Habit Formation 101

According to Psychology Today, Habit formation ‘… is the process by which new behaviours become automatic. Old habits can be difficult to break, and healthy habits are often harder to develop than one would like. That's because the behavioural patterns we repeat most often are etched into our neural pathways. The good news is that, through repetition, it's possible to form—and maintain—new habits. And even long-time habits that are detrimental to one’s health and well-being can be shaken with enough determination and a smart approach.’

On making a (good) habit stick, they go on to say ‘… It’s all too easy to fall short in the pursuit of behaviour change, whether the ultimate aim is to nix a disruptive habit or to establish a new one. Excuses, fatigue, and the vagueness of our goals can spell doom for such endeavours. With some focus, these obstacles can be overcome. Experts advise that strategies such as creating a specific and reasonable goal for behaviour change, being mindful of how one’s environment influences the effort to make progress toward it, and looping in other people who care about one’s progress can all help make the process of habit formation more successful.’

A read a good book over the weekend (Effective Communication) and it’s had quite an impact on me. Steps on the road (or bridge in this case) of continual Personal Development.

Dumping your Old Business Cards

In July 2017, Pub chain J.D. Wetherspoon deleted its entire email mailing list, saying that it will send newsletters via email anymore. Although it’s not known how many emails Wetherspoon deleted, when the firm suffered a breach of their customer database in 2015, it was reported that they had 656,723.

The news came after several companies received fines for sending marketing messages to people who didn’t explicitly consent to receive emails. Airline Flybe has also been fined £70,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after sending more than 3.3 million emails under the title “Are your details correct?”

On a risk basis, it’s just not worth holding copious amounts of customer data which is bringing insufficient value. Also, over time … there’s a strong likelihood that you’ve lost track of who had given consent for contacting them again through whatever means.

Flybe, Morrisons and Honda were all found to be in breach of the Privacy & Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR). Fines for breaking this law can go up to a maximum of £500,000 – however, under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect on 25 May 2018, companies can be fined up to 4 per cent of their global turnover.

On the basis that the less customer information YOU / WE / ME have, then the less risk associated with data. Simple enough. Driven by a conversation with a friend this week on the value (or not) that a very old pile of business cards has … if you don’t need them, get rid of them. Even simpler given a clean desk / clear desk policy at home and at work.


Gary Pine

Mucho product management experience with some of the UKs leading internet, mobile & contact centre organisations; Orange, 118118 and the Trader Media Group (AutoTrader).

Exercise Induced Asthma and Phlegm

Having completed a 75+ mile charity ride yesterday in support of the excellent St. Peters Hospice, I was left thinking why do so many of the athletes completing the Tour de Bristol ride report of coughing, wheezing or tightness of the chest during or after such vigorous exercise?

According to the BootsWebMD website this morning … while it’s also known as Exercise Induced bronchoconstriction apparently, I’ll stick with the easier to handle ‘Exercise-Induced Asthma’.

Is exercise-induced asthma real? Yeap.

Isn't it just being out of condition? No (sign of relief).

Symptoms are usually most intense after exercising and then gradually improve; a reduction in the flow of air through narrowed airways brought on by exercise. Some people, particularly athletes, only have narrowing of the airways with exercise and no other symptoms of asthma.

There are a number of triggers of exercise-induced asthma. People with exercise-induced asthma tend to be sensitive to colder, drier air such as a winter jog on a chilly morning, cross country skiing or rowing on a cold river.

Considering it was very wet and cold yesterday in Bristol and across into South Wales, that makes a lot of sense. Working very intensely leads to breathing through the mouth rather than the nose. This means colder air is going straight to the lungs rather than passing through the nose which would normally warm it up first. Although its standard practice to warm up before exercise rather than starting off exercising vigorously, hadn’t thought to wear a face muffler which humidifies the air.

Amazon here I come.


Gary Pine

Mucho product management experience with some of the UKs leading internet, mobile & contact centre organisations; Orange, 118118 and the Trader Media Group (AutoTrader).

Cyber Essentials for GDPR

With enforcement of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) pending, many businesses are mad busy preparing for a new era in privacy regulation. Late last year, I was advised to ‘hang on to all & any compliance frameworks you can’ (re GDPR) and ‘Cyber Essentials’ was one such certification scheme mentioned at that time.

The aim of being Cyber Essentials certified is to help organizations like yours and mine safeguard sensitive data by implementing reasonable security measures, much like GDPR specifications that aim to strengthen data protection.

The Cyber Essentials security standard spans across five security control areas:

  • Boundary firewalls and internet gateways: By making them an integral part of network security, it can help prevent attackers from reaching computers with vulnerable software installed.
  • Secure configuration: This helps minimize the potential exploitation of vulnerabilities. Steps include fundamental cyber hygiene such as avoiding the use of default passwords.
  • User access control: Organizations must ensure everyone has the appropriate access to data for the role that they are performing.
  • Malware protection: Organizations must make sure that virus and malware protection is installed and is up to date.
  • Patch management: Timely application of patches should be a priority for preventing breaches.

