It is December 23, 2023, and I am working on a few maintenance items. The annual shutdown has begun (really, about 1:00 PM yesterday I pretty much logged off) and I do not have to work again until Monday, January 8, 2024. That is almost two and a half weeks off.
So far, this shutdown has started better than last year. The first morning of the shutdown last year, it was raining, and I slipped walking my dog, whacking my head against the sidewalk, necessitating the use of 4 staples1 to close the wound.
Nope, I started this shutdown far better than last year’s edition.
On to the year in review!
By the Numbers
In early January 2023, the Product Bistro had a total of 42 subscribers. I had just shut down my main Twitter account2, the primary vehicle for me to promote my writing and the main way for me to try to grow my audience.
I had made the decision to move from my self hosted Ghost instance to Substack.
In the year since, the subscribers grew from 42 to the 69 that I have today. Now, my personal logins are not dominating the stats. That is a good thing!
There were 30 posts carefully crafted and sent out over the last year (not including this puff piece), and each post was opened by about 30% of the recipients. That is pretty solid performance. Of course, the audience is self selecting, so by your opting in originally, that meant that you wanted some content about the field of Product Management, thus I think this is a pretty good performance.
Throughout the year, I have written about a few things. I did diverge into the insanity of what is happening at Twitter. Slow moving train wrecks are hard to avoid, and since I originally found my tribe of product managers via Twitter dating back to 2009, it was disturbing to watch the house burn to the ground3.
I posted about being an old dude in Product, about the deliciousness of the Twitter situation, about crypto and product (the collapse of FTX in late 2022 gave me many thoughts), about the vitriol over DEI programs, and more.
Starting in October, I began nearly weekly posts where I relate stories from my time in Product Management. I am going to admit that these strolls down memory lane are refreshing and fun. Whether it was a tale about a really tense customer acceptance, or getting yelled at for approving a deep discount, or being deposed in a lawsuit.
And I have plenty more of those stories to share.
I am getting to be late career. I have maybe 7 years left until the traditional retirement date. I am having fun (mostly) in my current role. It is plenty challenging, and I feel good about what I do (build training and certification programs for IT) so I am not inclined to leave. But I also have to be realistic. I am 58, and the market for product managers that are this old is not great.
The good thing is that I could soft-retire and work just enough to maintain health insurance, and survive just fine.
I will continue writing about some of the interesting things I have seen and done. Over 26 years in the field, I have ample material to work with!
I also have some ideas about how AI is going to impact the world of Product Management. I have some early concrete examples (n.b.: Product Marketing is probably in a LOT of trouble) and some hypotheses that I have been noodling on.
I also have thoughts about how the decade of ZIRP coupled with Tech Bros and just completely divorced from reality VC’s chasing any returns has distorted the tech landscape, and the reckoning that is currently underway.
Lastly, I have to look really hard about whether to stick with Substack. As with all internet platforms, if you are around long enough, the Nazi’s arrive, and they are here. I would be OK with it, except that Substack seems to be fine with some absolutely horrible Homunculi being able to monetize their horrible thoughts. While I do not monetize this (I would need a LOT more than 69 members to make it worthy) it is disturbing that the founders are showing themselves to be tech-bro trash.
I am exploring some of the alternatives. No, I will not go back to Ghost, but Buttondown is pretty interesting, and I have been messing around with it.
I do hesitate to move due to one thing. Substack is pretty good at making my potential audience able to find me. This is super important as I have 100% walked away from the major Social Media platforms. I guess I can thank Elon Musk for breaking me of my addiction to Twitter. Hurray!
Final Thoughts and Thanks
If you are still reading this, I would like to take a moment to thank you for being part of this journey. I started The Product Bistro in 2016. I was between jobs (I got tossed out on my ear - justifiably), and took a 6 month break to de-stress and contemplate the future. I built this originally to try to drum up some consulting work, but I realized that I was terrible at that.
I ended up in a good job where my background and seasoned (grizzled) skills were not only appreciated, but exalted. I am an individual contributor, I do valuable work, and it is easy to point at things that I do that provide direct value to the business and to our customers.
I hope you remain on the roller coaster!
Side note: When you walk into urgent care bleeding from a head wound, they see you pretty much immediately. Bonus! ↩
By mid-December 2022, Musk had done serious damage to the communities that I participated in on Twitter, and the straw that broke the camel’s back was his pissing match and freezing of journalists over the @elonjet account, that chaotic episode laid bare the insanity that was yet to come. ↩
While I deleted my main ganders2112 account in December, I did keep my prodbistro account active until Musk in a fit of pique shut down the ability of posting Substack links to the service. After that tweak, I logged in to find the feed completely inundated with soft and hard core porn accounts (all with the paid blue checks) being front and center. Yeah, there *may* be a product management community still, but it had already been diluted even before the Musk era. Nothing much of value was lost. 😞