My Most Popular of 2016

Plus staying focused and asking good questions

By Ken Norton

Happy new year! I hope you and your teams had a chance to rest, relax, and spend time with loved ones.

I began this newsletter experiment about a year ago. Since then, it’s grown to more than 10,000 subscribers and I’ve gotten a chance to get to know many of you. I write about topics that I hope are of interest to you, and many of my posts have been in direct response to questions from my readers. Please don’t be shy about emailing or tweeting at me if you have requests for future topics.

Here were my ten most popular essays and posts from 2016:

Good Reads

My resolution for 2016 was to read more books. I set a target of fifty and ended up closing the year having read sixty. I want to maintain that pace in 2017 by reducing distractions and improving my ability to focus. My GV partner John Zeratsky wrote about one way he does that: removing the endless distractions that live on our smartphones, what he calls “Infinity Pools.”

Greylock’s #ProductSF conference is one of my favorite meetups of the year. Organized by Josh Elman, the invitation-only event brings together product leaders, founders, and company-builders from startups and big companies alike. Greylock has shared videos of every talk from the 2016 event which included LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, and Nextdoor co-founder Sarah Leary.

Citizenship in the workplace is the subject of new research from Google’s People Analytics team. They identified common behaviors that led to positive impressions of team climates:

  • Altruism - helping someone else with a work-relevant task or problem
  • Conscientiousness - going far beyond minimum requirements of one’s job role
  • Sportsmanship - not complaining about petty or small issues
  • Courtesy - checking in with people whose work is likely to be affected by one’s own work
  • Civic Virtue - participating in the fabric of the organization, doing one’s “duty”

Asking good questions is a super important skill when writing software.” Julia Evans has some excellent tips for asking the right questions of your engineers. The best tip? Ask questions that are easy to answer.

Originally published: January 10, 2017


Ken Norton spent more than fourteen years at Google where he led product initiatives for Docs, Calendar, Google Mobile Maps, and GV (formerly Google Ventures).

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