As one of the team from the SOUTH WALES CYBER SECURITY CLUSTER once told me … being Cyber Essentials certified builds customer confidence in you as a service provider, showing them that you security and in turn privacy, very seriously. After four years of preparation and debate the GDPR was finally approved by the EU Parliament on 14 April 2016.

Enforcement date: 25 May 2018 … at which time those organizations in non-compliance may face heavy fines.


Gary Pine

Mucho product management experience with some of the UKs leading internet, mobile & contact centre organisations; Orange, 118118 and the Trader Media Group (AutoTrader).

Developing your Note Taking Skills

As someone who has always fancied themselves as a 'good note taker' - though not sure I've ever quoted that on a CV or during the course of an interview - I was unaware of the role that James Madison played in the development of the American Constitution until recently.

When James Madison and the other 56 delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in May 1787, they intended to amend the Articles of Confederation. They ended up creating a new constitution, and Madison, representing Virginia, became the chief recorder of information (he took A LOT of notes).

As the president of the Constitutional Convention, George Washington rarely actually participated in the debates. However, when the Constitution headed to the states for approval, Washington took an active role in the ratification process. It was actually the notes of Madison that allowed Washington to get a clear understanding on the outcomes of the proceedings.

Lesson ... continue to develop your note taking skills as you'll never know what MASSIVE IMPACT they could have at a later date.


Gary Pine

Mucho product management experience with some of the UKs leading internet, mobile & contact centre organisations; Orange, 118118 and the Trader Media Group (AutoTrader).

Gracefully Declining a Job Offer

Whether you’re faced with an offer that you’d never accept in a million years or, one may have been a really good it however you've since received a better offer, there is definitely a gracious way to say ... “Thanks but no Thanks.”

As a someone who found their self in this very position quite recently with a candidate nicely following the 'Show Your Appreciation' > 'Give a Good, Brief Reason' > 'Stay in Touch' approach, he was kind enough to send me a email directly asking for a face to face catch-up or a brief call.

I duly rang back with the candidate then explaining their rationale ... with him not shirking away from our having a straight forward conversation with the would-be employer.(me). Something I very much appreciated and someone that - given their courteous and respectful engagement - I'd have no issue staying in contact with re any future opportunities.

Although disappointing that he chose someone / somewhere else to work for, both parties parted ways wishing each other the very best. Good old fashioned conversation ... no-one hiding behind email or text ... no radio silence leaving either party in the lurch ... nice ... simple.



Gary Pine

Mucho product management experience with some of the UKs leading internet, mobile & contact centre organisations; Orange, 118118 and the Trader Media Group (AutoTrader).

Giving and Getting Praise

In London today for the 2018 Betting on Football Conference & Expo at Stamford Bridge. Having spent an hour or so talking through some ideas and opportunities with a new business partner, we got onto pastimes, loves, likes and what we get up to when not ‘talking shop’.

As one current and one past martial artist, we swapped war stories having both seen, watched and training with the likes of Andy Sherry, Bob Poynton, the Brennan brothers and Terry ONeill; the great Terry ONeill being a friend of my contact.

Reminicing about our past endeavours, I told of Terry once telling me that ... I trained with ‘good spirit’. Given that it was probably more than 30 years ago when he said it ... my point you ask ... the positive impact of recognising effort in times of adversity or patting someone on the back for a job well done can last for a very long time. 

Try it tomorrow. Make someone’s day. Make a positive and lasting memory of you with someone else however, you’d better mean it. :-) 



Gary Pine

Mucho product management experience with some of the UKs leading internet, mobile & contact centre organisations; Orange, 118118 and the Trader Media Group (AutoTrader).

The three rules of Agile Club

More times than I care to imagine, you get locked into an Agile versus Waterfall discussion that normally results in ... so what's the key difference?

In short:

  1. It's not necessary to start a project with a lengthy, upfront effort to document all requirements.
  2. It's not necessary to start a project with a lengthy, upfront effort to document all requirements.
  3. It's not necessary to start a project with a lengthy, upfront effort to document all requirements.

Typically, a 'Scrum' team and its product owner begin by writing down everything they can think of easily. This is almost always more than enough for a first sprint. The Product Backlog is then allowed to grow and change as more is learned about the product and its customers. In term of initiation or kick-off, use an initial sprint (called Sprint Zero, Iteration Zero, Inception Sprint, etc) that has the following three goals:

  1. Get some quality items on the Product Backlog ... get the list of Epics captured as well.
  2. Provide a minimal environment that enables the writing of quality code, and
  3. Write a piece of real code, no matter how small.

