Data Driven Web Products Now!


Data Driven Web Products Now!



How do you decide what to build? There’s the rub. Many successful companies start out as someone’s "cool idea.” They gain traction on the back of this and possibly a few adjacent “cool ideas.” This very rapidly gets way out of hand.

It is human nature to conclude from this that the “I have a cool idea, let’s build it” school of product development is an idyllic setup. We fetishize this to the point of anointing saints of the genre. Mature companies stage hack weeks ostensibly on the premise that the next Gmail not merely could--but is likely to--emerge from such an event.

This is survivorship bias and it’s a trap. The cardinality of the set of cool ideas vastly exceeds that of the set of ideas that seem likely to work when given more scrutiny. But here’s the thing: without the scrutiny, they’re all cool ideas.

If your product roadmap erupts from a CEO who is presumed to have a direct line to Apollo, you are not alone. But I submit that his or her prior success is at least as attributable to random walk as it is to special access to the divine.

Startups realize this eventually. (Or they don’t, because they’ve discontinued operations. But let’s say they do.) The question re-emerges: how to decide what to build?

Perhaps someone in the room has heard that successful companies are "data driven." They mutter something like, “we should be data driven.” Quite likely there is applause. But this raises the question of what, exactly, does it mean to be data driven?

That’s what this talk is about. The journey from just spouting sentences like “we should be data driven” to actually having some idea of what the hell that means. This talk will make the case that (marketing bullshit aside) data and analytics can inform every aspect of the product process. And when this is done properly, the product process itself changes.

My experience is in building such a data-driven culture over 6.5 years at Etsy, a top-100 website with more than 500 employees.




Technical Level


  • Modern Web
  • Analytics and Data Analysis