · Co-founder of Habit Nest
Hey @buster! What's the biggest thing you've learned about the self help market from running Habit Labs?
Theoharis Dimarhos
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hi! What leadership qualities of Stewart do you think help Slack grow?
Balakumaran P
Balakumaran P@ibala · Stayzilla
Hi @buster, thanks for doing this. Do you have certain UX aspects that you keep in mind while building products at Slack?
Bridget McGraw
Bridget McGraw@mcgrawbridget · Thingfully thing = physical + digital
Thanks for being here in this busy time @buster!
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@mcgrawbridget Thank you!
Zameer Ansari
Zameer Ansari@xameeramir · @nordible previous @nerdspal @nistencorp
@Buster The biggest failure you saw and how did you recovered from the situation?
Austin Moody
Austin Moody@notaustintexas · Engineer
@buster Do you have an Apple Watch? If so any app recommendations for habit change / tracking?
Tejas Sompura
Tejas Sompura@rebirthpixel · Product Designer - UI/UX Thinker
@Buster Which things are you consider when planning to add new features? Where to start and stop thinking?
QueenLear
QueenLear@queenleariv · ConnectionAgent-Co-Founder @ButtonPoetry
@buster Thanks for taking the time to chat with the community! Above you gave props to free writing and its benefits. That leads me to believe you are an avid reader too! What are your 3 favorite professional/career oriented books and what are your 3 favorite leisure/life focused books? Also, I see you have a few collections on PH already, have you considered creating a books collection so we can get your on-going recommendations? Would love to keep up!
Ryan Martinez
Ryan Martinez@ryantmartinez · Co-Pilot, Flyover Technology
Hi! Do you regularly speak at entrepreneurial events, and if so, how do I go about contacting for an inquiry? :)
André de Albuquerque
André de Albuquerque@itstheandre · Host @Pioneers Show
Hi @buster . How are you doing? So, I have a few questions for you: 1st one - about Slack: Do you figure that, eventually, down the line Slack can become an (even) more complete app, by trying to include maybe Project Management "in app". I believe that the beauty of Slack is that you can talk with everyone without leaving one app, be aware of everything and stuff. I guess that you guys bought two collaboration companies with that in mind, the ability to work without leaving the app. My main thing is that I work on a lot of projects and use Slack with everyone. However, we kind of drift off when we try to get a PM software. I believe that if you got an in-app PM part would be amazing. Besides that, I love GDocs, however, I, once again, believe that in-app is a way to go. If you never need to leave the app to work, it's better you raise a more productive environment, I guess. What's your opinion? 2nd one - I love project management. I just love to take an idea and go forward with it and to see it realized. What kind of education do you think it would be awesome for a student (like me)? I would like, eventually, to become a project manager, because I believe I have the strength and the drive, resilience and desire to thrive as a Project Manager. Have yourself a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year​
Arpit Gupta
Arpit Gupta@arpitgupta · Product Manager
@buster What are your favorite events/conferences to attend?
Buster
Buster@buster · Author, PM
@arpitgupta Basically just XOXO. (I don't get out to conferences much, but love that one.)
Ilya Dolzhenkov
Ilya Dolzhenkov@ilya_dolzhenkov · Product designer
@buster 1. How does a designer of interfaces to become a product manager? 2. What do you think about "automated design". Does it kill the profession of the designer? Or how to change it?
Klajdi Turlla
Klajdi Turlla@klajdi_kl · Product Manager, MPAY Albania
How do you manage functionality sync between desktop/web and mobile app? How do you decide if a functionality should be implemented in one platform first or all the platforms? Thanks :-)