Referencing the Scrum Alliance ... Before we define Sprint Zero, let me say that the long system test phase before the release can actually be an automated regression test. Each sprint can create automated test for the features it implements and add that to the regression. The need for automated tests is much discussed in Scrum and Agile literature, so we will skip it here for now.
Now for a working definition of Sprint Zero:

  1. Sprint Zero should be used to create the basic skeleton and plumbing for the project so that future sprints can be truly add incremental value in an efficient way. It may involve some research spikes.
  2. Minimal design up front is done in Sprint Zero so that emergent design is possible in future sprints. This includes putting together a flexible enough framework so that refactoring is easy.
  3. For minimal design up front, the team picks up a very few critical stories and develops them to completion. Since these are the first few stories, delivering them includes putting the skeleton/framework in place, but even Sprint Zero delivers value.

Note: The velocity of Sprint Zero may be very low compared to that of other sprints.
Remember also that the product backlog is a living document. Stories are added, modified, and split into small ones all the time. The backlog can be begun during project initiation. From then it grows and is refined as needed. There should be a few stories in the product backlog at the time of Sprint Zero's start, enough to help us demo at least one working feature.

VSOE for Dummies

According to Wikipedia … In accounting practices, vendor-specific objective evidence (VSOE) is a method of revenue recognition allowed by US GAAP that enables companies to recognize revenue on specific items on a multi-item sale based on evidence specific to a company that the product has been delivered.

In other words, VSOE is Fair Value for Software.

Although some industry analysts suggest that these rules can constrain the ways companies sell their products, chew up a lot of management time, and put off some investors – VSOE ‘typically’ means that at least 80 percent of sales prices should fall within 15 percent of the median price. Some CFOs are more conservative, but in different ways; deviations from the median at 10 percent or maybe, sticking with the 15 percent band, but applies it to 85 percent of your sales.

Found a helpful guide below – albeit is a little outdated – however as always, seek financial counsel before deciding YOUR approach.

How to Cope with VSOE

1. Keep careful records of the actual selling prices for products. Most experts say a price list is not enough.

2. Make sure the sales force is with you. Establishing VSOE precludes allowing salespeople to cut one-off deals or regularly offer customers special concessions.

3. Consider establishing multiple VSOEs, if pricing varies significantly by size of customer or by geographic region.

4. Don’t think you’re out of the woods just because you’re not in the software business. SOP 97-2 applies to any sale in which software is a “more than incidental” part.

5. Be prepared to explain to analysts how SOP 97-2 is affecting the revenue stream, and when portions of deferred revenue will hit the bottom line.


What makes a good information product?

So … what do you think makes a GOOD INFORMATION PRODUCT?

According to Clay Collins, there are three types:

  1. Identity-based products

  2. Mechanism-based products

  3. Goal-based product

Henri Junttila suggests a 12 step process for creating one:

  1. Pick a Problem to Solve

  2. Create a Freebie

  3. Tell People

  4. Get Curious

  5. Develop Your Promise

  6. Create Your Course Outline

  7. Outline Your Sales Page

  8. Draft Classes

  9. Build Buzz

  10. Launch

  11. Get Feedback

  12. Create Home-Study

And Leevi Romanik outlines how to create an information product that sells. All very interesting but not particularly helpful when preparing for a recent interview with a very large, UK based information services provider.

Courtesy of the Pandecta website: Strictly speaking, information products include all books, reports etc. In the Internet context, the term refers to electronically deliverable, knowledge-based products. Information products are also referred to as "digital goods" and "knowledge-based goods". If it delivers knowledge and you can e-mail it to the customer or offer it as a downloadable file, then it qualifies as an information product.

  • Information products can be created with little or no money. When I started I paid for a domain, hosting and a copy of Acrobat so I could make PDF files. That's it.

  • Information products can be reproduced in any quantity - it is as simple as copying a file. Even if you sell a million copies, production costs stay zero.

  • With information products, inventory and the problems around keeping an inventory are completely eliminated.

  • With information products, shipping costs and problems around shipping are completely eliminated.

  • Because it is delivered electronically, the time-lapse between purchase and delivery is negligible.

  • Information products are cheap, easy, convenient and fast. The kind of thing you can create and sell all by yourself.


  1. E-books

  2. E-zines & newsletters

  3. Reports & research data

  4. Tutorials, courses & help files.


The major disadvantage of information products lies in its perceived value - in other words what the customer thinks it is worth before he / she buys it.

If it's a real book, she knows that it probably wouldn't get published if it were no good. She knows it has been spell-checked. With an e-book, these assurances are not there. Anyone can slap an e-book together and offer it for sale.

She also ends up with some data on her hard drive - not a book in her hands. People simply like to hold things they buy. Many people shop to feel better.

There are a couple of effective ways to add to the perceived value of information products.

You could reassure your potential customer by showing testimonials from happy customers, by offering a free download of part 1 while offering part 2 & 3 for sale, by offering a full, money-back guarantee etc.

You can also add to the perceived value of information products by increasing the price. Every product has a level of price resistance. The ideal is to find yours by experimenting and then set is just below that mark. Don't make the mistake of pricing low because production cost is zero. Price it according to the benefits it provides.

As a starter for 10, seems to make sense.