How to say “no” to feature requests

I am in awe of another product manager: the Cranky Product Manager. She posts infrequently but many of her posts are brilliant.

One from last year on “how to say no” to customer or sales feature requests caught my attention. Many of the comments on the post were insightful and mirrored my experience with dealing with feature requests. Generally if you can turn the conversation away from a specific feature and toward the business issue the customer is trying to solve, you can usually either (a) point out another way the software can already do what the customer wants, or (b) give a more informed answer about what it will take to make it happen. The trick is getting away from the specific feature, which the customer and the sales guy may have spent some time building up as The Solution to the problem. To do this, Joel Spolsky’s five Whys is helpful.

Being open with your roadmap is important when you can; it shows the customer that you are thoughtful about the features that do go into the product, gets them thinking about the relative importance of the feature, and makes them feel included in the future of the product.

RIP, Nora McGillivray

If I don’t want to get morbid and maudlin, I suppose I should stop reading the “In Memoriam” section of the UVA Alumni Magazine. But then I would never know when I was impoverished by the death of a friend or acquaintance.

Today I learned that Nora McGillivray was killed, or killed herself, last September; Nora being Nora, her death was as full of mystery as her life. The painful details are in the link, as are the beginnings of the mystery.

Nora was in my last poetry class, a language poetry class with Tan Lin. She was a careful, quiet writer whom I remember for her grace and her economy of language. I would never have guessed that she was ten years older than I, and I don’t know how many people in the class did either.

It hurts when someone whose words are so much stronger than yours disappears, hurts to think that someone might have lost a battle with depression (though the details are murky and unclear).

I close with an excerpt from her obituary, which is already behind the paywall at the Daily Progress (shame!):

Nora departed on a warm Indian summer night. The details are sketchy and appropriately cryptic, and, while she would have loved being the star of her own cinema verité masterpiece, rest assured, Buckingham County, that Nora is Watching the Detectives…

She was impossible to forget. You had only to meet Nora once to have her indelibly inked upon your subconscious. You might not always have considered this a good thing. She was the kind of dame a tortured young musician would write an opus about, and more than one of them did….