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Hackernoon logoHow losing my phone made me a better product manager by@stevetauber

How losing my phone made me a better product manager

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@stevetauberSteve 'vudu' Tauber

I’m able to track my phone via GPS. It’s moved recently, so someone has it. Why haven’t they called me? A thief would have shut it off, right?

Having met up with a friend, we rode our bikes from across town to the art gallery we planned to see on the first real day of spring. After arriving, I noticed my phone wasn’t in my pocket, so I rode 10 minutes back to where we met, a popular fountain near the national theater. The same people were sitting there, and I asked if they had seen my phone, but they hadn’t.

At a child’s pace, I retraced my steps to the gallery but I didn’t see my phone on the way. Arriving again, we tried calling my phone and it rang through. The hunt was on.

I’d been searching for about an hour by this point. I had immediately went home and locked my phone with a pin. Google also let’s you add a one-touch dialing so I added my friend’s number with the message “Please call!”. I could have written the message in Croatian, but almost everyone in Zagreb speaks some English. Maybe this would entice the person who found it to actually seek a reward.

I had located the phone to within 20 meters, a sidewalk a couple blocks from the fountain. We looked up and down the block, under cars, and in nearby buildings but couldn’t find it.

Feeling somewhat dejected, I went to another friend’s house to play some board games. I showed them how I was tracking the phone on my laptop. But this time, the phone had moved.

Someone has it. Why haven’t they called me? A thief would have shut it off, right?

We arrive at Dom Sportova, an indoor sporting arena. The GPS has us within 10 meters, seemingly centered on a car parked under a tree. We ask some retirees playing bocce; this is what old men do in Croatia. They own the car but insist they haven’t seen a phone. We ask some nearby kids if they’ve seen a phone. They haven’t.

My friend sets up his phone to provide internet access to my laptop. The GPS updates and the edge of the circle is overlapping the indoor swimming pool. We talk our way past the guard and press the ring command button. This will make the phone ring at 5 times its normal volume. No luck. There are multiple floors to the building so it will be hard to track down.

Did you catch the point where I’ve made a wrong assumption?

I have an idea. My friend’s phone was configured to provide me internet access using a generic name and password, but if we use the same name and password as my home wifi then my phone should auto-connect. We make the changes and begin checking each floor. In the locker room, we see a new connection. My phone is on this floor.

We send the ring command again, and this time we hear it, but it’s faint. We hurriedly search, finally coming across a woman sitting holding the phone. She’s a nanny and says that the child she cares for found it on the way to swim practice. She hands the phone over.

So why didn’t she call me? Did you catch the point where I’ve made a wrong assumption?

The screen was cracked. She wasn’t malicious. She simply couldn’t call me.

Lesson 1 — Don’t assume your audience

At first, my phone was found by a child of around 8 years old. Kids in Croatia only start learning English at age 7 so I should have written the message in Croatian.

Lesson 2 — Don’t assume capabilities

There is no way the nanny could have used the press to call feature, since the phone was broken. Had I written the full phone number in the message, she would have called immediately. Do you have any features in your app that assume the user has a mouse? Do you assume your user isn’t color blind? What other unwritten requirements do you have?

Lesson 3 — Be an expert in other domains

The real breakthrough came when we are able to prove the phone was on the floor we were on. I used my knowledge of networking to help locate my phone. What other domain expertise can you apply to solutions? Build up skills in other fields and someday it may just help you solve an unrelated problem.

I’m glad to have my phone back, even if the screen is broken.

Please explore my other stories here. If you’ve liked this, please hit the 👏 or follow. Thanks!

Apparently only iPhones crack — h/t yorkali

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