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Why Testing Is a Cop Out, Neural Filters, & Gems from Coaches - Scott Belsky - Elaboration Issue #11

Why Testing Is a Cop Out, Neural Filters, & Gems from Coaches - Scott Belsky - Elaboration Issue #11
By Scott Belsky • Issue #11 • View online
Hello friends. This edition of Elaboration features a few new products, thoughts on building, little gems from coaches, and a few opportunities at portfolio companies I’m excited about… -s

Thinking About...
With powerful technology comes the responsibility for how it is used and understood. This week, my team at Adobe shared our latest updates and new products at our annual “MAX” conference. This has always been an exciting albeit nerve-wrecking experience, but the challenges of filming in LA, under strict COVID-testing and safety rules (and with barely any editing time before “going live”), were pretty unique. But we managed to tell the story behind our strategy now and over the coming years, and were able to have some fun while doing it (the above clip is me demoing one of our greatest new features, “Neural Filters”).
This new feature in particular, powered by artificial-intelligence and equally exciting and surprising, solicited very fair questions about the responsibility that comes with building tools that can change media. Of course, images and video have long been editable, but doing so has never been as easy and accessible as it is now.
So, alongside these innovations, we also launched the first phase of the “Content Authenticity Initiative,” an effort alongside NY Times, Twitter, and other partners to provide provenance/history for how content is edited, helping creators claim authorship and empowering consumers to determine what they can trust. You can learn more here:
Other highlights of our updates and new products are summarized in this blog post (link), and if you want to watch the keynote, it’s now all online here. Long week, but am proud of our teams and excited for the creative community.
scott belsky
in a product discussion, "we'll test to figure that out" is a cop out for not having an assertion.

where you start your journey - your v1 - always impacts where you end up. so, design with your assertions - your strong view of a better way - BEFORE you start to test them.
As a start-up, you have nothing but conviction to guide you as you make sweeping product decisions in minutes. But when you’re the steward of large products with many customers, you become more cautious. You (rightly so) start to question your convictions and, whenever possible, test your assumptions before running with them. Of course, the problem is that the results of testing ANYTHING are relative to what you tested, which brings you back to square one: Are you building something with a deep and bold conviction for how the world (and your product) SHOULD be as opposed to the state of what it currently is?
Personally, I think resorting to “testing” in the early phases of design and product development is a cop out for not having conviction. Testing is not a strategy. Testing it just a way to validate or invalidate a strategy.
Upon sharing this thought, got some great additions from some friends out there…
Jeff Newton
@scottbelsky As a photographer - I’ve not so ‘jokingly’ banned the phrase, “well fix it in post” on my sets. I feel that if I adopt that mindset - I’m setting up myself up for not only failure - but complacency. We need to excel within our given crafts from the beginning of the process
Matt O'Leary
Design like you're right, test like you're wrong
Love that: “Design like you’re right, test like you’re wrong.”
Well said.
scott belsky
anyone still have a elem/high-school coach in their head well beyond expiration date?

even for a mediocre athlete (at best!), still hear my boston 🏃🏻‍♂️team coach yell out, “come aahn, pick em up,” “you gotta quartah’ mila left!”

a coach’s impact as a lasting reflex, underrated.
While I was running the other day, I realized how often my cross-country coach from 7th grade comes into my mind when I’m pushing myself. Upon sharing, I realized I wasn’t the only one. It seems pearls of wisdom from Coaches are especially impressionable, and often times impactful over the course of life. Here are some of my favorites:
Matt Richmond
@scottbelsky A saying I always remember from my high school football head coach - "Every day you either get 1% better or 1% worse, there is no staying the same."

While I'm sure this is attributed to someone else, it really stuck with me into my professional career.
Michael Kauffman
@scottbelsky My Dad (@WarwickWarriors football, softball coach, wrestling official): “The least important thing in life is the score at halftime.” Think of that one a lot.
Seth Berman
@scottbelsky Had a high school baseball coach that used to say “You look good, you play good”.

Left me with a lasting appreciation for attention to detail, self-respect, and preparation.
Rufus Deuchler😷
@scottbelsky My colonel in the army: “See that mountain? You wish. You’re going to the one behind!” 🇨🇭😃
Jorge Garcia
My swimming coach José Leonardo Gonzales “El Coro” always repeated: “Medals are won training and picked up at competition”
Ray McKenzie
@scottbelsky A coach used to ask us on defense (in football)... “What is the major malfunction here gentlemen?”...

In tech this question is eternally relevant 😂😂😂
Other Stand-outs For Builders...
Shreyas Doshi
The 7 Cognitive Biases of Product Teams, a video thread for very busy product people:

(these ~15 minutes could save your company ~15 million or more on opportunity costs)
Great collection of the common biases of product teams, worth browsing through.
Helen Tran 🇨🇦
In his book "Range," David Epstein mentioned that older start-up founders are more successful so I looked up the data:
Toronto-based entrepreneur Helen Tran looked up the data herself on this, and always feels good to know (especially as I turn 40), that a lot of the greatest successes in tech and beyond happened later in life… “”… when you look at most successful firms, the average founder age goes up, not down. Overall, the empirical evidence shows that successful entrepreneurs tend to be middle-aged, not young.“
Opportunity knocks...
AbstractOps: an automated back office for early stage CEOs
Command E: building the fastest way to access all the information you rely on to do your job
Lumi: helping e-com brands produce memorable and sustainable packaging
Running Tide Technologies: using ocean data to produce exceptionally healthy low-carbon protein (reach out to me direct if you are interested! phenomenal opportunity at fast-growing co)
  • Director of Finance and Operations
  • Director of Engineering (hardware + software)
Recurrency: artificial intelligence tool helping wholesale distributors and B2B retailers automate/optimize pricing and sales
And a few more in last week’s newsletter here. :-)
If you want to better understand what you do and why you’re doing it, write about it.
Writing is such an underrated form of comprehension and self-discovery.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Scott Belsky

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Scott Belsky, NY/SF